The Southerner does Khalid Bin Waleed Challenge 2017

This was the first. Not only for the challenge but also for me, to ride this distance, elevation and raise for charity.

My choice of steed was my Giant Defy 0, 2016 model. It was a decent bike and did the job. I made some subtle upgrades – namely I purchased Superstar Arc22 Wide rims, changed tyres to Panaracer Gravelkings and fitted my preferred saddle choice – a Fizik Arione but at the time I had the Planet X equivalent.

Wide rims are usually the way to go and won’t be too long before all manufacturers design their bikes this, meaning frames have bigger clearance for tyres. The difference once I had swapped out the stock Giant wheels was immediately noticeable. Picture below shows the width on the two rims. Giant was 14mm and the Superstars were 19mm. When i fitted my new tyres they measured up near enough 28mm but looked much smaller.

Tyres – I used gravelkings based on recommendation. At first, they felt good and supple but the mileage I was doing was too much for them to handle contrary to other people's experiences so maybe it was just one of those things. Tayres are a touchy subject. A puncture after 1000 miles in my book is 4/ 5 weeks commuting. I kept faith in them and bought another pair – they were cheap enough and not breaking the bank and more importantly they rolled better – note; I was using the giant stock tyres with no problems – 1 puncture in so many miles.

I weigh 68kg so I asked the forum hive was what the ideal pressure to run them out, I was told 75psi more or less. They rolled well, speed was not the main priority but for pace – I felt the output was really good. Certainly managed a few fast commutes into work.

Bag setup – I did not own any bags so I borrowed these but for 2018 I have found a place that do bags and this is an area I will explore further.

Lights – My very good friend borrowed me their Cateye Volt 1600 light which I backed up with my moon comet which is 350 lumens, which proved handy – will explain later on. Rear lights were the Bontrager flare R – bright as and really good- purchased from Evans for £40. Backup was the Moon comet.

What else? I used my Garmin 1000 and a Cygnet 4400 mAh powerbank.

Training and Planning

I was contacted by the top banana, Shafiq in February which gave me three months to prepare – the VISA was stamped by the Mrs and the train ticket was booked. I felt knowing my capabilities and limits based on my past riding I really ought to prepare myself and in hindsight I wanted to do more – as in, go out do a couple rides but as ever, time was not always available with family.

I spoke to my secret coach who will remain anonymous to get ideas and inspiration in riding long distance with pace etc. part of training also meant discussing route ‘tactics’ and what to bring. I hadn’t done much big distance/fast pace rides to date, I only got back on two wheels in August 2016. I did my usual 75km into Surrey-Kent (50 miles for those that are confused) route in February.

Next ‘major’ ride was to Box Hill back at the beginning of March where I did 5 reps mixing up the technique i.e. 1 min in the saddle, 30 secs out of the saddle. I only recorded four because I forgot to press start.

Towards the end of March, I did my stomping ground again with a 100km solo, doing Hosey and Ide Hill twice in March.

The next major ride/event was the H&K London to Hastings ride in April– this was the point I was able to test the saddlebag. It was about 140km from home to the start then to Hastings. Unannounced, decided this was the perfect opportunity to go further and ride back. It was roughly the same distance back. Riding with the saddlebag was fine; then again it was not full. I had reversed a planned route I downloaded. The hill I endured coming out of Hastings was a toughie, making progress, I stopped at Battle for a break/food. It was soon getting dark and made a judgement call to take the A21 directly – I thought 1) it’s direct, 2) it goes towards Bromley and 3) I sort of know where I am with it (if that makes sense)

WELL….. that was certainly an experience to be had; it was effectively a fast carriageway which meant I had to ride on side avoiding all the dust and crap. Would I ride it again? I don’t know I would feel more comfortable in numbers.

It got dark, my moon comet lights were on and I decided I had had enough of the A21 (no lights on it), so came off to go to Sevenoaks – in my mind I knew I was not far – home was just over there, near Westerham and so forth. So mentally I was psyching myself, till…….I got a puncture.

It was at this point that I made the call to abandon it, I was cold, getting late and to be frank, my mood changed at this point. Quick phone call and recovery was on their way, plus my lights were inadequate and not really ideal. All in all, I managed 215km with a moving time of 8hr 35mins. Just to put into perspective, it took me just over 3 hours to ride 70km which meant an average of 25km/h considering it was just the A21 which is certainly not flat – you can just see the road rising in the distance.