Our next Cycling Challenge is finally here – following on from our epic ride to London last month, tomorrow we will be riding from Grimsby to Blackpool following a 153 mile route which will take us across the Pennines and through 3 of the North of England’s most dramatic and stunningly scenic counties, with almost 6000ft of climbing to do along the way… which is about the same as Mount Kilimanjaro!!
I know there are lots of cyclists who ride much further distances than this and don’t necessarily shout about it, but to me it’s not really about the ride as such – but more the reason behind why I’m doing it.
Many of us go through all kinds of emotional challenges throughout our lives – some would say it’s just life and take it in their stride but to others, the effect of these life events can be quite traumatic and devastating to our mental health.
Understanding how one single event can affect different people in so many different ways is hard, but if you’re the person struggling to understand why you feel the way you do, that can be even harder still, and when multiple issues begin to cloud the picture even further, sometimes those most affected simply no longer cope.
You may know people struggling or may have struggled yourself. You may not know what the problem is, you may need help or you may want to help but don’t know where to start, but knowing there is something you can do, or somewhere you can go and someone who will listen is a step in the right direction.
So these rides are more about representation than they are personal endeavours. Yes they are personal challenges and the kind of thing people wish they had the time to do, but they are about more than that. I decided to start writing a blog (https://thehumbercycliatrist.wordpress.com/) which details more about my own journey and what this venture of mine is all about and why I’ve decided to go this way on my journey – take a look, don’t get me wrong, it’s hardly a professional blog or got lots of fancy formatting or anything, but if you’ve got 10 mins spare, Grab a coffee and have a read – these challenges and rides we are doing are for #mentalhealthawareness and #mentalhealthmatters. They are to represent the journey of each and every one of us. Some parts hard, some parts not so. The uphill struggles and the effortless downhills that feel so rewarding and liberating following the struggle. The length of the journey is also representative of each of the journey each of us is on – to some it’s a long road, to some, it’s a relatively short event. To some it’s a challenge, and to others it’s comparatively easy, but the relevance is – each of our own journeys is different to someone heading in the same direction. We may be following the same path, but the challenge is always different, to each and every person. Those riding who may find certain parts easy, are there to support and encourage others who may not find the same section quite so simple. We are stronger, more capable, together, and can achieve more with the help of others.
I hadn’t chosen to make this a fundraiser as I don’t like to always ask for money – sometimes simply raising awareness is more productive than raising money, but the first ride we did back in May to York and back help raise money for The Bearded Fishermen Suicide Prevention group who help patrol the Humber Bridge, this time I’m going to start a fundraiser, albeit a little late, for North East Lincolnshire Mind. A local, North East Lincolnshire Mental Health Charity based in Grimsby providing safe space for anyone going through personal crisis. I’m not asking for £1000’s but even the cost of a cup of tea can make a difference.
Keep watching for tomorrow’s posts as we plan to set off at 5am from Grimsby (the plan is to leave from the Dock Tower if we get permission) and arrive in Blackpool before sunset.
Wish us luck, and help us to help others to raise #mentalhealthawareness by sharing this post and showing your support on our journey tomorrow.
This was a great ride. When Nina said she was meeting a friend the next day in Alnwick and asked what I fancied doing, there was obviously only really one answer…
I set about a rough ride plan, looked at where I could realistically get to and back in a decent sort of time and decided upon Whitley Bay. I’d ridden to Whitley Bay & Tynemouth before with a group of guys who got me into cycling, a few years previous. We completed the very popular Coast to Coast route from Whitehaven to Tynemouth over 3 days. An absolutely amazing experience passing from Cumbria and the Lake District in the west, over the North Pennines, and down into Tyneside passing through Newcastle. A thoroughly enjoyable experience, highly recommended for anyone averaging around 50 miles per day with B&B stop overs along the way.
That time we did it fully supported by a company called Trailbreaks who arrange to collect you and your bikes from Tynemouth, take you by minibus over to Whitehaven where you start the following morning…
It was an incredible few days, but I never considered I’d be contemplating doing a Coast to Coast ride in a day!! (More on that later)
But this ride was something completely different. I think I’ve mentioned before, but the thing I love most about cycling is the sense of adventure. The feeling of accomplishment when you’ve physically pushed yourself and your bike to places you never thought possible, and when you tell people what you’ve done, the look on their faces is brilliant. This ride around Northumberland and Tyneside though, was ‘just a ride.’ I’d looked at a possible route and considered going across to Newcastle, but considering a few days prior to this I’d already done a good 50mile ride with Nina, I didn’t feel up to doing a century ride so soon – so I settled at 87 miles – yeah I know, you’re all saying, ‘I’d have just rounded it up and done the last 13!’ But I didn’t actually get set off until 10am, and didn’t want to be riding in the dark. The sun is starting to set quickly now at 7.45pm and you quickly run out of light. The last thing you want is being on quiet, often off road routes, alone, with no food and happen upon an incident – and I didn’t think it fair to leave Nina on her own all afternoon too.
