Fringe Box



Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part One)

Published on: 16 May, 2014
Updated on: 24 May, 2014

UATW 002 470This is the second article in a series on the author’s ambition to cycle from Guildford to Edinburgh. It follows Uphill All The Way – The Idea

by Martin Giles

I now had to transform my idea, of cycling from Guildford to Edinburgh, formed over a decade, into a plan.

A plan that would work. A plan that would not leave me stranded in some remote corner of England devoid of all help with a broken bike, no food or drink, no shelter or even a phone signal to allow me to summon help or at least send my nearest and dearest fond farewells before I expired.

Then I got a grip. “Come on,” I reassured myself, “this is England not Burkina Faso”. I was not even going to pass through one of the remoter parts like Dartmoor, the Yorkshire moors or the Cheviots. For one thing they all contained hills and my experience told me that these should be avoided wherever possible.

I had once booked a family cycling holiday in the “gentle rolling hills of Tuscany”. It was one of those deals where you turn up, the tour company issues you with bikes and maps and takes your baggage from hotel to hotel, leaving you free to pedal from gentle hill to gentle hill without a care.

The first sign of concern was when one of the tour company reps met us for the tour briefing. It seemed a bit military. She eyed our family like a PT instructor. “So this is the best they can send me?” I could hear her thinking.

“How old are you?” she asked Tom our youngest son. “Ten” he replied cheerfully and proudly. It had been his birthday a few weeks before.

She turned to me, “You do know that this is the hardest bike tour in our entire brochure, do you?”

“No,” I chortled, then realising she wasn’t joking added rather lamely,”In the brochure it said ‘gentle rolling hills…’ ”

“Hmm,” the rep uttered. I felt the eyes of my family upon me. “What have you let us in for?” was written on every face.

As we laboured up each incline, me puffing like on old carthorse, the boys would delight in reminding me, “It’s another one of those ‘gentle rolling hills’ Dad!” Fortunately for them filicide is a crime in Italy too although, to be frank, I could never have caught them.

As it happened, Tom, his ability to complete the course so obviously questioned, was the only one of us never to dismount and push on the entire holiday, even on the final long, steep climb to Volterra. So yah, boo, sucks tour organisers. Family Giles survived. We even had fun.

We made it! At the top of the last 'gentle rolling hill'...

We made it! Family Giles at the top of the last ‘gentle rolling hill’ (The cocky guy on the left is Tom)…

Anyway, for my ‘Uphill All The Way’ tour, through England, the most densely populated country in Europe, I thought I could safely discount finding myself completely cut off from all humanity.

But things still had to be planned. First I worked out a route. My primary criterion was for each leg to be around 25 miles. I know some energetic types cover four times this distance in a day – good luck to them.

A rough outline of the intended route

A rough outline of the intended route

I set this distance for me because I was confident I could achieve it and have time at each stop to look around a little. I was cycling to tour England not touring in order to cycle. Achieving maximum mileage each day was not my aim nor, I have to admit, my idea of fun, although each to his own.

Secondly, there were a few places I wanted to specifically include on the route: Bletchley, to see Bletchley Park, scene of the legendary wartime code breaking; Lincoln, because I had never been there; York, because I had been there, liked it and knew there was more to see; and Newcastle upon Tyne, because although I had visited once before it was about 50 years ago and I have few memories of the place which has now a good reputation as a lively city.

Thirdly, I needed to incorporate my allergy to significant hills. I found that by following, very roughly, the route of the main eastern railway line to Edinburgh I would avoid the upland areas as, no doubt their surveyors had done.

Finally, I wanted to avoid main roads as much as possible. For this, a free app called CycleStreet proved useful. It can plot a cycle route between two points and allow the selection of fastest, quietest or balanced (midway between the two). In theory this route planner should be an excellent aid.

As I worked out the route I found I would be calling at some familiar sounding, though unvisited (by me) towns, including, for instance, Aylesbury, Market Harboro and Melton Mowbray. Others I had never even heard of. One of these, Wallingford, was only 50 miles away. My ignorance of the place made it somehow even more intriguing.

