Reliability Rides 2017 West Midlands

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At the start of every season a number of local clubs arrange and host reliability rides around the area. These are often around 50-60 miles in length, are unsigned, cost very little and have excellent cake at the end too. Traditionally these rides were the first test of the legs in an event, to see how they were faring at speeds a little quicker than the average Sunday club run. The reliability ride has now morphed into a popular mini-sportive, with a strong mix of riders at all levels taking part.

West Midlands Reliability Rides in 2017

Stratford Cycle Club Reliability Ride
When: 12th February 2017
Where: Home Guard Club, Tiddington, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Start: 10am
Route: Here
2016 Review2014 Review

CC Giro Reliability Ride
When: 12th February
Where: Rosliston Forestry Centre, Rosliston, Derbyshire/East Staffordshire
Start: 10:15am
Route: Here
2016 Review

Bridgnorth CC Reliability Ride
When: 12th February 2017
Where: Clee Cycles, Station Works, Hollybush Road, Bridgnorth
Start: 09:30am
Route: Here (gpx)

Malvern Cycle Sport Reliability Ride
When: 19th February 2017
Where: Malvern Victoria Bowling Club, Victoria Park, Malvern Link, Worcestershire
Start: 09:30
Route: NA

Mid Shropshire Wheelers Reliability Ride
When: 19th February 2017
Where: Shrewsbury Sports Village, Sundorne Rd, Shrewsbury
Start: 08:30
Route: Here

Royal Sutton Coldfield Reliability Ride
When: 19th February 2017
Where: Town Gate, Sutton Park, West Midlands
Start: 09:30am
Route: Here

Solihull CC Reliability Ride
When: 26th February 2017
Where: Bluebell Cider House, Solihull, West Midlands
Start: 09:00am
Route: Here

Redditch Road and Path CC Reliability Ride
When: 26th February 2017
Where: Mettis Aerospace Sports & Social Club, Cherry Tree Walk, Redditch, Worcestershire
Start: 08:30am
Route: Here
2016 Review

Audlem CC Reliability Ride
When: 26th February 2017
Where: Scout and Guide Hut, Audlem, SE Cheshire
Start: 09:15am
Route: NA

Echelon Cycles 3 Counties Challenge

Bromsgrove Olympic Reliability Ride
When: 5th March 2017
Where: Scout Hut, Kidderminster Road, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
Start: 10:00am
Route: NA

Echelon Cycles Three Counties Challenge
When: 5th March 2017
Where: Echelon Cycles, Pershore, Worcestershire
Start: 09:00am
Route: Here

Stafford Road Club Reliability Ride
When: 5th March 2017
Where: Stafford Rugby Club, Stafford, Staffordshire
Start: 9am
Route: Here

Nova Raiders Reliability Trial
When: 12th March 2017
Where: New Inn, Newport, Shropshire
Start: 09:30am
Route: Here

Wolverhampton Wheelers ’50 in 4′
When: 15th March 2017
Where: Pattingham Village Hall, Pattingham, Shropshire
Start: 08:45am
Route: Here

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Reliability Rides 2017 West Midlands was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Warwickshire Wanderer 105km Audax – 21st May 2016

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CTC Logo

An early start after sleeping on Rich’s deflating airbed saw Rich, George and I head down to Birmingham New Street to catch the train over to Hampton in Arden. Breakfast was acquired on the way (sausage and bacon rolls are excellent for cycling) and we rolled out for the short ride over to Meriden for the Warwickshire Wanderer 105km Audax.

Warwickshire Wanderer

I did this Audax in 2015, but the longer 160km version, however this time I was using it to help build up the miles for George and Rich ahead of this year’s Dunwich Dynamo and a planned trip to cycle from Brussels to Cologne in September. We made it to the start at the church hall, had a cup of hot brown, picked up our route cards and were on our way.

The beauty of the Audax is that most people are sensible, don’t rush off from the start and quietly plod along on their way at a leisurely pace enjoying themselves. There is a little bit of a climb straight away from Meriden however and despite trying to sit in the wheels, ended up dragging the guys with me through the groups (albeit still being sensible) until we found one going at a speed we liked. The route meandered through the Birmingham/Coventry gap before working its way past Hatton and into countryside that I recognised the look of – this naturally meant I ended up speeding up a bit before taking it easy to make sure we were all together again.

