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Thread: 400km?

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    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    400km?

    HI all, just looking for some insights for those who have done longer distances than I have.

    I've been looking at a 400km brevet that looks like it's fairly flat (about 2500m of climbing), but concerned about what I'm likely to need to take with me. My main concern is provision for the overnight section, particularly if it gets wet and cold, because the only waterproof I have is one that tends to cause me to sweat profusely. I'm also concerned in general about the implications of cycling for 24 hours, thinking in terms of the dangers of falling asleep while riding or just being too zoned out to be safe on the roads, especially if I end up riding that section solo.

    My experience to date is a few 200s and a single 300 so I'm not a total newcomer to riding a decent distance, but the longest I've cycled in the dark was the ~4 hours or so of my 300. I know I'll need extra batteries for lights, GPS etc, just wondering if people with more experience than I have can offer any thoughts as to what a 400 is likely to be like to ride.
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    Quote Originally Posted by contango View Post
    ................ just wondering if people with more experience than I have can offer any thoughts as to what a 400 is likely to be like to ride.
    It has been some years since I did 400k and longer distances but recently completed a 300k and could easily have gone another 100k. From my memory, going from 300k to 400k is a piece of cake. 200k to 300k is more difficult because learning to take proper care of yourself is needed going from 200 to 300k in my experience. Your ride has almost no climbing compared to the rides in my area anyway and should not be too hard if the weather is good. Anyway, our 400k rides usually start at 4am but I have done some that started at 3am and used to finish them just around nightfall and that was my strategy to finish before it got dark but usually just missed it. I can't do that no more no way so in a way I have been thinking like you. I am going to need to ride into the night maybe to midnight or so and drunks worry me. Part of me thinks I should just skip the 400k ride and go to 600k since i can take a break at 10pm and just ride another 250k the next day starting again at 4am.

    Remembering how cold and wet England was anytime I toured there, your evening needs will be different than mine. For instance, I would expect 60F lows and probably 80's F during the day where I am. I would not need the same level of gear as you and I would gear for lower 40's and moisture in England. Cold, wet, and tired don't suite my makeup. I would have raingear, wool shirt, merino base layer, and arm and leg warmers if I were you and would have either the shower cap to keep your head dry or they make special helmet covers.

    In terms of being sleepy, I would ask for advice from those more experienced.....I need help here, too. I used stop on 600k rides at about 9-11 pm depending on the route and sleep until the drunks are off the road and sometimes sleep until 7 am if the hotel bed felt particularly nice or I slept in. I won't have that luxury no more at my age and girth. I only rode thru the night once on a 600k because it was 100F with 100% humidity during the day and to be honest, I was stinking sweaty, hot and wanted to get the ride done by nightfall. It was not very efficient for me ridign thru the night because I had to stop several times for little sleep breaks of unknown duration BUT I missed the big heat in day. The little sleep break seemed to help and I remember around 3 am being the worst. Once I got to 5 am and the birds were chirping, I was fine. On a 400K, a 4am start gives me until 7 am the next day. Slower riders and Bloggers will be riding thru the night. Obviously, have water (fuel), food, and completely redundant backup lighting. I will be mounting two independant sets of Fenix BT-20 with Panasonice 3400AH 18650 batteries. What good is a backup light in the bag if the primary goes out on a descent? Plus, putting it on the bike frees up space for more Lim Ricecakes. If I am riding solo, I put one rear light to flash mode and keep the other on steady. I have 3M reflective tape all over the frame and the obvious required vest and ankle reflective straps. I also have reflective tape on my helmet. I tried to source Contin GP 4000 sii in 28mm width with the reflective sidewalls but nobody in the USA has them. Call me paranoid, I want to be seen 2 miles away. Safety first, second, and last.

    I was riding with a surprising large gentleman riding a 67 cm (yes) framed bike the other day and he had completed like 50 Grand Randonnees and did something like 8 in one year. He said he treats the longer rides like a vacation or a tour. I took it to mean he rode a full day and slept and then got up and did it again....this makes a lot of sense. I meant to query him some more but the chatting went another direction and then we got separated at a control. Thus, if you can't finish by say 1 am......maybe consider stopping at 10pm??? for a sleep break and resume at 2am and finish the ride off with a fresh set of eyes making the ride into a sort of two day ramble.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by contango View Post
    My main concern is provision for the overnight section, particularly if it gets wet and cold, because the only waterproof I have is one that tends to cause me to sweat profusely.
    First, it is worth it to get good quality rain wear for occasions like this.

