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

Report of London to Birmingham and back                        Back to 2006-2007

Why do we do these things?                                                                       Ralph Dadswell  June 07

The answer is simple, of course.  We do them, because they HAVE to be done.  If we didn’t, then who would?  But if somebody else did, then there’d be two of us, or is that ‘twos’ of us?    But anyway….

It was, unsurprisingly, all part of a strategy to get us toughened up for a bigger ride later in the year.   If we’re going to get from Land’s End to John o’Groats, then it won’t be done on the back of a series of 2 hour rides.

So, about a month after our previous record attempt, we lined ourselves up for a slightly longer ride.  The Midland Road Records Association has “London to Birmingham and back” on its lists, with the tandem-tricycle record standing at 10h 45m 20s to Pat Kenny and John Taylor from 1977.  The distance is about 209 miles, with the terminal points each being 3 or 4 miles short of the real City Centres.

We chose St Albans as our start point, visiting London first, then Birmingham, and hopefully having a smooth run back to St Albans to complete the loop.

It’s tricky to know how to schedule for something like this, but in the end I decided that a total time of just over 9h 30m should be achievable, even if conditions were a bit on the dodgy side. 

As it happened, conditions were pretty friendly on Sunday 3rd June 2007.   Well, there seemed to be a patch of fog over the start, but the prospect was for warm conditions and a light SE wind.  We set off at 0730, courtesy of timing by Bryan Hutt, and were soon making our way into St Albans.

As we ran along towards South Mimms, we wondered where the following car had got to, but there was no panic, because just a few unfortunate encounters with traffic lights can cause silly delays, even early on a Sunday morning.

The reality was that quite early in the ride there was a rather ambiguously signed junction, and our back-up team had taken a short detour before getting back on our tail.  This slight delay was enough to mean that we’d crossed the M25, gone through Barnet, and were well on our way to Highgate without seeing our car.

In the car, Den Mills phoned ahead to Frank Cubis, who confirmed that he was waiting at the turn point, which was just after the Highgate Archway.

Despite being sent on a minor detour by the Police (and passing a famous bike shop in Woodhouse Road as a result), we arrived at the turn about 1 minute behind schedule.  We dismounted, lifted the tandem tricycle across the central reservation kerbs, remounted, and groaned away northbound.

It has to be said that turning after going under the Archway is no longer a sensible turn point.  We had no trouble, but I can only presume that in the past the road wasn’t split into two carriageways !

After recrossing the North Circular Road, we had our first sight of our car, and our first drinks hand-up.  In addition to Den the observer, Gordon & Margaret Wright (from High Wycombe CC) had kindly agreed to look after driving and feeding for us.

It was slightly disappointing to be behind schedule again at South Mimms, and barely level when we passed our start point.  However, from that point, the roads became a bit more open, and life became a bit simpler.   We were being assisted by a light wind, but it was clear that we were going to beat our schedule in the next few hours with or without the weather, as we decidedly got our act together.   A 2 minute advantage at Dunstable became 4 minutes as we approached Milton Keynes, and incredibly we were 10 minutes up as we left MK.

The hilly sections were then upon us, and we had a few struggles on our way through Towcester to Weedon, but we’d managed to extend our advantage by another minute at that point.   Onto the A45 and we were still gaining, although we had to wait until after Dunchurch before we could make good progress again.   Passing Coventry wasn’t very rewarding, but there was then a fabulous run along to the M42 which left us 18 minutes to the good. 

Surprisingly we even pulled another minute out of the bag on the run to the Birmingham turn, and Dai Davies witnessed us as we spun around 19 minutes earlier than planned.

But suddenly we were reminded that there had been a favourable breeze tickling us along for the previous 90 miles.  Ah, this is going to be a bit slower as we return.  

Mind you, the schedule did allow for us to slow down a bit, and so for a couple of sectors, we managed to grimly hold on to 19 minutes advantage.  But Dave was overheating.   We were due a fresh set of drinks, and the car was nowhere in sight behind us.  Dave persuaded me that in the interest of not messing up the final few hours, we should stop at the next layby and wait for the drinks.  It was, after all, pretty hot out there.  So we stopped.  Unfortunately the reason for the delay had been a confused moment at a large roundabout, resulting in the following car taking the wrong exit.

We only waited a couple of minutes before they arrived, and a couple of minutes after that, we were on our way again.  Mind you, that meant we had suddenly dropped to 15 minutes up – although Dave insisted that he felt much better for the stop.   Hmmm, I was just thinking about 4 minutes;  I guess we’re all made differently.

Rejoining the A5 at Weedon, we’d lost another minute, and some hard road awaited our attention.  I’ve recently altered the set-up on the tandem, giving the gear controls to the person on the back.  The main consequence of this has been for Dave to select much lower gears than I would have used.  So we used low gears on the hills, and lost a couple more minutes.  Gosh, that doesn’t read very well.  But anyway, when we reached Milton Keynes, we changed up a few gears, and claimed those two minutes back. 

There’s then quite a long hill past Brickhill, and another lumpy section leading to Dunstable.  At the final check-point, we were just 11 minutes up.    But then we hit the gas.  Not that you’d notice, but we definitely started to squeeze those pedals a bit more.  And so when we passed under the M1 with 5 miles left, we were definitely trying.

The last couple of miles were pretty good, and we managed to pull more than 4 minutes back, to regain a 15 minute advatage.  Frank Cubis was there to see us over the line, and our time was 9 hours 19 minutes 34 seconds.  This is just over 1 hr 25 m faster than the previous record, and I think we’re satisfied with that.

 Back to 2006-2007

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