Author Archives: sloeburn
31/08/19 Train to Oban
Camping at the nearest place I could find.
Ferry to Castlebay on Barra. First couple of hours were nice; smooth and mostly sunny, through the gap between Mull and the mainland. Then it got choppy and wet, but outer islands visible. Lovely evening once on Barra, cycled down to Vatersay for a wild camp above the beach.
Oban and loading:
Barra and Vatersay:
02/09/19 Barra for an unplanned second night
Vatersay and Barra the next morning, when the weather started:
Memorial to those on a plane that crashed on Vatersay in 1944. Amazing that the bits of plane are still here.
A stop-off at the airport for a cafe visit, where the wifi informed me that the ferries to Eriskay were cancelled. Headed to a campsite a bit further north.
03/09/19 Catholics and Causeways
Ferries to Eriskay operational.
Crossing to South Uist.
A lot of catholic stuff.
Relentless wind and rain, nothing out there to the west to temper it. MOD area on the north west of South Uist, and the crossing over to Benbecula.
Over on North Uist there is nothing catholic whatsoever.
After a real slog through the wind and rain finally arrived at the campsite on the RSPB reserve at Balranald.
04/09/19 – Refuge from the storm
By some miracle my tent didn’t blow away in the night, but there was no way I was going to try cycling anywhere in the still gale-force winds. I splashed out on a happily available camping pod for the next night (well I got in there as soon as I could); I have never appreciated a roof over my head quite as much as this. The wind seemed to be considered severe by local standards, so I don’t think I was too much of a wimp. I wasn’t expecting electricity, a mini kitchen, or feathered friends, so these were luxury.
Impressed by the people (gravediggers?) working outside during it all.
05/09/19 (over the sea) to Skye
Feeling a bit weather-battered I thought my original plan to go on up to Lewis was a bit optimistic, so headed to Lochmaddy for the ferry to Skye (no ferries from Lewis connect with trains, I’d have to return to the mainland at Ullapool and then cycle some distance to pick up the train line).
Had a bit of time in Lochmaddy and had a look through the Runrig archive at the excellent local community centre/cafe/etc. Also home to the most friendly cat I have ever met.
On arrival in Uig it was dark and cold, but the petrol station shop had Cairn o’Mhor wine, so it wasn’t all bad.
Weather improved from today. Rode to Portree which was busy, seemed to be a music festival on. Sat in a bus shelter for quote a while and managed to get new train tickets home from Kyle of Lochalsh. The cheapest option turned out to be a seated ticket on the Sleeper from Inverness to Preston, which I was quite excited by.
Then on to Sligachan campsite for a couple of nights.
Sun today, and an unloaded ride up to Dunvegan and back, including a stop at a great coffee/book shop (at Struan I think).
The castle area/car park was really busy, but I wasn’t that interested so went a bit further up the road (the quality of which declines suddenly after the car park) to try and see the castle. Only afterwards did I learn that my friend’s Mother lives along this road. It (the castle) is quite hidden away and from the distance I was at, somewhat underwhelming.
Nice cloudless views over the Cullins on the out and back ride.
Dinner and lubrication in the Sligachan hotel this evening, both of which were excellent.
08/09/19 Skye to Kyle of Lochalsh
This was the only unpleasant cycling of the trip caused by other traffic, the road was busy and there were a lot of close passes. I think a lot of folk had come up for the weekend at the last minute for the nice weather. And were in a hurry to get home. There were a couple of young lads on what can only be optimistically described as motorbikes, who I was more of less keeping up with due to the number of stops they had to make.
Stopped at a nice cafe in Broadford, and then a bit of a mooch around in Kyleakin.
Then over the bridge, and a last few miles to a campsite.
09/09/19 Kyle of Lochalsh and the Sleeper home
A wet morning, and fortunately I arrived at the station in plenty of time as the bike reservation I had made by phone hadn’t gone through, which sounded like a fairly normal occurrence. Nice little museum there.
