Newsletter - 2002 Archive

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London-Edinburgh-London: A Ride to be Remembered

Danelle Laidlaw


Really, this ride should be called Thorne-Thorne-Thorne, as that is how John and I decided to ride it. There were several reasons for this – the biggest one was that I have a friend who lives 20 km from Thorne and it was very handy to fly into Manchester airport (with a railway station right at the airport) and stay with her, which is what we did. But also, we wanted to be able to leave a change of clothes and extra food at the Thorne control to be picked up on our way south, and psychologically, we wanted to do the harder part first and be more than ½ way finished when we reached Thorne again. So, John and Cheryl Lynch and I opted for the Thorne start. Ken Bonner, Bob Bose, Grant MacLeod (Saskatchewan), and Mike Lau (Ontario) opted for the Harlow (north of London) start.

It was nice to get a good night’s sleep before the start at 10 am (particularly as we had a 20 km ride to the start), but it also meant that the first day was a long one. With hindsight, it might have been better to try to sleep at Carlisle (about 300 km) rather than at Eskdalemuir (355 km) as we did. The weather was good to us on the first day – with only a few showers and quite a bit of sun. But the tempo was feverish. Everyone was keen and going fast. Even with controls every 50 – 90 km, riders still seemed to be making very good time. The countryside was flat and then gradually rolling. Our fears about following the route were unfounded as everything was well marked, though there were an exceptional number of turns. And the build up about Yad Moss was unfounded – yes, it is a bit of a climb, but the 11% grade in Alston on cobblestones was much worse. I remembered that I had already cycled this route in 1989 on my way up to Lauder in the border area of Scotland.

Eskdalemuir is a Tibetan Centre that is under construction. It was hard to sleep there and the control was not particularly well equipped to handle the riders – no showers and very few mattresses. Though the volunteers did their best. We started off on our second day with very little sleep, but the beautiful scenery soon changed our grumpy moods. The Scottish moors were dotted with sheep and the long gradual climbs were rewarded with long gradual descents. Dalkeith was my favourite control for food. It felt good to turn around and head back, even though we were not ½ way through the ride. Just outside of Dalkeith, we encountered Hubertus Hohl (a German RM finisher in 2000) and Paul O’Donoghue (an Irish tandem captain for a blind rider I met on a Blazing Saddles tour in France, Spain and Portugal) and Richard (a Frenchman) who were leading the Harlow crowd. It was great to see them and see how well they were going. A little while later we met Ken Bonner and he was also doing well.

We decided not to risk another sleepless night at Langdon Beck and opted to stop just before it at Alston where we stayed at a B&B. Unfortunately, no breakfast for us early leavers at 5 a.m., but we did have some bread and jam – good enough. We knew we could get good food at the controls. The day started a bit cloudy, but soon cleared up and was sunny for the rest of the ride.

On our way up to Scotland, we had several problems with our chain jamming and breaking. Coming into Thorne, we had a major jam, necessitating the removal of the cranks. At this point in the ride, this little mechanical problem was not well received and I had to restrain John from tossing the crank over the hedge. We eventually got it fixed after much gnashing of teeth, and we on our way into the control. From there, we were off to Lincoln where we spent our third night. This control was on the outskirts of the town and there were no 24 hour services and no rooms to be had. We were lucky to get a bed in one of the two room the ride had booked, but Grant MacLeod was not so lucky. When we got up to leave we woke him up and put him in the bed we had just vacated – hot bunking at its best!

The rest of the ride south was fairly flat with lots of the route on country lanes. The roads were slightly busier as we got further south, but only around Harlow was the traffic really busy. We had planned to book a B&B on our way south, but never accomplished it, so we were lucky to stumble onto a pub that had one room they agreed to let. We had a great breakfast at the Crown and Cushion and were off on the last leg of our ride. Throughout the ride, the weather just got better and better.

It was actually quite hot when we finished the ride. We managed to see the entire route in the daylight and we managed to see about 98% of the 300+ riders at least once. Cheryl finished just after us in Thorne, Ken had a good ride to Harlow, and Bob Bose decided in Hovingham (just north of Thorne) that it was more fun to staff the control than to carry on – well done all.