A Travellerspoint blog

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South Coast of England

View UK coast ride on ukextremes's travel map.

Left Camber and headed West for the first time with the sun on my back in the morning. East Sussex is quite hilly, which surprised me, there is a steep descent into Hastings and went passed a Your Speed display it read 35 mph in a 30 zone, then I saw a speed camera. I pedalled hard and coasted past the sign whilst popping the bird at the camera. I don't know if I got flashed, but I like to think that there is a photo giving someone a chuckle.
As I went through Bexhill I caught the end of a group of cyclist out on a day ride, its nice to get a tow in the slipstream, they didn't even realise I was there. The group broke up and one man from Lewes cycling club said it looked like I was on a world tour. He was quite impressed when I told him that it was only a UK one. We parted company at Eastbourne as I needed some food. Sat on the beach front and contemplated the slope up to Beachy Head. It was not actually that bad and the views were amazing, that's the thing about cycling up hills it might seem like a daunting task but the rewards are so worth it. Couldn't help thinking about the end of Quadrophenia, didn't help with all the mods riding around either.
On the road towards Brighton I got overtaken by a man on a mountain bike, I then cruised past him down a hill (simple physics, with all that weight). He then overtook me again, but to his surprise and mine I passed him going up hill. He said "bloody hell you must be fit." We stopped the macho bullshit of racing one another and cycled together, it turned out he was a archivist, I then started talking about the riots and what he thought about them and if he had been involved. "No an archivist not an anarchist." We departed in Hove and I carried on as far as Littlehampton that day. I stopped at the Cob and Pen pub because they were having a BBQ, only it had just finished but the chef had chucked the last few bits of meat onto the charcoal. Some bits didn't have very much ash on at all a little brush off and it was fine for a hungry cyclist. The locals were very welcoming and a couple of them even brought me a drink, when I asked for a good place to camp they arranged that I could stay in the beer garden, result, so I stayed for a couple more pints.
One of the best ways to get over a slight hangover is to jump on a bike and pedal for a few miles, had to stop for breakfast pretty quick though. I carried along the coast, followed it right down to Selsy along to Whittering and back to Chichester then into Portsmouth. Caught the ferry to Gosport and headed into Southampton, up the Solent down the other side and camped at Calshot (As you can tell it was not the most interesting of days) Did over 100 miles again, sort of getting good at this cycling lark now.
I left Calshot and cycled through the New Forest, never been here before and its really nice. There was some nice coastal paths and a good view of the Isle of Wight for most of my morning. The seafront in Bournemouth was good to cruise down, although bikes are not allowed, no one stopped me. I went on to Sandbanks and caught the chain ferry across the opening of Poole harbour, this saved e many miles and I met up with another cyclist. We rode on together for about five miles, then the hills kicked in. I rode onto Swanage and then Corfe Castle, then through the lanes towards Lulworth. Luckily for me the Army were not doing playing with their toys so the way was clear, I didn't fancy being target practice. I realised that a friend lived nearby so phoned Tom up and arranged to meet him in a pub in Broadmayne near Dorchester. I had a couple of pints and a good chat, then cycled back towards the coast to camp near Weymouth.
Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

2011-08-31 15.59.43

2011-08-31 15.59.43

I left Weymouth with the two goals for the day, the first was to reach Exeter by five o'clock so I could go to a friends shop to say hi. The second was to reach my parents house in Dawlish. But first I had to cycle through Dorset and East Devon, it was a hot day and the Jurassic Coast is lumpy. The first big climb gave a huge reward, looking back along the length of Chisel Beach, what an outstanding natural phenomena. Sorry too busy enjoying the moment and getting my breath back, forgot to take a photo.
There were three more very big hills that day, going out of Lyme Regis, Seaton and Sidmouth. I can't remember which was the worst but they were all quite steep and very long. People have asked if I had to get off and push, its not really an option as it would be more difficult to push the bike than to ride it.
I made it to Exeter at about 4 o'clock, found my friends shop only to find out he had left about half an hour before. The man who was working there asked me about my trip, when I said I was doing this after my Dad had a stroke he told me he was training as a physiotherapist and worked on a stroke ward at Newton Abbot. My father was there at the same time and Luke remembered him, I love these random coincidences.
I left Exeter and went down the canal path past the Double Locks and onto Turf Locks, it was a lovely day and I was near to where I grew up. I know the canal path very well and decided to stop off at the Turf hotel to have a pint, I realised the journey was coming to an end and was trying to slow myself down and take in every moment. I met some more cyclists at the hotel and they even gave me £5 for the charity. I carried on and cycled through Dawlish Warren, passed the place where I grew up and took a little time to contemplate things by the sea. Then on to see my Mum and Dad who have moved to Dawlish since retiring and some well needed home cooking.