Had time to meet up with Kirsteen in Inverness, before getting the Sleeper to Preston, where I spent an uncomfortable couple of hours before an early train to Leeds.
It’s been too long since I last cycled properly and it is like starting again. Perhaps this was a slightly stupid choice for a first ride…lots of walking up hills required.
Starting from Garsdale Station I took the road over to Dent Station – and did not enjoy the steep descent into Cowgill. The hills of the Lakes were visible from the top.
Visited Dent to fill up my water bottle from the outside tap at the toilets.
Then turned off up Deepdale, along a gated road. Happier to be walking up than riding down the steep sections.
I couldn’t really enjoy the descent of Kingsdale to Ingleton as the road had been recently resurfaced and the surface still loose, as well as being narrow and twisting. Had to walk down a small section.
Then Clapham and Austwick, to meet the B6479 down to Settle. I thought staying on the main road would be flatter than sticking to NCN68, but it was very lumpy.
53 km, 995 m climbed (and yet downhill overall), 3 hrs 55 mins, average 13.7 km/hr.
The roads at around 380 km were those I used to pedal in my youth, riding down to swim in the river, and then up what I thought at the time was a hill to get back home, or just going for a bike ride with my siblings, creating legends such as ‘the dog house’ and ‘the dark woods’. A bit older, but still on the same bike, I commuted to work on the Ayrshire coast and, depending on the weather, enjoyed the views (or not) of Ailsa Craig. Secondary school was in Dumfries; Duke of Edinburgh expeditions took in Galloway Forest. There was something special in finally completing a 600 km and an SR series that took in these places. If I’d been able to tell my often uncomfortable (and certainly much less fit) teenage self that one day I’d be passing through as part of a ride like this I’m sure they would have been astounded. If only I had bumped into my old PE teacher…
Accommodation at the start and finish was excellent, right on-site and cheap, it was at a college which did some sort of animal husbandry so there were some very noisy peacocks (and possibly other mystery birds that I couldn’t see behind a fence), they were still active when I arrived about 10 pm but fortunately shut up once it got dark. And we had to be up early anyway… There were several bikes in the shared kitchen when I got there but I didn’t meet any of the owners until afterwards.
Kirkley – Dumfries: the Bad Patch
I usually have one, so maybe it’s best to get it out of the way early on. The first bit of an audax is often uncomfortable, ‘warming up’ I suppose even if that does extend to 100 km. I just wasn’t in the mood really. It was technically a lovely morning early on as we gathered in Kirkley, and riding along Hadrians Wall should have enthused me more than it did. I tried to keep an eye on the ditches and occasional bits of actual wall. You can certainly see why it was built here, with the land dropping away to either side of this straight east-west road. The world to both sides seemed to be brighter but we were in a bit of a cloudy fug with a headwind. I don’t imagine it was much fun as a Roman sentry either.
This was a long stage at 140 km, a cafe had been highlighted but also sounded like it would be slow which is the last thing a full-valuer like me needs early on, so I plodded on a bit further until I felt really quite crap and stoped for my flapjack. I had wanted to hold on until Longtown but had a stop there too, at the petrol station which might not be the nicest but I have grown attached to from previous visits.
The rest of the stage was at least flat and now sunny; after Gretna the road was unfamiliar and I had a short period of panic that I’d missed the info control and my 600 km would be invalid…then I remembered that Bankend was near Glencaple which is near Dumfries and so I’d just been expecting it too soon. It was obvious in the end.
The advised control was St Michaels petrol station but I had planned to go to Morrisons and use the cafe and toilets, then at the last minute I remembered there was a Costa and I really craved a cold coffee/milkshake thing, so weaved through Brooms Road car park to the centre. I was served by Margaret who was in my youngest sister’s year at primary school and whose family lived around the corner from mine. I’m sure she didn’t know who I was, I’ve changed a lot more than she has. I don’t think a chocolate muffin was what I was going to order but it was all a bit weird and the first thing that came out of my mouth. I got my frosty-coffee thing at least so was happy.
Dumfries – Newton Stewart: the Queen’s Drive and the quietist A roads
The food and proper sit-down perked me up and the bad patch was over.
