Although I’m volunteering as a Tourmaker for the TdF (five weeks away!) I wasn’t really expecting to get on my bike any time before then; my feelings on cycling in Leeds are pretty well established (the short version is that I think Leeds is bloody dangerous for cyclists, especially on my commute route) so whilst I applaud those who do I’m not comfortable with it myself.
… and I’ll just throw in a quick aside, here: I’m also volunteering to help out at the Sky Ride on June 15th. If you’re doing it and spot me, say hello! If you want to help out there’s more information on LCC’s website (albeit quite well hidden, as leisure services has their own page about it which doesn’t link to the one I’ve linked here).
Anyway, I recently went to an evening of talks about long bike rides organised by Ian Street; unable to resist a good pun, I was taken in by the name of the event, Night of the Long Rides. The speakers were Andrew Sykes, who cycled across Europe from Reading to Brindisi, and Tom Bruce who cycled around the world. Let’s just look at that for a second. He cycled around the world. On a bike.
Both speakers were amazing. Their experiences were fascinating and although we only got a rough outline of what the routes were it was almost enough to throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence. We had a very long Q&A session after their talks which covered lots of detail about the people Andrew & Tom had met, the kit they carried, the reactions and hospitality and the fact that you didn’t really get lonely – in fact, couldn’t get lonely. Tom did a lot of wild camping in some of the ‘Stans (in fact, on the whole trip) and would regularly be visited by people bringing wine and food. Andrew was frequently asked what he was doing, where he was cycling from and to, and the being alone thing didn’t really come to pass. In the end they wrote (and self-published!) books about their experiences so I bought them both, and I’m reading Andrew’s Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie at the moment.
Unfortunately I’m as impressionable as a dollop of warm putty. So me being me, I got home full of enthusiasm and having slept on the whole Boys Own Adventure -ism of it all am now considering a mini bike ride from Leeds to Edinburgh (and then get the train home). This seems do-able in a week and if I’m careful would be able to avoid things like major routes with lots of traffic. I wouldn’t need to wild camp because there should be B&Bs or youth hostels all over the place and food wouldn’t be a problem. A quick look at Sustrans suggests I could cycle to York, join up with route 66, get onto route 164 at Pocklington and then get onto route 1 at Hutton Cranswick. Route 1 then goes all the way up the coast to Embra.
There’s a few caveats on that route at the moment; I know (having walked it) there’s a few problems with the Scarborough to Robin Hood’s Bay leg of the trip where the coastal erosion is a bit hairy. There’s no marked route between Whitby and Staithes, so it’s onto the main A road there. But aside from the fact that it’s very hilly in parts I reckon I could do it.
However, in order to discover if I really can do it or if I’m just kidding myself I need to do a full day bike ride; I think Leeds to York and back, which works out at about 45 miles if done away from the main roads, should do it. So that’s the next step, once I’ve got some new (puncture resistant, possibly Schwalbe Marathon Plus) tyres and innertubes sorted out…
If I start becoming a cycling gear bore then kick me in the shins, please.
1: John Muir, naturalist, writing about expedition planning in the Eastern Sierra mountains, California.