“You fancy riding up to Scotland?” Martin said without any sense of hesitation.
The last time I rode up to Scotland from Leeds was 4/5 years ago when I decided it was time to push myself that little bit further. Me & the Restrap team did Leeds to Glasgow within 3 days via the Lake District. Given the Trans Continental Race and all the training rides I did pre-TCR, Leeds to Scotland didn’t feel quite that far away now. The toils of riding so far in one go did however make me feel a little apprehensive given I hadn’t ridden more than 50KM in one go since the TCR last year.
Seemed like a good idea none the less.
Good company with similar riding experience I knew it would be a steady pace trying to lap up the miles before we hit the boarder. Also accompanied by a fellow ‘grammer’ DanielKuens who I’d spoken to briefly via social platforms before, I knew it would be a good laugh either way!
The packing problem
I’m terrible at packing for a micro adventure, I packed too much for the TCR and for other light adventures I’ve always overpacked. It’s something I’m still working on getting right as on most trips I end up taking clothing and other bits I simply don’t use. Wasted weight! Without being too harsh on myself I’m getting better but it’s the element of over compensating that I struggle with. After a 12 hour ride am I really going to be arsed getting changed for one overnight trip. I don’t think any of us got changed that night if I remember rightly, we were all too tired!
Micro Adventure Kit List
Restrap twin proto-type panniers
Restrap Frame bag
Alpkit Hukka Bivy
Thermarest air matt
Rab 200 sleeping bag
Alpkit 2 man tarp
Rope and pegs
Exposure joystick front and back lights
Extra bibs and jersey
Twin water bottles
Charger for phone & lights
Super light down jacket
Daniel & Martin met at mine before we set off, making sure we had any final supplies such as kit and food sorted before departure.
The ride out towards Harrogate was steady, and all though me and Dan soon realised Martin’s idea of an ‘over night adventure to Edinburgh’ was slightly warped to what we had in mind we were making good progress. We originally thought we were going on a weekend/five day adventure up north, camping the night and riding the day. This however was slightly obscured by the fact this was an opportunity for Martin to train.
I have to give credit to Martin at this point. He’s a man like no other, always motivated, never negative, always pushing, never making out like there’s trouble ahead or like he’s not enjoying himself. I applaud this chap and owe a lot of time to him to as he’s helped me pick kit, given me advice on bike packing as well as many other things too. He was top form on this trip it’s fair to say!
For what felt like the first time in 2016, the sun was out and we took turns pacing at the front as we topped up our tan lines.
I was anxious at the start as to whether I’d keep up with Daniel and Martin but I knew there wasn’t any hero’s on this ride and we were all pretty like minded and chilled out with pace seven if I were to struggle they’d hold back on the pace.
This was the first ‘big’ ride since the TCR so my concerns were with my neck and hands not necessarily my legs, I knew they’d keep up one way or anything.
About 100 KM we made our first water stop, 2 ltrs of water, ice cream, haribo and a can of coke. All that was missing was a double espresso. There were so many nostalgic moments on that first 100KM, the first stop really kind of hit me in terms of how much I’d missed that feeling of adventure and freedom. Only this time I wasn’t apprehensive about anything such as what I’d packed, where I was sleeping or where I’d get my next meal.
Experience is everything and it’s only when you realise how valued that experience is that you let go and stop worrying about all the things you can’t control.
This was also the first opportunity for me to try out Pedal Bites. When Martin spoke to Pedal Bites he explained that we’d need as much energy as we could get, fortunate for us they had it all in hand with there very tasty energy bars and balls. I never tried anything sports specific, hand made or anything else along those lines to be honest so it was a nice change. It’s usually been cake, bananas or chocolate bars to top up the energy levels. Pre TCR I wasn’t all that bothered about what I ate during rides. It was only the help from the Leeds Beckett team I received pre race support from that I realised how important it was to keep topped up on your rides. These small bundles of energy were perfect for this and so incredibly tasty.
I suppose I speak for myself but at this point I was beginning to feel the miles physically now and psychologically with the sun now setting I was becoming a little unnerved as the nights were probably my least favourite part of my Trans Continental. We came across a cafe in Bishop Auckland with 20 minutes left before they stop serving hot food. From experience, it’s best stock up particularly with a hot meal before night falls then battle on hoping to find something still open. We stopped for a well earned Sausage and Bacon sandwich with coffee.
We were about 120KM in and things were about to get hilly. The last 60 miles had be relatively flat and given the pace we’d been working at we all knew it couldn’t keep up like this. Mon’ the hills… Darkness was almost here to my dismay. We were welcomed in with some incredible descents, Kiln Pit Hill near Whittonstall was a straight undulating descent which offered a beautiful view as well as fun descent.
The legs were beginning to tire and so was my moral. Whilst my body was going in Trans Continental Race nostalgia overload my mind was struggling to push. It was points like this that kind of put things in perspective though.
The last time I’d done any sort of long distance riding was the Trans Continental Race in which I’d done 11 days solid of riding covering about 2300km, that soon shut down any negative thoughts. Coming through Corbridge we knew this might be our last stop for the night so it was a great opportunity for us to grab some last minute food supplies to keep us going. My stocks consisted of Bananas, mars bar duo, Coke, water and 2 packets Haribo.
Lights on, layered up for the cold and stocked up with snacks we continue on towards the border. Unbeknown to us the next 80km was pretty much one long climb to the border.
As we closed in on the Northumberland National Park, typically, it started throwing it down.
The climb towards the board was pretty much everything I imagined it to be, the Scots wouldn’t let you in without some effort put in! Headwinds & pouring rain, we made it to the top after a long, slow climb.
1:30am (ish). Scotland!
We couldn’t resist a wee dram of whisky as right of passage in to the home land but it’s safe to say with the weather so miserable we didn’t hang about. Heading towards Jedburgh it was pretty much downhill the whole way, although as good as that sounds, with a rough head wind there wasn’t a great deal of enjoyment to get out of this long descent!
Now for the tricky bit… Finding flat ground in a safe place to pitch up for the night.
Entering into the small town we came across loads of areas with potential, but all were gated entrances to farm land, woodland that didn’t offer flat ground or right on a pedestrianised path which wasn’t ideal.