The 200

A big birthday looms in April and I’m not getting any younger. It feels like a good time for a proper bike ride. The 70’s, 100’s and 150’s are OK, but then what do you do with the rest of the day? A 200 would be really nice as would the lie-in the next day.

Saturday 2nd June is the chosen day, but the variables of wellness and weather may yet interfere.

The route:

A rough itinerary:

TimeDistance (miles)Place
05:000Home
09:0055St. Andrew's Cafe, Histon
13:00104Rodwell's Fish & Chips, Watlington
17:00153Sunshine Cafe, Whittlesey
21:00200.7Home

You may notice the customary emphasis on nutrition and the curious absence of references to red wine.

All done (?)

Today the weather was lovely and I had a super ride to Machynlleth. So why did I choose today to give up?

I finally admitted to myself that it was inevitable. My knees are not in good shape at all, and there’s only so much Ibuprofen one can take before the side effects become a problem. So I had a choice. Carry on for a few more days at most or give it up.

Thank you to those that sponsored me. I hope you don’t feel too cheated.

Thank you for the posts. I loved the posts!

S

Why did nobody tell me about the mountains?

What a day! Superb weather for cycling, a nice early start, and not too many miles to Lochinver. What could possibly go wrong?

Capture

Well there it is. That’s what went wrong. Nobody said anything about this. The downs were terrifying! The ups were… terrifying

Had a lovely pie in Lochinver though. That and a glass of Malbec made it all worthwhile.

Uphill, wet and windy

I remember sitting at home Googling Cape Wrath, the most north western tip of mainland Great Britain. To get there you have to get the ferry at the Kyle of Durness. Then, having crossed there is an 11 mile ride to reach the lighthouse at the end. Anyone without a bike gets to ride there and back on a minibus.

The road surface is apparently dreadful, and it takes a while. The ferry timimgs are dependent on passenger numbers and are worked out each day between the ferryman and the minibus driver.

At this time of year the first crossing happens at 11:00 if there are enough passengers. I planned to travel on Monday from Tongue, arrive at Durness for 11:00 and catch the ferry. I booked B&B at Durness so that there was no long ride to do after the return journey, and also to give me a second chance on Tuesday if anything went wrong on Monday.

So all going nicely on Monday, except there’s too much hill climbing and 11:00 is hopelessly optimistic. It was a lovely ride around Loch Eriboll in the warm sunshine though.

Then suddenly the wind got up, picked up a few tons of water, and threw it at me. Within a couple of minutes I was soaked through and riding with that wind side-on was just unsafe madness. Even walking with the wind I had to hold the brakes on just to stop it running off with my bike. Fortunately my B&B was very close so I abandoned the ferry plan and got booked in. The rest of the day was a washout weatherwise and it turns out there had been no crossings anyway. Oh well, Plan B, try again on Tuesday. My Tuesday stop was just about 15 miles from Durness, so again no long ride after the return crossing. Planning!

The weather forecast for Tuesday was grim, and the ferryman was not intending to make any crossings. Rain and very strong winds were expected with a window of a couple of hours from about 08:00 where the wind would ease a bit.

Breakfast didn’t start until 08:00 so a good bit of the window was lost to the yoghurt and muesli. The rest of it was lost through my visits to the most north westerly craft village, the most north westerly golf course, and the place from which no ferries would be sailing. Then the weather did it’s thing again, with torrents of water thrown with immense and painful force in my face, for the several hours it took me to do the 15 miles to my Tuesday stop. Throw in a few motorists of the type that drive according to the conditions i.e. the conditions are atrocious so their driving is atrocious, and it really was an ordeal.

Tomorrow, in fact any day, is likely to be better. I’ll carry on for a bit. As for Cape Wrath, I have abandoned it. Skipping a 22 mile round-trip to a dead-end is within the rules.

Day 18, and there’s a distinct lack of haggis.

The next stretch will take me from Dingwall to Thurso where my bike will get some presents and some proper maintenance, and I will get a day off.

It is fair to say the land / water arrangement from Inverness is not entirely convenient. I think the usual route is to go from Inverness, up the Black Isle to Cromarty, take the ferry from Cromarty to Nigg, and then head for the A9 and you’re away up the east coast. Well I could have gone to Cromarty and waited for the ferry. They run every half hour, but not until the end of May, so it would have been quite a wait. Should I have cut out the Black Isle completely? That’s hardly within the spirit, even if it’s not strictly against my rules. So I decided to go around the edge of the Black Isle as best I could.

