Matt Canty's Writing Place

UK End 2 End Bike Ride for Action

June 06, 2012

WOW! What a journey.

I got back last night and this is there first time I have been on my own with my thoughts for two weeks. It’s been an insane experience to be part of. Just watched the weather and it really came to light the distance travelled.

Its been 7 months since I first mentioned it and I can’t really say that it has been easy – particularly the last two months. Four bike wheels stolen, knee problems moving from one knee to the other and all the sponsorship commitments made training difficult – read all about it! But I got there in the end completing my first century in April, had a great fund-raising gig in May and set off finally on 26th May 2012.

Whilst I was away, I kept a brief diary of the daily experiences. That’s what this post is all about, the whole thing, stats galore and anything else I can think of. At least you know how it ends so enjoy.

Again, this was all done for a really good cause. Action Medical Research, who fund life changing research into medical problems faced by babies and children. If you have a moment, and have found anything you read below or in any of my posts helpful or interesting please consider donating at JustGiving - link no longer active.

Quick Facts

  • Miles: 968
  • Riding Time: 70 Hours 8 Minutes 8 Seconds
  • Elapsed Time: 90 Hours 46 Minutes 22 Seconds
  • Max Speed: 38.6mph – potentially 49.8…
  • Average Speed: 13.8 mph
  • Calories Burned: 28390 – likely to be wildly inaccurate
  • Elevation: 43551ft – likely to be wildly inaccurate
  • Seriously my legs do hurt

Heading Out – Arriving Penzance

Travelled down on the 1106 from Paddington this morning. Train was on perfect time and Jane gave me the most ridiculous wave I have ever seen – must have made a few people on the carriages behind laugh. Journey went by without a hitch and I got off at the end with bike in hand, straight into the path of some Action staff and some to-be fellow riders – Tanya, Paddy and Colin. Bikes were loaded onto van and we drove out to camp.

Plenty of cake and coffee went down, followed by steak, beef and pork with all the trimmings in extreme portions. Next came the initial briefing which included a demonstration of how to pack down your tent – I have doubts of success come the morning. The rain was coming down in buckets with thunder and lighting regularly adding to the mix making the brief difficult to hear as it was so loud.

Moring reveille is at a rather early 5am and apparently alarms will not be necessary. Just had a quick drink with Paddy and now I’m in tent at 2143 before the first and – so they say – hardest day.

Ride One – Land’s End to Okehampton

View on Strava

  • Distance: 120.9 Miles
  • Riding Time: 10:20:11
  • Elapsed Time: 08:42:46
  • Max Speed: 38.6 mph (I think this is a malfunction)
  • Average Speed: 15.1 mph
  • Calories: 4209
  • Elevation: 7718 ft

What an almighty day. First of all managed to sleep roughly not-at-all last night and with what little I got was interrupted at 5am. The video provides an insight to this most wondrous time of the morning and how we are to be forcibly woken for the next 8 or 9 mornings.

But of a sluggish start, but everything got together well in the end. Breakfast was a feast of a a full English breakfast, followed by a bowl of porridge with honey and a banana. Following this stock intake we cycled down to the coast, assembling en masse for the start.

The ride was great from start to finish and I have never encountered so many hills in all my existence on a bike. The miles breezed by all day, and lunch, was a genuine Cornish pasty. Most memorable occasion of the day was turning round a descending corner into a picturesque seaside town in a bay. We finished of with a punishing 1.5 mile 16% climb – steep. Got to the top, had some ibuprofen and iced the knees with a can of Dr Pepper.

Dinner was a plate full and then some followed by cake. I am now pretty knackered so off to sleep, but before I go must mention riding with Micky and Tim throughout most of the day, spending 10 minutes each at the front. Made it so much easier than riding alone and I hope to keep riding with them.

Ride Two – Okehampton to Bristol

View on Strava

  • Distance: 98.3 Miles
  • Riding Time: 06:33:59
  • Elapsed Time: 08:42:46
  • Max Speed: 49.8 mph (I think this is a malfunction)
  • Average Speed: 15.0 mph
  • Calories: 3090
  • Elevation: 4712 ft

Lots to say on today.

It was an easy ride… in comparison to yesterday. And it looks like luck is in tomorrow too – a flat ride event though it is 122 miles.

Most people were already awake in the barracks before the wake up call came round – nutters! – so had a slightly earlier than intended start around 5.30am. Chowed down on the standard breakfast and began by riding down what we had ascended yesterday afternoon. Then on and on at a slightly faster than necessary pace to the finish line.

Currently working together with Micky, Tim and Mike to push each other forward. A fifth rider – Roy – also joined us after lunch. It’s a good system we have going, and I don’t think I’d be enjoying the miles as much if I’d been on my own.

