Saturday 4 December 2021

Moonrakers and Sunseekers 300km Audax

A ride into the unknown


“You’re mad! I don’t see how any of that can be fun.”

This is my wife’s reaction to my suggestion that I’d like to take part in a 309km (192 mile) audax, overnight, after a week at work, in November. To be fair, it’s the same reaction I get from everyone I mention it to (except for Col who I completed the Dirty Reiver with a couple of years ago, so he gets it). When it becomes clear this will be everyone’s reaction, I just stop mentioning it.

The run up to the event

Prep for the ride goes smoothly: the bike is running well apart from a slightly heavy action to the front derailleur; I’ll be running Komoot through my phone for navigation and all evidence suggests one powerbank will be more than enough to keep it running for the duration (I take two) and the same goes for the battery for my light (I take a spare of those as well).

Despite doubling up on the batteries, I’m determined not to overpack for this ride as I have done on previous rides and ultramarathons. The forecast for the ride is unseasonably warm and dry so I opt not to run my full 14l Restrap saddlebag and purchase a 2.5l from Decathlon. I had thought I might need a full change of kit, but the forecast doesn’t change at all (if anything it gets milder the closer I get to the ride) so I decide to only take liner gloves, a spare base layer, my waterproof (the good one – see my previous blog for context) and a couple of inner tubes. All of which fit into the smaller saddlebag with room to spare.

The day arrives

Of course, the week leading up to the ride is rubbish: issues at home and work (nothing major but enough to have an effect) and I get to Friday morning having had way less sleep than I would have liked. However, I have been off the alcohol and caffeine for the last two weeks so feel healthy and alert despite the lack of sleep.

I make it through the day at work eating pretty much everything I can get my hands on and keeping myself hydrated with plenty of water and hydration tablets. I had expected the day to drag but it passes both quickly and uneventfully and I’m soon on my way home.

A tea of beige food carb-loading (pasta and garlic bread) and then off for a quick nap. I’m in bed for a couple of hours; I think one of them is spent asleep which is better than nothing and more than I had expected to get.

Packing the car takes no time at all (everything final checked and laid out the night before) and I’m on the road to Bristol at 8pm.

In the car, I admit to myself that I am scared of this ride. I honestly have no idea how this is going to play out; I’ve never ridden overnight before, and I’ve never ridden anywhere near this distance. I have absolutely no frame of reference for what could happen. ‘Fortunately’, the drive to Bristol is two hours of dark, narrow B roads so it takes my mind off the ‘what ifs’.

Bristol to Devizes (0 – 51km)

I arrive at the venue at 10pm, find somewhere nearby to park, get kitted up and ride over to the start. It’s weird to see so many people and bikes getting ready to ride at this time of night. There are bikes and set ups of all different types but what does stick out to me is that I seem to be riding a far more pared down rig in comparison to a lot of people. My one front light, small top tube bag (full of flapjack), medium frame bag (batteries and tools), smallish saddlebag and single rear light seems almost TdF-style next to the full Carradice bags and lighting arrays that would put Blackpool in the shade. I’m sure I’ll be fine.

Brevet card collected and stamped, and my wave is off at 22.35. We quickly make our way out of the venue and into night-time Bristol. A fast-moving bunch forms and I grab on to the back of it hoping to be pulled along for as far as I can manage. We weave through the town, the outskirts and on to Bath at a fair clip and by Bath we are already passing riders from the previous wave.

As we navigate through Bath’s Friday night revellers, I find I have a stupid grin on my face, and it takes me a while to figure out why. I feel naughty – mischievous. I feel the same way I did when I was a kid playing out after dark with my torch and it’s great.

The group works well together through to the far side of Bath, but we splinter on the Cat 4 slopes of Bathford Hill. Other than the chap powering ahead on his fixie, I distance the rest of the group and then I’m riding alone all the way to CP1 at Devizes. The roads are fast and undulating, there is a gentle tailwind and I feel great. Before long, I pull into the car park at the Moonrakers Pub and the first leg is done – 00.40 and 2hrs 5mins.

Devizes to Salisbury (51–91km)

I am Billy-No-Mates. I’m not riding with anyone else, and I’ve never got my head around the concept of the ‘café ride’. If I’m out for a ride, I’m out for a ride not a coffee and a cake. As such, I’m through CP1 pretty quickly – just there long enough for the fantastic volunteers stamping cards and handing out flapjack to laugh at the irony of me driving all the way from Bournemouth to Bristol just to ride back to Bournemouth and then to Bristol.

