The Big Relec Bike Ride 2018

The Ride

The Ride– Well, we made it everyone. John O’Groats to Lands end by bike over 14 days!  Just in case you didn’t know, we were riding with the aim of raising £10,000 for the brain tumour charity. I can only say that they were the best 14 days that Lesley and I have ever spent on our bikes.

At the time of writing we are so close to hitting our £10,000 target.  If you would like to get us over the finish line just hop on to our just giving page for more information.  Every donation helps no matter how small.

We have written a blog of our day to day experiences and we’ve also added links to online photo albums of each day if you would like to see more of our adventure.

We would also love to hear from you.  Perhaps we met you along the way, maybe you’ve been affected by a friend or family member with a brain tumour, or maybe you’re planning your own ride.   Please drop us a line through our contact page – we’d love your feedback.

Day 1 – Thursday 31 May – View pictures

John O’Groats to Crask inn – 87 miles /5100 ft climbing


Oh, what a day!  The drive to JOG was painfully long and then we had to do the obligatory photos which meant we didn’t hit the road until 11.30. The weather was truly unbelievable, touching 29 degrees at one point.

The ride itself came to life after 40 miles.  I have never seen beaches so white and so empty.  The scenery changes so quickly up here.

One minute we are looking across beautiful deserted bays, the next in barren moorland and then being dwarfed by the bigger highland peaks.  We’ve met several riders going the other way including a group of Samaritans on a tandem.

Everyone has been so friendly.  Finally rocked up at the Crask inn at 20.15 to be greeted with a very cycle friendly dinner and a nice cold pint of Black Isle blond.  Earlier start tomorrow and less climbing so we’ll hopefully have a chance to post some pictures for you.

Day 2 – Friday 1 June – View pictures

Crask inn to Cawdor – 82 miles / 3200 ft climbing


We have to give a big thank you to our hosts at the Crask inn.  Not only was last night’s dinner the cat’s pyjamas, but the full Scottish this morning was just what we needed.  Also a big hello to Amy and Phil who were 13 days into a LEJOG and look remarkably fresh.

You left us feeling like lightweights after seeing your fully laden touring bikes.  Chapeau.

Quick coffee stop at Lairg and then a long climb up over the Scurie and down into Bonnar Bridge.  Once again we were left in awe seeing a unicycle come up the road to greet us.

Fortunately we didn’t have the same level of climbing as yesterday, but the A9 up and over into Inverness has to be one of our worst experiences on a bike.

Once through the metropolis we were back on quieter roads on the homeward stretch to Laura & Bill’s.  Stunning view over the Moray firth to the Black Isle.  Laura, your fish pie is to die for.  Off to bed now – dreaming about what tomorrow might bring.

Day 3 – Saturday 2 June – View pictures

Cawdor to Perth – 113miles / 7400 ft climbing

What a day. 113 miles and 2200 m of climbing. We’ve seen 4 seasons in one day. A glorious start as we left Cawdor with Lesley’s sister Laura, in bright sunshine.  It didn’t take long for us to be tempted though by a Lorne sausage bap in Grantown.

Then onward and upward to the Lecht ski station, a climb which can only be described as brutal.  Chapeau Laura for getting up the 20% sections.

We were joined at the top by Grant, Ali & Harry, a well earned picnic and sadly a change in the weather.  The run down was a little treacherous to say the least, with abysmal weather all the way to Braemar.  We decided to hole up in a nice warm cafe for half an hour and, whoopee, the rain stopped just in time for the Glenshee ascent.

Great picnic of cold quiche and crisps after the 8 miles climb – Ali, you star!

Words can’t describe the descent but numbers can (45mph) – Hee Hee.

Then on to Blairgowrie where H & G left us after 100km and 1500m of climbing (outstanding effort) and we were joined by Liz & John.

Still 25 miles to go but we made it safely back to Perth at 22.15.  Slept well after a very earned spag bol.  Thank you so much Liz and John for your hospitality and great company.

