At 16:07 on Sunday the 12th of June this year, somewhere on the A32, my attention was diverted from the wet road in front of me to my good friend Ken, who’d just idled up next to me.
“Well, it’s two hours since we started back after lunch-”
“I don’t want to know…” Which I didn’t. I know it was a bit blunt, sorry Ken, but I really didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to know how far we’d covered since lunch, because I’d then be able to work out just how far we’d got left to ride before we got back to the relative warmth and comfort of the Travelodge we were booked into that night.
At that point we were three quarters of the way through the most miserable day of riding I have ever had. The weather was abysmal. I had been woken, and then kept awake, by heavy rain from dawn O’Clock. If I had a choice I would never have chosen to go outside in it, never mind; get ready, pack the tent up, and set off riding in it. At the first petrol station we came across we picked up diesel gloves, to wear over our riding gloves to help keep our hands from getting too cold, and some sandwiches for breakfast. The lady behind the counter asked if I was mad. Mad, no. Pissed off, very. When we set off again, realizing that the only thing that was keeping us warm was the fact that we were pedaling as fast as we could, I suggested to The Bear that we might have to attempt the days 90 mile ride in one go.
“We could… but I don’t know what Ken’s gonna make of it.”
“I was thinking of not telling him…” We could have done, theoretically, had it been dry, but the cold and the wind eventually got the better of us. Ken had to stop, and then The Bear and I couldn’t get warm again. We stopped for lunch at the next pub we came across. It was a wonderful, friendly, welcoming pub to the locals who frequented there. Unfortunately, almost none of it was extended towards us. We were laughed at, and then ignored by, the couple running it. We we’re eventually shown pity though by one of the barmaids, after we started using the teapot to try and warm and dry our gloves. I was ridiculously cold, and oh so very grumpy.
After lunch, and after a small indiscretion on my part where I shouted, “Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity-fuck,” as loud as I could (which was as Hugh Grant as it sounds), we put our heads down and rode pretty much in silence. I didn’t see a thing on that day, other than the road in front of me. It was on this afternoon that the advice from a lady we met in Wick a week earlier suddenly made sense;
“The hardest part can sometimes be remembering that you’re having fun.”
Now, the thing was, was I having fun…? Even now, I’d probably have to say no. More importantly, why have I chosen to start this slightly overdue blog on our JOGLE attempt by telling you about the worst day of riding I ever did do? Because without having gone through that day I don’t think that I’d be able to appreciate just how great the following two days were, and that what we were doing was meant to be a challenge.
Now, I’m not going to try and suggest that up until that day it had been easy. Because it wasn’t. On the seven days leading up to that day, we had suffered from; mechanicals, torrential rain, wind, tough climbs, descents too steep to ride safely down with the trailer, lack of sleep, cold nights, midges, saddle sores, and at times each others bad moods. However, we were all bearing up quite well despite the physical abuse we were subjecting ourselves too. But on that Sunday, we really had to dig deep to get through it. There was never any doubt that we wouldn’t complete the days ride, I think the three of us are all far too stubborn to have given in. But I had to give absolutely everything I had to get us to that Travelodge… Which my body reminded me of the very next day.
The 90.15 miles we rode on Monday the 13th of June were probably the best 90 miles I have ever ridden. They were far from easy. I, and I know The Bear too, was exhausted from the previous day, and we were both incapable of riding anywhere near our usual pace. The weather was alright, but not fantastic. We set off in the rain, which whilst it didn’t last long, threatened us a few times over the course of the day. Having said that, we were able to lose our jackets and then our overshoes. Overshoes. This was June, but we’d each been wearing them almost constantly since day 2. It was such a good feeling to finally get them off, and let my feet breath and my shoes dry out properly. In my last blog post I quoted The Bear’s brief description of the ride;
“It was awesome, exhilarating, eyeopening and beautiful and painful and colder than I ever imagined I could be. And a proper experience.”
