Updated: Aug 17, 2021
I'm not sure how many readers of this blog are familiar with the concept of there being different types of fun, but it goes something like this: - Type 1 fun - actually fun while you are doing it - Type 2 fun - not fun while you are doing it, but fun in retrospect - Type 3 fun - not fun at the time or in retrospect, but provides a great story.
It's probably likely that all the hardest things you have ever done in life were type 2 or 3 fun. You know like, remember that time you almost got off your bike and cried like a child in the Welsh mountains (this happened to me) or when you fell off a scooter while racing it in the dark drunk, on a karting circuit not wearing a helmet ( this also happened to me). The first two days of this ride have been 90% type 2 fun. I can't remember much fun after we reached Durham on Saturday morning. Much of yesterday was a mix of types 2 and 3. It was endured rather than enjoyed. But today has been type 1 from start to finish. From meeting and making new friends, to riding new roads and trails, to amazing hosts treating a complete stranger like an old friend. It's been excellent. "Do you remember now why you do these rides asked Mrs B on the phone this evening?". Yes. Yes I do. Trevor and I rode out a Wigan in a hurry this morning (who doesn’t?) and quickly met up with Christian, the second YouTube channel subscriber to join me on the ride. Even writing that seems weird still, but it's true, total strangers are taking time off work to ride with me because they have watched my videos and decided "he's not a knob", as Christian put it. Who can resist such praise? Christian had mapped out the first half of this ride through back roads, trails and canal towpaths, trying to avoid town centres and the obligatory angry white van man. He's a locksmith by trade and a funny guy and told me some great stories as we rode along. The best of which was about a bloke who rang him up in the first lockdown asking him if he could come around his house to fix something because Christian was a 'key worker'. Christian had to explain that's not what key worker meant to the irate idiot on the other end of the call. You couldn't make it up. The 50km from Wigan to the Delamere Forest cafe flew past and I convinced myself my legs felt great. Which worked right up until we reached the only garmin numbered climb of the day and a large elastic cord said 'where do you think you are going?'. At Delamere we met up with Jonathan and Claire, two more subscribers who were also going to host me overnight. They are two seasoned bike tourers who make me look like I am just riding my Brompton to the shops. Jonathan had plotted an alternative route for us to Holmes Chapel where they live, that included more fantastic trails and B roads. Christian peeled off before the end and headed back home, but stopped for a pint and sent me a photo just to prove it. You have to like that approach to cycling. With only 500m of climbing in 83km, this felt like the recovery day I needed. At Holmes Chapel I said goodbye to my super domestique for the opening three days, Trevor. He has been good as gold, providing a wheel for me to follow the whole time. In fact I think the only time I was ahead of him was on a downhill section where my extra 19kg made a difference. I can't tell you how grateful I am to have someone take a day off work just to ride slower in front of me while I mutter FFS every 10 minutes. The same goes for his better half Bridget who took time off work to drive us to the start in Newcastle on Friday. My comedy moment of the day came close to the finish when we rounded a country lane and I said out loud "ooh look at that hedge" in a tribute to the absent Mrs B. I am obviously missing her.
I'll finish by sharing this. When complete strangers invite you into their home, provide the means to clean your bike, your kit and yourself, you know that you are on to a winner. When they then provide a fantastic meal and cold beer and wine, you might be inclined to think you did something well in a previous life. Jonathan and Claire have been amazing hosts and helped deliver a day of type 1 fun.