Day 4 – Sunday 3 June – View pictures

Perth to Edinburgh – 41 miles / 2300 ft climbing


The temperature has been steadily dropping as we head south.  Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?  12 degrees today.

Ian and Euan got the train up to Perth and joined us for what was supposed to be a gentle roll into town.  We had a pretty hilly start and very welcome coffee stop at Milanthorp.  There was a sportif event passing through the village and one of the riders stopped to ask us directions, but soon realised that “we were just out for a short ride”.

Then on through Fife through to the bridges where we were joined by Janette, Joan and Jackie, before negotiating the cycle lanes of Edinburgh.  Just about to sit down with a glass of wine and Janette’s fabulous lasagne.  Perfect!

Day 5 – Monday 4 June – View pictures

Edinburgh to Newcastleton(Kielder Forest) – 77 Miles / 4600ft climbing

Started off with a visit to the brain tumour charity research facility in Edinburgh where we met Dr Steve Pollard and his team who are doing important research into Glioblastomas and Chromatin Regulators. The days don’t get any easier and the weather still seems to be getting colder. Headed south after that through the suburbs to Peebles in dreich conditions for a lunch stop.

Peebles to Hawick would have been stunning but much of it was in low cloud and 10 degree temperatures.

We arrived in Hawick at 5.30 cold and hungry. All coffee and convenience shops shut but indulged in haggis pizza before the final 20 miles to Newcastleton. Great welcome and steak pie from Tomasz at the Liddesdale Hotel. Fab place. Looking forward to breakfast already.

Day 6 – Tuesday 5 June – View pictures

Newcastleton to Middleton in Teesdale – 63 Miles /

At last we got to see the sun again. Woke at 7 and greeted by bright sunshine streaming into our bedroom window.

Thanks again to Tomasz for a great breakfast with a proper portion of Haggis. The riding today was unrelenting. Lots of short sharp rises, but always steep, today’s start was very slow as we said goodbye to Scotland.

Our lunch stop was in Haltwhistle at Val’s coffee house – the perfect biking cafe. We were just glad to get there after spending 3 miles on the A69 along with the logging trucks – not to be recommended. The afternoon carried on much as before with a rollercoaster ride along Tynedale before hitting Alston for Guinness and Mars bar cakes.

Still 20 miles to go but the equation was easy enough. 10 miles up on to Alston moor (650m above sea level) and then 10 glorious miles down into Middleton in Teesdale. A much harder day than anticipated, especially carrying rucksacks, but very satisfying.

Thank you Lesley and Ian for putting us up on the farm and sampling your obviously very happy lambs.

Day 7 – Wednesday 6 June – View pictures

Middleton in Teesdale to Pickering – 85 Miles / 3800ft climbing


Thanks again Lesley & Ian for putting us up.  Thoroughly enjoyed your hospitality and the dogs kept us entertained all evening.  Steve and Alison arrived bang on time, thankfully with a revised itinerary for us.

What I hadn’t realised was the original route took us up the notorious Sutton bank (25%).  I’m not sure I’d want to do that in the car, let alone a push bike.  The temperature is still going in the same direction we are – south.  9 degrees this morning at one point.

Steve makes a living writing algorithms to calculate the optimal routes for utility vehicles.  It’s a shame he hasn’t learned to read a map upside down yet.  If you look at our ride in detail you’ll see numerous occasions where we doubled back on ourselves.  Only kidding mate.

Another long day but arrived safely in Tornton le dale and looking forward to some good Yorkshire cooking and a small glass of wine.

Half Way !!!!

Day 8 – Thursday 7 June – View pictures

Pickering to Retford(via York) – 87 miles / 1200 ft climbing


Another tough day but for very different reasons.  Thanks again to Steve and Alison for putting us up and taking us out for a grand meal.  We also really enjoyed the back end of the quiz in your local – sorry we couldn’t be more useful.  Steve, you are a star.  Not only did you help us into York this morning but you must have sat nose into the wind for over 100 miles over the past 2 days – Amazing!