With just one exception, the ride on day 9 was all of those things. I rode the slowest I have ever ridden, without it being a track stand, and the quickest. I rode at over 40 mph towing the trailer (The Bear broke 45mph with, and managed to do 50.7mph without). I rode the toughest climbs I have ever ridden, and got to ride down some of the greatest road descents I have ever come across. We climbed 9,313 ft, and descended 8,997 ft, in total that day. And spent just over 8hrs and 10mins riding. It was one of our longest days out. Usually we’d stop for lunch roundabout the half way point in distance, which ended up being Tavistock, which we reached just after 3. We were out for 11hrs and 28mins in total that day, and it was the most fun I have had since I started training. The scenery in Dartmoor, the speeds that we were able to hit, the Chinese old lady, the fish and chips we had in Tavistock, the vintage Ducati, asking a lady to wait so that we could make the most out of a fast and twisty descent, The Bear over taking a guy from the Royal Navy whilst towing the trailer, and seeing just how determined Ken was on the final stretch, are memories that I will treasure for a long long time. Most of it, I’m sure, is down to the attitude we went out with that day. We’d had to rush the day before, to keep warm and to get it over with, and had seen nothing as a result. We started the day in a Travelodge, and where ending the day in another. We didn’t have to worry about setting the tent up, and the trailer was the lightest it had ever been. We went out to enjoy, and to make the most of, a day that the Sat-Nav claimed would be grueling. And, that’s precisely what we did. It also helped that we started to get congratulatory texts and messages on Facebook from our friends. The donations on our JustGiving page seemed to ramp up that day too.
A better day of riding I could not have asked for.
The following day, Day the 10, was slightly surreal. We had a lie in, a cooked breakfast, and set off in short-sleeves and shorts. No jackets, overshoes, or leg warmers did we wear. We even set off down the wrong road, which didn’t seem to matter in the slightest, it was in roughly the right direction. We gave Ken the confidence to go no-handed for the first time, which is how we all rode down the final hill to Lands End side by side. Even though I’d ridden the whole of that final day like we’d already done it, when we saw The Sign I couldn’t believe that we’d done it. Or maybe, I didn’t want to admit that we’d finally come to the end. It had been 10 days since we started, 253 days since I’d started training, and 452 days since The Bear and I had decided to do it… by text message. As he pointed out, probably the most expensive three text messages we would ever send.
This is, without doubt, the most ridiculous thing I have ever embarked on. And I would do it again without even giving it a second thought.
I would like to thank; both Ken and The Bear for making it such a memorable experience.
Bob Yarlett for taking the time out to both get us to John O’Groats and bringing us back from Land’s End. And for all the support he gave us over the 10 days.
Joyce for the pasta, chicken, and cake in Chepstow.
To all the riders we met along the way, even those who all told us we were doing it backwards, and especially the single-speed guy from Kendal. The thought of him out there somewhere attempting it with just the one gear got me through all the tough times I had whilst towing the trailer. Glad that we got to see him arrive at Land’s End shortly after we did.
To my friends and family for their support.
To everyone that’s given to Katharine House Hospice. Which there is still time for you to do at our JustGiving page.
To everyone, and anyone, whose shown even the slightest amount of interest in what we were doing.
And finally to The Jen, for having to put up with me not only being gone for 12 days but all the time I spent training and preparing.
Day 1 – 5th June – Inverness – Route.
Day 2 – 6th June – Inverco – Route.
Day 3 – 7th June – Kilmarnock – Route.
Day 4 – 8th June – Carlisle – Route.
Day 5 – 9th June – Bolton-le-Sands – Route.
Day 6 – 10th June – Oswestry – Route.
Day 7 – 11th June – Chepstow – Route.
Day 8 – 12th June – Tiverton – Route.
Day 9 – 13th June – Bodmin – Route.
Day 10 – 14th June – Lands End – Route.