Straight on at roundabout


Is Audax destined to be a minority sport?
October 30, 2010, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Audax information, PBP, Why

A depressing afternoon watch Saracens get beaten by Exeter sent me home wishing I’d been out on the bike. At least the day wasn’t wasted as I have planned my 2011 Paris Brest Paris campaign – I think I have worked out which qualifiers I would like to ride; which is probably a bit sad in October.

Perhaps that slight obsessiveness is one of the reasons why Audaxing doesn’t seem to appeal to as many people I would hope.

In fact there has been quite a lot of debate on the web recently asking why, despite the massive growth in the popularity of cycling, the numbers of people doing audax events hasn’t really risen much in the last few years.

This has led me to a few conversations with a number of people about how do we get more media coverage for audax events and a few weeks back I did a little research into the external image of Audaxing.

On-line no one really talks about Audaxing.  According to Google Insights people rarely search for Audax events (they do search for Audax-type cycles) and a conversation with a very good friend at the excellent Evans Cycles tells me that no one ever walks into a bike shop and asks about Audaxing.

However, a review of media coverage shows that time and again the word ‘challenge’ comes up in the connection of cycling events.  People seem to buy a nice bike, get the hang of local routes and realise that they can do something more.  They realise quickly that actually riding long distances like London to Paris or Lands End to John O’Groats is actually achievable with a bit of preparation.  Whilst most of us couldn’t imagine doing something like the Marathon Des Sables, we can sit on a bike for a few hours – and actually have fun in the process.

And Audaxing should fit the bill quite nicely for people looking for a bit of a challenge.

Every weekend there are events ranging from just 50Km to astonishing distances of 600km or more – which anyone can enter.  They cost almost nothing (most events cost about £5) and they are full of friendly people who will strike up a conversation at the drop of a hat – there are few aggressive young men racing for a time.  And best of all, when you get back to work on Monday and mention that you spent Saturday cycling from London to Wales and back your colleagues hail you as some form of modern Shakleton.

Audaxing is a challenge – but it’s democratic.  All you need is a bike, a fiver and a bucket of determination.  You don’t need to be a member of the Royal Marines, a five grand bike and a year of living as a monk.

But it get’s next to no media coverage.

This is going to be a challenge in the coming months that I’ve agreed to help rectify… so watch this space.

Liam



PBP 2007 – getting to the start line – more stressful than you’d think
July 18, 2010, 9:10 pm
Filed under: PBP

Getting over the start line for Paris Brest Paris in 2007 proved tougher than I’d expected.  I’d done my qualifying rides, been accepted for the event and stretched the patience of my family by riding almost every day and entering every 200 k event I could find.

I’d even recovered from a slipped disc in record time thanks to the physio team at the Harlequins Rugby Club.

But I’m not anticipated the sheer grief involved in between leaving my front door and rolling over the start-line in the drizzle on that August evening.

Things started to go wrong before we got to the end of the road en route for the railway station.

First we had to turn back because I’d forgot my rail ticket.  Then it was my passport.  I never owned up to the fact that Saturday afternoon that I’d left the ipod behind so I went without it.

In Paris I managed to get in the only cab in my life where I was ripped off.  Fifty Euros for the ride from Gare D’Nord to my brother-in law’s flat in Boulogne Billancourt in the southern suburbs.  I’ve travelled the world and taken taxis everywhere and I think that’s the first time I’ve been had!

Then, the first thing I did on getting out of the cab was to step on one of the biggest  dog turds I’ve ever seen gracing a city street.  Bienvenue en Paris!

Into the flat, up four flights of narrow stairs humping my bike in its bag to Michel’s flat.  Dump my stuff in the hallway and straight out to buy milk and Pizza for my Friday night feast.

Only when I got to the checkout in the supermarket did I realise that I’d left my wallet on the hall table.  So back to the flat to realise that the keys were on the hall-table – on the other side of a locked door.

At this point my phone rang – it was one of the Willesden crew down at the campsite on the other side of Versailles asking if I was coming over for a beer.  It was all that I could do to hold back the tears.

Thankfully Michel hadn’t gone on holiday yet and a call to him in Lyon resulted in finding the only locksmith in Paris who was still working on an August Saturday night.

On the door step of the flat the conversation went something line…

Locksmith “Oh dear this is a very good lock I don’t think I can help you”

Me: “What’s the problem?”

Locksmith “it’s a very good type of lock – there’s no legal way for me to get you in…”

Me “How much would the ‘illegal’ way cost?”

