Coast to Coast

In nine days time The Old Gits Cycle Club will once again set forth on a journey of discovery and sore arses and a three day mission to cycle from (almost) Edinburgh to Tynemouth using the most excellent Sustrans Coast and Castles cycle route in order to raise funds for the Sue Ryder Trust and specifically for their hospice at Wheatfields in Leeds in memory of one of our group who was taken into their palliative care two years ago before passing away peacefully and pain free, for this alone they have earned our support but we do this because they are also nice people and have given us t-shirts.

Two years ago after Chris’s death we all set forth to Workington, land of despair of hopelessness and the starting point for the famous Sustrans Coast to Coast cycle route over Lake District and Pennine mountains – they cursed me for suggesting it, for three gruelling days they cursed me with their every breath but at the end of it all we had raised just over £4000 for Wheatfields and so they suddenly started to feel good about themselves too.

Our JustGiving page for this year is here

Here is the story of that effort in July 2009, spread over three days …



The descent down to Bassenthwaite Lake

And so we left the lighthouse-in-disguise behind and began our great adventure, five of us mounted up for this stage, two in the van, poor old Arthur the lawyer having dropped out of the trip at the very last minute due to the, quite frankly poor, excuse of being hospitalised with pneumonia on Thursday night – we will be having words.

Within 500 yards we faced our first challenge, to get from the poor excuse for a lighthouse to the actual C2C cycle route you have to cross the harbour, a task accomplished by navigating you and your bike across a footbridge that looks like it was nailed onto a railway trestle bridge as an afterthought, if you suffer from vertigo or simply do not like crossing water on a thing that looks like your five year old built it out of twigs and straw then maybe you need to start from the opposite side of the harbour.

Fortunately Workington is a small town, fortunate in the fact that its very easy to leave it behind and we were soon on the C2C route following an old railway line that now had a hard tarmac surface.

Everyone’s knees held up well on the first 10 miles to the amusingly named Cockermouth, the town of a thousand double-entendre’s but the pace was slow, very slow, deliberately very slow, we were taking it easy, chatting, turning the wheels very slowly, enjoying the liberation and not thinking of the 147 miles in front, and it was nearly two hours later that we arrived in Cockermouth – people walk faster than that.

H and Stu were hot-seating on my mountain bike and Stu had brought along his custom designed specially padded saddle for the trip, I didn’t dare ask why he needed such a thing but if it had been designed specifically to suit his own bottom then I would not wish to ponder on what that bottom may look like, it must have suited H’s bottom too for he didn’t complain at all during the times that he rode upon it – he complained about the brakes a lot but more of that later.

Climbing out of the still amusingly named Cockermouth we reached a section of  “off-road” path – let me explain here what Sustrans do and what they use to define their cycleways. Sustrans are a charity who, with the aid of  lottery funding, exist to cover the whole of the UK with as many dedicated cycle routes/paths as possible, and more power to their elbow, we have a long way to go before we can match Holland for the excellency of their cycle routes, but Sustrans are doing a grand job.

The routes chosen by Sustrans were often disused railway tracks upon which they laid a hard surface of some description adequate for riding on all types of bike, its often a loose surface and not necessarily tarmac but you don’t need an off-road bike to ride them.

They also often use quiet “B” roads and traffic free unclassified roads and occasionally along the routes you will see signposted “alternatives” where mountain bikes only are recommended, these are what we avoided, until we reached Wythop Mill.

It doesn’t say so on the maps but about a mile of the track over the top of Wythop Mill is actually a track across a farmers field, literally following two tyre ruts in the field, its stretching the “hard surface” definition a lot and probably accounts for the fact that my tourer didn’t cope very well with tyre tracks in a field that had taken a weeks worth of rain the previous day – so it threw me off.

I didn’t hurt my leg falling off, I hurt my leg trying not to fall off, something pulled and then it went into cramp, ouchy, very ouchy.

