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Open eyes, open curtains, you know the drill – except…today is different. The sky is blue, there is a car park outside and there’s a pub too. But we’re in Bodmin and about to complete an absolutely epic 921 mile journey (hopefully) arriving in Lands End at around 4pm.
The scale of the challenge has been both physical and mental. The latter, far more than I expected. Getting out of bed and cycling 90 miles a day for 10 days is beyond normal and ‘dealing’ with that has been hard. And we have to do it, just once more. Yesterday was brutal for climb, today is not much better, let’s just hope the adrenaline pulls us through.
Neil’s birthday today, so we sing Happy Birthday on the start line – that was different! Then we’re off, only 63 miles today but loads of Lewis-friendly climbing in store. As it was his birthday, even Neil was enjoying the hills.
A stop at 25 for second (or third?) breakfast and the pace continues. Two groups today (almost a team?) with Peter scouting well ahead. Lunch stop at Penzance and suddenly we’re within 10 miles of the finish. Lewis has one more trick up his sleeve for a picturesque if slightly over-hilly detour (thank goodness for the phone) and before you can blink, Lands End is in sight. A pretty significant crowd awaits us at the finish line, mostly tourists curious to see what nutters are coming in next. Big cheers, applause and we’re through.
Photographs and then more at the sign post – ‘we’ve only gone and done it!!’
I think there was more relief than elation, this has been the hardest thing that any of us have done, or will probably ever do again. It felt like it would never end, but it has now. Someone described it as the ultimate stag do without alcohol, there was very little of the latter – might catch up on that tonight – but seven guys with support from Rose and Terry and friends from across the industry did somehow pull it out of the bag.
The words ‘Thank you’ seem so inadequate when we have had such incredible support from so many people. The team at Roland, Janine, Helen and Martyn and many others, have worked incredibly hard at fund raising and all of the administration behind the ride. We could not have achieved this without you. Terry and Rose, you are the best surrogate Mum and Dad and we would all adopt you. Terry looking after the bikes and driving, and Rose rebuilding bodies and filling them with calories! Great fun too. And then the team. Everyone pulled together when it was needed, but special thanks to our resident pro-cyclist SImon Lewis who has been a great coach to us all and kept us safe. No one died!! A few got injured….
Lastly I must thank everyone who has donated money. Your generosity will help to change people’s lives, we were just the catalyst to make that happen. Thank you, thank you.
For me, JOGLE 2012 is the right time to retire from such events. It doesn’t get much bigger than this and what better than to go out on a high. I can’t speak for Peter as he’s so far ahead of our peloton he can’t hear what I’m saying. I am sure though, we will all continue to ride for pleasure (but only on a sunny day). I’d like to say that there was some pleasure in this last ride, but the bruises and aches sustained during day nine are still too raw. Maybe next week we’ll reflect on that. It has been an enormous privilege to be part of this team, but most of all, so humbling to be able to be a part of raising so much money for two fantastic charities. As I write the total is over £40K with more money still to come, we could end nearer to £50K.
Tomorrow it’s back to normality (what’s that?) – we leave early for the annual car park that is the Bank Holiday M5. It’ll probably be quicker by bike….
Open eyes, open curtains, blue sky, lots of cars, I spy a beefeater pub, must be a Premier Inn then, give up guessing and go for iPhone GPS. Still in Taunton and about to embark on day nine.
The normal routine kicked in with the planned departure at 8.30. The rules say 8 for 8.30. This basically means getting all your stuff out to the van by 8am, leaving half an hour to get the bikes ready, polish your helmet and prep for the day. Checking tyre pressures is also a critical part of this prep and, as you can see here, it normally takes around three people to help Peter sort his.
It still hasn’t sunk in, just what we’ve achieved so far. The last major emotional moment was crossing Scotland and getting to the English border sign. Somehow now, we’re in Somerset, 750 miles into this epic and we’ve cycled every mile. The physical and emotional strain is now showing on all of us. Injuries and frayed nerves have taken us all to places we didn’t expect to be.
And that strain was showing this morning. No guest riders today, so the core team only, and within minutes of the ride starting we’d split into separate teams. Sat navs were on the blink so various different routes were also taken today. The only common goal was getting to Bodmin, alive!
First stop today was Silverton, the village where Jules lives. Quite a reception committee awaited us as we arrived, with several of Jule’s family and friends taking the day off work to greet us.
Here on in, the group split further, the main challenge being to complete a gruelling day of climbing, with every force of nature trying to get in our way. This wasn’t ordinary rain, or even M and S rain: this was the kind or rain where each drop is the equivalent of a bucket of water. It was brutal and the course the toughest that anyone of us have ever done. Here’s the map and elevation graphic for the day.
Bradley however seemed to have had a great day. He’s been busy the entire trip checking out all kinds of sights and joins us wherever we start and stop. Here he is just cruising into Cornwall. His full photo album will be published on the three men site after the ride.
The evening saw our last (ever?) Premier Inn meal and I think ’shell-shocked’ best describes emotions around the table. Tomorrow is our last day together and we will (I hope) complete an extraordinary challenge. It’s a 63 mile route and yes, there are plenty of hills, but I think the weather is ok……
- Cornish Ferret – will miss the Bank Holiday
- Woolly Mammoth – Griffiths reckons he saw one, just as he came into Cornwall
- Vera at the old farm shop – reckons it’s flat all the way to Launceston, ‘except the hills’
- Neil – randomly knocking on doors to find a water re-fill – should have just held his hand out!
Open eyes, open curtains….car park, Beefeater Pub across road, no clues. Get iPhone, GPS tracker, ah, we’re in Gloucester. Bark loudly for a few minutes and get released from my kennel, er sorry, room.