Here is an elevation plot of the ride.

20150505094335-71194-profile

With the cold, the wind and the rain, and after the 5 mile hill and some serious sweating, I was feeling chilled on arriving at Cromarty. The place was deserted. Turned out they were all in the cafe. Good idea!

Day 16 – Elgin today, Inverness tomorrow.

Today was to be a half day, but it was still 3.30 before I was knocking on the door at my B&B in Elgin. I met an Elgin cyclist on the road today (Hi Clive). I couldn’t help but compare the lovely silver cogs and lightly oiled chain on Clive’s bike against my black and grungy clogged up equivalent. I am a bit short on cleaning gear, but I found a suitable pull-in and got to work. I’ve read that one of the secrets to travelling light is to take items that can be ‘dual purposed’. Anyway, my teeth are a bit black this evening, but my chain looks lovely!
Things are going well, and the weather (b. cold today) has been very good to me. I am suffering with a touch of thermidore leg due to a brief experiment in the sun with lycra cycling shorts. For somebody that is (now) in the habit of plastering his face and neck with Factor 50 perhaps I should have seen that coming? Hey ho… drink before I’m thirsty, eat before I’m hungry, apply sun cream before my skin blisters. I’ll get the hang of it.
One or two people have asked how many miles I’ve done. The truth is I don’t know. I can get an approximation from the GPS log, but it will be short. If you zoom right in on the Current Position map you can see that due to the logging interval I seem to take a lot of shortcuts across buildings. This is just a notional line joining the logged positions. How much shorter is this series of straight lines than the actual route? Who knows. Anyway I’ve done a lot of miles and have about 4 x a lot left to do. By the way, in case you haven’t seen it, there is a drop-down control on the top of the map. You can swap the Google Map view with various other views e.g. Google aerial. You can almost see the actual rock that I sat on to eat my Aberdeen Buttery lunch yesterday.
From wikipedia, “The buttery was originally made for the fishermen sailing from Aberdeen’s harbour. They needed a roll that would not become stale during the two weeks or more that they were at sea. The high fat content meant the rolls also provided an immediate energy source.”
Uhmmm, perhaps four was three too many.

I managed to delete some comments instead of posting replies today. Looks rude, but is really just incompetence.

Ken, I have put an additional reply below your first post.

David J. Made me laugh. Post it again, I have a smart answer… as you would expect.

Day 11 update

Well Day 11 is done and I’m still going. I have to make Thurso in the next 10 days where my bike will undergo some serious maintenance. The parts should arrive just before me. I might have a shave to celebrate.

The poor bike has done dual-carriageways, A roads, B roads, unclassified roads, unspeakable roads, cycle paths, cinder tracks, dirt tracks, fields with no tracks, flights of steps up, flights of steps down, sandy beaches and lovely mown grass.

I have nasty sunburn on the back of my hand, my knees are shot, and my legs look like those of a younger man. Not that I do a lot of looking at the legs of younger men of course.

The track and pictures are all updated, the daily chores are done, the washing is drying and tomorrow it is going to rain all day. It’s all character building.

A lovely send off…

but so far, so silent. If it were not for the trace on the map it could all be fiction. Of course, even the track could be fiction. I could have hired a taxi driver to take my SatNav around the coast for me. Two things say I didn’t:

1. Too expensive
2. Zoom in on the traces on the map. A taxi driver wouldn’t get that lost
3. Taxi’s are not allowed on cycle tracks

I am finding it difficult to get everything done each day, so writing is not getting the attention I had planned. Instead, for now at least, I will update the new Picture of the day page on a daily(ish) basis.

I do have a sore bum, my knees have given up complaining because nobody is listening, and after a couple of serious drenchings I now have sunburn to deal with. Do you have any idea how much a bottle of sun-cream weighs?

I will see if I can get some mileages posted, although kilometres are my preference these days because they are so much shorter.

Setting off on Saturday (18 April)

This is the last post before I set off. It is a bit later than I had hoped, but finally the time, date and venue are set.

I will ride away between 13:00 and 14:00 Saturday 18 April 2015, from Marriott’s Warehouse, South Quay, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, PE30 5DT. Now I know this is not very convenient for folks to just pop by, but I needed it to be somewhere on the coast. It wouldn’t feel right leaving from home, especially not with having to bike 75 miles just to get to the starting line.

