Event Review

REVIEW: Hemel Hempstead CC Reliability Ride

by Andy Dawson

Hemel Hempstead CC Reliability Ride REVIEW


Date: 2nd February 2014
Distances: 100/50km
Entry fee: £5
Start: 9am
Feedstops: one at 60km with tea and cake
Catering: hot drinks, cakes and sandwiches at finish
Timed: yes
Signs: no
Roads: mixture of country roads
Website: http://www.hemelcycling.org.uk/events/chiltern-classics

The Hemel Hempstead Cycling Club reliability ride is the third in the Chiltern Classics series intended to get you going for the 2014 season. The event started at 9am from the Cycling Club's Kings Langley clubhouse. Sign on was pen and paper based, with participants selecting what distance to ride and predicting how fast they might get around. Red was for quick riders, yellow for moderate and green for relaxed riders. The Reds went off first and were expecting to do the 100km in around 3 hours. 105 riders registered.


Sign on


I joined the yellow group with a target time of 4 hours. We went straight out of the club entrance, under the main railway line and off into the countryside, climbing gently through woods and potholed lanes towards the rolling Chiltern Hills. I started with a large group from Verulam Cycling Club who were very well organised and a pleasure to ride with. The first 30km or so was pretty easy, descending first to Chesham and then climbing gradually to the highest point on the course - 260m - before dropping again down Aston Hill.

The group

By now the sun was out and it was actually getting warmish. We zipped through Wendover and up a couple more climbs where I got separated from the group, and then punctured. In fact the tyre was ripped open but luckily I managed to mend it with a chocolate bar wrapper inserted between the tyre and the inner-tube.

The mend left me way behind so I had to set off alone, which was unfortunate, as the next bit of road - dead straight and 11km long - was into a stiff head wind. Oh to be sheltering in a group...

Climbing up and up...

By the time I'd got to the end of the straight I was over halfway, but facing the really big climb of the day - the hill out of Chinnor. It entailed 2km of moderate climbing at perhaps 12% max, but it took my tired legs 10 minutes to ascend. I was actually glad to be riding uphill though, after the long slog on the open road.

The climb led to virtually deserted roads - some of them super smooth and set amongst some spectacular countryside, lit by bright sunshine. It's moments and places like this that are great to discover during events.

Pretty soon the road dropped again before heading into the notorious Smalldean Lane. This narrow, high-sided lane gently rose over a couple of km and then had a vicious sting in the tail - a good 15% straight with a 25% ramp at the end. The lower parts were scatted with medium-sized lumps of flint and the steepest part had a cover of smaller gravel. I crunched over it listening for any loss of traction on the rear tyre.

Much needed!

At the next junction there was a food stop with hot tea and cake. Two pieces of malt loaf disappeared instantly whilst chatting to George Cook, the original creator of the ride - it's been going 30 years.

Tea and cake transformed my legs and the reassurance that "it was all easy from here" helped me get over the remaining lumps and bumps before descending finally to Kings Langley and the Clubhouse.

A great course with a couple of significant challenges just over halfway makes for an excellent test of early season form.

Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 8 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 9 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 8 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 10 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 10 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 9 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 7 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 87.8%