On New Years day this year, I set out to complete a solo bike ride that I had thought about for a while but not necassarily planned or prepared properly for. I thought that because I had cycled 100 miles (of FLAT countryside) around Cheshire in a day in September, that I could complete any ride that involved that less daily milage than that very easily. VERY WRONG. I encountered a series of issues that I had not accounted for, that led to a days cycling that I would prefer to forget and a return home two days early, the following morning. I developed a problem in my knee which all of these problems seemed to contribute to. Firstly I set off from Halifax on the train at 8am and when I arrived in Morecambe decided that charging my phone was more important that setting straight off, which, coupled with the fact that we were still in the months of darkness kicking in at about 5pm led to me being massively against time before I had even set off. I left around 12pm with panniers that were packed like someone going on a holiday as opposed to an endurance exercise and left myself limited time for breaks in order to get to my first destination of Wharf View Guest house, Burnsall, before the sun went down. I went full throttle at the first 25 or so miles, and realised when i got to the Yorkshire Dales that my bike was far too overpacked for the hills I was required to climb, although I completed them, I had asked a lot more of my body. This manifested itself in excruciating pain in the outside of my right knee, Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), also knows as ‘runners knee’ which is a condition arising from overworking. Basically a there is a band of tissue than runs from your thigh to your knee and connects to your knee at the knee cap. If enough training is not done, this band is not as flexible as it needs to be and instead of moving appropriately, it just rubs on the outside of the joint, until it becomes enflamed and horrendously painful, to the point of stopping you from bending it. This was also not helped by me being naive enough to try complete this with normal pedals, which led to my foot being angled and exacerbating this issue. Due to how slowly this led to me riding I arrived at the guest house long after dark, which was horrible to ride in on the lonely roads through the Dales. It was £45 for a twin room for the night and came with a good cooked breakfast. The following day, I cycled down to the bridge next to the Red Lion in Burnsall, realised I could not pedal on my right leg and a close friend came to get me and took me home, very upset annoyed!
Between then and good friday, I acquired more appropriate equipment (cleats mainly, which maximise effort by using the power you put into lifting the pedal as well as pushing down on it), I have trained very regularly doing the 22 mile round trip to work on top of my long rides and researched essential equipment in order to trim down my baggage.
Ready to begin again.
DAY 1: Friday 14th April : 80 miles : 5,604 feet of climbing : Lancaster – Morecambe – Lancaster – Hornby – Clapham – Settle – Airton – Cracoe – Burnsall – Pateley Bridge – Watergate – Ripon.
(Morecambe Sea Front, The Irish Sea)
I set out on my journey by getting the train from Halifax to Morecambe £23.40 changing Preston and Lancaster. When I arrived in Lancaster, I had an hour wait for a train to take me the 3 or 4 miles to Morecambe, so I decided to cycle there in order to get set off a little earlier. I got a quick pic at the sign in Morecambe and then followed the route I had just come down, back to Lancaster, once back in Lancaster I felt like I had begun. The first leg from Morecambe is beautiful tarmac surfaces following the river to just past Lancaster. My first stop was just into the top of The Forest of Bowland at Hornby, where I found a little village shop on the right going through the centre, where you can get a home cooked range of hot pastries and pizza (sausage roll and rocky road for me ). I was served to me by a lovely woman named Moira who gave me free cup of tea and a place to charge my phone, which I was very grateful for, stop there if you can, it was some kind of one-stop shop. Following this it was through to Settle, I decided to stop here and get a sandwich for dinner as I had been reliably informed by my friend Craig McGowan that the hills out of settle were not to be sniffed at. Following a break at Ye Olde Naked Man cafe, I set off, if I had not realised that I was in the middle of a physical test by this point, Settle to Airton certainly sorbed me up. The hill coming out of Settle got me to the point where many of you may have been, where even though you are alone, you vocalise the difficulty and the pain in the legs (if you know you know). Following this I carried on at a good rate until I came to Burnsall around 3pm. I had been in contact with Catgill Camp Site at Bolton Abbey who said I could turn up and get a pitch, but with it only being earl and the sun not scheduled to go down until 8pm, I sat outside the Red Lion and made the big decision to turn my trip into a two day trip and aim for Ripon, around another 25 mile. This was head down and make sure you get there territory now based on decision. I had a SIS energy bar, dug in and made it to the Harefield Hall pub in Pateley bride, who were very friendly and again allowed me to charge for phone to keep my route and Strava (cycling app that records distance and climbing in order to monitor performance) up to date. After a bag of nuts and half a pint of Landlord I followed a ‘Tour de Yorkshire route’ to Ripon.