We have a spectacular route today and are joined by the Boyz (Terry and Simon), the tandem (complete with Roland sound system) and Paul McManus, Chief Executive for the MIA and Music for All. Honoured company indeed.
The Boyz started training last week and Paul had a quick zip round the car park last night. Today, we have 96 miles to do and not exactly flat – this is going to be tough. In addition, Myke from Bonners stayed on for another day and we’re joined by Peter’s brother-in-law, Peter James.
As usual we set off at 8:30, the music blaring lifted our spirits – great choice of music too. The first 30 miles took us to Chepstow: undulating would be an understatement. Very pretty, but some tough climbs, especially for the Tandem. Paul impressed everyone immediately, as he flew his slender 10 stone up the hills. No problems there then. Anyone who’d put money on him not completing today was about to lose it.
The road from Gloucester to Chepstow runs alongside the River Severn – beautiful. Just as we got to Broadoak the sun come out, there was blue sky, and I’m not making this up, we had Mr Blue Sky by ELO blaring on the tandem. It was surreal and hugely motivational, all at the same time.
Next up was crossing the Old Severn Bridge on the cycle path running alongside the M48. Although a little breezy and the rain had started it was an incredible experience. ‘On a sunny day’ it would have been better. Here you can see our group cycling away into the distance.
And this was our view of the second Severn Crossing.
The bridge negotiated we celebrated with the ‘I just did that photo’.
Through Avonmouth docks and then up over the Avonmouth bridge on another cycle path and we’re finally back into more rural territory.
Lunch today was a stop at Roland DG, conveniently situated at the 50 mile mark. We were aiming to get there for 1.30pm and up until a few minutes before, we were right on track. Less than a mile away, the tandem’s rear tyre finally gave up and we spent 20 minutes trying to fix it. Unfortunately Terry and Simon did not have a spare tube on them and we struggled to find a pump that would fit their valve, it was a different fitting to a road bike. Jules sprang into action and masterminded a very temporary fix but it did require all seven of us to have a go at pumping the tyre up.
Limping along we arrived at DG, our welcoming committee had by now gone back to work, having waited outside for ages.
The DG guys had done a special banner for us and laid on a superb buffet lunch. Thank you Jerry and your team, you have no idea just how much of a tonic this was for us. While we all tucked into lunch, Terry fixed the tandem and it wasn’t long before we were due to leave. Here we all are with Jerry and friends.
A short debate ensued as Jerry Davies insisted on joining us for the ride.
As the rain started to get heavier, he suddenly had to take an urgent call in the office. Simon and Terry seized their chance, leapt on the tandem and we were off again.
Weston next with the wind and rain getting up. Here is the stunning view from the back road into Weston. You see a view like this for at least two miles.
Weston was deserted, not surprising considering the wind and rain, and we were able to easily cycle along the front. After a brief stop, we faced the small matter of the last 25 to do and the rain wasn’t giving up.
The last 25 normally feels more like 50 but today, it felt like 75. We were on the A38 all the way and the traffic and rain were not a great combination.
With two miles to go, the tandem developed another puncture, but no one, least of all the Boyz, wanted to stop. They cycled in to the finish line riding on the rear rims and seconds after crossing, the whole of the rear gears collapsed, good timing or what!
Huge thanks to all of the additional riders today for their support. I hope that their weekends are not too painful! For us, we are approaching the finish line with just two days to go. Unfortunately our greatest challenge awaits us tomorrow on the ride from Taunton to Bodmin. 107 miles and by far the biggest climbing of the whole ride, yes, worse than Scotland. Devon is not famous for its flat roads, as we’re about to find out. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, Fish-Griffiths says it’s chucking it down. If there was ever a day to donate to spur us on, Saturday is it – thank you for your support!
- Dramatic Comedy Falls (Fall on the Move) – Paul / Tim (separate incidents)
- Puncture – tandem x 2
- Crashes into tandem – Paul x 1
- Long unprintable list of wild life that haven’t made it to the weekend
- Chain incidents x 5 Jules
- Comedy fall – Neil and Peter J, together
- Buckled wheel – Neil
Open eyes, open curtains, check location. Yes it’s Crewe Premier Inn. A relaxed evening yesterday at the nearby pub. It was quiz night so in addition to us shouting out all of the answers, Peter stole the mic and raised £55 for the charities from the various quiz teams.
Another grey morning today, thankfully no rain. We seem to be very lucky recently, this luck will probably run out by the weekend. Guest riders today include Paul from DV, Neil Cowmeadow and Myke from Bonners. A big day ahead as none of them has cycled 100 miles yet! Here we all are, raring to go?
The guest riders (fresh legs) definitely gave our younger core riders a run for their money this morning. Lewis sorted this out later, reminding everyone ‘who wears the white shoes’.
Having trawled eBay last night for a replacement leg and failed to win any of the auctions (you’d be amazed at what goes on on eBay after midnight) I had to resort to drugs today to ‘manage’ my knee pain. We’re all gradually succumbing to the stresses and strains of this massive endurance marathon and there’s barely a man on the team without issues. Sorry, that should read, without health issues.
Firmly keeping the family together (quite literally) is the multi-talented Rose. One moment she’s running Ruth’s Rolls, the finest lunch van on the JOGLE run, the next she’ll be rebuilding someone’s legs in her physio capacity and then without batting an eyelid, she’ll turn into expert bike mechanic. Girl power has nothing on this!
