With 2016 coming to an end, it’s time to reflect on my cycling year. Overall, I’ve ridden 12856 km over the last twelve months, 419 km less than in 2015. The year did not fully pan out according to my original plans, which involved riding a very hilly 1000km Audax event in Nothern England in the summer. After a very tough 300km Audax in March, I decided to chicken out, and also was on the brink of abandoning my second Randonneur Round the Year attempt. I’m glad that I decided against the Mille Pennines ride, which took part in horrendous weather and saw a very high percentage of riders packing, and I’m also glad that I stuck to the RRtY. I completed my second series in August and started a third one a month later.
Here are my 10 best bike-related moments of 2016. Many thanks to everyone involved, in particular Kat, Gordon, Titus, Eddie, Tim, Mary, Haiko, John W. and Andrew.
Bring on 2017!
August: Dessoubre valley
Riding down the D39 from Pierrefontaine-Les-Varans to Staint Hyppolyte in the French Jura in the early morning hours of a hot summer day was just beyond magic. The narrow Dessoubre valley is really fairy-tale stuff.
Later that day, we had to carry our bikes through a road blocked by a landslide, and climbed up a pass into Switzerland.
August: Grand Ballon, Vosges
Without luggage, Kat and I climbed the famous Route des Crete into the Vosges mountains, which was built during the first World War by the French army. Visting the French war memorial at Hartmannsweiler Kopf (Vieil Armand), which saw gruesome battles during the war, was very moving.
The climb to the highest peak of the Vosges was quite demanding, but fun.
May: Aust village hall
My second 600km Brevet. After my really tough 300km Audax in March, I was close to ditching the “Three Steps to Severn” ride. I’m so glad I did not. The scenery was fantastic, and after around 100 km I run into another rider, John, who turned out to be one of the best cycling companions I ever rode with.
John’s cycling career is just utterly amazing. Best described by himself in Audax UK’s Arrivee Magazine. (Well, that’s not entirely true: the even better alternative is if he tells it himself verbally on a 600, where you have many hours to spare….)
Time flew while we were chatting away. The only snag was that the sleep control on the ride, located in Aust village hall, was really packed, and I only got half an hour of sleep, if at all.
April: Green and Yellow Fields Audax
On this ride, I got my Audaxing mojo back. A very cold night and morning, but a really good group and a lovely route.
September: Hit supermarket, Dormagen
Jointly with my friend Gordon, I was leading the Friday’s group ride with around 25 Englishmen from Hoek van Holland in the Netherlands to Cologne, Aachen and back to the Channel coast in Belgium in September. We dubbed the ride the “Vi(va) Colonia” tour. The weather turned out incredibly hot. While Gordon and I were freezing on the recce in early July, it was 35 degrees plus on the real thing. We stopped to buy water at a supermarket in Dormagen. Everyone was hanging around in the shop’s air-conditioned entry hall. The store manger (picutured on the mobility scooter) insisted on giving us several crates of ice-cold mineral water and chocoloate. An utterly amazing experience! So much for the much maligned German service attitude.
September: “Rest day Audax”, Aachen
On the Friday’s “Vi(v)a Colonia” tour, we had planned for a rest day in Aachen. As my calendar in that month was incredibly packed, it was the only day I could do a 200 km DIY Audax in that month to keep my “Randonneur Round the Year” challenge going. The route was planned by my German cycling friend Haiko, and turned out to be utterly brilliant.
The wonderful weather did help, too.
We followed the Vennbahn Radweg on a dismantled railway track and similar pathes. Oddly enough, in Belgium, we got stuck in a professional bike race, and later visited the highest point in the Netherlands.
On the picture below, my front wheel is in the Netherlands, my rear wheel in Belgium while’s I’m standing in Germany. My armpit is in three countries at once.
October: Two Wheels Good, Stoke Newington
In September 2015, I traveled to Derby in north west England and ordered a made-to measure frame at Mercian Cycles. A supposed 11 month-wait for my Vincitore Special bike turned into almost 13 month. But after my patience was stretched to its limits, the bike eventually was ready indeed. Jonathan and his mechanics at Two Wheels Good on Stoke Newington Church Street did a sterling job in building the bike. I’ve ridden 854 km on the bike, and am still stunned by its beauty. Oh, and it rides very nicely too!
July: Ride to Paris
In July, I lead a Friday Night Ride to the Coast from London to Newhaven and then on to Dieppe and Paris.
Crossing Farthing Downs in the darkness was a unique experience.
The misty dawn in England was spectacular, too; and the route in France was as lovely as ever.
August: Mini-LEL from York to London
Jointly with my very good cycling friends Titus and Tim, I took the train to York on a Saturday morning and roud 400km back to London, following the London Edinburgh London 2017 route.
I pulled a muscle in my back after 70km, and almost packed in Cambridge. I’m glad I did not, as finishing the ride sealed my second Super Randonneur series as well as my second RRtY.
And the McDonalds in the center of Cambridge at 3am on a Sunday morning is and experience and a half. The restaurant is employing several bouncers, and for a reason!
December: A winter ride in the Sauerland
A few days before Christmas, Haiko and I did a ride into the Sauerland. Quite hilly, but a stunning route in an almost spooky environment.