Dinner was two very large servings of curry followed by cake and I am still positively stuffed. I also enjoyed a massage tonight – a sports massage. Think I spelt enjoyed wrong, should have read endured. They found a spot on the back of calf and gave it a substantial enough pressing for me to say something involuntarily about it. It bleedin’ ‘urt basically. As long as it makes me better tomorrow though, I don’t care how much it hurts.

Trying to get some rest now as I haven’t slept very well at all for two nights now. Reveille is at 5.30am with breakfast at 6 and riding at 7. The fast people are now being delayed by 30 minutes – not me… btw.

Ride Three – Bristol to Nescliffe

View on Strava

  • Distance: 120.6 Miles
  • Riding Time: 08:25:09
  • Elapsed Time: 10:51:59
  • Max Speed: 37.7 mph
  • Average Speed: 14.3 mph
  • Calories: 3755
  • Elevation: 5681 ft

No diary entry – but how about a little something regarding all the food I ate. A typical day consisted of:

  • Breakfast: Full English, Porridge with Honey, Banana, Coffee
  • First Break: Tea/Coffee, Chocolate Bar/Flapjack, Sweets
  • Lunch: Locally sourced hot dinner, High energy bars, Banana
  • Afternoon Break: Tea/Coffee, Flapjacks, Crisps, Sweets and Snacks
  • Dinner: CARBS! Steak, Pasta, Potatoes, Salad – all on one plate sometimes
  • Throughout the Day, Sweets, Energy Gels, 5/6 litres of water
  • -

Ride Four - Nescliffe to Lancaster

View on Strava

  • Distance: 118.4
  • Miles Riding Time: 08:15:39
  • Elapsed Time: 10:30:20
  • Max Speed: 35.4 mph
  • Average Speed: 14.3 mph
  • Calories: 2996
  • Elevation: 2968 ft

No diary entry.

Ride Five – Lancaster to Moffat

View on Strava

  • Distance: 116.8 Miles
  • Riding Time: 08:52:07
  • Elapsed Time: 10:57:20
  • Max Speed: 35.0 mph
  • Average Speed: 13.2 mph
  • Calories: 3004
  • Elevation: 4360 ft

Yes two days are missing. Nothing from Nescliffe as the lights were out before I could write anything and nothing from Lancaster because I went to the pub.

From Bristol to Nescliffe we crossed the Avon and Seven rivers across two fantastic suspension bridges. Then onwards through endless stunning farmlands along the welsh border. The day ended in true style over a hill just where you didn’t want it. First beer of the trip and it was very much beer then bed.

From Nescliffe to Lancaster took us from wales up to north Lancashire. Approaching and passing signs for Warrington, Liverpool, Manchester, Wigan and Preston all in a day was a strange feeling. What made today easy was knowing where I was heading that evening. I arranged with my dad to meet him at the Plough in Galgate and we rode into town together. This required a minor route change which is shame because the road out towards Glasson is good for riding. The evening involved seeing Harry Dog, and going to The Golden Lion with Mum and Dad where Ian and Sharon also met up with us. Also happened to be the pool night so got a good helping of sausages and chips to chow through.

Today though! What a toughie. Cycling right over the top of shap – shapped – in constant rain and hail. Lunch stop couldn’t have come sooner. Was very cold and wet by that time and and feeling a bit f*%$d to be honest! Ian Tildesley was there waiting and could see I was somewhat distressed… Sorry you couldn’t have seen me at a better time Ian.

My rain protection? Tesco bags. Yes, Tesco bags. Any bag will do though. They did genuinely work for about 30 miles, but once it was in, it was in.

Thankfully the sun crept in a dried us all off before we finished, passing into Scotland and down a long boring bumpy road to the campsite at Moffat. Just had a cold shower to make myself even happier so now to food and bed!

Ride Six – Moffat to Loch Lomond

View on Strava

  • Distance: 86.0 Miles
  • Riding Time: 06:41:57
  • Elapsed Time: 09:13:28
  • Max Speed: 31.6 mph
  • Average Speed: 12.8 mph
  • Calories: 2300
  • Elevation: 3864 ft

    5.30 am start again this morning, and rather foolishly didn’t manage to organise anything the night before. Took me an hour to reach breakfast after organising my kit, getting dry clothes and putting down the tent. Standard breakfast FPB – Full English, Porridge & Banana.

Set off 7am, the first 30 was just flattish bumpy bumpy bumpy roads alongside the motorway. Hardly picturesque. Nice descent to end this part which came out of the clouds. Then onwards to just south of Glasgow where we were treated to a bag pipe reception – and had the pleasure of hearing it again for each subsequent arrival. Glasgow itself was as to be expected, traffic lights, roundabouts and busy bumpy roads. Once we broke through though, it’s going to be countryside for the rest of the trip. As today was only 86 miles with two rest stops – AM and lunch – most of decided an impromptu rest at a pub just before camp was in order. Basking in the sun with a cold pint 78 or so miles down the road can hardly be sniffed at. Every rider who passed couldn’t back down from the temptation.

