I’ve been cycling the London streets for a few years now, but regular readers of the mag and twitter.com/coolermag will probably have guessed the whole bike thing has been getting out of hand lately. What with the long rides most weekends (seriously hampering my ability to drink heavily), a top of the range Trek Madone living in my front room (getting the kind of attention normally reserved for a needy loved one), and the fact I’ve started wearing padded lycra, albeit begrudgingly.
The craziness culminated in me cycling 306 miles in four days from Land’s End to Reading (not the most glamorous of end points, granted, but it fitted our schedule). That is 24 gruelling hours in the saddle, which makes my bum tingle as I write, hence the need for padded lycra, no underwear and this weird white cream they sell in bike shops. So what had possessed someone normally content to take their exercise in 30 minute bouts, unless it involves riding a snowboard downhill all day, to self-harm in this way?
Well, in 2007 a very good friend’s father passed away from Motor Neurone Disease, so she and her boyfriend planned a cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats in his honour. The aim being to raise money for research and awareness of the disease and celebrate his life. Sadly (though my legs will tell you otherwise) I didn’t have the holiday to do the whole thing so decided to join them for the first few days.
So last Sunday morning in the drizzle (typical after 2 weeks of solid sunshine, though at least it was cool) we left Land’s End, which seemed a strangely apocalyptic place at 9am in the morning. We rode through Penzance, passed St. Michael’s Mount, got a mini-ferry over this stunning gorge and climbed more hills than was pleasant. We ended the day 69 miles to the good in Golant, which was like the setting of a fairy story, all green rolling hills and wide rivers. We loaded up on pasta and resisted the urge to celebrate the day by getting drunk.
Day 2 saw us attack more evil Cornish hills. We passed through the highest village in the county called Minions, and soon after I felt dizzy and started to see funny shapes. Sensing this wasn’t entirely normal I quickly necked some energy gels and was fine. Phew. We reached Exeter with 75 miles done. Two tough days were taking their toll, especially as we’d only ever done one 85 miler in our lives and that was nowhere near as lumpy as this! We slept the sleep of the gods.
Day 3 was meant to be an easy one and the first half leading up to our pub lunch in Glastonbury was enjoyably flat and speedy. But coming into Bath we hit three killer hills, including one we hadn’t needed to at the end. Ouch. After a whopping 88 miler of a day, we collapsed on the grass panting like sheepdogs in the sunshine, but also full of the joys of having one day left (which we kept to ourselves as the others had 9 more days, eek on their behalf!).
The final day from Bath to Reading without the main group was a toughie. We had three days of lactic acid sloshing about our legs, and even the smallest hill (of which there were plenty) felt like Everest. But after 73 nasty miles we made it. Woo hoo! Physically, it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but to come out the other side is a damn good feeling. I’ll definitely be up for more long cycle rides in the future, though I may not be rushing back to do said rides in Cornwall!
Good luck to the rest of the team as they wend their way to John O’Groats. It’s a massive achievement, and I’m humbled by it.
I was powered by a heady cocktail of Clif Bars and Clif shot bloks (amazing, they taste like Haribo!), Go gels and PSP22 drinks from SIS, Red Bull, Vitamin Water and last but by no means least a Trek Madone 4.7. Simply the best bike to exist in the world ever!