When is a race not a race? When it’s not a race. Confused? You should be. I have entered quite a few charity or non-competitive events recently and Tommy’s Ride organised by Trail break was the latest. They all clearly state ‘IT IS NOT A RACE’. I don’t know about you, but when I’m on the start line and everyone takes off – The adrenaline spikes and suddenly, I’m racing!
The event took place on November the 10th, one day prior to my 49th birthday, so I scraped into the younger category. As with many of these types of events your finish time is categorised into Gold, Silver and Bronze. I did the long route which was 36 miles, 2980 feet climbing. To achieve Gold, I needed to do it in under 4hours 12minutes.
I was riding my CUBE 160 Stereo Action Team and went equipped with a spare battery in my rucksack. There was a distinct lack of other ebikes on the start line and quite a few riders were on CX bikes.
It had rained all night, so I was sceptical of their choice of skinny tyres. As it turned out, many of them were roadies dabbling with the mud. The neatly shaved calf muscles should have given it away.
The ride started and after the initial hill coupled with my motored assistance, I found myself out in front. After a few miles there were just four of us, some way ahead of the rest. The other 3 riders were all on manual bikes.
The advantages and disadvantages of the ebike were very clear over the initial 12-mile stretch. Being comprised of fire track and mainly flat sections I found myself being left behind on the long straights. Pedalling the CUBE over the 16-mph limit zapped my leg strength, the infamous ‘Bosch Wall’. I caught up on the couple of hills and on a few of the muddy bridleways.
The 3 guys made it to the first check point and drink stop a couple minutes ahead of me. These events are always so well organised and supported and this was no exception with hot and cold drinks, oranges, jelly beans and cake!
Then it rained…
We set off together but after a steep hill climb and a particularly slippery bridleway, I found myself ahead on my own once more. Which is how it remained for the rest of the ride. This is really where the ebike excelled. Long climbs, grassy bridleways and the dreaded ruts of the Ridgeway. The views from Barbury Castle (Iron Age hill fort) were amazing but the black clouds that stretched across the horizon made me pedal just that little bit faster.
The weather had a significant input in terms of a very strong headwind and with about 10 miles to go – rain. Not just your ordinary, run of the mill rain. Apocalyptic rain! At one point I wish I had lights as the sky was so dark. As water ran down the inside of my jacket sleeve I gave up all hope of staying dry. The downpour made the run off the Ridgeway very tricky. I had ridden the same route years ago on both on a MX bike and a Quad, so was fully prepared for the deep ruts. However, I lost count of the amount of pedal strikes and managed to face-plant twice as my front wheel took on a life of its own.
I changed the battery after 24 miles, mainly riding in eMTB mode, which is a kind of automatic mode for those of you who don’t ride a Bosch motor. I freely admit I put the bike in Turbo for the last 4 or so miles as even with my electric assistance, I was exhausted. My trip read 38 miles as I crossed the line (not sure where the extra two miles came from) and my time was 2hours 52 minutes. As it was a staggered start it was difficult to know where I had finished, even though I had crossed the line first. Looking at the times afterwards I finished in the top ten which I was more than happy with. Respect to all the non-assisted riders.
Sign up and have a go
The beauty of these events is that you don’t have to worry about navigation, everything is clearly signposted, and it’s not a race. If you want to take it steady, look at the amazing scenery, then you can. I found everyone very friendly and very interested in the ebike, certainly a great way to spend a wet Saturday and raising money for the Poppy Appeal.
Photo’s courtesy of Trail break and Tim Redgrove Photography.