So the ride: painful, ouch, long, kinda sums it up. First stop was outside a McDonalds for a rare coffee stop. We then sped down the Ironbridge Gorge (just beautiful) into Ironbridge itself. Photo of the team here in front of the bridge. (I was behind the camera, just in case anyone thought I was having the day off).
There are two ways out of the Gorge, both are up but one is really quite steep. The Three Men chose the long gradual haul out of town, the rest of the support riders abandoned us (!) to show off to each other on the really steep one and compare the size of each other’s bikes.
Reunited at the top and ‘King of the Mountains’ awards completed (Lewis) we set off on a frustrating, undulating section of road which seemed to go on for ever, en route to Kidderminster. I’m even beginning to actually recognise some of the places we’re cycling through! Lunch, then Stourport, Worcester and Tewkesbury and we’re in sight of home. Well, I say home? Premier Inn has become home, but the one here in Gloucester is a bit more like a kennel. Our worst by far: I could hardly fit the bike in the room.
After today’s ride we clock up 650 miles and over 27,000 ft of climb for the ride so far. Everest is 29,000, so we should probably nail that tomorrow, assuming that ‘Make up my Ride’ gets the numbers wrong again. We’ll be joined by the Boyz from PMT (and tandem) and Paul from the MIA – anything could happen….
- Fox x 2, not well
- Squirrel, not looking well
- Pigeons, lots, flying days over
- Griffiths says he saw a bear
- Terry now on work to rule, as overtime for Jules’ bike clocks up
Day 6 (feels like 26) and we’re in Kendal. Guest riders today are Sean and David from Roland.
Our mapping software tells us it’s fairly flat today, so 102 miles should be a doddle. As the title above proves, it wasn’t flat and as I sit writing this on my seventh pint in the pub next to the….Premier Inn (oh yes!) I can safely say that I am absolutely shattered.
Nothing to report about the Premier Inn in Kendal, as it’s the same as the one in Dumfries, Dumbarton etc but the staff were particularly helpful. Laundry was the highlight of Rose’s evening (BIG thank you) and ours was an Italian restaurant. Terry spent the evening parking the van: quite brilliantly too, it has to be said.
The following morning, grey clouds greeted us as we looked out of our Premier Inn windows to remind ourselves where we were: only 102 miles to go to the next Premier Inn.
Leaving Kendal was slightly more challenging than necessary, with Lewis doing a spot of shopping as the rest of the group headed south. We managed to meet up again a few miles later, but it was extremely inconvenient balancing Simon’s shopping bags on our handle bars.
The first 20 miles were a little too much up and down for that early in the morning and spirits were a little low at the first 20 mile stop. At least it wasn’t raining, but those of us nursing injuries really would have preferred to be lounging in bed. No such luck. The injury list grows by the day, current highlights include:
- Simon and Peter – bottoms like baboons
- Jules and Tim (that’s me) – various painful knee problems
- James – Double knee crisis
- Peter – very sore hands, clearly missing doing the washing up
The Griffiths brothers amused themselves today with some spectacular ‘drafting’. Neil selected a combine harvester and sped behind it allowing the slipstream to carry him along. Simon selected a muck spreader and cruised along in its wake. I think that I slip-streamed a couple of snails on a day trip to Leyland: it certainly made my day.
We stopped in Leyland for lunch with Ruth’s rolls doing frantic business. The normal high quality fare was topped off with extra cucumber and malt loaf. We also get jelly beans and chocolate. Lunch is the only positive thing about cycling I can currently report. I’m sure I’ll feel better about it next week.
Guest riders Sean and David rode superbly well today. For two guys who had not had much time for training, to pull a 100 miler out of the bag was pretty impressive. Sean made various attempts to join the Bladderettes, but sadly didn’t make the cut.
I also felt a little sorry for David, who after being abandoned by Jules on a long hill (since hooking up with Simon, he’s just not getting this team thing) took the wrong turn and had to be rescued, a broken man, on the side of the road. Jules, how could you?
Riding as a team or in groups requires incredible concentration. Cycling demands not only massive physical exertion, but also huge mental stamina too. In the interests of health and safety there are a considerable number of spoken communications and also hand signals. I’ll have to leave the hand signals as some are unprintable, but here are some of the repeatable spoken words.
The obvious ones like, ’slowing, stopping, gravel and clear right’ probably need no further explanation. Here are some others:
- Car Down – car coming towards you at great speed
- Car Up – driver late for hair appointment very frustrated
- Lorry Up – red or yellow?
- Sh** in road – droppings on road
- Hole on left – large hole that council have not bothered to mend
- Gash – lots of holes in road
- Cyclist ahead – either James or Lewis in the distance
- Man down – comedy fall
- Man off back – Tim’s at least a mile behind
- All on – back on the chain gang
- Coming thru – the Griffiths brothers, normally at speed
- Pit stop – No 1 song for the Bladderettes
Arriving at Crewe was an enormous relief. 100 miles is one heck of a long way and it takes forever. One or two of us had thought we might not make it, so to get everyone home was a real tonic.
Tomorrow Gloucester, I hope!
- Comedy falls: Sean x 2
- Very large flat fox
- Jules puts his foot in it, yes a large pile…
Day 5 dawns with an air of excitement: lots happening today and still in Scotland, but we’re going to England. The Fish-Griffiths forecast gives us changeable weather. Yet another cop out, cover-all-bases type of report. Still, we pack waterproofs and mentally adjust for potential rain. It’s only (!) 83 miles, so we start at 9am after Peter’s done a radio interview for Peavey’s promotion supporting Three Men on a Bike.
