300 KM Audax – A Titanic Ride by Bob Scarle

Bob is well know within the club for his Titanic rides so when he mentioned he had rode a 300km Audax most of it through the night I asked him if he could recount this so people could see what was involved . Bob leads the longer Saturday morning club rides and can also be found in headless cross car park on the newly formed Monday night 6:30 club ride. All of the club rides are posted on the club facebook page each week so keep an eye on that if you want to join the club for social rides through the Worcestershire countryside. Here is his account.

Hereward the Wake was an 11th century tribal leader who lead guerrilla attacks on the forces of William the Conqueror in the flatlands and the Fens of East Anglia. It is also the name given to a 300 km audax ride which starts from Great Dunmow in Essex.

Although I have ridden this distance several times before, I have never started at 9pm. 47 riders rolled out of the church yard at the start facing a night of riding and most of the next day. Audax rides are long distance events which require the rider to visit several points. There is a route which is provided in the form of a GPS file and a printed route sheet. However these are only advisory and do not need to be followed as long as all of the control points are visited. Each rider needs to prove they have visited each control, either by answering a question, getting a stamp on their card or by getting a receipt.

Our first control took us into the dusk, northwards, 48 km to Cambridge. I was kicking out time when we got there, suffice to say that there were a number of colourful characters about. The control was a simple 24 hour garage. The 53 km to the next control took us into the Fens, long straight, flat roads, and in the dark, mostly featureless. It also goes a lot cooler at night once to leave the city. The roads were now quiet as were the villages we passed though. All normal people were tucked up in bed. The control at Whitlessey was also a 24 hour garage, a welcome break and coffee after 103 km of riding.

Stage 3, the longest at 85 km, took us from the outskirts of Peterborough to Newport Pagnell services on the M1. This is the magical time when night starts to lose its grip and day makes its return. It starts with a lightening of the sky around the eastern horizon, then shapes that were just dark start to reveal their colours. Eventually the bird song fills the air. A very welcome cup of tea and some food, about 200 km completed.

Next stop, Bigglewade, another 44 km. By this time the world is awake and starting it’s Saturday business. The roads are noticeably busier but not overly so. We do not stop at Biggleswade except to buy a cold drink and to get the all-important receipt to prove we have been there.

A short stage, only 30 km, took us to Reed and to the Silver Ball café. More food and tea and then off to ride the last 40 km back to Great Dunmow and the finish.

All told, I rode 192 miles, about 310 km. It makes it so much easier if you ride with good lights. Modern LED lighting provides plenty of light even during the darkest night. I have the added advantage that mine is driven off a dynamo built into the front wheel hub.

By Bob Scarle

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