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YHA A biking good ride: one day to go!
    09/06/2013 10:32

A biking good ride: one day to go!

One day to go! The butterflies of nervous excitement are flying erratically around our midriffs. It seems a mighty long time since I received a phone call from Gareth asking if I’d like to go for a little pootle on my non-existent-bike with him and Tom. That ‘pootle’ turned out to be Land’s End to John O’Groats. My answer was a resounding “Yes!”

Final prep has been wonderfully manic. With Gareth and Tom both busy at work, they’ve been spending long nights in the arms of their two-wheelers, attaching the various bits and bobs associated with long distance rides, whilst simultaneously weighing different odd pairs of socks in search of the optimal minimum.

What with only having bought my Genesis Croix de Fer (LINK) three weeks ago, the last few days have seen my bike go from an utterly naked commuter to a LEJOG devouring beast. I now even have these things called ‘water bottles’ which will come in handy, apparently.

Due to my broken leg, training has been... tricky, so I thought it about time I go for some longer rides. Last Wednesday I cycled the 30 miles to my parents' house again with university friends - Hannah, Tom and Sam. Then Sunday was my niece’s Disney-themed 2nd birthday party, and after staying up all night finishing her present till 6am, I packed my bag with such essential items as a red waistcoat and fez, and set off for another ride. 

The first major hurdle was learning how on earth clipless pedals and cleats work. I’d heard it was almost tradition for a clipless pedal novice to forget at a red traffic light and proceed to fall over spectacularly into a mangled heap of bike-human. A good 10 minutes of central London cycling passed before, sure enough, I completely forgot I was physically attached to the bike and fell over... only just saving myself by slamming my hand on a waiting Porsche Cayenne, resulting in a less-than-happy face being shot back at me.

Aside from this mild hiccough, the rest of the day was spectacular. I took the train to Reading and then followed the Avon-Kennet canal for three hours towards Devizes, where I turned off and headed up into the wonderfully sleepy Sunday morning villages of Wiltshire. 64 miles and 4 hours 45 minutes later I rocked up at my brother’s house, sporting the look not of a cyclist, but of Abu the pet monkey from Disney’s Aladdin (see photographs). 

The ride was genuinely the most exhilarating fun I’ve ever had under my own human power. Rocketing along the almost off-road tow path with bushes a few feet to your left, the canal a few feet to the right - 15 miles an hour felt like 100 mph. I was so elated at points I was just shouting to myself - nothing particularly meaningful, just various odd noises. There were gaggles of geese, bevies of swans, scampering squirrels, the mooing choruses of cows, dog walkers, gentle joggers, families on days out, canal dwellers conversing and Common Kestrels hunting out their Sunday lunch. I thought, for the strongest I have in a long time - ‘Britain is an absolutely incredible place!’

The ride’s going to be long and it’s going to be very tough - but Britain’s brilliant and for that reason, it’s going to be #ABikingGoodRide.

P.S. The oven beeper just went off, I’ve cooked the world’s biggest flapjack for the ride - it’ll undoubtedly be devoured on the train to Penzance, but hey-ho.

By Harry Hosteller

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