An Audax is a long-distance day-ride where the route must be completed within certain minimum and maximum times. There are checkpoints along the way, and you must reach those within certain specified time-slots.

For a strict Audax, the distance is 200km (124 miles) and the pace is 14mph, but most Audax organisations also offer 'allure libre' versions, which are shorter and have less-strict timing requirements. The London Sightseer Audax is one of those: 100km (62 miles) in no less than 5 hours and no more than 10 hours.

As those who know me will be aware, I do not do mornings. As the start was at 9.30am on a Sunday morning, and it would take me about 2.5 hours to get there, I booked myself and my TRICE (yes, I did tell them) into a Travelodge about five miles from the start.

I was out on the Saturday, so got home late, ate, packed and then found it was raining. The temptation to abandon the plan at that stage would have been high, but since I'd arranged to do the ride with two fellow TRICE riders, Donald and Daren, I was committed, so out into the rain I went.

Fortunately it was just a 2-mile ride to my local station:

A 35-minute train ride into Liverpool Street, a quick cycle across town to Paddington and then onto the Heathrow Connect service:

Another few miles' cycling saw me arriving at the Travelodge, Heston Services, M4 Westbound, at 11.30pm. In the rain. It's all glamour, this Audax business.

Donald was staying there too, and I'd texted him my ETA, so he was there waiting for me. A rather bemused receptionist took the obligatory 'What the hell are we doing here?' photo, while a fellow guest wondered why anyone would want a photo of themselves in front of a Travelodge.

One thing I do like about anonymous cheap hotel chains is that the receptionists are almost entirely uninterested in what their guests get up to, so they didn't even raise an eyebrow when I wheeled my trike through reception and down the corridor to my room. A small amount of dismantling was required to get it through the door, but it's all quick-releases.

Donald had been very organised: plotting the route on a cycle mapping site, then breaking down the route instructions into a series of laminated cards.

This was good as I hadn't gone any further than loading the very approximate route into my GPS.

Amazingly, I was our of bed at 7.45am, so had an hour before we needed to check out. You use a lot of fuel on a long cycle ride, so we started the day by fuelling-up.

It was raining heavily when we left the hotel for the five-mile ride to the start.

This was another point at which I might have had second-thoughts, but am very glad I was committed as the rest of the day was just perfect for cycling: cool, but not cold, and almost no further rain.

We met Daren at the start, picked up our brevet cards and waited for the off. By this time the rain had pretty much stopped.

Some of the riders had strange contraptions that were a bit like a trike, but had uncomfy seats and were missing one wheel.

I can't see them catching on, but they seemed to work ok.

Being a Sunday, the roads were quiet, and as few drivers bother to read the bus-lane time-plates, we had our own private lane for large chunks of the on-road sections.

The route pretty much directly followed the north bank of the river all the way from Hampton to Greenwich. A lot of it was on paths, including quite a few parks. It was fairly slow but extremely pleasant cycling.

Daren had also done the laminated card thing, and also loaded the route into his GPS at a more detailed level than my vague 'are we heading in the right direction?' version, so he acted as Lead Navigator.

We hadn't gone far when Daren called an unscheduled stop. Daren is noted for teasing the Puncture Fairy, and she took very little time to make her displeasure known.

One advantage of a trike is that you can replace a front-wheel tube without removing the wheel. Like me, he carries two spare tubes to avoid the need for any roadside repairs (or, in my case, any repairs at all - I consider tubes consumables). A quick tube change later, we were back on our way.

An audax typically has a mix of manned and unmanned control points, used to check that you have followed the route. Unmanned controls are known as Information Points, where you have to write in your card the answer to a simple question: in this case, the name on the blue plaque at a particular address.

As so much of the route was on cycle paths, it did include a few trike handling tests.

It also involved some cycle-lane contraflow sections. These were, we discovered, wide enough for trikes.

Daren and his duck were doing a stirling job with the navigation, here seen in total agreement about where to go:

The next Information Control was to note the name of the white shop on a particular corner.

Quiet back-streets into Kensington:

Daren carries a Camelbak drinks system, and what goes in must come out, so his next navigation challenge was to find the necessary facilities in Kensington Gardens.

I'd been having endless trouble with the Streamer fairing mount working loose. A friend had recently made a better mount, but this only reduced the frequency with which it needed to be tightened on a bumpy ride.

Having had to pull over several times to tighten it, I tried to get it as tight as possible, and overdid it: the aluminium mount sheered off. This was rather a problem as there is no way to carry the fairing on the trike other than mounting it.

