Thursday, 3 May 2018

The Woodman, by Cruzbike

Just to recap, the Cruzbike build was finished in mid-March and then the weather turned crappy again, but by the time the Woodman came round, I’d managed to get about 350km of Cruzbike in my legs on a mix of short local loops of 25km and turbo trainer sessions of an hour to 90mins. I think I’d had two longer rides of about 50km each as well.

The woodman, on 14th April was going to be my first real test of the combination of bike and rider I’m intending on deploying on my summer tour.  All is not lost if it goes tits-up and I find the thing un-rideable, as all the components came off a road bike frame which is now sat in the bikeshed awaiting tidy up. 

 Aims for this ride
  1. Test the comfort over long distance/duration. The woodman is 112km, vs my longest planned tour day of 146km, and a club ride of 160km.
  2. Test average audax speed on the new machine.  Barring mechanicals, p*$nct%res, route screw ups, I normally expect an audax speed of about 25km/h
  3. Test the gearing on hills, the route heads out amongst the rolling lanes of Essex and has about 850m climb on the routesheet
  4. Enjoy a day out in the sunshine
Firstly apologies for the lateness of write up, my aim is normally to have it done the following week, but I ended up spending three days offshore instead due to someone else’s scheduling screw up with me the only person available to step in.  Losing three days of a week tends to compress the rest of what you need to do in a “head down, ruck over” mentality, to use a phrase from my university days.

As usual, I contemplated extending the ride a touch by taking the train from Ely to Stansted airport, but on a Saturday trains are few an far between that early in the morning, who’d want to be going on holiday on a Saturday of course!.   Drive it was therefore, with the first task to load the car.  I drive a Land Rover Discovery, which has a truly capacious boot, with a road bike fitting in with the front wheel off, and handlebars turned, but no need to drop the seats. The Cruzbike has a very similar wheelbase, is unlike the M5 Low Racer, I was anticipating a relatively easy task of getting it in there, but expecting to need to drop a seat to accommodate the swivelling front end, a bit bulkier than a roadbike. 

It didn’t help that I got distracted with the commonwealth games watching England win their netball semi-final by a single point on the last play of the match (they later went on to win gold of course).  It also didn’t help that I’d not anticipated that the Cruzbike, whilst of the same length as the roadbike, shorter by about 25-30cm than the M5, was a great deal taller than either of them due to both headrest and handlebars, so my plan to just roll it into the back of the car was completely scuppered.

Cue 15 minutes of me twisting, turning, rotating, re-orienting and generally buggering about as I tried out my new 3-D puzzle/MENSA test.  I eventually managed to get it in with the rear wheel off and the boom twisted round to the left, and canted over like a sailing boat on a tack.  Blankets were used to protect the back of the seat from the drive side of the bike, and when the door was closed, there was no chance of anything moving. I managed to knock the front dynamo light out of alignment at the same time, which is something to think about for future occasions.   

Although I left home later than anticipated, I was still in good time to arrive, sign in, get some breakfast and meet up with Phil White who’d wanted a look at the new machine with a view to perhaps buying one himself, if only he could get his head around the horrific import duties from the USA (about 25% in total at the time of writing).  As I drove, the day turned from pleasant to pretty good with a nice clear blue sky and anticipation of a great early spring audax. 

Phil was quite impressed by the machine, particularly the weight, even in audax setup, and the genuine use of off the shelf components.  Although not the sleekest machine in the Cruzbike stable, the positioning of a 750mm water bottle under the S40’s handlebars was a bit of a clash with the abdomen of those less svelte that I am.  I’m not sure how those of us with significant reserves have fitted into a V20.

After a few more minutes of general pre-ride chatter, last minute drinks, a dash to the car for the forgotten route sheet (Garmin GPS backup!) we were ready for the off.  I was the only recumbent of a quite sizeable field (about 90 starters all told).  Usual good briefing from Tom, including the COR section (more of that later), and we were off though the leafy lanes of Great Dunmow. 

Cue first challenge, getting balked at a roundabout, trapped the wrong side of a group with cars crossing, I’d ended up 2km into the ride on an uphill cross traffic start in the wrong gear and wheel spinning like crazy.  I have to say that no panic ensued, simply wait for a gap in the traffic and Flintstone across the road to the safer side which was also flatter, and make a less than elegant, but functional restart. 

