Beast from the East 600k (helpers ride) audax – 16th May 2015

The Beast from the East starts from Waltham Abbey and heads southwest to Taunton Dean services before returning via a different path to the start. Check out the Beast from the East route here.

Even with a bit of a headwind the first half of the Beast was very enjoyable – nice weather, interesting scenery (stopping to watch skydivers those ‘Tank Crossing’ signs stick out in my memory) and some good chatting and lunch stop with Adrian O’Sullivan. Adrian is in training for the TransAm Race, a non-stop, self-supported road bike race along the 4,233 mile Trans America Trail. He’s proper hardcore!
After getting a bit lost finding the services, I grabbed a sandwich and bottle refill and headed out again, wanting to get to the next control for dinner before it was too dark. Uh oh, it seems the Garmin 800 did one of its numerous ‘tricks’ and doesn’t have Stage 5 of the route available (yes, it was definitely copied, I’ve had this issue before when it just ignores files you add to NewFiles). Anyway, perfect opportunity to try out the Garmin 810 I bought as a backup.
The darkness moves in and initially it’s not too bad, as the roads are big, not full of potholes and not busy. I take many a wrong turn during the night, ie. ending up on an overpass, riding 20m above the road I’m supposed to be turning right onto! Cue median strip jumping and big U-turn.
Some of the navigation issues were my fault but a lot of them were caused by the Garmin 810 being a piece of crap. The device would just freeze so I’d be happily following the current road while it looked right and then eventually something would seem odd, like the distance not going down or whatever and I’d swipe it and nothing would happen. It was locked up totally and I had to power it down, wait for a GPS fix again and them resume the Course I was on. It was utterly ridiculous and I’m still trying to sort it out now – it’s likely to go back to Garmin as not fit for purpose and I’ll get another 800 as a backup instead or maybe just stick with my old eTrex.
In the early hours it got REALLY cold. I thought I was clever packing long finger gloves, leg warmers and arm warmers after getting cold on the 400, but it still wasn’t near enough. I was looking around for something burning to warm up by! At one stage I was going to ask some police in a small town to put me in a cell to sleep and get some heat back in. Nothing was open so I couldn’t get a warming coffee for hours. I think I need to work a bit more on what to carry in terms of clothing and food – since you can’t buy either at 4am on a Sunday!
So, it was pretty miserable until the sun started coming up around maybe 5am. It got a bit warmer and I knocked off a few more miles, as well as adding some extra as I visited every service station in the Chilterns – none of which had a working toilet!!! and then OMG I’ve never been so happy to see Beaconsfield services! They were open, sold coffee and had functioning toilets. Bliss. City boy here used to stuff being open at 4am.

Thanks to organiser Mark Brooking for letting me ride the route-check event. Apparently night time temperatures were as low as 3C!

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