Sum up your memories about the trip.
Fourteen days on a bicycle is bound to teach you a lot about yourself and what you are capable of. Pushing yourself physically and mentally to do something you may have previously thought to be impossible brings you to confront your doubts and prove to yourself every morning that you are stronger than you ever thought you were. The bonds that form with your teammates as you struggle through the hard times reminds you of the importance of being there for others, and there is no better way to benefit a deserving group of people than by forcing yourself to recognise the gift that physical capability is.
What’s your favourite memory from your trip?
It’s tough to beat the last day- rolling through the final twenty miles as a team, with each rider taking a turn leading the group. I felt such a deep connection to my teammates, and felt an overwhelming pride that was in some way, unlike any other accomplishment that I’ve experienced.
What is your age?
What made you want to ride your bike across the country?
It sounded like a very rewarded mental and physical challenge, and I thought I might as well raise awareness and research funds while pursuing my own goal.
Where do you live?
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
What is your profession?
What routes/years did you ride with Bike the UK for MS?
Do you have a connection to Multiple Sclerosis?
My aunt lives with MS, but I got a much more comprehensive understanding of it from my experience on the tour.
How much training did you do for your trip?
I biked about 600 miles in my training, averaging around 50 miles/week, and then 100/week in the month leading up to the trip. In the final two weeks, I biked everywhere I could, everyday.
What was your cycling experience before signing up?
I had no long distance bike trip experience prior to my decision to sign up. All of my experience came in preparatory training for the trip.
Where did you find the most success fundraising?
Regular social media posts in the form of my progress- sharing rides by posting Strava recordings and remarking on increased speed, distance, fundraising milestones. It was a way to remind those who wanted to contribute without being too pushy.
What was your biggest challenge while fundraising, or something that didn’t work as well as you thought it might?
I had to start making direct requests, which I felt a bit uncomfortable doing, but kept the focus on the quality of the fundraising group and the amount that had been contributed so far.
Embarking on any big trip can be intimidating. What was your biggest pre-trip worry?
I felt concerned that I was not fit or experienced enough and would get left behind. This turned out to be a strength for me, as it pushed me to become more prepared. In the few days leading up to the trip, I also started to become concerned with my ground transportation- IE: being told I couldn’t take my bike box on the coach bus. These concerns turned out to be unnecessary, though working through “worst case scenarios" was a helpful exercise.
How did you travel to and from the trip?
I flew from Chicago to London direct, then on the tube to the train station, then took an overnight coach bus, and finally a local bus to Lands End. I completed a similar journey on my way home. It was certainly not the most convenient way of travel, but it was the cheapest, and I did not experience any issues. Dragging a cardboard box around in London also turns out to be a pretty good conversation starter.
Did you buy a bike for the trip, or was it a bike you already had?
I bought a used bike for this trip, and did all of my training on it.
What is something you wish you had brought which you didn’t?
My go pro camera to attach to my handlebars!
What’s one thing you brought that you couldn’t have lived without?
A sim card and rechargeable battery. I also really appreciated the GPS devices that team members brought…
What’s one thing you brought that you wish you hadn’t?
A camp stove, which proved to be unnecessary.
Is there anything you spent a bit more money on that you were glad you did?
More beers in the evenings than I originally planned on… and quality bike shorts, shoes, and a professional bike fitting.
How much casual clothes (t-shirts, shorts, etc) did you bring?
Two pairs of trousers, two shirts, a sweatshirt, a pair of athletic sandals, and sleep clothes.
How many pairs of cycling shorts/bibs did you bring?
Three- though I ended up alternating between the two best pairs and leaving the third behind.
What type of camping gear did you bring?
A lightweight tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, camp pillow, and headlamp.
What was your favourite van snack?
Kind bars and apples. And Salt & Vinegar chips.
How often would you go out to eat?
About six times total.
Did you bring a camp cook set?
Yes, but ended up using a microwave or electric kettle to cook my food every day, including oatmeal for breakfast and camp food for dinner- we ended up sleeping indoors more than I expected.
Would you cook at camp often? If so, what was your favourite recipe?
I brought most of my food with me from home- rice or lentil dishes, backpackers meals, and oatmeal with peanut butter and bananas every morning.
What did you put in your day cubby (in the rest stop van)?
A dry pair of socks in case of rain, a sweatshirt, electrolyte tablets for water, variety of snacks, portable phone charger, bike the UK stickers for donations on the road, blister bandages
Did you prefer to ride alone or in a group?
I biked with a group for the vast majority of the trip.
What would you keep in your bike jersey pockets?
Go goo for tough hills, a spare tube, bandages.
Did you use a rack/saddle bag/handlebar bag?
Handlebar bag and a small pouch under my saddle.
What type of tyres did you ride?
The toughest Vittoria that my local bike shop had.
Did you use a bike computer? What was your normal pace?
Yes- just a basic model. On a typical incline, about 12-13 mph.
How long did it take to learn to read the maps?
Unfortunately, I never got skilled at it, as I had the assistance of several teammates with navigation systems.
Riding on a flat terrain with a headwind, or climbing a mountain pass for miles. Which do you prefer?
Climbing a mountain pass, the scenery is more distracting! As long as it’s not a mountain pass with headwinds, I’ll take anything!
Would you rather be riding through cold rain or extreme heat?
My ride was marked by a heat wave and lack of rain, and I counted myself lucky.
What was the most physically challenging segment for you?
LEJOG Day 2 through the hills of Cornwall and into Dartmoor. I was glad to be done with the toughest day early in the trip.
Were you an early riser, or rolling out of camp late?
Generally, I was an early riser.
When you got to camp, the first thing you did was….
If possible- showered and washed my shorts to give them time to dry.
How often would you do laundry?
I only went to a laundromat once during the tour, since it turned out to be fairly pricey. I also had the opportunity to use a campground washer once. Generally, using the shower or sink to wash clothes turned out to be adequate.
How many sink/hose showers did you take?
I was lucky enough to only need one, as we had access to showers on every other night.
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?
I’m likely already asleep. But on other occasions, taking a walk to the closest pub with teammates, walking around to check out the city, or video chatting with loved ones at home to show off my worsening tan lines.
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?
A bit of both. It was nice to walk around town in non-bike clothes and feel like I was on vacation.
Did you keep a journal or blog during the trip?
I logged a lot of my reflection through daily strava posts of my rides (I ran strava while keeping my phone in airplane mode). I do wish I had done more to journal my experience, but often felt too tired to do so.
Do you keep in touch with many of your teammates?
Through social media I’ve stayed connected to many of the riders.
What was your favourite MS group meet up?
Our modified bicycle day was a memorable one. That day was full of so many genuine smiles. I learned a lot from MS Society members that day, and I hope we gave them a chance to feel the exhilaration of being on a bicycle again.
Do you feel like you are more aware of the impact that MS has on the lives of those affected by it?
What I learned most was just how much variety there is in the experiences MS survivors face- that the disease affects everyone differently and yet there is still so much life to be lived by those who suffer from MS.
What was your biggest takeaway from the trip?
Something that I think I have learned and tried to express to those in my life is how fortunate we are to have the ability to do what we want with our bodies, and how much we often hold ourselves back because of fear and doubt.