There will be a small gathering, and if you should feel inclined to wave me off, or smash a bottle of something (not red wine though) on my bike you are welcome. Friends, acquaintances, let me know you are coming and we’ll organise some food.

Not really much else to report since the last post. The bike has been back into hospital with a crunchy bottom bracket. It is back now, smooth and silent, and flying along effortlessly (downhill of course). I have sorted out my personal liability insurance in case I inadvertently demolish a listed building or something. £10,000,000 should give me plenty of scope.

The Inventory post resulted in a question about the weight of all the stuff. I stalled. This was mainly because last time I weighed the luggage it was around 14lbs. With a sensible diet and exercise I was going to lose that much weight before setting out anyway. So smug! Apart from that not happening, something else has happened. I’m not exactly sure when or how it happened, but the once slim panniers have put on weight. A subsequent examination of the contents has revealed that everything is essential, so surely must have always been in there. A complete mystery!

Anyway, the bike with racks, mudguards, bottle cages and computer (phone) attached weighs 28 lbs. The handlebar bag and fully loaded rear panniers with my tent strapped aboard weigh 22lbs. Waterproof coat, leggings, gloves and hood weigh 2lbs.

Two full water bottles add a further 3lbs, but that doesn’t really count, I’ll soon drink that.

This post is suffering from a lack of photographs so here is a gratuitous moody drive-train shot for your delectation.

MoodyDriveTrain

Last Friday I spent a whole day packing, unpacking, dispensing with former essentials, cutting out labels and cutting things in half. Cutting stuff in half isn’t always a good idea, but it does work for some things. Take my towel for example. I cut that a bit short of halfway, and now it doesn’t half get you dry! Somebody suggested I would have been better off keeping the towel full size, and cutting out the middle. That somebody is not taking this seriously.

Extreme lightweight cyclists take this stuff very seriously and the handle on the toothbrush is a favourite target. Having shortened mine twice I was eyeing it critically when it occurred to me that the bristles were extravagantly long. So I tried trimming them too, and then I went to Boots and bought a new one.

Before leaving I thought it would be a good idea to answer some of the most popular (apart from ‘Which charity are you doing it for?’)  questions people ask such as:

  • How far is it?
  • How long will it take?
  • Are you going on your own?

Well I’ve given it a bit of thought to these and with a bit of research have come up with some answers.

How far is it?

If you ask the AA they will tell you 11,073 miles. Now that is worrying. That is more than twice what I was expecting.

If you ask some of the people that have done it the answer varies. Anna (Cycles) Hughes did 4,000 miles, Mike Carter did 4,625 miles, and Jack Allen did 4,500 miles. You have to read deeper into their own accounts to see how their journeys differed.

If you ask Google… “how far is it around the coast of Great Britain” it says:

“The length of coastline of Great Britain plus its principal islands is about 19,491 miles (31,368 km). The length of coastline of England only is about 5581 miles (8982 kms), and of mainland England plus the Isle of Wight, Lundy and the Scilly Isles is 6261 miles (10,077 kms)”

So it only gets worse. In fact it gets a lot worse. The only true answer is that it is almost infinitely long. See this jolly nice explanation.

So, how far is it? We can safely say it is a very long way.

How long will it take?

As a guide you could ask some of the people that have done it… Anna (Cycles) Hughes – 72 days, Mike Carter – 5 months, Jack Allen – 16 weeks. In any case, it must depend on how far it is (please see above), how fast you go, and what rules you are working to, not least of which is how closely you follow the coast.

As well as having no plan, I have no rules, except these:

  • I don’t have to visit every dead end just because it will take me closer to the coast (but I can if I want)
  • Cutting off ‘rideable’ sections just because it is easier is not allowed (unless I feel like it)
  • Walking up hills is not allowed (unless I have to)
  • I cannot give up (until I have stayed out at least one night)

So, how long will it take? It may take a while.

GFABRBottle

Am I going on my own?

Well I don’t really know any other retired cyclists so yes, I am going on my own.

