The text read “what have I done?” with a link to the first blog about this ride.
I woke the next morning to find a reply waiting for me. To my surprise, actually I shouldn’t have been surprised Laura’s a glutton for punishment, the reply wasn’t “you’re a moron! WHY?” but “Epic! When? Can I come?” I had to think for a split second, and then re-read it. I replied telling her that since writing the blog the distance had crept up to 247 miles. The texts rattled back and forth for a while, then “Can I join?”
If I’m honest I had always pictured this as a solo ride, not because I didn’t want anyone with me but because I assumed that I didn’t know anyone who was mentally unbalanced enough to want to cycle from Plymouth to South Wales at all, never mind in 24hrs. It’s not like London to Paris. You don’t get to finish at the Eiffel Tower, or wonder along the Seine once you’ve finished. You’re in South Wales, it cold, you’re tired and it’s probably raining, a lot. But you can get a pint of Brains for your efforts.
To be honest we could have cycled from London to Paris, Plymouth to London, or even Plymouth to Barcelona – but finishing in Pontardulais just felt far more appropriate. More symbolic. If a little less glamorous.
Being one of ‘those guys’ once the dust was beginning to settle on this idea and preliminary plans, and hopes, began to fall into place I’ve gone back to the route to get a better idea of what I have to look forward to. On closer inspection the route has me on the A38. This is a deal breaker for this route, although legal the A38 in this part of the world is the closest we have to a motorway and with my previous statement still standing there is no way I’m riding on that road. So Dartmoor is back in the mix, and the new plan is drawn up almost instantly.
The plan now is to use the traffic free Plym valley cycle route out of Plymouth and re-join the road at Yelverton, and then off up and over Dartmoor. Once passed Exeter the route is the same. I have also noticed the added bonus that once I get to Chepstow, when I’m tired and probable broken mentally, the route then re-joins the Sustrains network (http://www.sustrans.org.uk/) of traffic free long distance traffic routes. These routes are amazing, usually built on old disused railways so have been beautifully engineered with gradual climbs – which will be perfect after 150 miles in the saddle.
Due to the route review it’s now a little longer – 247 miles, because it wasn’t long enough already! There is also an extra 100m of climbing which, to be honest, is less than I had anticipated. That’s the route now sorted and Im happy with what it looks like I have in stall. I still don’t actually know exactly what is in stall but it looks much more bike friendly than the previous route. Now it’s time to start thinking about what kit will be needed and how to navigate the route.
Latch is a children’s cancer charity based in wales (www.latchwales.org). Latch was set up in 1982 to offer children diagnosed with cancer or leukaemia and their families social and welfare support, to complement their medical treatment. One of their first fundraising drives was to build a parent accommodation block on the grounds of Llandough Hospital as children can be in hospital for weeks, if not months, at a time and having their family close by is invaluable. They have gone on to fund the building of a bone marrow transplant room and paid the costs for the first five bone marrow transplants, this is just some of the amazing work this charity does. Alongside these major fundraising events, Latch also continues to maintain the family accommodation which is available to families free of charge. Along with this they provide social work services, financial support through grants and benefits advise, emotional support networks for parents – as well as for siblings.
If by doing this I can raise enough to help make a small contribution it will give me an incredible sense of pride, to go with an incredibly sore arse.
The words had left my mouth before I’d had a chance to sensor them and certainly before I had the chance to do my research:
“I want to ride from Plymouth to Pontardulais for LATCH… in 24 hours”
I quickly added the caveat:
“assuming I can do it staying off the massive roads” (which I knew was possible even at the time)
We were driving home from visiting our godson, Luke, who is being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Luke was diagnosed on 18/02/14 and has to be one of the bravest kids, and part of the strongest family I have ever known. Seeing him carry on with his life, as much as possible, has been inspiring.
As soon as I said it the seed had been sown. When I got home I popped the kids in bed and began to research tentatively. I starting with route planning, I looked on a few web based route planners to get an idea of distance (244 miles), I was moderately reassured that there wasn’t a huge amount of climbing, but it’s a long way – a bloody long way!
The first – and only to be honest – routing decision to be made is right at the beginning. My personal preference is to go from Plymouth to Exeter over Dartmoor. Dartmoor is my cycling playground, right on my doorstep, with its quiet (outside the summer holidays) roads and lanes, sweeping corners with breath-taking views. Oh and the climbs, the sick in your mouth 20%+ climbs that give any ride an elevation chart the look of sharks teeth. It is many things, but easy cycling it isn’t. The pragmatic option is to ride the minor roads the follow along the A38 and then the M5. Pragmatism wins! The rest of the route I am not as familiar with, I have cycled parts of the Somerset levels while doing the Exmouth Exodus, but that was at night, and a little in south wales but non on the route I have planned.
So I guess it is ‘do-able’. Better start to putting some meat on the bones.