Locksmith “€100”

Me “I happen to have €100 in my wallet in the flat”

About 15 seconds later we were inside the flat, there was a tiny hole in the door and I was €100 poorer (although the locksmith did actually give me an official-looking receipt!).

The Sunday was registration day – so up early on a gloomy and overcast day to ride up to the start at St Quentin – the other side of Versailles.  I managed to get a little lost en route and work in a couple of unnecessary hills

But the scene at the sports centre for the registration was one of organised mayhem.

First there was the queue to collect the rider pack – a strange collection of sheets of A4 paper full of PBP facts, stickers for the bike, a rider card and a plastic wallet to be worn around the neck.  There were also tokens for my pre-ordered PBP shirt and a PBP bidon (which I have kept despite the fact that when I try to drink from it my face is covered in a fine spray!).

I also got a medal for completing the qualifying rides – which was unexpected!

On reflection, this was one of the best bits of the whole experience – seeing for the first time all the different nationalities that were taking part and beginning to get a sense of scale for the whole thing.

As well as bumping into people I’d met on qualifying rides I inevitably found myself chatting to people from the US, from Australia, in fact from pretty well anywhere you could mention.

And everyone – except the Brits – seemed to have a national or regional shirt.  I was particularly impressed by the merino wool outfits worn by the guys from Seattle.

I rode back into Paris with a Finnish rider and got chatting about his qualifying rides.  Bearing in mind that most of the rides had to be completed before the summer and that Audax isn’t very popular, this guy had ridden the distances mostly alone, mostly in the dark and often in the snow and ice.  It rather put my whinging about rainy rides into perspective.

There was nothing much to do until late afternoon on the Monday when I returned to have dinner with the Willesden guys at their campsite.  Ray Kelly gave me a Willesden-branded Hi Viz vest which turned into a stroke of good luck later on.  And then at about 8.30 I slipped off to see the start of the Verdettes – the fast riders who do the whole thing in a stupid time!).

But I missed it as I got caught up in my first-ever bicycle traffic jam on the way into the sports stadium.

Gradually I worked my way in and we were fed onto the running track – it was completely covered in riders.  I met Damon Peacock (http://vimeo.com/9310557) and endured banter about the Willesden not being a proper cycling club.

As dusk fell our lights were checked and we started to filter towards the start tent to have our cards stamped and then, at 30 minute intervals, we were fed up to the start line.

At 1030 I was in the front row chatting to a woman from Florida, just as the drizzle started.  Suddenly we were off and so began one of the most memorable 90 hours of my life.

Liam



Wondering about 2011
July 7, 2010, 8:13 pm
Filed under: PBP, Why

So, after a few months of silence it’s time to blog again.  Which is probably a substitute for riding – I’ve had to take a month off in the hope that a persistent achilles tendon problem clears itself up.

Which has left me time to start stressing about Paris-Brest-Paris 2011.

The event website is live and already the discussion boards are abuzz with debate and advice.

I know I want to do it.  I want to ride the 1,200 km in under 90 hours.  I did it in 2007, but this time I want to do it in the dry.

Finishing PBP in 2007 - looking more cheerful than I felt. Pic Tim Wainwright

But I don’t know if I can do it – I genuinely don’t know if I’m up to it this time.

Back in 2007 I was working from home and was able to ride a great deal in the run -up.  I lost count of the number of evening rides I did and the stolen days when I should have been working.  Yet despite the preparation I grovelled home in 89 hours and 59 minutes, with a desperately painful back, a neck that would no longer support my head and both achilles shot.

Now, I’m four years older and over a stone heavier.  My Achilles continue to play up and I’m back in the world of wage slavery which is cetrain to eat into my preparation time.

However, I wonder where I’ll be at 10pm on the night of August 21 next year?

Liam



There was nothing easy about the ‘Easy PBP’ 600
October 26, 2009, 9:00 am
Filed under: 600, PBP

My first 600 was back at the end of May in 2003 – Steve Abraham’s ‘Easy PBP’ out of Milton Keynes.

Steve is a legend among audax riders – he’s pretty well done everything there is to do, he’s won the award for most miles ridden several times and turns up at so many events with a broad grin on his face – despite the fact that he’s just ridden 250 k to get to the start of the event!   Try Googling him.

