Three avid cyclists from Explore’s Product team set off on our Coast to Coast trip in July, hoping for sunny skies, smooth ascents and spectacular scenery. Ali Butler, Cycling and Self-Guided Product Manager, tells us about their trip: did they ever dry out? Would they manage the hills? Would there be any cake left in the north of England by the end of their ride? Read on to find out.
This was a ‘bucket list’ trip for me; one I’d had my eye on for a while. I would love to one day cycle London to Paris or Lands’ End to John O’Groats, but for now three days cycling across the UK felt like the right goal to set.
I wanted to do this trip to see if I could, and also so I could say I had pedalled under my own steam from one side of the country to the other. It took little persuading to get my co-workers Carmel and Hannah to book on the trip with me. We then started to talk about a training plan, and talk about it is pretty much all we did. We had grand plans for multiple long rides before the C2C long weekend and in fact I only managed one ride (other than my 18 mile daily commute); 62 miles to Portsmouth. Lessons learnt were that I needed to buy padded shorts and should have done more training!
So when the C2C weekend came around I was excited but also nervous. I had hoped for good weather and a slow group and I got neither. The group were fantastic and so supportive, we broke off into splinter groups most days and re-grouped at lunch and café stops so you never felt like you were holding anyone up or getting any pressure to go faster than you would like. Jason, our Explore Leader, took care of all the logistics and transported our luggage so we could just get on with enjoying the ride.
The cycling was easier than I expected; don’t get me wrong there were plenty of tough hills but some ascents, like the four-mile climb up the Hartside Pass, I actually enjoyed! The cake stops were better than anticipated and re-fuelling was certainly an enjoyable part of the trip. We had some great pub meals, a delicious curry and a few pints of local ale along the way. Cycling through the Lake District and North Pennines was very pretty indeed especially when it wasn’t covered in low cloud.
We marked the end of the trip with a little celebration in Tynemouth, and toasted the ride that started in Whitehaven some three days and 136 miles earlier. After wishing everyone safe onward travel and parting with our bikes we then sat on the train back to London feeling mighty proud of what we had just achieved – and somewhat exhausted!
For me, the greatest thing about being on the Coast to Coast ride was the simple feeling of being outside all day, flying through the countryside instead of sitting behind a desk. This was a massive motivation, and battling up the hills (it definitely felt like it was me versus the mountain) was made so much easier with the amazing wild views across the Lake District and the North Pennines. I actually started enjoying hitting hills of up to 20% gradient, and reflecting back on the ride genuinely feels like a huge personal achievement.
The cakes! Good lord they were quite frankly wonderful and enough to distract me from the rather dismal July weather. I’m a sucker for a challenge but I had been in total denial about the hills on this trip which in hindsight perhaps wasn’t the best preparation; but thankfully they were achievable, with a few stops to appreciate the view (catch my breath) and the odd gentle push of the bike up the really steep bits. Looking back now I feel so proud of completing the journey and I got a serious amount of Strava kudos! For me the best part was cycling with different people each day, chatting about everything under the sun but always coming back together at the next food stop.