On Saturday, in the midst of the Armed Forces Day events around the UK, a friend and I got up early, pulled on our cycling gear and headed out to register for the start of our very first sportive. It all sounded very nice, 100km (62 miles) around the Kent countryside on largely very traffic free lanes with the odd climb and some far too infrequent and over-to-soon descents. The weather was good, up until the 55 mile mark and then the heavens opened. And stayed open for about 30 minutes. Fortunately I knew we were near to a petrol station so we took shelter on the forecourt before heading back out for the last 7 mile stretch.
It really was a good, enjoyable, incredibly well organised and worthwhile achievement. Overall the event raised about £10,000 for Help for Heroes. And despite being soaked to the skin we both finished with smiles on our faces.
Here we are at the halfway point at the Railway Inn in Sole Street (post pint, which is apparently the RIGHT way to re-hydrate!)
And it really was quite an achievement for both of us. It was the longest single ride I had done since last September, and the longest my friend had ever done (having made it to around 18 miles in training). We both felt a bit separate from everyone else who were 99% fairly new road bike riding, lycra-clad and (seemingly) dedicated cyclists – but an absolutely lovely bunch. We were on 20 year old refurbished mountain bikes and had carefully concealed our lycra cycling shorts underneath baggy shorts (although by the end I will admit to having ended up “full lycra” – everyone else was doing it and I just couldn’t help myself!). We could just about keep up on the climbs where the low gears were quite handy, but on the flat and the downhill sections we just couldn’t stick to their back wheels for very long – our legs simply couldn’t pedal fast enough on the smaller chainrings and smaller wheels. So although I think we probably came in dead last, I’m completely chuffed to bits that we made it at all. But let’s not overstate our achievement here though – three veterans did it on HAND BIKES! Sod that for a game of, well, soldiers I guess. Huge amount of respect for them.
Everyone who passed us said hello, if they saw us at the side of the road having a drink they checked that everything was ok and they were all, to a person, thoroughly decent folk.
You can still donate via Just Giving by following this link – All money raised is going to Help for Heroes.
This does, however, raise some important questions about the John O’Groats to Lands End ride (in less than a month!). We managed an average speed of about 10 mph on a one day 62 mile journey. The longest day of the JOGLE is 151 miles – and I have to keep getting up in the morning and doing it again, and again. If I’m going to try it on the refurbished Carerra 01, I’m gonna need to make some changes. The saddle for starters and a set of wider riser bars (preferably with bar ends so I can adjust my position a bit). And I’m gonna need to lose some weight, so I’m going to go through the kit in the next couple of days and shed some kilos where I can.
I also need to do some serious training and get that average speed up a bit. The days are about 15 hours long, I really don’t want to be cycling in the dark, but equally I will need to have the odd break and trimming the daily times down is only going to be achieved by getting the average speed up.
On the other hand, the bike performed really well. The gear cables stretched a little and needed adjusting halfway round, but the brakes were fine, even in the wet, the wheels and tires took everything the Kent roads could throw at them and the shifters, simple and cheap though they might be, worked without a hitch.
So, 21 days to go and a lot of training to do! The alarm is set for 6am… Urgh.