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307 Miles – Report

Background
At the beginning of 2010 I was keen to make the most of the year ahead and to get out and spend more time on my bikes. I began to plan a number of rides and challenges, from short local rides to longer more intense ‘journeys’.

One of the major journeys I was planning was to cycle from my home in Rochester, Kent, to my parents’ home in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire – a distance in excess of 300 miles (483km). Then I began thinking a little more about it…

In the latter half of 2009 my father was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks the upper and lower motor neurones. I didn’t know much about the disease so thought I’d take a look around. Then I found the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA), a registered charity, which supports sufferers and families in addition to funding awareness and research programmes.

So, with that in mind, I decided to cycle the 300+ miles and raise money for the MNDA at the same time.

I set myself an initial sponsorship/donation ‘target’ of £1,000 but soon raised this to £2,000 due to the fantastic generosity of my family and friends. At time of writing, I’ve raised £2,664 which is around 133% of my target!
(http://www.justgiving.com/DavidMDavies – please donate if you can!)


The Route
With my ride to Hyde Park last year totalling 77 miles in one day, I knew that that distance was achievable in a day so I planned to complete roughly that distance each day which equated to a journey duration of four days.

Next thing to decide on was the route. My usual route back to Pembrokeshire (by car) was not an option as it was primarily Motorway-based and as bicycles are not permitted on those roads I needed to find an alternative route. Then it occurred to me that there’s a single road which starts in London and ends in Fishguard, where my parents live: the A40. I still had to decide on the route into London but the route from London to Fishguard was determined by the A40 itself.

To get into London I decided to follow the route I took when I cycled into Hyde Park in 2009, through Gravesend, passing over the M25 motorway and following the River Thames to Tower Bridge in Central London. I’d then join the start of the A40 near St. Paul’s Cathedral and head onwards to Fishguard.

The downside was that the majority of the 300+ miles were going to be very busy with fast-moving traffic. This wasn’t going to be a pleasant ride in the countryside.

The Route

The Route - East England, through London and on to West Wales


Logistics

300+ miles. Over 300 miles alone, with no support or backup. The journey was going to be me, alone with my bike. I therefore would need to carry all I needed for the journey on the back of the bike.

New purchase number 1: Topeak Super Tourist DX Rear Rack
New purchase number 2: MTX TrunkBag DX
New purchase number 3: Altura Arran 36 Rear Panniers

All my kit would now need to fit into these bags and then fit to the back of the bike – and there seemed to be a lot of kit! Not many clothes though, but energy gels, bars and recovery drinks (all from Science In Sport), safety kit and toiletries. One dry set of clothes for going out for meals in the nights and dry t-shirts for each day of cycling – dry kit being stored in Sea To Summit dry sacks.

Additional kit included a Camelbak hydration pack, iPod (for use in the nights), a couple of Fenix torches, tools, spare inner tube, short and long-fingered gloves, batteries, Garmin 60CSx GPS, First Aid kit, and bike lights.

Talking of lights, I bought a Cateye TL LD1100 Rear Light specifically for this journey. With the A40 having a lot of very busy and fast dual-carriageway sections, I wanted a bright rear light to ensure that I was seen as I cycled along. The speed limit on these dual-carriageway sections would be 70mph (112km/h) but cars would often be doing in excess of that! For that reason, I had the TL LD1100 switched on and in one of its (numerous) flashing modes at all times.

All this kit made the bike very heavy – I could barely lift the rear wheel of the bike off the ground when the bike was fully loaded. But with it only being me, my bike and the open road, I had to carry all I needed.

(Text continues below photos)

Kit

The bike fully loaded

Rear view


Accommodation

With the route and logistics covered, I began to look for suitable accommodation at regular intervals along the route – roughly every 70 miles or so.

Using Google Maps I searched around the 70 mile marks of the route for Bed & Breakfast accommodation. Day 2 would put me conveniently in Gloucester and within a few miles of an old friend’s house – he and his wife kindly agreed to let me stay there for the night, so that save me some money and also let me catch up with them and all their news.

