Archive for the ‘Diary Entry’ Category

Day 3 – Tiverton to Chepstow

June 6, 2007

Mike: People have said Day 3 is the hardest. In some ways I agree although not through the fatigue perspective, more from the 86 miles all into the wind, which included a few 8% hills which were more than 3 miles long.

We started in Tiverton, and were not looking forward to more of yesterday’s hills.  We were pleasantly surprised by miles and miles of almost flat road (busy dual carriageway but we cant have everything).

There were a few hills between Wellington and Taunton but we progressed to Highbridge in plenty of time for lunch.  We got there, found a bike shop, got Derek’s bike fixed (Derek will say more) and met with Phil and Maddy (wifey).  We rode on to Burnham on Sea and had Fish & Chips on the beach.  Phil got himself in trouble by walking down the beach to the “sea”.  The lifeguard was then promptly on his megaphone telling him to come away from the water.

This afternoon’s journey from Burnham to Chepstow was a long haul but we arrived by 6.30 to a small welcoming committee

In terms of stats, we averaged 13 miles per hour, which considering the wind was okay.  My bike computer went a bit haywire and told me that my max speed was 934 mph (I think it was probably about 32!).

So, long day, tired but reasonably pleased.  As long as the muscles work tomorrow we shall be fine!….

Derek: I was quite apprehensive about today – as Mike mentioned, everyone said that Day 3 was the hardest. From a terrain and distance perspective, I don’t think it was a problem – but I’d describe today as a breeze. Unfortunately, all the breeze was heading towards us head-on. This slowed us down quite a bit. Despite that, the morning was a good, and we arrived at our lunch stop ahead of time. 

This was a good job as I was having a few ickle problems today. Firstly, my cycling sunglasses somehow got snapped, and secondly I couldn’t get the bike onto the top chain-ring. We found a fantastic little bike shop at Highbridge who fixed this for me, for free! I also managed to pick-up a new pair of glasses to boot.

The lunch on the beach was fantastic – good ol’ fish n chips. This was made even better by Phil getting told off by the life guards. 

Once we set of, and then found our way (with the help of sat nav and a local passer by), we headed-off towards Bristol. This was a looooong hard slog – especially the killer hill for the 2-3 miles up to the airport. The descent from there was fantastic, but we were slowed again by the wind – we should have got 40-45mph, but could only manage about 30.

The good news is that we consider today to have been a major milestone as we’re now in Wales and have escaped the Devon and Cornwall hills. Can’t wait till tomorrow!  

Beer of the day: Brains SA – apparently they sponsor the Welsh rugby team. Maddy (Mike’s wife) says it’s a bit weak. Mike Wood’s head after two pints has a differing view. Mike M says it’s deceptively drinkable.


Day Two – Camelford to Tiverton

June 5, 2007

Mike: We started off the day feeling better than expected. A short run down Camelford centre and then a huge great long climb from about 120 feet to 966 over 3 or 4 miles.
The run to Bude was generally downhill, shortish climbs followed by long sweeping downs where I breached 40 mph for the first time on the ride.

The rest of Cornwall passed very quickly and we trundled past the “Welcome to Devon” sign at about 10am.

From there things got more difficult. At this point in the day, I was feeling ok while Derek was suffering from tiredness so the hills were no longer funny!
We quickly determined that Devon was worse than Cornwall. The hills generally were not a steep but much longer and far more draining.
We did our steepest hill of the ride, from Holdsworth to Hatherlee. We went down a hill into a valley and the bikes were doing over 25 mph within seconds. At the other side of the valley, we ended up on our smallest gear and were still standing up, to achieve a remarkable 1.5 mph!

Lunch couldn’t come soon enough and was found in a tiny little village, but was lovely! We were roasting in the beautiful sunny weather so ate inside.
We had covered close to 50 miles so only had 27 miles to reach Tiverton (apparently!)

After what seemed like days we reached Crediton (much relief for me as I was desperate for the loo, and not the sort that can be achieved at the side of the road!).
The “credit” I give to that town, is for the most disgusting toilets I have ever encountered.

An observation – Devon’s “miles” are not the same as the rest of the UK. After Crediton, we continued on the final leg (17 miles) and after a while passed a sign saying “Tiverton 8 miles”. Two more hours and another sign said “Tiverton 6 miles”, and then another saying “4 miles” which was much, much more than 2 miles further. We had ascended a 800 foot hill in the process so maybe that doesnt count.

We reached Tiverton after 71.1 miles, met up with Phil and put the bikes on the roof to get to the B&B (Rhode Farm & Livery Yard) which is delightful, but up a 17% hill and not on our route so we felt justified in getting a lift. Phil will take us back to where we left off tomorrow so we are’nt cheating…honest.