The first 30 miles passed quickly, fairly flat, but we had important business en route so a couple of stops had been planned. The first took us to Gretna Green. A stop like no other we’d ever done: Simon finally popped the question to Jules and taking advantage of Scottish law the two were wed. Here we all are, celebrating this joyous moment. I think the rest of us got carried away and held hands too….not sure what Peter was doing?
Moments later we cycled into England, the first stop on the new couple’s honeymoon. Mind you, I think in the intervening five mins they’d had their first row, Peter was definitely feeling the frosty atmosphere.
After the initial euphoria of seeing the sign and photos etc. reality took a few minutes to sink in, but then the realisation that we’d just cycled the length of Scotland was really quite moving. Our 4+ days in Scotland had been tough but had brought the team together. The wind, weather and mountainous challenges had been immense, something none of us will ever forget. We’ve all learned a lot about Scotland, even picking up a few Scottish words. We would regularly have drivers slow down, open their windows and share all kinds of different Scottish dialect. I’m sure they were encouraging us (?) and that the accompanying hand signals were underlining their passionate support.
As we crossed into England, spirits were high, the sun came out and the road surfaces improved dramatically. We sped through Carlisle and stopped at 50 miles just outside Penrith for lunch. The gastronomic delights (they get better every day – thanks Ruth!) were only topped by the new Olympic sport (to be announced for Rio) of Jelly Bean catching. Here’s Simon in full swing – can you spot the bean?
The real work today came this afternoon with our climb through Shap and Shap Fell. Peter has seen a new lease of life today and has put his new triple to heavy use, typically in the highest gear to make it as hard as possible, ‘cos that’s what Peter does. Here he is racing his way to Gold at the end of a lovely climb in Shap. Even I enjoyed this one. No podium finish for me though!
Writing and talking about hills and climbs has become normal life. It’s quite scary how everything has become routine or ‘normal’. Staying in Premier Inns every night provides a continuity almost like going home every night. Every hotel is the same and as I sit in my room writing this now, I could be in Fort William or Dumfries. Until you look out of the window you can’t tell. Every room is essentially the same; carpets, curtains, pictures and bed are almost identical, or are they? Well, detailed scientific research by seven cycling blokes over the past five days reveals an alternative thesis…
When we arrive at each hotel there’s a set external routine to logistics operations. In short, bike into room (as long as James hasn’t got to reception first), back to van, bags into room. Back to van to pick up equipment crate, agree meeting time for dinner, back to room.
Door to room, three different types of entry systems so far. Enter room, first question: do I have a couch or chair? A couch is essential for laying out a large heavy case. Chair is useless, and means case on floor, not good. How big is the room? Will the bike fit there? If not, only goes at a particular angle to not obscure desk. Sockets, vital for charging phones, Garmins (bike computers), laptops etc, are they accessible above desk or hidden on the floor? We prefer on the desk. Bathroom, always identical, but slight variations in the taps. I know, I know, this is sounding slightly bonkers, but trust me after five nights doing this, it starts to get to you. Some of us are even getting stressed about the position of the waste bin, which has at least two homes. Lastly, lighting – some variety here and depends largely on whether your room had the 2010 refit or 2009.
Anyway, back to the ride. When we got to the top of Shap Fell, we knew/thought that the last 12 miles were downhill. Well, they weren’t. There were a couple of sharp surprise ascents, the wind got up and then the heavens opened. We were in a hurry too as Peter had an urgent appointment to gets his eyebrows waxed or something (true – and not a euphemism in sight).
There was a huge sense of relief for all of us as we coasted into Kendal. Relief of many kinds. For me, it was that my knee had held out. Some pain, but it got me here. For the team it was the excitement of knowing that Rose was going to the launderette. Clean clothes at last and relief that Griffiths could finally change his one pair of shorts….
Half way and 452 miles done: all aboard for Crewe.
- Rabbits 3, really not well
- English Hedgehog x 1
- Pheasant, very fresh
- Senior gentleman with bikes – very alive and well
- Bladderettes appoint Manager (Griffiths) and an official photographer (Terry), album to follow
Still in Scotland….
Dinner last night saw most of us attack the carvery – it was Sunday after all: roast gammon and beef never tasted so good! Post-dinner debates concluded that time trialling was probably not compatible with a JOGLE ride. As the Olympics are now over and 926 miles is quite a long way, I’m thinking this is probably quite sensible!
So day 4…..
An 8.30 start this morning and changeable weather. Michael Fish-Griffiths normally forecasts this, as a safe option, but today he was right. We kept fairly dry, but the wind today was a killer, and more often than not came straight at you. Combine this with the worst road surfaces of the trip so far, and bleak, desolate landscapes and you get an idea of the scale of today’s challenge.
The first 20 miles were a welcome relief from yesterday’s frenetic pace. Cycle paths running along the old railway line, and then alongside the canal brought us slowly into Glasgow. We then fought our way through the city streets and to the harbour. Constant stopping and starting was frustrating and time consuming, but there was no shortage of sights, particularly around the docks.
Simon kept us amused with a comedy fall at the traffic lights, a bit like the one described yesterday. One minute he was beside me, the next I heard a muffled whimper and watched him crash onto the street. I don’t think much else than pride was hurt but it was very funny and something of a tonic for seven guys seriously beginning to struggle with the stresses and strains of 300-plus miles under the belt.
The fall must have shaken him as later in the day he was clearly exhausted, as this photo shows.