Leaving the ‘fries I saw Bob Bialek walking with his bike up past the entrance to Dock Park, towards the petrol station control, so I wondered if he’d missed it and had to go back, although to be going at the same speed as me would be pretty unusual. I think I heard afterwards that he packed so maybe he was going to the train station. I don’t know what happened but I think he’d done 1000 km the previous weekend, and obviously ridden to Kirkley from Halifax. The man is a legend.
I was a little unconfident in some of the route sheet instructions out of town but eventually convinced I was on the right ‘military road’. I thought this was entirely unfamiliar but passed a house that I remember from visiting on Spring Fling (local art festival) with stone sculptures. Crossing the road at Crocketford was definitely familiar.
I stopped in New Galloway and after going up and down the high street spotted a community shop which actually looked amazing; I just had a can of coke. Later on at the finish I heard Aiden’s (the org) story of stopping at a garage here in the dark in search for oil for his chain which resulted in ‘controlling’ at Newton Stewart police station.
It was a great ride on to NS, this is an A road and was in good condition but so quiet. Galloway forest park is a dark sky area and I started thinking about whether this could be incorporated into a night ride.
Newton Stewart – Girvan: descent towards the sea and Ailsa Craig
I had had studied the route for this ride more than any before, possibly just because I’d had the time. I’d looked at each control on google street view and had found the Co-op in Newton Stewart which I headed straight for (it’s not on the route but not far off it). Co-ops are what I always look for. This one had a bike rack in front, and I sat on the pavement for a while with my standard fuel (cheese savoury sandwich). A bit after I arrived came Leicester Forest man and Bahamas woman, who I would see and occasionally pass regularly for the rest of the ride.
This really was ‘retrace to R sp Girvan 50 km’ (or whatever), just follow another very quiet A road all the way there.
My brain was doing a bit of juggling now, and I was remembering hearing Trembling Bells’ ‘Christ’s entry into Govan’ on radio 6 and getting this a bit muddled with what I was now doing, which was an excellent descent into Girvan (for clarity I was not assuming the position of Christ), complete with views of what I thought was Arran but looking at the map was more likely to be the Campbeltown peninsula, and then Ailsa Craig.
Girvan – Dalrymple: regulars and company
At Girvan Asda (not Tesco as suggested by the routesheet, I was glad I had done my homework as these seemingly minor things can be unreasonably disturbing when totally fucked) a few of us had gathered. Someone spotted an outside tap although there was no indication as to what it dispensed. One chap was keen to head off in company and (much as it is against my usual desires) I was also ready to go, and we ended up riding to Kirkonnel together. I think his name was Martin but then most people’s names were.
Dalrymple is a little place so they may have been surprised by the plague of locusts.
Dalrymple – Kirkconnel: towards Chilli
Arriving in Kirkconnel I was again glad I had spent time swotting over google streetview. We hadn’t been given an exact location or name of the hall, but looking at the main street there seemed only one possibility. I would never have spotted it in the dark without my homework.
Inside was a wonderful welcome, and some very nice chilli.
Martin (and many of the others arriving around the same time) were stopping off here at the ‘official’ sleep stop (and bag drop location). I had other plans so after eating left alone for a fast straight ride as far as Auldgirth, after which there was a more lumpy section taking me off-route to my childhood home, a bed settee and a few hours sleep. I got into bed about 2.30 am (ahead of schedule) and knew I had to leave by 7 am to be sure of making the next control at Lockerbie truck stop. My parents had wanted to see me before I left so I took them a cup of tea at 6.30 am before raiding the muesli supplies.