Norton Lindsey Windmill

The first control was in Norton Lindsey and was a simple matter of reading a road sign as we went past, later on seemingly everyone else was asking the answer as they’d missed it whilst making the turn out of a junction. The next stretch was windy and we’d ended up in a group that was spaced out quite a bit which meant keeping track of both the guys was difficult, I ended up losing them briefly on a descent before picking them up again the other side of the A46 after having a bit of a chat with another rider as he went past. We were heading for Wellesbourne and the road was kind and in our favour, allowing us to pick up speed for a bit. We entered the village and looked for the next control (a proper village hall, tea and cake stop) but after turning off the road we weren’t sure where to go next, until 30 seconds later another rider went flying past down a driveway, that confidence convinced us to follow. It had turned out we’d been the first riders to get there (just) so it wasn’t obvious with no-one else to follow (we were also spot on the earliest time of arrival allowed). We put a sticker in our card and treated ourselves to cake.

We allowed ourselves a leisurely break before setting off again, now properly into a stiff headwind. We took the back way out of Wellesbourne to Kineton rather than going over Spring/Fizz Hills and then started heading towards Edgehill. I teased Rich about us maybe having to go up the impending climb, knowing full well we were going to turn off right at the bottom of it, eventually I put him out of his misery. It was along here that someone ahead somehow managed to crash going over the railway lines that go from one part of the Temple Herdwycke army camp to the other. He seemed alright and turned down the offers of help from us so we left him to it. We began to see the Burton Dassett beacon and I let the guys know that we were definitely going up this one and that once it was done, we’d done the hardest climb.

Burton Dassett Climb
The climb up to the beacon

I’ve done this one a few times, the climb starts by going across the cattle grid before gradually rising itself up into a double figure gradient on the turn, a brief respite gives the legs chance before the short final kick up to the beacon. I’d gone at a fast but reasonable pace and figured that’d be enough to beat everyone, near the top I could hear Rich’s gears and breathing making a racket as he’d taken on the challenge of catching me up. On the top bend with a car for cover, I spun up the legs and across the top to the next cattle grid distanced him properly. I then had to go back because I’d missed the answer to the next control question which had been on the bend where I shot off. I told the guys to carry on and caught up with them again shortly afterwards.

We were now out of the worst of the headwind and plodded on quite happily together, eventually reaching the next proper control in the village of Harbury. Just like last year, they’d put on a good spread and we spent 40 minutes there relaxing out of the worst of the oncoming drizzle. Plenty started ahead of us so we’d given up on thinking we’d be one of the first pack and found ourselves attached to the back of 3-4 riders going at a decent sensible pace for the final part of the ride. As the legs began to tire, Rich was quiet and I presume heavily focused on following the wheel in front of him – he turned down offers to do his turn on the front. George found himself fine on the flat but each time the road gradually rose up, found himself dropping back, keen to keep the group together and it only being small moments of struggle, I helped by giving him a push up the gradients to keep his speed up so he could then stay in the group and hide out of the wind on the flat. Later on one of the older guys in the group queried George as to why I was helping George when he was much older – the best response seemed to be to suggest that the older guy was a better rider.

The traditional centre point of England
The traditional centre point of England

Having kept myself sensible on this final stretch and knowing the last short climb before the finish, I let George know my intentions and zoomed off out of the group to blast up the hill and then down the descent the other side. Surprisingly one of the group tried to come with me but I crested the climb ahead and stayed in front. Rich wasn’t far behind and George had taken it easy arriving about a minute later. The card was checked, had our paid for beans and toast and then we went down the pub.

Strava

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Warwickshire Wanderer 105km Audax – 21st May 2016 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Stourbridge CC Reliability Ride Review – 31st January 2016

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Stourbridge CC Club Jersey

So, the first event of 2016 and I got to ride it with two of my mates, one very new to cycling and the other looking to start off the year with a long ride. The purpose of the early season ‘reliability ride’ is to test out the legs and see how you’re faring for speed as you complete a shorter but testing route. You’re given a route beforehand but generally it’s not signposted and it’s up to you to go the right way and sort out mechanicals en route.

