www.dadswell.co.uk  Mostly cycling records, mostly on three wheels

Dick Turpin Rides Again!                   Back to Rides in 1995

David Duffield will be relieved.  For the last five years, I've scheduled to attempt to beat his London to York tricycle record, but never made it to the start line.  Dave even stood up at the Beacon Roads CC dinner and publicly asked me when I would get around to making an attempt.  I made no commitments, but was well aware that if I didn't go soon, I'd have to re-learn all the roads!

After the Pembroke to London ride in August, I decided not to make any more record attempts in 1995, and duly terminated the supply of weather information from the Met Office.  As it happened, though, the charts kept on arriving for several days after the contract was ended.  I spotted an exciting looking picture for Thursday 7th September - tight isobars, arranged to make London to York seem a possibility.

Although the predicted wind strength moderated a little on the next day's chart, I decided to have a bash.  Glenn Longland agreed to drive my car (and do the running and feeding - but he didn't realise this at the time!), and Derek Panks was happy to take a couple of days away from the office to Observe and Time me.

We were expecting rain at the start, and during most of the ride for that matter.  Fortunately, though, we were only slightly drizzled on as we cruised down the Western Avenue towards the start.  By the time I set off at 0630, dawn was in evidence, and the roads were dry.  Anticipating poor weather, I was using a rear LED light.  For the sake of a couple of ounces, it seemed worth it.

I had a trouble-free ride out of the city, but realised that I would have to wait a while for any help from the wind.  This was partly because the wind hadn't got above about 5 mph, and partly because there were too many buildings getting in the way.  When I reached my first check at Barnet, I was running a 5 minute deficit to my schedule.

This gave me something to think about.  I was feverishly trying to decide whether I was just starting slowly, or perhaps conditions were not as good as needed.  After a while, the real solution came to me - I had scheduled to leave London at an unrealistic speed.  Heaven knows, I've ridden from Barnet to London on at least three occasions.  I have always taken about 37 minutes to do the trip, and yet for some reason I had scheduled to do the same journey in reverse, in about 31 minutes.  So, I was probably riding as well as I should have expected - I just had to make up an extra five minutes on my schedule.

Dave Duffield's ride certainly had a reputation surrounding it, and I'm sure that stories tend to become more and more spectacular over time.  However, to the best of my knowledge, he did his ride on one of the windiest days since the beginning of civilisation.  On a number of occasions, I have heard weather conditions being described by comparison with "Duffield" winds.  On that famous day in 1961, I am told that debris was being blown along the road at a faster rate than he could ride!  Barely credible, and barely believable.  The effect of these legends is, of course, to scare people from attempting the record.  However, the average speed was only 22.2 mph, and so, 34 years on, it was worth a stab.

Meanwhile, I negotiated the South Mimms motorway services, and made my way to Hatfield.  Across the middle of the town, and onto Comet Way, I arrived at the Stanborough Road check, where I was still languishing at 5 minutes down.  At the northern end of Digswell Hill, there were several checkers out, and I got a shout from Andy Burnet.

Zoom down the other side, swing left then right towards Old Welwyn, and negotiate the narrow streets to the roundabout.  Once through there, the route becomes rural for the 10 miles to Hitchin.  Jim Mepham was sighted on this stretch, having apparently given up waiting for me, and started to drive on to work.  He of little faith - I was only a few minutes down!

There is a windsock near Langley, and it was showing signs of an acceptable tail wind.  I had noticed that things seemed to be getting noticeably breezy, so it was good to get this confirmed.  I had a reasonable run through Hitchin (the time being about 8 am), and was soon on the road to Biggleswade.

I was definitely eating away at my deficit by this stage, and getting properly into my stride.  It was therefore quite a disappointment to notice that my front tyre was getting rather soft.

