Sum up your memories about the trip.
A truly amazing trip for a great cause. Two weeks spent with some incredibly motivated individuals whilst seeing some inspirational people who are suffering with MS every day. We live in an amazing country, raise some money, get on your bike for MS and go out and see it.
What’s your favourite memory from your trip?
Having the opportunity to take a swim in the Loch Ness was an amazing experience and a great thing to be able to say that you have done. Pretty sure I saw something move in the water but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
What is your age?
What made you want to ride your bike across the country?
My friend and fellow rider on the trip Tim Waller suggested the trip and decided that we should do it for a charity and raise some money to help individuals that suffer from MS in the process.
Where do you live?
What is your profession?
Geography Student at Newcastle University
What routes/years did you ride with Bike the UK for MS?
Do you have a connection to Multiple Sclerosis?
No direct family connection, however a close friend of mine has MS.
How much training did you do for your trip?
Not as much as you would think. I finished the rowing season in late June and then had two weeks off. I then bought cycling shoes figured out how to use them with varying success and was ready to go before I knew it. Best thing about the trip is that it is not a race – take in all the sites in (especially northern Scotland) and chat away to the other riders.
What was your cycling experience before signing up?
Very little, my sporting background is in Football and Rowing. I had done the rare cycle at home to keep fit during the rowing off season.
Where did you find the most success fundraising?
Private messaging individuals through various different social media sites. Most successful sites were watts app and emails for family relatives in particular.
What was your biggest challenge while fundraising, or something that didn’t work as well as you thought it might?
Worrying about not reaching the fundraising target. Also, due to being a student and a lot of my friends being students this meant donations were relatively small (£5 or £10) meaning in the end I had about 70-80 donors. I like to think this just spread the word a little bit further though so don’t worry about asking anyone and everyone for donations. You will be surprised how generous some people will be.
Embarking on any big trip can be intimidating. What was your biggest pre-trip worry?
Getting to John O’ Groats! In total it took 2 days and a total of 21 hours on trains for myself and Tim to travel from Oxford to the campsite at John O’Groats. We arrived in Thurso the nearest train station (20 miles away at midnight and then began to assembly a 2-man tent in the windiest night of my life. But with the help from this man from Northern Ireland we were sorted. After that we were set and just had to get on the bike.
How did you travel to and from the trip?
Train – when booking/reserving a space for your bike on the train try and do this at a ticket office at the station rather than on the phone. We found out that our reservations in northern Scotland were incorrect and nearly weren’t allowed on the last train to Thurso.
Did you buy a bike for the trip, or was it a bike you already had?
I used the road bike that I use day to day going into university. Just got it serviced alongside a pair of new pedals and cycling shoes and then was ready to go.
What is something you wish you had brought which you didn’t?
A pair of trousers, big fan of shorts but when packing in sunny Oxford I should have realised it may be a bit colder in Northern Scotland especially after a day’s riding.
What’s one thing you brought that you couldn’t have lived without?
Flip flops – I didn’t actually bring a pair of trainers. I spent near enough every minute off the bike with them on. Whether that be during the day at rest stops or around the camp site.
What’s one thing you brought that you wish you hadn’t?
I packed very light so everything I had was used – but upon reflection I probably didn’t need 40 energy gels. Needed one going up Kirkstone and that was about it.
Is there anything you spent a bit more money on that you were glad you did?
Blow up mattress – Had some great nights sleep, the thought of a nice bed certainly helps with the last 20 miles of a long day.
How much casual clothes (t-shirts, shorts, etc) did you bring?
2 pair of shorts – 2 t-shirts and a rain coat. – really don’t need that much. My family did bring a pair of trousers and a nice shirt in Bath which pleased myself and the rest of camp no end.
How many pairs of cycling shorts/bibs did you bring?
3 pairs of shorts and 1 bib. Get given a bike the UK for MS jersey at the start. Bring a spare as I ripped one pair of shorts in Glasgow falling off at a traffic lights.
What type of camping gear did you bring?
Shared a 2-man tent with Tim – blow up mattress and a cooking stove for porridge in the morning.
What was your favourite van snack?
Haribo, can really get away with eating anything on the trip. Enjoy the fact you are burning a lot of calories and make sure you eat enough. Have a few treats in the day box and back of your jersey at all times.