Home – Lockerbie – Melrose: a new day
It was a little odd being on these familiar roads in an unfamiliar situation. The morning looked like rain might have been under consideration. I passed Julian (of VC167) on my way to the control, he’s a proper ancient but also an unusual example of someone who is a little slower than me. I wondered if he’d slept at all. The control at Lockerbie Truck Stop was almost bounced as I’d only been going about half an hour. There were quite a few riderless bikes outside. I was a little unsure of the next turn off on the route sheet so decided to stay on the lumpy boring road straight to Moffat. Next stop would be St Mary’s loch, where I made use of the picnic tables outside the cafe. A few motorbikers stopped too and we had a quick chat, one of them admiring my ‘cycology’ cap. I have absolutely no interest in motorbikes but I think in some way we were enjoying the same things.
I could have taken a main road short cut towards Melrose but I need to be really confident of these things before I go off-route. I hate having to retrace my steps so rarely risk it. Got to Melrose Co-op around the same time as a few others, again it’s become ‘the’ Melrose control for me so I didn’t bother looking for a cafe, even if that might have been nicer.
Melrose – Kelso – Wooler – Alnwick: the Learning Phase
The road surface out of Melrose was disgraceful. I hadn’t been to Kelso before and sorry to say I didn’t really see much of it this time, apart from a visit to a huge supermarket to use their toilet and fill my water bottle. I did buy an apple but they probably made a loss on me. Leaving I passed a posh car dealership being built…it looks like the place is ‘on the up’ but I’m not sure where the jobs are around here to fund it.
By Wooler it was baking hot, which I didn’t really realise until I stopped. There were a few of us at the Co-op with ice creams, I huddled in the shade of a doorway for a while. I donated some suncream to a couple of others; for me it needs to be high factor and slathered everywhere, they just wanted a bit for their noses. There was some discussion about the routesheet instruction to turn left ‘opposite’ the shop, which was not entirely clear. Anyway since those I had been in disussion with left before me I simply waited until they didn’t come back, at which point I decided that was the correct road after all.
Now I had studied this route really well. But I was entirely unprepared for the stupid hills on this section to Alnwick. I believe my words on arrival in the town where a couple of others had stopped were “what the fuck was that about?” It was ‘rolling’, by which I mean it was all either up or down, the downs were never that good and the ups were always of the kind that greet you as a vertical wall of tarmac as you approach. My brain saw each one and told it where to go. But somehow my legs were acting independently and kept going again and again. It’s good to know they can do that.
Alnwick – Kirkley: home straight
Quite understandably there isn’t much open in a small north east town on a Sunday afternoon. But I spotted a Costa in Alnwick and secured (in the loosest sense of the word) my bike to a drain pipe outside. One of the others overlapped with me here who was also called Martin.
I don’t recall much about the final stretch, I had already ridden from Morpeth to the Arrivee on Friday evening so while it was familiar it also seemed to drag on. We finished where we started at the cafe at Kirkley cycles, where the proprietors had opened both early and late for us. Beans on toast with cheese was much appreciated, along with a beer.
This was my aim for the year, an SR. It seemed a bit of an anticlimax, certainly compared to LEL which I didn’t complete; finishing this was a bit meh from an achievement point of view. But it was a great route and I’m thinking it might be a good one for qualifying for PBP next year…
Staying at the college was excellent, knowing there was a bed there and being able to leave stuff in the room while we were away took a lot of potential organisational stress away (no doubt merely transferred to the org). I had planned on going to sleep ASAP but ended up on one of the picnic benches outside with a few others helping to minimise the number of bottles of beer that Aiden had to carry back with him tomorrow. And of course the peacocks were still awake.
600 km, 37 hours 30 mins
Not a bath, which would be much more appropriate, coated as I am in sweat, sun cream, oil, general road dirt and dead flies. I’m waiting for a train to return me to Taunton so I can cycle up a fuck-off hill (again), to spend a night in my tent before going home tomorrow without a wash or change of clothes (my own fault, I was being minimalist in terms of luggage. This is why we have a sleeping bag liner).
I’ve been pretty impressed by my body today. I had a ‘general discomfort’ moment but after a stop and some food it was fine. My legs could have finished the ride, they just kept going. But I haven’t slept for 36 hours, and while I haven’t been nodding off on the bike instead I’ve been mentally spaced out (had this on BGB), it gets scary and doesn’t feel safe. Perhaps coming to do this ride was a mistake, given the way I’ve been feeling recently and that I’m only a week into this lot of medication. But I thought I was being lazy thinking of not starting, that it would be good to do some hard-core exercise and be outside. And no matter how much I might hate it at the time, if I complete a ride the sense of achievement is inextinguishable.