I’ve seen the Stourbridge CC reliability ride come up the last few years but never quite found the time to do it, this year the plan was to cycle over from central Birmingham with George, meet Adam in Stourbridge, do the ride and then cheat and get the train home. The route was uploaded to the Garmin and we set off in the dark. A gentle ride across the city (and a collection of Adam) and we were at Kingswinford Rugby Club, handing over our money and signing in before having a cup of hot brown for warmth.

Kingswinford Rugby Club
Kingswinford Rugby Club – the start and finish point

Conditions were relatively good, not raining but chilly and quite mucky from the previous day’s rain.
We set off early (the slowest group) in order to give us plenty of time (being George’s first ever club event and Adam’s first in awhile) and ended up following a couple, who seemed to be having an early battle with plenty of orders and assistance required on climbs from the two mile mark. We were meandering along, keeping a steady pace without rushing and it was no surprise when the faster groups who had set off later caught up to us in a big long line and didn’t hang around.

We had a very hairy wet descent into Bridgnorth, I came into the first sharp bend far too quickly and had to try and do the big no-no of cornering whilst still on the brakes, which led to a load of under-steer and a second of panic as I saw the opposite kerb coming up and thinking I wouldn’t make it – luckily I did but I took the next bend at a more respectable speed. I had a bit of fun on the climb out of Bridgnorth, attacking it properly and overtaking a dozen other riders before sitting up at the top and waiting for the guys behind who had been sensible.

Bridgnorth Climb
The beginning of the Bridgnorth climb I had fun on

We’d found the headwind at this point and the most difficult stretch of the ride, a constantly undulating up and down series of solid climbs and descents that didn’t let up and didn’t give much chance to rest the legs. The average speed started tumbling but with the quick guys long gone all the riders were now struggling, we had a brief altercation with a car who didn’t appreciate some of the more wobbly unstraight hill climbing – cyclists going slowly uphill don’t have the energy for such nonsense. Eventually this hard section finished with us reaching Bewdley and crossing the river Severn.

This is where not knowing the area properly showed, we took a brief re-fuelling stop, tacked onto the back of a small group that passed us, had a tractor come past us on a tiny road and then straight up the steepest hardest part of the ride. The gradient shot up to between 15-20% and the group very quickly blew apart. I caught up to the rider who had made it to the front and had a laugh as Adam let out a loud cry of anguish at the effort behind. Struggling up in the lowest of the low gears at little more than walking pace I made it up using the bike and set to waiting at a crossroads at the top. 4 minutes later the guys appeared – I’ve been reliably informed that they walked/ran up the worst of it and Strava tells us that they weren’t the only ones that day. This effort pretty much killed off Adam’s knee for good, which required some nursing back to the finish.

Stourbridge Reliability Ride Profile
Stourbridge Reliability Ride Profile Map

The knee prevented Adam from going at anything like his usual pace, especially on the climbs where it was having the worst effect. We stuck together and managed to coax it back the final 10 miles as a unit without any serious damage being done and a restorative bacon sandwich as the reward at the finish. Our end time wasn’t amazing which wasn’t surprising all things considered with the injury – 3 hours and 16 minutes to complete the 42.3 mile course. Strava says that we came 101st out of 110 so a confidence boost to the guys that they’re faster than others with plenty left in the tank. A good ride and plenty of extra grub on offer too.

Strava – Stourbridge CC Reliability Ride 2016

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Stourbridge CC Reliability Ride Review – 31st January 2016 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Audax – Cotswold Challenge 160km – 16th May 2015

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Audax UK
Audax UK

The next of my training rides for the Norwich 100 at the end of May saw me complete the Cotswold Challenge Audax this weekend.

I was originally planning to do another 100km one similar to the Bell Tolls one in Evesham the week before, but decided to ramp things up and complete a proper 100 miles before doing the main deal.

Cotswold Challenge Audax Route
Cotswold Challenge Audax Route

The route left Meriden, centre of England, bright and early Saturday morning (I’d cheated and got the train to a village nearby). I managed to join up with a couple of Beacon CC guys that I’ve ridden with before on a Wednesday night and we set off much quicker than the usual CTC/Audax lot – this is becoming a trend…but I like to set off fast and crawl over the finish line than go steady all the way around.

Cotswold Challenge Audax Elevation
Cotswold Challenge Audax Elevation

By the time we’d gone through a few villages a decent group of around a dozen had formed – I took my turn on the front as we’d singled out on a busier road, then it went quiet and when I turned my head at the next roundabout it turned out I’d broken away. Apparently someone’s tyre had pretty much exploded in the group and it lost half a minute trying to sort itself out. I sat up and let the group join back up to me.