Much of my route was on quieter roads with low levels of traffic. There was a stretch which ran down the side of the A1 which did have a cycle path – though not very well kept – and there were a few off road, bridleway stretches too, just to spice things up a bit. Now I’m not one for racing as fast as I can, but anyone who is on Strava will no doubt look at this and think the 13.5mph average is quite slow, and granted – it is, but – when you take into consideration the terrain and the route, it’s actually not that bad…
When I got to Whitley Bay, I was ready for some food and a drink so not far beyond the bay, is a little town called Cullercoats. My Dad was born in Cullercoats in 1945, and since his passing in 2018 never a day goes by where I don’t think of him or wonder what he’d be doing now. I’d give anything to have just one more day with him down the pub, those are some of my most precious memories of time spent with him, so as I rode through, I decided it most fitting to have a pint at the Queens Head.
So then it was time to make my way back to Boulmer. Now it had been quite windy on the way down the coast, so I kind of hoped I’d get a bit of assistance going back up, I was wrong. I hate riding in the wind, it just seems so negative somehow, when in actuality, it makes you a stronger rider in theory. But when you’re tired and already 50 odd miles into a 90 mile ride, it doesn’t feel like that, but there’s not a lot you can do about it, you’ve just got to push on through it – literally!!
Although I’d very quickly planned my route the day before, I hadn’t really studied it for way types or surfaces so wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. However, one thing that can be said for the North East is that they’ve made some wonderful provision for cycling and walking away from traffic using old dismantled railways.
The Waggonways as in the gallery above is a great example of this and one which I’d never heard of before arriving at it not long after leaving Tynemouth, and when you get further north to Cramlington, there’s a fantastic maze of cycle routes right the way through.
At this point, my neck is starting to give me some grief – I struggle with an annoying nerve which makes an appearance at irregular times. Sometimes on shorter rides, sometimes on longer ones. Can’t say why or what causes it but it’s very annoying. Remembering to stretch and do neck exercises whilst on the bike is sometimes hard, but I’m told it can help. I’m hoping to get in for a bike fit with a new set up called BikeAlign her in Grimsby & Cleethorpes at some point, but at the moment time (and funds) prohibit that.
As you may have noticed, I’m riding on my Boardman CX on these Stan The Van trips – not because it’s my favoured bike, but also because It’s a bit more multi purpose than my Titanium road bike, which I absolutely love, and also because it’s more apt for riding with Nina’s superb, Holdsworth Mystique Carbon Gravel Bike. (See previous post for more details). The Boardman is a fantastic bike though, plenty of features, comfortable enough and quick enough when it needs to be – Oh and it can go up hills quite well too with a 50/34 chain set and an 11/32 cassette. The let down for it is the cable pull disc brakes, which just don’t set up very well and despite all efforts, the squeal from the front brake just won’t go away, makes for a good alternative to a bell though!!
Despite the strengthening headwind, I was making good progress on my way back north. Slightly tiring as I go back through Warkworth (another beautiful little town) and to stay on NCN1 there’s a steep climb out of the town. The cycle way winds it’s way back towards Alnmouth and at this point I know I’m not far away from where I’d promised myself a pint at The Fishing Boat Inn – where you can obviously also buy eggs and marmalade from the bar.
We were to return to the Fishingboat Inn a couple more times before we left Northumberland- so if you’re ever exploring the coastal NCN1, makes sure you stop off here. The patio out back is amazing with views out to sea, but for now – it was a quick stop off for my customary end of ride pint before the last mile or so back to the campsite at Longhoughton.
Next big ride is the Tower to Tower ride with some good friends, Jamie & Karl on Friday 27th August for Mental Health Awareness. Watch the Humberston Cycles Facebook page for a live track link…
We left home on Friday afternoon after a relatively early finish from work, and hit the road. We must have just timed it really badly because what should have been a three and a half hour journey took us the best part of six! Stop start all the way up the A1, finally arriving at Budle Farm Campsite – bang smack overlooking Budle Bay, an absolutely stunning location with some amazing sunsets.
When we came to Northumberland last month, July – we stayed at a small farm campsite just outside Bamburgh and rode up and down the coast visiting most of the idyllic little seaside towns along the coast, which helped Nina well on her 300km Breast Cancer Now Charity Challenge.
