Richmond Park Rouleurs were hosting an M25 Orbital ride which involved a ~225km loop around London, weaving in & out of the M25. But, only a few days before it was due to go ahead, it was mysteriously cancelled and all information about the ride had vanished from the internet. In my personal historical fashion of doing loops and cancelled rides: we just went ahead and did it anyway!
Four brave souls, Valentina, Michal (also riding fixed), Alex and me, met up at a misty east London park at just-gone 4am to ride out to the nearest section of M25 and begin an anti-clockwise shadowing of this major road. We headed north and commenced the loop near Waltham Cross.
The sunrise was absolutely incredible and it really set the tone for the energy of the ride. We smashed it pretty hard. This was until, inevitably, the directions didn't go quite according to plan. We found ourselves having navigate around gravel footpaths but eventually gave in and actually embraced a grassy one. Nothing like a bit of tracklocross in the morning!
Somewhat stupidly, I had decided to raise my saddle before setting-off. This was because I had been watching video of myself riding and thought my knees looking like they were bending too much. Well, why fix what isn't broken? By about 50km in, my knees were killing me. I returned my saddle to it's previous position but the damage was already done. According to one Strava segment, I averaged 159RPM for 1 minute and 9 seconds. With the overextended leg position, that definitely set me up for some pain for the entirety of the rest of the ride. It also didn't help that I was riding 48/19 which is fine for solo riding when pacing is somewhat irrelevant but when you have to keep up with a vague group pace it might be on a bit of an under-geared side of things.
By the time we were half way around, the temperature was really kicking in. I believe it reached around 31C. The brutality of the heat at least took my mind away from my aching knees - although it didn't help with my speed whatsoever. Quite the opposite. We took a large break in Leatherhead and I took in some high quality nutrition - Doritos, Greggs sausage rolls and 1 litre of Coke. We then ascended to the highest point in the ride at Headley Heath where I managed to 'clip' into some fresh dog poop with my cleats. As I rested my bike down to try and clean off as much as I could I had the misfortune to place my brand new tyres (first ride with them) onto onto piece of dog poop. What a shitty situation.
After a quick and very quiet break we embraced the heat, ploughing down the A25 for a considerable distance. The traffic was regular but not too bad. I was glad to be off it though and heading north again towards Dartford. Did you know there is a free minibus shuttle service for cyclists wishing to use the Dartford Crossing? We took full advantage of it, loading the bikes into the back of the van within about 2 minutes of making the call using the single-purpose phone at the control offices. Remember to pause that Strava app though!
We were in the home straight. Just some Essex hills to conquer and we'll have completed the loop! At this point, my knees had completely given up. Every time I ran into anything vaguely reminiscent of an incline my speed dropped to minimal levels and I watched the other three zoom off ahead. The sandbag life was real with this one! This made what should have been a jubilant final quarter distort into a mentally draining torture as the anguish began to stretch on for longer than it should have. A quick check of the map thankfully confirmed there were only two major roundabouts to go until the finish line... well, not considering the additional 20km to get back home too!
A very testing ride, but these ultra rides always throw something different at you that you don't quite expect and that is the beauty of them.
276km / 172 miles. 2,319m / 7,608ft gain. 16:50 elapsed / 11:40 moving.
The all-important Strava link: https://www.strava.com/activities/2651545121
There will be a video up from this ride soon. Why not go check out some of my previous fixed gear adventures on my channel? https://www.youtube.com/user/josephxkendrick
What should the next fixed gear loop be around?