In the summer of 2012 I had enjoyed increasingly longer day rides and had gained experience in looking after my bike and eating and drinking whilst out riding. I had some experience in riding in a group. The attraction of cycling Lands End to John O’ Groats had been the reason why I started cycling about 18 months previously and I started to formulate a plan to realise this ambition. This was to be my trip. My route, my time-table. I didn’t want to join a commercial trip and I was attracted to the idea of just going on my own so I had no one else to consider. Camping would release me from a strict itinerary and I had the idea of just pottering along at about 100 miles a day and putting my tent up wherever I happened to find myself when I had ridden far enough. I had a nice little tent and other lightweight camping equipment from trekking adventures.
October 21st 2012 was quite a nice dry day and I woke up early. I spontaneously decided to go off on a 100 mile ride round Dorset. I went east to Poole and that way reduced the amount of elevation. I got my eating wrong, by having that urge to keep going just a bit longer and seriously ‘ran out of sparks’ at about 70 miles. It took a while to restore energy levels and I got quite cold. However I finished strongly and even rode past our road end to tip the clock over the 100 miles rather than finishing on 99.
After this ride I changed my ideas on my E2E (End 2 End). Riding alone has its attractions but having a buddy to share the wind and the decisions is also good. 100 miles in a day is OK occasionally but doing that distance every day for a couple of weeks is not so much fun. The idea of riding all day and then wild camping in my minuscule tent was also losing its attraction. Time for a rethink of the plan.
My regular cycling buddy Steve had taken part in a large scale charity ride from John O’ Groats to Lands End a few years previously. He had also done many other tours over the years both in the UK and abroad. Crucially he had not cycled the whole of the West Coast of Scotland. I had been bouncing my E2E plans off Steve as they were formulating and although he didn’t say so, he had considered my original plan of riding 100 mile days, on my own and wild camping, as been a bit ‘out there’ and a trip he wouldn’t be interested in doing.
Initially Steve thought he would like to join me at Keswick and cycle Scotland with me and then he decided we might as well do the whole thing together. Time for some detailed planning.
Steve and I decided to try to maintain our cycling fitness over the winter and aimed at 100 miles a week minimum. We did quite well with this to begin with and in late November an opportunity presented itself to ride from Cornwall back to Dorset. Daylight was the restricting factor but we rode 86 miles with 8,600’ of ascent across Dartmoor and the East Devon coast. We were still fit.
Wintry conditions near Minterne Magna February 2013
The weather through the winter was extremely wet. We were out on the touring bikes on wet muddy lanes a lot of the time but most weeks we exceeded the 100 mile target. We were lucky to be free from the daily commitment of working and so could usually take advantage of the occasional dry day.
In December 2012 I joined Audax. http://www.aukweb.net/aboutauk/.
I decided that taking part in some local events would be a good way of helping to keep motivated to do longer rides and would also mean I would discover new routes in the South West.
January 2013 was cold, wet and windy and the 100 miles a week target was not achieved. The roads were often icy and Steve had a bad fall on an icy road.
We were aware of the first Audax ride looming up, the Glastonbury 100 miler from Honiton on 16th February. The day of the event was dry, cold but sometimes sunny and 60 riders enjoyed a grand day out. Steve had a puncture but apart from that we completed in a very respectable time and enjoyed it. Audax events are non-competitive. (Yeah right.)
The following week Steve was busy being a gorilla (star turn at a Grandson’s birthday party) so I went along to the Primrose Path 100k Audax event by myself. It was a very cold day with ice around but it remained dry. I was riding my Dawes Galaxy and by riding steadily and keeping stop times to a minimum I was able to complete successfully. This was a very hilly ride from Corscombe in Dorset and attracted Audax AAA points. At this stage I do not have any understanding of the Audax awards or the acronyms.
Mountain biking above Abbotsbury March 2013
On 3rd March Steve and I did the Audax Coast and Quantocks from Exeter. This was my first 200k ride. Again it was cold and dry but following the strategy of keeping going steadily, eating regularly but keeping stop times to a minimum we completed successfully and much quicker than many much more experienced riders. In these first three Audax rides I noticed that there are very few women riders.
March 27th was my first effort up Abbotsbury Hill of the year. It doesn’t get any easier. The following day I had an opportunity for a one way ride from Liskeard in Cornwall down to Penzance. This was 75 miles with 7,000’ of ascent. This was quite a tough ride on a cold and windy day but I do love a journey.
The following week was spent sea kayaking and camping on the Isles of Scilly which brings me to the present. Unfortunately I have a virus which has laid me low. The only silver lining is that it gives me time to get this blog up and running as I have no energy to do very much else. It’s a shame really because it’s a sunny day and is much warmer than it has been so far this year and I would just love to be out on my bike.