We’ve both brought our CX or Gravel bikes with us this time to do a little more, and venture a little further afield, and I planned a lovely ride for us which was to become Nina’s longest ride to date, more on that a little later…
Now would probably be a great time to fill you in on Nina’s new weapon – it’s a full carbon, Holdsworth Mystique. It’s an incredibly lightweight, perfectly stanced, all terrain speed machine. Equipped with the rapid shifting SRAM Force drivetrain and hydraulic brakes and Fulcrum Racing wheels. With a 1 x 11 drivetrain it’s more than capable both on and off road and it looks fantastic with its skin wall, Jack Brown tyres and brown bar tape. On several occasions now while we’ve been out and about, people have commented on what a great bike it is and I have to admit – I think it is too, and a lot less money than many others I hasten to add!!
So anyway, back to the first of this weeks routes – I try where possible to plan my routes with Komoot Download app here – Komoot is great as it integrates with Strava and your Garmin device or watch – anyone need any help, just shout. And I also discovered Epic Weather today which can help you work out what the weather is likely to be during your ride.. go check it out!!
This was the first ride I planned – we deviated a little bit the most of it we did: The Best of Northumberland give or take a few deviations Beware of A1 though after leaving Alnwick – stay on until the turn of for North Charlton – hair raising as it may be!!
Now there’s some absolute jewels of roads and some testing paths and off road bits along this route but the scenery is quite simply stunning. We left Budle Bay and our first stop was Embleton, at the wonderful Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel – in a quiet little village not too far from Bamburgh. We had a quick coffee – took stock of where we were and then headed off to Craster.
Now Craster we’ve been to before, but it seemed such an arduous journey before whereas this thing we’ve enjoyed the ride so much more – Mrs Cycliatrist is now fully conversant with her gears and how she and the bike must work together.
Craster is well known for its famous Kippers – and many establishments along the Northumberland coast will sell Craster Kippers – there is also a very well known eatery and pub called the Jolly Fisherman. We tried to get in here last time before lockdown restrictions were eased but couldn’t get in. We didn’t really have time for a full stop this time though, so we pressed on as my thinking was probably lunch at Alnmouth.
I’ve never really been up here before and explored the way I’ve been able this last couple of months. I’ve always loved being outdoors – and when I look at how we’ve covered the ground we have – just gets the giddy inside. Even as I’m writing, the urge to get back on the bike and find somewhere new is incredible.
So we headed straight out Craster and headed for the hils.
We made our way down towards Warkworth which itself is a beautiful little town. Plenty of eateries and watering holes, perfect for us hungry and thirsty bikeists.
Warkworth done, we mosied on up to Alnwick over a few lumps and bumps, where we found a little watering hole called the Pig in Muck just on the Market Place we refreshed (pint of strawberry beer for me) and then onward for the last leg back to base at Budle Bay.
This has been a big ride for anyone really and I’m constantly amazed at how well Nina is taking everything in her stride. Incredible what we as humans can achieve when we put our minds to it and have the support and encouragement of others.
So we finally make it back to base, 53 miles and almost 3000ft of climbing – now time for a cold beer and to watch the sun go down…
Next ride – Boulmer to Whitley Bay and back, 85 miles in a homage to my Dad – His Birthplace was Cullercoats so only seems right to do so…
Subliminally, sometimes literally flying by the seat of your pants (to coin a phrase) is the best way of driving your demons away…
I worked late last night with the view that I needed to get out and meet some other riders on the lanes, so I made all my necessary preparations, finished the household chores, got the bike ready and hit the road to get to the usual meeting place for 9am.
Message from ride leader – I’m not going to make it in time, see you at the tennis club – I’ll be an hour behind you….
Oh no – what do we (I) do as no one else has showed up either!! Do I turn on my heel and head home, disappointed, or do I just head off anyway??
I decided on the latter. I’m heading away this weekend anyway with Nina & Stan The Van so a quick ride won’t do any harm whilst I’m already out anyway. So where shall we go, how far? Shall it be leisurely or beastly? Don’t care, the sun is shining, there’s a bit of a head wind blowing from the South West although it felt more North Westerly at times, but you can’t predict the weather so we must make the most of it.
Off I go, heading on through to Cleethorpes and blasting along nicely – guess it’s going to be one of those rides then. Before I know it, I’ve cleared Cleethorpes – it does remind me of a European Seaside town at times especially in the morning sun – if you really try to imagine hard anyway, I ride on to the Grimsby to Immingham Super Cycleway, all the while thinking – where shall I head to. Shall I just turn off at Pyewipe and head through to Aylesby – nah keep going…
So I’ve gone past Immingham Docks, I’m now passing the refineries and I start to think, about the return journey. Much as I’d love to be out ALL day, I’ve got parts due for delivery and a bike to complete before we go away tomorrow. Now there’s several ways home from this point – the easy way, the quite way, the hilly hard way and the quick way – which would you choose 20 odd miles in to an unplanned ride?