Thank you also to our friends at Unipart rail for having a selection of sweet treats and coffee ready for us on arrival – very much appreciated.  Once we’d fought our way out of York we headed south and found a great pub in Naburn who dished us up with 2 enormous salads.

After lunch we continued south on quiet roads to Selby where an ice cream was the order of the day.

Latterly though, it became clear that the only route south was on feeder roads for the M18 and M62 – not fun.  Should anyone decide to follow our lead, please find a different route south through east Yorkshire.  We rolled into Retford around 7.15 and have just refuelled our bodies with a great meal.  Up at 6.30 tomorrow but should be a shorter day on the road.  Already looking forward to that curry Mark.

Day 9 – Friday 8 June – View pictures

Retford to Leicester(via Derby) – 72 miles / 4000 ft climbing

Up at 6.15 with the aim of getting across to Derby to deliver a jersey for Tony at Bombardier.

We also had an unexpected visit from Andy Jones from Bel Power at the hotel before we left. Bel supported all of the costs of our amazing jerseys (we still have a handful left btw – only £50). We really appreciate your support. Unfortunately I’d been a little over ambitious with the pre-ride timings, so ended parking the bikes in Hucknal and using our trusty mule, Neil, to bus us into Derby for our 11ish meeting. It also gave us a chance to dry out and warm up – the weather wasn’t kind first thing

Lunch stop was at the Cartwheel cafe (highly recommend) in the centre of Nottingham, followed shortly after by a pilgrimage to Trent bridge, where we managed to blag a photo from the members bar.

Our run into Leicester was a joy through some great villages – a real contrast to yesterday.

Highlight of the day though was meeting Mark and his colleagues at the 3 Kilns, Rushey Mead, for one of the best curries I’ve ever had. Thanks to everyone there for making us feel so special and for the very generous donations (we’re over £9k now).

Off to bed with a slightly sore head, but looking forward to some better weather and the op arrival of 2 new companions tomorrow.

Day 10 – Saturday 9 June – View pictures

Leicester to Banbury – 60 miles / 2300 ft Climbing

Very glad of an extra hour in bed this morning (slightly sore head).  That was some curry.  We were joined first thing by my son Tom, who is our new directeur sportif.  Nice roll out of Leicester along a bespoke bike path pretty much until we joined the Fosse Way.  A big shout out to the staff and locals of the Sharnford arms, who not only helped with local road advice, but also found £55 for us.

We were soon on quieter roads and the landscape became more rolling and the hedgerows higher. Lunch by one of the many canals in this part of the world.  Highlight in terms of cycling was the Edgehill climb which was 10% average for 1km, but most of it was 14% – gruelling.

Shortly before we hit our final destination, we met Chris, Nicole and Roxy the dog, who were about to move into the area.  We got chatting and swapped Glenshee pictures. Theirs with skis on and ours on bikes.  Both involved chair lifts though.

6PM and we pedal up to the Horse and Groom at Milcombe.  Fabulous pint of Hooky, great food and more donations.  Thanks everyone.

Day 11 – Sunday  10 June – View pictures

Banbury to Bath – 78 miles / 5000 ft climbing

Joined last night by Lesley’s daughter Alice for the next 4 days.  Great to swell the peloton by one.  Thanks to Vicky and the staff at the Horse & Groom, Milcombe for a fabulous stay.

Today’s route took us through a rolling Cotswold landscape.  Quick coffee stop at Burford, which was heaving with tourists, but we soon found ourselves on quiet back roads.  The roads suddenly got busy with tri-bikes around the Cotswold water parks, where we saw 100s of competitors in the Kingdom Triathlon, including some in GB kit.  Great job in that heat!

Fabulous lunch in Oaksey, then the run into Bath, which had a short sharp climb before the long steep descent into Batheaston.

A harder day than first envisaged, but was all capped off by some great tapas at Ole in Bath city centre.

Thanks Antonio for looking after us so well.  Great atmosphere.

Day 12 – Monday 11 June  – View pictures

Bath to Tiverton – 77 Miles / 3900 ft climbing

Summer has definitely arrived.  We all feel and look like lobsters.

