So it was on the 17th June when I approached Matt with the idea. I’d received an email at work advising they were holding a “fundraising fortnight” all in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. Anything raised during this time would be matched by E.ON so I thought what I could do to help a worthy charity.
Now for me to ask friends & family for sponsorship I like to think it’d need to be an epic test – something I’ve never done before (as i’m an avid rider and have completed some fantastic rides) so how about my first ever ride over 200 miles – riding from Newcastle to Nottingham in a single day!
With permission gained from both Bosses’ (mine and Matts wives) and we were on for Saturday July 11th. Trains looked into and booked we would be departing Nottingham on Friday night and arriving in Newcastle on Saturday morning 2.15am.
The plan was then formulated – get to Newcastle at 2.15am and aim to set off as soon as possible (to take advantage of the clear main roads escaping Newcastle and head south).
Friday 10th July
The train leaving Nottingham was booked for 10.26pm and Matt got to mine for 9.00pm. Time for a cup of tea, check over the bikes, final gear checks and pose for the obligatory photos!
No dramas getting the 1 mile to Nottingham station and we got straight on the train. Bikes loaded up and wearing our Teenage Cancer Trust t-shirts (and baggy shorts to protect our modesty!) we took our seats. The train being the last one (out to Lincoln) for the night meant it was heaving & there were plenty of drunken revellers on board which made the 40 minute trip to Newark “interesting” – thank god we decided to dress a little inconspicuous…
As the train pulled into Newark we got the bikes ready and upon spotting the t-shirts the guard asked what we were doing. Without any prompting he passed £5 of his own cash our way for the cause! The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me! We got off the train and had the station to ourselves for 15 minutes while waiting for the train that’d take us direct to Newcastle.
Soon enough, a huge train pulled in (at least 10 carriages!) and thankfully we picked the right end of the train to load the bikes into. On we popped and had to walk through the empty first carriages to the standard. To be fair, it was much more spacious than the last train and with only a handful of people on board was very peaceful – an opportunity to get our heads down… or so we thought! We both managed around 30 minutes kip each in total, not the ideal preparation for cycling 207 miles! The seats were a little too upright to get comfy and we had entertainment in the form of a random bloke (lets call him Frank).
Frank got on the train in Doncaster & decided to choose the seat in front of us. He sat next to the unsuspecting Ecuadorian woman who was the subject to his best chat up lines and his worldy wisdom! He was giving her the inside track on where he’d been in the world (i guess so he could sound exotic), how he was a successfull businessman (though refused to discuss any business!) and how he hated the UK and how unfriendly everyone was! Needless to say she didn’t get off his station at York as requested, thus confirming his theory of how unfriendly everyone in the UK was i guess….
Saturday 11th July
So we got into Newcastle at 2.15am right on track. After grabbing the bikes we set about getting the lights on the bikes & getting ready to go. That’s when we heard it…. the pitter patter of heavy rain rumbling above. The metal roof in the Newcastle train station did little to hide the sound, we were going to get wet – no question about it! Rain jackets on we set off out of the station at 2.30am and began the ride!
Straight out of the door we were drenched. Being sober in any city in the middle of the night is a sight – being sober in Newcastle at this time – just wow! You’ve got to hand it to the Northerners though, they take it to the extreme on so many levels.
Battling past the drunken revellers we were soon over the Tyne – being on the main road meant no opportunity to grab a picture of the Tyne Bridge, still it looks the same as it did before and does in pictures so no drama. We escaped due south primarily on the dual carriageways and A167. Now the advantage to riding this early/ late is the empty roads, this would have been bliss & we would have made rapid progress but due to the fact it was pissing it down was considerably slower as we had to dodge the puddles encase they were hiding monster pot holes!
Only 5 miles in and we were at our first landmark. We were at the Angel of the North. I’ve seen it several times from the A1 but to just ride past it would have been a shame. We hopped the dual carriageway and were stood right underneath it. The picture below does it no justice as it was so dark and gives no sense of scale or grandeur but it was mightily impressive. Eerily emerging from the darkness upon the approach I first saw the head and then the massive wingspan appear in the dark – if you didn’t know it was there you’d be forgiven for shitting yourself!
Leaving the Angel behind we passed through Chester-Le-Street, Durham, Sunderland Bridge, Spennymoor down past Scotch Corner again heading south, sopping wet through.
Around 4am it was still dark but a little lighter, dawn was starting to break. 30 minutes later and it was almost completely light now and riding along without the buzz of cars or traffic noise we heard the birdsongs from all manner of birds, dodged rabbits having parties in the roads startled by our silent approach. A spectacular start to the day!