Head for the hills…
Yeah, why not 🙂 and with a turn to the left, hopefully we’ll get a bit of a shove from the wind. I didn’t 😂…
So down through Brocklesby, up to the airport, left up Sheilas Cottage, left again to Great Limber, now on a normal, group social ride, we’d have stopped here for a pint. I’m not being social today and there’s no one else here but me – on we go then.
From here there’s a few longish climbs, nothing too distressing, but climbs none the less. I’m pleased with my progress, checking the Garmin all the time (average speed doesn’t normally bother me, but I’m curious) 18mph average speed so far – I’m expecting the coming hills to knock that down a bit though.
As we do the bit of climbing and head across the roller coaster road to Swallow – I find myself thinking how lucky we are to have such glorious surroundings right in our doorsteps. I roll on through Swallow, down to Moggs Hollow and up to Beelsby and here I know there’s some really great hills.
I remember many moons ago when I first got back on a bike and how Beelsby hill almost killed me. No way could I cycle up this monster, I remember thinking… but this time, I’m feeling fresh – I’m ready to show it who’s boss. So I gun it.
Now anyone on Strava – will know just how addictive it is. As soon as you get back, you press stop and go see how well you’ve done. I’m stunned with mine for this ride – 52 achievements!! And a cracking average speed. Now I need to go back to knocking the speed back though if I’m going to complete the Tower to Tower ride later this month…
Don’t ever give up – I remember hating every minute in the saddle. I remember thinking I would never be as ‘good’ or as ‘fit’ as all those others I see in all the proper gear with the mega bikes. But I began to realise that I’m better than those that don’t even try, and I want to encourage everyone to never give up trying – just for yourself.
Through trying and pushing myself – and Strava is great for this – I’m pleased with my progress, I’m pleased with my ability and my capability, and self satisfaction is what it’s really all about. If you can feel good about yourself, you can feel good about other stuff too. I don’t know the science behind it all, I’ve an idea why it works, but all that matters to me is it does work, but sometimes the hardest thing to do is to motivate yourself to do it, that is definitely the hardest battle. Once you’re on the bike, loving or loathing – you’re half way to winning the battle.
Until next time – have a great weekend and keep dancing on those pedals….🚲🚲🚴🏻♂️🚴🏻♂️🚴♀️🚴♀️
…You’ve just got to stop and take a breath. Work out what it is you’re doing, where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. When you do stop, make sure you pick a place or point in your journey to reflect on what’s gone before…
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in any of the other posts I’ve written so far, but following the COVID outbreak last year, my wife and I bit the bullet early way before the 1000’s of other families of staycationers…
We’d talked about one for years and weren’t overly sure it was actually ‘right’ for us. I mean there are all kinds of camper vans and motorhomes – big ones, small ones, enormous ones and everything in between. Custom built, DIY or purpose made. And then there are VW’s – there are VW made campers and there are VW Transporter conversions. Short wheel base, and long wheel base and a virtually endless list of configurations and addons available, limited only by imagination.
We looked at loads of them before settling on Stan, and once lockdown was over and we were finally allowed to take him off the drive, it was clear to us that we were well and truly hooked….
Over the course of the following months, we started to accumulate all manner of accessories, awnings, solar panels, gadgets and gizmos – anything that would help or simplify our new ‘van life’.
Holidaying in a wee van takes a bit of working out, because there isn’t exactly a huge amount of space in the van itself. But with a bit of forethought and research, it makes for a hugely rewarding and exciting holiday – and do you know what? One of the best addons we bought, was the bike rack so we can take our bikes with us!!
As I said, we weren’t sure Van life was for us because we, historically enjoyed long haul, all inclusive type holidays in places like the Caribbean. Jamaica being one of my favourite places on earth, but we’ve been to lots of the Caribbean islands now, and I guess that makes us very fortunate, but we did realise that, we didn’t really know much about our own country and even though we’ve had lots of plush B&B or hotel based weekends away, we’d never really explored this beautiful county we call home.
Our first proper ‘staycation’ once lockdown restrictions were eased was in Snowdonia, North Wales. Now I’ve travelled all over the British Isles for work, but never really paid any attention to where I was staying, because it was just work mainly and all I wanted to do at the time was just get home. So when we pulled up at the camp site in Betws Garmon, late that night following a drive across country, in late September, in the pouring rain. The buzz on the campsite was somewhat exciting to say the least…
Crack open a tin of beer, get all the gear out and put up the awning, and by chance – take a look above and stand in awe at the ‘Big Sky’ a truly breathtaking sight – I’ve never seen so many stars.
The first bikes we bought for Stan The Van were little fold up bikes. They were kind of great in a not so great way, and on our first trip to Snowdonia, we managed almost 30 miles on them down to Caernarfon – what an adventure that was! Nina almost killed me, but we managed it. There and back, and we decided from then on that the way forward was a bike rack to be able to bring our proper bikes with us.
