…from the wonderful world of aerodynamics and power data to the equally quirky scene of AudaxUK…

Probably one of the most popular hashtags among UK timetriallist on Twitter is #smashitup. Coined by (I believe) TT Champion of Champs Matt Bottrill and used by many of his coached riders, this approach may work for some but for me #mixitup is a much more appealing philosophy.

Having spent most of 2014 and 2015 training on my own, mostly indoors on the turbo, and racing yet another dual carriage way timetrial at the weekends, I recently just had enough of it. I think it was a bit of a vicious circle effect. I no longer enjoyed what I was doing and that showed in my performance. Also, because I no longer performed as well (whether that is due to other things in life getting in the way of training or just my training approach no longer being as effective), I started to enjoy my timetrialling even less.

So, following the motto that ‘a change is as good as a rest’, I went from the wonderful world of Cycling Time Trials with its aerodynamics and power data geeks to the equally quirky scene of AudaxUK (The Long Distance Cyclists’ Association) with its route sheets, maximum speeds and some men sporting very fine beards indeed.

I have always had a preference for long distance riding, be it on leisure rides or long distance TTs, so Audax is a logical extension. With a few of my former club mates also planning on doing the event, I signed up for ‘Straight Outta Hackney’: a 200km ride organised by Audax Club Hackney, starting from Harringay and, once past the urban jungle of North London, passing through beautiful countryside, quiet country lanes and … many rustic pubs. The guys I was riding with were setting a decent pace and hanging onto the wheels was hard at times. But they also showed me that an audax is basically a pub crawl by bike!

Whizzing through the Hertfordshire, Essex and Cambridgeshire countryside on my Scott Foil (which I have shown such little love this year), following Alex’s wheel (which is simply the most reliable, fast yet steady rider I know), I was feeling happier on my bike than I have felt for a very long time. No pressure of racing and times; just being out on my bike in nice scenery, with good company and accumulating some good mileage (170 miles in total) in anticipation of the National 12hr TT at the end of August.

Coincidentally our route passed both over the A11 (a fast busy dual carriage way where I have ridden quite a few ‘E2’ TT events) and also followed/crossed part of the women’s National 25mile TT course which was held on the same day. Unfortunately, we came through too early to stop and cheer the competitors on, but I felt nothing but relief when passing by and couldn’t be happier doing my audax rather than timetrialling.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still many things I love about timetrialling and the TT scene, especially as I get to know some of my fellow competitors (and their supporters) a bit better, but the audax scene is surprisingly fun and welcoming. The organisers even went out of their way inviting everyone (75-odd riders) over to their house afterwards for a well-supplied BBQ and unlimited drinks! The only thing that gave away that I was the ‘odd-one-out’, were my aero overshoes… Spot the tester 😉

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If you have a few minutes, Dom, one of the other guys I was riding with, made this short video clip from part of the ride based on 2-sec time lapse images taken with his GoPro. For another perspective of the day, there is also a very nice production by Damon Peacock, with him jumping on the back of our train as we pass about 3:40mins into the film.

If it wasn’t clear to me yet before, this audax definitely confirmed that next year will be all about doing what I want to do (i.e. long distance riding, be it audax, TT or other mad challenges) rather than what I think I ought to do (defending my BBAR title out of nothing but stupid pride, especially considering I only won it by luck/accident in the first place). #mixitup not #smashitup

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