So nearly 3 weeks have passed since we finished and here’s my final thoughts and tips .
Make sure your comfortable on your bike and your kit it’s a long way 974 miles . Take a selection of gloves and shorts to alleviate any pressure sores you may have . The shorts/ gloves you wear for a 40 mile training spin may give you serious hassle doing 80-100 day in day out .
I started the trip on virtually brand new Grand Prix 4000s and the rear is seriously squared off and nearly at the end of its life . My brake blocks are the same . So start with new tyres and brakes . I also virtually destroyed one pair of cleats just from wandering around in the mornings and lunch etc.
We were incredibly lucky with the weather with 1 and 1/2 days rain in 12 so mudguards weren’t really required but be prepared for the worst . Certain areas are extremely exposed and even on nice days you will get cold at lunchtimes etc so carry another layer .
Make sure you enjoy it it’s an experience you may never have the opportunity to do again . There where times when I feel looking back that maybe we went too fast and missed out and we were by no means the fastest . It’s too easy to get sucked into worrying about your average Mph at the end of the day . But then the quicker you get to the hotel the more time you have to recover and relax ?
Mentally it’s harder than you think and If anything the bike riding is the easy bit. I struggled with the routine hotel to hotel pack unpack living out of a bag . Breakfast -ride – hotel – recovery – shower – dinner – sleep repeat for 12 days !!
Get into a group of riders with similar abilities and help each other . Always offer a wheel and some shelter from the wind because it all changes so quick in an hour you may need that wheel to shelter in .
You will make friendships like you have never made before . People who will encourage you and help you and you will do it for them too because the bond you form on a trip like this is amazing.
Also be prepared for a huge come down when you return . Your life will have been this trip for months and months and your focus will have gone . And when it’s finished you will miss your new found buddies and the experience of riding every day with an aim and the encouragement and camaraderie.
Huge thanks to all the my pals i have ridden with on this epic adventure but mostly Glenn , Liam & The Cleminator . I know for a fact this whole trip would have been a darn site harder both mentally and physically without you chaps . But also thanks for the giggles along the way even if we did feel like we belonged in the naughty corner a lot of the time .
Also thanks to everyone that sponsored me and helped me raise nearly £3500 for my two charities amazing stuff and like I said I did the easy bit it’s you lot that donated that made it worthwhile .
Final thanks to everyone that sent me a text or message on fb it meant the world to have your support . And there were many times when a little look at my phone when times got hard that gave my spirits a lift just when I needed it 🙂
Assos chamois cream used – 1
Sudo Creme still being used 3wks after finish – 1
I need another adventure !!!
Miles ridden since return 94 ( rubbish )
The final day a short ride down to JOG
With a slight tour to Dunnet head to visit the most northerly point in the UK .
A little moist when we set off and a crazy head wind really tested our resolve to visit Dunnet Head and yes we did waver when we were half way there but we carried on with the thought of regret of we hadn’t have bothered .
We did bother and am glad we did as its an amazing view . We also decided that Dunnet head got a bit of a bum deal really cos surely all us intrepid adventurers should be heading there and not John O Groats ? Not really sure how that worked out ?
Never mind , we battled our final hour of headwinds and made it to the cafe / pub just outside the town where all 23 of us met up and rolled down to the John o groats sign . It was an amazing feeling having cycled all that way with some amazing people.
Jobs a good un 🙂
Next stop Inverness on a coach slurping on champagne and some chicken sandwiches sat at the back of the bus like naughty schoolboys .thats how legendary intrepid adventurers end their epic journeys !!!
27.6 miles 2hrs11 949ft
Tears shed – 0
Champagne drunk – 2
DAY 11 Tain to Thurso
Today’s mission if you chose to accept it is to ride from Tain to Thurso….. Simples. A reasonably short day so decided to have another touristy day and find a castle then maybe a coffee .
The Castle we found was off the main road and down a hill . Never a good omen for me but focus its all Strava miles 🙂
So anyway Dunrobin castle was closed and we couldn’t hang around for an hour for it to open so we set off . And to be honest the Sutherlands didn’t sound like a nice bunch to me as alledgedly people still spit when there name is mentioned !!!