    Secondly, the stories of my 400Ks are here ... as are the stories of my other randonneuring events. Some of them might give you some ideas of what to bring and what to expect.
    Charlene Barach (Machka) - Brevet Stories

    They used to be my favourite distance.


    Thirdly, a tip regarding staying awake ... what worked quite well for me was to ensure that I got extra sleep in the week leading up to the 400K, and especially the night before the 400K. So if I normally got 7 hours sleep during the week, I'd aim for 8+ hours all week. The extra sleep meant that I could start the ride rested.

    Another tip ... keep eating. Keep trying to consume 200+ calories per hour. The calories will help keep you alert.

    And something that seemed to work ... in the month or two before starting a season of randonnees, I would cut way back on caffeinated beverages. Then during the randonnee, the coffee and/or tea seemed to have more of an effect. Maybe placebo, but if it seems to work ...

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    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    First, it is worth it to get good quality rain wear for occasions like this.

    Secondly, the stories of my 400Ks are here ... as are the stories of my other randonneuring events. Some of them might give you some ideas of what to bring and what to expect.
    Charlene Barach (Machka) - Brevet Stories

    They used to be my favourite distance.


    Thirdly, a tip regarding staying awake ... what worked quite well for me was to ensure that I got extra sleep in the week leading up to the 400K, and especially the night before the 400K. So if I normally got 7 hours sleep during the week, I'd aim for 8+ hours all week. The extra sleep meant that I could start the ride rested.

    Another tip ... keep eating. Keep trying to consume 200+ calories per hour. The calories will help keep you alert.

    And something that seemed to work ... in the month or two before starting a season of randonnees, I would cut way back on caffeinated beverages. Then during the randonnee, the coffee and/or tea seemed to have more of an effect. Maybe placebo, but if it seems to work ...
    Normally I'd be out looking for decent lightweight cycling waterproofs, but I'm reluctant to spend a lot of money on something that could easily end up only ever being used a very small number of times. If I ride the 400 and find I don't want to repeat it, it potentially gets used once. I'm a big guy so it doesn't seem like there's much of a market in used gear - most guys my size don't seem to ride brevets and the vast majority of the people I've met while riding are appreciably smaller than me. It may be if I wore a lightweight summer jersey under the waterproof I wouldn't burn up - I'd probably get warm but at least it should be tolerable, and it also keeps the wind off if that gets to be a problem.

    I agree entirely on the eating (and drinking). I tend to overlook both and try and eat and drink a lot at once, rather than little and often. The 400 in question is in two weeks, so maybe reducing caffeine as a pre-emptive thing would be a good idea.

    I took a look at your site. I remember browsing it a while back but didn't remember just how many hugely long rides you've completed. At present I think a 1200 would just about kill me!
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    Zoom zoom zoom zoom bonk znomit's Avatar
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    A 400 is a big step up from 300 because you'll need to do a significant amount of riding at night and you'll have to deal with sleep deprivation. Try to get finished before 3am which seems to be where the low point starts.

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    Senior Member antimonysarah's Avatar
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    If you have the option to do an overnight 200k, take it -- it's a great way to get used to an all-night ride with less physical challenge.

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    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by znomit View Post
    A 400 is a big step up from 300 because you'll need to do a significant amount of riding at night and you'll have to deal with sleep deprivation. Try to get finished before 3am which seems to be where the low point starts.
    Finishing by 3am is unlikely to happen, from what I can see most of them start around 9am and at present I'm just not fast enough to complete it in 18 hours. I took 18 hours to complete a 300. Depending on how I'm progressing it might be a sensible option to stop for an hour's sleep or so at a low point.

    Quote Originally Posted by antimonysarah View Post
    If you have the option to do an overnight 200k, take it -- it's a great way to get used to an all-night ride with less physical challenge.
    Interesting idea, it's obvious when you mention it but I'd never even thought to do that. I'd have to do a solo ride rather than an organised one, but definitely worth a thought.
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    If you are having trouble pacing yourself with eating and drinking, see if you can find a cheap watch or kitchen timer or some other clock (maybe even cell/mobile phone) that goes off every 15 minutes to remind you to swig and nibble.

    One of the issues of eating large less frequently is that you body either has to divert blood to the muscles that are working, or to your digestive system to process the bigger quantities of food. If you are already low on energy, the blood will direct to the stomach as a priority.

    I think the brain also relies as much on glucose to function as muscles, and if you find yourself drowsier that you should be, it's quite possible it's lack of glucose in your blood. Then it's time to eat again.

    By now you should have sorted out the types of food you can tolerate on longer rides. Are they solid, or liquid, or both?

