Ride To The Sun.
17th June 2017, Carlisle.
Ride to the Sun had interested me for a while, so when Clare messaged me about going to this year’s I jumped at it. With a chance to ride a Virgin (train) for £8.50, I was even more eager.
Meet up with Clare at Central Station, she is using her powers of persuasion and negotiating to get our bikes loaded onto the train (apparently have to book your bikes on board). We get offered the next train with the bikes being stored in the cargo hold, so at least we will get down to the event. We are told to wait and see if the two passengers who are booked on to our original train turn up, if not, then we get their spots. Kill a bit of time chatting to the staff, telling them why there are so many bikes going to Carlisle. They think were mental and wish us well in the final minutes of the cut-off time for bike passengers, soon we are told to get ready to board as we are getting the spots as the other bikes don’t turn up on time. It’s great to be getting out of Glasgow on time.
Time to sit back and enjoy the train ride down to Carlisle. Just little over an hour later we pull into a sunny Carlisle. Grab the bikes, and get our bearings, time to navigate to the shadow of Carlisle Castle at Bitts Park.
Clare has arranged to meet a few people from a meetup group she is a member of, one girl turns up. Before we set off, I have to change her front inner tube, that turned into an hour of changing tubes and trying to locate the monster that is eating holes in them. Find a huge crack/hole in her rim and think her ride is over before it has even begun. One of the organisers comes to the rescue with a track pump and also hands over another inner tube (3rd now). He also donates a five-pound note to her rim to block the hole and hey presto it works.
An hour later than intended, the clock passes 8 pm. Clare is armed with the directions, and we point our front tyres north and set off to ride to the Sun, Edinburgh here we come.
We had planned to head off with a group, to cut down on the chance of us getting lost but due to leaving later we were in a bit of a rush just to get moving. The new plan was just to get out on the road and hopefully, we pick people up, or when people pass we can tag onto the back of them. We manage to get onto the right road, a few fast riders ride past wishing us luck, especially me on the single speed. We look around, and the Irish girl has been dropped, just Clare and me now. Soon we roll into and through Longtown, This is where things fuck up!
We intended to stop and look at the directions, if we did then we would have noticed the mistake we were about to make! In our excitement of being out riding, we have a brain fart, we follow the road right and continue on the A7 heading to Edinburgh thinking this is the right way. Wrong!
We are riding at a decent pace and the miles to the border are tumbling down. Stop off for a quick selfie at the Welcome to Scotland sign. The mood is high as we as we cross the border into Scotland. Deep down I am feeling something is not right, in my mind, I am thinking this road is far too quiet of cyclists. There is meant to be over 1000 people riding to the sun, but on this road, there seems to be only two! We ride into the village of Langholm, and this is where I ask the question. “Do you think we have fucked up and went the wrong way?” A look at the directions and it’s a huge YES ya pair of tits!
We have two options now! Ride all the way back to Longtown, then take the road for Gretna Green, like we were meant to. Or shall we ride the B7068 road, taking us across into Lockerbie and from there we can get back onto the correct roads. B7068 wins, Lockerbie here we come!
Thankfully the road doesn’t have too many steep inclines, but there are enough rolling hills to get pissed off with. Darkness is also coming, and with this, it brings sleepy yawns and heavy eyelids. After a few hours, we manage to crest the last hill and see one of the greatest sights so far. Street lights of Lockerbie! We let out a few yelps of delight as we feel part of the event now, but it’s also good to be into some sort of civilisation again. A huge boost to the moral as we ride through the town and get on the B7076 and head north to Moffat and keep our date with the chippy.
A long and slow 17 miles later we hit Moffat. Get to the chippy, it’s good to see some other folks on bikes outside, think we are the last ones to arrive. The other riders pull away as we sit down to the last of the fish and chips, we are lone cyclists once again. I am suffering big time, my head is pounding, obviously not drinking enough. Also, I feel like shit, the consumption of a gel a while back doesn’t sit well in my empty stomach (might have been out of date?) With the feeling that I was going to puke at any minute, I don’t eat any of the last supper. By not eating it didn’t help me refuel for the remaining 55 miles to go.
Moffat from Carlisle is looked at the halfway point of the event, roughly 45 miles. It’s also one of the last places for refuelling this late at night. My Garmin was showing 60 miles covered, so we had ridden a massive detour to this chippy date. Water bottles get refilled, and now it’s time to roll out and tackle the seven-mile climb up the Devils Beef Tub. (best road name ever)
As we ride up, up and up, our moral goes down, down and down. I pull over and stop for Clare to catch up, her lights blinding me as she creeps ever closer. One look at each other and we can tell we are both finished with this cycle!
This is not enjoyable anymore, it never was going to be super fun, but this is a struggle. We are alone on the high pass, in the middle of the night and the temperature is dropping as the minute’s tick by. We have over nine miles to get to the Cyclorave at the Crook Inn, Tweedsmuir. This is our next chance to eat if banana man is still hanging around dishing out the yellow fruit. Can we make it? We discuss what to do, the topic that Clare could get our emergency driver Jas to come and rescue us from our looming nightmare. At one in the morning halfway up a hill, this is the best idea of 2017. The SOS call is placed and we decide that a two mile ride back down the hill to Moffat is the best option as A. It’s downhill and B. it’s not that far off the motorway for Jas to come and get us.
We find a bus shelter to get us out cold, some locals head home from the pub and ask why the funk are cyclist waiting for a bus at this time in the morning “you’re in for a long wait” they shout and laugh as the stagger up the main street. Youtube and Facebook keep us entertained for a while as we have used up all our chat in our 65 miles cycle. Jas pulls up after an hour, we load the bikes onto the car and seek the warmth and comfort of the car. (first time I have ever looked forward to seeing a BMW driver)
Was it the right decision to quit, YIP it sure was. I had the onset of the Bonk and to think I would make the ride to Edinburgh on a few gels that I had left in my pocket was a joke. Also, I was freezing. I only had a lightweight jacket and an even lighter gilet to keep me warm. This set up wasn’t even enough to keep me warm going up half the Beef Tub never mind descending from it.
A huge learning curve for next year. Learn to follow directions correctly and not just blast up the road. Ride with a bunch as you can share the riding on the front but more importantly enjoy chatting with folk, this should take the mind of the grind. Take my saddle bag with a better jacket packed and pack a lot better food options, rather than out of date gels. Last of all is to book the bike onto the train and don’t gamble on getting it at aboard the train at the platform.
Carlisle we shall see you in 2018.