We eventually came to some roads that I knew from the Shakespeare 100 sportive (and the worst bout of road rage I’ve been on the receiving end of, though that was partly Adam’s fault) which then led onto a long stretch of the Stratford CC Saturday morning route. Knowing the roads and being on the front I may have accidentially upped the pace, especially with a Cat 3 racer on my shoulder egging me on.

Campden Road

By the time we reached the main road climb to Chipping Campden, the climbers shot off the front and were consistently ahead up to the top with me gamely hanging on 10-20 seconds behind, followed by a big gap. I was surprised to find at the end that on Strava I was now the 60th fastest out of over 1200 riders – in the top 5%.

Cotswold Challenge Audax Great Western Arms Blockley
Our first control in Blockley

Things settled down as we made the first control in Blockley, added a sticker to our brevet cards and moved on. This section was the hardest with solid climbs such as going up Edgehill via Tysoe and heading over to Burton Dassett which I hadn’t visited since completing the Rapha Festive 500 back in December. By this point my earlier exuberance was just starting to pay its price as hills were harder and harder to keep pace on. A brief touch of wheels after the top showed how quickly a crash can potentially happen but because of the low speed I managed to keep the bike upright.

Cotswold Challenge Audax Burton Dassett Climb
The Burton Dassett Climb

Our second audax stop and our second control sticker was at Harbury as we started our ride back northwards to the start at Meriden. Back on unfamiliar roads and beginning to flag, I was happy sitting within the shelter of the group and whenever I felt like I wanted to stop then the thought of then having to attack the headwind on my own made me tell the legs to shut up.

With a couple of miles to go, the racier and fresher members of the still 8 strong group started to go quicker on the rolling bumps just outside Meriden, dropping a few of us wearier riders. Attacking the downhill into the village we all ended up coming in together and were confirmed as the first group of 100-milers to finish the audax.

Cotswold Challenge Audax Meriden Cyclists War Memorial
Meriden is also home of the Cyclists War Memorial.

Whilst an Audax is strictly not a race and ultimately noone is that fussed by what time you completed the route in, so long as you complete it, there’s still a nice satisfaction in ‘winning’ – especially two weeks in a row!

Strava

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Audax – Cotswold Challenge 160km – 16th May 2015 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Audax – Every Time A Bell Rings 2015 – 112 km

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Audax UK
Audax time!

Every Time a Bell Rings… 112km Audax

After falling off back in January, I’ve not actually done another Audax until now. In an effort to get back on the wagon and prepare for the Norwich 100 at the end of May, it was time to do some longer rides again!

The ride was planned as 112km and contained nothing too scary routewise.

Audax Route

Every Time a Bell Rings Audax
Didn’t realise until I’d finished, that this was actually in the shape of a bell.

The Audax

The route started from Evesham and I cycled from an overnight stay, at my mum’s nearby, to the start. It turned out that I hadn’t actually uploaded the route to my Garmin but in good Audax practice I’d printed off a copy of the route sheet so no dramas.

Meon Hill
Meon Hill

I was given the go ahead to start at 8:55am and seemed to leave before most of the other riders who were waiting for 9am – this meant I didn’t see anyone else for over an hour.
The route went back the way I’d just come through the villages of Badsey, Bretforton and Honeybourne before tackling the Meon Hill climb outside of Mickleton – it’s nothing too taxing but a good leg warmer. Heading on the route was largely flat until a bit of a rise by Pillerton Priors where two guys going at a decent speed came past, I jumped onto the back and ended up going 20mph+ to the first stop in Kineton 37km from the start. It turned out only one of the guys was actually on the Audax and I ended up doing the rest of the route with him.

More and more Audaxers arrived as we sat and had good coffee and bakewell slice, but after 20 minutes we were off, now as a pair. After the steep climb of Spring Hill, we flew through Wellesbourne and into Charlecote where it followed the Stratford CC Saturday morning route for a stint. Familiarity definitely helps as you know exactly where you can push the speed up without having to worry about an unexpected serious climb just around the corner.