What’s more the local livestock were deeply unimpressed…
Today saw some pretty tough climbs with at least one category 4 and even a 5. The rating of a climb comes from a calculation done relating to steepness and length, but in essence should be used as a warning to sane people to avoid unnecessary physical damage to their bodies. Pro-cyclists (Lewis and Neil) actually go out of their way to find the steepest hills and then race up them…..beats me! Choosing a route for this ride critically involved a large iron and an attempt to minimise the hill climbing. We will however experience category 3, 4 and 5 hills which translate as follows:
- Category 5 – flippin steep, not attempted by normal people
- Category 4 – flippin long and steeper, as above
- Category 3 – flippin longer, steeper and carry a severe health warning
After the stops and starts of Glasgow, we hit open countryside again and picked the pace up. Over 50 or so miles we experienced, once again, the contrasts of beauty and bleakness that sum up the Scottish countryside.
Sorry, did I forget to mention recently that we’re still in Scotland?
So day 4 is done, and it has been one of our hardest: this was a long and tiring section that saw us finish late at 7pm. Everyone is beginning to feel it, even Lewis. Bodies are seriously aching, we’re dealing with cramp and strains and I’m on the hunt for a double knee transplant. For continuity (more tomorrow) we’re staying at the Premier Inn Dumfries tonight, I think we’ll all be in bed early. Forecast is wet tomorrow (joy) and there’s a rumour we might be crossing the border (deep joy!).
- Chain incidents x 1
- Dog severing x 2
- Puncture x 1 (Neil)
- Glass – Glasgow was covered in it – (clearly lots of drinking and fighting goes on here)
- Labrador – asleep or not well?
- Severed rabbit – definitely not well
We awake to blue skies over Ben Nevis, yes…..still in Scotland, it’s a big old place. Start time today is 8.30 and some hefty climbs await us, particularly up through Glencoe. Gareth Bevan has enjoyed yesterday so much, he’s staying for more today…is he mad?
Overnight James has performed miracles and not only has our friendly receptionist not been sacked, she’s also put £10 on the Three Men on a Bike fund raising page! Thank you Fiona. Lewis says he’ll come and stay on his way back to John O’Groats. I think he was joking, but perhaps if you’re reading this and want him to do it, you can put some money on the Virgin Giving site – he’ll have to do it then!!
Excellent Curry last night. Terry and Rose really went for it and thoroughly enjoyed. Must have been a long morning in the van for them today. Jules managed to get the spiciest dish (lots of time in the bushes today) and Simon had his traditional Fahl in a mild Korma sauce, oh and 9 pints of Lager. All in all a good night, but still in bed by 10.
So Day 3….
After a few miles alongside the beautiful Loch Leven we turned inland to begin our climb up though Glencoe. The first major climb twists and turns up the Glen, quite steep but just long long. After this it opens out into long straight roads that seem to go on forever….climbing. As fatigue starts to set in you soon begin to confuse climbing with descents, are we going up or down? All the downs today, some really long ones, were ruined somewhat by a head wind. You found yourself having to pedal hard downhill! Mind you, I’d rather have the wind than the rain. In the somewhat bleak settings at the top of Glencoe today, rain like day 1…just doesn’t bear thinking about.
The long climbs today proved significant for Peter who until now, despite having had a triple fitted to his bike last week, hadn’t used it. The triple gives you three rings on the front and basically a wider choice of lower gears. Great for tough hills. Peter was determined not to use his lower ring and until now was officially a triple virgin. Glencoe proved to be the day he lost this particular cherry and I think he quite enjoyed the experience. Most of us have triples, well obviously not the pro boys Lewis and Neil, and ours are well used!
We’ve met many people on our travels so far, cyclists, bikers and walkers. Today we met our match when we shared our provisions with two marathon runners in the middle of nowhere not long after Glencoe. Their challenge was to run the three peaks (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Snowdon) the equivalent of 16 marathons in 16 days. Griffiths said he felt a fraud, suddenly John O’Groats to Lands End didn’t seem that big a deal. Big respect to those guys anyway, I hope they raise the money for Macmillan they’re aiming for.
After various mentions of the Bladderettes, I have to report that their etiquette is plummeting. The team had to stop today at a remote set of roadworks with traffic lights at each end. Probably at least half a mile long, so long waits for the lights. We all pulled up by the normal red sign that declares, ‘When Red Light Shows, Wait Here’. It certainly did not give this instruction….
Thank you to Gareth for his support for the last couple of days. A great rider and good fun to have around. Tomorrow it’s just the seven of us, no guest riders, just a further slog through Scotland, Dumfries here we come.
Not well (Thrush, Rabbit, a lot of snakes)
Simon exposed himself, he claims by accident
Rolls, still the Cheese and Tomato
Tandoori Blast by Gareth attempting to propel himself up Glencoe
Much promise of fine weather from our resident Michael Fish-Griffiths today. 30 degrees and the odd shower. Well, partly right, the odd shower, but nearer to 15 degrees and sunshine. Yes, patchy sunshine! A new way to view Scotland and a first for us.
First up, last night and menu recommendations for Inverness Premier Inn restaurant. Best recommendation is not to eat there. If you have to, order in a take away or eat a Snickers. Either way you’ll achieve a better result. Service bad, food worse, I think the last meal arrived at around 10pm, for our 8.30 booking. Just what we didn’t need after exertions yesterday.
Anyway, Day 2…
Joined by Gareth Bevan from Red Sub, we set off at 10am. Luxury or what? It took us a little while to negotiate an exit from Inverness as the Garmins (our bike computers) got a little confused and were clearly not coping well with the Scottish language translation.
Thereafter, today can only be described as breathtaking, spectacular, probably the most beautiful cycle ride I have ever done. Despite getting wet on occasion, the scenery was just amazing. Words can’t really begin to describe, the photos might help.
