Here’s a quick round-up of 2013’s adventures on the velocipedes.
On January 1st 2013 I set myself the target of reaching 4,000km by the end of the year, which would mean cycling more or less 333km each month, which is pretty much 11km each day of the year. Which doesn’t sound like much, but for every day of the year I didn’t cycle, I’d have to add another 11km to another day. During January, February, and March, I wasn’t cycling anywhere near the distance I needed to be in order to be on track for my December 31st target, but only had to remind myself that I had some big rides ahead of me over the summer and would easily catch it back up again. Apart from my 4,000km target, my main aims for 2013 were to cycle from London to Paris, to complete the Devon coast to coast twice in two days, and to ride 100 miles in one day.
June saw me complete the first of these rides, and I spent four of the most enjoyable days of my life cycling from central London down to Newhaven, across the Channel to Dieppe by ferry, and then along the Avenue Verte to Paris (click here for my London to Paris blogs). To say that I caught the touring bug would be a huge understatement, and I could quite happily have cycled off across Europe and not come back. A simple twist of fate (name that artist) saw me meet two other cyclists, Megan and Alice, while I was waiting to board the ferry in Newhaven, and we cycled together all the way to Paris. When I left for home, they carried on, spending the rest of the summer on the adventure I’d have loved to have been on myself. They ended up cycling down to Marseille, across the top of Italy and into Slovenia, then Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and back into France. In other words, the cycled around the Alps!
We’ve stayed in touch, and towards the end of October I visited London and met Megan and Alice in The Chandos just off Trafalgar Square. Despite having only got to know eachother for four days way back at the start of the summer, it was like meeting up with old friends. I hope we’ll stay in touch, and I’d love to be able to join them on another European adventure in the future. Had we met under any other set of circumstances, we almost certainly wouldn’t have become friends, but the common ground of a cycling tour united us, and it wouldn’t have been the same without them. And best of all, after meeting me their often-used acronym A.C.A.B (look it up) is now N.A.C.A.B, or even S.A.C.A.B, which doesn’t really make sense but made us laugh.
Just a couple of weeks after I got back from my London to Paris adventure, I was back on the road for another tour. I put the bike on the back of the car and headed down to the south-west, to attempt the Devon coast to coast. Handily my younger sister Rosie currently pitches her tent in a little place called Down Thomas on the south coast of Devon, which is right at the start point of the coast to coast route. So after spending a couple of days at Rosie’s, I headed off north, taking in Drake’s Trail, the Granite Way, and the Tarka Trail, on an incredible almost entirely traffic free 109 miles. The first day of the trip happened to be one of the hottest days of the year, and the heat combined with some ridiculously steep and seemingly never-ending hills, made for the toughest single day of riding I’ve ever completed.
I’d achieved my goal of cycling over 100 miles in a single day, but arrived at the campsite in Ilfracombe completely exhausted and accepted that there was no way I’d make it back down to the south coast in one go the following day. Instead, I enjoyed a far more sedate two-day ride back to Down Thomas, and overall it was a fantastic three days of cycling and camping that I’ll never forget, and would love to do again. Just not as quickly and not in 30 degree heat.
Clearly having failed to learn the lessons of the gruelling first day of the Devon coast to coast ride, I attempted another century ride early in September, which turned out to be the last really big ride of 2013. My friend Bret had never cycled 100 miles, so I devised a scenic route taking in the best of the Lincolnshire Wolds, and named it the ‘Wolds 100’. We’d originally planned to complete the ride one day late in August, but an illness which kept me in bed for three days ruined that plan. So early on the morning of September 4th Bret and I set off on what turned out to be a amazingly scenic 113 mile (182km) route around and across the Lincolnshire Wolds. We were treated to perfect cycling conditions, both in terms of the weather and the quiet, rural lanes with great views of the countryside, and Bret was over the moon to complete his first 100 mile ride.
And so, what lies ahead in 2014?
Well, I’ve got plenty more things I’d love to achieve on the bike, and have already got some adventures lined up in spring and summer in order to start ticking them off the list. 2014’s main trip will be a 1000km+ trip in June, from Caen on the north coast of France all the way down to Perpignan on the Mediterranean coast, followed by a week in the Pyrenees with the rest of the family, and then perhaps a bit more cycling up to Montpellier before catching a train back home.
I’m also hoping to cycle some of the North Sea Cycle Route, which is a 6000km route taking in the whole of the east coast of Great Britain, as well as Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway. Conveniently the route passes straight through Lincoln, so I’m going to complete the sections within a 4-day cycle north and south of here in preparation for my Mediterranean adventure.
Then there’s the traditional coast to coast route, which is a 140 mile route across the country from Whitehaven to Tynemouth, crossing both the Lake District and the Pennines. Also, having passed the magic 100 mile mark twice in 2013, I’m going to go all metric (the way things should be) and plan a 200km route, and try to cram that in somewhere between all the other cycling I’ve got planned.
And finally, I decided there was a big gap in my bike repairing knowledge when it came to straightening buckled wheels and replacing broken spokes, which would undoubtedly come to haunt me if I did nothing to fill the gap between now and my trip to France in June. So I’m in the process of building a new set of wheels for the tourer, and have just about finished the front wheel. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I’m now confident I’ve got the skills to repair my wheels if I knock one of them out of line or break a spoke in France, which is exactly what happened during my London to Paris ride. And here’s the (almost) finished product…
Roll on 2014. This year’s target? No idea! Given that I’ll cover 1000km in ten days in June alone, maybe 5000 or more by the end of the year. Watch this space…