My name is Gavin Burns and I work within the marketing department of Berghaus. It was not so long ago that I was asked by a good friend of mine, if I would like to participate in this years Coast 2 Coast fundraiser cycle for Diamond Blackfan Anaemia Charity. Without hesitation I duly obliged, as this was something I had longed to achieve and to complete it for a great cause, well there’s no greater sense of satisfaction, that’s if I make it…
So what next…..
We had to get some training under our belts. However, I soon realised that my Specialized Rockhopper mountain bike, which I use to cycle to work, was not quite equipped for the long haul cycle across the Lake District and Northern Pennines to Sunderland.
Next stop get my bike serviced and kitted out, I purchased a set of Specialized hybrid tyres ‘Hemisphere Armadillo’ and ‘Endz Bar Ends’ along with some gloves, cycling shorts and a saddle bag to carry tools and a puncture repair kit. I then got hold of some of the latest Berghaus lightweight trail sports clothing to test.
So I was trained, fully kitted and prepared, or so I thought!
Day 1 – A gentle start?
We headed out of Whitehaven along route 71 following along the Ennerdale Railway path, after about 10 mile we had a short stop to refill our drinks bottles and have a quick snack, if needed. The second section started to head through some of the small surrounding villages and was constantly off- and on-road with some short steep hills taking their toll on us now. There were some good downhill sections though, but I soon discovered that there was going to be a lot more uphill sections than down over the next 2 days.
After a second short stop we set off to tackle what someone referred to me as the ‘Fireman’s Challenge’ not sure if this is correct, but it was certainly a challenge. As we turned left off one of the country roads a tarmacked hill just seemed to rise in front of us with no end in sight. This was the first of many hills this day.
It didn’t seem long before we reached Whinlatter Forest Park. We set off down the dirt track everyone in tow, but due to the overnight rain there was a lot of spray from the bikes in front and it was due to this that I had a slight accident, one of my training friends, who was just in front of me (you know who you are, Tom!) started to skid on his back wheel weaving left and right. Now my hybrid tyres had performed fantastically up until now both on and off road, and they didn’t let me down on this occasion, it was just my riding skills (I’d prefer to blame Tom, who managed to stay on!).
As I broke to prevent a collision I felt my bike skid slightly and as I made a manoeuvre to my right I had to swerve to miss one of the many rock sticking up out of the ground, heading now towards the verge with a very steep drop over the edge, I managed to swerve back to my left and slowed to a controlled pace. However I hadn’t quite manoeuvred back on track and as I stopped, my bike and I decided to disembark from each other over the verge. Luckily I didn’t roll too far and neither the bike nor I were injured, just a slight bruise around the ankle and a lot of laughing from the group. That didn’t stop us thought as we bombed down the rest of the section which was a great rush for anyone who enjoys a bit of downhill biking. However, there was still a lot of spray on the way down and when we regrouped at the bottom we all burst out laughing again as we looked at each other. I’ll let the picture reveal how I looked!
Back to the grind of cycling towards Penrith and more uphill challenges, unfortunately the last hour of the ride saw the heavens open and the rain and hail stones start to pound us for the last 10 miles. I was glad I had my Berghaus shell on and waterproof over trousers.
Day 1 over and a total of 5 hours and 45 minutes of riding time (excluding rest stops) we had covered 56.1 miles from Whitehaven to Penrith we headed to, you guessed it, the pub for a few drinks and a good chat about the day and what tomorrow would bring…..
Day 2 – 3 big climbs!
Titled in our itinerary as ‘The Big Day!!!’ we were all a bit apprehensive about what today would bring. We set of at 9:30am and cycled again for about 10 miles before coming to rest at the support vehicle in Langwathby, where we refuelled ready for the challenge of Hartside with a climb of 1,348 feet over 3.7 miles, Garrigill with a climb of 876 feet over 2.2 miles and Nenthead with 564 feet over 1.4 miles.
After the long slog up Hartside next came the thrill of speed. Cycling down the other side was great fun building up some speed thanks to the hybrid tyres I’d put on my bike as we dropped down into Garrgill. We were cycling now at a comfortable pace, chatting about the challenge of Hartside when a right turn out off Garrigill immediately brought the hardest challenge of the route (in my opinion) as we quickly cranked down the gears we were already on the steepest section of the 876 feet climb. This section may not be as long as Hartside but it is unquestionably steeper and the biggest psychological challenge as you couldn’t see the top, it just seemed to go on and on into the horizon. This was by far the most rewarding of challenge once we eventually made it to the top, as the downhill ride on the other side was fantastic.
Next was the final climb of the day out of Nenthead, to be honest this climb was nothing compared to the two we had just accomplished, it was now just a case of trying to find that comfortable seating position once you’d set off.
Day 2 over and a total of 3 hours and 49 minutes of riding time (excluding rest stops) we covered 30.9 miles from Penrith to Allenhead.
Day 3 – Will I make it in time?
As a keen football fan it was the final day of the football season and I was desperate to make it back to Sunderland in-time to take my two boys to the Sunderland match against Manchester United which could also affect who would lift this year’s Barclays Premier League trophy. The day started with the climb out of Allenhead, followed by the last big uphill challenge known as Rookhorn, this was the only uphill climb that was on a gravel trail all the way and was a bit of a challenge as the ground would often make your rear wheel spin out due to the gradient. Once at the top we knew the rest of the route had a descending gradient for most of the remainder of the ride. We were now moving at a good pace and the next stop would be Consett, which isn’t too far from where I live so once we arrived it felt as if you were on the home strait.
As we came through Sunderland the Berghaus office was now in sight and I thought another five minutes passing the ‘Stadium of Light’ that I would be there. However it was more like 15 minutes, which felt more like an hour, but as I turn the final corner to see the 2 piers of Sunderland you got a great feeling of self-satisfaction and achievement.
Day 3 over and 3 hours and 35 minutes of riding time saw us arrive in Sunderland, we had covered a total of 44.8 miles.
To top off what had been a challenging and extremely enjoyable cycle, I had made it back in-time to make it to the match. Unfortunately it wasn’t a great game but the drama of the final few minute with Manchester City scoring an injury time winner again QPR and taking the trophy out of the grasp of Manchester United, it is probably the most exciting finish to a championship ever!
I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me on this challenge and a special thank you to everyone who made a donation to the Diamond Blackfan Anaemia Charity and helped me raise nearly £500 for the charity. However if you would like to still make a donation please visit my justgiving site, where all donations are greatly appreciated;
Here’s to doing it all again next year……….
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