Challenge? What Challenge?

Determined not to allow our hilly cycling to be thwarted by the cancellation of both our Alps challenge in June and our modified Alps challenge in August, we set off to conquer some UK based roads and hills instead.

This week was…

  • Not quite the Alpine challenge in terms of people. From the original group of 46 – we are now five!
  • Not quite the Alpine challenge in terms of the original 800km – we covered 400km.
  • Not quite the Alpine challenge in terms of hills, originally 19,000m of climb, we covered 5,000m of climb and trust me, that was enough!
  • Not quite the terrain our new aero road bikes were designed for!

The British late summertime brought heavy rain, flooded roads, a rare glimpse of sun and some strong winds. Add some interesting route planning, the rough off road terrain in some sections and getting lost and it’s safe to say, we still had a few challenging times!

Day 1 and Day 2 C2C

Travelling as a group of four for the first two days and taking it in turns to drive the camper van, we cycled our own route based loosely on the iconic Coast 2 Coast route. Amongst a number of hills, this saw us climb Whinlatter Pass and Hartside. Having cycled these two climbs twelve years ago, I was encouraged that they felt easier, faster and more fun than I remember them being. These climbs haven’t changed so despite getting older, I can only assume we have got fitter and faster.

Day 3

Meeting up with Ewan today, our first day cycling together was thwarted by torrential rain. Ewan and John managed an impressive 50km, I did a quick 12km and that was enough and the others, opted for the dry, warmth of our lovely, quirky accommodation at Bertie’s of Otterburn.

Day 4 Coast to Castles

Keen to cycle some of the beautifully scenic North East coast of England, we tackled some of the Coast to Castles route. An apparently stunning route, unfortunately, we had an overly ambitious distance to cover, we got lost, separated and found ourselves either alongside the A1, with no coast and no castles, or on a cliff edge track not compatible with anything other than the most robust mountain bike! Recurrent punctures on John W’s road bike were testament to the fact that these tracks were not road bike friendly!

We passed briefly by Alnwick, Bamburgh and Warkworth castles and enjoyed a brief stop on Holy Island having crossed the causeway. It was a great effort by everyone but ‘Hardly Any Coast to Hardly Any Castles’ is perhaps a better title!

A few learning points from today:

  • Plan a realistic route that allows time to stop and enjoy the experience
  • Plan a route that follows roads and paths, not mountain bike trails!
  • Follow the route!
  • Stay together!

Day 5 To the Pub!

A less ambitious plan today. A stunning route from our base to a local pub, making today’s cycle a real success. 25 miles of remote, unspoilt, virtually traffic free, rolling hills, a warm, wonderful pub lunch with local beers just as the rain started, and a quick 9 mile, predominantly downhill ride home. Perfect!

Day 6 The Borders

With Ewan heading north to home, we were four again. Some interesting, scenic, remote cycling today as we travelled from Otterburn to Eaglesfield, near Lockerbie, driving one leg of the journey each and cycling the rest. Crossing the border into Scotland for a brief period. Arriving at our last accommodation in time for a celebratory glass in the sunshine.

Day 7 A Relay Home

To facilitate some cycling on our route home, we split into pairs today, driving 25km and then cycling 25km. For my part, I cycled the most stunning route across remote undulating roads, encountering a waterfall, long downhill stretches and some very challenging uphill sections, more undulating countryside and flooded roads followed by a canal path and a well timed pub stop before the final drive home.

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