Posted by ukextremes 08:25 Archived in England Comments (0)

South West Peninsula

View UK coast ride on ukextremes's travel map.

I had a rest day at my folks place, ate roast beef, walked the dog and slept. My Dad is looking and sounding better after his stoke and my Mum is doing a fantastic job of caring for him. My dog Redge who now lives with them after I split from my wife is also doing a great job in looking after them both and he has now trained my Mum very well, he dictates where they walk and at six he jumps off the sofa and starts to bark at my mum. This is signify that it is time to feed him, he does it everyday at six, how? I think it might be because of the Grandfather clock chiming at six (can he count?)
I left Dawlish with the intention of making it to Plymouth, but got side tracked on the way. I was aware of the trip finishing soon, so was really taking in everything. Free wheeling downhill looking at beautiful countryside and being aware of the feeling of the air on your body, was one way and talking to people that I met was another. I rode through Teignmouth, Torquay, Paignton then headed for Kingswear. On the Kingswear to Dartmouth ferry I met a guy called David, we got talking and as the ferry docked he hit my Achilles heal by saying "Do you fancy a pint" After a couple of pints in Dartmouth, we moved onto Slapton and the Tower Inn, where there was a live band and BBQ. I had a fantastic evening and camped near Torcross, in the morning I rode onto Plymouth, suffering from a slight hangover. I had another rest day here and caught up with a couple of friends.
Waiting for the ferry

Waiting for the ferry

I left Plymouth via the Cremyll foot ferry, this took me over to the Cornish side of the Tamar and I carried along the coast past Mount Edgecombe, Kingsands, Cawsands and on into Whitsands Bay. Stopped off in Looe for fish and chips, caught the ferry over the river Fowey and carried on to Trewitthian where I camped. The following day I caught the ferry from St Mawes to Falmouth, the difference in prices for ferry rides over the country varies greatly. In Scotland the ferries were quite large and very cheap considering the distance travelled, in Cornwall the ferries were small, as were the crossing but for a very similar fare. I carried onto the Lizard peninsula, which was my final extremity. It was also the most beautiful and the busiest, but it also had the best weather. It was over forty miles from the Lizard to Land's End, I arrived as the sun was setting behind the lighthouse. I was a bit choked when I got there, looking up the coast towards Bristol and realising that this was the final stretch. I watched the sun go down, then went a short distance along the cycle path and pitched my tent on the path. It was not intentional, but I slept at Land's End and John O' Groats.
I rode up to Penrose near Padstow to stay with my good friend Sian, this took me through St Ives, Hayle, Perranporth and Newquay. If you have never visited the North coast of Cornwall and Devon, the beaches are absolutely world class. The Atlantic storms have carved out some incredible bays and deposited golden sand, when the sun is shining the waters look almost tropical, although not as warm. If the weather could be guaranteed everyone would holiday in Cornwall, it sometimes feels like that now with the number of Emmits (Cornish for ants, their reference to the holidaymakers).
I left Sian's quite late and only made it to Bude, I stopped at a large pub just as you get into Bude and ordered two main meals, as I was waiting for them I put my phone on to charge. After about five minutes the landlord came and told me he does not give out free electricity, its bad enough that he gives out free wifi. So when the food came I took one bite of a poor burger that cost £5 and the pasta with pesto that had no pine nuts for £6 and sent it back saying I only pay for decent food and not rubbish that is massively overpriced. Due to his tight manner he lost out on £11 there, the food could/should not have been reused all for about 20 pence of electricity. I was so hungry that if he had not said anything then I would have just ate it and left. I went to the Chinese takeaway instead then onto another pub for a drink. The range, quantity and pricing of food varies massively throughout the British Isles, but I wish I could remember the name of the pub as this was the worst, it showed also in the landlords attitude.
After leaving Bude it was back into Devon and I got totally lost in the lanes between Bude and Hartland, probably did twice the distance that I should have and still ended up doing some of it on the busy A39. I hooked up with the Tarka Trail near Bideford, which is another great cycle path. I went past Barnstaple then along the breath taking coast between there and Combe Martin. One of the main reasons this coast is breath taking is the hills, wasn't half puffing by the time I got to the top.
Saunton Sands