Now we’re gearing up for another jaunt back up to Northumberland this weekend, and I have to say – I just can’t wait!! We’ve got so much to look forward to and so much to explore and the progress Nina has made on her fantastic new Holdsworth Mystique gravel bike means we can see and do so much more now.
The feeling of being away on holiday, and still being able to explore even further afield on bikes such as these which are more than capable of taking on a mixture of terrain is incomparable. It’s a sense of freedom, a real humbling feeling and experience just rolling over terrain you’ve never previously seen and probably never would without the use of a bike.
I’d never heard of this, but to visit these old sites and read the history of their importance on how they helped defend our shores during World War II is amazing. And then to wander on up the coast a bit further to Berwick Upon Tweed via NCN1 is simply breathtaking.
Anyway, that’s enough for now – keep posted for a few posts from our next trip ‘up north’ – ta ra for now, keep pedalling…
The slogan of a very well known brand – I never really got the meaning of it but thinking about it, it make absolute sense!!
Now I love riding, I love anything to do with cycling in fact. New bikes, old bikes, retro bikes, quirky bikes – and riding bikes, any kind of bike – gives me a sense of ability, something I can enjoy for me, a selfish sense of me-ness. Don’t get me wrong, sharing a ride with someone else is on a whole different level, but for now – I’m talking about the feeling of pushing yourself – quite literally – wherever the feeling takes you.
For me, the challenge is to make my legs push me to places I’ve never been, remote villages, coastal paths, monumental climbs, wide open countryside or mountain ranges.
But riding to these places isn’t always possible, work, family, prior arrangements you name it – often, being able to just hop on a bike for hours and hours on end just isn’t possible regardless of how much you really want to.
To be able to keep up these epic rides, we have to put in the practice in between too, and sometimes that can be hard to do too. Picture this, you’re all fired up and looking forward to a ride out with a few buddies. You’ve worked out your route, you know you don’t need to be back at a particular time, there’s no dinner commitments, the kids are at auntie Joans, no deliveries planned – you’re good to go. You get yourself an early night, in preparation for a day in the saddle, you don’t sleep particularly well but that doesn’t matter, you can’t wait for tomorrow to come.
Next morning, you go to put on your cycling gear and realise the washing machine has torn a great hole in the seat of your bib shorts!! Nightmare – that pushes the cart off the track straight away. So you dig out another pair of shorts, not quite what you’d hoped for because they’re not as comfortable as the other pair, so straightaway you’re thinking about how imperfect this ride is going to be – everything is starting to stack up against you…
Surely not though? Surely it’s just a pair of shorts, isn’t it? How can that affect your ride? OK, so you pull yourself together, give yourself a ticking off and tell yourself to stop being ridiculous. Then you look out of the window – the weather forecast for today, when you looked yesterday, was for light cloud and a gentle breeze. A pleasant 18 degrees – perfect cycling weather. You take a look out of the window, and the rain is coming down like stair rods! There’s a howling wind and it’s suddenly dropped by about 10 degrees!! Whaaat?? It’s only a freak storm and it will surely blow over, but that’s just ruined your day – you quickly get on the WhatsApp group and ask the other lads what they’re thinking and they quickly come back to say it’s not raining where they are, and they’re still good to go. OK – grab a rain jacket and some over shoes and we’ll persevere.
You go to the garage to get the bike. You’d checked it the night before, all was good. You’ve gone this morning and that 3 day old, £75 tubeless tyre you’ve put on because you’re fed up of punctures… has got a puncture!!! That’s it, you’ve had it, shut the door (slam it so hard it nearly falls off the hinges) storm in the house, rip off the jersey (that’s another one you need), kick off the shoes, skids along the floor, flips up off the dog bowl into the glass cabinet and knock the best crystal wear on the kitchen floor…
So let’s rewind – you’re all set for this ride, but it’s in your mind what will make it perfect, only the best prepared can overcome set backs. If you prepare for the worst, anything better is a bonus right?
So what if the shorts aren’t ‘quite’ as comfortable- let’s be fair, after 5 or 6 hours, which shorts truly are? The weather, well who can do anything about the weather? Yes there are those perfect days – those epic days where the miles just dissolve, the kind you never want to end, but if you really look back – how many have there been where the weather is that perfect? Unless of course you live somewhere like Majorca or some beautiful village in the south of France – and the bike, well that’s just Sod’s law. Fair enough punctures are the bain of any cyclists life, but they happen to the best of us. Granted, tubeless tyres are a bit of a faff, but all you needed to do was drop the WhatsApp group a message and let them know your predicament, chances are they’ll even come to you and help you get it sorted. It really isn’t that bad, but that’s easy for me to say.