His route sheet promised a flat and unchallenging ride and by branding the event as ‘Easy PBP’ he’d got the marketing just right for me. His idea was to put together a ride aimed at people who just wanted to sort out their qualification for the Paris Brest Paris ride…

It was an early start from the outskirts of Milton Keynes on a misty Saturday morning.  If you’ve never been to the Buckinghamshire new town before prepared to be confused by the number of identical roundabouts to get out through on the fast run out of the town.  How did locals survive before the invention of satnav I wonder.

But once we were heading north up into Northamptonshire, the mist started to burn off and a warm day was in prospect.

One of the things I love about audaxing is that you get to see some odd sights – just because you are around at strange times of day and moving at slow speeds.  In recent years that’s included the bottoms for drunk squaddies in high streets at 2 am, post offices getting ready to handle the morning mail and a whole family of foxes crossing the road ahead of me.

This 600 ride included the spectacle of a hot air balloon rising unexpectedly besides me out of a Northamptonshire field at 7 am.  There was no warning, just the throaty roaring of the hot air burner as the balloon took to the air.  Fantastic.

Tesco in Market Harborough provided a receipt to serve as the first control for the 30 or so riders who were out.  The next section was relentlessly hilly – lots of short ups and downs – tiring and unrewarding.  But as we neared Melton Mowbray the country became quite stunning in the clear early morning.

At 128k we reached Margaret’s – a tea shop in the middle of nowhere somewhere around Redmile.  I understand that Margaret has retired a few years ago but her house was a real cyclists institution.

A big dining room was adjoined by a funny shop selling cycling odds and ends – spare tubes, shorts and bar tape.  On the wall were postcards from famous riders like Sean Yates who had stopped there at some stage on a training ride.

And Margaret herself commanded the place with a steely bonhomie.  You wouldn’t want to mess her around as she kept the riders in order with the skill of an estaminet owner faced with a platoon of the Accrington Pals in 1916 Belgium.  But the portions of beans on toast could have kept most families fed for a week washed down by the biggest pot of strong tea I’ve ever been served.  This was a woman who knew her customers!

Then we turned into the wind for a section up to Huntingdon – hung on the back of a group led by Nik Windle (the organiser in those days of the winter classic Poor Student).  I was glad to reach the control in Sainsbury’s and to feed up on pasta.

Despite the warm sun a stiff breeze was building in time for the run up to Wisbeach across the shelterless fens.  Bizarrely, no matter which direction the road took the wind still battered you and, as I was riding alone, I found myself struggling to make progress of any kind and never has a McDonalds been such a welcome sight.

I changed my shorts (one of the tips I’d been given) and hooked up with Lexie as we pushed on into the dark towards the next control – the Red Lodge café.

It is always a great idea to have some company at night – it makes the miles go quicker and limits many of the stupid navigation errors that are so easy to make in the dark.  And best of all Lexie explained how to get the most from a 20 minute kip in a bus shelter outside Swaffham.

Past the lights of a US Air base before hitting the 24 Hour café – sausage, egg and chips, apple pie and custard and head down for 45 minutes… well that was the plan until a rock band turned up.  They’d done a gig in Bury St Edmunds and were living the dream by dropping in to drink coffee!  Another of those things you only see on an audax.

Away by 4.20 into the dawn back to Huntingdon – spotting other riders in bus shelters along the way.  I also learnt about the buzzing noise that overhead power cables make when there is moisture in the air – I’d never noticed it before!

As we moved on towards Rugby we started to gather quite a large group – very jolly Happy Eater fry up at about 9 am (I nipped outside for a 15 minute kip – which the group supplemented half an hour later with a ten minute stop in a field outside Alconbury).

The group began to split shortly after that as we retracted our way across Northamptonshire – lots of short climbs and disappointing descents.  And the day began to warm up.

Around this time I really hit a low point.  I had nothing in my legs and despondency really set in – a situation that the truckstop on the A5 did nothing to improve.

I then made the classic audaxing mistake – leave a control in a hurry in the hope that getting moving will make you feel better.  It won’t and the long slog along the A5 battling speeding traffic for several hours just grinds you down.  It was a horrible, horrible ride on my own for miles and miles that just didn’t seem to get me anywhere.

My depression wasn’t helped when I was overhauled by a fresh looking group made up of several of the guys I’d breakfasted with.  Only the fact that I was in a seriously bad mood kept me going at all.  And then, the other curse of audaxing hit me as well.  I’d estimated a finish time the night before; a finish time that I thought I had no prospect of achieving.

As they say the longest journey most of have to make is eight inches…from one side of the mind to the other!