Saunton Sands

Panoramic view near Illfracombe

Panoramic view near Illfracombe

I slept on the cliffs North of Combe Martin this was my last night, I was determined to make Bristol the following day. My last day started off wet, I decided to stop early and have a breakfast at a camp site where Keith Allen (actor and father of Lilly Allen) once stayed. They were very proud of the fact judging by all the photos. I carried on into Lynmouth and was aware that a bike race was going on. They were all going the other way to me until I started the climb out of Lynmouth. The hill starts of at a 25% gradient for about half a mile then only 12% for about another mile, maybe a bit more. At the beginning of the hill three of the racers overtook me, one said to me "Extra man points for carrying all that weight." I stopped in a lay-by to take my waterproof coat off and carried on, after a bit I thought I might be gaining on two of the guys. So I put a little more effort in. As I went past them I said "This is bloody hard work." I got no reply, think they must have been saving their breath or were just stunned into silence that someone on a heavy touring bike with an extra twenty plus kilos could out climb them. I put it down to two things, I had cycled almost everyday for eight weeks and those guys were pushing big gears and had been during their race for some time. As no one else witnessed this I like to think that they both said to one another "We don't talk about this to any one." or "What happened on the hill, stays on the hill." If I was a fellow racer and found out a fully loaded tourer had passed on a hill, I would tease them mercilessly. After another ten miles they still hadn't overtaken me, which was a surprise. I turned off the main road and followed the cycle path, this took me down a very steep twisting private road full of potholes. Wish I stayed on the main road as I missed Porlock hill, which is infamous for its gradient. I might have even been able to beat my top speed. D'oh.
After that I was on the Somerset levels, this allowed me to get some good miles in. I went past Minehead, Taunton and Bridgwater where I stopped for food and to text friends about my return. I continued to Weston Super Mare and then to Cleavedon where I asked a lady if there was a coast path to Portishead. She gave me directions which I followed and found the path. After about quarter of a mile it started to narrow, I had passed some people as well. Then it really narrowed, it was pretty much a goat track, by the time I realised I should not be on this track I had done about a mile, do I carry on or go back? I carried on, again, this was probably the wrong decision, but eventually got out on to a road. It was just a ride down the side of the river Avon to my finish. I got back to Bristol at about 8.30 pm, it was my longest days riding of 124 miles. I met up with some friends at the Miners Arms in St Werburghs, had a few beers and a pizza. Time to put my feet up.
The total millage for the trip was 3,952 miles and it took me 58 days with 8 rest days.

Posted by ukextremes 07:26 Archived in England Comments (0)