(St Mary’s Church at Studley Royal Park, Ripon, North Yorkshire)
On arrival in Ripon centre, I headed straight for a conversation with a taxi driver (i need someone with ‘The Knowledge’) who informed I would be lucky to find a site that took campers. He said that I may be best looking at the local pub for Bed and Breakfast. I stopped at The White Horse who had no rooms, but informed me that Riverside Meadows Country Caravan Park, would accommodate my tent. I cycled a mile or so up the road and spoke to the manager (i think) at the bar, which had a Butlins vibe and was in the middle of preparations for the friday night disco. I looked and felt very out of place. I told him my situation and asked for somewhere to camp with my small, one-man tent as the sun was about to go down. He informed me that he had stopped taking tents due to the ‘large groups’ that had been going there and causing trouble, being loud and littering with beer cans. Due to my circumstances I asked again and said I was alone, would be no trouble and need somewhere quite badly, he declined and said ‘I can’t go back on my decision’ to which I said ‘ok, thanks’ and made my way out, trying to look as helpless as possible, expecting him to change his mind and call me back (didn’t happen) ha. I headed back into Ripon and came upon the Fountain Guest House, knocked on the door and secured myself a twin room with wifi, SHOWER, Full English breakfast and a garage for my bike. I dined on a Pasta pot and samosa from the Co-OP and fell straight to sleep.
DAY 2: Saturday 15th April : 90 miles : 1,614 feet of climbing : Ripon – Boroughbridge – Newton-on-Ouse – York – Dunnington – Stamford Bridge – Pocklington – Huggate – Hutton Cranswick – Drifield – Burton Agnes – Bridlington.
On the morning of day two I awoke to a knock on my room door after a deep sleep telling me that breakfast was ready. I went down and took advantage of all I could to set me up for the day as well as some Bananas that I would need along the way. I spoke at length to the man who ran the guest house about my journey, others he had accomodated and the fact that my second day looked a lot easier than the first. We also spoke about how his brother coincidentally lived in Queensbury (about 5 mile from my home) and did the obligatory ‘you know where the traffic lights are and that pub is ….etc’ because we just had to pin point exactly in Queensbury it was although I would never be going. I set off from the guest house with a full stomach and a wish of good luck. The roads between Ripon and York are extremely flat and very well surfaced, this coupled with the fact that every corner from Morecambe to Bridlington has the two roses and an arrow for directions meant that I could get my head down and put some miles away.
River Ouse through York.
The riding was so good at this point, I did 31 miles without stopping and arrived in York feeling brilliant about the days riding. Following a short break and a quick watch of a brilliant old busker (doing the covers that Johnny Cash did on his final albums) I set off out of York in the wrong direction. I can’t tell you how many times I set off on a road thinking it was the right way, only to come back to the centre moments later. I stopped and asked a couple on the side of the road who pointed me in the right direction of the canal cycle path out of the city, I was annoyed by the delay, so I got my head down again and did not stop until Pocklington. I stopped at the Fresh Food Deli to get my head together, thankfully they let me charge my phone as I enjoyed a toasted teacake and a large slab of Bakewell Tart, I filled up my water bottles, dropped in an Electrolyte tablet and set off. I wish I could say more about the remaining miles to Bridlington, but really it was quite a lonely slog, not seeing anyone for miles at a time although the cycleway and scenery was perfect. I stopped in Hutton Cranswick at TJ’s Coffee Shop for a tea and the photo at the start of this blog along the way before the last leg.
On arrival into Bridlington I was constantly looking for the horizon and a glimpse of the sea which was not forthcoming, I expected the sea to be over the next hill, which went on for about 5 miles. Eventually cycling north along an un-assuming urban street, I saw the last sign that pointed me to the right, I looked down and saw what felt like the best view Ive ever seen, below. I was there!
(First view of the North Sea, Limekiln Lane, Bridlington)
I made my way slowly down the street to the sea front, celebrating to myself along the way. I had accomplished what had took me two attempts and a lot of finding out about myself, it was an amazing feeling. I think that if your going to do the coast to coast in a group, it may be a more sociable experience to do it in three days (as seems to be the most common time) yet if you are doing it alone, with second day being so flat, I don’t see why its not very achievable to do it in two. Get in contact if you have any specific questions.
(Bridlington Sea Front, The North Sea)
I arrived at 6:20 pm and in what had become my fashion, had to get a quick pic and set off straight for the last train that would get me back to Halifax the same day at 6:41 pm. I did this very reluctantly as the smell of fish and chips was physically pulling me in.
The train journey back seemed more difficult than the whole ride put together. It is brilliant that Northern Rail allow bike’s on all trains but it really puts a spanner in the works when they put on a bus replacement, which do not allow bike’s on and leave you stranded in Selby at 8:30pm with no suggestion of an alternative to get home. The train was £35 (to Halifax) and took me from Bridlington to Hull, Hull to Selby and then left me to fend for myself. Luckily at short notice my good friend Ben Miller, who was having a quiet night in before a stag do came and took me to Leeds station, without which I would probably still be cycling back now (whenever you are reading this). Thanks Ben.
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