Could I be any more excited about going for a bike ride?!?
London Edinburgh London : my family are sick of hearing about it. It has been five years since I first thought of doing this great British audax event, and four years since the 2013 edition when I volunteered at a control in Thirsk. For the last twelve months my wife has stoically refused to be drawn on conversation about how to train, what bike to take, what to pack, what start time to try for, what bag drops to select… my conversation for the past month has lacked diversity.
For the uninitiated: On the 30th July I will be joining over 1,500 cyclists from at least 54 countries who are united in the goal of cycling from London to Edinburgh and back to London. The route is 1,441km long – 895 miles in old money. The road goes up too – Everest may be 8,848m but we’ll climb 11,128m – mainly in the north sections of the route. Some of the riders have a time limit of 100 hours. Others, like me, have 117 hours to complete the distance.
If you’d like to track my progress, follow this link: TRACKING then enter my rider number and surname… Y30 and Holdsworth. I leave London at 12:30pm on Sunday 30th July 2017. I hope to have reached Edinburgh by Tuesday lunchtime and be back in London by Thursday afternoon. I have until Friday morning to get back. 895 miles in four days. What could possibly go wrong?
So – what has gone wrong so far?
- Three months ago I began to suffer from joint pain which has occasionally prevented me from walking. Diagnoses have included rheumatoid arthritis, gout, sprain and ‘there’s nothing wrong with you man’ (from one doctor)… currently I’m feeling okay but always conscious that I might hurt my wrist or ankle.
- My bike: I’ve flipped back and forth between using a light and stiff carbon bike or the long and strong titanium touring bicycle. Both are comfortable, but in the end the joint pain convinced me that the touring comfort was more important than speed. The Spa Cycles Tourer was chosen.
- Pain stopped me riding a 300km ‘Beyond the Dales We Know’ event.
- Special mentions go to Harry Rowland for building me two perfect wheels – especially when the rear hub on my tourer failed and left me with 60km of ‘fixed gear’ riding to do.
- Another special mention to Vive le Velo in North Ferriby, who replaced a headset that had suffered from one too many winters.
- The biggest of special mentions to Brooks England though. With one week to go, the tensioning bolt on my B17 leather saddle snapped – under warranty they sent me a new bolt the next day.
- Then yesterday, fitting two brand new 700×32 Marathon Supreme tyres and inflating them – I managed to make the front tyre explode off the rim and split the inner tube down its length.
- Finally, when cleaning my bike I spotted two exposed cables and wrapped them with tape to protect them from the forecast rain. This simply shorted them out and stopped my lights working altogether. I’ve now redone that job properly with heat shrink tubing.
There have been successes in training though: I did complete twelve months of audaxing – riding at least one 200km randonneur event every month. I did some crazy start time rides: 300km starting at 1am, and 400km starting at 4pm: both of these helped me to understand how I feel and respond to riding while tired.
Despite all that I’ve put into this event; the long cold dark bike rides, the money in getting things fixed, the thought processes and the sheer boredom I’ve inflicted on my family and friends – despite all this, success still rides on factors beyond my control.
- There is family life: are the most significant people in my life going to be okay?
- There is not just trained fitness – there is health fitness: a stomach bug could easily wipe out four years of preparation in one go.
- There is mental fitness: the experience – or perhaps the optimistic naivete that all shall be well.
- The bike: a whole sub set of ‘things that could go wrong’ and I honestly hope that this has already happened. New tyres / new headset / new rear wheel / new cables and brake blocks… a complete service from top tube to bottom bracket.
- We’re predicted a proper British summer: wind and rain and sun in equal measure.
- There will be 50 riders setting off every 15 minutes from 6am to 4pm: this brings with it the potential for collision chaos. 54+ countries, many of them will not drive on the left.
I think I’m ready: so with a prayer for God’s blessing I’m setting off. There is a reasonable chance that I might succeed: I hope that my next blog entry will be a story of a journey from London to Edinburgh, and back again.