15 miles or so cycling along side Loch Ness made me realise just how privileged we are to be doing this ride. Sure there will be ups and downs (no pun intended) and the odd falling out, and yes we have almost one thousand miles to cycle, but the chance to see some of the places we have seen today from the saddle is beyond value – if you ever get the chance to cycle near Loch Ness – do it….oh, ‘on a sunny day’ of course.
A sweeping long descent followed bringing us out at Loch Lochy Loch Loch (I think that’s what the sign said) at which point the Garmins gave up again. Now, the house rules state that ‘the Garmin maps are always right…..until they’re wrong’. This was one of those times and Terry (our friendly support van driver), got a map out. It’s a kind of colourful thing in a large book, often with the initials AA printed on the front, and mostly used by people aged over 50. (FYI – Terry assures us he doesn’t have a drink problem) Anyway, he didn’t plug it in and there was no screen but he still managed to use it to help us navigate our way out of crisis. So the house rules have had to be changed to, ‘the Garmin is always right, except when Terry’s maps have got a better idea’.
Neil, a founding member and lead singer of the ‘bladderettes’ (we think of miles per hour, he works on stops per hour) introduced us to another of his many talents when James was having problems with his cleats. These are the clips that hold your feet on the bike pedals. If you’re a pro rider like Lewis or Neil, these allow you to pull up on the pedals and ‘go faster’….cool!? To most amateur cyclists (us) they offer massive potential for road junction and traffic light comedy moments as you fail to manage to unclip in time and gracefully keel over and fall flat on all of the bits that hurt. Anyway, James’ cleat problem was that he couldn’t, clip in. With James sat on his bike on the side of the busy A82, Neil (the farrier) was seen to be working on James’ hooves. We discovered later that James had trodden in significant amounts of Haggis poo and has Neil to thank for expertly scraping it off and reconnecting him. It’s the little things that make these days!!
A descent into Fort William, with Ben Nevis as the back drop was just….you had to be there. Ben, is the tallest mountain you can see in the photo, slightly obscured by cloud. The triumphant arrival at the (guess where) Premier Inn Fort William was somewhat marred by the ‘No Bikes in this hotel’ policy. James, using his legendary wit, charm and negotiation skills managed to completely wind the manager up in an attempt to get our bikes into the hotel. In the end she gave up and shouted ‘bring your bikes in then and don’t worry if I get sacked’ (I might have left a couple of words out) – so we did! She was still on reception as we quietly filed through later on. I guess the Premier Inn HR department doesn’t work weekends.
An incredible day for scenery, great riding by new member Gareth and at last some sunshine! Tonight we’re off to the local Indian and Simon G is in charge of the bill negotiations. (Please see Eastbourne blog for Lands End to London for previous Griffiths negotiation form!)
Puncture x 1 Jules
Chain Incidents x 1
Dead sheep x 1
Re shoeing x 1 (James’ hooves)
Ruth’s Rolls – Cheese and Tomato – Award winning
3 men filmed for forthcoming Hollywood blockbuster….
So day 1 dawns, the forecast says, wet and windy, you couldn’t ask for less!!
Dinner went well last night, with most riders sticking to Rose’s strict alcohol rules: max of two pints before dinner, or something like that, and then I forget the rest of the rule.
One of our new riders Jules introduced himself to the group and amongst his many claims to fame that we can remember, was his intimate knowledge of the WD-40 website. Yes, there is one and Jules is one of the few that has viewed it.
An early alarm call and incredible power shower, which my head clean OFF my shoulders (quite the best thing in the Seaview Hotel) signalled the longest day of most of our cycling lives. 120 miles is a long long way – even longer in Scotland…much longer in the rain.
Nope, it was heads down into the wind, and it wasn’t long before we were to experience some of the most challenging of Scottish weather. At times we were soaked, at others, visibility was a low as the bike in front. At particularly special moments it was a combination of all of the above.
I can’t tell you a great deal about the Scottish countryside as we actually saw very little. One highlight in a break in the weather was Portgower where we cycled right next to the North Sea, awesome views.
120 miles had us stopping every thirty with Ruth’s rolls and Terry’s van in full swing. Great support as always, and food has never tasted so good.
As a team, we seemed to ride well. On several occasions, even as a group. We’ll probably crack it tomorrow. No major events today other than the ‘bladderettes’ seemed to stop quite often to check the view(!) and James decided to attempt to cross a major roundabout in reverse, it was quite funny….afterwards. Stunning view of the day came as we crossed the Kessock Bridge into Inverness.
A great start to the ride and only 800 miles left to go…..
Alive – Field Mouse / Toad (Rescued by Simon)
Not so well – Hedgehogs (2) / Toad (1) / Snakes (Lots) / Rabbit (2) / Haggis (1)
Punctures – 1 (Neil)
Chain Incidents (3)
Costume Changes (Lewis – lots)
As our Lear Jet starts its slow descent into Wick, the air stewardess starts to pack up the silver service. An incredible 3 course meal settles slowly on my stomach, topped off with the finest Cloudy Bay and I look forward to the relaxing week ahead in the splendour and luxury of the famous Ackergill Tower in Wick. As I turn to the passenger opposite to remark on the glorious sunshine that awaits us, I hear this voice, distant at first, then getting louder and I feel myself being shaken around. I suddenly awake to see Peter and Simon urging me to buckle up as our duo prop SAAB 340 (didn’t they go bust?) is buffeted around the grey blustery skys of Wick.
There is no week off. The reality of my holiday lies beneath me as we fly over the A99, the first 120 miles of our journey, tomorrow, on a 926 mile epic to Lands End. After 12 months of thinking, planning and training, reality is now only several thousand feet below us and there is no turning back. A 9 o’clock flight out of Cardiff gets you into Wick for lunch. Its an hour to Edinburgh, then a further hour to Wick. Yep, it’s that much further. I’m reminded it will take us 4 days to cycle out of Scotland. A few miles in a taxi and you’re at the best (only) hotel John O’Groats has to offer, the Seaview. And wow, that is some view!