  • Day 1, Rochester to High Wycombe: ~74miles, Rosling House B&B.
  • Day 2, High Wycombe to Gloucester: ~70miles, friend’s house.
  • Day 3, Gloucester to Brecon: ~69miles, The Grange Guest House.
  • Day 4, Brecon to Fishguard: ~95miles, destination and my parents house!


The Ride
– Day 1, Rochester to High Wycombe
I set off around 8.30am on Saturday the 3rd of April 2010 with my girlfriend there to wave me goodbye and to wish me luck. It was a wet Saturday morning and although the sun came out to see me off, dark and ominous clouds remained on the horizon.

I was glad that I’d fitted the new tyres, grips and saddle to the Trek as they greatly improved the on-road performance of the mountain bike. The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres made the ride much smoother and reduced the bike’s rolling resistance relative to the standard-fit ‘tractor’ tyres. However, if I ventured slightly off the road into the verge, the bike quickly lost traction and the bike would slip out of control. On-road performance was excellent though.

Not long into the ride and I had to break out the waterproof trousers as the heavens opened and the rain fell. The tyres were kicking up a lot of water and dirt straight into my face and up my nose, making riding difficult. Fortunately as I cycled through Gravesend, a little over 8 miles into the journey, I passed the Cycles UK bike shop and stopped in there to purchase a Crud Catcher mud guard which fitted underneath the frame to catch the up-spray. The guy in the shop kindly fitted it to the bike as I used their toilet!

DartfordAt around 15 miles and 1hr 45mins, I was standing on the bridge over the M25 Motorway at the Dartford Crossing and the sun was back out.

I took the opportunity to have a quick snack and a drink of water whilst stretching my legs and resting my bum before jumping back on and heading towards Erith.

Just before 11.30am I was cycling through Woolwich, about 26 miles from Rochester. Eight minutes later I was at the Thames Barrier and in the cafe resting , eating a bacon baguette and enjoying a coffee. I thought I’d stop here as I knew it was going to be difficult to stop in the centre of London with the bike without locking it up and removing all the bags.

1.10pm and 34.5 miles from home I stopped at Tower Bridge and took a couple of photos of the bike before crossing the River Thames and moving further into London. This is where I hit my first problem – GPS route planning.

Tower Bridge

I’d planned my route through London to the start of the A40 and outwards towards High Wycombe on the computer and then downloaded it into the GPS device. However, when I tried to get the device to navigate the route it complained that I had too many ‘via points’ in the route and that it couldn’t do it. Hmm, this was annoying as I had to find the A40 and its route through London (where it often goes by local street names and not the “A40”). Using the GPS and Google Maps on my mobile phone, I managed to cobble together a replacement route from outside St. Paul’s Cathedral to High Wycombe – however, reviewing the GPS data (which was logged throughout my journey) I see that I missed out some of the A40 due to traffic problems and navigation errors on my part. But I eventually got out of London safely and in one piece.

After an area of confusion, I headed north from Hyde Park and at 2.42pm and just under 42 miles from home I joined the the A40 at the Westway raised dual-carriageway section. Although this was sign posted as 50mph, cars were travelling in excess of this and without a pavement (sidewalk) to provide some protection, this was not a pleasant place to be cycling. In fact, the ride from here all the way to the M40 Motorway at 4.25pm that afternoon (57 miles from home) was a nightmare of fast dual-carriageway traffic. At this point, the A40 splits off and the M40 Motorway heads onwards to High Wycombe, here I continued along the A40 through Denham and along the quieter route.

I hit the centre of High Wycombe around 5.45pm and 70 miles from Rochester. My hastily prepared ‘alternative’ route took me off the A40 after High Wycombe,just before the village of Piddington, along some rural roads to the first night’s accommodation at the Rosling House B&B. This wasn’t an ideal route as there was a fantastically steep country lane to push the bike up – in 1.67 miles I climbed 300 feet, which was extremely difficult after a day of cycling and with such a heavy bike! Needless to say I was exhausted when I reached the B&B.

I received a fantastic welcome at Rosling House and the owners helped me unload the bike and lock it up safely for the evening.

My location and speed for the entire journey was logged by my Garmin 60CSx GPS receiver. I downloaded all the data to the computer when back in Rochester and it’s nowavailable on the Garmin Connect website to review. You can get all the summary data such as altitude, speed and my track – you can even ‘play back’ the journey with the ‘player’ option (near the top-right of the page), it’s best to select the full screen option if you do this.