It’s ok don’t panic cake and coffee was found in a bakers in Brora . Highly recommend the bakers we stopped at and they were Scottish bakers of the year so praise indeed . And yes we double caked …… High five !!!
We followed the east coast along now to Helmsdale and turned left to take the road which cuts up to Thurso. This road is approx 40 miles long and has to be one of the most stunning but bleak roads in the country . The scenery and horizon with the mountains is so big and such an expanse you can quite easily ride 10 miles and barely anything changes . It can be depressing and delightful at the same time ….. Weird .
One major thing to note on this road is although the river is flowing up , the road is downhill all the way for 40 miles . This according to the Cleminator but to be honest Shap probably felt downhill to the Cleminator .
Our lunch stop was in an amazing location on a day like today but not a place to be during rough weather I would expect as it was so exposed . It was also a good spot for a sniper so it would seem from Clems reaction !!
After lunch we continued on the longest road in the world and I was having temperature issues struggling to get warm so had to keep stopping to add layers .
We then became bored and had to find silly things to amuse ourselves like this gate which had no purpose we could see apart from keeping us amused.
Progress was slow and myself and Liam decided a certain member of our group needed a little time to themselves , mostly cos we were scared !!!!
After 40 or so miles we finally had a junction we forked right and then the hills began . It was a tough headwind past the Dounray power station and then the hardest downhill into the wind into Thurso .
Last day tomorrow an only 28 Ish miles so maybe an extra beer tonight to celebrate whilst we put the worlds to rights .
88.7 miles 6hrs 54 3317ft 12.mph
Hissy fits by a certain rider – 2
Pointless gates – 1
Imaginary soldiers shot by sniper -0
Loch lochy to Tain
Had the best nights sleep last night and am thinking bunk beds and home cooked food must be the way forward on this trip . As we were staying in a hostel last night the food was cooked by some volunteers amongst us and fair play it was a good effort .
Breakfast was cooked by the crew from discover adventure and they did a good job of porridge and bacon sandwiches. So a good start to the day .
The weather was pretty darn good today as we flew towards Lake Ness ( sorry Glenn) and we really hit some cracking speeds . Spurred on by some riders from our group in the distance we decided to not only catch them but to go flying past them . And boy did we do that . Only to be overtaken again when we saw a good photo opportunity . Always been a sucker for a nice castle pic 🙂
We made it to the water stop and found a cafe for a coffee and our new habit which has become double caking .
This was a mistake today as we were less than a mile away from HEART BREAK HILL . A beast of a hill with sections at 18% I can honestly say it was a killer , a monster , a beast .it was reasonably short at less than a mile but from the side we approached there was no momentum to be carried up.
Well what can I say about the other side. WOW we were flying an awesome descent . We approached a tractor gave each other a little look and went for it the three of us overtaking a tractor at 47 mph . Moments like that make every ache every knee twinge every sore worthwhile . Brilliant stuff !!!!
A few miles further on The Cleminator was waiting for us an we rode on to lunch at the sports centre in Dingwall .
After lunch it was time for a detour to meet a friend of Glenn’s who was gonna make us a brew and give us a quick tour of a private estate . What an amazing place am thinking about making an offer and relocating to Scotland …. We shall see . Maybe if Liam’s fledgling empire biscuit business takes off he may help me out ?
After popping into the estate it was now time to head to Tain and find our hotel which wasn’t as easy as I hoped as we
wound our way back towards Tain on some back roads / lanes .
Bikes deposited in hotel basement and recovery shake etc done it was time for a little wander before dinner and a quick pint of strongbow.
75.9 miles 5hrs16 3642ft 14.4mph
Tractor drivers scared to death – 1
Day 9 Inverary to loch lochy ( lake lakey sorry Glenn)
So today began with a top three black pudding with scrambled egg and then before we knew it , it was time to rest my sore backside on the saddle once more . The day started with a huge climb out of Inverary which we were warned about In the briefing . Why oh why Discover Adventure feel the need to forewarn us I will never know cos I personally would rather not know .