Derek: The start was rather mixed today. A fast, swift down-hill, followed by a long tedious uphill climb for several miles. After that, things got a lot better for quite a way – lots of rolling hills, some climbs, but lots of good descents – fun!

As Mike says, entering Devon we had hoped the hills wouldn’t be quite as bad as Cornwall – boy were we wrong. In Devon, they try to punish you and work together with the wind to make your life miserable. However, we peddled and plodded on.

The good side of this was a few of the descents – we were hurtling down some at a rate of knotts and there were some very “exciting” sharp turns half way down them. I even wanted to go back and do it again, but the thought of cycling back up the hill was a little too much.

Later in the afternoon, it was Mike’s turn to tire and my turn for a second-wind (probably all the carbs from the sweet-and-sour pork and huge mound of rice I had for lunch). I guess I was also motivated by the picture on the back of Mike’s jersey (pic to follow at some point) 😉

There is a cycle race where about 40km of the ride is on cobbles. Well, arriving in Tiverton felt just like that – the last 2-3 miles were horrid because of the road surface – Mike and I both suffered from numb toes as a result of all the vibrations.

Anyway, we’re now safely resting in the B&B, which looks very nice, and about to head into town to grab a bite to eat and a pint of the local.

(Belated) beer of the day – Marstons Bitter & Marstons Smooth. Apologies for the late addition of this – we wrote the blog entry before we had dinner. The bitter, Phil and I described as Glorious (concise but accurate). Mike described the Smooth as, well, er, smooth. Glad you waited?

Day 1 – Monday June 4th

June 4, 2007

Ready to go.Land’s End to Camelford

Derek: Today was the first real day of our ride. We were up nice and early (too early for me – mostly due to fighting cats, pigeon’s, and fast cars right outside my bedroom window, not to mention the very noisy air con unit that kicked-in every 20 minutes or so).

We drove the final 8 miles to Land’s End, to discover a very nice hotel located right there – maybe next time!! After getting our forms signed, etc, we set off at abouit 8:30 in the morning.

Our original plan had as arriving for an early lunch in Redruth, but in fact we were there by about 10:30. So, we decided to cycle back up the really steep hill we decended to get there, and hop back onto the A30.

Surprisingly, the A30 was actually a good road to cycle on – the hills that had scared us the day before on our journey down weren’t half as bad as they appeared.

Unfortunately, things weren’t quite so nice in the afternoon – we moved off onto quiet country lanes which in themselves were nice, but they did suffer from a multitude of nasty “bumps”, this was compounded by the fact that the wind that normally comes from the south-west at this time of year decided to come from the North today, which was exactly where we were heading.

This definitely caused me to struggle for the final 10 miles or so – so much that I had to resort to using the granny ring just to get to our bed for the night.

Mike: We started our just after 8.15 in grey and bleak conditions, the wind was whistling and felt, shall we say, brisk (some might say, freezing)

The first couple of hills warmed us up nicely and we cruised through Penzance before we knew it. We pretty much stayed on the A30 except for a detour (deliberate) around Hayle and reached Redruth by 10.30am. Redruth was originally planned as our lunchstop so we stopped for 30 minutes and re-fuelled.
Lesson of the day – when you put your cycle helmet on, make sure your sunglasses are not already on your head
The bad news was that Redruth was at the bottom of a steep hilll so we had to climb it to get back on the A30.

We continued along that road until the A3076 and met up with Phil, Shannon and Ben who had been to Padstow and brought us some pasties (Veggie for me). We adjourned to a nearby pub for some refreshment and rest.

Shannon and Ben returned to the metropolis of London while we continued on to Camelford via St Columb which meant B roads. The thing with Cornish B roads, while they are quieter they have the occasional sheep in the middle (especially at the bottom of hills!), more significantly, they are steeper than A roads.

The last hill up to Camelford was a real challenge, it went on for miles and after 65 miles it was hard work. We met up with Phil at the Lanteglos, which is an oasis in the middle of hills. A hot bath and some “recovery rub” later and I was much refreshed.

Tomorrow beckons….

Phil: general support person: A good day has been had in the support function choosing where to stop for breakfast coffee and lunch was about as tricky as it got – thank goodness for that.

Weather wise – it got a lot warmer during the day – eventually the sun was out all the time.

Looking forwrad to supper and tomorrow, the boys look good and have found the going not as awesome as they thought, there is always tomorrow.

Beer of the day

Today’s local tipple, from Lanteglos, is Duchy – Phil personally doesn’t like this beer, Mike isn’t overly keen and says it has a tangy aftertaste, and Derek describes it as a cross between cider and Bass shandy.

Day 0 – Sunday June 3rd

June 4, 2007

Today we were travelling down to Penzance from Reading, Overton, etc.


