Sunday, April 20, 2008

Liverpool to Leeds - Following the canal 18/19 Apr 08

Could we actually cycle 127 miles off road, following the canal, in two days in preparation for the challenge?

None of us really had any doubt that we wouldn't be able to make it all the way, so we got off to a good start, leaving the Minorplanet offices in the Challenge support truck (Melvin's camper van) with all the bikes in the trailer.

After arriving at Liverpool we set off along the canal and past the first lock but we then managed to make our first mistake as we took a wrong turn and followed the wrong canal! Half an hour later we were back on track but not off to a good start.

7 miles later we to left the suburbia of Liverpool and really started to feel the elements that appeared to be working against us. It was cold, the tracks/tow paths were very muddy, but most of all it was very windy. We had decided to ride from Liverpool to Leeds and not vica verca due to the wind direction normally being a Westerly which would have been pushing us along, however we'd managed to pick one of those brief periods where the wind was an Easterly and appeared to be quite strong. So with the wind in our faces we pushed on and into the Pennies. Well at least we wouldn't have to go up any hills, just 57 locks to Blackburn, that were all uphill for us!

Blackburn was 60 miles away from us when we started and the campsite a further 27 miles, but after 40 miles and far too many stops (saddle sore makes you stop!) a few of us were starting to doubt our ability to get to the campsite in daylight and setup all the tents, but we pushed on. The first leg of over 80 miles was, at this stage, looking a bit too adventurous, but this was due to it not being as easy as we all imagined it would be. The wrong turn in the morning took us at least 30 minutes the wrong way, the tow paths in some areas were slippy, muddy, grassy tracks and we never seemed to go 5 minutes without having to get off for a gate of some description. The Pennies were also very bleak and when we were out on the highest areas the wind really did howl across the open fields slowing us to a miserable walking pace. This was becoming a serious demoraliser. By 4 o clock we still had nearly 40 miles to go to the campsite which was looking impossible to achieve in daylight but we only 10 or so miles to go to Blackburn, so we decided to call in the cavalry and get Melvin to meet us in Blackburn. Except for two.

Marc and Peter were not to be beaten and they refused the transport from Blackburn at 6 o clock and they pushed on. We pushed in, into the trailer and onto the campsite, feeling quite sore, tired and very thankful of the camper van. With a cup of tea in our hands and tea on the stove our thoughts and comments (nutters, ,mad, brave, stupid) went to Marc and Peter, especially as it was starting to get quite dark and wet. Yes, just to make it a little harder for marc and Peter it started to rain, heavily. However we did have comfort in the knowledge that they had taken a 6000 tracking unit with them and they were being tracked by Minorplanet (Patrick in particular, thanks) who was giving us regular updates on their position. As long as their position kept moving on the map we knew they were still moving along the canal and hadn't fallen in, and more importantly we'd better put their tent up!!

At 10 o clock in the dead of night they appeared at the campsite. Hats off to em, I know my buttocks couldn't have carried me another mile that day but they managed another 30 miles further than us.

Bright and breezy we woke in the morning with sunshine and breakfast from Melvin. We packed the tents away early allowing us to leave the campsite for half past 8. It was all downhill, quite literally. Every lock for us in West Yorkshire was downhill. The wind was still strong though and it seemed as determined as ever to slow us where every possible, but we persevered.

But after a superb lunch at Pan Loafys Canal Side Restaurant in Skipton there was no stopping us (thank you for the kind sponsorship from the Restaurant) and by 4 o clock in the afternoon we managed to smile our way back into Leeds, ending the jolly little jaunt at the Armouries.

Easy? No. A challenge in its own right? Yes. And definitely an experience along the way to preparing for the challenge.

if you want to see the route that seemed to zig zag forever you can go to select the 18th or the 19th and view the journey, just like you will be able to during the 5 day challenge.

Please don't forget we need your financial support for us to be able to achieve our goal of £10,000 for the Brake Road Safety Charity.
Please sponsor us by clicking on the link on the left or just go to

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Your Support is Needed

Please dont forget we need your financial support for us to be able to achieve our goal of £10,000 for the Brake Road Safety Charity.

Sponsor us by clicking on the link on the left or going direct to or see any of the team for donations.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

75 miles, 4200 feet and 10 hours in the saddle

Friday 11th April and Marc and Justin took the day off to complete a loop around the Severn River beginning near Gloucester, traveling off road along the West bank of the Severn to Chepstow and then over the old Severn Bridge and back up the east side of the river, off road back to our start point.
We estimated the route to be 67 miles long and had thought it would take in the region of 9 hours to complete, so we set off from Marc’s house in Quedgley and traveled North along the Sharpness- Gloucester canal until we were able to cross the Severn at Over Bridge. Having made it to the West side of the river we headed down the Gloucestershire Way footpath which follows the river as it meanders through the Gloucestershire countryside.
13 miles in and the river meets the A48 and a welcome tea hut. Soaked to the bone already, we stopped off for a quick brew and a warm up. While we were having tea the sun came out and the promise of a nice day loomed large!!
A further half mile up the A48 the path breaks away and follows the river again, so we were straight back to stiles and mud as we followed the river. Spectacular scenery along the river more than made up for the howling wind that we faced all the way to Chepstow and we were even lucky enough to watch the Severn Bore trundle up stream as we approached Newnham.
Once we got to Aylburton we stopped at my (Justin’s) house for a quick brew and a bite to eat before striking out on the last leg down the West side of the river to the old Severn Bridge at Chepstow.
Once on the bridge we had the welcome sensation of the wind at our backs and looked forward to an easier run back up the river to Gloucester. As we crossed the bridge we hit the 45 mile mark and it became apparent that our estimate of 67 miles was going to be a bit off, but nevertheless we were happy with progress and came off the bridge in good spirits.
A fairly long climb up to Thornbury, almost as soon as you come off the bridge was paid back with a lovely long 15 mile stretch to Sharpness which was almost all slightly downhill or flat the whole way. From there we got back on to the canal bank for the last few miles.
By this point I had well and truly had it while Marc looked like he could have done another 20 miles…the swine!!
So for me the stretch along the canal was a long slog although it has to be said it was punctuated with very picturesque little villages and brightly painted boats all along the route so it wasn’t too bad at all.
Eventually we came off the canal and after a quick route through Quedgley that took us to 75 miles done, we found ourselves back at the start point and a very welcome drink.
With the big day less than 5 weeks away now, the more of these long days in the saddle that we can organise the better!!