Then a stroke of luck!

The group that had passed me had stopped for ice cream in Towcester and although I pushed on they caught me ten minutes later I was blowed if I was going to let them get away twice.  I jumped into the third position and stayed there for the last 25 k.  My legs came back to life and we rolled nicely and even a puncture with one of the group outside Milton Keynes didn’t disturb the rhythm too much!

The last 10k around the roundabouts of Milton Keynes was easy riding but incredibly dull.  But only about two hours later than the time I’d promised myself the night before.

It was on this ride that I decided that although I’d completed my first ever Super Randonneur series I wasn’t going to Paris for PBP.  I wasn’t fit enough and work wasn’t going to give me the chance to get fit enough.  But it wasn’t the fitness issue that rattled me.  It was the realisation that I’d nearly packed because I’d found my limit and if it hadn’t been for the group after Towcester the last couple of hours would have been sheer hell.  It’s all about mindset – a lesson that I seem to have to learn time and again.  You’re not beaten until you think you are – completing a SR series is well within the physical capability of a reasonably healthy person.  It’s the mental side of it that makes the difference.

So I went home nursing a dirty little secret.  Although I’d got around in a respectable time I’d almost surrendered along the A5 – if a broom wagon had been on offer I would have taken it even through there was only a few hours of riding left to do.  I felt as if the ride had beaten me – my completion was only a matter of survival.

I went to work after the bank holiday and enjoyed the incredulous reactions of colleagues when I’d told them what I’d done.  But the niggling truth hung over me for several years.

Liam



400 out of Reading
September 21, 2009, 8:22 pm
Filed under: PBP, Rides

In 2003 I rode two 400k events – both were very memorable for a number of reasons.

Covering 400 kilometres in one ride isn’t something many people find themselves doing naturally.  In fact it’s probably more than many people ride ever – the figures about bikes rotting unused in garages are to be believed.  But in 2003 I was doing it in pursuit of my Super Randonneur award – a sort of black belt for long distance cyclists.

To win it I had to ride in a single season events of 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometres.  And it also happened to be the year when an SR series was the necessary qualification to enter the fabled Paris Brest Paris audax.

I signed up first for the Reading 400 on Saturday 26 April and made my way down to Grazeley Village Hall just south of the M4 for the 6 am start.

The route swung west and then headed north towards Pangbourne.  I remember crossing the Thames and climbing upwards into the Chilterns before puncturing and seeing the whole of the sizable field whizz past me in a few minutes.  Which is an incredibly depressing experience.

Once on the move again I quickly got lost and then hooked up with another rider called David just before crossing the M40 above the Stokenchurch gap.  We dropped down to a petrol station at Thame (where we’d stopped on the first 200) and then onwards to Brackley in Northamptonshire.  Then a roadsire halt near Daventry before heading south again into a headwind toward Chipping Norton.

Still with David we stopped in Chipping Norton at 5 pm in a café.  Writing this now I’m struck by how frequently one returns to the same places on bike rides.  I have certainly been back to the café a few times since and the all night truckstop we called at that night in Cirencester has features on a couple of other rides I have done since over the years.

On leaving Chipping Norton the heavens opened and we rode into the face of a hailstorm.  Taking turns to ride on the front made the ride tolerable, but a new experience for me – grinning and bearing it into the face of the rain.

Chips in Cirencester before lighting up and heading off into the dusk for a section through nightime lanes which took us to Hackpen Hill near Broad Hinton in Wiltshire at around 1030.  Hackpen is a long steady climb in a granny cog – from a couple of miles away you see the road rising up and in the dark you can see it kick away to the left as red tail lights wind their way up.

A few months later I did the hill in daylight and I swear some hills are better done in the dark.  Sometimes it is best not to know what you’re fighting!

And at the top, we were met by the event organiser Andy Uttley with cake and drinks – never a more welcome sight before the fast descent into Marlborough.  Through the inky black dark and suddenly you are spat out into the lights of the high street.

I don’t remember much more about the evening except that I punctured again in around 2 am and was rescued by a chap who insisted on changing the tube with his eyes shut – in 20 minutes.  Sadly I put the front wheel back in the wrong way so my computer didn’t record anything for the rest of the night.

And then my first experiences of riding into the dawn past Bracknell and along the Thames Valley.  I still can’t get over the feeling of refreshment that hits you with the light – gradually making out the road without the need for lights and for some reason getting a sense of being quenched despite the fug inside your night clothes.