The ‘Billy-No-Mates’ thing continues all the way from Devizes to Salisbury. It’s a beautiful night; warm with easy-riding roads and my head is a pleasant place to be. Eventually, there is a slight drizzle, but it doesn’t put a dampener on my spirits (pardon the pun) and the kilometres just disappear beneath my wheels. Even at 80km, when that heavy action on the front derailleur goes one step further and stops shunting into the big ring, I can be philosophical about it: 1, at least it’s not Di2 so I’m not stuck in the big ring and 2, it’s God’s way of telling me to coast on the descents.

I hit the Salisbury checkpoint still feeling surprisingly fresh, riding like a little kid with my jacket wide open – 02.28 and 3hrs 53mins.

Salisbury to Poole (91–153km)

Again, I’m through the checkpoint quickly then I’m onto roads I know well. I stop at the 24 hour garage on the edge of the city to refill the flapjacks in my top tube bag and top up on water. I can’t believe the fact I’ve been up over 20 hours and still haven’t had a bout of ‘the dozies’ but I want to be prepared so grab a can of full fat Red Bull and slip it into my jacket pocket.

In the light, the Salisbury to Ringwood A338 is one of the most boring roads going, but in the dark and slight drizzle I disappear inside my head so it comes as something as a surprise when I look up to see the Ringwood town sign appear in front of me.

Stopping in Ringwood to wipe off my glasses, I’m subsumed by a fast-moving group and again I jump on the back hoping to be pulled along for some easy miles.

The group works well together, maintaining a steady pace and we’re soon though the country roads on the main drag to Christchurch. There is some confusion about the information control at 133km: we’re looking for the sign immediately after the Dorset County sign. The actual sign seems a strange choice, but we note it down then spend the next 50 or so km asking anyone and everyone if they got the same answer. They have, so we plough on.

For no discernible reason the group splinters as we get to the cliff road at Southbourne and I end up riding past work on my own. Down the road at Boscombe pier and it’s the run along the promenade all the way to Sandbanks. This early in the morning, the only other people on the prom are the guys in the JCBs grooming the sands so I’m able to clip along at a decent pace. I fall in with a solo female rider (sorry, I didn’t catch her name – I am so rubbish at small talk) and we cruise to the next checkpoint together. She’s not certain when I dive down a tiny, unmade side road so I can sense her relief when we turn into a driveway and there’s the Lilliput Sea Scout Hut all lit up, warm and welcoming and thronging with riders – 05.19 and 6hrs 44mins.

Poole to Podimore Services (153-223km)

The breakfast and welcome at the Sea Scout hut are excellent. Baked potato, sausages and beans goes down a treat. The hut is light and warm, and I can easily see how time could be lost at this stop: the halfway point and a good place to regroup if you set out with friends. I don’t have that consideration, so I eat, fill my bottles, check the battery life on my lights and phone (loads left) and set off once more. Only 23 minutes spent at this CP – bonus.

The rain comes on quite heavily as I make my way through the suburbs of Poole and for the first time in the ride my head starts to feel tired. Legs are fine but the lack of sleep is just starting to niggle at the back of my brain. This coincides with the start of what constitutes the hilly section of the route. On a descent in the half-light of the early sunrise I nearly miss a bend, lock up my back wheel on the slick road and slide unnervingly towards the very solid-looking trees lining the verge. Fortunately, I slow enough to make the turn and gingerly pick my way down the rest of the descent.

At 7am with the sun up, and my legs starting to wane slightly, I pull off the road and drink the Red Bull I’ve been nursing since Salisbury (90km ago). The two weeks off caffeine has worked and the jolt to my brain is pretty much instantaneous. Immediate mood change, and I’m raring to go.

Real life tends not to do pathetic fallacy, but the sky is clear, the sun is out, and my legs are full of energy as I climb the hills around Milton Abbey School. The colours are glorious and, once again, my jacket is open and I’m grinning like a little kid on Christmas Day. Over 190km done and it’s still Type 1 fun.

The ride is so much fun, the kilometres disappear again, and Podimore Services soon hove into sight – 09.04 and 10hrs 29mins.

Podimore to Yatton Railway Station (223-280km)

This is the longest I spend at any of the checkpoints (31 minutes to be precise). It’s an opportunity to eat real food (6 inch chicken and bacon Sub) and completely restock my bottles and top tube bag. At the table next to me is YouTube audax luminary, Richard Lake, which is a surprise as he left Poole before me, but his video will later tell a tale of punctures and slowly deflating tyres.

In the petrol station, I’m surprised when the chap on the checkout asks if I want my receipt (my proof of attendance for my brevet card) stamped with an earlier time. Apparently, other riders had actually asked for that. I’m not sure how that works because your end time is your end time so surely interim times are meaningless? Anyway, I stock up on flapjack and water and grab another can of RedBull (just in case) and then I’m off.

