Sum up your memories about the trip.
It really is one of the most rewarding things you can do over a long weekend. James, who runs Bike the UK for MS, is incredible in his preparation and getting you ready logistically for the trip. So long as you do some training beforehand, you can absolutely smash the ride and still have a good amount of evening to enjoy. The scenery up in the North of England is beautiful to cycle through and I will never forget bombing down the Pennines all 40 miles into and through Newcastle to Tynemouth. If you want to do a longer ride (such as Land’s End to John O’Groats) but are on the fence, give the C2C a go. 150(ish) miles is nowhere near as far as you think, and you can do it all whilst raising money for a brilliant cause. Get on it.
What’s your favourite memory from your trip?
That moment where you reach the end point in Tynemouth was bliss. Makes all the hardship worthwhile, and they have an all you can eat carvery to binge on.
What is your age?
What made you want to ride your bike across the country?
A mixture of wanting to do an annual task to raise money for charity and personal challenge.
Where do you live?
What is your profession?
What routes/years did you ride with Bike the UK for MS?
Sea to Sea in mid June
Do you have a connection to Multiple Sclerosis?
Not in my family, but I have friends whose families are affected by the condition.
How much training did you do for your trip?
I had a pre-existing level of general fitness, which also helped a lot, but I did 45-60 min cycles in the gym on varying resistances 3x a week for about 3 weeks before the ride (I could have done with doing a bit more if I’m honest…). I’d recommend getting on your bike fairly regularly for about a month, or more, before your ride. Even if you only do an hour a couple of times a week outside or in the gym, it really does make a difference.
What was your cycling experience before signing up?
No long distance, only commuting in London and the occasional other ride.
Where did you find the most success fundraising?
By talking to family and friends in person, posting on social media (not day-to-day spamming, but multiple times in the build up to the ride), sending a group email to office colleagues (you can also leave a poster in the kitchen/group message board, or ask the relevant person to post it on your company intranet if you have one).
What was your biggest challenge while fundraising, or something that didn’t work as well as you thought it might?
You might have to remind people a couple of times that their donation, no matter how large or small, goes a very, very long way. You might feel like you’re bugging people (and it’s important to find a balance so you aren’t actively annoying people), but some subtle reminders work well.
Embarking on any big trip can be intimidating. What was your biggest pre-trip worry?
That I wouldn’t be able to cope with the hills, but even doing a little bit of resistance training helps massively!
How did you travel to and from the trip?
I drove to Whitehaven and then back down, but if you book the train enough in advance it’s very cheap.
Did you buy a bike for the trip, or was it a bike you already had?
I already owned my bike.
What is something you wish you had brought which you didn’t?
A sturdy, waterproof handlebar attachment for my phone for navigation purposes (Strava, etc). I ended up keeping it in my bike’s saddlebag and took it out when I needed it but having the map in front of you is much easier. A portable charger is also a good idea just in case your phone’s battery is average. Of course, you can just use maps…
What’s one thing you brought that you couldn’t have lived without?
Thermal waterproof top. It gets cold up in the Pennines, so having one of these is essential. Along with a buff to shield your face.
What’s one thing you brought that you wish you hadn’t?
Excess clothing. Only pack what you need, and you don’t need much for a couple of day’s cycle. It’s unnecessary and is an effort to carry around, especially after 45+ miles of cycling.
Is there anything you spent a bit more money on that you were glad you did?
A good service before. You don’t want flat tyres, worn-out brakes or broken spokes while you’re trying to challenge yourself.
How much casual clothes (t-shirts, shorts, etc) did you bring?
A couple of t-shirts, some tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie (trust me, you want to be comfortable at the end of the day), and some dry pants and socks.
How many pairs of cycling shorts/bibs did you bring?
A couple of pairs of lycra/cycling shorts and a couple of tops.
What type of camping gear did you bring?
Sleeping bag and used clothes as a pillow.
What was your favourite van snack?
Soreen malt loaf. At least 1/day. All the calories…
How often would you go out to eat?
Twice – once the night before and once on the last night.
Would you cook at camp often? If so, what was your favourite recipe?
I didn’t camp cook as our ride was only 3 days, but I would have done had I done a longer ride. Something basic like rice and peas with some quality protein would hit the spot.
What did you put in your day cubby (in the rest stop van)?
Cereal and chocolate bars, pork pies, sweets – so long as you cycle hard enough you can eat pretty much anything (and you’ll be staggered about the amount you can put away during the ride).
Did you prefer to ride alone or in a group?
There will be points where you’re alone and points when you’re in a group, but the best thing is to ride with one or two people who you can match your pace with. You keep each other going and push yourselves that little bit more.
What would you keep in your bike jersey pockets?
Couple of snacks, gloves, buff, water in the bottle holder on the frame.
Did you use a rack/saddle bag/handlebar bag?
Yes, they’re incredibly useful.
What type of tyres did you ride?
Standard tires that came with the bike, nothing special.
Did you use a bike computer? What was your normal pace?
I had Strava on my phone which was a great way of recording progress (distance, speed, elevation climbed) and seeing my map at the end of the day. Averaging 20-25kph (obviously much, much slower going uphill…).
How long did it take to learn to read the maps?
Not long at all, our tour leader (James) explained things very clearly.
Riding on a flat terrain with a headwind, or climbing a mountain pass for miles. Which do you prefer?
Flat terrain with headwind any day of the week. Day 3 bombing down the Pennines was bliss.
Would you rather be riding through cold rain or extreme heat?
Rain, it’s not as bad as you think – you stay warm cycling hard and the meal at the end of the day tastes so much better. Try not to fall off obviously though…
What was the most physically challenging segment for you?
Day 2 of the C2C: there are some challenging climbs, but you’re always rewarded with rolling downhill straight after.
Were you an early riser, or rolling out of camp late?
Early riser: get on with the riding early in the day and you can enjoy the evening more.
When you got to camp, the first thing you did was….
Shower, change into fresh clothes and find food / pub.
How often would you do laundry?
We didn’t, but any longer than 3 days and you’d need to get your kit clean once or twice a week (or smell great…).
It’s the evening and you’re out of your bike clothes, fed, and your tent is pitched. What are you doing to pass the time until you fell asleep?
Have a quick look at tomorrow’s route, check messages, read a book. If there’s a pub nearby you’re in luck!
Did you keep a journal or blog during the trip?
Only on Strava.
Do you keep in touch with many of your teammates?
I still see their progress on Strava and talk to the team leader about future trips.
What was your favourite MS group meet up?
It’s cliché but everyone we met was fantastic. They all went out of their way to come and see us at the end of each day’s riding, and it was brilliant to talk to the people that the donations go towards supporting.
Do you feel like you are more aware of the impact that MS has on the lives of those affected by it?
Absolutely. Bike the UK for MS make such a difference by talking to groups on the ground, as it were, and determining where best to specifically allocate funding. MS affects so many different people in so many different ways which you don’t realise. The conversations we had with each group were eye-opening.
What was your biggest takeaway from the trip?
That whatever you think, you can actually cycle a lot further than you think you can. A little bit of training goes a long way. The sense of achievement you get from it is massive, and the fact that you’ve contributed to such a decent cause only compounds that. I’d encourage anyone and everyone to give it a go.