I punctured again about 20k from home but I still limped back at around 6.40 according to my Brevet card.

I was now three quarters of the way to completing my SR series – and by all accounts over the worst bit.

Everyone was saying that a 400 is a tough distance because there is no scope for a decent sleep.  I plodded through it without thinking about it –possibly because I’d promised myself a finish around 2 am.

And that was my biggest mistake – but one I still repeat on every ride.

Promising myself a finish time can only leave to pain and anguish as headwinds, punctures, slow service in cafes and unexpected mountains snatch the prospect of an early finish from your hands .

But the best bit of this ride?  Realising how tiny Britain really is.

From south of Reading I rode almost to Rugby in about seven hours (including a puncture and a detour) and then south west back into Oxfordshire, on to Cirencester before charging East home to Reading.  And all within the space of 24 Hours.

How did I feel afterwards?  Not too bad considering.  I slept a few hours when I got home and still went to Tae Kwon Do training.  And on Monday I still turned in a decent day’s work.

Liam



Denmead – the first 300
September 3, 2009, 8:48 am
Filed under: PBP

When I was doing my 200 in February, other riders debated the merits of different organisers.

Apparently there was a big difference in the approach which various organisers took to the way they laid on events.  Some, like Rocco are known for the barest of bare boned facilities.  A hand-written route sheet, a start in a non-descript car park and no en route contacts.  Receipts from petrol stations prove you’ve ridden the route – no friendly controller serving up tea and fruitcake in a church hall somewhere.

By contrast the legendary Dave Hudson – El Supremo – lurks in lay-bys with a trailer-full of ready cut sandwiches, a choice of hot drinks and as much rice pudding as you can scoff.  Having done a couple of his ride in Sussex and Kent I shouldn’t be surprised to see a full physiotherapy service laid on one day.

Hampshire’s Pam Pilbeam was known, back in 2003, for the quality of her organisation, the friendly tea at the start and the inch-perfect accuracy of her route-sheets.

I can’t now remember what 300K ride I had originally planned, but under pressure from the guys on the 200 I found myself heading down to Portsmouth one Saturday morning in April 2003 to start the Denmead 300K.

Riding 300 kilometres in one day was to be the second step in my quest towards achieving Super Randonneur status and qualification for the legendary Paris-Brest-Paris Audax of 2003.  Only a matter of weeks before my longest ever ride had been 100 kilometres or five hours of pedalling – now I had embarked on a series of events which could potentially lead me to riding 600 kilometres almost non-stop.

The 300 Kilometres had to start somewhere – and that somewhere was at Pam’s house – the Crows nest – where she dished out tea and biscuits to about 80 riders.

As before, I felt a little isolated.  Most of the riders seemed to know each other or slipped into easy conversation.  By contrast I felt tense and on edge.  And I certainly didn’t want to confess to anyone that I’d never ridden anything like this distance before.

Since the 200 I’d bought a map trap – a perspex holder for my route sheet – which I hoped would hide the fact that I was a novice.  And I’d spent good money on a waterproof – one that wouldn’t slowly cook me inside or reduce me to a moist sludge.

But I still felt like an outsider.

Thinking back now, six years later, I’m not sure why I didn’t automatically think of myself as an insider.  In truth people probably were as friendly to me as to any other rider and I’ve come to recognise the same sort of nervous individuals standing around the fringes of every pre-start crowd.

Perhaps it was the fact that I hadn’t yet realised that there are relatively few faces to be seen on these rides.  The same regulars turn up and sooner or later you get to ride a few miles with most of them.  And inevitably they’ll stop for you or you’ll stop for them when something has gone wrong although you are little better than strangers to each other.

Soon enough we were off for a circuit of the New Forest, a visit to the coast on the other side of the Solent and then home. Bucklers Hard, Milford-on-sea, Ringwood, Blandford, Salisbury, Ower and back to the village hall in Denmead.

The day went smoothly enough.  The run to Bucklers Hard for the first stop went smoothly and mostly solo.  Then around the coast to Lymington before heading north into the Forest again.  I remember lots of cattle grids, a first meeting with Richard Phipps (who either rides or stewards on every single Audax I ever do!) and eating a fantastic pork pie at a petrol station outside Salisbury, as it was getting dark.

And for the first time, I rode properly in the dark.

There is still something magical for me in stopping to light up.  I always get a buzz at the moment when the high visibility jacket comes out and the lights get switched on.  Ahead lie spooky lanes – which get increasingly quiet as night draws on.