I looked around for the following car, and raised my hand in the air to signal that I needed assistance.  Imagine my dismay at seeing the car pulling into a lay-by to let other traffic past.  This meant not just that they had to leave the lay-by and catch me up, but that they had to wait firstly until the queue of cars had passed them, and secondly for those cars to get past me!  By the time that all this had happened, I had negotiated a number of bends with a front end that was not performing, as the tyre was more than a bit 'sloshy'.  Once the wheel change was executed, I made my way to Biggleswade, and the next check.

Despite the technical difficulty just mentioned, as I joined the A1 my debt to the schedule was now a scant 3 minutes.  There is a psychological effect of knowing that you are on the A1, and I'm sure that it was this effect which caused my increased speed for the next 90 miles.  I guess there are other reasons, but there is something special about the long straight concrete carpet with no stop-signs (or speed-limits).

Nipper Adams was at Beeston, and wanted Glenn and Derek to stop for a natter.  Fortunately, they kept the engine running and he was unable to tempt them with the offer of a late breakfast.

Sandy roundabout was the 50 mile point, and I had taken 2 hours 19 minutes.  Continuing north, I was clearly making up for lost time.  Drizzle made an appearance, but it didn't matter - as when the Brampton flyover appeared from the murk, I was 2 minutes up.

It was pleasing to be able to keep the speedo over 25 mph, and on the descent of Alconbury Hill I managed to push it up to 40.  That was my only concession to the school of thought that says that you should 'go for it' on the descents.  I prefer to try hard on the climbs, and use the other side to recover.

The wind was helpful, but discernibly from behind my right shoulder.  I was unperturbed, as the A1 noticeably kinks after Norman Cross, and the new direction would mean an improvement in such conditions.  This was indeed the case, and I reached the 100 mile point just inside 4 hours 20 minutes, having covered the second 50 miles in 2 hours 1 minute.

At Grantham there was a period of proper rain, but it cleared quickly, allowing me to press on towards Newark (the home of the Cryptic Crossword).  I was moving well along here, and as I coasted down the hill towards Markham Moor, I had covered 140 miles in just inside 6 hours.

This put me a giant 20 minutes (count 'em!) ahead of schedule, with less than 60 miles to go.  The problem with thinking along those lines, is that 60 miles then suddenly becomes an enormously long way!  It was a real effort to convince my legs that they shouldn't relax, as I still had to average 20 mph.

Martin Purser was waiting in Retford, and made certain that I performed the necessary left turn.  We exchanged pleasantries as I rode away, after which he then looked for the following car.  When it arrived, he positioned himself beside the road, where he could briefly exchange snippets of news with those in the vehicle.  Unfortunately, Martin was at a Bus 'Request' Stop, and he hadn't put his hand out ....... at least that's the only reason I can think of to explain why Glenn drove the car straight past!  Ooops.

I picked my way through the Town Centre, and out onto the road to Bawtry.  Near Barnby Moor was the 150 mile point, which was passed in 6 hours 23 minutes, meaning a third 50 in 2 hours 3 mins, and what could be referred to as the "middle hundred" (of the 200 mile ride to York) in 4 hours 4 minutes.  I was quite happy with that.

At Bawtry, I had reached the dizzy heights of 21 minutes up, but this was to be my peak advantage over schedule, as I was moving onto less inspiring roads, and I could no longer take advantage of the (increasing) easterly component in the wind.

For the remainder of the ride to York, I was accompanied by a light drizzle, and there was a noticeable temperature drop to raise my spirits.

I was well aware that my 'natural' speed was dropping off, and I was really having to fight in order to keep the speedo saying (at least) 20 mph.  The ride to Blaxton and then to Hatfield Woodhouse was mentally taxing.  This was not helped by my discovery that the right turn at the Green Tree pub was over a mile after the village centre! 

Somewhere along here, as Glenn handed me a drink, he gave me a message which brought me to my senses.  Clearly, he had spotted that I was fading, so he pointed out : "It's no use slowing down, you haven't got to York yet!".  Obvious enough, but it worked.

I enjoyed the chance to slide my tricycle around the left, right, and left bends in Thorne, to reach the M18 checkpoint having lost 3 minutes to the schedule.

