Saturday, 17 March 2012

S2S Report

Did I complete my bike ride from Scotland to Suffolk? Well, yes, almost.

Sunday 11 March - Train journey from Suffolk to Edinburgh. Arrived at 4.22pm. Rode to Mortonhall Camp site on the southern edge of the the city - 6 miles of potholed city roads avoiding buses and cars. Bought a Chinese take-away. Arrived after the site staff went home.  Set up tarp using the upturned the bike as a ridge and settled down for an early night. Very windy but dry night.

Monday 12 March - Early start into a light head wind. Followed A7 and A68 to Galashiels, my expected second stop over. Decided to go on to Jedburgh. TIC advised me of a small camp site called Jedwater about 3 miles south -about 45 miles today. I was the only camper as the site had not officially opened. Cold but dry night.

Tuesday 13 March - Another early start heading SE again towards the Scottish border. Steep, dramatic climb to the border but then a long downhill ride into England. Very undulating road - tiring. The brisk southwesterly wind caused further discomfort often hitting me in the face. Booked into the attractive Wheatsheaf Hotel in the centre of Corbridge - about 45 miles today. Again, I was the only person staying.

Wednesday 14 March - Left after a Full Monty. Undulating road through foothills. Took slightly longer detour towards Durham to avoid further hill riding. Booked into B&B in southern part of Darlington - about 50 miles. Repaired a puncture to rear tyre. The new 'puncture resistant' tyres could not cope with a 1" nail! Quiet night but woken by an owl at 4.00am.

Thursday 15 March - Took the A167 towards Northallerton then the A19 to York - 50 miles of flatter riding. Booked into the old-fashioned Greenview Guest House, 10 minutes walk from the northern edge of the old city walls - again the only customer. Starting to feel like Billy No Mates.

Friday 16 March - York to Lincoln via Selby and Gainsborough. Long day through fairly flat countryside - 73 miles today. Spent the early evening with Jess including a huge burger each. Weather forecast predicting rain and more wind over the next few days so I decided to call it a day. It would not be enjoyable riding through Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk under these conditions so booked a train ticket from Lincoln to Stowmarket.

Saturday 17 March - 12.23 train from Lincoln, arriving home at 4.00pm - approx 125 miles. The ride from Stowmarket to home was only 4 miles but it was in a cold, driving rain - horrible. My decision to abort was the right one.

Conclusion - Of a total distance of just short of 400 miles, I cycled about 273 miles, an average of about 55 miles per day. I had set myself the challenge to cycle from Scotland to Suffolk aiming to average about 40 miles a day and that, crucially, it should be enjoyable. I knew it would not be fun in the true sense of the word and I told myself it was not a competition so I would not need to rush from one place to another. Until I reached Lincoln, all was going well but it was really the weather that stopped play. I felt the forecasted wind and rain would not be enjoyable so I decided to complete the last 125 miles or so by rail. The rain arrived during the train journey and the final ride from the Station to home was very unpleasant indeed.

What did I enjoy most? All the people I met were friendly and interesting; on the trains, in the B&B's, in the pubs and shops. I enjoyed the countryside in the Borders - much more dramatic than the flatter countryside to the south. I enjoyed my stop-over with Jess. I enjoyed the overall challenge and, even though I did more miles each day than I planned, I don't think I'd pushed myself too hard. I enjoyed eating high carb/calorie foods (pasties, pizzas, chocolate, chinese, nut bars, etc) to keep my energy levels up.

What didn't I enjoy? Far too much roadside litter. Potholes. Poor road surface. Broken tarmac around drain covers. Cycle ways that start then disappear for no reason. Some drivers passing too close. The constant head wind. Aching leg muscles. I didn't lose any weight (the pasties and beer probably didn't help). And finally, it wasn't all down hill as most people had told me.

Would I do it again? Yes but it would not be the same.

So what would I change? It would be more enjoyable if the ride were a bit shorter, say, 100 - 150 miles with only 2 or 3 stopovers. The route could also be made more interesting by following, say, a coastal route. It would be better a little later in the year but outside the spring/summer holidays to get warmer,dryer weather - maybe April May, June or September.

Would I camp, B&B or do both? I enjoy camping (especially ultra-light wild camping) but carrying a tarp, sleeping bag and mat does increase the weight you have to carry. B&Bs are fairly cheap at the moment (about £30 -50pppn) so are well within grasp. Doing a bit of both is certainly possible, as I did, but the novelty of carrying camping gear when it's only used a few times starts to wear thin after a while. So it really comes down to balancing your aims and objectives against weight and cost. In future, if I go out of season I would opt for B&B unless cost really did preclude it. For the warmer periods, I would favour camping with an odd B&B just to freshen up.

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