As my eyes struggled to focus on the road in the dark, driving rain and bright head lights, I remember thinking to myself that I was grateful to be on my Sonder Fatbike. The descent was awash, gutters full of water, running faster than I was riding, just about above the curb onto the foot path, where some cyclists were walking down, deciding that it was a far better option in these biblical conditions. The streets and headlights reflected over the glistening black tarmac road which was covered in slippery white lines and branches, thrown from the trees in the storm. I rolled past cyclists who had lost confidence in their trusted machines: only a few days ago they were polishing their steeds at home with the dream of completing the much-awaited Lands End to John O’Groats challenge. Now sitting upon the saddle, with weary sit-bones, one foot unclipped and dragging down the road, they were just hoping they were going to stop in time for the right turn at the junction fast approaching. I’ve ridden in some crazy conditions over the past few years, and leaving Bath that morning was up there for sure. But it’s these memories I crave when having adventures.
It was a decision that just came to me, while I was talking to the team at Sense, the charity that had kindly asked me to be their ambassador. I didn’t even think twice about it - during the phone call I said “why don’t I ride my fat bike? It will get loads of attention and hopefully help raise the profile of Sense on the ride.” I knew it was a really stupid idea, that’s why I liked it. Who in their right mind would consider doing such a daft thing?
The amazing group of riders got through that morning, and a few other mornings and moments like this one leaving Bath, to achieve something extraordinary. Riding the length of a country is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Travelling by bike has certainly captured my passion for adventures at the moment, and I can’t seem to get enough of it. The beauty of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain (RAB) is that it attracts such a wide range of characters.
Each day is pretty similar: you are woken at 5:30 by the first verse of an uplifting motivating rock or pop classic. You then drag your tired and sore body out of your tent, and struggle to stay balanced on your wobbly limbs as you cut through the rows of tents, taking the shortest distance to breakfast. Once in the breakfast tent, you are surrounded by others, who you can tell are in the same boat as you, and you still exchange a up beat and friendly, hello or ‘morning’! You shovel food down your face, eating two or three times what you normally do at home, because you are riding 100 miles. Once the food has been ticked off, you head back to your damp tent via the drying room to collect yesterday’s still soggy kit. Then you start sorting out today’s kit - what you will wear and what you don’t need, get changed and then stuff everything else into your bag that seems to be growing by the day and getting harder to fit everything in, even though you haven’t got anything more than you started with. You clear your tent and zip it up, then head to the bathroom to do your teeth, then to bag drop. The guys there are always super cheery even at this ridiculous hour of the morning. Again there are others stumbling around you like zombies. From there it’s onto the High 5 tent to fill your bottles and grab a gel or two, just in case. Now you are starting to wake up and you see familiar faces, everyone in a rush to get going. You collect your bike from the bike rack, and even though mine stands out, I struggle to find it most days. No one else has decided they want to ride a fat bike today. On the way out of the bike racks you show the guys your wrist band to make sure you have the right bike. I stopped doing this after day 2 as they knew I was the only unhinged person to ride such a random bike on the road.
You know you have 100 miles plus to ride so you ease into the day, chatting as you ride and having a laugh. Before you know it, the first Pit Stop comes around and you've chatted away 35 odd miles. You stop to eat even more food. The spread is always amazing, and you can’t help yourself going back for seconds. You roll out of the first Pit Stop and get on your way to the second. Your legs feel like you have sat in a cafe for hours, even though it has only been 20 minutes. You slowly find your rhythm again as you roll through some amazing countryside, shooting the breeze with the group you are riding with. You roll past other groups, and racers fly past you, often commenting on the fat bike that hums along underneath me, as the fat tyres drag along the road. As you start to tire, you only have a couple of miles before you hear the cheering people and the bells of Pit Stop 2.
You thank the guys you ride with and head for the bike racks, ditch your bike and head for tent allocation. Then you collect your bag from the DHL guys who are always a happy bunch to chat to. Before you know it, 10 o’clock sneaks up, and it’s time to hit the hay and prepare for another big day of riding. It kind of continues like that for 9 days. You get more and more in tune with what you need to do around the base camps, which makes the down time and recovery better. Everyone is tired but upbeat at the end of the day, and some of the stories you hear are brilliant. You really have the feeling that no matter how in shape or unfit you are, you are one big family on this journey together.
Being asked to ride for Sense as an ambassador has been a great honour, and something I will remember for a very long time. I’d like to thank all of the staff there who have helped pull this RAB together for me, especially Emma and Damian. I really appreciate everything you have done to make this happen, and I can’t thank you enough.
To my sponsors Alpkit and Sonder: thanks for kitting me out with a record-breaking bike and kit that kept me warm and dry on those tough days. Thanks to Dirty Dog Eyewear for improving my looks and vision on and off the bike, and to 17 Management, in particular Ian Byers who has been amazing at getting my fundraising story out there. It really is an honour to be associated with you all and to have your support on my adventures, big and small.