    Having said all of the above, it is useful for set a reasonable pace early on to get some time in the bank so that later, if you do need to nap, you won't feel so time stressed about it. And did I mention an alarm clock? Just so you don't sleep or nap way beyond the cut-off time for the later controls...

    And, the last piece of wisdom is... ride your own ride. Especially early on. It's fun being with a group or even a couple of other riders early, but if they are just a little faster than you, it can cause problems for you later.

    As to clothing, a question. How cold do the nights get there? If there is fog or dew or any sort of moisture in the air, you will need at least wind protection as well as layering to avoid getting your core cold. What jackets/gillets do you have in your wardrobe right now?

    There is a thread going in Touring about jackets, and I do have to say that my jackets always have been a investment not only for randonnees, but for just about every other kind of riding I have ever done. And a decent waterproof with pitzips has always served me well in rain, mist, wind and plain old cold weather.

    A friend of mine who is originally English, had an Altura jacket that was his everyday, do-everything jacket and it lasted years, doing all sorts of events including PBP. I personally go for either MEC from Canada, or GroundEffects from New Zealand; neither packs down small enough to go in a jersey back pocket. If you want lightweight, Sugoi makes a clear one that packs down small, and you may be able to pick up one cheap, although as you say, sizing might be a significant issue.

    Whatever, enjoy the 400. It does seem, as Machka says, to be the most enjoyable because it can be done fairly quickly, without the need for drop bags or sleeping, yet is challenging enough to get through when the 200s and 300s might not be.
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    Oh, and one other thought... maybe a cheap but reasonably thick plastic rain cape might be a solution to your temporary need for protection. I've not used them even though I have a fully fledged Brooks one in the wardrobe. One of the reasons is that when it rains in Australia, more often than not, there is wind driving it. But people who have used them think they are good because of the added ventilation that they afford.
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    24-36 hours awake isn't that bad. Every Friday night I ride a hilly 200km for the fun of it after work. The trick is to keep moving and keep eating. Make sure you get electrolytes in there somewhere. I usually carry a small bag of chocolate and candy on a hiking fanny pack. I also have an mp3 player and speaker in the bag to listen to at 3am because thats the hardest time. As for the distance? If you can ride 200km you can ride 400km. Its mostly mental and keeping yourself fueled.

    A friend of mine who is originally English, had an Altura jacket that was his everyday, do-everything jacket and it lasted years,
    Thats what I use. High vis (burn your retinas bright!) and its only a shell so I can put on layers underneath, or just wear short sleeves. Keeps the wind off me at night, is waterproof, folds down small and is covered in pockets. Recommend! For a long ride I wear cycling shorts and a short sleeve Jersey under and a fleece and my jacket. Pair of lightweight trackpants for the coldest part of the night. In winter I just add winter bibs and a merino base layer. Adjust the layers as you ride.
    Last edited by krobinson103; 05-10-14 at 06:38 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by krobinson103 View Post
    24-36 hours awake isn't that bad. Every Friday night I ride a hilly 200km for the fun of it after work. The trick is to keep moving and keep eating. Make sure you get electrolytes in there somewhere. I usually carry a small bag of chocolate and candy on a hiking fanny pack. I also have an mp3 player and speaker in the bag to listen to at 3am because thats the hardest time. As for the distance? If you can ride 200km you can ride 400km. Its mostly mental and keeping yourself fueled.
    One of my favourite memories on the longest rides in various parts of Australia is listening to the radio (I also had mp3 players, but you do need to have a long play list to avoid repetition and boredom). The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has channels that reach just about every square inch of the country, and there are a few commercial stations that are worth listening to. Listening to Australian Rules Football matches helped during the day and evening, and some very interesting interview sessions in the early mornings helped pass the time.

    While not randonneuring, my first trip to Northern Europe was a bit of a cultural shock, but there was a Dutch 24-hour, commercial-free rock station, Rocket, that kept me "alive".
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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by contango View Post
    Normally I'd be out looking for decent lightweight cycling waterproofs, but I'm reluctant to spend a lot of money on something that could easily end up only ever being used a very small number of times. If I ride the 400 and find I don't want to repeat it, it potentially gets used once. I'm a big guy so it doesn't seem like there's much of a market in used gear - most guys my size don't seem to ride brevets and the vast majority of the people I've met while riding are appreciably smaller than me. It may be if I wore a lightweight summer jersey under the waterproof I wouldn't burn up - I'd probably get warm but at least it should be tolerable, and it also keeps the wind off if that gets to be a problem.

    I agree entirely on the eating (and drinking). I tend to overlook both and try and eat and drink a lot at once, rather than little and often. The 400 in question is in two weeks, so maybe reducing caffeine as a pre-emptive thing would be a good idea.