Note that there are some anomalies in the data (due to tunnels etc) and therefore the data appears to show a summary max speed of 112mph on Day 1 – I didn’t really cycle that fast!

The map below shows the track as logged by my GPS receiver during Day 1. Click here to view all Day 1 data.

Day 1


The Ride
– Day 2, High Wycombe to Gloucester
I didn’t want to get out of bed on the Sunday morning after a great night of rest in a comfortable bed. But eventually I dragged myself out and hit the road around 8.40am after a fantastic cooked breakfast.

Oxford13.7 miles of riding took me to the next fast dual-carriageway section, signposted to Oxford. Dual-carriageway meant no fun. This was worse though as it turned out to be up hill for the next 31 miles, climbing a slow and steady 640 feet. I struggled during Day 2 primarily due to this slow ascent and the dual-carriageway. Cars passing you in excess of 70mph whilst you struggle uphill with aching knees and a sore bum makes for stressful cycling. I struggled physically and emotionally.

Mile after mile of struggle. Mile after mile of dual-carriageway. Mile after mile of persistent, energy-sapping headwind. Horrible.

CheltenhamThe good news, with hindsight, was that around the 50.5 mile mark it was mostly downhill to Cheltenham over 15 miles away and 774 feet down with then only a small incline through to Gloucester!

The last few miles were difficult though as my energy reserves were gone and I was emotionally drained after a long and hard day of cycling. I watched the GPS slowly counting down the miles to my friend’s house as I struggled with every single push of the pedals.

I arrived to another great welcome and the bike was soon locked up for the night. Refreshed, showered and watered, I was ready for a big pub meal with my friend. We also met another friend who drove down for the meal from Hagley to say hello and give me support.

I did, however, struggle to stay awake during the meal!

The map below shows the track as logged by my GPS receiver during Day 2. Click here to view all Day 2 data.

Day 1


The Ride
– Day 3, Gloucester to Brecon
Day 3 saw the introduction of Nurofen painkillers into my daily diet! I only got through the rest of the journey by taking these painkillers as my knees were killing me and sitting on the saddle was getting increasingly uncomfortable. After the painkillers kicked in though, the pain was just about bearable…

Despite the pain, Day 3 was better as I was heading into Wales and this gave me a morale boost as I headed in the direction of ‘home’. The roads were generally quieter and more relaxed during this stage and the riding was therefore far less stressful.

Having left my friend’s at 8.30am, I reached Ross on Wye a little over 2hrs 30mins later, a journey of around 20 miles, which put me and my heavy bike on an average of 8mph. I found a quiet residential street to rest on the north side of Ross, enjoying some home-made sandwiches before pushing on.

31 miles into the day, at 1pm, I crossed into Wales. The sun and the daffodils were out and a smile was on my face.

Wales

Only another 38 miles from here until a shower and a bed in Brecon… again, I pushed on.

During this day I began to have doubts about completing the journey in only four days. The last day was scheduled to be 95 miles and I was struggling to complete 70 miles in a day due to exhaustion, the headwind and the pain from most of my lower body. I thought about this for most of the day and eventually decided that I’d have to split the final day’s distance into two – adding a fifth day to my overall journey. This meant that I needed an additional B&B somewhere equidistant between Brecon and Fishguard. A phone call to my parents got them on the case to locate a suitable establishment whilst I cycled on.

The Brecon Beacons soon came into sight and the tops of the mountain range were covered with a layer of snow. I began to hope that the A40 didn’t head too far into the Beacons! Fortunately it doesn’t but that didn’t mean that there weren’t some serious hills between me and Brecon. The worst was at a small town called Bwlch. I could barely push the bike two paces up the hill (Old Road) without having to stop. I was pushing the bike up the hill, leaning almost parallel to the bike’s frame! Again, I struggled.

Eventually I reached Brecon. 69 miles and 9hrs 45mins after leaving Gloucester. It was time for a shower, a very large pub meal, a couple of pints and then bed.

The map below shows the track as logged by my GPS receiver during Day 3. Click here to view all Day 3 data.

