The excitement is building as the date for our departure eases ever closer. Are we ready? …Or bringing it back home, am I ready?
I’m Aranya, a permaculture teacher and author who’s on the team doing this year’s End to End ride. I’ve not had that long to prepare, just three months, and cycling 1,000 miles after all is no mean feat, even at the relatively leisurely pace of 50 miles a day on average. If I hadn’t met Joe though I wouldn’t be doing this at all. He gently goaded me into signing up, mainly by calling me ‘Grandad’ on a regular basis during the permaculture course he supported last November. At first I appreciated that I could if I wanted to, take three weeks out of my life to do such a ride. This soon evolved into ‘if I could, then I’d be silly not to take advantage of that opportunity’ and before I knew it I was signed up. This year I’ll reach my half century; riding from one end of the country I live in to the other feels a very appropriate way to celebrate 50 years on this beautiful planet.
So the training started. In truth it was what I had been looking for these last few years. A reason to really get fit again. I didn’t want to get back into racing; as a runner I did a lot of that in my younger days. It was brutal and I regularly got injured. So I bought a book to help me get fit on the bike and while it was great help, my teaching regime soon got in the way of its day to day schedule. My training went a bit more freestyle, but as the calendar ticked by the need to be ready spurred me to go out on the bike even when the weather was less than wonderful. I feel so much fitter now, but am I fit enough? I hope so.
When I started training my first realisation was that riding a bike that was too big for me, as I had been doing for the last ten years or so, wasn’t going to be wise on such a long trip. So I went looking for a smaller, correctly-sized frame. I found a few on eBay and eventually made a successful bid. It was a lovely old 1980 Holdsworth frame, from a decent spec bike. But it was red. Mmmm… I was hoping for green or blue, like my previous one. Maybe red would make a nice change? It soon arrived and I enjoyed the chance to polish up my cycle maintenance skills by rebuilding my bike around the new frame. I was soon won over by the new look. Lovely!
At first the new frame felt a bit terrifying to ride, despite being the right size for me. I was so used to the bigger bike that I felt a long way forward over the front wheel, especially when going downhill. I soon got used to her though. Over the last three months or so I’ve also upgraded the brakes and saddle and added some great new dynamo lights.
The weekend training ride on Dartmoor that was our final group test has come and gone and hopefully we’ve all learned some useful things from that will save us some grief on the ride itself. For me I was still fine tuning the bike (having a metal bottle that rattles in it’s cage all the way was going to be a very annoying detail), but yes I think the bike is ready now. As for me, well it’s not just about physical fitness, there’s my mental attitude too. I see myself as a pretty positive person, but am realistic about the fact that there will be tough times as well as great ones along the ride. However much I’ve been out on the bike, nothing I’ve had time to do will fully prepare me for long distances day after day on the bike. Yes, we’ll get fit along the way, but relying on that too much is like saying we’ll figure out how to live without oil when it runs out. I’m sure we will, but I doubt it will be pretty.
So I think both the bike and I are as ready for this as we were ever likely to be. The part I’m perhaps most looking forward to and the one that might challenge us a bit, is riding together in a group of differing abilities. There’s not much any of us can do to prepare for that, but a week on Thursday when we set off on our adventure together we’ll start finding out.
I can’t wait…