Anyway I’m not supposed to be in Bath. I should be ‘next door’ in Bradford-upon-Avon getting a receipt and then setting off on the final stage of this ride, which is 100 km (longest stage on LEL was 97 km iirc and that was the first one when you have all the enthusiasm). I missed the Bradford turning but that only served to make my decision to DNF easier. I’ve done 300 km to here (still in time) but somehow it’s not much of an achievement when you’ve set out to do 400.
The morning after I have a couple of hours to kill in Taunton before my train home.
Hearing Sarah describe how she kept going to finish an hour over time put me to shame this morning. I thought yesterday that it had been a mistake to start, but now maybe just a mistake not to finish. Which is better I suppose. Ah well, hopefully I’ve burnt a few of the extra calories I’ve been eating recently, and maintained fitness for the 600 km I’m aiming for to get an SR this year. I should get myself an emergency bivvy bag so I can be more confident about just keeping going, knowing that I can stop as often as I need. This ride could be done as a perm starting wherever appropriate in the morning to align the timings with this one…stop it!
Last night on the ride up to Clayhidon I caught up with Hugo who was walking (I’d had 2 hours rest in Bath, food, and a nap on the train. I’m not sure I’d have made it without walking otherwise). He said he was broken and never doing it again. Now I think about it, I wasn’t thinking that when I was struggling; more sadness that once again I couldn’t keep myself awake enough to do it. But yeah, I will do ‘it’ again.
A couple of chaps came over to speak to Marcus, Sarah and me while we were packing up this morning, Rob and Sh?, who lived near Chippenham. They’d ostensibly come over to look at my tent and then Rob was asking about my bike. I’m never sure when folk are interested in it if that’s a good thing or not. My Cheviot seems to be a little alien for audax, which makes me want to keep it and do them all on it. Someone in the coffee shop I am currently twiddling my thumbs in has just been explaining to his companion that the bike he wants is described as a “cafe racer”, and now I’ve looked it up the term seems to refer to motorbikes, but I did think that an audax bike may be best described as a “24hr garage racer”.
So after the 22:30 start, when it hadn’t finished getting dark, we had a quick control in Tiverton. Then it was a simple matter of riding up the Exe valley with the sky still not quite black (it never really was), some stars out including a big yellow/orange one near the horizon – a planet? The over-half moon was bright to the west and glistened off the river in places, which was pretty special.
We had a control in someone’s house at 1:45 am – it was the home of the organiser’s mother, with his wife and daughter helping out. I didn’t know that until later, at the time it was just surreal to be parking bikes on someone’s front lawn and sitting in their living room eating flapjacks in the middle of the night. Riding up out of Minehead, after a while I realised that the light in the sky was getting brighter and so must be the first signs of dawn rather than the last glow of the previous day. To my left I thought I could see mist in a valley bellow, but then realised that it could be the sea and the lights beyond it the coast of Wales (it was).
As dawn proper came, I was on flat deserted roads and surrounded by mist. Sun was up by the time I passed Glastonbury but it was still misty and I couldn’t see the Tor until some time later when I was higher up at the edge of the Mendips. There was an amazing moment around Glastonbury riding through the mist which was bright and hazy, and approaching a darker patch suddenly the sun disappeared and I realised it was the shadow of a hill that I couldn’t see at all before.
I missed the Esso garage in Nunny Catch (wins place name of the ride) but felt audax-enough to stop at a shop in Frome for a receipt and knew that it would suffice. I’d been physically uncomfortable leading up to this stop (neck especially) and spent a while eating and having a rest off the bike. Fine after that although I could feel a bit of saddle rub and made sure to put some more conotrane on when facilities permitted.