The plan was to meet at Overton at 11am and then head down in convoy from there. Phil, who was joining us from Woking, was catching the train to arrive at about 10:30 – unfortunately, the reliable train service surprisingly let us down, and left Phil on a bus to Overton, which gave him a good chance to nod off (and miss the calls to arrange to meet him at basingstoke). 

Next stop was Penzance, but before we got there we decided we needed some lunch. So, we chose a modest little village (Ashill) with a local pub in which to fulfill our culinary desires. On entering said establishment, we realised that we had been transported into a scene from the Leage of Gentlemen, being greeted by the 200 year old barmaid. The establishment was a charming little place from the 1970’s, complete with antiqued furniture, artexed walls and ceilings, wood panel walls, a carpet that was suffering from a manic pattern, and a heating system set to a modest 75 degrees centigrade (at least!).

We were by far the youngest patrons of the pub (even if you count our combined age…) and, not only did every one know each other, we are fairly sure they are all related to one another. 

Having said that, the service was good and the food was fine.  We were pleasently surprised by the veg which were firm and well cooked – we had expected soggy greens that we had been on the stove since Christmas.  Ho hum. However, 3 of us had vegetarian Lasagna, but this did come with Yorkshire Pud as per the carvery!

Next, on to Penzance. We had to split up as Ben and I had to meet Shannon at Bodmin Park train station – a picture postcard train station complete with passing steam train. I can highly recommend their hot chocolate and fudge brownies, but don’t mention this to Mike 😉 

Phil and Mike carried on to Penzance directly to find the hotel, and we joined them shortly after, via a short in-town detour via the local slip-ramp into the sea, and numerous very tight looking alleyways that they call roads.

The A30 is very, very long!  Some folk have described it as undulating – they clearly need psychiatric attention.  It’s nothing but hill after hill after hill, some of them many miles long.  Derek described them as evil. Well, we see just how evil tomorrow. 

The hotel is, er, very interesting. The rooms come in a variety of shapes and sizes, one with as many as 4 single beds (party!), one with seperate rooms for loo, sink and shower (oh, and one for the bed too). In general though, it’s clean and pleasant, and they allowed us to lock the bikes away in the function room overnight for safety. 

The weather throughout the day has varied just as much – Reading and Overton were hot and sunny, but the closer we got to the start point, the heavier the rain has become. Fortunately, at 7pm in the evening, it seems to be clearning up and is looking like a good day tomorrow. 

Beer of the day

For this evenings tipple, we’re sampling a pint (or two) of the local beer – Tribute. Mike, being the expert in these areas, described it as Yummy. Ben, however, described it as hoppy nosed and dextrously balanced with a smooth aftertaste and a hint of lime. Whichever way we looked at it, the beer flowed down well and was gone before we had sufficient chance to review it properly. 


May 15, 2007

With roughly two weeks to go, we have most things organised. 

The accomodation is booked (with a few exceptions)

Our branded shorts and jerseys are ordered (although will not arrive until the 3rd day of the ride)

We have corporate sponsorship to help with the cost of the accomodation etc

All we have to do now is a) raise lots more money and b) be capable of sitting in the saddle for upto 100 miles per day, every day, for 10 days!

Route Update

December 13, 2006

After much deliberation, we have come up with a slightly amended route. This may still yet be tweaked, but the key way-points should stay the same, as should the dates.

Just follow the link on the right to view the latest route.

Slight change of direction!

November 10, 2006

After much consideration and taking advice from several people, we’ve decided to make a slight change to our route.

We’re now going to do it backwards. That doesn’t mean cycling backwards of course – we’re mad, not stupid!

The route will now take us from Land’s End to John O’Groats instead of vica-versa.

The reasons for going the other way (it all being down-hill going north to south, and also not having a very long trek home afterwards) were slightly outweighed by the fact that cycling through Cornwall is supposed to be a bit of a mare, and also at that time of year, the prevailing wind is from the South-West and neither of us relished the idea of cycling over 800 miles against a prevailing wind.

So, we now have a cunning new masterplan and route which takes us from Lands End to John O’Groats via Bodmin, Exeter, Chepstow, Shrewsbury, Leyland, Penrith, Elvanfoot, Tarbet, Spean Bridge, Tain and Wick (a very conservative 849 miles!).

We’ve also decided now that we’ll only stop at the O2 sites in Preston Brook and Glasgow as Bury turned out to add quite some distance to our route.

Welcome one and all!

October 24, 2006

Welcome to the Blog for Mike and Derek’s cycle ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

We’re going to be tackling this epic journey of almost 900 miles on push-bike, between June 4th and 14th 2007. Our aim is to raise funds for a few select charities. The Sponsor Us! page on the right details the charities we’ve chosen to support, and you can also find more information about them under the Charities section on the right.

Our plan is to maintain this blog to record our preparation and progress on the event, and also to provide updates on fundraising, etc. Additionally, we’ve each got our own Blog to record our own personal experiences throughout this event.