I had this preconceived idea of what bicycle based adventures would be like before I’d even done one. I dreamt of freedom, 100s of miles of beautiful winding back roads and setting up my wild camp as the sun started to set. Before setting off on my first adventure I channeled my enthusiasm into riding a lot, getting fitter; and spent many evenings making my own tent to spend the night in. I wanted to cycle Lands End (South West England) to John O’groats (North East Scotland), and I wanted to do 100 miles a day with wild camping every night (wild camping is not technically legal in England where most of the journey would take place).
I was not adverse to buying a nice lightweight tent, I just couldn’t afford the ones I wanted. All I wanted was a small lightweight tent, something around 1kg. Less material should mean less money, but we all know that’s not how things work; less is often so much more! So whilst I wouldn’t be able to come up with something of professional quality, making it myself would keep it within my tiny budget and I also had a few ideas about saving excess weight, it all made perfect sense at the time. This is the story of the homemade tent, to act as a warning to many and inspiration to the brave – 900 miles with a homemade tent. Continue reading →
It has become increasingly apparent over the last few years, that Yorkshire is a bit special when it comes to cycling. Having grown up in the North York Moors National Park, I have to say that I did just find the relentless and ridiculously steep hills quite hard work. It is only now, as a passionate and travelled cyclist, that I appreciate how unique the terrain is back in North Yorkshire.
I have put together a little route as a great introduction to North Yorkshire cycling. Download the file for your Garmin (other navigation systems are available) from the links below. Continue reading →
Cycling the majority of the Wild Atlantic Way, from Cork to the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. Here are some of the highlights of the 1089 mile journey:
You can’t visit Ireland and not drink a few pints of the black stuff. Apparently it’s for strength and it’s good for you. I drank a few of these along the way and I made it to the end, so it didn’t hinder my progress too much.
The West Coast of Ireland (Wild Atlantic Way), a wild and rugged coastline, battered and eroded by huge waves and driving storms. Littered with islands, lighthouses and wildlife. There is certainly plenty to see here: whales, dolphins, puffins, 20,000 gannets, you can even go looking for Luke Skywalker (I didn’t manage see him on my boat trip to the Skelligs).
The landscape of this coastline has been shaped by its weather, and in my opinion the unpredictability of the weather actually adds something to the excitement of cycling here. Continue reading →
There were many things that I worried about in preparation for my 1000+mile cycling trip around Ireland. My trusty Tubus steel rack was looking a little worse for wear after five winters of commuting, so was promptly upgraded to a corrosion resistant titanium one. I had a last minute panic to replace the rear derailleur hours before I set off because it was a bit stiff and not changing properly, an issue that just days ago I thought would be fine with the help of some WD40. Continue reading →
“Do you fancy doing a 24 hour race in Italy?” Just sounded like a better experience than “are you doing the crit on Tuesday night? looks like it might rain”. Not that I had to choose between one or the other, but I personally needed something a bit more exotic to inspire me to keep cycling/training through the depths of the British winter. The Castelli 24 Ore (hour) race in Feltre, Italy; on the edge of the Dolomites national park, is a criterium race run on a 1.9km circuit in the centre of the city. The race runs for 24 hours and can be ridden either solo or as part of a team (8 – 12 people). Continue reading →
If you had to show one of your oldest cycling friends one route to show off the best of your local National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, what would you include? It had better be good to make it worth them travelling over for, and there had better be some cake stops and a pub lunch! Hills bring stunning views and descents, and we’d want some tight twisting descents as well as epic fully tucked charges. This varied route through the North of the Peak District National Park is littered with reservoirs and takes in what could arguably be one of the best bits of tarmac in the whole country: Tarmac initially laid for the Tour De France Grand Depart (but with the entire 16km section of Mortimer road now being freshly laid and unbelievably smooth). Continue reading →
There is something special about your first Alpine pass. The moment you experience the scale of the challenge, dwarfing all those local neighbourhood climbs you once feared. Climbing in dense cloud I was oblivious to the scale of the challenge throughout, as I couldn’t see the summit at any point, but that didn’t detract from the experience. This is the story of my first mountain pass, the Sustenpass in Switzerland, a Hors Catégorie climb (“beyond categorization” or incredibly difficult). I should point out that I knew nothing at all about the climb prior to attempting it, it was just in the way, and going around it didn’t look to be an option. Continue reading →
Christmas is here and we’re supposed to put our feet up, eat a lot and have a drink or 2. This enforced break from work also gives plenty of time to reflect on your year, and plan for next. A few days of sitting around talking to friends and family and the relaxed mind starts to form new ideas and new challenges. A few drinks with old friends can turn into a sportive/race/challenge recruitment drive followed by a drunken bet and before you know it you’re looking at the cost of flights or ferries and checking out google maps. Welcome the excitement of planning adventures. Continue reading →
The infamous Chimney bank, often referred to as the steepest or joint steepest road in England (Not Wales they have a steeper 40% climb). The internet is full of comments about chains snapping on the way up and professional cyclists having to walk up it during the tour of Britain/milk race. If you’re oblivious to all this there is no ignoring the very obvious sign at the top warning of a “Dangerous Hill” and politely requesting that cyclists dismount to descend it. There is however no direct warning about cycling up it, the sign stating that it is a 1 in 3 hill should be warning enough to most. Continue reading →
“Oh you’re heading North? Over the Sognefjellsvegen? Wow, Good luck!” the man said, as I borrowed some change for the showers at the camp site. I’m just over 540km into my journey (not yet half way), and tomorrow I’ll ride the highest mountain pass in Northern Europe. In 36 degree heat; carrying all my camping kit, cooking equipment, food and clothes more suited to typical Norwegian weather than the record breaking temperatures I’m sweltering in. Continue reading →
The American accent cuts through the conversations on Bedoin’s main street, it’s early evening and the restaurant’s outside seating is full of diners in full conversation. “Have you rode up the mountain yet?” I overhear, “We rode up this afternoon” the American voice proclaims. They are a retired couple from America, in their late 60s, touring Europe and they had Mont Ventoux on their to do list. The giant of Provence seems to captivate the attention of so many as a cycling mountain, not just cyclists either, but anybody young and old who wants to challenge themselves. The array of people who attempt this mountain, on all manner of bicycles from basic mountain bikes to serious road bikes, is really something to behold. Continue reading →
We arrived in the early afternoon and set about finding a hotel for the coming night. It was going to be a flying visit, a single ascent of Alpe d’Huez followed by a refreshing shower and some dinner. The village of Bourg d’Oisans lies at the foot of the legendary alp and after a quick walk around town we settled on the Hotel Des Alpes on the main pedestrianised street. The hotel looks to be in the process of a renovation, the deluxe rooms being nicely finished but the rest of the hotel and standard rooms looking a little unloved and out dated (the owners are friendly and a room is provided for bike storage in the basement).
There wasn’t time for lunch so I stuffed down an energy bar whilst assembling my bike in the car park, and prepared to see what all the fuss is about this “legendary alp”. First impressions were that it looked pretty unspectacular, you can see the ski resort from the valley roads and it didn’t look all that far away. The statistics also didn’t sound that bad: 1118m elevation gain, from 742m to 1860m and an average gradient of 8.1%. That all sounded quite acceptable when reading it on paper, so just what made this worthy of the Hors catégorie status? After all it’s far from the longest or the highest climb in the area. Continue reading →