Once leaving the pub I had to ride slowly due to a huge pain in my quads whenever I stood up to get uphill. I’m hoping that my massage later will sort all that out and I’ve given myself a right good stretching out.

5am starter tomorrow, massage at 1030 tonight – I never actually made it to the massage – which I definitely need.Glen Coe tomorrow, and just 100 miles – easy!

Ride Seven – Loch Lomond to Fort William

View on Strava

  • Distance: 96.6 Miles
  • Riding Time: 07:03:08
  • Elapsed Time: 09:56:46
  • Max Speed: 35.3 mph
  • Average Speed: 13.6 mph
  • Calories: 3201
  • Elevation: 4988 ft

Glen Coe, hold on let me write that again. GLEN COE! What a ride/thrill! The most exhilarating cycling I have ever experienced. From when we first came off the busy road and into the open highlands it was breath-taking scenery. The most impressive of the descents had rock out crops whizzing close by and the distant bens and glen ahead looked perfect not to mention how the corners swept left to right. Defy anyone to say their spine wasn’t tingling as they came down there. This photo was taken right at the bottom, all of us were elated to say the least.

So to be honest I can’t remember anything else about today. It was very early to start off with, and I was nervous about the state of my left leg. But after a few hours it warmed up and got going again just as usual. Sitting now in the Ben Nevis hotel, looking at part of Ben Nevis incidentally and watching Lord of the Rings on TV – our challenge is far greater. At dinner we all had a bit of a whinge about the portion sizes, but to be honest they were just normal.

To Lairg tomorrow, the penultimate day and I’m starting to feel as if I could just carry on.

Ride Eight – Fort William to Lairg

View on Strava

  • Distance: 115.5 Miles
  • Riding Time: 08:57:03
  • Elapsed Time: 11:26:34
  • Max Speed: 38.0 mph
  • Average Speed: 12.9 mph
  • Calories: 3368
  • Elevation: 5595 ft

Today was tough. Many milestones, and many mile stones to overcome. The first 50 miles followed two Lochs, the second of which Loch Ness. The wind was firmly planted on our faces. By the time I reached lunch I felt pretty knackered, at which point it turned out the campsite would be 10 miles further than originally planned. Due to the portable toilet/shower people forgetting to deliver waste tanks too…

Lunch to the PM break was fairly straightforward and nothing much to say about it. Following this however we headed out on the 30 miles or so to the finish. Going up and over something which might be called Craigroy Burn where we all got drenched in some rather cold wet stuff. On the descent the sun shone and out came the rainbow shortly followed by technical hitch number one – my chain came off.

Following a second and third good quality soaking a level crossing managed to stick true to its word, and levelled four of us as we crossed it. Must have been due to the recent downpour and the angle of tracks against the road. Bike just kind of slipped away. Tim hurt his finger, and Jo nearly ran over his head, but that’s cycling y’know!

Its going to be a bitter sweet finish tomorrow I can tell. If only I could have a couple of days to let me body recover, and sort out some lower gears for the hills, I am very sure I could just carry on riding.

Ride Nine – Lairg to John O’Groats

View on Strava

  • Distance: 94.9 Miles
  • Riding Time: 07:19:08
  • Elapsed Time: 08:46:58
  • Max Speed: 32.4 mph
  • Average Speed: 13.0 mph
  • Calories: 2467
  • Elevation: 3665

I was too busy yesterday to get anything written down. It was all a bit finish then boom, boom, boom – photo, coach, dinner. Now I’m sitting on the train bound for Kings Cross and spent the Inverness to Edinburgh section talking to the woman opposite about the whole thing. Was nice to go through it with someone who wasn’t there doing it too.

But here is the photographic evidence, I was there and with my bike. I am happy to say I pedalled every mile, and my body doesn’t feel to bad, apart from when I move! Right now I can’t quite make much sense of how it feels to finish, I almost feel like haven’t finished anything, more just starting something.

Home At home I was greeted by cake and my beautiful Jane

So there you have it. I did it. But I needed help. And you might be reading this and thinking I need help . The best advice and help I got was from Cadence Performance who do a good-as-you-can- get standard fitting which quite literally saved my knees, and Brixton Cycles who were endlessly patient waiting for compensation – and of course helping me select my new bike.

Also to thanks to Micky, Tim, Mike, Graeme and Jo for riding with me – we undoubtedly helped each other.

I am Matt Canty, an engineer of varying titles who helps tech companies run reliable and fault-tolerant software platforms. Just send me an email:

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