How often would you go out to eat?
Probably every other evening, it’s a lot cheaper to eat in the accommodation. But there are some evenings when all you want to do is go out. There are a few opportunities for the whole camp to eat together which is really nice.
Would you cook at camp often? If so, what was your favourite recipe?
Would rarely cook but a pepperoni pizza and pasta seemed to be a go to for myself and Tim. We did make a chilli con carne at camp which we are still pretty proud of.
What did you put in your day cubby (in the rest stop van)?
Cereal bars, electrolyte tablets, energy gels, Haribo, rice cakes, biscuits, flip flops, spare bib and a waterproof.
Did you prefer to ride alone or in a group?
A group, spent most of my time at home cycling by myself. Cycled in a group of 4/5 people nearly all of the time and got to know these people really well. I was amazed how the distance and time would just roll by chatting away.
What would you keep in your bike jersey pockets?
Bike pump, inner tube, Map, phone, cereal bars, Haribo.
Did you use a rack/saddle bag/handlebar bag?
No, could have done with a small saddle bag though.
What type of tyres did you ride?
Continental Gator Hardshell 25mm.
Did you use a bike computer? What was your normal pace?
No, Tim and myself ended up following Laura and Issy who both had Garmin’s. Although Issy still managed to get us lost when she was in charge of directions for 20 miles as Laura’s Garmin ran out of battery. Certainly, useful if you have one but not a must have on the trip. I used strava and a speedometer to check bike speed. Average speed was between 20-25kph depending on the distance and elevation for the day.
How long did it take to learn to read the maps?
Very clear and easy to use. After the first 20 miles it just becomes second nature to check the map and know where you are.
Riding on a flat terrain with a headwind, or climbing a mountain pass for miles. Which do you prefer?
Climbing a mountain pass for miles, its always worth the climb for the view at the top.
Would you rather be riding through cold rain or extreme heat?
Extreme heat, nobody wants to wear a raincoat on there summer holiday.
What was the most physically challenging segment for you?
The 3km Kirkstone Pass climb was one which really tested the legs especially when the gradient increased towards the top. Although news of a pub at the top was all the motivation I needed. One of the best pints I’ve ever had.
Were you an early riser, or rolling out of camp late?
Somewhere in the middle, aimed for 8 most mornings but realistically was rolling out at ten past. Much to the annoyance of the group I was riding with.
When you got to camp, the first thing you did was….
Got the kettle on and had a cup of green tea. It the small things on the trip which keep you ticking along.
How often would you do laundry?
Didn’t use a washing machine all trip, hand washed my kit from that day in the evening.
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?
A game of cards or heading to the pub. Bettyhill’s accommodation on the first night was a stone’s throw from the pub with an amazing view to watch the sunset. Of which Tim and I sat for two hours admiring the view.
On the rest day, did you prefer to go out and see what the town has to offer, or did you hang out, rest up, and relax?
I had never been to Bath before so my family came up, we went for a walk around the city and dinner. Lovely city and would recommend going to see it on the rest day.
Did you keep a journal or blog during the trip?
No, I didn’t, but I wish I had as I’m sure I have forgot some details of the trip over time. Although I do get flash backs now of specific details which I had forgotten.
Do you keep in touch with many of your teammates?
Yes, although it was only 14 days, we were a very close group by the end of the trip. In particular I am in regular contact with the 5 people of who I spent most of the time cycling with. I have defiantly made lifelong friendships from the trip and can’t really imagine my life now without the amazing people who I cycled with in it.
What was your favourite MS group meet up?
Day 14 meeting the Cornish MS group 60 miles into an 84 mile very hilly day. Lovely group of people who had come out to see us despite the truly awful and very wet weather. The Cornish pasties and sticky toffee pudding cake were exactly what was needed to lift our spirits!
Do you feel like you are more aware of the impact that MS has on the lives of those affected by it?
Massively so, being able to sit down and talk to individuals with MS was really powerful and makes the trip special and what it is.
What was your biggest takeaway from the trip?
To not hold back from anything. It took me a while to commit to doing this. But the effect that the trip has had on me is massive. I have met some truly amazing people who I talk to daily and mean a lot to me.