Imagine a road trip from the bottom of England to the top of Scotland – that is from Land’s End to John O’Groats? Now get on your bike and try cycling the 1860 kilometers in 17 days with your only rest day on Day 13.
That’s some feat when your cycling day of around 116 km may comprise rain, hail, fog, wind, traffic or hills and take up to seven hours.
Organised by The Cycling Touring Club of UK (CTC), twenty cyclists took to the back roads of Great Britain in May this year accompanied by a man with a van.
One intrepid adventurer, Rosanne Osborn from bayside Melbourne, swapped her bike to an e-bike to assist with the hilly terrain due to a recently diagnosed health condition. I asked Rosanne:
How did you prepare for the ride? Dave and I did some long rides up around Bright and the High Country including one 185km day. Plus, leading up to the trip, we would ride along Beach Road in Melbourne each day.
Who was on the trip? Usually there are only two to three females but in our group there were eleven males and nine females including ten Aussies. The average age was around 60. I guess that’s when people have the time and money. One of the women had her 70th birthday and the trip was her way of celebrating. She was a two-time Olympic kayaker in the 1970s and was fit and determined.
Did everyone finish the ride? All except one guy who pulled out after five days with a badly torn quad muscle.
The roads cycled: We travelled mainly on backroads but obviously there were a few busier roads we had to access. The hardest part of the ride was probably going into Exeter at the end of a very long day going through Dartmoor. The traffic was a challenge and it was peak hour. It was a bit scary.
The highlight: I loved the entire time, however cycling through Derbyshire and over Dartmoor stands out because it was the first time we’d travelled through higher, wilder countryside. This contrasted the pretty areas of Cornwall, Devon and Shropshire the previous few days. Another highlight was seeing a couple of endangered red squirrels dashing across the road in front of us in Scotland.
England or Scotland? I loved both England and Scotland for different reasons. England was beautiful and the towns and old buildings were stunning and quaint. Cycling through the back lanes with hedges or stone walls on either side was fun as often an unexpected building, a gorgeous view, wildlife or a beautiful garden would appear. Whereas Scotland was more open. The views were expansive and although the weather was variable, it added to the atmosphere.
The only lowlight of the trip was riding outside Glasgow where there was rubbish everywhere on the side of the road including tyres, mattresses, discarded bottles and heaps of plastic.
Sunny days versus wet days: We were pretty lucky with the weather as we had only one really foul day with heavy rain. Otherwise there was a mix of showers, a little bit of sun, fog or drizzle, but that’s to be expected in the UK.
Your mantra for cycling over 100 kilometres a day: Stretch and warm up. I was also hoping my body would hold together day after day.
The three ’must haves’ that you’d recommend other cyclists pack: 1. A foam roller for stretching out muscles. We bought ours in Cornwall the week leading up to the tour. 2. Wet weather gear 3. My Simply Joolz beanie came in very handy up on the various moors.
British fare: In the evening we’d have three courses with starters like a terrine or pate, soup or a salad, followed by mains and usually a fruit crumble or pie, ice cream or cheeses. They were all eerily similar apart from one where we finished the day at a petrol station come trucking stop. In the morning a sour woman served us pretty awful fried eggs, bacon, sausage and dried up mushrooms. Even the toast cost extra.
Cycling planned for the near future: Our bikes have been forwarded to Austria so we will cycle there as well as Italy and France before coming home. Dave and I are also planning to come back for another CTC tour in France next year.
Rosanne’s upbeat and ready for her next adventure. It seems that ‘no cycling road is long with good company’*
*adapted from a Turkish proverb