I was soon moving back up through the field, on a nice early flat section, enjoying the warm sunshine, but perhaps pushing a bit too hard too early with what was to come.

The route as always was superb, with a mix of nice Essex lanes, crossing major roads, or making use of the off road cycle paths alongside, and the occasional forays into villages or smaller towns with opportunities for sustenance and controls.  The first of which, I almost missed as I was concentrating on getting up a hill, making sure I was making use of the gears most efficiently  (30/39/53 up front and 12-28 on the rear), I missed the left at the traffic lights and sailed on into town only to be rudely told by the Garmin “Off Course”.  I lost about 3-4 minutes waiting for a gap in traffic to turn round and the heartening “Course found” reply.  There it was, the Queen’s Head, next to the bank, easy enough to remember until I stopped and could write it down. 

 Now into to the really small and windy lanes of Essex and starting to get a bit more rolling as well.  Despite having done a series of 4 rides down there in the winter I was still seeing some new places and new roads.

The Cruzbike was handling it all perfectly, in great comfort and decent pace.  Compared to the M5, forward visibility is much better, and much better than the head down position of a road bike, with pothole and gravel spotting much easier.  It even handled an impromptu ford with no issues whatsoever, along the aptly named Watery Lane where the brook was overflowing into the road for about half a mile, with one patch about 6” deep across it.  Unlike the upwrong rider I was following, no need to unclip and hitch up my feet to keep them dry, and the resulting spray kept my legs nice and cool for ten minutes.  Despite being a glorious day of 18+ deg C, there was still a lot of water around from the previous few weeks of rain.  

Ingatestone was the mid-ish point and with a commercial control, a good point to stop in at the local co-op for a quick control, or one of the plentiful cafes for those of a more laid back approach.  I did the co-op, only to be stuck at the back of a queue behind someone checking 30 lottery tickets, or so it seemed.  In any case, a good opportunity for a breather and a nice fresh croissant to manage the blood sugar levels.

Aha! But I have forgotten to mention the two COR (comedy off road) sections. One on essentially perfect, but unregistered roads through Hatfield forest, sending the Garmin into a perpetual loop of re-routing until it decided it really was on a road again.  The second, just before Ingatestone was much better COR value, along a concrete, but bumpy track and then through a farmyard.  The S40 and pilot were coping OK with the rough stuff, geared down on 28mm tyres, but come the mucky stuff, of 2” deep (I hope it was) mud next to a dungheap, traction was lost and with road tyres would never be regained, so reluctantly feet down and push 500m or so.   To its credit the S40 is much easier to push than the M5 I own.

Ingatestone was a welcome rest as already mentioned, but on leaving I was feeling a sore knee for some reason, so geared down to take the strain off, amid thoughts of my first ever audax DNF. I managed to distract myself from thoughts of knees though by fiddling with my heart rate strap and pulling the sender unit off the strap in the process.  Cue much fiddling around inside my jersey, riding one handed until I could secrete it in a pocket. Oddly my knee was no longer a problem. 

The upcoming hill into Danbury was in my mind, would I cope with my 30/28 or would I cave and walk?  In the event Danbury was a steady slog but nothing spectacular, Galleywood on the other hand, bloody hell!  My legs felt sapped of all energy and I had to stop for a breather and a drink at the top.  I did pass folks on road bikes on the way up both though.  I was later told that part of that climb up to Gallleywood was 12%.  

From that point on, nothing much more than a trundle round the lanes of Essex, some familiar from earlier rides.  I was playing cat and mouse with another rider, for about 25km, with me catching him, then on two occasions either stopping to check blood sugar or missing a turn and him leapfrogging me again.  In the end he was home first by a minute or two, but we both got to tuck into the superb scones at the arrive

As usual a great route and a great ride, superbly supported by the weather, although I was down to dregs of water in the bladder in the last 15km, and not confident at that point to pull the bottle out of the cage on the move (since then a newly acquired skill).

Learnings
  1. The S40 is a great long distance tourer, and I can’t foresee an issue on tour, respectable audax speed maintained (5 hours elapsed for 112km
  2.  The stock seat cushion is far too squishy, leaving bruising inside my shoulder blades – ventisit pads on order
  3. The 12-28 is a bit ambitious for touring.  12-32 now purchased, but not yet trialled
  4.  Fun was maintained

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