Planning the route

Planning the route.

It was impossible to be rigid about the 25 miles. On average I will cycle 27 miles each cycling day but there are a couple of legs that are 42 miles. I do hope that the weather is kind on those days.

Having identified all my stopping points and decided on two nights in the cities, I needed to find places to stay. I had already ruled out camping. Ten years in the army seemed have cured any longing for life under canvas. Nor was I attracted to hostels with the risk of someone returning late from the pub and wanting everyone to join in a sing song.

No, I would stay at B&Bs. My hero Edward Enfield on his trips often used campsites but also B&Bs. He seemed never to book ahead and his sense of serendipity in finding a chambres d’hôte which provided a wonderful room with a view and a delicious three course meal with wine, all for about £9.50, was tempting.

However, realistically I knew that bed and breakfast accommodation in this country was not so cheap. A little research indicated that a budget of £50 per night was required, especially as I would be paying single supplements.

I also decided to book ahead. Although attracted to the idea of not knowing exactly where you would be spending the next night I really did not want to end up without a roof and the advantage of booking ahead is that you can choose, what appear to be, good places to stay.

It was going to be interesting to compare them, to see if they live up to expectations and especially to see if it is always true that ‘you get what you pay for’.

What about preparing my bike? Once again under the influence of Mr Enfield I had purchased a Raleigh Pioneer. I splashed out and got the top of the range.

My trusty Raleigh Pioneer. Not fancy or ultra light but comfortable

My trusty Raleigh Pioneer. Not fancy or ultra light but comfortable.

I have not regretted it. I was pleased to buy a Raleigh. They might not make their bikes in Nottingham any more but they do still assemble them in the UK, I believe.

Once, in a fit of economic patriotism, I asked a shop assistant in House of Fraser if any of their video recorders (yes it was years ago) were made in England. Without hesitation or any obvious irony he said, “Oh you want the Mitsubishi.”

Pedal Pushers (Local MP Anne Milton Collects her bike)

Pedal Pushers on Stoke Road (Local MP Anne Milton collects her bike).

Evidently there was, perhaps still is, a Mitsubishi factory in Liverpool. The video recorder proved just as reliable as the Mitsubishi Zeros that bombed Pearl Harbour. It gave years of good service.

Anyway I was pleased to support British business, even in a small way. And soon bought a second when the first was stolen at Guildford railway station.

I have been pleased with it. It has been reliable and importantly with its fork and seat post suspension gives a comfortable ride, albeit at the price of extra weight. Its 24 gears allow you to tackle most gradients, even Ferry Lane.

I have done a few trips on it with loaded panniers, one of nearly 100 miles over two days. On different trips I have fixed punctures, changed tubes, adjusted gears and brakes.

But to minimise the risk of serious mechanical breakdown I thought it prudent to get a service at my bike consultants Pedal Pushers. They will carry this out just days before departure as well as changing the handle grips and adding bar end grips to allow more grip positions.

If the brothers that run the shop were sceptical about my adventure they hid it quite well. At least they waited until I left the shop before giggling and starting a sweep stake on how far I would get. “What do you reckon, Reading? ” “Naw, Ash more likely. ”

Soon: Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part Two).

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Responses to Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part One)

  1. Mary Bedforth Reply

    May 16, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Good luck Mr Giles and best wishes for your journey. I am full of admiration that you are doing it.

    If you need any further inspiration, see this. I heard this lady Pam Goodall speak and had to admire her spirit of adventure. I cannot remember the name she gave to her bike. Some Greek or Roman god! She placed great emphasis on the comfort of her Brooks saddle.

    Some time later I bumped into her in Notcutts Garden Centre café where her lycra clad cycling group had stopped off. She is good fun and also friendly.

  2. John Lomas Reply

    May 28, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Can an intended itinerary with expected dates be revealed?

    There might be opportunties for the Guildford diaspora to cheer Martin on his way.

    For instance, his nearest approach to me in East Lancashire looks as if it is going to be around the Ferry Bridge or Knottingley area, but when?

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