Road to Paris, Winter Boat Ride

Photo: My attempt to keep my feet dry by wrapping them in cling film was an abject failure. They were soon soaked and cold when the rain started.

Yesterday was a long day in the saddle. 210k from The Wonder Cafe, Hillingdon to the Tichenham Inn in Ickenham via Stoke Bruene in Northamptonshire. The Winter Boat Ride audax.

Having already completed my PBP qualifying 200k the Winter Boat Ride was part of my back up plan. In an attempt to get to Paris for the first time I have booked two of every qualifying rides.

In a starting group in the dry the conversation quickly turned to PBP:

Rider: Are you planning on doing PBP?

Me: Yes, I hope to

Rider: Are you going to pre-register tomorrow? [400k completers]

Me: I’m fortunate enough to have already pre-registered. There are just under 2,000 places left so make sure you pre-register in good time. You can do that tonight from 23:00

Rider: Can I? I didn’t realise.

Me: Have you created your account and checked your 400k is there?

Rider: What account? I didn’t know I had to do that.

Me: I recommend you create your account as soon as you get home and start at 23:00 just in case the remaining places sell out.

I’ve just checked the PBP registration site and there are still 1,050 places left so I hope he managed to pre-register. I thought they may sell out today as roughly 2,000 places went to 1,000km riders, another 2,000 to 600kers. I did think there was a risk that the 400kers would take all the remaining places. It leaves some hope for 200kers that they could get a place.

PBP is a logistical test as well as a physical and mental one.

Soon after this conversation ended the rain started. It stayed with us beyond the first information control and the stunning Waddesdon Manor Estate. You will have to take my word for how pretty it was as it wasn’t the weather for stopping to take photos.

By the time I reached the control at the Green Dragon Eco Centre outside Quainton my fingers were numb with cold thanks to the wet and 2°. I joined the queue for the hot air blowers in the gents to get some warm air in the gloves. I spotted a rider putting on latex gloves under his cycling gloves. I might give that a try.

My fellow Islington Cycling Club clubmate Peter arrived and we teamed up and rode as a pair to the finish. I showed Peter the map I’d prepared as an experiment. I like to know what to expect for each section. This really helps me prepare mentally, especially for the climbs. It worked well for me so I plan to do it for future audaxes.


The next information control question at Helmdon was “The Fat ? (PH)”. We speculated on The Fat Controller, The Fat Lady Sings, The Fat Cow. We didn’t guess The Fat Landlord.

After the overweight Landlord the rain stopped and we enjoyed a great run down to the titular Boat Inn in Stoke Bruene for lunch. I had soup and a diet coke folowed by a chocolate snack of champions kindly provided by the organisers. Peter had a burger and a pint. Let’s just say one of us was a little sluggish after the restart. Just saying.


We were rewarded for our time in the rain with a dry return to London and even the occasional glimpses of sunshine. We only encountered one other rider during the 93km from the Boat Inn to the end. We thought we’d been left behind but at the finish about a third of the field had returned. “The night is but young” said Paul, the organiser.

In my case it was a very long day and night. We finished at 19:00. On my brevet card it looks like I took 19 hours. Maybe 19:00 and 19 got confused. No matter, as long as I’m recorded by Audax UK and ACP as having completed the ride in 11 hours.


Before getting the tube home we had a couple of traditional recovery drinks. As you do.


Thank you to Paul Stewart for organising and to Richard Perry, the guest star controller at Stoke Bruene. A long, wet but satisfying day.


Rides: 14

Distance: 1,679.8 km

Average distance per ride: 119.9 km

Elevation gain: 11,192m (1.26 Everests)


  • Hi Colin,

    These winter rides must be tough! But you look like you’re enjoying them.

    I’ve used powderless Vinyl or preferably the mechanic’s black nitrile gloves in the past, these have worked well for me on winter rides, I find the powdered latex gloves start to cause a skin reaction on me after a while.

    Safe riding, All the best. Neil.

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

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