The climb out of Inveraray was a beast about 7 miles long in total and I really struggled as it came way to early in the day for me . I got there in the end and as always the reward was a fantastic descent with sweeping hairpins .
Sadly we couldn’t enjoy the descent as much as normal due to the gale force winds we had to encounter these same winds we battled against all day.
It was truly horrific . The exposed sections were just plain dangerous and when it wasn’t exposed it was block headwinds . No fun to be had in block head winds any cyclist will tell you .
We made an executive decision today to miss the 1st water stop and headed Into the Hollow Mountain hydro power station for a coffee and a cake ( empire biscuit for Liam as he is addicted )
It was a fantastic decision and I would highly recommend the tour especially if you arrive by bike as its then free!! This led to many a running joke whereas we felt everything should be free if you arrived by bike !!!
The day became a Constant battle between being blown across the road into the passing trucks or being blown into the verge . There were of course a few casualties in these conditions and the flying Scotsmen duo suffered on more than one occasion with one half of the duo biting the dust 3 times .
We made it too lunch eventually as we always did to gather our thoughts on an incredibly tough day .
After a fantastic Discover Adventure lunch we hit the road again . When I say hit the road our very own stunt man took this literally. We were in a line of 4 and Glenn got blown into the verge where he hit the kerb . He managed to keep it upright for a few meters and went straight over. Luckily it wasnt a huge drop off and he was up and at em in no time . I think he was secretly hoping his bike would be broken but no such luck . A quick adjustment of the rear brake and he was on the road again . Fair play to him he didn’t even cry 🙂
As we continued into Fort William just for good measure it started to pour with rain and as we climbed up towards the commando memorial it really couldn’t have been any more testing conditions.
It really was a tough day and the last 8 or so miles seemed to go on for ever until we reached our lodgings for the night , which was a hostel . Myself and my roomie had bunk beds and quite possibly the smallest room ever .
94.7 miles 6hrs 56 7932ft ( possibly GPS error ) 13.6 mph
Cyclist blown off today – 5
Rating on the tough-o-meter – 10
Day 8 Kilmarnock to Inverary
So lets get the joke out of the way , yes it is ” a long way to Inverary”
But we had it amazing I have never had the pleasure of riding in such a stunning location the weather was fantastic. We cycled along the coast heading towards Gourock which apparently I pronounce wrong ( cheers Glenn) where we were to catch a ferry to Dunoon . But 1st we had to find our daily coffee stop . And we found an amazing coffee shop in Largs . Top three coffee no doubt .
Then we had a slight delay as we heard the support van had a slight altercation with a motorbike so we chilled in the sun before heading to the ferry .
We crossed the Clyde over to Dunoon to be met with our 1st road rage in a few days . But PC Yard dealt with it quite admirably by chasing the chap down the road at a Hoy style pace with his best death stare !!
Lunch was once again in a barn and we were treated to the “pleasure ” of a Cleminator sing song to his favourite number from Pink . Extremely scary and damaging stuff .
Our road continued through the stunning scenery along the banks of Lake eck and then Lake fyne ( sorry Glenn but we all know they are lakes really)
We looped around Lake fyne and could see our hotel on the other side just a mere 14 Ish miles away . It really was a pleasure to ride in these conditions and one of those days when you dont want it to end .
But sadly it did end we arrived at our Hotel on the banks of the lake where we laid on the lawn for a while soaking it up ……. One word for today Stunning.
For anyone wishing to stay at the Lake Fynne hotel please note the following two things
1. You will only need 15-20 mins for dinner as the restaurant staff are on bonus and constantly looking to get a PB
2. The room numbers don’t match the floor numbers unlike every hotel in the world !
82.5 miles 2029ft 14.6 mph 6hrs 56
Waiting staff personal bests – 7
Bottles dropped nearly causing crash -1
Day 7 Carlisle to Kilmarnock
So big day today as not only have we been on the road for a week which in itself is an achievement but we cross the border into Scotland !!! Amazing feat as in case you have forgotten we have actually ridden our bikes all this way !!!!!! Amazing !!!!
