bikebritain News May 30, 2015

Kilo To Go 'Essex Explorer' Prologue

Last year I rode my one and only Kilo To Go (KTG) event, the 2014 Essex Explorer (EE), in early June. This was also the first time that my co-rider, Lukey, had ridden 100 miles. About 6 3/4 hours later, he was no longer a century virgin. I thought at the time it would be a good route to try on the single speed. And so the seed was sown.

I had similar thoughts when Em and I did another New Forest wiggle sportive double header last October. I had originally intended to ride one of the days through 100 miles but I wasn't completely committed. When it came to decision time - choose the turn marked 'Epic', I carried straight on. “Next year,” I thought. 2 rides of 81 miles was still a good effort. With just seconds difference between each day's ride, there were not many road bikes that overtook me and those that did often gave words of encouragement or respect. Chapeau! Chapeau indeed. Still, 100 miles would have to wait until 2015. And here we are.

I opened my longer distance single speed account in early February when we participated in the excellent 'No Excuses' ride in Huntingdon. I was convinced I had signed up for the 60 mile ride. However, there was no 60 mile ride and the 60 mile ride was actually an 81 mile ride. To my surprise, it went pretty well. A large breakfast combined with a one stop strategy resulted in a decent early season ride, although come the end of it my legs were (not unexpectedly) shot to bits. Perhaps it was time to commit to riding 100 miles proper. 

By this time, the District was making some funny transmission related noises. The belt squeaked a lot and was slipping an increasing amount when I went uphill. I'm fairly sure it was not designed to go up the hills I wanted to go up, but the theory was if I couldn't push the pedals round then the resultant hill was too steep. Granted, I'm not riding over the Pyrenees on it, but by and large I can ascend most 'undulations'; 10% incline is about the limit. I had the bike serviced and John reckoned it had another season in it, depending on how hard I rode it. I'll come to that in a moment. It slipped a little less, but was well on the way to needing a new carbon belt. In between time I signed Em and I up to the KTG Essex Explorer for the very end of May. The date was now fixed.

I have not gone on many long training runs this year but the main difference has been I've been out on the bike consistently through the winter. This has provided a good base to work from through the Spring. A few weeks ago I did an 80 mile 'warm up' on the District for the EE and this week I rode a further 55 miles in what can only be described as an eventful outing. Indeed, to my chagrin, it may now result in me not being able to participate on the Trek. 

I had agreed to meet Frank on the coast thus giving me a good 20 mile warm up. I rode the first 18.5 miles in 60 minutes which I was very happy with. Having successfully met with @fswais in Shoreham we rode up the backside of the Steyning Bowl to come anti-clockwise over Coombes and Botolphs. All seemed to be going ok, but the belt was slipping more and more. Climbing up towards Annington Manor I had to stop. It felt like I was pushing through the chain. It had no bite. It wasn't right. I nursed it back to Shoreham and decided the quickest route home was the best option.  

It always feels a bit like taking your life into your own hands when you go round the Holmbush roundabout at Shoreham. It's a large roundabout with drivers peeling off to join the A27 at speed. We rode round as quickly as we could around it, but not before a woman in a 05 plate Zafira tried to drive through us at the junction prior to Tesco's. She saw me, finally, screaming at her, in the last seconds, too intent on working out whether the roundabout was clear, to notice Frank and I ahead. The look on her face said it all. There was more to come.

Leaving @fswais at Portslade, I headed towards a Devils Dyke via the towpath. Unfortunately going over a short piece of gravel provided an almost immediate puncture. No huge issue, just a bit irritating. Upon removing the rear wheel from the dropouts I noticed a 15 cm patch of belt that had no teeth on it - thus accounting for the 'slipping' every third revolution or so. I would be lucky to get back to Hayward's Heath at this rate.

I was right. Every third revolution I slipped about 1/3rd of a cycle, making for a very erratic and uneven ride home. I managed to tip toe over every incline until the last minor ascent into the bottom of Hayward's Heath. Suddenly the crank was spinning round with no resistance. I instantly pulled over onto the pavement. The belt had finally snapped. It had done really well. It was now also missing about 1/3 of the teeth and the carbon fibre bands had finally given up. I was walking/freewheeling the rest of the way home. 

This all happened last week. I asked a John at the now-not-very-LBS to order me a new belt. Unfortunately it only arrived yesterday so I have not had an opportunity to collect it. So another 100 mile opportunity on the Trek slips away. I’ve dusted down the Holdsworth and it will be taking me around Essex on Sunday. I’ve already decided that I shall ‘just’ go on a ride locally and clock up 100 miles on the District and be done with it! Either way, mileage for May looks half decent. 

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