You’ve got yourself so wound up, agitated and stressed, in fact you even snap at anyone that asks what’s up, and the rest of the day is going to be just as bad, because you didn’t overcome the obstacles and you know you should have.
So what’s the point of this story? Well, I look at it like this, if you want to succeed in anything, you’ve got to be prepared to take on the obstacles that stand in your way. It’s kind of metaphorical, but a flat tyre is simply a tyre that needs inflating. We all need a bit of air sometimes, a bit of a lift, some much needed inflation. That inflation, could be called inspiration or motivation – but to assimilate, it’s just like blowing up a tyre. If we blow up the tyre, we can ride the bike. If we can ride the bike, we can go somewhere different. To be able to go somewhere on a bike, we have to put in effort. By putting in effort, we release endorphins in our brain, when we get to where we’re going – we feel accomplished, and we want to do it again, and again, and feel that same euphoria.
Point is, if you’d had the strength and the determination to overcome all those obstacles which stacked against you on that horrible day, you would have come out feeling accomplished, but the reality of it is, there’s probably more to it than that. There’s probably some underlying issues that make the slightest little thing seem so hard to overcome even you can’t see the way out – and it just gets worse and worse, until we haven’t the courage or strength to even comprehend what’s happening. We need help, but we aren’t beyond helping. The tools are there, we just need to work out which ones work for the task at hand.
Now I’m not a counsellor – but I’ve learned to know the signs. I’ve found cycling to be my salvation – but I also procrastinate on many an occasion. As much as I know deep down that if I ‘Just Do It’ just for an hour, I’d feel so much better, more focused and able to make sense of some of what the other underlying problems are. But to make myself get the bike out when everything seems stacked against me, is sometimes the hardest job of the day.
Just Do It – and if you need someone to motivate you, give me a shout…
So this time last week we had practically just arrived at Greenwich University after a gruelling 12hrs and 50 minutes in the saddle…
Well actually, (dare I say it) it wasn’t that bad!! Yes it was still 200 miles, yes it was almost 5000ft of climbing and yes the time it took was as near as damn it, 13 hrs – but looking back now, it wasn’t soooo bad, in fact it was absolutely awesome, so much so, I can’t wait to get on with planning the next challenge.
I remember completing my first century ride (miles not kilometres) and the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment I felt when finishing. We then went on to complete a 114 mile ride, then a 120 and in May this year, I completed a 140+ mile ride followed closely by the 200 mile ride this month.
This wasn’t the first time I’d ridden in London City Centre though. No I remember being at a Entomopathogenic Nematodes Innovation Development meeting at Imperial College London (more on that another time) around 4 or 5 years ago. It was a hot summers day and I needed to get across town for my train back to Grimsby. London is always busy as anyone knows, but the cycling infrastructure is fantastic – and I think largely we have BoJo and Sadiq Kahn for that. I borrowed a Boris bike and loaded a map on my phone and I was off. I was absolutely exhilarated to think I was actually riding a bike through the busy streets of London – another tick box!
They aren’t the most comfortable of things to ride but they do work well and if your on a flying visit to the Big Smoke, then honestly, grab a bike and enjoy – I highly recommend cycling around the great parks.
Yes that’s us, 13.5 hours after setting off from Cleethorpes we’d made it to Greenwich, to the top of the hill – and what a stunning view it is. The ride from there to the hotel seemed insignificant really. We’d done 188 miles to this point, what was another 12 miles between friends?
On the way down – (just look how incredibly straight that route is!) we stopped at exactly half way, in a little town called March. That was the first stop of the day really, 94 miles – but I was beginning to think someone had moved March into April or May as it seemed to be ‘nearly there’ for many, many miles.
A special mention needs to go to Jamie here though, his previous longest ride prior to this was just over 70 miles, so to exceed that and still be only half way through this ride was some achievement! Bravo that man…
So after good feed it was onward toward Cambridge….
Now anyone from Lincolnshire and who Cycles, will know that despite the rumours, not all of Lincolnshire is flat. Lots of it is, but there are a few lumpy parts known as the Lincolnshire Wolds thrown in the locality just to mix things up a bit. The wolds aren’t exactly the Pyrenees or The Alps, but they can be quite challenging as many of the roads are very little used, so the surfaces aren’t as good as they could be. Definitely enough to test any competent cyclists mettle. But we’d traversed the wolds, north to south and literally been spat out of it at the bottom having climbed approximately 1700ft. From there down to Cambridge, via Boston and the Fenlands, was largely flat – and windy, but when we reached Chatteris, it suddenly dawned on me that despite having covered what was probably 120 miles by this point, we still had around 3000ft of climbing to do!! Great! Tired legs, the sun was out in full force, but after a brief stop in Melbourn to refill the bottles and top up with fuel (flapjack and jelly babies) we hit the hills, and I remember telling my legs to shut up and enjoy the ride.
