Monday, 5 October 2009

Weston-Super-Mare to Eastbourne

So we began the planned epic cycle with a, potentially rather unglamorous, trip to test out the new bikes and all the kit in Weston Super Mare. Predicatably our 10 am start was foiled by the fact that Ja is the only person I have ever met who can faff more than me. After repacking his panniers for the 10th time, replacing the wheels that inexplicably needed removing at least twice, oiling anything that moved in a 5m radius and an hour cycling around central London in circles as we both (incorrectly as it transpired) assumed we knew how to get to Paddington, we finally managed to get on a train at about 6pm. Naturally this meant arriving in Weston long after dark, and led to us eazing into the financial expediency of camping more gradually than planned, instead spending the night in a B&B.

These are the bikes, looking rather overladen for a UK coast to coast, but it seemed sensible to try and find out if carrying that much weight was feasible somewhere slightly more accesible than the Patagonian Lake District.

Ja's is the white one; the one that as you probably already know, has reduced me to (at least) third place in his affections (and that's only if you aren't counting any of his other bikes), and left me with an unwelcome but alarmingly large knowledge about the relative merits of various bike dimensions. The construction of this bike has been a long and painful process for all involved, and Ja's preoccupation with it has, rather conveniently, meant that I have been tasked with ALL other non bike related planning tasks. My bike, the black one, was a lucky and much less painful purchase, complete with panniers, camping kit and everything one could ever need for a long distance touring trip, off Ebay.

The route we planned to test everything out with is known as the 'Wessex Way'. It is the longest off road coast to coast in the UK, pretty good for mountain biking, with a fair amount of semi technical up and down hill single track. All pretty cool for mountain bikes, but as we learned alarmingly quickly, not so good for a suspensionless touring bike loaded with well over two thirds of ones body weight (final weigh-ins when we left were mine at 39kg and Ja's at 42kg).

Determined not to let a few little hills get in our way (and acutely aware that failing to manage in the rolling foothills of the Mendips wouldn't bode well for our potential in the Andes), we adjusted the plan and timescale slightly (no way could we manage the proposed 80km per day), and were extremely lucky to find ourselves cycling over a week of glorious summer weather and beautiful English countryside. If it hadn't been for the Autumnal leaves falling from the trees it could've been mistaken for the end of July, not the end of Septemeber!

Our total distance ended up being about 420km, over 7 days, mostly camping, although we made a couple of detours along the way to visit Ja's family in Salisbury and thanks to Matt for the bed in Haselmere.

The bikes held up pretty much OK, although Ja has of course found a multitude of adjustments that need making anyway. The major issue, as it was alway going to be, is with weight. Whilst Ja is convinced that we can live quite happily taking
nothing more than some kind of mighty booche style zip off utility suit, and a sawn off tooth brush, my list of essentials is considerably larger. We have, since returning, been in careful discussion around the definition of the word essential, and the compromises reached must have saved all of a kilo. I don't imagine many people are required to whittle down their wardrobe by weighing it all!

Ja has had to go back into work for a few days, which has given me time to flesh out the plan for the next leg of the journey. We have decided to broadly follow the route known as the San Sebastian Way through France and Spain, of which there a number of routes, all traditionally ending in Santiago de Campostela. The route we have chosen mostly follows the GR65 in France, cuts through the Pyranees and we'll probably stop short of Santiago (in either Santander or Bilbao) in order to get a ferry back to the UK. The logistics of sorting this out as a round trip, with the bikes, has been significantly more complicated than I imagined (and slightly worrying, as no matter how long I leave it the South America bit still hasn't planned itself). The main aim for Europe has been avoiding needing to box the bikes, which rules out 90% of the usual transport options. However, it has convinced me that my choice not be a travel agent was a wise one.

We're still aiming to be out in South America by mid-November, having shaved a couple of weeks off the Europe bit to complete the Wessex way and for Ja to finish up at work.

I think that I have probably written enough now for my first attempt at 'blogging', but since it doesn't seem to be much more arduous than writing an extended postcard (with the absolute advantage that I know it isn't going to end up at the bottom of pannier without a stamp on and never get read anyway), I imagine I will try and keep it updated whilst we are away.

I shall finish with a little montage of photos from the rest of the Wessex Way - although I have a nasty feeling that the theme clearly developing of multiple shots of Ja's back against various scenic vista's is one that will become all too familiar. Hopefuly the scenic vista's will be varied enough to forgive this! Oh, and don't be decieved by how flat it looks - I think it must be some wierd trick of the camera.


  1. Welcome to blogging!
    The bikes look amazing. Congrats. on all the cycling. Well done!
    Love Jill.

  2. I think this is going to be a fun blog to follow! Is Ja going to contribute to this one or write his own.. that would be fun to read and compare.