Our journey has passed without major incident, well other than Simon wondering if our plane could fly on just one prop and James proving that you can still travel the UK without your passport. Try that if Scotland gains independence! And notwithstanding my dream, we’re here. It’s the end of the UK as we know it, and I’m about to cycle to the other end.
Terry, Rose and Jules arrive later with our very smart support van and finally we are reunited with our bikes and rather extensive luggage. Just how long is Simon planning to stay? Simon Lewis, for editorial reasons now renamed Lewis, arrives later tonight, having elected to drive it in a day from Chippenham – that’s a lot of driving! Let’s hope he doesn’t want to take the same approach on the bike tomorrow.
We pass the rest of the day as tourists exploring John O’Groats, it doesn’t take long. Peter and James buy postcards and post. Simon takes a photograph of one and emails it. To complete the experience, the three men have their photo taken at the famous John O’Groats signpost. Partially a dry run for tomorrow (it will be very wet) and….. it’s what you do as a tourist up here.
All we can do now is wait, anxiously/eagerly (please delete as appropriate) for the start of the real journey tomorrow. The only thing between that and us is Dinner at the Seaview tonight. Tripadvisor doesn’t mention any food poisoning scares…..damn!!
As I start to write on the eve of the eve of the craziest escapade ever undertaken by someone as unfit as me, I am reminded of my commitment two years ago to never do this again. As we celebrated the end of our 430-mile ride from Land’s End to the London Olympic Stadium back in October 2010, there was incredible elation, relief and sheer joy at the £20K+ we had raised with amazing support from across the music industry. It had been such a massive and challenging undertaking it didn’t seem possible that we would even consider doing anything like it again.
As James and I looked across the Olympic Stadium building site back then, no one would have believed that less than two years later, we would all have witnessed the incredible spectacle that was London 2012 and that inside that same stadium, hopes and dreams for so many came together in a global outpouring of physical and emotional achievement. With all of the gloom and doom around us, the world feels a better place as a result of London 2012 and it’s fitting that our story starts here.
Our ‘Olympic’ journey starts this Friday (17th) and we face a 900+ mile endurance ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End in 10 days. At 90 miles a day, this is more than double our previous achievement and it can only be that inner urge and drive to raise more money for two great causes (Music for All and Children in Need) that has tipped us all over the edge to even consider getting on a bike again. Some of us enjoy the odd short cycle ride ‘on a sunny day’, but ‘this’ is something else.
As I reflect on the last five months in the saddle, I can perhaps get a glimpse of what some Olympians have to endure in their four year quest for achievement. Since April, I’ve managed 3000 training miles in between the rain and….the rain, and sacrificed what little non-work time I have. I’m not complaining (although I did hate quite a lot of it) but it just gives me an insight into what real commitment is. And I guess, as we stood in the Olympic Park almost two years ago, it didn’t seem possible that we could have found that commitment and inspiration again to attempt another fund-raising ride.
But here we are. The same team, back together again, joined by new riders and with new levels of support from across the music industry, topped off with a new and totally mad challenge to attempt to try and raise more money. As I write today, our fund-raising total is well over £20K, but with much more work to do to get us to our target. The bags and bikes are all packed and en route to John O’Groats and we leave for Cardiff airport in the morning, using the slightly more correct and sane method of air travel to Edinburgh, then Wick.
On Friday morning we swap seats for saddles and diesel for electrolyte drinks (and the odd beer, not on the Bike, well not initially…) and attempt 10 days of solid cycling and total climbing (that’s steep hills to you and me) not far short of 26,000ft. To put that into context, Mount Everest is just over 29,000ft.
Putting this together and just getting us to this point has been a herculean task. The team at Roland, led by Janine and Helen have once again performed marketing and administrative miracles. Huge support too from across the industry: Future (thank you Clare), Peavey, PMT and Sinclair’s for the support van, to name but a few from a very long list. Midge Ure, Howard Jones, Razorlight, Al Murray, thank you guys for your incredible generosity and time.
And now it’s our time, to complete this ultimate challenge. The weather is not looking that great (30mph winds and rain) for John O’Groats on Friday…..let’s hope they got the forecast wrong….
Three Men get kitted out as the ordeal approaches
The Three Men on a Bike Charity Ride is due to begin in John O’Groats this Friday, hopefully concluding 926 miles later at Land’s End on Sunday August 26th.
Taking time out to check the five-day weather forecast, Tim Walter, Roland’s Managing Director, commented while anxiously eyeing the skies:
“Well, we’re nearly ready to set off. The training is done, the bikes are prepped, our kit and the energy drinks have arrived and we’re hoping to carry on in the Olympic spirit of the past few weeks, especially with the amazing performance of Bradley Wiggins still clear in our minds: he’s definitely made an impact on all three of us. We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity and support shown by people to date, and we’re around two thirds towards reaching our target. Distance aside, we’ve still got a long way to go though so please, if you’re yet to donate, visit the site and help the cause.”
The riders will be setting off tomorrow for John O’Groats, conducting last minute preparations and prayers before embarking on the 926-mile bike ride on Friday. The Three Men will also be joined on various stages by riders from Bonners, Dawsons, Digital Village, Gear4Music, PMT and Paul McManus, the MIA’s Chief Executive.
If you want to show your support, please donate via Virgin money giving here.
