Righty dokie, may as well try and retell this whilst it’s still fresh and my knees are still aching.
Day 1 (link to bigger version of the route map)
Got off to a good start, fitted the bikes on the train and managed to find seats despite seemingly every carriage having been booked by some Settle-based daytrippers. One of Mat’s PhD people, Mark, joined us on his huge, yellow mountain bike which had lots of complicated-looking carbon fibre things on it. We arrived at Whitehaven at about 2, and it was pretty obvious from the start that we were never going to finish our planned 48 miles in the daylight.
Then we got lost in Keswick, mainly due to the fact that I was trying to navigate using a map of Penrith towncentre (genius). As a result we ended up on the A66, in the gathering dark. It was at this point that I realised the front light I had with me was next to useless, it threw out a pathetic beam that illuminated about 3 feet of ground directly in front of the front tyre. Luckily Mark has some home-modified mountain bike lights which were ridiculously bright and made us a bit more visible. We then got lost for a second time, and I crashed into a hedge, by which point it was about 9pm and we were all very hungry, cold and tired. We eventually found our b and b in Greystoke and the nice lady at the pub made us some lasgne and sticky toffee pudding.
Here’s the uppity-downity (us getting lost made it more like a 50mile day):
As you can see there was only really one big hill, unfortunately day two would prove to be quite different…
Day 2 (link to bigger version of the route map)
We were up, fed and on the road by 10am, we stopped off in Penrith for some supplies (sweets mainly), from there for a few miles it was a really beautiful ride through some lovely scenery, unfortunately this effect was spoiled slightly by the knowledge that we’d soon be cycling up the picturesque hills that surrounded us. However Mat and I managed to delay this by getting lost, again. This time we had no real excuse, we missed a very obvious sign and added 10 miles onto our day. The first big climb, Hartside, was very long although at no point did it feel unmanageably steep it was fairly leg-burny. This was followed by a quick bite to eat and several more hills. We did, I’m ashamed to say, have to get off and push for about half a mile up what had to be the steepest hill of the entire trip just coming out of Garrigill, unfortunately we were completely unprepared for it as it wasn’t marked on the map and hadn’t been mentioned in anything I’d read in the planning (it’s the horrible lurid purple bit at about 40 miles). We consoled ourselves to a certain extent that surely the next day would be all downhill. Several wise old blokes in the pub seemed to take great joy in telling us that this wasn’t the case and due to it being grouse shooting season we’d have to go up an extra, mega hill.
Here’s day 2’s uppity-downity, including our detour at Renwick:
here’s the terrain map for day 2, hills aplenty
We’d stayed in the Allenhead Inn which had, without doubt, the most extensive collection of stuffed animals I have ever seen in one place, there was everything you could imagine, including a surprised-looking fox with a ribbon round its neck and a squirrel in a box.
The day started with a climb up a fairly big hill (so much for it all being downhill), however that was compensated by the enormous downhill run that followed and was absolutely ace (although also bloody freezing). Mat had a zen moment and managed to accomplish riding hands-free (something he’d be fighting to accomplish for the previous two days) and we zipped along at about 30mph. However soon enough we encountered the huge hill that the wise pub-blokes had warned us about, it had an average gradient of 17%, was two miles long and had two ‘escape lanes’ for runaway cars/lorries/motorbikes. It was an absolute bastard, but we all got up it and had a congratulatory cuppa at the slightly desolate cafe at the top. From there to Sunderland it was pretty much all downhill and the route seemed to follow an old railway line which was decorated with cool sculptures made out of big industrial things. Although the final 30 miles was fairly easy riding I think the monotony of it all made us all have a bit of a downer, until we were finally traveling along the final park of the estuary in Sunderland and down towards the beach at Roker.
Sea to Sea, 134 miles (actual distance traveled – approx 150 miles), counties traveled through – lots, hills gone up/down – a few, knees – ruined.