On 23rd December, I joined a group of 30 cyclists riding from the Western-most point of England to the Eastern-most point of England – Land’s End to Lowestoft. The total mileage was more than 450 – an epic effort in just three days. It was the brainchild of Daniel Hughes – an adventurer aiming to raise £1 million for comic relief as he puts the first red nose on top of Mount Everest next year. His website is here if you’d like to support him.
I joined in for the final day – a mere 120 miles from the capital to the coast. With a tailwind, dry weather and lovely flat roads, it was a walk in the park compared to the 175 mile and 161 mile rides the team had done in the two days previous, with hills and rain to contend with. Hats off to them all – they showed amazing strength and stamina, especially as when I met them they were recovering from just 5 hours sleep, having arrived in London after midnight the night before!
The ride was nothing like I’d ever done before. In the handful of times I’ve ridden that distance it’s always been a meandering ride along country lanes, at my own pace, carrying all my luggage with me on my trusty steed: a solid steel Ridgeback tourer. This was fully supported, with the peleton riding between two cars to control the traffic. Bringing up the rear were two vans and a minibus full of kit. Everyone else had super-light carbon road bikes, with no luggage in sight. My D-lock alone weighed more.
We set off. Initially I worried – would I be able to keep up? The team would be pushing 20mph for the entire ride – could I cope for that long? We joined the A12 out of London, our convoy protecting us from the vehicles that shot past at 70mph. I had been apprehensive when I’d looked at the proposed route – couldn’t we have taken the parallel road to the A12, just to stay away from the traffic? A lot quieter and less smelly there. But after a while I saw the sense in it: we were cycling the final 120 mile leg of a 450 mile bike ride – scenery was not the most important thing. For these guys, they just wanted to get there. At least we had an entire lane to ourselves on the dual carriageway – had we been on the country roads we would have been constantly in the way of passing traffic, which would possibly have been more dangerous. We received plenty of toots of support as drivers leaned out of their windows to give us the thumbs-up, shaking their heads at this crazy group of cyclists hammering up the dual carriageway.
Through Romford, Chelmsford and Colchester, we stopped for snacks after each 30 mile mark. “Well done!” one of the group said to me. “I thought we’d lose you but you’re doing great.” By the time we reached Ipswich it was pitch black, the final 20 miles to Lowestoft being ridden in the dark. We pressed on to Lowestoft Ness, the area of the docks that marks the most easterly point on mainland Britain. The sea roared in the darkness and we collapsed in front of the compass marker for the photo call, 11 hours after we’d set off.
No, not my usual type of ride, but I loved it – pushing yourself physically is always rewarding, especially when you can look back and marvel at how far it’s possible to cycle in one day. And the other people on the ride were great – people from all walks of life joining together to spend their weekend pedalling for a good cause.
I sincerely wish Daniel the best of luck in his challenge, and hope he can reach his target of raising £1 million. Go here to donate!