Updated: Jul 30, 2019
WLRCC members gather for the Sunday Social rides in Warwick town square
Over the course of 14 days on the Adventure (I am calling it that for shorthand now) I am going to be spending a lot of time alone cycling obviously. That shouldn’t bother me as I already ride solo at least once if not twice a week already. Riding alone gives me thinking time. I don’t need yoga or medication classes or mindfulness apps, just an hour on the bike alone in the country lanes of Warwickshire is enough. On a bike, I can think about everything, nothing or just one very specific thing. I have written half the presentations I have ever given in my head while out cycling.
However, I am also a member of two different cycling clubs, both very different in nature, but both incredibly valuable. Last week I met with Andy Matthews a fellow Rapha Cycle Club member I was introduced to by Aleda the RCC coordinator. Andy has completed a lot of long distance solo unsupported rides and has captured his experiences on a blog called bikes and things. Aleda felt it would be helpful for me to talk to someone who had the experience I lack in completing multi-day rides. I met Andy for coffee at the Rapha cafe in Soho, which has become my home from home in London.
I asked Andy three questions: what do you wish you had known before you set out first time? what did you take that you didn’t need? what did not take that you wish you had?
“Eat normal food” was Andy’s number one answer. “stay away from gels and sports drinks or you will find yourself in hedges all along the route” (I will spare you the detail of that particular story). 'Secondly, take the time to stop and enjoy the route, rather than ride head down for the next stopping point’. This should be no issue as I have deliberately only booked the first four nights accommodation and we will see where it goes from there. His third point was a little more sobering ‘prepare yourself for dark moments, when you want to get off or just stop completely’. Going back to my first point in this post, 14 days is a long time to be left with just the thoughts in your head for company. I think I have learned coping strategies for this over the years and I have deliberately given myself hard training days to test my mental and physical abilities. But as military lore puts it 'no strategy survives first contact with the enemy’, so I will not know if I can cope until I have to.
For questions two and three Andy was equally forthright. What did he wish he hadn’t taken? Almost everything it turns out. It seems we all overpack with spare this and duplicate that. Try and go for bare minimum to keep the weight down as much as possible. What should he have taken? Not much it seems (other than the stuff I already plan like inner tubes and a multitool). As we part company he offers to take my GPX file of the EuroVelo5 route and chop it into smaller segments which he says I should download to my phone for offline use.
On Sunday morning feeling worse for wear after a night at a charity ball with other Warwick Lanterne Rouge CC members, I roll up to the meeting point for the usual club social ride, hoping that I can hide at the back of the steady medium paced ride and sweat out my hangover. This option is immediately removed when I am asked to lead the standard Blue of medium ride which averages 26-28kph (16/17mph if you insist on being old school, but bloody hell we turned metric in 1972 so you’ve had long enough to learn!). With some trepidation I lead a group of 11 out of Warwick and we immediately hit 30kph on the road out of town. For the next two hours the pace barely slows as we all take turns pulling on the front and hold good pace lines as we speed through the countryside on a beautiful sunny morning. When return to club HQ (Dough & Brew in Warwick) there are a lot of smiling faces as everyone has loved working together on a fast paced ride.
It says everything I love about the Club; like minded people riding together, enjoying the challenge and camaraderie. It is something the original founders of the Club have worked very hard to maintain, especially as the club has more than doubled in size in the last year since I joined. I have loved every minute of being in WLRCC and the support and reaction I have had from fellow members about the Adventure has been amazing. It took me one ride with the Club to know it was very different than others locally that I had tried and I ended my ten year exile from Club membership on the spot. Knowing there were aways other people to ride with and chat to three times a week, kept me going throughout the winter months when it is hard to motivate yourself. The rides have become the highlights on the week for me and I will miss them when I am alone making my way back to England. No doubt there will be days when I wish I had Lanterne Rouge wheel to follow and pull me home, when I am feeling a bit second hand.