Left Bath first first thing via our good friends and loyal customer Rotork.  My thanks to Jo and Mark for allowing us to come and see you.

The early part of the ride was pretty tough on the A roads to the south west of Bath, but eventually we hit the climb up onto the Mendips at Harptree.  I can only describe this one as brutal.  Once over the other side we stopped for coffee and cake in Wells before heading towards Glastonbury.  Really pleased with the picture above.

The Somerset levels provided some welcome respite, but the day was getting warmer and warmer.  Fabulous Greek lunch at the King Alfred, Burrowbridge, before heading on towards Taunton.

Finished the day with another long climb into the Blackdown hills, but this time not so steep.  Rolled into Fisherman’s cot at Bickleigh around 7 for a well earned pint of cider and lovely meal.  Just been looking at tomorrow’s profile and we have as much climbing as we did in the Cairngorms.  Gulp!

Day 13 – Tuesday 12 June – View pictures

Tiverton to Bodmin – 75 Miles / 7300 ft climbing

We thought the Cairngorms were tough – welcome to the south-west!  We were greeted with a 15% climb as soon as we left the hotel this morning, and the hills just kept on coming.  We said goodbye to Tom at our lunch stop in Bridestow and welcomed back Peter.  Thank you to all our support crew (Neil included), we couldn’t have done this without you.

One of the best parts of the whole adventure has been meeting fellow end to enders, and we we thrilled to bump into Hannah and Lousia heading north raising funds for Allegra’s ambition, a charity in memory of a sadly lost school friend.  Good luck girls, I’m sure you’ll have a blast.

Our afternoon ride just seemed to get harder and harder as we hit Bodmin moor. We were rewarded with the best ever cream tea at Minion, in the highest pub in Cornwall.

We thought that 15 miles to go and starting from the altitude we were would be easy.  Think again.  Those Cornish hills are like running into a brick wall. You go from 30mph to 0 before you can work through your gears.  It saps the will.

Arrived in Bodmin around 7.15 at the Westberry hotel.  Great cider and awesome Thai food.  Off to bed now.  Just one more day in the saddle.  What will tomorrow bring?  A mixture of sadness and relief I suspect.

Day 14 – Wednesday 13 June – View pictures

Bodmin to Lands End – 65 miles / 4700 ft climbing


Well, we made it.  A day of euphoria, relief and exhaustion.

The last morning of the alarm going off and thinking, “oh no, not again”.  That said, once we were up and moving things always felt much better.  We always looked forward to the mid morning coffee stop and today we added 4 extra miles to pop into sunny Newquay for an espresso and carrot cake.

We’d been blessed with pretty much unchanging warm(ish) NE winds for the past 13 days, but that changed in the afternoon.  The continuing rolling terrain and high hedgerows made this another tough stage, but not long to go now.

As we came down the hill into Marazion we were greeted with the sight of the sea, St Michael’s mount and that milestone.  Nearly there.

A big thank you to Katie from the Brain Tumour Charity, who took time out of her holiday to come and see us over the line.  Sadly we couldn’t quite get to Lands End in time, but the backdrop we found wasn’t a bad one.  Katie, we wouldn’t have even started this had you not inspired us to try something different.

And so on to Lands End – The last 15 miles, weren’t the easiest.  The wind, the terrain, the motorists (I’ll blame the tourists here), and also knowing that this was literally the end of the road.  Peter & sister Annie were there with fizz and flowers in hand and tissues to wipe away a few tears.

So after 14 days, 1083 miles, 56,000 ft of climbing, 92 hours of saddle time, we’d made it.  We did have half a plan to turn around and start riding straight back to Scotland, but thought we’d better get back to our day jobs for a while.  Already thinking about where the next trip might be.

A final thank you to everyone who helped us along the way, all of you who gave so generously, and especially those at the Brain Tumour Charity, who work so hard.  As we rolled over the line we were still £650 short of our target.  Can I please put out one last plea to help us reach that £10,000 target.

Thanks for reading, please drop me an e mail through the website if you would like to know more – It’s been such great fun!

J&L

 

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