(pics and lessons learned at the bottom)
A 4.15 am alarm. We will be meeting at 5.55 am at The Parade, Liskeard for our summer attempt to reach Land End in a day, together, and in time to share supper before driving home – we hope to be there by 5 pm. The trip is 80 plus miles – quite a lot of it hilly, Geoff is our support for the day with the horse lorry. So before we cycle to the start, Steve and Connie drop off the ingredients for supper (and their dog, Freya), and everyone has let us have their warm clothing to change into if/when we arrive at our destination. I am using it as a practice for the End to End and so carry my clothing for the bigger trip to see if I can manage the weight.
The weather forecast is a head wind with rain, heavy at times, during the morning but clearing in the afternoon – how bad can it be in August? Nevertheless, we are all taking this seriously and are wearing our waterproofs.
(My gear for the ride: very thin waterproof jacket (Montane Featherlite Velo) over thin jersey; slightly warmer gilet; three quarter length shorts; shoes and over boots; two pairs of gloves – for warmth and extra cushioning).
Amazingly, we are all there ready to go on time and eight of us set off at 6 am. 80 miles is further than most of us have ever cycled in a day and for those of us who have done this distance before, this is the first time this year.
Our first ten miles is down the A38 – usually very dangerous with no room for lorries to pass – but early on a Sunday morning quite safe. Nevertheless we take the precaution of cycling single file but in two’s so that drivers can pass two people at a time rather than attempt to pass a long line. Accomplished this safely. Persistent drizzle – waterproofs feel OK. I am dry and not too hot. Then up through the Lanhydrock Estate, beautiful at any time of the day and on to the new Cornwall Services on the A30. Whatever you think of large service stations, it is wonderful to be able to pick up a cup of Costa Hot Chocolate before 8 am on a Sunday and to sit on comfortable sofas to drink it.
We come out to heavier rain – all a bit cold now and keen to get going. Next stop Truro at 40 miles from the start but a very pleasant route over Goss Moor (although I managed to fall off going through one of the gateway openings) and then down the old A30 now the B3275. This is an empty road, almost completely flat (a rare treat in Cornwall) because it follows the route of the River Tresilian – always surprised that this is not used by more End to Enders who always find Cornwall hilly. Now torrential rain – but still comfortable. A bit of a climb on the A390 into Truro and then we meet up with Geoff at the Duke Street Deli for a cup of tea and, in my case, a chocolate brownie – lovely. The plan had been for Connie to leave the group at this stage but, despite the rain, she felt the ride was going well and said she was keen (?) to continue to the next formal stop at Marazion.
The next section was hillier – at least between Truro and Four Lanes – and the rain which had eased returned making this a bit of an endurance test. Ann B took a tumble – cleat issues. My little summer waterproof was still holding out, as were the over boots but I did feel more tired in this section – tried some of my electrolyte/caffeine drink. Amanda reminded us she did not normally do wet weather cycling and we all thought the weather could be a bit more cheerful. A sandwich stop on the green at Praze en Peeble and then on along the B3280, a fast road in cycling terms, down into Marazion, with its wonderful view of St. Michael’s Mount. I say “wonderful view” but although the rain had now eased the mist made St Michael’s Mount almost invisible. Along the coast then to the beach café for another mug of tea and loo stop. Geoff was there to offer Connie a lift if she wanted it but she seemed to be on a roll and thought she would now manage the last 13 miles. The rest of us were all tired but keen to get to the end and resigned to the last bit being hilly.
On along the coast. to Penlee – where Steve and David kindly changed my inner tube after I picked up a shard of glass and a puncture (noticeable again that I wasn’t able to do it!). Then through Mousehill – very pretty harbour but a very steep hill out. Personally, very pleased to manage this for the first time. A photo stop at Lamorna (and a slow puncture for Connie – thank you, David and Steve, for keeping her tyre going for the last seven miles) and then along the B3315 which joins the A30 just before Lands End. Here we re-grouped and crossed the line together. Yes, we had made it – 5.30 pm – just half an hour later than we intended. As we crossed that line, the sun came out (was it taking the Mick?) and our photo in front of the famous signpost shows a background of sparkling sea.
My bicycle had performed well with a pannier (Arkel seat post rack and pannier) – no problems at all on the flat and I was able to adjust quickly to the extra weight for the up hill sections.
Geoff and Rose had supper ready for once we had changed, which was wonderful (thank you to Connie, Rose and Geoff) and then, having put their bicycles on the lorry, the two David’s accepted a lift back to Penzance to get the train home (thank you, Mike) and the rest of us went back with Geoff in the lorry . A great expedition and a great achievement for all of us!
Lessons learned from this trip:
1. Summer cycling in the rain can be comfortable if you wear the right clothing; 2. Narrow gateways should always be respected; 3. All cyclists should be confident in changing an inner tube (yes, Ann); 4. Cleats should be respected even when you think you think you are confident with them; 5. If you are doing more miles than normal you need to think carefully about your nutrition (I am still keen on the formula something sweet after 10 miles; something savoury every 20 miles) – and a mixture of electrolytes and caffeine helped me when I was flagging. 6. Large groups riding on busy roads can make it easier for motorists by riding in pairs (single file) with gaps between each pair; 7. The Liskeard to Lands End ride requires four (rather than three) refreshment stops for riders of our ability.