Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Epic Ride

I'm always harping on about getting on and doing stuff. My favourite line is 'life is not a spectator sport' as I turn off the television. In the early 80's at the end of term, I jumped on my bike and attempted to ride from Dundee to Guisborough.  I was in the flush of youth and no doubt didn't think the whole thing through: 234 miles in a day is a little unrealistic. However, I did get to Berwick after the wheels fell off (not literally) at Coldstream. I like to dust off the story periodically when brinkmanship in the category of 'mental things I did', arises. It was still a misguided 126 mile effort. I hiked the rest of the way in the cab of a lorry with the bike in the back. Ah, those were the days.

This time around, 32 years later, I was up to my old tricks again. With a day off work, and the forecast good,  I checked out the train times and booked a ticket for £12 to Waverley. An hour and a half later, I was good to go and went. I had made some brief notes as to the route the previous night and knew I didn't want to ride on the A1 at any time. I had no cereal bars in the house, but there was a packet of Sainsbury's 5 oatmeal and raisin cookies. I went to get one, and then reconsidered... I took the whole packet.

I made good progress past Musselburgh and Cockenzie, but had my first run in with a blue corsa who thought it was good sport to try and accelerate past me at an island in the road. My language was blue, even as I saw the donkey pull in to the caravan park just past the pans, but I didn't stop for a spot of confrontation. Before I knew it I was asking for directions in Haddington but was soon moving on to East Linton and Dunbar with Traprain ahead of me. A sneaky wee climb around the front of it. I began to see sign posts for cycle route 76. I began to deviate a little from my notes in favour of the signs, not fully knowing the terrain that this route crossed. I began to wonder however, if this was a sensible strategy as it took me around the back of the Cement works and landfill site on a gravelly track. The new road bike was not designed for cross country and I prayed that I didn't get a puncture.

I had had a cookie going up in the train, then another after one hour and a third after two hours, where I had covered around 40 miles.

After getting back on the road at Torness, the route takes you down Pease Bay. The road was good, but it sure was lumpy as the road takes you up a short steep hill, then a long steep hill to the huge windfarm. I was still clipping along but short of juice. I knew I was getting a dehydrated and took a wrong turn arriving at Coldingham where I got some more directions and was soon back on course.
My fourth cookie came out and without water I was beginning to tire of the available victuals. However, I was pretty happy to have brought them.

I by-passed Berwick altogether and crossed the A1 to get to Spittal. I had ridden 65miles by then and knew I was in for a longer ride than anticipated. The track from Spittal to Goswick was very poor; alright I suppose if you had a mountain bike. A bloke out for a walk commented 'you don't want to take that bike on these tracks'.
 'Tell me about it', I said, relying on my cyclo cross experience to get me back on track at Holy Island. I had begun to follow signs for Cycle Route 1.

I knew I had to stop to refuel, so stopped at the first sign of civilisation, which was the Barn at Beal. Soup, cake, juice and tea. £9. and lots of free salt which I lathered onto everything.

After half an hour I was off again and moving well. There was a light wind coming in off the coast as I continued south past Bamburgh, Seahouses and Howick. My left tricep began to cramp a little, and then later both of them. My hands were a bit sore as well, but the legs happy as larry. I had ditched following the Cycle Route signs sometime around here.

It was now all plain sailing as reaching Alnmouth, I knew all the roads south of here. I stopped at Amble for some juice and as the early evening sun began to wane, I put the lights on and got to 'Peth after 8 hours of riding, 133 miles and 4500ft of climbing. Epic.

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