The Bath-Bristol tunnels were fab – several of us seemed to really enjoy these although I find it hard to explain why, but I’m pleased that I wasn’t alone in my geekiness.
The Severn bridge was both a highlight and marked a turning point, although the cycle path was badly signed and we went around in a bit of a circle; funny to visit Wales for about 15 minutes then leave again. Just over the bridge Sarah and I got mixed into a group ride and one of the leaders said ‘let the audax riders through’ which pretty much made my day (also they pointed us in the direction of Tesco which probably saved a lot more faffing). I didn’t stay long as I’d had a quick petrol station stop about 20 km before and was feeling good, and decided to have a proper stop at Wooton-under-Edge. Although once I set off that didn’t last long and started to feel tired and spaced out again. Had a good hour in Wooton and ate too much.
Feeling woken and rested by the Wooton stop didn’t last long, it was only 38 km to Bradford but I had to stop in Chipping Soddbury for half an hour before I did something stupid. I still wasn’t nodding off but just felt really out of it, very distant from myself, although still going on autopilot and managing to pedal and change gear as normal. I think the heat was getting to me now as well, it was baking, the sky had been clear since the start of the ride. Enough brain remained to know I wasn’t safe on the road, especially as some of these were A and B roads. Even when I felt more awake later I was taking chances at junctions that I wouldn’t normally. I had half an hour lying on the grass in a park but didn’t really sleep much. Felt ok enough to continue for a while. Missed a turning for Bradford-upon-Avon where I’d pretty much decided to call it a day, I could have just followed a road sign further on to get there but the road I was on was familiar (the Exe – Buzzard went in the opposite direction) and I knew I could just stay on it to Bath. And then I could find the train station. I had to wait 2 hours for a train with a bike reservation, although top marks to the station staff (GWR?) for being able to book a space at very short notice. Then that ride out of Taunton again, up the never-ending hill, to the Half Moon pub.
As I am sitting writing this a bunch of Santas on motorbikes (and a few pillion elves) just rode through the middle of Taunton. In a heatwave in June. I’m pleased I can still tell the difference between sleep-deprived hallucinations and general human weirdness.
305 km, 19 hours
Before LEL I saw lots of folk singing the praises of having a bike fit, and wondered if I should have done that but figured (a) it was a bit late by then, (b) £, and (c) it sounds like it might be bollocks. Well LEL left me with Achillies pain (after a couple of weeks they were ok) and nerve damage in my hands (which took about 6 months to recover from). I’ve also never been quite comfortable with my saddle, feeling like it is the least worst that I’ve tried. So I decided I would have a bike fit before doing any more silly distances. This sort of co-incideded with my birthday, so I was able to put the parental cheque to a specific use. Of course as soon as I started looking all I could see were comments about bike fitting as being a waste of time. I’m sure there’s a word for that – seeing what you either want, or don’t want, to see, and not seeing the rest. Anyway if you think it’s bollocks and/or has been a waste of time, maybe you are lucky enough to be a shape that’s close to the ideal that bike manufacturers adhere to, or you are very experienced and know exactly what you need. I’m neither of those things.
After consultation with a local fellow LELer I booked myself in for a basic fit with Stephen Jarmuz at Yorkshire Bike Fitting. Stephen is very friendly and put me at ease straight away. He is interested in the type of riding that YOU are doing and wants to help you be comfortable doing that. He was entirely non-judgemental about my bike and myself.
My bike is a Hewitt (tourer) and I had a fit as part of buying it. It was my first drop bar bike so when it felt weird I chalked that up to unfamiliarity. Now I think that the fitting template that is used there was not right for me. I fitted a shorter stem myself fairly soon after I got the bike, because I felt too stretched out. Now, after my bike fit, I have an in-line seat post which unstretches me even more. I also have a new saddle to fit my sit bones and a changed cleat position. So far I’ve done 100 km, and a further 40 km with my new wheels. It really was like sitting in an old armchair…but one that encouraged me to get out of the saddle and honk up the hills.
(It doesn’t usually come with a spare wheel attached).
