Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Coast to Coast: The Beginning

Recently I have been getting more and more excited about big bike rides, plans to go touring in Iceland this summer still keep me staring at the big 1:300,000 map on the wall tracing the gravel roads over the interior. However the impending purchase of a house and ensuing festival of DIY required to make it habitable is likely to dent both finances and time, so thus to more modest attractions.

The idea to cycle the coast to coast pretty much came out of nowhere; well thats not quite true it came out a book as it's probably the most popular multy day ride in the UK. Anyway it was about February this year; over a post ride cup of tea and plenty of cake the idea was mooted, discussed, and rapidly agreed too. 

I  was joined by my friend and old laboratory colleague Lisa and her partner JC; we would be  crossing between Whitehaven and Tynemouth perching somewhere between the challenging and the relaxing by planning to take three days over it. Apparently the crossing has been done in a day but really whats the point of physically breaking yourself? The joy of covering distance on a bike is that you can take in the landscape and atmosphere in much more detail than flashing through it in a car;  powering allong head down on a bike does very little for me.

After all sorts of crazy transport shenanigans (by far the hardest part of the trip) we found ourselves at the start line. From the harbour in Whitehaven you pretty soon get onto the old railway lines which wind there way gently uphill towards Egremont, Cletor Moor and the Lake District. The start was "entertaining" in a Russian Roulette kind of way as the trail was librally decorated with dog mess which required cat like dexterity to avoid at speed.

The railway ends and leaves you on quite back roads winding through the Lakes; the  "official" C2C route does a remarkably good job of avoiding the traffic at all but the most obvious bottlenecks. There is a particularly nice section of riding along past Lowswater a part of the Lakes I've never visited with beautiful views across to Mellbreak towering out the valley like the upturned keel of a boat.

The only real big climb on day is up the Whinlatter Pass which is steep but mercifully quite short, fortunately there is a mountain biking trail centre at the top of the pass, this has a cafe and the cafe has cake, both Lisa and I are big fans of cake. From Whinlatter I manage to set of the wrong way and realising half a mile later that no one has followed me! Looking a bit of we head off the right way for a fast decent down to Braithwaite and on into Keswick.

Out of Keswick the trail follows the old railway, it's actually quite muddy, stony and loose. I'm glad I upgraded to 28mm marathon tyres giving me some extra grip. After a short section beside the A66 we set of on a massive meander round the eastern edge of Blencathra which appears to go on forever and has me worried for a few minutes until a small blue sign tells us all is well. With tiring legs and under a spitting sky wheels roll into Greystoke and tonights bed, a rather nice bunkhouse in the grounds of Greystoke Castle, the wet room is particularly awesome.

Part 2

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