And riders bunch up.

For the last 75 K or so I found myself in a group of strangers who were working together.  Navigating and chatting into the night is fantastic – especially if you are with a group of people working at the same pace as you.

Then, progressively you have the lanes to yourself.  A quiet descends and on this ride, for the first time I got a real sense of peace and calm.  Even though you are with other people, the conversation, for me, takes on a quality that is relaxed yet purposeful.  You are all concentrating hard on where you are going, yet there is a stillness about the group that’s gently spinning its way ahead.

On one ride, a 400 I think, I punctured and I was with another rider.  We sat cross-legged on the road way whilst, at 2 am, I stripped out the tube and replaced it.  And we just chatted about nothing much – I think it might even have been gardening books- and we were still.

Which I think is why I’m hooked.

I didn’t make a note of when I finished although the old Brevet card (yes I keep them all) says it was 2310 – quite a respectable time for a first outing.  And at the finish, there was Pam dishing out M&S ready meals from a microwave, alongside banter about other well known riders.

And I’d done it.  And I was left wondering…surely this has to get tough sometime….

Liam



What is Paris Brest Paris?
August 9, 2009, 8:16 pm
Filed under: PBP, Rambling nonsense, Why

I first heard about Paris-Brest-Paris, or PBP, about ten years ago when I’d only just started riding my bike on the roads and entering organised events.

I’d joined Audax UK and got a copy of the the magazine Arrivé and there was a story of someone’s epic 1,200 bike ride from Paris to Brest on the tip of Britanny and back again – within the 90 hour time limit.

I think that’s equivalent of riding from London to Lands End and back and then returning to Basingstoke (give or take a bit).

Like most people I thought that sort of ride was all but impossible – what sort of person in their right minds gets on a bike on a Monday evening in August and rides almost solidly until Friday?  They grab sleep where they can, but it has to come out of the 90 hour allowance….

But, every four years, quite a few people give it a go – four to five thousand people turn up from all over the world to give it a go in fact.

And if they didn’t demand that riders qualify by riding shorter distances earlier in the year I guess quite a lot more would turn up on the start line.

You can read all about the history of the ride and about some of the heroics of the past – before the days of lightweight bikes, lycra and sensible nutrition – on the official website run by the organising body L’Audax Club Parisiene.

If you are thinking of riding PBP (which is probably within the reach of anyone who is reasonably fit, has a bit of time to train and has an understanding family) there are a few things you need to do to get you to the start line.

Firstly you have to qualify – which is both entirely achievable for a novice and an endless source of bragging rights.

Qualification entails completing a ‘Super Randonneur’ series of rides in the first half of the year.  This means that you have to ride events of 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometres – an impressive achievement in itself.

Finding such rides in the UK isn’t too much of a challenge – most weekends there are Audax UK sponsored events all over the place.  Book early to avoid disappointment and you’ll be in.

Once you’ve completed your rides and all your workmates are convinced that you are both super human and bonkers you get a doctors’ certificate, pay an entry fee and you’re on the road to Paris in August.

The first year I qualified I didn’t ride PBP – too much pressure at work meant it would have been rather unfair to ask my family and as 2003 turned out to be one of the hottest Augusts on record I was rather glad to have stayed at home.

I’m not sure why I had a crack at in 2007 (one of the wettest Augusts on record) but I’m glad I did.

PBP StartWhen you’re a slightly overweight 45 year old there’s a tendency to find a challenge.  I’m never really got running so marathons were out and somehow those charity rides to Paris never really appealed (I thought I was too lazy to raise the minimum sponsorship!).

But I suppose I got rather sucked in.  I started doing the shorter rides and each time you discover that you can actually manage 200k, then 300K and even 600k you are left begging the question… ‘I wonder…what is 1200k like???’

There’s certainly very little competitive element to it all.  There are few badges and nobody cheats because there really isn’t any point.  As my old house master would have said: ‘you’re only cheating yourself’.

For me, it’s a personal test.  I clearly have an unresolved issue with quitting or giving up too soon and even though my CV bears testament to my lack of patience with pointless jobs or stupid bosses, I take a perverse pleasure at hanging on in there on in the drizzle 300k into a 400k ride.   And I get disproportionately depressed when I climb on a train back to the start having ‘packed’ early.

I’m not sure if it’s the same for other audaxers but that’s about it for me.

If you are thinking about a major challenge for 2011 – one that you can build up to – then PBP is worth thinking about.

Liam FitzPatrick