Jane Wilson-Howarth

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The Big Cycle

Sunday, 01 June 2014
In May, our younger son, Seb, set out on a sponsored cycle trip and he agreed to answer some questions about his adventures. He opted to support The Dame Vera Lynn Trust for Children with Cerebral Palsy. They fund early educational support via their Schools for Parents and promote conductive education. This was a service that we as a family found invaluable. So far Seb has raised well over £1600 for this very worthy cause via http://www.justgiving.com/TheBigCycle1

Q1.      Some people opt to veg out in their gap year, or party in Thailand. What motivated you to do something different?
 
I have never been particularly good at sitting still or doing nothing so I thought that I would try a challenge. The reason that myself and Michael chose to cycle was largely due to a man called Dave Cornthwaite. Dave has started Expedition1000, the idea is to do 25 different journeys of 1000 miles or more, each one using a different mode of non motorised transport. After we listened to our newfound hero’s hilarious talk at the Adventure Travel Show in Olympia in January we were set to try and find our own little adventure.
 
It was an afterthought that people might actually sponsor us for this trip and an afterthought that motivated us more to set the challenge as it became more and more about the charity. We looked at a map and saw Moscow seemed a fairly good distance away with not too many hills so that was our destination. We spent our first night camping in a field at Dartford, then it was on to Dover and we crossed on the ferry to Calais.

 

Q2.      A companion or going it alone?

This is a very important question to ask yourself when planning a trip and one that cannot be answered by anyone else. Everyone has his or her own opinion on this. People tend to go for pairs or small groups which has its advantages but in the same way that alone travelling also has its positives. Think long and hard about what you want from the trip.  
 
Q3.      What preparations to your bike?

The bike was the first challenge. I used my uncle’s old Dawes Galaxy (dated roughly to the 1970s). I stripped it and attempted to rebuild the classic touring frame with new components. Although this sounds fairly easy, it was not. I spent hours, with the help of others but mainly my father, trying to find the part that would fit or trying to find something that nearly fitted. In the end it was more about just finishing the bike than the thought of it actually taking me the 5000 miles, which would explain why I had so many problems.

 












Q4.      You quizzed Sally Haiselden about her big cycle trip. What advice did she give you?

I spoke to a lot of different people, seeking advice about the trip, but Sally had done a long trip herself so I thought she would be able to help a great deal. She is an amazing woman who cycled solo from Khartoum to Cambridge and is now working in Juba, South Sudan. Sally is a great improviser, and recommended - not fancy cycling gloves - but wearing plastic bags on your hands if it rains. 

I think it is important to try and speak to as many people as possible because they will usually have gone through the same problems that you will face. What I found was that no matter the preparations, they will do very little to help you when actually on the road. You will also be pleasantly surprised to realise what you can do with a role of duct tape and some common sense, however. 

 

Q5.      Any practice trips?

We did not do a practice trip but is something that I would recommend as an absolute essential. You will discover a number of problems that will be easily fixed but can cause enormous issues in the long run. I do not mean mechanical aspects, but more to do with preparing yourself. Once tired and hungry with no prospect of anything getting any better, it is very easy to quit and turn back to your comfortable life. In a way that's what happened to me, although I guess that most people would feel pretty demotivated after coming into close contact with the bonnet of a German car.
 
Q6.      What fitness work did you do?
 
I was in relatively good shape before but I did change my regime to include more cardiovascular training, which then caused me to be less heavy. This turned out to do very little as there wasn’t a time where my legs were giving up on me. I would attempt to do around 100km a day at a relatively slow pace. I suspect if I had increased the speed then that is where the training would have needed to come in.
 
Q7.      I believe you had a knee injury. Were you worried that might prove a problem?

Before I left I was vaguely worried about it. I thought if I fell badly on it that it would start causing problems. It turned out to be the biggest problem and the one that actually caused me to turn back. I first fell on day four, not badly, but enough to ruin the gear mechanism of my bike and also my left knee. Walking became painful again and the bike was only limping as far as Bruges, where I found an extremely kind mechanic who helped get the bike back together (photo left).




 
 











The biggest problem came when I got to Hamburg though. I was cruising down a slight hill but with the extra mass of 40kgs in my panniers I was travelling faster than I would have liked in a city. As I was crossing the road a car pulled out and I went very slowly over the bonnet of that car. I landed hard on my knee and that put an end to the trip for me. I've just had an MRI scan and now await an operation to fix it.



 
Q8.     I think you packed some luxuries. What was NOT worth carrying and what did you appreciate most?
 
We started with a trick of putting everything we could possibly need, which we then split this list into three subcategories of essential, useful and luxury. I admittedly did take one or two luxury items that probably could have gone without, one being a bottle of 15 year old Macallan. 

 
And finally

Q9.   I reckon that if everything in life is always going your way, you are not trying hard enough, challenging yourself enough or risking enough. What do you think of that philosophy?
 
It's always important to push yourself, although there are times that it is also important to step back and look to see if the actions you are taking are the best for that situation. 

http://www.justgiving.com/TheBigCycle1
Posted: 01/06/2014 15:11:12 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments



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