I hadn't cycled over fifty miles in a day before this trip, and when I set off I had no idea if I could make it, but I was going to give it a try. There were times in the first week when I thought "What on earth am I doing." But if you have read any of the previous entries in this blog I hope that they have conveyed the enjoyment I got from this trip. At times it was very tough mentally, but it did show me what I am made of. Mostly it showed me the goodness of my fellow human beings, the people I met on the trip were amazing. I realise now after writing this blog is that I regret not taking photo's and names of all the people I met and who helped me.
After finishing the ride I had a massive sense of achievement, but I was sad that it was all over. The ride allowed me to let go of the feelings I had for my wife, as we were separating, it gave me time to think about what I wanted for my life and rejoice in the freedom I now had. I have to say that there is truly no better feeling of freedom than riding a bike with everything you need being carried. When you get to somewhere you want to spend some time you can, and than move on again when the desire takes you.
Before I set off I was interested in slowing my life down and visiting ancient sites in the UK, the pace of cycling is a fantastic way to travel. Great distances can be covered, but at a speed where little is missed. It is easy to stop and take in a view or talk to someone, sometimes you don't even need to stop. People are friendly and helpful to cyclists and the cycling community really embodies this fact. I realised that this whole Island we live on is ancient and stunningly beautiful, okay we have messed up some bits of it, but the rest is lovely and I was brought to tears on several occasions by the beauty and how happy I was feeling.
Paradoxically with the intentions I set out with I was obsessed with beating my top speed and ended up with a max of 53.55 mph (86.2 kph) and I was always pleased to reach a new bit of tarmac as it was smooth and fast to ride on. New tarmac is far from ancient, unless you consider that tarmac is derived from oil, which in turn comes from tiny creatures that lived millions of years ago.
I was disappointed that i didn't make 4,000 miles, I was 48 short. I was going to do a lap of Bristol to make this milestone, but the Monday morning was so wet and windy there was no chance of me doing that. When I needed to it wasn't a problem, but I'm not that mental. I averaged about 80 miles a day, but in the early part of the ride it was about 65, as my fitness improved it became so much easier. If anyone reading this is inspired to try a bit of touring cycling you do not have to do as many miles as this, you don't even have to carry all your equipment, you don't have to camp either, there are plenty of cycle friendly b&b's or warm showers dot com. This is a website dedicated to the touring cyclist were you can stay with like minded people.
The legacy from this ride is that every holiday I go on I want to cycle, whether it is in this country or abroad. If need be a train could be caught to reduce time on the ride. I quite simply love cycling and particularly touring, doing over a hundred miles a day and then camping is such a great feeling. If the weather is good then there is no better way to travel in my opinion. I lost about two stone (12 kilos) in weight and ate and drunk everything I wanted, the weight just fell off me.
This was quite simply the best thing I have done. Absolutely loved it.

Posted by ukextremes 07:35 Archived in England Comments (0)

What's Next?

Late in 2011 I found out about a cycle race starting on February 18th. The Global Bicycle Race was conceived by Vin Cox, world record holder for unsupported circumnavigation of the planet. The concept was for a group of riders to start in Greenwich at the same time, with the aim to beat Vin's record of 163 days. Initially I thought that would be good, but it's beyond me, I had just brought a Brooks saddle which was so comfortable that I thought "Maybe I could ride 18,000 miles on this piece of leather." I thought about entering, but with the intention of just getting around, the 163 days would be beyond me. But after a while I thought maybe I could beat that.
Unfortunately though for reasons beyond my control I could not enter the race. I planned to do it this year, but delays in getting the money from my house sale meant that I have had to postpone it until next year. Damn and blast. I really want to do this.
One of the guys who set off in February has just beaten the record. Mike Hall finished in 92 days. That is an amazing 200 miles a day. I will not be able to beat this time and don't really want to either. I want to enjoy myself as I go around. I am planning to do 125 miles a day and every tenth day have a rest day. This would still push me to my limits and might be a bit more than I can manage, but it means I would complete in 160 days. If I can do that millage great, but the aim would be just to complete it.
I plan to set off in March 2013 now and will leave London, go to Dover, ferry to Calais. Then cycle to Kerch in the Ukraine, catch a ferry across the Black sea to Poti in Georgia and cycle to Baku in Azerbaijan. Ferry across the Caspian sea to Turkmenistan, then onto Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan then into northern China and to Beijing. Fly to Perth, Western Australia and cycle to Sydney. Fly to Christchurch, New Zealand and cycle to Auckland. Fly to Los Angeles and cycle to New York, via Arizona and Niagra Falls. Fly to Buenos Aires and cycle to Rio de Janeiro. Then fly to Casablanca and cycle to Santander in northern Spain where I would catch a ferry to Plymouth. Then Plymouth to Bristol and Bristol to London.
I am going to attempt this according to the world record specification, although there is no chance of me trying to do it in less than 92 days. This means that I would have to carry a GPS tracker, so people will be able to see my progress.
If you want to follow me you will be able to do that here. I am also on Twitter @ukextremes or on Facebook Stephen.Rowe.121.

Posted by ukextremes 08:48 Comments (0)

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