Cycling around Britain: #1 …ha ha ha!

It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It didn’t have to be: I was lying in a field of nettles, my feet above my head and a slug in my face.

This, my friends, is the glamour of attempting to cycle around Britain (…ha ha ha!) without a tent or a proper map.

I say “…ha ha ha!” because really this doesn’t feel much like an attempt to cycle around Britain, more like a race to see which will break first: my body, my bike or my mind.

So where do we stand on that score?

1: The Bike

The first to break was my bike. The rack, on which one of my bags is strapped, snapped off. I heard a clunking noise from behind me and stopped. I looked around at my bag and stared. For a minute or two I couldn’t figure out what had happened. The bag and the rack were still attached to one another. That was good. But the bag was somehow further away than it should be. Slowly it dawned on me.

So I got out the trusty gorilla tape (stronger than duck tape) and Heath Robinsonned the rack to the bike. It’s behaved perfectly ever since.

2: The Body

Second to break has been my body. Both knees are destroyed, but in fascinatingly different ways. The right has reverted rather truculently to the old injury that I did cycling to Bordeaux two years ago. But the left, always inventive, has found a couple of tendons around the back and is attempting to saw them away from the muscle. This means that I can’t go faster than about 10mph (except, lethally, downhill) and I can’t go up hill at all.

I am lucky that cycling and walking use two completely different sets of muscles. So, while my knees scorn any attempt at cyclopic locomotion, they are sweet as pie when it comes to perambulation around town. It’s at that point that my quads kick up a fuss and I spent a happy ten minutes this morning staring at my calves while they twitched and spasmed quite joyfully. I was only sitting on a park bench.

3: The Mind

This is the most insidious and the most dangerous. Furthermore, the other two, bike and body, feed it with self-pitying cream cakes of depression and pointlessness.

Every little thing becomes a test of mental resolution. From struggling with the bungee ropes on the rack, to being unable to get the plastic wrapper from a lipsalve. From the prospect of the weather, to the sound of a mournful song on the radio in a cafe. From finding a bite to eat, to finding a place to sleep.

And what makes it worse is that, with a broken bike or a broken body, there is no dishonour in going home. With a broken mind, there is no excuse.

That’s when I remember Ed Stafford’s walk along the length of the Amazon. He hated it. Absolutely hated the whole damned thing. He got depressed, he got shot at, he got infected with strange parsasites. But did he go home? No.

See you in Lowestoft then!

p.s. I’m currently in Woodbridge. I’ve done 150 miles so far. Hurrah.

What do you think?