    I took a look at your site. I remember browsing it a while back but didn't remember just how many hugely long rides you've completed. At present I think a 1200 would just about kill me!
    I'm with Rowan that a good quality waterproof jacket is an investment and can be used for more than just the occasional randonnee. We use ours quite regularly for long distance rides (because the longer you go the more chance you'll end up riding in a sudden rain somewhere), for touring (because you never know what kind of weather you'll encounter while touring ... and I tend to bring the rain wherever I go), and even for evening or weekend rides where we just want to get out for a quick spin, but it's a bit damp out there. They are also good in the wind and cold to help keep you warm.

    And regarding eating and drinking ... when I first started riding at night, I didn't eat and drink. We're conditioned to eat in the morning when we get up, and lunch, and dinner, and maybe a little snack before bed ... but we don't eat at night. And of course, I ran into trouble by not eating at night. I have to make a conscious effort to keep the food going. The other thing about eating at night is that it can be hard to find your food if you haven't prepared in advance. If I just stuff some energy bags in my Carradice bag, then I have to stop and find them and get them out and in the middle of the night that just seems like too much effort. So I started riding with a bento bag where I would have a couple energy bars or cookies or whatever available right in front of me. And I'd have backups conveniently located in my handlebar bag. (The bento bag is also very useful for winter rides where I don't want to have to remove a glove in order to dig around in a pocket or wherever to find food)

    Speaking of digging around in your Carradice in the middle of the night, one of the tricks I learned early on was to keep my stuff in exactly the same location in my bags all the time. That way, in the middle of the night on a dark and lonely road, I could find whatever I needed without even turning my helmet light on. I knew exactly where everything was and could lay my hands on it blindfolded. Taking a bit of time to pack well and know where everything is ahead of time reduces the frustration of spending 15 minutes digging through the bag looking for shoe covers or whatever in the middle of the ride, when I really should be spending those 15 minutes cycling.


    At present a 1200K would just about kill me too. My long distance cycling kind of died off after developing DVT in 2009, but we're building up again ... hoping to do some randonnees next summer ...

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    Which one are you looking at doing?

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    Interesting to read other people's perceptions of various distances. Personally 200s to 300s are virtually the same, then a big step up to the 400s and a tiny step up to 600s before you reach the really enjoyable rides and my favourite distances.

    400s are the hardest distance for me. Most 400 brevets start around 06:00 to 09:00 in this part of the world and I'm usually not fast enough to finish before I start getting sleepy sometime after midnight.

    A good waterproof is worth whatever it costs during crappy Welsh or Scottish weather. I have a rainjacket that has been used a handful of times during brevets (usually I prefer to just get damp but stay warm) but paid its way each time.
    Last edited by LWaB; 05-11-14 at 03:43 AM.

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    Personally with young kids I find anything over 24 hours no fun. I know I can ride 600 plus, I simply feel guilty spending so kuch time on a selfish activity. Perhaps in ten years.

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    I think 400k is hardest because it is one really long day. 600k you can sleep quite a bit and in effect, it is a two days ride.

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    I finda fleche most challenging. Alone 370km in 24 hours is easy enough, a team adds complications.

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    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    The thread suddenly jumped forward on me!

    The food I usually eat on rides is a combination of flapjacks and cakes from cafes, with jelly babies for extra sugar if I need it. I've found an electrolyte tablet that seems to work and also taste good. I honestly don't know how long my body can function on nothing more than coffee, cake, jelly babies and stuff I found in service stations - I managed OK for a 300 but presumably at some point I'd need something a little more substantial.

    The ride I've been looking at is Asparagus and Strawberries. Audax UK people will probably know of it.

    I have a waterproof that tends to cause me to overheat, although it might be worth trying it with a lighter weight jersey underneath it. I'm just a little reluctant to experiment with such things on a long ride, and if it starts to rain I don't really want to be fussing with changing jerseys. I've also got a very cheap rain poncho (it cost 1 in a supermarket a couple of years ago and has never been used) but it's anybody's guess just how effective it's going to be. My suspicion - it would be better than nothing but maybe not by very much.

    Long distance rides other than brevets aren't something I do very often. Every once in a while I go for a long ride with a couple of friends but a ride that spans more than one day is maybe once a year and sometimes not even that. My wife isn't into long distance riding - she's done a couple of 100k rides on her mountain bike but has little interest in going much beyond that, and loses interest if the weather isn't amenable. I don't like clearing off for any length of time (and she doesn't like it much either) so the tours of many hundreds or thousands of miles are unlikely to be in my future. If I can find a waterproof that's lightweight, effective and not expensive (which aren't parameters that usually go together) I'd certainly take one. If it's any good for hiking so much the better.

