As many of you will know we returned from our expedition just over a week ago and have now had some much needed rest and recovery time. I hope you managed to follow our adventures through Facebook or the Alpkit website, I tried to post as much content as possible as the days went on.
From the word go this project has been challenging and fulfilling in equal measure and the expedition was no different. The first week was very tough for Joe as he got into the routine of being on the bike day after day, forcing his body to get fit in the process. Joe was joined by his twin brother Jon for most of the first week and it was nice to see the dynamic between them. We had many comedy moments as the miles ticked by. The real work began as we hit the rolling hills of the Peak District and North Yorkshire and the reality of riding a bike of this type over long distances set in. It is a sturdy piece of kit, designed by the Renault F1 team apparently, but it is heavy and the components that were provided gradually gave out as the miles increased. Luckily I worked as a bike mechanic for a couple of years, so I could fettle as we went and work out temporary fixes, but this all led to very long days and a heavy workload for me.
Mid way through the trip we hit home turf and rolled into Ambleside with a band of supporting riders who joined in along the way. It was strange to be home but only half way there. We were exhausted and emotional but were greeted by friendly faces, cake and hot food. I opted for a night in my own bed but Joe stayed away from his house, as he knew he wouldn’t want to leave again in the morning! The next day we headed for Kirkstone and up The Struggle, and it was exactly that. Luckily we had an Iron Man to join Joe on the bike and we finished the day off with a beautiful paddle along Ullswater.
The days beyond this seemed pretty endless. We left familiar places and passed through southern Scotland, little happened except a chance meeting with Hermann, a recumbent rider who spent most of his life on the road. He was riding from Reykjavik to Torquay to visit his daughter and was everything you want from a lonesome traveller; bearded, eccentric, warm and poetic. We left Hermann and headed in to the Borders, past the Devil’s Beeftub (where the reivers kept their rustled cattle) before picking our way around Livingstone and Glasgow for the toughest part of the trip; relentless urban sections with no views, and lots of traffic. It was impossible to relax in the support vehicles and it became very difficult to get shots. We breathed a sigh of relief as we finally headed into the green places again, the Highlands firmly in our sights.
On day 11 we were joined by Gilly McArthur and Charlie Woodburn, they had travelled from Bristol to support us and ride with Joe through the Highlands and up to Fort Bill for the last leg. Gilly has her own story to tell which we were keen to cover in our film, and Charlie, a freelance cameraman, brought some much needed expertise too. With them came warmth and fresh energy when we were feeling tired and low, it gave us the kick up the arse we needed to keep going. Rannoch Moor and Glencoe blew our minds as it always does and reminded us how lucky we were to be having such an adventure. The last two days rolled by with some slightly delirious highs and lows. We had been on the road for 14 days straight as we rolled in to Fort William in rain and wind.
So we made the decision to leave our final hurdle, Ben Nevis, for another day. Now that the dust has settled a little I still feel mixed emotions about this. There is no doubt in my mind that we made the right choice, so I have no regrets and I don’t think Joe has either. We have always known that Joe was pushing himself hard and every step of the way we made conscious, considered decisions as to whether we should carry on or change our objectives. It is this commitment to pushing himself that means Joe is doing extraordinary things but in this case we all knew the risks were too high and we could take pride in a decision to turn back. This was a metaphorical journey from lowest to highest and Joe is yet to reach that point, so in a sense it ended exactly how it should have, with part of the journey unfinished. So why do I feel mixed emotions? Put simply, we want to finish the film! With this in mind I have decided to keep following the project rather than edit it for Kendal this year. We wrote Tower Ridge off in our minds a few weeks before the expedition, knowing that in reality we would probably end up crutching our way up the Ben as a safer (but equally tough) option. So it seems right that we should wait for Joe’s frame to come off and return to Ben Nevis to complete our original objective when Joe is more mobile. I do have a short film up my sleeve for KMF 2013 to keep everyone going though!
So many people have engaged with this project, whether that was pledging a little bit of money through Kickstarter, following our updates on Facebook, peddling or paddling with us or giving us free food, kit or accommodation along the way. That has been the most beautiful part, and I hope you can all respect our decision to change the parameters, and trust that ultimately we will have a bigger and better film at the end of it. We want to inspire more people and raise more money for our chosen charities. Joe has a date for the removal of his frame and it is pretty soon, so the next chapter begins.
I would like to thank the whole team for their work on the expedition and all the riders who donated their legs; Jon, Nic, Bungle, Jim, John, Eve, Ben, Ryan, Knowli, Joe, Gilly, Charlie, Hel, and Andy.
From all of us on the team, thanks for being involved in what we are doing; we couldn’t have done it without you. And to our sponsors ALPKIT, BMC, and LYON, thank you for supporting grass roots filmmaking with much needed finance and gear for our travels. And a big thank you to Ryan at Watchtree Wheelers and Quest88 for the bike, it was tough on the hills but it brought a little bit of joy to everyone who rode it.
The journey is not over!