The pack split a little as we got onto a busy section of the A603 (I think) up a long crappy surfaced hill and over the top, and I missed the turn – quick spin around, back down the hill and I soon caught them back up again.
Those hills, the 3000ft, didn’t seem so bad in all fairness, they were largely rolling hills rather than long drawn out climbs, but when we got to the section known as Alpes de Huez, we were all ready for a nice cold beer.
We’d just about done it by this time, we could feel the Adrenalin surge and as we entered the cycle friendly zones of London, the pace slowed down quite a bit. Up until this point we were averaging close to 16.5 to 17mph – which over almost 170 miles is quite some going. It was good to give the legs a rest, despite the constant clip in, clip out in the traffic. I’ve even worn a hole in my shoe through touching the rear wheel, it was that bad! But that aside, it was an absolutely incredible day, stunning scenery, great weather, great company and a massive sense of achievement.
Cycling helps me deal with stress and anxiety, depression and worries. It keeps me focused on the immediate task (the ride) which stops me worrying and stressing about other issues. It helps me feel proud and accomplished, and it keeps me fit.
Of course, being able to ride longer distances hasn’t just happened, I’ve been lucky enough to have the time to do these fantastic rides and the wonderful support of an amazing wife. She knew I needed this – I needed these challenges to keep me focused on my journey – not just my cycling, but my life.
I’ll be eternally grateful to all those who have helped me to get to where I am, and my next challenge is to turn this love of all things cycling into a career, and if I can ask you for your support and encouragement whilst I continue my journey, I would be most grateful.
Humberston Cycles and The Humber Cycliatrist, came about as a bit of a hobby to start with. Fixing and servicing bikes for myself and friends and family. Then my Instagram and Facebook pages started to grow, and in March 2021 I decided to extend my services and offerings.
I’m planning on putting together some organised, long distance challenge, group rides. The kind of thing us like minded cyclists will take part in to support one another and encourage one another through. They won’t be time trials or races or competitions of any sort, simply put, they will be challenging rides that people can aspire to complete. They will be pay to take part type rides (I need to earn a living!) but I (we) will be doing all the planning and organisation. All you’ll need to do is bring your gear and a bike and enjoy the ride.
The first trial ride I’m organising is a Tower to Tower ride from Grimsby to Blackpool on the 27th August. I’ve got 4 possible riders taking part so far and will be taking maximum groups of 8. It will likely include a one night stop over in Blackpool with several options on getting back. More details on the Humberston Cycles Facebook page Here
I’m a bit of a late comer to the cycling scene, in fact I’m probably what you’d call a complete beginner compared to some, but, the point is; no matter how beginner or amateurish it might be – I simply love cycling and anything to do with bikes for that matter…
So, a bit more about me then. Why the ‘Humber Cycliatrist’? Well it all started a few (well more like 13) years ago – when I met my wife to be. I was a very unhealthy, 30 something, ex smoker and heavy drinker. The odds were stacked against me, but following a traumatic separation earlier that year – I embarked on a new journey with a wonderful lady who saw something in me that was worth a chance!! (She too is a little crazy)…
I’d gone to the Doctors to transfer my records from my old town of Castleford, West Yorkshire – yes, I stand out like a sore thumb here in Great Grimsby – and after the routine MOT, a very pleasant lady nurse turns and says in a very un reassuring tone; ‘Are you feeling OK Mr Stobart?’
‘Yes, best I’ve felt in years’ says me, ‘In fact I’m literally on top of the world at the moment!’
‘Ok’ says the nurse, ‘we’ll give it five minutes and we’ll take your blood pressure again – maybe it’s just the excitement of coming in!’
Hmmm – I’d never had this kind of thing happen before. What is high blood pressure, what does it mean? I knew Dad had high blood pressure but it never really bothered him, so why should I be concerned? Oh, it’ll be fine, it’s just cos I was a bit late getting here surely. Or was it, maybe all those late nights drinking and smoking had started to take their toll. Maybe I was not going to live a long and happy life, what if?….
And round and round the thoughts went, I was supposed to be calming down – not getting more stressed, but back came the nurse. Took another reading and would you believe it – higher still. She continues to tell me that if it stayed this high, I was borderline having a stroke and that if it wasn’t lower by the 3rd reading, she would have to call an ambulance, it was that serious!!
Arrgghhh!!! My God what was going on, I was beginning to wish I hadn’t set foot in the place – I was fine this morning. But that’s what they say, it’s the silent killer – so very often goes undetected. Anyway, long story short, they didn’t blue light me to Diana Princess of Wales Hospital, but they did put me on BP medication and I’ll now be in them for the rest of my life. So the moral of that story is – GET YOUR BP CHECKED!!