The border was 9 miles up the road at Gretna but the question was will we actually make it . God it was tough going a freezing headwind made progress so slow today . At one point we had to have a moral boosting energy gel in a gateway where we had an unspeakable conversation that we will take to our graves regarding energy gels !!!!
We did of course make it else would make for a rubbish blog and here is a picture to prove it 🙂
The 1st water stop today required the van to be raided for more layers as that bitter head wind was making for a chilly ride and some severe grumpy faces .
We continued on towards tonight’s destination of Kilmarnock on what was quite possibly the worst road surface possible . I can only suggest the Scots need to go on a fact finding trip to England and see how we do it . As it really was awful . My hands were numb from the constant battering and vibration and it was a battle to get comfortable on the bike . God knows how many tyres the scots get through in a year ,there should be piles of worn rubber crumbs beside the road !!
Lunch today was In a proper barn with real hay bales all we needed was some music and we could have had a full on barn dance , however the reality was there was 23 worn out cold cyclists all huddled up trying to keep warm.
But guess what ? Did we give up? Did we eck Is like !!! No we dug deep in fact deeper than deep, deeper than you can ever imagine deep and you know why ? Cos we wanted to get to the hotel and chill out and have a shower possibly followed by a few pints of cider 🙂
And made it we did on the day we now call the Day From Hell !
In fact our hotel was a funky place right next to Kilmarnock football club which if i remember rightly is called the Rugby ground ??!?!?
Bikes deposited in the football club lounge and off for the usual routine 1. Recovery shake 2. Shower 3. Update strava
Another reason tonight for excitement was I had a special visit from my old pal Mr V one of Scotland’s finest who joined me for a beer . It was great to see him and really lifted my spirits .
97miles 6hrs50 3562ft 14.2mph
Nerve endings destroyed – millions
Day 6 Preston to Carlisle
So today was one I had really been looking forward to with the climb of Shap to contend with .
Today was a chilly one and we soon lost The Cleminator, Matt, Martyn and Nick , when I say lost I mean we clung on to the back of them for the 1st 10-15 miles then they flew off into the distance !!!
At the 1st water stop it was raining but it was a fab location by the river. And we couldn’t moan as we have had it so lucky with the weather . Yep bike tan 🙂
When then headed toward Kendal with Shap looming . It was still raining on and off and I just couldn’t cope so had a few stops for coat on coat off . Sorry if that gets on your nerves chaps but at least you get a breather too 🙂
So at Kendal and we are once again a group of 7 for at least half a mile until the climb starts . It’s 9 miles up to the summit from the town and if I can let you into a secret I absolutely loved the climb . Yes it was long , yes it was soaking wet but come on if your a cyclist it’s the sort of climb you want to test yourself against and to be honest it’s long but it’s only the last mile or so when it really ramps up . We climbed for an hour so no maths required to know we were not going to break records . But I blame Glenn for making us giggle like girls by wringing his gloves out every 5 mins 🙂 also some blame must lay with Liam who wrongly told us we had reached the summit ……… When we did reach the summit it was like the worst winters day imaginable we had time for 2 photos ( oooops sorry chaps ) and a quick teapot from Glenn .
Then it was our time for Shap to reward us for our hard work. man alive what a descent ( top 3 ) as we descended we were basked in sunshine on a steaming road all the way to Shap village for lunch where we had bonus hot food and a chance to dry our clothes out …. Amazing stuff and if I could ride any section of the ride again Shap would be high up the list .
I seemed to pay dearly the closer we got Carlisle as the undulations really sucked the life out of me and with a calf pull ( my leg not a baby cow) I really struggled . Thank The Lord for our local man The Cleminator who informed us it was now all down hill ……. Where I come from Clem downhill means you can freewheel !!!!
So into Carlisle and straight through the Main Street heaving with drunken yobs on this bank holiday Sunday makes for a scary ride whilst dressed in Lycra . Luckily we made it without incident although eyes straight ahead policy was adopted by all .
