Monday, 1 February 2016

Penny farthing LEJOG day 3

Today was going to be a tough day, there is no easy route through Devon but at least the weather was on our side. We couldn't have asked for better conditions, bright and sunny but cool enough not to worry about dehydration.
We fueled up well at breakfast and set out. Up until today we had managed to ride at a similar pace to one another but the hills of Dartmoor would change all that. I was going to be slow going up, and slower coming down as I would have to walk to avoid losing control of the bike on the steep slopes.
As it happened we got split up before we even got to Dartmoor. Mickey was about 100 yards in front of me and crossed a level crossing, then the barriers came down and I had to stop. I waited and waited for what seemed like an age. Eventually a train did come through, they don't do anything in a hurry in Devon!
As we approached Dartmoor the terrain started to slow my progress but it gave me plenty of opportunities to take some photos. The countryside in this part of the world is beautiful, we would be well into the journy before we had better scenery than today's offerings.

When I had been doing my training rides I had hoped that on most days I could average 10 mph. The first day was much slower than this, the second slightly closer but today was proving tough. I tried not to worry about my average speed but I do get a bit obsessed with it when I'm riding. I guess this comes from the fact that most of the time when I'm cycling I'm either racing time trials or training to race. For me the hardest thing to cope with on the penny farthing is just how slow it is. It's a lovely thing to ride and on a flat road you could roll along at 12 mph all day. At that rate progress isn't a million miles away from a normal touring bike. However, throw in a few hills and the average drops like a stone. After 20 miles of today's roads I was averaging a mere 7 mph. I was having to walk as much as I rode. Hills going up were too hard to ride and hills going down too dangerous!

As the day went on I walked even more and rode even less. I was recording my rides to strava , the cycling web site that logs your journey and tells you how fast (or slow) you had completed sections of the ride. One of the strava segments on today's ride was a long climb up and over Dartmoor, I was slow... Really slow. Normally on hilly segments on my modern bike I'm pretty good and get into the top 10%, but not today...  When the day was over and I uploaded my ride I was consistently in the slowest 1% of riders!

The one thing we did get right on Dartmoor was just by luck, the weather was fantastic. Dartmoor often gets really bad weather but today it was perfect. There were lots of other cyclists out, I don't think they could believe their eyes when they saw a guy on a penny farthing. The ones that caught me up and rode along slowly chatting were astonished when I told them I was aiming to be in John O'Groats in a couple of weeks time. Some were so impressed that they gave me some sponsor money to donate to my chosen charity. I had downloaded an appointment for the just giving web page so when I finished that night I was able to donate the money from my bank account to the fundraising page. Over the duration of the ride this proved to be a brilliant source of motivation as I could see the amount of money raised going up each day.

The ride on Dartmoor eventually stared to get easier as we went down more hills than we climbed and after a really tough 9 hours and 13 minutes on the bike we found a lovely b&b and were soon tucking into the best steak I have ever eaten. A good end to a very hard day!

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