Well known industry figure states: “no guts, no glory”
Paul McManus, the Chief Executive of the Music Industries Association, has signed up for the forthcoming Three Men on a Bike charity bike ride, due to start on 17th August.
“Although I’m only joining for a single day – day eight – I very much consider myself part of the team, and I’m ready to start training hard. I fully expect to give the other riders a run for their money and have already bought all the gear, including a heavily customised bike that will give me a competitive edge. I’m in it to win it and will definitely be first on day eight”.
Coincidentally, an analysis of the route shows that day eight, while 95 miles in length, is the one day with virtually no hills; very much considered a less strenuous day by the other riders compared with the travails of the rest of the route. When this was subsequently pointed out to Mr McManus, he claimed his mobile signal was too weak to hear and promptly hung up. Confusingly, he was speaking on his land line at the time.
By adding his support to the 926-mile event, Mr McManus joins a select group of music industry participants including riders from Bonners, Dawsons, Digital Village, Gear4Music and PMT, who will also be joining the team.
If you want to show your support, please donate via Virgin money giving: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/roland3moab
Olympic icon vanishes in bizarre circumstances, reappears in Southend
19th July 2012 – The iconic Olympic torch, the much-loved symbol of the largest sporting event on Earth, disappeared briefly today as it continued its journey to the opening ceremony in London. With barely a week to go until the games begin, the carrier of the torch was found in a confused state by the side of the road, claiming he had ‘lost the torch’. A frantic search ensued, involving Police and members of the Armed Forces, before the torch was located several miles away in Southend.
Local businessmen Simon Gilson and Terry Hope, of PMT, a leading musical instrument retailer headquartered in Southend, claimed to have ‘found’ the torch while out on a training session for a charity bike ride in which they will soon participate. They decided to return the torch to the Police after being cornered following a dramatic chase. Speaking after the incident, Simon Gilson commented that although the Police didn’t need to draw their firearms, he understood the panic surrounding the disappearance of the torch:
“We were just out on our daily training session for the ‘Three Men on a Bike’ charity ride and we saw the torch glinting by the roadside. Of course, we picked it up to keep it safe, as there are all sorts around here who would have melted it down. We continued with our ride as training is important – the total ride goes from John O’Groats to Land’s End – and next thing we knew the Old Bill was on our tail. With helicopters. We obviously panicked and there was a bit of drama down the main shopping drag in Southend. When we saw guns, we got off the bike and handed it over. We were doing them a favour.”
Although Gilson couldn’t explain how the torch had got to Southend, all charges have now been dropped and the Games – and the Three men on a Bike charity ride – can now go ahead.
Follow the team on Facebook: www.facebook.com/threemenonabike
If you want to show your support, please donate via Virgin money giving: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/roland3moab
Jules Tabberer-Stewart is Roland’s new drums and percussion product manager – he is also the latest member of the Three Men on a Bike team
The Three Men on a Bike have become four! Jules Tabberer-Stewart, Roland’s Drums and Percussion product manager, has stepped up to the plate and volunteered to join the team for the entire ride from John O’ Groats to Land’s End in August.
Jules is new to the Roland team but he hasn’t been shy about donning the standard-issue lycra shorts and getting involved in training. His first official outing as part of the Three Men on a Bike team was the Wales Sportive in Tenby on 9 June, where he clocked up an impressive 72 miles in just a day.
In August, however, Jules will have to cycle a gruelling 93 miles a day if the team are to meet their target. This should not be a problem for Jules though, who as a lifelong drummer and self-confessed outdoors type, has bags of stamina!
Jules is new to the team but he’s like an old friend. Before working as a Product Manager for Roland, he’s been a drummer, edited the successful Drummer Magazine and worked as a drums specialist (so he knows his onions when it comes to drums!). He’s also a keen cyclist with masses of drive and a great sense of humour – all of which will help when the team hit the road in August.
To get to know Jules a bit better, we asked him a few questions about his history, cycling and favourite bands. Click here to see what he had to say.
Training is hotting up for the Three Men on a Bike. With just a couple of months to go until their 926-mile challenge, Peter Heath and Tim Walter showed what they‘re made of with a day of intense pedalling at the Wales Sportive on Saturday 9 June.
The Wales Sportive takes place on a lapped cycle course in Tenby. Billed as a challenge of mental and physical endurance, contestants can choose to ride 40, 72 or 112 miles. On the day Peter clocked up 72 miles, while Tim hit a whopping 112 miles!
When they cycle from Land’s End to John O Groats in August, the team will need to achieve an average of 92 miles a day – so the Wales Sportive was an exhausting taste of what’s in store for the three men on a bike.
Peter and Tim were joined at the Wales Sprotif by Roland’s new drum and percussion manager, Jules Tabberer-Stewart – who you will hear about soon… Jules, like Peter, cycled a gruelling 72 miles on the day.
Of course, Tim, Peter and Jules aren’t (just) doing this for the good of their health – the aim is to raise £40,000 for charity. To show your support and donate, click on the donate button to the right of this story.
Music for All and Ashton were delighted to be able to donate guitar amplifiers to this special school in London. Many of the children have cerebral palsy. The Dolphin class are now able to make music using iPads, special music-making apps and the amplifiers.
Music for All and Ashton were delighted to be able to donate guitar amplifiers to this special school in London. Many of the children have cerebral palsy. The Dolphin class are now able to make music using iPads, special music-making apps and the amplifiers.
The High Park Project at Wivelscombe, near Taunton has been helping children to learn brass instruments in a variety of ways, including monies raised from selling recycled clothes. Music for All were able to donate a whole range of brass instruments to the project, in partnership with Odyssey instruments from John Hornby Skewes.