Afasic 4 Nations Bike Ride
Our team of intrepid cyclist have successfully completed their 667 mile ride through the 4 nations of the UK to mark the 45th Anniversary of Afasic. Below is a brief account of their eventful trip, and it’s not too late to support them by texting ‘TALK51 £3’ to 70070 to donate £3, or you can sponsor the team at justgiving.com. Please give them your support and make their aching legs and saddle sores worthwhile !!
Diary of the Afasic 4 Nation Bike Ride
We start our epic adventure in Dundee, in normal Scottish summer weather – rain. The team is seen on its way by 2 local supporters who have braved the conditions to cheer us off.
We encounter an early problem with a closed road and a diversion that added 3 miles to the route, also very strong headwinds all day to make it very tough going. Then near disaster when a rider has a gear system breakage that also snaps his chain and buckles the back wheel. He has to be picked up by the support vehicle and taken off in search of a bike shop that can hopefully fix it.
Good news, the rain stops; but the hills with the wind in our faces are tough, so the lunch stop and some home-made cakes are very welcome. Less hills after lunch, broken bike fixed and back with the team. We cycle through some lovely scenery and all the people we meet are very friendly.
Finally we come into Glasgow along the canal and then road to the centre, arriving at our hotel about 7.30pm. We have cycled 85 miles in 8hrs 36 mins. After a quick shower we go to an ‘all you can eat’ Brazilian steak house, which is excellent and just what was needed after a hard day. And now to bed. Many thanks to Ann and Ian Auchterlonie who were our support team for the day – we kept them very busy and they were brilliant, thanks.
Start with a long hill out of Glasgow, the streets are quiet and we play tag with a bus going up the bus lane. Then at 5 miles Scot got a flat tyre that had to be sorted (one of many to come !). The day is cloudy but no rain, although the wind is strong and in our faces again. Great views but road surfaces poor and route very up and down, with some down and up just for variety, and it is hard work.
We have lunch on a village green then carry on till hit the coast road. Our support driver, Jim and his wife Margaret, had got some free teas at the seafront for us, and then we cycle along the coast road into very strong headwinds, everyone is struggling. We take turns at the front so others get a bit of shelter. About 75 miles in we have a 4 mile climb up a hill, struggling but then downhill to the ferry, which we make with an hour to spare. We say our goodbyes to Jim and Margaret and thank them for their help and support, which was much needed on a tough day.
On the ferry to Belfast our mascot Ted did some fundraising and had a tannoy announcement to get people giving that worked a treat. Off ferry in Belfast and Paul, a local parent, meets us to take bags to hotel. Then try to sleep with noisy party downstairs.
We have a great send off at Newtownabbey Civic Centre by local parents, a MLA, councillor, and a couple of local footballers. We also have a cycle police escort for the first few miles and are joined by 4 other cyclists at different points. Along the cycle path through Belfast and along river was great and also flat! Along the path we come across a group doing a sponsored walk the other way, so we have a quick chat and contribute to each other’s tins.
Just coming up to lunch stop we get some typical Irish weather, rain. We shelter under a tree and have a picnic lunch prepared by Stevie and Sharon, our support crew for the couple of days in Northern Ireland. We finish lunch and leave in heavy rain, uphill and into headwinds – lovely ! Head down and go, nothing else to do. At 9 miles to go we have a final pitstop, where Sam gets friendly with some cows, and then on to the finish at Armagh.
On arrival in Armagh we all have a celebratory Guinness, including Ted, which went down really well. Dinner, then an early night as all exhausted. Let’s hope the wind is behind us tomorrow.
The weather forecast for Armagh was showing only a 5% chance of rain, so of course we leave in pouring rain, luckily it didn’t last too long. The pace was very good as wind was behind us, at last.
We meet up with Colin at Moira and he joins us for rest of the day. Stop at Lisburn for lunch, with Stevie having blagged some free soup from the hotel and Sharon got strawberries.
Along the river back into Belfast and a much needed visit to a bike shop as a number of running repairs were needed. Then Colin gives us a mini tour on way into city and we end up at the Seaman’s Mission where he works. He very kindly lets us use the showers and facilities until we need to leave for the overnight ferry, and then takes our bags for us to the port. Paul also gives some of the team a tour of the main sites of Belfast. Great help and support from Stevie, Sharon, Paul and Colin – many thanks, it was great.