The next big ride is a 400 km and I really shouldn’t be doing that without checking that my new wheels – built by my own (unfair) hand – are not about to turn into Pringles; nor that my new electrics won’t fail or mud guards fall off. Well none of those things happened, despite being reversed into (at low speed) by a shiny Audi in Poole. I hope it put a dent in her bumper and scratched the paint, but as it seemed to cause no damage at all to my wheel I suspect not.
The wheels seem fine. I’ve gone from the touring rims that the bike came with to Mavic Open Pros, 32 spoke, front a Shimano DH-3N80 dynamo hub and rear a Shimano Deore LX. Tyres not new, Panaracer Pasela Tour Guard.
It feels really different. When I got out of the saddle on the hills there was a lot more wobble. I was more worried going over potholes and lumps than usual, but that’s because I made the wheels and so have no reason to be confident in their strength…but if they can cope with being reversed into by a car they are probably ok. But they did feel faster. It was an easy ride. I got up those hills heading home towards Eccup without a problem and found myself doing weird things with my leg muscles going up King Lane. I can’t separate improved fitness (which I probably do have) from bike fit and new components, but the sum of these is comfort and confidence in riding. That 400 km is something to look forward to rather than dread, and the 600 km is achievable. I hope so, because it’s now all that remains between me an a Super Randonneur.
40 km at 21 kph or summat like that. On new wheels.
I’ve been a member of Outdoor Lads for about 5 years, and I used to do some hill-walking with them, but once I got a bit more serious about cycling it kind of dropped off. They do more cycling events now and I saw this one which was local and a nice route, so I went along. For me it was sensible to ride to the start at Ilkley, although I took the minor roads and lumpy route which was slower than calculated (not helped by forgetting to take any water and having to go back home after about 2 minutes).
We started from the station in Ilkley, with a mixture of folk arriving by train or driving. There were six of us which was a really good number, small enough to stand a chance of name-remembering (although I was the only newbie and several of the others already knew each other). The first section was familiar, past the golf course and then Bolton Abbey. It had been raining, albeit lightly, from the minute I left the house, but it was warm and I was in shorts and short-sleeved jersey all day. Waterproof socks and a cap kept me happy.
The planned route was longer but given a slightly delayed start and the weather we cut it short, and Pateley Bridge was our lunch stop and turning point. I had sworn never to ride through here again after the Way of the Roses, but I couldn’t ride around the Dales for too much longer without a visit. It was fine, although a little scary on the descent when I saw Dean in front me having a rear wheel skid on a bend. The section after this was new to me but soon joined up with previously ridden roads…nice to be there in the daylight in some cases.
Downhill to Ilkley and we found an ‘informal’ pub for a pre-departure pint. As the ride had been shorter than originally planned I was keen to ride home (which made it over 100 km), so in retrospect I should have avoided beer. As it was I had to stop about a third of the way up Otley Chevin for a wee, a mouthful of water, and my emergency rations (a Boost bar). After that I was fine.
110 km, av 19.8 km/h (this is interesting because although I could keep up I felt it was faster than I would have gone by myself)
If certain residents of the Yorkshire village of Moss had reason to peer through their curtains shortly after 2.00 am on a Sunday morning in May, they would have seen four people sheltering from the rain at a bus stop, introducing themselves having already ridden together for several hours, eating, squeezing the water out of their gloves and weeing without bothering to find a bush to hide behind (not necessarily in that order).
I rode the first part alone, feeling as the rest of us did like a piece of fly paper as we ploughed through the clouds of greenfly. I’d sort of joined Eddie on the skirting of Hull, but we weren’t quite riding together as such, mostly because I don’t know how to technically, but also because I’m socially incompetent (sometimes that is an overwhelming anxiety but at the moment it’s just uncomfortable). He was a nice guy and I was touched that he remembered me from my aborted 600 km last year – I recognised him but couldn’t have placed him, but he’d seen me having a minor meltdown and migraine under a tree in Pocklington; I remember someone waving at me and I just shook my head. We ate together at Spurn Head but didn’t really chat, and I thought he’d already left but when I went to go he was still there, wrestling with leg warmers.
