2020 Cycling Plans Cancelled – Working Life on Hold- My 84yr Old Mum Having Survived Covid – I Want To Mark This Strange Time….
It was on a solo soggy Century ride on Sunday 7th June. Many thoughts go through your head when you’re cycling alone for six and a half hours!! You can put the world to rights, talk to yourself, make plans, reflect and reminisce!! I was looking ahead to a possible return to a new sort of normal with my Driving School and thinking about the last few months.
My passion for cycling came to me late in life at 50, and I like to think I’ve got a couple more years where I can continue to get better and challenge myself to push my boundaries! It took 3 or 4 years before I moved away from my off road mountain biking to a carbon road bike (my beloved Trek Alpha) and once I made that leap I was hooked! Within a year I was doing 100 mile Sportives and I joined a club, although my work commitments on a Sunday meant I only rode a couple of Club rides with Lancashire Road Club, based in my home town of Bolton.
I had a couple of mates from work I cycled with on a regular basis, and by 2016 I was looking at upgrading my “Steed”
I bought a Cannondale Synapse Carbon at the end of that year in a Black Friday Sale! That bike is like an old armchair to me & is still my favourite bike in 2020 having ridden over 23,000 miles on it!!
I now also have a Giant TCR Advanced, a disc braked racing machine which cost nearly twice the price of my trusty Cannondale, but it’s hard racy ride means I still prefer the Synapse!!
In 2018 I had what I think is the best cycling year I’ve ever had to date! I completed Velo 29’s triple challenge of Cheshire Cat, Tour of The Peaks & the Incredible Yorkshire Beast (a 200 mile mountainous ride across North Yorkshire). I also did the wonderful Etape De Dales and spent a three week family touring caravan holiday in the French Alps. I cycled up lots of the famous Tour iconic climbs, like Alpe Duez, Galibier, Col de Izoard, Col De Croix Der Fer to name a few!!
It was that year that I met Steve Mosley who joined Royal Mail & was at the same Delivery Depot as me in Horwich. This chance coming together led me to join Salford Cycling Club, where I was made to feel part of the furniture!
With Danny, Steve & other Salford riders we did some great rides the Club’s C group often did and some new ones too. Some organised Sportives too, Cheshire Cat, Manchester- Sheffield- Manchester, Amy’s Challenge, Lagan’s & a two day epic ride home from South Wales with Danny!
2020 was meant to “Top” all that had gone before – lots of plans, the highlights were a special quadruple of challenges…
Fred Whitton in Early June
Chase The Sun North on the summer solstice, Wales in a Day in mid July
… And in September I was doing Lands End to John O’Groats with Threshold!
Then we suddenly found ourselves in lockdown! I didn’t venture outdoors on my
Bike at all in April, as being fortunate in having a smart trainer setup in my garage I made a decision at the height of the outbreak to stay off the roads and join the virtual cycling world!!
By the start of May I had had a belly full of sweltering in my garage – the weather had been incredible, and I was increasingly jealous of cycling friends waxing lyrical about empty roads to ride on!
So I ventured out on the 8th May with my buddy Danny – it was like being “born again” – Indoor trainers are a poor substitute for the real thing in my opinion & I’ll keep mine for those extremely horrible weather days we get now and again!! Give me wind in your face, rain or shine, hot or cold – being out there is wonderful!!
Anyway I remember distinctly where I was when the crazy idea came to me! I was on Holmeswood Road heading away from Southport toward Rufford in West Lancashire!
An old friend of mine (Steven Ludford) moved South about 15yrs ago & he and his wife are now Wardens for the Caravan & Motorhome Club. They were in lockdown on their Caravan Site in the Cotswolds and he decided to use all that spare time with an empty caravan site at his disposal to cycle around the roadway on the site on a daily basis, clocking up enough miles to add up to a Lands End to John O’Groats distance!!
Well, I wasn’t able to do my Lejog this year, and with lockdown restrictions I couldn’t do the real thing with my wife towing caravan or use B&B’s – So whilst I was only 30 miles away from completing what was only my 4th or 5th 100+ mile ride of the year (I did 20 centuries last year) it came to me…
“I’ve got maybe another two or three weeks before work calls… 10 consecutive rides everyday for 10 days this month –
I’ll start next weekend!!”
I arrived home all excited… Broke the news to my wife – she rolled her eyes in that “You’re crazy!” look, but as always she is very supportive of my obsessive hobby. She agreed to get involved in coming to meet me at the end of a couple of rides, as I wanted to make it as interesting as possible by doing a few routes where i don’t have to finish back at home!
We discussed the possibility of raising money for charity, but with me planning to start in 5 days time and having done a Challenge for Alzheimer’s earlier in the year raising well over £1,000 now wasn’t the time to go to same people who dug deep for me in January!
So this challenge is for my personal quest to push my boundaries and to do something I’ll probably never have time to do ever again! My initial plan was to do all 10 rides solo – I like my own company, as two thirds of my riding is done alone. However, once I spread the word to cycling friends, I got three or four of them saying they would love to join me on some of the rides. So with that, I decide to do 5 of the rides with a friend and the other five would be solo!
I immediately set to work on the routes. I am no stranger to planning & plotting cycling routes. I love planning new rides, discovering hidden gems, seeing different parts of the country! Having a touring caravan, we holiday in UK quite a lot, so when we book a site I spend the weeks leading up to our break plotting routes on Strava and saving them to my navigation Device (Garmin).
At the beginning of 2019 I joined a 2nd Cycling Club, Salford CC. Two good friends have been members for a while & suggested I approach the Committee with suggestion I run a new Sunday Club ride which we christened “The Early Birds” I have been an early riser for many years.
I was a postman for 24years and used to 4am alarm calls for that job! As a Driving Instructor now, I can do a big Sunday ride and be home before lunchtime and provide my learner drivers a lesson later in the day! So I plan many different rides for the Salford Early Birds, and I’m also occasionally asked to plan rides for friends who are going to different parts of country. When planning rides I research where cafes are located & always plan a stop for breakfast or early lunch around halfway! I also compare my routes on Strava to Streetview on Google Maps, as it’s very easy to mistake a gravel track or path or find that your route goes along the busiest dual-carriageway in town! So my ideal routes are country lanes with a decent cafe stop where I will consume many calories with a Full-English Breakfast washed down with several Lattes!!
Now for the Challenge….