 

Inventory

People do ask what I am taking in the way of kit, but when I start to tell them they fall asleep. So, for the insomniacs…

CategoryItem
BikeSpecialized Diverge Sport A1 2015 - with more gears than anyone could ever need. Whatever happened to the Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub?
CustomisationsSpecialized 'Plug and play' mudguards. More like drill the holes, dismantle the bike, swear and have a rest mudguards.
Sora triple chain ring (save my knees on the hills).
Rear pannier rack
Tools etc.Cycle multi-tool
Small pliers
Brush/scraper tool for chain cleaning
Bike pump
Tyre levers
Spare inner-tube
Cable ties
Cable combination lock
Stiff wire for making twists
Length of gaffer tape
Chain lube
Tyre boots
Puncture kit
Swiss Army knife (Explorer Ultra with Metapnosis and goingforabikeride customisation) includes cork screw
LightsFront light
Rear light – pannier mounted
Rear light – bike mounted
Rear light – waterproof jacket mounted
Mini headlight – me mounted
LuggageTOPEAK rack bag with integrated panniers
TOPEAK Bar bag
Small waist bag (£3.45 on ebay)
Spare Drysack for groceries
Bungee for strapping on the groceries
AccomodationVaude Lizard GUL 1P one man tent (all 690 grams of it)
Foil space blanket to keep the mud off my groundsheet
Groundsheet
Self-inflating mattress (if you are prepared to wait)
Inflatable pillow
Sleeping bag and silk liner
ClothingUnderpants (colour co-ordinated with the goingforabikeride theme)
Socks
Fleece
Non-cycling shirt
Cycling base layer shirts x 3
Lightweight hi-vis vest
Trousers x 2
Favourite cycling / walking / slouching jacket
Waterproof over-trousers
Hi-vis waterproof jacket with removable over-helmet hood (looks lovely!)
Waterproof cycling shoes with removable cleats and rubber inserts
Waterproof gloves
Fingerless cycling gloves
Cycle helmet
WashingToothbrush
Toothpaste
Tooth picks
Dental floss
Shower gel
Soap
Flannel
Towel
Detergent
Tissues
Shower cap (thanks Penge!)
Rubber duck (thanks again)
Wet wipes
Navigation / CommsMap - coast of Great Britain. This is just the coast, but very detailed. Took ages to stick the pages together and cut out the coast.
Map - Cycle routes of Great Britain – almost intact. Copious notes added from various other maps (thanks SUSTRANS)
Galaxy S5 – bar-mounted back-up phone and primary navigation device in waterproof case. Loaded with OSMand Maps.me for offline navigation and turn by turn routing with voice prompts, logging to .gpx and more features than you could shake a selfi-stick at.
HTC One phone - also loaded with OSMand and Maps.me
Sony aluminium super-light Bluetooth keyboard for use with the S5 for e-mail, blogging etc.
Compass
EntertainmentFM Radio / MP3 player
Kindle Paperwhite
Neckband headphones which I do wear when cycling, but not for music... they keep my ears warm.
CameraOne or two selected from Sony RX10, Sony RX100, Fuji X100T, Sigma DP1 Merrill, Sigma DP2 Merrill, Sigma DP3 Merrill
SD Cards
Micro SD cards
Micro SD to SD card adapters
Lenspen Mini
Lens cloth
Mini-tripod
Power2 x wall-wart double USB chargers
5 x USB charging cables
RavPower 15,000 mAh rechargeable power pack
Spare battery for Galaxy S5
Spare camera battery(s)
10 x CR2032 batteries
4 x AAA batteries
1 x AA battery
Eating / drinkingWater purification tablets
Flameless ration heater x 2 (emergency use)
Plastic bowl
Plastic spork
Titanium spork
Wine glass
SIS Gel packs x 2
SIS Energy bar
2 x tube of SIS hydration tablets (these are expensive but they are so good). One day I will write about the day I had cramp in both thighs at the same time. Wish I could draw cartoons!
Misc kitWashing line
Midge spray
Waterproof notebook
Write even upside-down pen (so I can write to someone even after I have fallen off)
Stuff it with clothes bag pillow
Needles, threaders and thread
Plastic carrier bags
PersonalWallet
Credit cards
Passport
Utility bill
Sunglasses Very special, supplied by my sunglasses sponsor Aspex. Cosmos with 5 x interchangeable lenses: Orange, Red Revo, Smoke Polarised, Clear and Orange Photo-chromatic.
Postage stamps (for sending the bumped head letters)
Cash (not nearly enough I suspect)
20p coins (one too few I'll bet)
50p coins
Drugs – various (all legal)

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