Friday, 9 May 2014


We all come to cycling in different ways.  I guess nearly all of us had either a BMX or Chopper when we were nippers, but for so many of us there is something that takes us out of the saddle.  For me it happened at 17 when I stopped working for the Garden Centre I used to pedal to and donned a suit and tie to work in London.  The bike rusted and found a new rider at a boot sale and I became more focused on the pint in my hand at the Old Bell on Ludgate Circus each Friday night rather than the Saturday morning jaunt across Hadleigh Downs that used to fill my free days.

For me life then started to tick into place as girlfriends came and went until one finally became a wife.  It was through her that I found the group of boys that were to become our wolf pack.  Mark and Dan came first, being the boyfriends of my now wife’s sisters and Baz came part and parcel with Mark; best mates from university days.  Paul joined us later when his brother Mark decided it was time to unleash him upon us.

In those early days of the group’s formation it was generally Baz, Mark and me that found ourselves together.  We staggered drunk through London streets, chain smoking and missing last trains home on week nights.  On the weekends that we got together fishing tended to be our sport of choice, involving us pitching up at a lake armed with a slab of beer, bottle of scotch, endless supplies of tobacco and dirty red meat.

You couldn’t really call our sessions a “Sport” as these tended to be rather more about calorie intake rather than expenditure.  Then there was a brief foray into golf that Mark and Baz took to really well, but I did not possess the patience to stick at a sport in which your skill level reduces the more technique you learn.  My aggression was also not too fitting for the fairways that I rarely found myself playing off and in the end I believe it may have been Mark’s decision for me to change sports rather than my own.

Then Baz relocated to Cumbria.  This was to start a transition I am not sure any of us could have predicted.  A few jaunts on Winlatter opened his eyes to a potential replacement for fishing and golf and there seemed to be nothing better or more logical to close that geographical gap other than an adventure on bikes.  What adventure did Baz pick for us? 

The Coast to Coast – Whitehaven to Newcastle Upon Tyne

So this marked the beginning of the end of our former selves.  This 3.5 – 4 day adventure when suggested was greeted with naïve enthusiasm.  At the time you could not have referred to any of us as “fit”.  Nay, I would say it would have been pushing it to class any of us as healthy, but I know for me I still had the memories of riding Hadleigh downs, not remembering any difficultly involved in turning pedals and getting somewhere.  I failed to recall that my early years of riding a bike where also alongside playing rugby as a flanker, kickboxing in tournaments and working every weekend landscaping gardens in Essex.  I should have known I was a faint shadow of that teenage powerhouse, but I didn’t.  I imagine Mark and Dan were much the same in opinion.  It may have only been Baz, living in Cumbria and witnessing the terrain daily, that really knew what was coming, but even then I am not sure he knew exactly how big the challenge would be; a few mistakes we made on the trip suggest as much…

But it was booked in and August 2008 was upon us.  Cumbria and the Northern Pennines stood calm, waiting for us to wake up to the reality.

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