I feared my day was over, but I had failed to take into account the ingenuity of experienced cyclists with mechanical skills. Alan improvised an ingenious repair with the assistance of Paul, who very kindly sacrificed a set of ring-spanners which acted as spacers.

The result may not have been elegant, but it lasted the rest of the ride. :-)

Alan, engineer of the day:

And that was us on our way. Alan also took this photo of the three triketeers:

The Audax was known as the London Sightseer, and as both Daren and Donald were from outside London, for them it was very aptly-named. Daren taking a photo of Buckingham Palace:

And Donald doing the same:

Alan was less moved by the sight:

There were a couple of events going on in central London: a 5k fun-run, and a Tour of Britain ride. Several roads had been closed to traffic but open to pedestrians and cyclists.

The sections of open road were still very empty.

We did have one or two small navigational errors, but, hey, everyone gets confused at the six-way junction at the Royal Exchange ...

At Tower Bridge, we went down the ramp into St Katherine's dock. Alan and Paul take a look.

From here it was riverside paths towards Canary Wharf.

Some of the cycle-path obstacles were less troublesome to trikers than others.

Though one did need to be careful of obstacles that weren't immediately visible on the approach - fortunately TRICE brakes are excellent.

The manned control was at north side of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Bill, the organiser, was there waiting for us.

The hot food menu was flat on the high counter, so I failed to spot the goat curry. Ah well, this will keep me going for a while.

Some riders had got a bit lost, including two who somehow managed to entirely bypass Canary Wharf. Bill attempted to figure out how they managed this feat.

Entirely gratuitous TRICE trio shots:

Proof that three trikes can fit into the Greenwich Foot Tunnel lifts:

It's spooky down there ...

From the south side of the tunnel, we headed uphill to the Greenwich Observatory. Just for amusement value, I turned off the road and onto the extremely steep path. We all made it to the top, and greatly amused the tourists in the process.

Obligatory trike shot at the top:

The next Information Control question was the number of trees in front of this Pizza Hut:

We then approached the Dome (well, the O2, technically, but that's a damn fool name for a building) from the back, beginning with a fantastic cycle path.

The entrance to the Dome:

Unfortunately. the cycle path deteriorates on the river side of the Dome, and gets progressively less scenic as you go ...

Including, at one point, a TRICE traction test:

But things did then get prettier as we headed back towards Greenwich.

Then back along a narrow path to the Greenwich Wheel:

Given the unlikely-looking nature of some of the sections we'd been through, it wasn't entirely silly of us to imagine at one stage that the route took us down a muddy tunnel ...

However, the sight we found at the far end of the tunnel did leave us scratching our heads as to where the route might go next:

As none of us had remembered our swimming costumes, we made another U-turn.

Back on the riverside path, we could now see Canary Wharf from the other side of the river.

Daren's relationship with the Puncture Fairy was not improving. This was number 2.

This time it was the rear tyre, requiring the wheel to be removed. Fortunately he was able to find a convenient bike-stand:

Distances on my odometer are from the Travelodge, so we're about four miles into the return leg at this point, and time is getting on.

But Daren is a whiz at changing tubes, so his other spare tube was fitted and we resumed our side along the riverside path. Despite the detour and puncture, we still managed to catch up with the group ahead of us.

There was some doubt about the route on the next section, so we employed the 'when in doubt, stick to the Thames Path cycle route' approach.

After Daren's second puncture, I suggested that he really should stop insulting the Puncture Fairy. His response was to call her a wuss. Half a mile after puncture number two, her response was ... puncture number three. Three wheels, three punctures.

The culprit this time was a sizeable sliver of glass:

Alan and Paul were by this time having visions of reaching the finish around Wednesday, so very sensibly left us to it.

As Daren was now out of spare tubes, he had to repair this one, something he did with great speed.

I think this shot is crying out for a caption competition ...

Back on the road, and the riverside path gave way to quiet backstreets.

Then more cycle paths. It's a pretty impressive network, with light-controlled crossings when it crossed a main road.

The path is, however, most decidedly not built with trikes in mind. At the bottom of this road, we has to manoeuvre the trikes not just through a narrow gateway, but through a narrow gateway on a corner.

Sadly none of us had any free hands to photograph the mission. This was followed by lifting the trikes across lock gates.

But we were having fun, and it wasn't long before we reached Butler's Wharf.

