I was asked earlier this year if I’d like to take part in a charity bike ride and be allowed time off work to do it. Immediately I said yes of course before being told it was 300 miles. The aim was to raise money for Benenden charitable trust which is part of the company I work for and SAMH which is the Scottish Association for Mental Health and has Sir Chris Hoy as their ambassador. The plan was for a group of 10 to ride from SAMH offices in Glasgow to York, then a second group from Benenden offices in York down to the Hospital in Kent. Details and sponsors can be found at https://www.benenden.co.uk/about-benenden/charitable-trust/cycle-gb-2016/
The people taking part ranged from a few regular riders to some that hadn’t ridden a bike for years and had to buy a bike to take part. I was in the second leg riding 300 miles in 4 days. I’ve only started to ride regular and longer miles since joining YRCC and had never ridden 300 miles within a week so it would be a challenge for me too. I rode a bit more regular in August and managed 300 miles over 7 days so felt I would be ok. Others taking part had ridden about 40-60 miles as their longest ride but would be doing roughly 4 days of 75 miles in a row.
We were having some funny conversations in the lead up to the Charity ride over what type of bike to buy, food and drink, chamois cream and clothing. Even down to explaining the difference between shorts and bib shorts (those ones with the braces on them)…..
We’d all put some training in and our team kit with sponsorship logos came meaning it was very close to the start. Our first stage group had a gruelling first day. Over 90 miles with 5k feet of climbing and heavy rain for the last few hours. I honestly thought that would have broken some of them. But they all carried on for day 2 and then day 3 they arrived in York on the Friday, where we met them outside the office pictured below. That meant on Monday it was our turn to ride 300 miles.
The Start York to Lincoln – day 1
I crammed everything I thought I’d need in to a massive walking rucksack and cycled very slowly to work ready to load up for the start. A support vehicle would be with us so the bag was chucked in their along with the others taking part. We all met and introduced each other, had a briefing about what would happen and the route we were taking. Then after the official start photo we headed out towards the Planets bike track. I had the route on my Garmin but as long as we were heading for Selby it would be ok. As soon as we left York it started to drizzle but once we got towards Selby my Garmin couldn’t find the route leaving us to debate what the route was and the best way to get back on it. We should have taken a turn before Selby to head to Goole but after contacting Support we agreed to carry on towards Drax and cut across back on route to Goole for the first rest stop. A well deserved coffee to warm us up and a mix of sandwiches, Chia bars and crisps. As we were back on route leaving there, we could follow it again down South next to the river on quieter roads. But getting wetter as the day went on. We then heard a plane go over our heads before we’d got to Lincoln. Then more planes before we realised it was the Red Arrows practising their flying formations. It was great to watch except we were veering across the road, but cheered us up before we arrived in Lincoln.
Lincoln to Peterborough – day 2
After a full breakfast we headed out of a very busy Lincoln on a cloudy day. We would be cycling in to a headwind again all day and on some busy stretches of road. There were some stretches of road that were quieter; but on the whole we were trying to stay safe with cars/lorries not giving us much room at all. There was a bike track section through a park for the last few miles but the surface was quite lumpy so we were training to avoid a flat tyre or falling off. We got to the finish quite thankful not to have been hit on the roads.
Peterborough to Cheshunt – day 3
This was the best day by far. The weather was perfect and the roads much quieter. We’d arrived for a rest stop in St Ives, but it seemed all the pubs were closed except one. After a very nice stop there we headed out on a bus/bike lane which use to be an old railway line. This meant we could ride in a large group and actually relax and talk to each other a bit more. after about 15 miles we had to navigate Cambridge. By now I’d already taken to the front of the group to navigate the route on my Garmin. It helps when you can see to street level where we needed to be. After that we were on fairly quiet roads again in to Cheshunt. I’d collected 2 flat front tyres in the afternoon, the second thankfully right next to Scott that was our mechanical support. By now everybody had aches and pains and we were queuing up to see Helen for a massage on aching legs and shoulders.
Cheshunt to Benenden Hospital – day 4
Our last day was going to be skirting around London and involving a Thames river crossing by boat too. The usual 15mph headwind was there from the start and a bit of drizzle but we kept happy knowing the weather should improve and getting closer to the finish line. Much of the start was ups and downs going through Epping Forest. The weather did start to clear in time for the couple of descents we made, luckily no cars coming round one of the corners that one of the group ran wide on. There was quite a technical a 15-20% but had some sharp turns and then speed bumps which some thought was fun and wasn’t as much for others. After following a bike route we got to the river crossing point and were told the boat had broken down. We thought they were joking at first but it turned out they weren’t. We had to try fit us and the bikes in to the support vehicles to drive back and over a busy dual carriageway to get to the other side of the river that was about a 15 miles drive. After taking all the bikes to bits, it looked like at least one of us wasn’t able to fit. I volunteered to ride it and see them at the other side along with one of the others (safer with 2) but with moving gear round in the cars we did manage to all squeeze in.
After driving round, the delay meant we were well behind schedule. That also meant a decent lunch stop was out of the question, so a quick sandwich eaten in the car park. Toilet stop in the local pub and after Jenny chatting to the regulars about what we were doing they handed us some money for the collection. A quick check of the route and we were back on it again. Battling through aches and pains we had a minimal afternoon stop and try get to our destination in Kent as close to 1700 as possible. We tried to stay in 1 group as the roads were fairly quiet and didn’t want to drop anyone off the back of the group. 1700 passed but some colleagues that were from the area knew we weren’t far away. Within 2-3 miles from arrival there was a small climb that somebody shouted was a Strava segment as they went past me. So I got out of the saddle to chase him down and as I went past the front of the bike felt soggy. I’d got another flat front tyre. I nursed it up the remainder of the hill and as it hadn’t gone completely, I carried on. About a mile further I thought it wasn’t going to last, but was told the finish was about a few hundred meters down the road. Freewheeling to the last corner keeping my weight as far back as possible we went over the finish line to lots of people cheering and waving. The bikes were dumped and everyone in the group hugged each other. Photo’s were taken, I gave an interview about 4 times about finishing with a flat tyre – so that might be weird to see when it’s out on Youtube etc… the teaser trailer can be seen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DO9NQYWGE3Y
We’re all already talking about what to do next year. . . .
Special thanks to our Sports Massages by Lesley that has therapy sessions at Benenden Hospital and Helen from http://chilternsportsmassage.co.uk/
Scott providing route knowledge and mechanical support from http://www.skinnytyres.com/
And of course Thom from work that organised it all
Thank you to YRCC for their donation and the others that helped us raise money. You can still donate at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Mike-Corley-cycleGB-YorktoKent