I completed my charity ride in aid of CAMDA yesterday. I’ve done a bit of a writeup and have photos which I need to get developed but I’ll scan and add them later. Because I didn’t get injured, I’ll definitely be riding the Dunwich Dynamo, a 120-mile night ride from London to the Suffolk coast on the 8/9th July, again for the same charity so please please sponsor me at www.justgiving.com/unicyclecoast2coast
Anyways, here it is:
I woke up at 5.30 at my place in Newcastle and went to gather the last few things I needed for the trip, including my bike pump, which wasn’t anywhere to be seen so I had to go without it. Not really a promising start but never mind. I got the train to Carlisle and changed to go to either Workington or Whitehaven. I ended up starting in Whitehaven because it looked cold outside in Workington and I couldn’t be bothered to get out of the nice warm train even though it’s 10 miles further that way. A passer-by took my picture in front of the harbour because I couldn’t find the beach for the obligatory wheel-dipping in the sea thing. I then realised I’d left my map at home and got directed to a bike shop a mile out of town to buy one, but it was closed down. I guess that wasn’t a great start but I brought it on myself by not planning ahead. Normally I’m quite organised but unicycle trips seem to make me this way – I’m the one pictured on the April Snowdon trip on the top in –15 windchill with shorts on so it’s nothing new unfortunately and my stupidity on these trips is something I’ll have to learn to live with.
The track out of Whitehaven for the first 7 miles or so was a disused railway, with a steady gradient which was great for keeping up with bkes on. There were a few dog walkers about and one small black dog decided to attack by running past me, turning round and running at me head on barking its head off kamikaze style. Fearing my first major unicycle roadkill, I had to bail out, kicking the unicycle off to the side where it carried on rolling into a hedge, with me landing flat on my arse. I got a nice bruise but was otherwise fine and carried on. The track turned onto minor roads, and you could see the hills of the Lake District looming ahead. It was really impressive but also quite scary since I’d only brought 125mm cranks so going up any major hills was going to be knee-snappingly hard. I started to regret not bringing the change of cranks as the roads got hillier and I struggled to keep going up some of them. On the plus side I flew past a lot of bkes on the uphills, the downside being I was knackered after a couple of hours. My previous best distance on a uncycle in a day was 15 miles so I shouldn’t have been surpised by this.
After about 3 hours I got to the first big descent after Lamplugh, which was the first time I’d used my new brake. I got down to Loweswater in one piece, but the brake didn’t work smoothly since the shoes were new and I nearly fell off over the front a few times. The scenery was really spectacular now, and you could see some massive hills in the distance. The road started to climb between some of them up towards the Whinlatter pass, which wasn’t too bad since I took the main road rather than the offroad bke track which looked too much like hard work. I stopped for coffee at the top and carried on down the main road into Keswick where I found a bke shop who were really helpful and gave me a free C2C map. It was mid-afternoon by now and I hadn’t got very far so I left Keswick in a hurry and followed the route along the river to Threlkeld, stopping for a few photos and to stretch since my legs hurt by now. The sun came out and the track became less hilly, as it followed the A66 for quite a long way. Instead of taking the official route into Penrith (which looked overly complicated and hilly) I decided to make one up which was probably further and hillier in the end but seemed like a good idea at the time. About 4 miles before Penrith my legs stopped working and I couldn’t make it up even relatively small hills so I decided to chicken out and book into a B&B for the night, blowing most of my budget for the trip.
I started at 8.30 next morning, flew through Penrith and up some pretty steep hills around Langwathby. The road got steeper and steeper towards Hartside, the biggest climb of the trip, which had been in view since late the previous afternoon. It’s basically a massive escarpment and there are no easy ways over it. The minor road bikes took got too steep, and I had to walk the last few hundred yards up to where it joined the main road. The last mile or so was on the main road, which had switchbacks and so a lesser gradient. It was great to ride this bit, and only one bloke on a racer overtook me and I overtook countless bkes struggling up in easy gears haha!
I stopped at the summit for a few photos and got given free coffee and biscuits from a group of cyclists who took pity on me. The road down took forever, and was probably harder than the uphill since by now I was really saddle-sore and my legs were killing. I made it into Garigill by about 3 and rested for a while there. The road up to Nenthead was another big pass, and far to steep to ride mostly, especially with the short cranks I had on. Most of the bkes walked it as well so I didn’t feel so bad. Two more massive uphills followed in the same style, and I rolled into Rookhope as it started to rain about 6pm. I didn’t have anywhere to stay and no plans except an emergency foil blanket and sleeping bag. I had planned to use these this night to grab a few hours sleep and get to Newcastle early in the morning but the rain made me realise this wasn’t such a great idea after all. Fortunately a friendly group of cyclists that I’d been talking to along the way offered to let me sleep in their minibus which was an absolute lifesaver. I went into the pub where they were staying and ate. There were loads of cyclists about and they all insisted on buying me drinks, which was really generous of them. Although it isn’t exactly the best thing for you, Stella really tastes fantastic when you’ve completely dehydrated.
Day 3 and 4
I got going about 8.30 again, this time with a slight hangover. It also was raining and as I walked up the dirt track over the moor the fog closed in and I could see 100 yards at most. This track seemed to go on forever with no signs and I started to get worried as the rain got heavier. A tarmac road eventually appeared, and I dropped down into a small village at the start of the Waskerly Way. The weather was still foul so I decided not to stop, and just get to Newcastle as quickly as possible. I pedalled as hard as I could against the wind and rain and was in Consett in no time, and carried on as quickly as I could along the Derwent Walk to the river Tyne. By this point my legs were getting quite painful, I was caked in mud and I almost collapsed walking up the stairs under Byker bridge behind my house. It was all worthwhile though, since I got back home in time to eat, get clean and watch the England match. I had intended to finish the ride after that but I couldn’t be bothered to go out into the cold and wet again so stayed in to watch Portugal play Holland. Two key Portuguese players banned for the quarter-finals against England. Result!
I finished off the last 11 miles to Tynemouth the next morning, but the end was a bit of an anticlimax, probably because I’ve cycled this bit so many times and should really have finished it off in 3 days but it was good to finish all the same.
One thing I noticed in the whole trip was how supportive all the cyclists were. I only got told “you’ve lost a wheel mate” two times I think. Most of them were just amazed somebody was unicycling that far and were really happy to see me. The best comment I got on the whole trip was right near the end in Newcastle. One bloke told me with an air of authority that “You’ll never get very far on that mate.” For some reason I didn’t feel the need to answer that one!