The last Information Control of the ride was to specify the number of vertical bars in the gate at HMS Belfast. Some engineering-type pedants wrote '11 plus the outer bars providing structural integrity'.

The route went over Westminster Bridge which was supposed to have reopened at 4pm but in fact hadn't. I thus took over navigation duties and took us over London Bridge and to Blackfriars, where I was about to take us north of the Embankment which was also closed.

However, there didn't actually appear to be anything happening on the road, so I decided that it was only fitting on an audax to employ a little audacity. I thus cycled confidently up to the marshalls blocking the sliproad and announced 'Hi, we're on the 100k cycle ride'. This statement is, you will note, a simple statement of fact. The marshalls smiled and opened a gap in the cones for us. We then had the Embankment entirely to ourselves.

The same technique was employed at two subsequent barriers, with the same result. We did then hit one official who was rather less swayed by my breezy manner and wanted us to turn around as they were dismantling barriers ahead. However, one of the team doing the dismantling said 'It's ok, let them through' and so on we went, past more marshalls and a police car, into Parliament Square.

By this time, though, we were running rather late. The official end-time was 19:30, and that looked tight. I consulted the GPS on a direct-ish cycle route and it showed that we would still complete the 100k distance, only with much easier navigation than following the routecard. A democratic decision was taken to do this.

It started to get dark, so we put on our lights. In single file on main roads in the dusk, it got harder to see whether the third trike was still following, so I did checks every few junctions. At one set of lights, Daren was missing, I pulled in past some parked cars to wait. We were just five miles from the end now.

We waited, and waited, and waited. Finally I phoned Daren and got his voicemail. He phoned me back thirty seconds later. "Don't tell me you got another one," I said. "Oh yes," he replied.

Donald settled in for a snooze:

One day, three wheels, four punctures.

But finally Daren appeared and we trundled the last few miles to the end.

We added our brevet cards to the growing pile, and despite the unscheduled fairing-adjustment and puncture-repair stops, we weren't actually last.

Since I'd officially decided to give up on the fairing, and Donald was planning to buy one, I gave it to him. This required removing the mountings from my trike in the dark, but with the help of a bicycle light ...

Donald had to dismantle his TRICE for the train, so it was arranged that Daren would take the fairing back in his car and then post it to Donald. Much as I like the concept of the fairing, it has been such hassle that I was not at all sorry to see it go.

While we were doing all this, the last two arrived: the poor chap made Daren look like an amateur: he'd had seven punctures in one day!

I was feeling surprisingly fit after 67 miles, and was debating whether or not to cycle back to Liverpool Street, a distance of 18 miles. Part of my thinking was that I'd done 70-something mile days before, so it would be good to push this a bit.

My decision was aided by Bill and Ingrid kindly providing tea and a peanut butter sandwich.

Ten minutes later, I was back on the TRICE, in very soft rain, being reminded that I was still out in the suburbs:

I have my Garmin set to cycle mode, which means it tries to avoid busy roads, but does occasionally get a bit carried away with this goal in & around London. I thus told it to take me via Richmond, which put me on a pretty direct route, though with one rather odd arc.

It didn't seem long before I was back in London proper.

I did have a bit of a deja-vu moment when I found myself back in Hyde Park.

And again passing St Paul's:

The City at night has some very attractively-lit buildings.

I boarded my train at 22:38, still feeling fine.

I then did the sums. 85 miles plus 2 more to home would officially be my longest day's ride to date. But 87 is a bit of an untidy number ...

Which explains why, when I got to my local roundabout at home, I turned left instead of right and went for a 1.5 mile ride down a local country lane.

My theory was, since I needed to add 3 miles for the round 90, 1.5 miles either way would do it, so I should turn around at 88.5 miles, which I did.

I'd forgotten that I'm 0.6 miles on the far side of the roundabout, so needn't have gone quite that far. I thus lost the aesthetic appeal of the nice round nine zero appearing as I pulled up outside my home, but I was extremely pleased with the number anyway.

It's amazing just how much difference (a) flat gound and (b) a gentle pace make. I'd recently found a hilly-ish 50-mile ride quite hard going at a stiff-ish uphill speed, but this highly-civilised 90-mile day was easier.

I guess now I need to go in search of a nice friendly, gentle, flat 100-miler - any suggestions? Update: I did this :-)

You can download the tracklog below, but bear in mind that the section from Parliament Square on is our made-up route, not the proper one which I'm sure is twistier. :-)

Tracklog in GDB format | Tracklog in GPX format