James Chester is Ecommerce Manager at Rutland Cycling. This summer, he took to some two-wheeled, two-person, touring.
This year, my girlfriend and I decided to upgrade our trusty tandem; and what a beauty this new one is. We've now got larger 700c wheels, some drop handlebars and a triple chainset to complement the 9 speed XT derailleur on the back. Perfect then for bigger road challenges...
We decided to set ourselves a distance of 100miles - we've done 85 together before, and 100 seemed like a good milestone. So we grabbed a compass and drew a 100 mile wide circle around Rutland. With plenty of choice, it was hard to decide where to go, but in the end we settled on the North East coast; it's somewhere we've never been, it's by the seaside, and seemed to have fewer climbs than the Peak District!
Before we set off, we had to make sure we had all of the right kit, so we invested in the following bits:
We set off on Wednesday 9th August bright and early at 7am...although bright might be the wrong word because we cycled for the first few hours in torrential downpour. I am sure that our MD was right when he said that there were probably fisherman on shipping trawlers that were dryer than us! So our exciting cycle adventure started with our heads down, ploughing through a wall of rain. The only saving grace of our inaugural flight on the new tandem was the quality of the equipment we had strapped to the bike; despite the intensity of the rain, our Ortlieb panniers didn't let a drop through, and the Garmin GPS didn't even blink, which was a great relief.
Fortunately the rain didn't last all day, and just ahead of lunch it passed, to make way for clear [ish] skies. Now one mistake we had made in the morning was not bringing full waterproofs; only jackets. This resulted in some very wet hands, legs and feet! However after the rain cleared, and we were confronted with clear skies, our Castelli shorts dried out very quickly, and we really appreciated the fast wicking nature of the Castelli team kit and Specialized shoes, needless to say we would probably have been a lot less comfortable without the right kit!
We stopped for a pub lunch at around 60 miles and reflected on the tough morning we had just experienced. During lunch we remained optimistic about the afternoon ahead, but after setting off again, at about 80miles, the Lincolnshire Wolds hit us like a brick wall. Having spent the morning pushing through rain and navigating Lincoln City Centre, the up-down nature of the last 20 miles really challenged us. This was when we started to notice the weight of the bike and luggage, and reflected on our poor lunch choice [it turns out burgers don't equal good energy food]. We slogged on though, and at about 8.30pm we finally rolled into our destination - tired and damp.
Having never been to the North East coast before, we didn't quite know what to expect from Grimsby/ Cleesthorpe, and the feedback from colleagues hadn't done much to reassure us. However we were pleasantly surprised with what this old fishing port had to offer. We only had a couple of days, but we certainly weren't short of things to do; we played in the arcades, walked on the pier, relaxed on the beach, ate local fish and chips, played mini golf and sampled some delicious craft beers. With so much to do though, it's no surprise that our two days went by in a flash and it was soon time for us to ride back...
Waking up on Saturday morning, we were both apprehensive about the ride ahead. Our knees and muscles still hurt from the journey up, and we weren't sure we were even going to make it back. However we took some extra precautions such as additional padding and some emergency Snickers bars and we planned an extra coffee stop before lunch.
Fortunately we had a much better start this time; the sun was shining and spirits were surprisingly high as we set off. The sunshine also made it a lot easier to chat, and before long the miles were flying by. It also seemed that our Garmin had taken us a slightly different route on the way back; bypassing Lincoln City centre and taking us down more off-road tracks and trails. These paths were great, and provided some of the most enjoyable cycling routes I've ever experienced. However these paths certainly weren't without their challenges, and some of the bumpy downhill descents I was sure would result in buckled wheels, punctured tubes and loosened pannier bolts. But they didn't, and the Schwalbe tyres and RSP pannier rack held out brilliantly.
Before we knew it we were back in Rutland by 7pm - much quicker than the outward journey. We collapsed on the sofa that evening with a takeaway pizza and reflected on the adventure we had just had. Although it was only a small excursion by cycle touring standards, we felt as though we had achieved a great deal; we had ridden through rain and sunshine, on main roads and no-roads. We had experienced tears and exhilaration, there were times where we were sure something would give up, whether it was us or the kit, but nothing did, and I would definitely do it all over again.
My top tips
- A decent set of Ortlieb bags and good pannier racks were essential. Enduring plenty of stops, drops, bumps and torrential rain, they kept our kit well protected and secure the whole time.
- My Specialized Cadet shoes were great. I had never really fully appreciated the idea of a cycling shoe you can walk in, but on a ride with plenty of coffee stops, the ability to hop off the bike and walk into a caf� comfortably was great.
- More coffee stops made a big difference on the return journey. A brief stop at 35 miles for a coffee and a cake really helped keep us going for the next 30 or so miles.
- Real food also helped; having Snickers, bananas, nuts, raisins and malt loaf made our energy stops much more enjoyable.
- We really noticed the value of conversation on the return journey. On our outward journey, the rain made it hard to talk, and it was essentially 'heads down and pedal'. But the sunshine on the return journey meant conversation was much easier, and after a few games of eye spy, the miles just flew by.