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  • 25/05/2022 - 2-4-6-8 Motorway

    I was quite excited about last Sunday’s time trial. The course for the High Wycombe CC 25 looks very fast, so not only was a PB in the offing for myself and +RichardM, but there was no tandem course record listed on the Cycling Time Trials (CTT) website for the H25/2 course. Time Trials, in case you didn’t know, have code number. There is a brief explanation of these designations on the CTT site.

    Although in our last race we achieved a PB and club record for 10 miles, there were a few mechanical issues. First, the front wheel had a broken spoke, which turned out to be a loose spoke. Second, the rear tyre was rubbing slightly on the frame. Simple solution was swap the 28mm tyre rear tyre for the 25mm front one. Lastly, and more worryingly, the bike seems to drop down to the small chain ring at random moments. Look Mum No Hands! owner and mechanical maestro Sam, identified an unexpected cause – the chainring’s teeth were worn away. Like, really worn away, such that it could not hold the chain. We’d been using an oval carbon set of time trial rings with 56T (T = teeth), but clearly the carbon could not take our combined power, even though we are both of modest club level power. This is one of the ongoing engineering challenges of tandem cycling. These machines are always work in progress in this respect. Sam installed a Specialities T.A. aluminium chainring (this time 58T - see photo below) and that, as they say, should be that. Without a cheese-like chainring or wheel rub and with a properly round front wheel, we should be faster, right?

    And the course was encouraging, too. If you look at the course profile of the H25/2 you will see that the first two miles are all, quite profoundly, downhill. This is a freebie "power up," but let me rewind a little before I get to the exciting moment of setting off down this ski ramp-like start…

    Time trialling is, to some extent, a question of logistics. Get to the HQ with enough time to register, don your race number, set your bike up, warm up and the find the start line in advance of your start time (but not too soon, as you may cool down from your warm up). How did we do on the logistics front? Not bad, but a few small things stack up. Things like an extra trip to the loo, someone else on the loo for a weirdly long time, chatting to another competitor, your head unit updating automatically and deleting your downloaded maps, lending a multitool to another rider, an unexpectedly slow/uphill ride to the start. All these little things stacked up and we arrived at the start 30 seconds before our start time. That might sound pretty pro, but it was pretty stressful for us. As a result, we did not have the course route on either head unit (given the title of this blog, you can see where I’m going).

    OK, we got the countdown 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go! And despite everything, we were away on time. Wow, what a fast start it was. With the freebie speed from the early descent, we were averaging almost 35mph at the 3-mile point. We were flying. I settled into a groove at my target power, maybe a little higher, and saw we were also above our average speed target at 2, 4, 6, 8 miles. Then, suddenly, disaster. At 8.8 miles we hit traffic lights at a big junction. Traffic lights are something you never get on time trials course. It could only mean one thing, we had missed a turn and so promptly called a halt. It turns out we’d been riding on the A404(M), a motorway. Oops. A zillion questions pop up, the chief one being “where was the marshal?” Time trials are usually made idiot proof by having at least one marshal at each turn or junction to point you in the right direction. Neither of us saw one, we were just enjoying being rapid.

    With more than a little tooth grinding, we set off in the opposite direction from this mahoosive roundabout and made for the HQ. Of course, we passed what should have been our turning. This slip road had no marshal, but there was an arrowed sign, albeit somewhat behind a bush. Hmm. A few miles later we cruised to a halt at the finish line and questioned the officials. Apparently, that slip road is too dangerous to deploy a marshal and they are not really allowed to have signs. Clearly, the be fully idiot proof you need more in place. Load the GPS route, learn the route by heart of have a list of distances and turns on your top tube were simple solutions we quickly came up with to get us out of the idiot camp. DNF. Did. Not. Finish. If you don’t make any mistakes, you don’t learn anything. I can safely say we learned a few things that day.

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  • Indeed. Comedy of errors +Sir_Shannonball.

    Lots of lessons.

    Arrive early and don't get distracted.

    Assume that any technology won't work, but at the same time don't rely on marshals and signs.

    And finally, recognise just how brutally hard tandems are on any compenents.

    That said, we were shifting! Illegally on a motorway perhaps, but we were shifting. Reasons to be cheerful.