The Mablethorpe 155 about at some point on the Sunday during a particularly crazy day working on the French Grand Prix. Not overly enamoured with the prospect of working eight weekends in nine weeks and pretty annoyed at a morning’s bike ride I had planned but had failed to execute thanks to the early abundance of not particularly significant images, I decided that I had to do some kind of crazy bike ride during the week that would make up for the lack of opportunities in the coming weekends.
In a matter of literally 10 minutes the route for the Mablethorpe 155 was created, checked, and signed off. I’ve long fancied the idea of riding out to the beach on the east coast – Grantham > Skegness is quite a popular route. I faniced Mablethorpe as it’s a bit nicer than Scunthorpe and also invites you to ride through the Lincolnshire Wolds, which bring some lovely views and some welcome hills when much of the surrounding fens are pancake flat. I also wanted to ride further than I’ve ever ridden before in one day, which was around 125 miles. 155 miles would beat it comfortably, so the return from Mablethorpe would see me head northwest and then back via Market Rasen, a town I was familiar with having spent a few days there with the family in 2017. And as for which roads to choose, it was a mixture of acquired knowledge of suitable roads and a bit of guesswork helped with the friend that is Google Street View that can help advise whether the A Road is too busy to consider riding on or the quiet country lane is a viable road or a track only passable with a 4×4 or perhaps a mountain bike.
With no roadside breakdown assist (the wife) available on Monday and Tuesday and the work recommencing on Thursday, Wednesday was pencilled in as the go day. A look at the weather forecast was highly favourable, highs of around 24C with a gentle breeze coming in from the East Coast, which would mean a head wind on the way out and hopefully a tail wind for much of the way back. I had to be back by 7pm so reckoned that leaving at 7 am would hopefully see me back in time and would allow a coffee stop at Mablethorpe (60 or so miles into the ride) and a lunch break at Market Rasen (at 100 miles). I ran on Monday and Tuesday, and helped marshal the Witham Wheelers TT on the Tuesday evening, so was not entirely rested ahead of the ride, but taking it relatively easy by normal standards.
Up at 6 am, which is usually a tough affair, but not so hard at this time of year when it is bright so early outside, I had pretty much everything prepared and ready to go once I’d had the obligatory porridge and rocket fuel strength coffee. I left shortly after 7 am with little in the way of fanfare: the kids were getting ready for school and are well used to seeing me disappear in the morning for some form of exercise.
The weather early doors was pleasant enough – early morning cloudy waiting to be burnt off by the sun meant that temperatures were only around 12C at the start of the ride – cool enough to warrant arm warmers. I knew that pacing myself would be crucial. I had to ride within myself for the best part of the ride even if I felt like I could go much faster – much like most endurance events. Quite quickly around 170 watts average (around 2.6 w/kg) felt like the right level of effort that I could sustain all day long.
Hills of course demand more power – the first of which was Hough on the Hill at six miles , which I am well familiar with and it’s 7% average gradient and tackled with little difficulty. The second hill at 9.5 miles – Frieston Hill – I’d ridden once before but had not expected it on this ride. This shocked the body a little bit and numbed the legs despite it being a slightly less hard hill, averaging 6%. Thereafter though it was relatively plain sailing for the next 30 miles, with a generally downwards trajectory and nothing more than some gentle rollers that I’d normally tackle in the big ring, but today demanded a drop into the small chain ring to allow some spinning. The biggest issue was trying to navigate myself across the busy A15 at the height of rush hour. It was hard enough for the cars with all that horsepower at their disposal, to find a big enough gap to cross, one man, a bike and clip in pedals, made it really difficult.
Not far after Bardney I finally found somewhere to make my first pit stop for the day. I found I had some attention in the form of some inquisitive sheep! With the liquid load lightened and feeling all the more comfortable for it I began the food and liquid plan for the ride. I had two bidons with electrolyte drink and had electrolyte tablets in the back pocket to replenish the bottles when refilled with water at lunch. I bought an entire malt loaf to be consumed at 10 mile intervals from 30 miles, again up until lunch time. At lunch I would take stock of how I felt and buy whatever I could and what I felt like to see me through for the rest of the ride.
Back on the road, the sun had broken through the clouds and it was, aside from a little cloud on the coast, blue skies for the rest of the ride. With that came increasing temperatures. I stopped at around 36 miles to remove the arm warmers, which coincided with the road just beginning to climb upwards as I approached the Wolds. The roads were quiet, the skies were blue, the countryside could not look better and I was loving the ride!
Compared to many other parts of the country the Lincolnshire Wolds would be considered relatively flat. But in an area surrounded by near billiard flat fen land, which barely rises above sea level, the Wolds in comparison are a veritable Alps in comparison. Stage one through the Wolds was around 12 miles consisting of three climbs, Belchfield Hill which proved to be a bit of a challenge that made me thankful for a 32 on the rear cassette as the climb briefly touched around 14%. Normally this would not be an issue but I found my breathing a little on the wheezy side thanks to the very high pollen levels. The view from the top though was worth the stop for a quick photo (which doesn’t really do it justice) and a breather!
Not long after there was a long descent from around 420 ft back down to sea level and the six or seven miles to Mablethorpe, which was made harder by the head wind which was noticeably stronger here being closer to the coast and heading into the exact forecast direction of the wind (Coming from the North East).
I arrived in Mablethorpe around the back and through a car park, which I knew from having run here while on holiday at Sutton-on-Sea a couple of years ago would take me directly to the beach and some cafes. I originally thought fish and chips would be appropriate, but I looked at the time and thought that, at just after 11 am would be a little extravagant, as would an ice cream, which like me and alcohol, does not happen before midday (unless on a plane / boat or airport terminal….). I settled instead for a scone and butter and black coffee. I’ve had better, but it was pleasant enough and did the job of keeping me alert and fuelled for the next 40 mile stint.
After that brief trip to the sea side I was back on my way. With the head wind on the way out, plus the Wolds, and some crawling along a footpath to the cafe, my average speed for the ride had slipped from the 17 mph it had been up to the Wolds down to around 16.5 mph. This was not a competitive ride but I rarely do any ride without setting myself some kind of arbitrary challenge and so it was decreed at Mablethorpe I would try and average 17.0 mph or better for the Mablethorpe 155.
Once out of Mablethorpe I headed in a broadly northwesterly direction, skirting east of Louth, inching towards the Wolds and heading not too far from Grimbsby, a town I’ve never visited. I thoroughly enjoyed this 25 mile or so section. I made a point of stopping at near enough exactly 77.75 miles, the unofficial halfway point, to take a photo. This scene was typical of the roads in the area. The mostly deserted country lanes were in good condition and far more scenic than I imagined an area close to Grim-sby could be. There was also a taste of the tailwind I would enjoy for much of the final 60 miles of the ride, and even the periods of side wind were not unpleasant.
At 85 miles I crossed the A16 on the Grainsby Lane and there was a change of terrain and surrounds as I passed through what felt like a private road which was fenced off and surrounded by cows, climbing gradually upwards as the Wolds approached. Immediately after crossing the A18 I was officially in the Wolds and with Hawerby Hill one of the harder rides of the ride, although at 2/3s mile, 6% average and with a tailwind to assist, was not especially taxing.
This effort began 10 miles of undulating riding, most of it on the B1203 which was thankfully not especially busy and a pleasure to ride on with the scenic surrounds. It was here the only mapping error occurred on the ride, a path at the Church of St Martin that looked dubious when I approached and on quick inspection and the look of more dirt than road I chose to ride past and ignore. A quick check on the map showed that a right at the next junction would see me back on track and on a road I ran along when staying in Market Rasen – it passing the caravan site we stayed at, not before I enjoyed a nice long descent of Walesby Hill that brought up the 100 miles on the Garmin and a stop for lunch at Market Rasen.
Aside from fish and chips we failed on holiday to find somewhere decent to eat in Market Rasen and, unless I missed something, I again failed to find that idyllic cafe to enjoy a hearty lunch before heading home. Instead I settled for Tesco, buying lunch at the petrol station so I could keep an eye on my bike and eating it outside the store, where there was the welcome benefit of shade (it had got quite warm now – approaching 25C in the sun) and a bench. I passed up on the opportunity to join others having their lunch in the sun in the car park garden.
It was a simple lunch based around what I could get in the £3 meal deal, which meant a falafel and hummous wrap, a king sized Double Decker and a bottle of Lucozade (I would have had full fat Coke but the didn’t appear to stock that). Add to that I bought a 2 litre bottle of Evian to replenish the bidons and three packs of fizzy cola bottles. One pack would have sufficed but the 3 for £1 offer was just too tempting…. While it wasn’t the glamorous lunch stop I had in mind it harked back to the numerous petrol station and supermarket raids I pulled off during my Land’s End to John O’Groats trip 11 years ago. For that reason it felt somewhat appropriate that my longest ever ride to date would pay homage to those stops for Haribo and malt loaf.
Back on the road and homeward bound I soon left the main road for Cycle Route 1, At 105 miles I turned left, then immediately right onto a quiet road heading towards Buslingthorpe I was just thinking how idyllic this ride was when BANG! A huge jolt which nearly sent me flying over the handlebars! In the shade of some trees must have been a large pot hole which I missed and rode through. I feared the worst and, sure enough, 5 seconds or so after the hit I felt the deflating noise of the front tyre rapidly losing its air pressure.
I came to a halt by a couple of houses and a white fence which was above a small stream. For a couple of minutes I worked out where best to set base to assess the situation, settling on the fence. I messaged my wife something along the lines of ‘Disaster!’ having just let her know how well the ride was going. The issue was, even if it was just a puncture, I am quite happy to admit I am shockingly bad at being able to change a punctured tyre, usually resorting to taking it to a bike shop or handing it over to my wife, who is more adept at tackling these technical issues than I.
Running out of battery on my phone (schoolboy error leaving GPS set to high accuracy…) I made sure my wife knew where I was in case I had to be picked up, which she did thanks to the Garmin live connect thingy which we had set up working properly. Having little faith in my ability (A wise call), she even gave an eta for the rescue party to arrive given the kids had to be picked up from school. I told her I would attempt to fix the puncture, although not holding out much hope. The 155 mile ride had become a mere 105 gentle jaunt, losing nearly all of its satisfaction.
I gave the wheel a quick inspection: all looked well. Having survived a similar pot hole induced puncture on a chain gang ride last year I know they can take quite a whack. I attempted to get some air into the inner tube to see where the puncture was. After Googling to see if I had a Presta or Schrader valve (It’s Presta – must remember that), any attempt to get air in with the small pump proved futile, the valve eventually snapping off, ruling out the use of the Pit Stop Sealant I had brought with me.
Removing the solitary inner tube from the saddle bag, cursing my misinformed impression I had two spare inner tubes, I knew I only had one shot at getting this right – no pinching when fitting the spare, knowing that a previous attempt at fitting a tube saw me pinch flat no less than 4 tubes before giving up and taking it to the shop…. Removing the tyre using the levers proved unusually straight forward, I usually have them pinging off across the room or wherever I happen to be standing. I removed the tube and looked for any obvious signs of damage, of which there were none, before giving the wheel a cursory internal inspection for damage, of which there appeared none.
Knowing my stuff… I put a little air into the inner tube before attempting to place it in the wheel. Relieved that the pump did actually work, I tried that step again when it dawned on me I’d put basically no air into the tube. I slotted the valve through the hole (I’ve funked that up before) making sure it sat flush in the wheel. Then using tips read on the internet and left as a parting gift by Whattsapp message by my wife, I began working the tyre bead into the rim from the side opposite the valve. To my surprise within a minute or so I had got to the 95% on stage, with just that last difficult bit that requires a bit of brute force to snap into the rim. Given that to get to this stage usually takes 5-10 minutes, I was openly optimistic that I might just pull this off.
Attempt one. No good. Attempt two. No better. I stopped, composed myself, took a big deep breath and mustered all the power I had in my pathetically weak thumbs to prise the rubber tyre into the metal rim. POP! just like that in it went with a satisfying sound like a muffled click. It looked like a wheel with a tyre. Round with no bulges. I couldn’t quite believe it. I very carefully attached the pump to the valve, weary that the last valve snapped and I have a habit of snapping valves. I pumped, fearing that the tube would be pinched and the hard work would be in vain. Ten pumps, no bang. Twenty pumps, the tyre looked and felt quite firm. I stopped to take a picture to show the wife my efforts. I was quite proud of my work, I knew she would be too.
Fairly confident I’d done a good job. I began pumping the tyre. Anyone who has done this by the side of the road knows it’s not a quick affair – there’s a reason why man carry CO2 canisters to speed up the job. I must have given it 200 or so pumps before I was reasonably happy that it was nearly as hard as the rear tyre. I fitted the wheel back on the bike, tidied up, put my helmet back on, touched some wood and rode off, knowing that if something was to go wrong it would probably happen quite quickly.
The first rest came after less than 50 meters, a level crossing to negotiate. No drama! I rode another couple of miles before letting my wife know the good news that all seemed okay. She congratulated me on my surprisingly good and relatively swift repair job (Just under 30 minutes…). I put it down to the heat of the day warming the rubber and the rim of the wheel to make it just that little more malleable than in normal cooler conditions. Either that or I’d developed strength I didn’t know I possessed.
Another five or so miles later and I’d almost forgotten I’d changed the tyre. The only concession I made during the remainder of the ride was to pay more attention than ever to the ever present prevalence of pot holes, which are a national disgrace and particularly bad in Lincolnshire. My mind was back on riding home and preferably doing it as swiftly as possible and before the 6pm curfew I had set myself. No more stops for photos, just the one pit stop to relieve myself of the Lucozade and half litre of water I’d enjoyed at lunch, and a very brief stop to retrieve a Power Gel buried deep in a jersey pocket, which I consumed more for the caffeine kick than the energy it provided – thinking I needed the extra concentration powers to avoid pot holes.
The vast majority of the last 45 miles had either a tailwind or at worst a side wind. This meant that, although it was never a particularly strong breeze, it was easier to keep the speed above desired 17 mph average. Indeed with it being generally flat with just a very slight overall incline for the last 35 miles, the speed hovered nearer 20 mph. With the sight of the average speed creeping up from 17 mph to 17.5 mph, then 17.6 mph, the desire was to try and crack 18 mph. When you’ve ridden 140 odd miles any incremental increase (or decrease) takes a long time time. I found myself pushing more watts than I did when I was tackling the tail wind, my highest 20 minute average (miles 146 to 152) were 204. It was pleasing to be able to put more and more power into the pedals having been in the saddle in the heat for over eight hours. It crept up to 17.7 mph, then that proved hard to improve upon as a change of direction at Doddington meant a head wind for much of the final miles.
On familiar roads for the last hour or so of riding, and legs seemingly no worse than at the start of the ride, I eventually came home having completed 156.45 miles in 8:45:54 moving time, averaging 17.8 mph. A frustrating 0.2 mph short of 18 mph but comfortably better than the target I had set myself earlier in the ride. There was no euphoric welcome once home – one daughter wanted to show off her new shoes, the other blissfully unaware of what I’d just done. My wife was proud of me, not just for the very long ride but the successful changing of the puncture, which for most would be a trivial matter, but for me I finally broke a 25 year voodoo of not being able to fix a puncture out on the road!
Once showered to clear the grime and sun cream off the body, the body finally realised what it had done and I could do little more than slump myself on he sofa for three hours while watching the football and reflecting on the ride I’d just done and what I could do in the future. The dream is to do LEJOG with a similar daily mileage. It seems like a tough ask but not insurmountable. One for summer 2019 I think!