The next section of the ride is pretty much pan flat. Komoot tells me there was a climb just after the stop, but I have no memory of it. I’m through some long, straight country roads without any drama and then I hit the Strawberry Line cyclepath.

Blogs and vlogs had warned me this would be gravelly and muddy and slow-going in places. However, it’s been dry all week with only some light rain overnight so my 32mm Panaracer Gravelking slicks cope with the path admirably. It is thick with fallen leaves so their slippery nature has to be given due care and attention but other than that it is nice to be off the roads for once. The only thing really slowing me down is the popularity of the path for walkers and their dogs but it’s a shared path and I’m not racing so I’m happy to slow down as and when it’s needed.

Eventually, I roll into Yatton Station at 280km, still smiling and still surprised at how strong my legs are. I won’t be winning a signpost sprint anytime soon but neither am I chewing my handlebars - 11.58 and 13hrs 23mins.

Yatton Station – Arrivee (280-309km)

As a break from all the flapjack, I grab a bag of cheese and onion crisps at the café where I get my brevet card stamped. They are quickly downed, and I have one final check before the last push of 29km – bottles have plenty of water and the powerbank feeding my mobile phone still has well over 40% left. The weather is still fine and warm and it’s a great day to be riding but my brain knows the end is in sight. As much as I have enjoyed the ride and am still enjoying the ride, it’s time for it to be done.

I’d like to say the final few kilometres are spent savouring my achievement but that would be a lie. From the outskirts of the city, the route winds its way through Bristol’s rat’s nest of cycle lanes and paths and I spend every moment checking and rechecking my GPS. When you’ve cycled 300km, you really don’t want to add any undue distance.

And with that, I start to recognise roads from my drive in the night before and then I’m done: arrivee at 309km, 13.42 and 15hrs 7mins.


I check in with my brevet card and sit down for a plate of vegan daal and rice. It’s a nice way to end the ride and just another example of the fantastic job Will Pomeroy and his army of volunteers do to make this experience as brilliant as has it been. Of course, me being me, I don’t hang around for long and I’m soon packed up, in the car and on my way to my accommodation for a much-needed shower and nap. My wife is the sensible one and has booked me a room for the night so I’m not driving home having not slept in over 32 hours.


As reflections go, this one isn’t the learning experience you might expect. Bearing in mind it was my first 300km and my first overnighter, everything went as well as I could have hoped:

  • Other than my front derailleur giving up the ghost, the bike worked perfectly
  • My lights, phone and powerbanks worked without fault
  • I kept myself fed and watered all the way round even when I didn’t feel like it so never bonked
  • Clothing was spot on, if a little warm at times but perfect when it was drizzling and a bit cold out of Poole

So, if you fancy a 300km audax, I can highly recommend the Moonrakers and Sunseekers 300km. It’s brilliantly organised, incredibly friendly, relatively flat for such a long route and riding through the night makes way more sense than you might think. I might even go back again next year.

The Stats

Distance: 309km

Elevation: 2136m

Moving Time: 13hrs 8mins

Total Time: 15hrs 7mins

Average Power: 124w

Normalized Power: 155w

Calories: 6208cal



  1. Nice read. I cycled this event a few years back and enjoyed it too.

  2. Great write up. Interesting to compare experiences. You powered through. I was very despondent to hit Strawberry Line at dusk and the cafe had just shut at Yatton. I was lucky I knew Strawberry Line on well, still got a wrong turn in Bristol. Made it just. 1st 300 and overnight is a good feeling.

    1. Hi Fiona. I know what you mean about getting despondent - I've been there before on other rides and had expected to get that way at some point on this one. That's why I had so many batteries with me in case I was finishing in the dark regretting my life choices. Everyone finishing deserves full credit - 300km is not to be sniffed at.

  3. Thank you for such a good write up. I also nearly missed the bend in the descent at dawn. I was following the lights of the bike in front who pulled in for a pitstop and so had to abruptly turn to avoid the trees! My obsession with following lights meant that I missed the Poole controls and the beautiful breakfast as I just blindly followed other bikes, thinking they were going to the controls but instead they were leaving the controls! The lovely people at the Scout Hut controls even called me to check I was OK, by which time I have half way to Yeovil. It was a great event and cannot recommend it more as a challenging overnight 300k.

  4. Hi. I think you must have been the lights I was following down that descent because I was also distracted by the chap at the side of the road with his light facing out - I'd forgotten that was what happened. It was the warning call I needed to break out the Red Bull.