Honeybourne Village
Honeybourne Village

We had a brief stop in Norton Lindsay to take down the numbers on a fire hydrant – an information control to prove that we had taken a certain line between Kineton and our next stop at Earlwood. It’s a simple solution from the pre-GPS days to weed out any potential foul play.
There were parts I knew and parts I didn’t in this middle part before eventually using the exact same run-in to Earlwood that I’d done on a ride on Wednesday evening. Using local knowledge I took the high road next to the lakes and went flying past on the hill on the other side. Time for another coffee stop!

The wind had been very kind up to this point with a tailwind blasting us along, it turned out we’d gone fast enough to actually get to this stop too early by a single minute. There are windows where these controls are ‘open’ in order to slow fast riders down at the top end and to provide a minimum speed at the other. The window was about 3 hours wide so plenty of time for all but the least able – the minimum average speed expected by an Audaxer is a very generous 9.37mph, which encourages more leisure time or the naps in the sun that I’ve done on a previous Audax.

Earlwood Lakes
Earlwood Lakes

The final third was distinctly difficult with a very strong headwind gradually wearing us down as well as the route being on main roads the entire way back to the finish. The windy descent on the dual carriageway to the outskirts of Redditch wasn’t particularly pleasant, nor the queue jumping at the roundabout at the bottom. With a steady taking of turns at the front, we still made good progress and it was certainly easier than if I’d have been on my own.

We both collectively hit a physical wall a few miles outside of Evesham and began struggling to the finish, one final climb over Greenhill and it was a nice descent into Evesham town for the finish.

Predictably we were the first ones back, which although not a race and receives no recognition is still an achievement.

Bell Ring Audax Fly By Strava
The extent of the damage – two of us had finished and others were still North of Alcester. Also interesting to note where people went the wrong way…
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Audax – Every Time A Bell Rings 2015 – 112 km was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Sam Weller’s Day Trip to Wochma – 203km Audax

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Last Saturday I set off at 5am to do another 200km Audax, this time from Tewkesbury, heading westwards before going down to Chepstow, over the Severn to Malmesbury and back up to Tewkesbury.

I unfortunately jacked it in after 30 miles and got on the train at Hereford after an encounter with ice.

Generally alright and no major damage I tried pressing on but wasn’t enjoying it. I’d come down a hill and right at the bottom there was a patch of obvious sheet ice. I hit the brakes but still was going at 18mph and the front wheel just slid out from under me. I performed the Superman over the bars and hit the deck.

Not sure how, but cut this

Not sure how, but cut this

My sad face on the train home, cut chin and bruised above the eye from the impact of ground and helmet.

My sad face on the train home, cut chin and bruised above the eye from the impact of ground and helmet.

Helmet damage

Never had a stone get itself stuck there…it’s still there a week later

Road rash on the leg

Road rash on the leg

Left elbow damage

Left elbow damage

Right elbow damage

Right elbow damage

Holes in the winter jersey

Holes in the winter jersey

Bike Stuff on Train

It all started off so well

Sam Weller’s Day Trip to Wochma – 203km 2015 Audax

Gallery

 

Last Saturday I set off at 5am to do another 200km Audax, this time from Tewkesbury, heading westwards before going down to Chepstow, over the Severn to Malmesbury and back up to Tewkesbury and the first 2015 Audax over!

I unfortunately jacked the it in after 30 miles and got on the train at Hereford after an encounter with ice. Not the best start to 2015 audax-wise!

Generally alright and no major damage I tried pressing on but wasn’t enjoying it. I’d come down a hill and right at the bottom there was a patch of obvious sheet ice. I hit the brakes but still was going at 18mph and the front wheel just slid out from under me. I performed the Superman over the bars and hit the deck.

Looking forward to another attempt later in the 2015 Audax season!

Not sure how, but cut this

Not sure how, but cut this

My sad face on the train home, cut chin and bruised above the eye from the impact of ground and helmet.

My sad face on the train home, cut chin and bruised above the eye from the impact of ground and helmet.

Helmet damage

Never had a stone get itself stuck there…it’s still there a week later

2015 Audax – Sam Weller’s Day Trip to Wochma

Road rash on the leg

Road rash on the leg

Left elbow damage

Left elbow damage

Right elbow damage

Right elbow damage

Holes in the winter jersey

Holes in the winter jersey

Bike Stuff on Train

It all started off so well

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Sam Weller’s Day Trip to Wochma – 203km 2015 Audax was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling