Monday, 15 August 2011

Summer Madness for Autumn Epic

This 63 year old old man, that is me, was so desperate to see if he was up to cycling the 128 Km (80 miles) short route Autumn Epic that he couldn't wait for the 2 October event itself!

I put the bike in the back of the Polo for the very first time and set off for Knighton in Radnorshire. The car is a brand new Blue Motion, the most frugal, five seater, fossil fueled car you can buy. The bike, however, is a piece of antiquity - a 40 to 50 year old bone shaker with only six gears and a rusting steel frame. I'm even older, all skin and bones like a beanpole and very little hair left. And, I was cycling this epic hill route of seven key climbs, as the race organiser put it, in sandals - what a spectacle I was!

The road to Newtown took me to the zig zags up onto moorland where four sheep in single line ran before me until a passing car made them swerve off into the grass. Only for them to rejoin me, running in line in front as I toiled up the slope! Soon a cattle grid forced them off the road and let me pass.

I did Rhayader clock tower in exactly three hours. That was satisfying and the two real hills were taken in the saddle. The only problem was my right tendon that was slightly complaining. I stopped for nearly half an hour to eat my sandwiches, slumped against a post on NCR8, on the edge of Rhayader. The remaining 50 miles was taken at a more leisurely pace, I thought but, in fact, I did the complete circuit in 8 hrs 25 mins. So nearly 10 mph, including all the stops to correctly navigate the route, for food and to admire the views.

I had to walk up the three steepest hills; I stopped off to walk up the nearest summit from the high point on the road - Gilwern Hill to the south of the road; and I climbed a gate to get a superb view of the Black Mts and the Brecon Beacons. In the saddle I admired two funny looking churches - one where the stone was painted white and another with a stubby looking tower and spire. I met a 61 year old cyclist out with his son who was in training for the 60 miles Aber to Kington cycle event. I'm sure he said that the Autumn Epic involves more climbing.

The final climb was a 4 Km steady upwards to then enjoy the swoop down into Knighton and the finish. 8.5 hrs in the saddle in the stunning scenery of the Radnorshire hills, is definitely more arduous than 8.5 hrs walking up and down the big Scottish hills that I normally do! Even so, I must do the short route once more before the big event itself - and beat my time, of course.

When will I buy a new road bike more fit for these big rides? And how much should I pay? How many gears? Should it have mudguards? What kind of frame?