At 19:05 on Saturday the 23rd of April this year, a red faced man wearing very tight clothing walked up to the reception desk of the Holiday Inn Express in Poole.
“I’d like to check in, please, I’ve a room booked under the name of Moir.”
“Right. Got it. I err… You’ve not just ridden here all the way from Banbury have you?”
“Oh… What, today?”
“Yeah. We set off Just after eight.”
“Oh… Well, you’re in room 3, just down the corridor…”
I had never been so exhausted, and so pleased to walk into a hotel. To say that I was a weary traveller would be a mammoth understatement. 20 miles earlier, shortly after finding out that we were taking a slight detour that would add 7 miles into our journey, I hit a wall. The Wall. The one year hear marathon runners speak about. And had been struggling ever since. The 110 miles before that had been a breeze in comparison.
Up until that day the furthest The Bear and I had ridden was 90 miles, and that was difficult towards the end. We had been regularly doing 60 mile rides in about 4 hours since then, but the planned 120 miles to Poole was always going to be a challenge. The Poole ride came about through a discussion I had with my boss where we decided that the perfect training for the JOGLE would be to ride the most we’d have to ride in one day away from Banbury, and then to do the return journey the following day. Poole was a little further than we’d have to do, but you know, it’s the seaside and it seemed a far more attractive prospect than riding to somewhere inland like Lincoln. The idea being that it would leave us with no option for shortcuts, no option to chicken out, once we were over the halfway point we’d be committed to doing the entire thing. 120 miles there. 120 miles back.
In the weeks leading up to it I reasoned that if we could do 60 miles in 4 hours, then that would take us up until lunch time; stop for an hour for lunch, and then the afternoon 60 we’d do at a slower pace, taking about 5 hours, so that’d be 10 hours. If we set off at 8, we’d arrive at the hotel in time to watch Doctor Who. And, whilst I fretted about what I was going to pack and carry; was my bike in full working order, did I have enough energy products, at no point did I worry about the ride itself. Every night when the weather came on after the news, it did look a long way on the weather map, but at no point did I think that I wouldn’t be able to make it. If I got into any difficulties, it would just take longer to do. The evenings were staying quite light, we both have lights, and it wasn’t a race.
On the day itself we set off slightly later than planed and headed off towards Witney. Whilst we had a sat-nav, and a map as back up, we didn’t really have a plan as to what we were going to do. Such as how fast to ride, or how often we were going to stop. We’d both decided that Hungerford would be a good place to stop for lunch, as at 57 miles in, it was roughly at the half way point. The ride through Oxfordshire was quite mellow, and surprisingly easy, by the time we hit Wantage our ave speed was 18mph which whilst was probably a bit too quick had been no effort at all to achieve. Despite a few gear problems, by the time we arrived in Hungerford we were on target to ride our quickest ever 60. Sat on a bench on Hungerford high street, whilst eating sandwiches, we decided to take it slower in the afternoon. Not that we’d have a choice mind, as there were some serious hills to climb on the way out of Hungerford, as there would be the rest of the way to Poole. In the morning we’d climbed 2,200ft without really noticing, in the afternoon we climbed 3,500ft and it felt like it. The Bear had a small mechanical fault with his front mudguard, the rectification for which was throwing it into a bush, – Which reminds me, I should really get myself booked onto one of his cycle maintenance classes he gives. – but we pushed on towards Poole unhindered.
At some point just before the New Forrest the sat-nav should have told us to make a turn, and it didn’t. At this point I was leading, I headed through the forrest and out into the wilderness, and The Bear idled up to me.
“I don’t know how to tell you this, but we’ve gone the wrong way, we’re going to have to do an extra 7 miles.”
That doesn’t sound too bad. Even writing it now, an extra 7 miles doesn’t sound like the end of the earth. But after 110 miles in the saddle it certainly sounded like it. I was tired, hungry, very hot, and my brain struggled to comprehend how far then we had left to go. Once out of the wilderness we took to the shade of a bus shelter, which came very close to being out hotel for the night, and after that I was having to stop more and more often. The Bear suggested that I may well have run out of fuel, which is why I was struggling and he wasn’t, and when you see the amount of calories that we used on the Saturday alone makes a huge amount of sense. 9,598, and I know that I didn’t consume that amount of calories over the course of the day.
By the time we arrived in Poole town centre I was desperate to get to the end, and when we eventually spotted the hotel I could not get there quick enough. We jumped off our bikes, crossed a path, ran down some steps and through a car park before clip-clopping across the floor of the lobby in my cycling shoes to get my hands on the key to the room.
In the end we rode 40 miles further than we’d ever ridden before. Used 9,598 calories. Climbed 5,828 feet. And done it all in 10 hours and 46 minutes. And the following day we did it all again.
It’s the toughest, and stupidest, thing I have ever done. It’s given us a lot of things to talk about, for when we plan the big ride. And, it was only a training ride…