End to End Day Thirteen – five counties, A46, beautiful Warwick, Mary Ellen and Matt, helpful Bike Studio, Cleeve Hill, quirky hotel

Hinckley to Cheltenham – 67 miles

733 miles completed – 291 to go
A westerly route through Coventry, Warwick and Stratford upon Avon to Cheltenham today with the long climb up to Cleeve Hill I the last six miles being the sting in the tail – but overall a good day.
Set off from Hinckley along the B4065 and almost immediately from Leicestershire into Warwickshire. Into Coventry with its references to Lady Godiva, buskers and flowers (amazing how these latter two can cheer up a town centre). Sadly they had just started to refurbish Costa and so we had to look elsewhere. Also sorry not to see Sir Basil Spence’s cathedral.

Then we risked a very fast 10 miles on the A46 (just over 30 mins) into Warwick. Very busy road operating just like a motorway with three lanes and slip roads but a fairly safe one metre gap beside the white line for us to cycle in.
Warwick is such a treat! Beautifully preserved and all independent shops but not twee like York and Stratford and not so obviously overrun with tourists. We watched a woman making a patchwork quilt with a huge industrial sewing machine. She was moving the whole machine backward and forward over the fabric.
We moved on towards Stratford along a cycle route past first the offer of jousting lessons, which Pete thought he would like to take up (Christmas present sorted) and then the air strip with the offer of flying lessons – also appealing to Pete.
When we arrived in Stratford we thought we should call at the bike shop on the marina to see if they could help stop my seat slipping down ( an issue with the Arkel seat post rack that was now becoming more serious ).
While we were there we met Mary Ellen and Matt from The States with their tandem. They were cycling down from Scotland and hoped to finish in Spain some time in October. They too were using an Arkel pannier but also some bigger Ortleib bags. They were staying at hostels and B and Bs, like us, but were booking in as they went along to give themselves more flexibility. Like me, they too had taken a retirement trip and this was their fourth long bike journey together. Amazing!

The marina bike shop man (very kind and helpful) thought I needed a new seatpost clamp bolt and suggested we try the Bike Studio just off the High Street, which is what we did. The Bike Studio quickly and helpfully fitted the new part, although he thought the rack was too high and would continue to put strain on the seat. We bought some more gels and then he gave me some really useful nutritional information.
For cyclists, getting the amount of salts and electrolytes right is key for health and performance. For every day at home I make up a drink of squash and add table salt. I still have to eat crisps or drink Oxo to stop me getting cramp after a cycle ride. On this trip, however, Pete and I have been filling out flasks with water and adding a SIS hydro tablet. These have been working like magic – no cramps or anything. The Bike Studio man explained that it is not just sodium that we need to replace but other trace elements and that he uses Himalayan sea salt, which works brilliantly (going to try it when we get back). He also said you have to be careful not to have too much sodium – and that reminded me of how unwell I had been after the Ride London 100 and I now think I had poisoned myself by drinking too many of the SIS drinks following the ride.
Pete and I had a pasty (meant to be genuinely Cornish!) and then set off for Cheltenham (30 miles) along the B4632. We moved into Gloucestershire, into Worcestershire for a bit and then back into Gloucestershire. A cup of tea and a shared chocolate brownie at a farm shop (there were suddenly dozens of farm shops) and then on to Winchcombe (well worth a visit) and finally we started the two mile climb up Cleeve Hill. Obviously we were now in the Cotswolds so hills were inevitable but I still blamed Pete for not checking the route more carefully.
Down the hill and into Cheltenham, which amazes me every time I see it and then to our quirky budget hotel (woolly curtains and supper for under £10 – great fun!), The Big Sleep – very appropriately named.








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