I’m a brave soldier though, although if I’d known what was waiting in the woods beyond the field I’d have hopped out of the ride there and then, but no, I rubbed it better, got back on and winced on through the field to the descent of Wythop through the woods with Bassenthwaite Lake peeking through the trees 700 feet below.

The descent must be one of the most exhilarating downhills that a mountain biker could ever wish for, on a non-mountain bike, in the rain, descending a scree slope of loose shale while rainwater tumbles down around you like a waterfall is not a good riding experience – we all got off and pushed, the first time that I have ever pushed a bike DOWNHILL, with the brakes on.

I dobbed out a few miles further on, the leg was cramping up again so I handed the bike over to H and left the last 8 miles that day to him, which of course meant that I got to drive the van on to the hotel with Kev, get checked in, have our pick of the best of the four rooms I’d booked, have a shower, get changed and then have a leisurely pint with Kev in the bar downstairs, hurting yourself has to have its compensations.

So I’d just started on the first pint when Kevs phone rang, it was our little group of riders calling for assistance – Andy’s bike had a flat tyre, to be more accurate his front tyre had exploded, we won’t go into detail here but Andy now appreciates that rubber tyres can perish after a decade or so and that when you see cracks in them big enough to put your finger through it usually means that the tyre doesn’t have much life left in it.

So I set my pint down, told Kev he may as well finish it as it looked like I could be a while out in the van, and left the warmth of the hotel, me freshly showered and with clean warm clothing on, outside still raining and getting colder in the evening, I drove to the end of the lane to the main A66 road, looked both ways to make an exit – and saw Rod and Stu waiting at another junction fifty yards away.

I had a mouthfull of abuse ready for them when I opened the passenger door but it transpired that they had ridden on in front and while they made their way to the hotel I drove up a very steep hill to find the rest of the party grieving over Andy’s dead tyre, loaded them all up in the van and off we went back to the hotel.

It was only later when I was unpacking a few things that I realised that my Blackberry was missing, it had been in the bag on the bike, I searched for it, it wasn’t there – H had been riding my bike for the last eight miles, I asked him, he hadn’t seen it either.

Searched all the bags and the van again, still no Blackberry, Steve suggested that we drive back up the hill to where Andy’s tyre had expired as “they may have searched through the bike bag there”.

And now here is the official version of events …

When Andy’s tyre exploded they knew that all the tools and spares were in the pannier bag that I’d put on my bike, so they had a look inside it but quickly realised that it was actually the tyre and not the inner tube that had exploded with the crack of an high velocity huntsmans rifle, so they had called Kev on Andy’s phone. The Blackberry was wrapped up in a fleece that was also in the bag and they claim that “it must have fallen out” when they were searching for spares.

And now here is my version of events…

When Andy’s tyre exploded they knew that all the tools and spares were in the pannier bag that I’d put on my bike, so they had a look inside it and quickly saw my stash of flapjack, “ooh, flapjack” they all drooled and set about eating all of it, I know this is true because I found the empty packet later. After scoffing my secret stash of energy food they then found my Blackberry, “ooh a phone” they all declared and queued up to ring their long lost relations in the far flung corners of the British Empire before flinging it into a field to dispose of the evidence.

I know which one I believe.

Steve and I drove the van back up the hill – a hill which incidentally was not even on our route, yes, they were lost and riding in the wrong direction when Andy’s tyre exploded, in fact if it hadn’t been for Andy’s tyre exploding they’d be riding still, and still lost – and when he pointed out the gate where they’d tried to fix the tyre I saw the Blackberry lying in the grass even without getting out of the van – it had had two hours worth of torrential rain on it but still worked fine, I’m going to try it in the bath one night to see if it really is that waterproof.

A fine steak pie in the pub across the road from our hotel (hotel prices too extravagant for Yorkshiremen) , a few pints and then early to bed, for the next day would be Hellday.

to be continued


Andy points out his dead tyre for the benefit of the camera


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