As a faster audax rider once the clocks change I don’t get much night riding experience and even less of riding groups at night, or navigating. I can finish a 400k ride with only an hour or so’s night, if that. It’s something worth practising before PBP, as the first two nights (and the first night especially) will have a very large number of lit riders on the road.
Before PBP 2011 I did a YACF FNRttS (Oxford-London, leaving Oxford rail station at midnight) but that was a fairly easy, informal ride with quite a few stops. Nevertheless it got me accustomed to riding in close company with others for a few hours through the night. The dynamic changes – other rider’s lights throw shadows across the road (sometimes of yourself, which has the effect of making your own lights seem less powerful – they’re not – it’s just an optical illusion) and speed drops (if you’re aiming for a pace target, you consciously need to “push on” once night falls).
So all in all, this audax, starting at 9pm on a Friday just as dusk was falling, and traversing some benign roads, looked ideal so I signed up. In the end quite a few PBP-ers did the same and we had quite a decent bunch of about 80 riders heading north from Great Dunmow, in the general direction of Cambridge and beyond. A light tailwind pushed us out to Whittlesey. There seemed little point in trying too hard here and I settled into a group of 8 or so that cruised to the first control in Cambridge. On the way in we were delayed by a few traffic lights, and on hearing the click of a pedal behind, glanced over my shoulder to see we’d been caught by a 20-strong bunch.
Out of Cambridge things split up a bit and there was a bit of leapfrogging, but other cyclists were not far away and I rolled into the garage control in the first half dozen riders. The VC167 tandem was already here having made good progress on the flat roads. We had some fun trying to order stuff through the hatch at the garage, and just as the guy behind the counter gave up and opened the doors for the large peleton that had just arrived, I headed off, back out into the night.
I pushed on a bit here, aware that we had a slight headwind and keen to get to the next “corner” of our route at Newport Pagnell M1 services. The rest of the ride was a quiet affair, just cruising through the night and collecting my info controls as I went along. I stopped at the services for a coffee and a sandwich, and donned my gilet as it was getting cold in the early morning air. I really enjoyed the cruise back to the start, some nice roads, familiar from previous events old and new. I made a slight navigational error at one point which cost me a kilometre (and an early morning ride down the A505), but apart from that it was a great ride. I even started to get a bit hot in the early morning sunshine.
I was back at the village hall soon after 8:30am, in time for a couple of coffees and a bacon sandwich, ready to stoke me up for the drive home (after which I promptly fell asleep on the sofa!).
Garmin connect data HERE