A Blog About Brian Albritton's September 2012 Cycling Ride Across Britain

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Questions About the Ride

It is hard to believe that a week has gone by since finishing the ride last Sunday.  I miss it.  I thought I would answer a few questions:

How far did I ride?

The ride was supposed to be 969 miles, but at least 7 miles were added on stage 7 (127 to 134 miles). On day 3 my back wheel spoke broke at mile 85, and I was forced to abandon not too far from the end. I estimate that I rode 970 miles in 9 straight days of riding. The longest day was the 7th: 134 miles. The shortest day was the 3rd:  99 miles.

Take any photos?

I took very few photos as we were riding most of the time. But, others did.  Here is the link to the photos taken by my friend Nick.  Also, the organizers of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain took some photos as well, and they can be found here.

What was the weather like?

The first 2 days were relatively sunny. After that, we had periods of sunshine here and there, but it rained almost everyday and, at least to me, was often quite cold with the winds. It was very windy, most often 15 mph and above. On day 7, the winds were 30-40 mph and they were headwinds! We had 6 days of tailwinds and 3 days of headwinds.

Also, it was often cold, especially with the winds, and I was often very cold. I would bundle up in the morning, and invariably begin to sweat with all my gear, thus ensuring that I would be cold the rest of the day. Now, my fellow riders from the UK were not surprised or as affected by the weather; they were used to it and only rarely complained of the cold.

Where did we ride?

Entirely on public roads. In southern England, we often rode on one lane "single track" roads with large hedges on each side -- where the organizers found the roads, I don't know, because they often looked like glorified paths. Still, they were used by cars, and we would have to squeeze to get around the cars.

As we moved further north, we often rode our bikes on two lane highways with lots of car traffic. In fact, leaving the area between Manchester and Liverpool one morning, we rode in morning traffic, in the cold rain, with partial sunlight, for almost two hours. We did the same thing riding out of Glasgow one morning, as we left at 6:00 a.m.

When we got to Scotland, many of the road surfaces were quite rough and jarring, adding to the overall misery.

How many riders?

I heard that there were roughly 500 doing the ride from End to End. We were often joined by day riders who rode for at least a day, often as part of a corporate sponsorship. I understand that there were an additional 200 of these riders.

Where did we sleep?

With the exception of one night where we stayed in the dorms at Bath University, we slept in tents. It was highly organized. You got in from the ride and were assigned a tent in the "color" or area to which you had been initially assigned. The tents were small "two man" tents, but they did keep the elements out. The tents were lined up row after row. There were portable showers and portable toilets. We had an eating area, a "drying" area to hang clothes, an area to socialize and meet where we often had our nightly briefings, a small "internet" area where you could pick up a wireless signal, and there was a huge fenced in and guarded area where the bikes were kept. For the most part, the organizers of the ride moved these portable structures every night along with all our bags which we picked up each day when we came in as well.

What was the hardest day?

Overall, the cycling was hard due to several factors: the amount of miles each day, the climbing, the steepness of the climbs, the wind, rain, cold, and in some instances, terrible conditions of the road. 

The hardest day is a tie between the first day and the 7th day. On the first day from Land's End to Okehampton, it was supposed to be a bit over 4,000 feet of climbing. Nick just sent me his Garmin, and it shows what many suspected: double that or 8,900 feet of climbing. The climbs were so steep.

The next hardest day was from Glasgow to Ft. William, where we rode 134 miles. We left at 6:00 a.m. and got in at 7:30 p.m. We had city traffic, rain in the morning, and gale force winds that forced us to pedal going down hill. We crossed two mountain passes in Scotland. The roads at times were so rough it would make your teeth chatter and your hands numb.

Would I do it again?

On the ride, I said I would not. But, on reflection, maybe . . . It was a tremendous challenge and it took me 11 months of training, during which I rode 6,000 miles. As a result of the training rides and training in the gym, I am in the best shape of my adult life. Still, it was and would be hard to find time to do such training again, and it was a strain on the rest of my life. 

A. Brian Albritton
September 23, 2012

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