An early call at 5.45am to leave our cabin on the ferry, gives us a fairly rude awakening. We land back in England at a damp Birkenhead. We find a cafe for breakfast and meet up with our support driver for the day Mike and his son Andrew.
We cycle across to the Wirrall Way, along the coast, a very nice ride, although lots of dog walkers to avoid. As we come off the path and back onto the roads I take a bit of a tumble, but only have a small graze.
Then by chance we pass Neston children’s centre and Iwan manages to get us invited in for tea and biscuits! Ted works his magic and gets lots of donations from mums there and gives stickers to the children.
Then back on the road and lunch in Chester near the castle. Ted lets himself down by weeing up against Scot’s tyre, revenge for Scot having overtaken him earlier in the day! On the way into Wrexham it starts to rain, a traditional Welsh welcome. As we stop to put raincoats on, Iwan takes a tumble and grazes his arm and leg. Rain gets harder and navigating the streets of Wrexham proves a bit of a challenge, but we finally arrive at the B&B wet and bedraggled, but spirits still high. We all need a hot shower and cup of tea to warm up. Total miles so far – 311.
Started today with a great send off at the Afasic Cymru parents conference at Glyndwr University. The Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Wrexham were there and the Mayor said some kind words, with delegates donating generously to Ted’s tin. Iwan impresses the Mayor by speaking to him in Welsh.
Then we were off on another 80 plus mile day. Weather overcast but wind not in our face so we make good progress. On a hilly section we get a bit of a queue behind us and as we pull over to let people pass a lorry toots us, but instead of abuse he is offering us some money – a £10 note, thanks !! Just at that point we also see a team who are doing the end to end route and give them a clap. We come into Shrewsbury in good time so stop for a coffee and cake break at a great coffee shop. We have just left town though when Scot breaks the pedal for his clip on shoes, and attempts to fix it only result in a minor injury to Iwan’s hand! It is rideable so we continue.
We reach the overall half way point for the ride and have a quick photo, then continue to lunch stop at a roadside cafe, great sandwiches! Then on to Ludlow where we find a bike shop to get new pedals for Scot and Iwan decides to get new pedals and shoes as well. Leaving Ludlow we meet up with Phil who is support driver for next couple of days at around 71 miles and we are starting to flag a bit, so his cakes and fruit were very welcome and much needed.
Suitably refreshed, we are ready for one last push for Hereford. There are a number of hills but the sun comes out for the first time this trip and the views are stunning, so a pleasant if tiring end to the day. Arrive at our B&B at about 7.30pm, with 86 miles cycled. Quick shower and then out for pizza.
Start in Hereford and are soon facing a strong headwind once more. So we adopt the Peleton system of one person in front taking the wind and the rest close behind for shelter and rotating the person at the front. With this we make good progress despite the wind and hills.
Very enjoyable coffee break at a small gift shop, where Ted gets a clip on leek. The lunch stop at the side of an ‘A’ road is not glamorous, but much needed. We arrive in Caerphilly and have some tea and cake by the castle while Scot sorts out yet another puncture.
The hill out of Caerphilly is really steep and I end up walking as my right calf is very tight. Iwan claims the ‘king of the mountains’ title, although Scot disputes this. We take the Taff trail into Cardiff, which was great along the river. An earlier part along a canal also had some stunning views. We arrive in Cardiff about 6pm and after showers we toast the 45th Anniversary of Afasic at the jazz bar next door to our hotel. We are joined by Julia who is with us for the rest of the trip.
Day 8 starts in sunshine, the first time we have really seen it so far. We visit Meadowbank school for a brilliant send off by the children, who had some very good questions for the team. We were sent on our way by Paralympian Steve Morris.
We follow some cycle paths out of Cardiff and take the transporter bridge across the river at Newport. Iwan and Scot continue to battle for the title of king of the mountains, racing up Chepstow hill towards the lunch stop, in a homebase car park !
After lunch it was over the old Severn bridge and a photo stop at half way. Another large hill waited for us before we reach the pub we are staying at for the night and a well-earned drink in the garden.
Started day 9 in warm sunshine. Within 5 miles Ted’s bike had gone down a pothole, broken a spoke and buckled the back wheel. Had to be collected by the support car to go to a bike shop. A couple of miles on we pass a farm selling fresh honey, so Ted missed out.