Mike was also preparing to leave and had parked his bike next to mine, and seemed keen to join us so we made a little trio without really trying to. We didn’t ride that close together and I think I went out a bit too far in front sometimes, but I was trying to stay with them but also go at my pace. They both had GPS although Mike’s only seemed to be useful for telling him when he’d sailed past a junction that Eddie and I had turned at (and not knowing someone’s name makes it harder to call after them); however I have my suspicions that this may have been if not operator-error then at least operator-can’t-be-arsed-to-pay-attention-when-they-can-just-follow-someone-else.
We stopped way too long at Leven petrol station, I was about ready to go when Mike Wiggly appeared; other Mike had been riding with him further back and decided we should wait and take him with us. They phoned wives and girlfriends to check in and report on progress. I didn’t. Mike W clumsily commented on my rainbow sew-on patch and I clumsily replied. I asked for two carrier bags with my smoothie/flapjack/eccles cake purchase, and they stayed on until I got back home.
Timing was good, better than last time no doubt due to the kind wind. I remember it being pitch black on arrival at McDonalds then, whereas today there was still some light in the sky. There was also water falling from it, which had been light enough that I hadn’t bothered with the waterproof but after this it would be needed for warmth too, plus that rain was setting in more permanently. Mike W decided to stay for another coffee so the remaining three of us reluctantly made a start on this long dark leg. Negotiating Goole we picked up Carl, who had been ahead, but lost confidence in his navigation, and turned back. It was good riding with others in the dark, the extra lights are helpful (although Mike’s strobe on the front was bit too disco for me). I liked the flat Kings Causeway section although I think some of the others found it mind-numbing. This ride has an almost constant stream of routesheet instructions, there are hardly any long uninterrupted stretches. Apart from a couple of junction confirmations with Eddie’s GPS, and one that I missed, I pretty much took the front and did the navigating. It reminded me a bit of LEL, and the night I rode silently with a group from all over the world, weaving across the road as they either nodded off, forgot which side to ride on, or possibly both.
Mike came off going over a railway line in Thorne which crossed the road at a stupid angle, so we all stoped and Mike W happened to catch us at the same time. He seemed ok but we made him stand still for a little while to make sure he wasn’t going to keel over. A car actually came by just behind us, as he was still lying on the road, and didn’t stop. Around here I started to wonder how safe this pastime of ours is…it was cold, wet, and dark. We were in a village and I dare say could have woken up a household if needed, but there was no sign of (awake) life and no shelter. I thought of the riders doing the Old 240 and where would they be at this time of night? I don’t know if I could do that ride, I wouldn’t feel safe.
Mike W shot off and the rest of us wound our way on, via that bus shelter in Moss. I’d stopped there last year too. I thought we’d been doing a reasonable 20 kph average on the flat but soon the hills started and we slowed right down. Unusually for me I felt I could have gone faster, and found myself slowing to let the others catch up. But I was glad of their company, not being scared of the shadows this time.
Eventually Woolley Edge services appeared. By accident rather than design we arrived at 3.50 am which was exactly on my approximate schedule, although again we stayed longer that I’d have liked. But now there was only 35 km to go, and the dawn to look forward to. Mike was nodding off but the rest of us seemed ok. We chatted about bikes and riding. It was Carl’s first 400 km. He said my navigation was excellent which I really appreciated. He and Eddie exchanged numbers on the basis of a potential bar-end shifter sale.
By the time we set off the sky was already lightening, and a rather nice morning was underway. Mike and Carl both knew their way round a slightly longer but flatter route via Brighouse, so Eddie and I followed them, Carl and I seeming similarly paced and the other two a little behind (a sort of taking-a-leak time delay which was convenient). I didn’t think we’d manage, but we got back just before 7 am. There had been a time when I thought 24 hours was possible, but the slow night leg and longer stops prevented that. But it was surprisingly nice to ride with others for once.
410 km, 25.5 hours