Out hotel was right next to the train station in town with some incredibly dodgy pubs and no tables where you could hide bikes 😉
86.4 miles 5hr 48 4006ft 14.9mph
Hurty leg x 1
Stating the obvious during a water stop x 1 ( Matt hill)
Day 5 Shrewsbury to Preston
Today began with the usual autographs and paparazzi ( I went to the derelict ballroom to get my bike ) and then some more negotiations with Forme ( he said have a good ride )
And off we went again, a few aches and pains in the nether regions seemed to be niggling at me today ouchy .
It was an early start today due to the towns we had to negotiate and it wasnt the warmest despite the briefing saying fine weather.
It was also a day when we would be mostly on the A49 for the majority of the day . Mentally it makes for hard riding knowing the next time you turn off a road will be 70 odd miles away .
It’s hard to explain the emotions you go through whilst riding these distances day in day out with your legs just spinning away . But it’s very much peaks and troughs ( cheers nick) . There have been times when we could all call it a day but we know that’s never going to happen as the camaraderie and spirit is amazing not forgetting the huge amount of money that have been donated to out charities.
Our biggest obstacle today wasn’t going to be a hill it was going to be urban sprawl and it was called WARRINGTON DUH DUH DUUUUUHHHHH!!! ( feel the drama)
So if There is one man making serious money in Warrington it’s the local traffic light salesman. It’s Chaos and it’s worse on a bike believe me . We had road rage and even got called Bike Twats!!! I don’t know you ride a 1000 miles for charity raising thousands of £ and you still get called a bike twat…. Life is good mrs lard arse Picasso !!!
We made it across in one piece with just a few near misses and carried on our quest to follow the A49 as far as possible!!!
Next stop the water stop at Chorley which was to be good news/ bad news for our very own Liam . He had family awaiting him and received an amazing reception .
The bad news was he missed quite possibly a visit to the best bike shop in the whole of northern England ( not forme stockists I am led to believe sadly )
In fairness it gave him a huge lift and renewed his enthusiasm for the onward journey to the metropolis of Preston where we had the luxury of an Ibis with a pool table ……… Oh yeah read it and weep we had entertainment !!!!!
Day 5 stats
89.7 miles 6hrs17 3379ft 14.3 mph
Amount of bored cyclists -23
emotional moment -1
trip to a phone shop due to a broken screen – 1
It seems to have started to be a habit that as soon as we leave the hotel it starts with a ridiculous up hill and today certainly was the case even the driveway off the hotel was uphill!!! When we had the briefing after our evening meal the descent along the wye valley was mentioned and we assumed it was out the door and straight down along the valley for miles and miles . After a few miles of climbing which i must admit i really struggled with and dropped off the back of our group we finally reached the summit . Wow what a descent sweeping through the trees and down to the valley past Tintern abbey…………….. Stunning
The route today along the valley was totally stunning but it always takes me a good few miles to warm up and I think we probably wasted a lovely opportunity to bimble our way along . Sometimes that’s the problem with these rides it’s all too easy to focus on getting from water stop – lunch – water stop- hotel whilst head down Arse up and miss the chance to soak up what your actually doing .
Anyway the road then took us into Monmouth and eventually we crossed back Into Blighty via another steep hill.
Lunch seemed a long way today being 60 miles but as always came as a relief to stretch and refuel.
Liam’s knee was becoming a big problem today and he was dropping off the back a lot but we never left him behind despite his heriocs ” no just leave ” Well Liam not on our watch !!! the final hill of the day plodded up alongside a quarry before we dropped down the other side only to be stopped in out tracks by the afternoon water stop !!! Why oh why half way down a hill ???!?!?
The last 18 or so miles were flat and we motored at an amazing pace 25 mph with a hefty tail wind in two small groups until we arrived at the hotel.
As I had been leading the Strava may madness challenge in the UK and was 4th in the world a sponsor from Forme bikes sat with us at dinner whilst trying to tempt me with a six figure contract 🙂 …….ah my mistake apparently he was Matts cousins husband and was there to support Matt…… I prefer my story.
Day 4 stats
98.3 miles 6hrs46 5234ft 14.5mph
1 x heroic ” just leave me guys ” moment