There were another five bleak miles before a brief change of direction for a couple of quickish miles to Snaith.  That last bit confirmed that the wind (which had dropped off somewhat as I had moved north) was mostly from the east, as I hung onto my 18 minute advantage before turning north again.

At this point I started seeing signs giving distances to York, giving me some idea of what time I might do.  It's one thing to have carefully measured out the course in theory.  It's something quite different to know 'in real life' how far it is to the finish.

Normally, the signs tell you (rather humorously) that there are actually several miles more than you expected.  In those cases, you have to be thankful if you have some spare minutes advantage over the record.  In this case, extraordinarily, the first sign told me that York was 18 miles away - and I had been expecting 20. 

The next nervous moment was the swing bridge at Selby.  Despite a reassuring phonecall with the bridge operator on the day before, I was still prepared for freak conditions to have meant that the bridge would be opened when I got there.  It was somewhat anticlimactic to ride over without a hitch - 17 minutes up.

Onto the new stretch of A19, missing a few villages, I was covered in spray, but back up to speed.  I had somehow lost another minute by the time I saw Ray Charles at Escrick, but I had 6 miles to go, and 33 minutes left.

Bleak conditions persisted for most of the run in to York, but eased off slightly in the City Centre.

My heart skipped a beat as I applied my brakes for the first time in a few miles, but eventually they decided to slow me down.  A number of twists and turns later, and I rode across Lendal Bridge.  As I picked my way past the stationary traffic in Museum Street, I was delighted to see Frank Minto waiting to time me in.

If it hadn't been raining, and there hadn't been a line of cars between us, then I would have stopped to shake hands.  However, for the second time in a fortnight I waved, shouted, but continued on my way.

The finish time was 8 hours 42 minutes 20 seconds, which was a 13 minute 30 second beating of DD's time.  This was my smallest margin for a place-to-place record, but easily the fastest ride of those performances in the "200 mile" category.  The record might have been set before I was born, but it was a ride ahead of its time.

Anyway, back to the wet roads and heavy traffic ... I cautiously made my way back on to the A19, and continued northbound.  The 200 mile point passed in about 8 hours 47 minutes, which suggested that if I could continue at 20 mph, then I would cover 264 miles in 12 hours.

When drawing up the schedule for London to York, it is an obvious move to state that you will continue to try for the 12 hour record.  At this point in my ride, I was reminded of the problems associated with this seemingly innocuous idea.

A fortnight earlier, at the end of the Pembroke to London ride, I had turned at Marble Arch to retrace for less than 30 minutes to complete 12 hours.  This add-on wasn't terrifically difficult to do, and it worked fine.  Firstly, 30 minutes isn't a very long time, and secondly, I knew that my car hadn't followed me to Marble Arch, so I had no alternative but to retrace my steps.

Consider now the situation at York.  I had three long hours to go, my car was behind me, I had just ridden my legs off to get a fairly tight record, the 12 hour record was already mine - and it was raining.

I rode along the ring road, and along the A59, searching for either a cast-iron excuse to stop, or some sort of a cock-eyed reason to continue.  Unfortunately, I was still on target to add maybe 10 miles to the 12 hour record, and the rain seemed to have eased.  When I made my second brief stop, I told Glenn and Derek that I would keep going.  I had also realised that I had an opportunity to make the RRA 12 hour record further than the RTTC 12 record - something that I felt really ought to be the case.

So I ambled along the A59, past Green Hammerton and along to the junction with A1 at Allerton Park.  During 1995, a large section of A1 in Yorkshire will be replaced by A1(M) running beside the original route.  This appeared to be imminent at Allerton Park, as I had to overshoot the existing A1, circle a giant roundabout above the new road, and then use an improvised route onto A1 northbound.  I say improvised, as the on-slip I used will soon be the southbound off-slip for the motorway!