Day 1


The Ride
– Day 4, Brecon to Carmarthen
As I had decided to split the final leg, Day 4 was going to be the shortest day with a 43 mile ride from Brecon down into Carmarthenshire to a small town on the outskirts of Carmarthen called Nantgaredig.

I had to take a lot of painkillers to get going out of Brecon. I couldn’t stand the pain whilst cycling on the flat around the town let alone any of the hills which stood before me and the next B&B. In severe pain, I continued whilst waiting for the painkillers to do the job. I walked, pushing the bike along the side of the road until I was warmed up enough and ‘painkilled’ enough to get on the bike and pedal.

CarmarthenshireThe journey down from Brecon towards Carmarthen (approx. sea level) was very nice. After the 11 mile mark, it was downhill from 870 feet to the the Bed & Breakfast at Nantgaredig, around 32 miles away. The road was quiet, tree-lined and the sun was shining again. Birds sang and small streams bubbled alongside and under the road – this was a nice day.

43 miles later and I arrived in Nantgaredig just before 4pm and just as the rain fell. Big, heavy rain.

My parents had done a fantastic job of finding a suitable B&B. Ty Castell is set on the banks of the River Towy with fantastic river-side gardens and (unusually) a licensed restaurant. Met warmly by the proprietors with fresh coffee, the bike was locked up for the night and I freshened up and rested before sitting down for an excellent meal, wine and coffee. Excellent accommodation and excellent food.

The map below shows the track as logged by my GPS receiver during Day 4. Click here to view all Day 4 data.

Day 4


The Ride
– Day 5 (The Extra Day), Carmarthen to Fishguard
With a little over 50 miles to cycle, I left the Guest House at a leisurely 9.05am. A nice surprise was that my hosts prepared me some excellent sandwiches for the journey – completely free of charge and ‘on the house’. These thick-cut tasty sandwiches really helped me though the final day’s ride!

33 Miles To GoIt was a nice, bright morning and I was looking forward to getting to the end of the journey and arriving in Fishguard later that day. Having already taken my painkillers, I set of with the pain of the previous four days already subdued to tolerable levels.

Nantgaredig is about 6 miles out from Carmarthen so there was some quiet cycling left before I hit the next busy section, where the A40 becomes the primary road to Fishguard – dual-carriageway with fast and heavy traffic. Once I was the other side of Carmarthen I knew the road well having travelled it many times by car… but never by bike.

By bike, this stretch of road seems bigger, wider, longer and more undulating than it does in the car and the ‘flat’ sections no longer appear ‘flat’.

At the 22 mile mark, just after Whitland, I reached one of the points I’d been dreading: Pengawse Hill – a long 380 foot climb over 1.75 miles up into Llanddewi Velfrey. A great hill when you’re in the car as you can use it to overtake the slow lorries, but on the bike it really was a killer.

I survived that climb (just) by walking and pushing.

Still in pain and suffering mental and physical exhaustion, I pushed the bike up many of the bigger hills and even along some of the flats. I stopped a few times and enjoyed my sandwiches and topped up my energy with the gels and energy bars, yet still I struggled.

At 31 miles I stopped for a rest and phoned my sister. She wanted to meet me between Haverfordwest and Fishguard, as she’s a keen cyclist, so I needed to advise here of where I was so she could begin to cycle out to meet me. My family and a few friends could view my location, and track my progress, using Google’s Latitude service which updated them via my mobile phone’s location, but my sister didn’t have access to that, so I called. She began to prepare and I plodded on.

Our paths eventually crossed just under 41 miles into my last day of cycling, at Treffgarne. She was pleased to see me and very chirpy – I, however, was knackered and pretty grumpy!

We cycled on towards Fishguard, my sister following behind. Soon it was evident to her that I wasn’t really relishing the company and she kindly cycled on ahead, keeping the family informed of my approach to Fishguard, as I continued alone.

Eventually I reached the outskirts of Fishguard and the town sign where I stopped to take my final photographs of the trip before cycling on into the town centre. A few snaps later and I was off for the final 0.5 mile ride passing my parents’ neighbours on the roadside who were out to cheer me on!

In the town centre I was greeted by my family, my girlfriend, a few family friends and the Mayor of Fishguard & Goodwick!