So anyway, there we were enjoying life, suddenly scared out of my wits and I decided that it was time to do something about my relatively poor health. So started to look for a bike…
Now until this point I probably hadn’t even crossed a crossbar in 20 years – let alone turned a pedal. The advent of the MAMIL had been joked about and even I couldn’t imagine myself in what was effectively a leotard!! So I kind of opted for the easy way out – I bought myself a Cube Hybrid bike, a triple ring, multi purpose, get about kind of bike. Bikes had changed so much since I last had one and I couldn’t imagine riding a drop bar, skinny tyred road bike just yet – especially since I had a bad back and ruined shoulders and neck problems.
My biggest goal secretly at this point was to be able to ride to Cleethorpes and back – from Scartho!! All of 12 miles perhaps at most – but it seemed monumental back then – and I’m sure it was, but I remember the very buzz I got from achieving this and reaching this milestone, and that was it – my cycling journey had begun.
I began to think about where I’d like to be able to ride to, how far would it be great to go, what could I go and see that I couldn’t see by car or by foot. And bit by bit, my horizons got wider and more distant.
No longer did I look at it in a ‘I can’t do that’ kind of approach, instead I looked at it as a ‘how can I achieve that.’ Don’t get me wrong, there’s been a few ups and downs along the way. Procrastination, illnesses, tragedy, injuries, job losses, but I actually think now that all these set backs make me come back stronger and even more determined.
When I first moved to Lincolnshire, I knew very few people and one of the first things I did was join an organisation called Round Table. It was a kind of young men’s club and part of being a Tabler saw us doing group challenges etc. I remember someone suggesting a ride around Dalby Forest – wow, that would be awesome!! Where is it, how far and how do we get there? We drove, camped and hired bikes, I thought that I was getting fitter having now been the owner of a bike for 6 months – and it wasn’t what I’d call then, a cheap bike, but I was wrong – very wrong!! Dalby Forest is a Mountain Biking Mecca and I was seriously out of my depth here… I was absolutely exhausted, so much so, I actually thought I was going to have a heart attack!! I had scared myself silly and felt quite stupid, needless to say, when we got home – I drove straight to local bike shop and traded in said ‘not cheap’ bike for a very ‘NOT Cheap’ bike (didn’t tell the Mrs at this stage)
What a great bike that was – I’d begun to explore far more tracks and off road routes and literally tried to get myself lost, and quickly learned my way around most of off road North East Lincolnshire and East Lindsey, but I still hadn’t ventured into road biking – was I fit enough?
I bought the Cinelli off a friend who had upgraded and immediately entered a road bike Sportive – 42 miles of razor seat, Butt numbing road riding!! I was again in complete agony!! The bike was a great bike don’t get me wrong, but it just wasn’t the bike for me, so it had to go. Along came another, my first and last full carbon bike from Planet X – again, bought from a friend – and what a bike that was, but again just didn’t quite fit me. Neck problems, back problems. I was Ok for anything up to say 40 miles but then unbearable knife like pain which pretty much turned me off road riding for a while.
I swapped and changed mountain bikes and traded my Cube Stereo for a Cyclocross bike (which I’ve still got) and a superb Vitus Sentier, but the desire to ride road comfortably git the better of me and I set about looking again.
I got the opportunity to start to ride with lots of different people in different groups, with different abilities and the one common thing we all had, was we all had a story to tell and friendship to share about our own cycling journey.
When I started riding bikes again after all those years, I never for a minute thought that I would be able to pedal for 100 miles. 50 miles was a mega achievement for me, but I did! In fact I’ve now lost count of the number of 100 mile rides I’ve done – in fact this year I’ve managed 100+ mile rides every month since February and within those rides I’ve smashed my longest distances 3 times!! With my latest ride (at the time of writing) being 200 miles in a shade under 13 hrs – truly epic ride!!
So my point is this – this is my journey, my love of cycling has helped to define me – helped me beat my demons and my blog is going to be about sharing those rides, those experiences – the pain and the exhilaration along the way, because subliminally, whether we ride or not, we are all on a journey – the only thing that differentiates us is how we navigate that journey.
I’m not suggesting for one minute that everyone should ride 100 miles – I’m not suggesting that everyone should ride at all, unless you want to – it helped me, but what I do hope to do is help others work out for themselves, where or what their journey is. Where their path leads – what they want to accomplish, who with and how.
I’ve done some amazing things in my life, I’ve seen incredible places, met amazing people and been inspired by many others. I’ve experienced things I have no idea how I got involved in but all the while, these experiences have made me who I am, and as long as I am able – I will continue to push the boundaries that exist only in my mind.
I hope you enjoy, and remember – you are only limited by the limits you put on yourself.