Soon after joining the A1, I began to wish I hadn't bothered.  Suddenly, the magic recipe of a long uninterrupted spell of smooth road didn't seem to mean high speed.  With my reactions being inevitably dulled by over 200 miles of riding, I found myself preferring to ride on the hard-shoulder as it required less concentration.  My speed was typically 18mph, which was a long way adrift of that needed to stay with my schedule, and somewhat slower than I had hoped for, to beat 260 miles.  In short, I was doing little more than 'going through the motions', rather than bouncing along inspirationally.

After a few miles, the rain was back, and visibility was minimal.  I passed Boroughbridge, and made my way along to Dishforth.  This finished with the roadworks, but conditions were still very unpleasant, with persistent rain and lots of spray. 

The hard shoulder varies in width from ten feet to nothing, seemingly as it pleases.  I found that I had the choice of riding on either cats-eyes, rumble strip or potholes.  For substantial periods, the simplest solution was to keep my right wheel on the rumble strip, as the other obstacles were distinctly less bearable, and it seemed impossible to pick a flat course for all three wheels.  This tactic caused questions afterwards, as to whether I got some kind of kick out of low frequency vibrations running through my body.  How impertinent!

As my speed had dropped off, I made a brief stop for extra clothes, not really expecting much protection from the rain, but more to prevent me from getting cold.  Amazingly, there were a number of cyclists along this reach of A1.  Checking a rider on a record-attempt can be a tiresome process on a pleasant day .... but hands-up anyone who would have enjoyed sitting in a lay-by on the A1 on this particular afternoon!

After an interminable period, in which I lost over 20 minutes to my schedule, I passed Scotch Corner, and left the A1 at Barton.  This was quite a relief, and I could enjoy quiet roads for a few miles.  I had almost an hour to go, and hoped that the weather wouldn't get any more unpleasant.

The roads were certainly quiet.  So quiet in fact, that all I could hear was the sound of the rain, and the rushing torrents that flowed alongside me.  The weather was getting silly.

As the Darlington ring-road was approached, I was having difficulty reading the signs on the roundabouts.  At one, I'm convinced that the advance sign was flawed, as my car (which had just overtaken me) left one exit too early.  I know it did, not because I saw it do so ... but because Glenn was turning it around, just as I was doing the same, having made the same error. 

Back on the A66, the skies were dark (even without my sunglasses) and the  precipitation persisted.  I performed the left turn near Great Burdon (almost running out of road in the process), and we were into the last few minutes.

Another roundabout was signed, and I needed the "ahead" exit.  In the appalling conditions, I took what I presumed to be the second exit, but quickly realised that I had slipped up.  The road was bending to the right, and I looked behind to see my car inelegantly located on the roundabout, with hazard lights flashing.  They didn't follow me for two reasons: firstly, I was off course; and secondly, with about 1 minute left, they would never have turned around and caught me in time for the expiration of 12 hours.

Luckily, I managed a reasonable about-turn, and regained the course with seconds left.  At last, the time was up, and Glenn took the car past me and parked up outside a very handy pub.

My on-board computer indicated 259.5 miles in the 12 hours.  However, with my wheel change at 40 miles leaving me with a smaller front tyre, I made a 0.5% adjustment, to leave me with a claimed distance of 258.5 miles.

This represents a 7.1 mile improvement on my 12 hour record set 12 days before, and achieved the objective of passing the RTTC 12 hour distance for tricycles.

When speaking to Pauline Strong a few days later, she was keen to remind me that her bicycle record for 12 hours is 259.5 miles.  She is, however, 15 minutes slower than me from London to York!

After a "swift half" in the pub, we made our way towards the south.  With a pause for food at Scotch Corner, we reached Pontefract before closing time.  Indeed, we found a most acceptable hostelry, and annoyed a large number of people by shouting out the answers in the Pop Quiz.  Glenn and Derek knew all the old ones, and I was quite good with the 60s.  The trouble is, all this modern stuff sounds the same!


Ralph Dadswell 1995

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