I had arrived! 307 miles from Rochester to Fishguard. Travelling across England and Wales, through city and countryside.

I was home.

I achieved my personal challenge.

I raised over £2,600 for the MNDA charity.

The map below shows the track as logged by my GPS receiver during Day 5. Click here to view all Day 5 data.

Day 4

Postscript
I struggled on all but Day 1: struggled with the physical pain and discomfort during the ride and also with motivation. Knowing that I was raising money for charity pushed me on through the pain. I didn’t want to stop, I didn’t want to quit.

Looking back, I’m happy that I did it. It seems so long ago now. Asked whether I’d do it all again, I have said “no”, but my view may be changing… Should I do a longer ride? I just don’t know. Perhaps I’ll just stick to casual rides in the future. I’m just not sure!

It really was a great experience.

Many thanks to:

  • Everyone who has donated money, either here on JustGiving.com or using the traditional paper forms.
  • My mother, sister and my girlfriend who have taken paper sponsor forms around and raised a lot of money off-line.
  • My father for his help, advice and for monitoring my progress online via Google’s Latitude service and ensuring that I was safe and on track. Oh, and for finding accommodation for the night of Day 4.
  • The Mayor of Fishguard & Goodwick, Mr Gwilym Price, for welcoming me to Fishguard on the Wednesday afternoon.

My ride is over but if you would like to donate to the Motor Neurone Disease Association in support of me and my ride, you still can and it would be very much appreciated. You can do so online using debit or credit cards from any country! Just click the logo below or this link http://www.justgiving.com/DavidMDavies


Me

Me! - My first posting of an image of me!

Mayor

Met By The Mayor of Fishguard And Goodwick (Gwilym Price)

11 comments

  1. […] Read the full story of my charity cycle ride, my struggles, the kit I took and review my route via t…. […]


  2. […] « 307 Miles For Charity Charity Fame Friday April 23, 2010 Having completed my 300+ mile cycle ride, and being met by the Mayor of Fishguard and Goodwick, my little adventure made it into the […]


  3. […] Dave On Dahon Dave's experiences on two wheels « Charity Fame Do My Knees Still Work? Saturday April 24, 2010 Popped down the road on the Dahon for my first ride on a bike since my 300+ charity ride. […]


  4. […] Dave On Dahon Dave's experiences on two wheels « Do My Knees Still Work? PowerPax – Battery Caddy Sunday April 25, 2010 I bought a few of these PowerPax battery caddies to safely store my battery supplies during my charity ride from Rochester to Fishguard. […]


  5. […] May 1, 2010 Having recently invested in some panniers and a rack bag for my ‘epic’ ride across Britain, I thought that I should really maximise the use out of them (as they weren’t […]


  6. […] Saturday June 12, 2010 Well, it looks like all sponsorship/donations are in for my 307 mile ride for charity.  My total is now at £2,889.10 (144% of my target) – a brilliant total, my thanks to […]


  7. Nice Site


  8. […] It was a year ago today, back on the 3rd of April 2010, when I set out on my 307 mile epic journey for charity. […]


  9. Dave,
    Great to hear your tales – and see the classic bike-by-the-sign photos. How many of us do that ? Raise your hands ! Must be a solo bike thing. I unpacked at Gatwick a few years ago, sans GPS, hit the road with an atlas page photocopy of the road (1:500,000), and eventually found Brighton that evening. With a similar state of mind and personal fuel supply exhausted. Plus 9 hours jetlag. The Guiness was like silk that night.

    And great obs on the Dahon – I’m thinking of one for my car (C-7 eco) during a trip along US west coast later this month. Can’t imagine a better idea than stopping at a roadside picnic spot, unfolding the bike, and then say cycling across the Golden Gate bridge or along the San Diego waterfront for a couple of hours.

    …D’ryl/Alberta, Canada


    • Hi,
      Thanks for stopping by and for commenting here!

      Ahhh, a Guiness is always good but I have to admit that you earned it that night!

      David


  10. hello dave

    i was amazed at your trip – especially as you put up with the traffic.

    i’d love to ask you a few things about the road/route if i may, could you possibly contact me?

    ian douglas64@hotmail.com



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