Then we come to a hill that is a real killer, it keeps going on and I end up having to walk near the top, my legs are gone ! A few miles later we are reunited with our missing rider with the bike fixed. Going through the Cotswolds so terrain undulating and scenery beautiful.
Lunch stop is in a farmer’s field near the river Thames, at a point where it is little more than a stream. Very hot so taking on lots of fluids. Less than a mile from the lunch stop Scot gets yet another puncture after going down a pothole. Fixed fairly quickly and press on to Eynsham, where Sam leaves us to go to a friend’s wedding nearby.
We go in search of ice cream and find it at a local fete. Then on for the last few miles into Oxford and find our university accommodation at St Stephen’s House, very old and full of character. Richard leaves us to go off to do a cycle race tomorrow but will join us again on the last day. Julia says that she has just cycled the furthest she has ever done in one day.
Another hot day in the saddle for the team. Leaving Oxford was fine and then through yet more glorious countryside into the Chiltern hills. There was a nice 2 mile hill leading to our morning drink stop, just to stop us getting bored ! The support team had done great, finding the Highwayman Inn where the owner Paul provided jugs of iced water and free tea and coffee for us! Suitably refreshed we carry on through the heat and have additional support from Tim and dog Daisy for the day.
Lunch was in the shade at the edge of a nature reserve at Twyford, again much needed and very welcome. As we were about to leave, a large gentleman asks if we can give his car a push start, it would have helped if his passenger got out to help, or at least lighten the load!? But we managed to get it going and he puts a few pounds in the tin. Then the final push into Windsor, where we had a well-earned Pimms and saw Andy Murray win Wimbledon.
Scot left us this evening as he has a presentation to do on Monday, and Ted is missing him already (not!). Last day tomorrow, can’t believe it!
After a fitful night’s sleep, due to heat and overhead plane noise, in Windsor we come to the final day of the 4 Nations Bike Ride. Whilst our bodies will certainly be grateful for it to finish and get a rest, we are all actually quite sad that it will be over, with the team having become close over our time together. But as they say, all good things come to an end.
We leave Windsor and after a little while are riding alongside the river Thames at Staines and it looks glorious in the sunshine. We then go through Hampton Park and spot some deer before fighting through the traffic in Kingston and into Richmond Park where we stop for a coffee break and replenish our water supplies from the support car, today driven by Tony.
Just after the stop we also meet up again with Richard who has come out to ride the final section with us, having missed yesterday to do his race (in which he came second). We get out first view of the London skyline as we head ever closer.
We are soon into town and going through Chelsea, and then alongside the Thames again, until we finally see the houses of Parliament and the London Eye. Quick photo opportunity and then on to the finish line in Clerkenwell.
There is a great reception for us as we turn the corner into Bowling Green Lane, with staff, volunteers, trustees and relatives there to greet us. There are handshakes and hugs all round to acknowledge what we have done together and then upstairs for some food and bubbles.
It has been a great trip, we have met lots of helpful and friendly people, seen some beautiful countryside and had pretty much the full range of British weather.
We couldn’t have done it without our support teams – so heartfelt thanks to all of them – Ann and Ian, Jim and Margaret, Stevie and Sharon, Mike and Andrew, Jeannette, Phil and Marie, Jan and Hilary, Tim (and Daisy), and Tony.
Congratulations to the full distance riders – Iwan (the bike whisperer) Jones; Sam (cadence) Cooper, Scot (I’ve got a puncture) Greathead, Richard (pipe and slippers) Everett, and myself Mark (it’s a hill – get over it) Thompson.
Well done also to those who joined us for a day or more along the way – Julia Williams (4 days), Paul McCusker, Colin Hall-Thompson, and Nicola Bell. It was great riding with all of you and bringing the UK together. Here’s to the next one!
Total miles peddled – 667
Total climb – 27,968 feet (almost as high as Everest!)
Time taken – 61 hours and 11 minutes
Average pace – 11 mph
Calories burned – 36,935
If you want the challenge of cycling through the night then ‘Moonriders’ events may be just the thing ! Routes include London to Cambridge (10/11 May), London to Brighton (12/13 July) and a Halloween special in North London (25/26 October). For more information and to register you can go to the Moonriders website.