Just after Northallerton and 56 miles in we called a coffee & food stop. It was approximately 5.40am and we got a spot just off the road and got some water on the go for a coffee & some porridge for brekkie.
Back on the bikes and heading south again we were soon in and out of Thirsk and in to the spectacular Howardian Hills AONB. The sun was coming out, it was warming up, the scenery was stunning and we had a headwind (you cant have it all eh?)
We passed through the grounds of Castle Howard – a great little surprise with its stunning vista and grounds! We speculated who lived here, i may have been off the mark when i put forward the idea it was so brought and named after Howard from the Halifax adverts – though i really hope i am right on that one…
After 100 miles around 10.30am we were at Stamford Bridge ready for some food – no we were not at the home of Chelsea FC and were not going to order a pie! We found a lovely little café that did a all day breakfast for £6 – very reasonable, tasty and filling!
The stop here presented me the opportunity to try and dry off my socks and shoes so I sat at the café like this!
After the hearty breakfast and telling the waitress our story we were off. 10 miles of steady easy riding (to allow dinner to go down) were in order, after 5 miles of steady riding another cyclist overtook us as we were watering a hedge and our competitive streak kicked in. Firstly we chased him down and got a tow for a mile or so (a tow is where you’re sheltered from the wind by the rider in front meaning you require less effort to keep up) then we passed him and offered our wheel, for the next 20 miles towards Goole we all took it in turns riding at the front into the wind and made amazing progress – we covered these 20 miles in just an hour! With Goole approaching, Eric (I don’t know his name so Eric is as good as any) said he was nearly home. He whipped a £10 note from his jerset and gave it to us for the cause. Again the generosity of people blow my mind!
The shot here was just off the A164 out of Goole. The route had us on this road for a couple of miles and was easily the worst part of the ride. It’s a narrow fast road with pot holes that would swallow a bike – never mind a wheel so we were weaving around these obstacles while the traffic whizzed past at 70mph. Not even a shitty, glass strewn, overgrown cycle lane at the side to be our sanctuary we were forced to ride this.
We said farewell to the A164 and were back on the quiet country roads. Bliss. At this point I was riding noticing my blinks were becoming longer and longer, after surviving on around 1 hour sleep since the previous day I was ready for a quick R&R stop and lots of coffee!
To be fair, as it was an enforced stop it was a amazing little vista by the side of the water. Quiet as anything save the sheep & pig in the shall holding behind!
Off we set and our battered bodies soon warmed up to riding the bikes again. The numbness of my arse dissapeared after a mile and my mucsles thought not a-bloody-gain! Were soon into Lincolnshire and by this point it had clouded over a little and had thankfully cooled down a touch.
Milestone now – we’re in Nottinghamshire! Still miles to go though as its a bloody big county and the finish point is right in the south. We rolled into Walesby at 170 miles and nostalgia dictated I say we should stop in the pub in the village for a bite to eat. (Nostalgic as it was in Walesby I went on one of my first ever Cub Scout camps!)
Departing and the usual ritual of our muscles first refusing to work and then giving up to the fact were riding again we were on the road. More familiar roads now as we close in on our destination. Light rain taunted us and forced us to put our rain jackets on for 5 miles or so – these were ditched as we were heating up badly on the undulations around Southwell – skins waterproof anyway eh! The light shower soon stopped and we ticked off the places into Nottingham. Southwell, Goverton, Thurgaton, Hoveringham, Caythorpe, Gunthorpe, Shelford, Radcliffe on Trent, West Bridgford and finally Nottingham! We rode to Nottingham station as this seemed like a fitting end to the ride and posed together for more pictures!
We bloody did it, Newcastle to Nottingham in a day. 207.5 miles. Total time was 18h 22m (inc stops) and ride time 13h 41m. We climbed 7,713 ft during the day and burned approx. 14,000 calories!
It was a tough & long day on the bike… Thanks to each and everyone of you who commented, supported & took the time to donate to the Teenage Cancer Trust.
It was hard & it was a challenge – but nothing compared to what these kids go through that the TCT help.
If you would like to donate anything to this fantastic charity, the link to donate is www.justgiving.com/newcastletonottingham
For those interested the strava stats are here – https://www.strava.com/activities/343994725 (as they say, if it’s not on Strava it never happened right!)
Thanks for taking the time to read my account of the day, alot of people will be asking “Would I do it again?” My answer would have to be “You’ll have to ask next week when my arse has had a chance to recover and i’m not walking like John Wayne!” (Although at the end of the ride there was talk of an Edinburgh to Nottingham….. in a day!)