    The weather in the UK is pretty unpredictable. It doesn't get cold in the way it gets cold in central Europe in the winter time but (as it did yesterday) it can go from bright and sunny to blowing heavy rain and back within half an hour, and repeat the cycle many times in an afternoon. If you're moving it can change faster still, as you're potentially going against the bands of weather. So sometimes even if you have a waterproof layer with you, by the time you can stop and put it on you could already be drenched, and wearing a waterproof while riding in the sun is a good way for an overweight rider like me to overheat quickly.

    So with regard to the ride I've been considering, it's in a couple of weeks time so I'm pretty much deciding whether to give it a shot based on the gear I already have and hope it doesn't get too cold/wet, or give it a miss. I think my biggest concern is getting to a point that's a huge distance from the start, getting wet and cold to a point I don't feel safe continuing, and having to figure out how to get back to the start from an area that could be remote.
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    The Young Lady and will probably be doing the A&S, a week after the BCM600. Your tastes may shift towards salty as the distances increase. Don't worry, nowhere in England can accurately be described as remote.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LWaB View Post
    The Young Lady and will probably be doing the A&S, a week after the BCM600.
    What sort of time are you aiming for, and if I ride it would you object to me joining you?

    Your tastes may shift towards salty as the distances increase.
    Maybe I'll pack some salted peanuts as well, they are high in calories as well as being nice and salty.

    Don't worry, nowhere in England can accurately be described as remote.
    Compared to suburbia I suspect most of Norfolk counts as remote. Compared to, say, the vast wilderness of Alaska I suspect the remotest parts of Norfolk count as a heaving metropolis
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    For rain gear, I highly recommend this jacket: Original Cycling Jacket | O2 Rainwear
    It looks and feels sort of cheesy/plasticky, but it's actually by far the most comfortable rain jacket I've ever used in terms of being breathable and waterproof for long periods of time. It will let little bits of rain through after awhile, but only just small amounts in an extended steady downpour and I don't end up drenched in sweat, so I really do stay drier than in anything else. It's also probably the lightest, simplest thing you can get and it's fairly cheap to boot.

    Riding through the night sounds daunting at first, but I think that once you've done it you realize it isn't necessarily that big a deal. The above advice about eating and drinking is spot on - and keep in mind that often when it's dark and cooler, especially if it rains, you don't feel thirsty. But you're still sweating and breathing and losing moisture, so you may need to make a particular point to drink.
    I've found that lots of things that really have their root cause somewhere else can manifest themselves as feeling sleepy at night. That includes needing to eat or drink, as well as just being cold.

    I've also found that being well rested in advance really helps, even if it isn't always possible. Conversation is the best antidote to sleepiness there is, and if anything I find that it's maybe easier if it's someone I don't know well. Then there are more "low hanging fruit" conversational topics that don't require too much brain power to keep going. If it's someone I know well, I already know the answers to the easy questions, so I have to work harder to make conversation if we're all getting drowsy. I've also often found that experienced brevet riders are fairly practiced at making conversation happen in the middle of the night. And when there's no one to talk to, or no one is talking, I resort to reciting poetry, songs, anything I can think of, out loud. I keep a mental collection of material for exactly that purpose.

    If it's your first time riding through the night and you're not sure about it, take some caffeine pills along that you don't intend to use unless you really need to. Then you at least have some peace of mind that you have a backup plan.

    Also, don't underestimate the value of a short power nap. You can lie down in a corner somewhere for 20 minutes and it will do wonders. Post office lobbies, ATM booths, and gas stations are good places indoors in the middle of the night if it's raining or cold. Otherwise, park benches, bus stops, leaning against the side of a building, pretty much anyplace dry where you won't get run over works too.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by contango View Post
    What sort of time are you aiming for, and if I ride it would you object to me joining you?
    Not quick, 20-24hrs. Always room in the bunch, particularly at night.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by LWaB View Post
    Not quick, 20-24hrs. Always room in the bunch, particularly at night.
    Based on usually taking 11-12 hours for a 200 with ~2000m of climbing and 18 hours for a 300, I'd expect to be at the slow end of that range. If I could complete a 400 in 22-24 hours I'd be pleased with that.
    "For a list of ways technology has failed to improve quality of life, press three"

  24. #24
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    You'll be fine. We were in the same bunch on the Dean.

  25. #25
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    Enjoy the ride this weekend, I'm doing the Llanfair, weather's looking Ok, but not as good as this weekend

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