I registered to join this years event some months ago and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) website gave me access to invaluable training advice that I followed to improve my strength and stamina for the bike ride.
A few weeks before setting off a BHF email then gave a timely reminder of my responsibility to check the bicycle was suitably equipped for cycling on a public road at night. The message arrived on a rainy day and being stuck for something to do……
Browsing the internet for guidance a search engine took me to Cycling UKs information page that explains what the law requires. My front and rear lights were legally compliant but not the pedals; regulations require a set of four reflectors coloured amber and marked BS 6102/2, positioned so that one reflector is plainly visible to the front and another to the rear of each pedal.
Cycling UK point out that although the likelihood of being challenged for not having pedal reflectors is low, the absence of reflectors may be regarded as contributory negligence should an accident occur. So 2 clicks later I sourced two pairs of British Standard pedal reflectors that arrived by pony express the following day. 10 minutes later they were in place.
Looking proudly at my handiwork a passing glance at the tyres sent a shiver down my my spine. The treads were wearing thin and indentation marks on the sidewalls had to be a gypsies warning that bad things could happen. Would I really want to fix punctures during a midnight cycle ride in October? No thank you I would not. As for the mudguards ‘decidedly shabby‘ came to mind…..umm, the growing shopping list could cost a few quid. And it did.
In addition to buying a new set of clincher tyres I also ordered the manufacturers inner tubes that have greater substance than cheap spares. Inflating them to be suitably reassured I wasn’t starting with a leaky piece of rubber, I let the air out and on they went. As for the new tyres – gosh, the beading was really, really tough. Although blessed with strong grip strength my thumbs ached from the force needed to work them into the rims.
After attaching my new mudguards I refitted the wheels and went for a bicycle ride. Beneath the front mudguard its turning tyre repeatedly wobbled right of centre. Groan…..mauling the tyre over the rim must have bent the wheel.
Returning home I turned my bicycle upside down to investigate. The wheel was centred and secure but several spokes were slack. Could I find my spoke key ? No chance, I had to buy another.
Aided by a neighbour whose working life had involved the black art of wheel truing (straightening), my wheel wobble wobbled away for a safer rolling bike.
After stress testing the spokes off I went for a couple of hours cycling and wow, what a difference. The steering was a seamless extension to my arms, speed an extension to leg movement and as for comfort, I was at one with my bike – perfectly balanced.
The ride: Saturday 7th October
Today began at 6:30am with a dog walk and breakfast, then the 08:20 train from Harlech to Shrewsbury from where I would cycle to Runcorn, a distance of roughly 50 miles. This is the same mileage as this evenings cycle ride from Manchester to Blackpool for the Heart Foundation.
My ability to undertake these additional miles had been made possible by following the BHF pre-ride training plan. Some weeks before this evenings event I became aware that a 50 mile bicycle ride was well within my comfort zone. ‘Going those extra miles’ would leave my conscience clear that those sponsoring me were not being taken advantage of.
If I wasn’t spoilt by the beauty of living in Harlech I would probably live in Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire, where there is much to appreciate:
- Quantum Leap commemorates Charles Darwin who was born here.
- Shrewsbury’s folk festival is visited by thousands and countless other people listen on-line to its streamed performances
This haven of self-indulgence bakes my favourite strawberry and cream cake sliced and sold in a more than generous portion size…….Yummy !
The streets of Shrewsbury are adorned with flowers and the place is well known for staging the world’s longest running annual horticultural event, due in no small measure to the late Percy Thrower who worked as the parks superintendent
When we married and brought our first home we watched Percy on the television programme ‘Gardeners’ World’ and learn’t how to grow fruit and vegetables. With todays need for food banks I wonder if updated guidance could help some of the less fortunate to grow and then cook their own nutritional meals.
On the outskirts of Shrewsbury I cycled through the village of Merrington where Percy built his own house. Called ‘The Magnolias’ it sat in a 2 acre plot that was a location for Gardeners’ World.
Just before setting out on this trip I discovered that Percys’ house and garden no longer exists. I did pass a social housing development called ‘The Magnolias’ and a little further along the road a street sign bears his name.
For the next 6 hours it poured with rain. I was so pleased to have brought my waterproofs: a rain hat, sealskin gloves, overshoes and over-trousers. As visibility was poor I turned on a very high intensity rear light as a warning to approaching motorists.
Arriving in Runcorn I unclipped my pannier and handlebar bags and left them at a hotel before continuing to the BHF starting point at the Trafford centre on the outskirts of Manchester.
With less weight it took just 2 hrs to cycle the remaining 25 miles. The rain stopped.
There is no shortage of food outlets at the Trafford centre. With an hour to go before the ride I enjoyed some warm food and brought additional servings of coffee that I poured into my Stanley Thermos flask for the night ahead.
According to the British Heart Foundation over 760 people registered for this years event. I am unsure what the collective noun is for people on pedal bikes. Could it be a ‘Café of cyclists’ or is it a ‘Herd’ ?
Some folks were just like me, an ordinary leisure cyclist supporting a great cause. Others were club cyclists, others were groups of friends. This is the 3rd time I have taken part.
On my first ride in 2013 I arrived before anyone else and became the first cyclist in first batch of riders to be sent off. Despite the official route being well signed I took the wrong turning off a roundabout and several cyclists followed. A marshal came to our rescue.
Two years later I drove to Blackpool where transport took our ‘herd ‘ to the starting point in Manchester. There was no way I wanted to be first on our coach and what a blunder that decision turned out to be. Being last in my bicycle was first out.
How I hate being first and whether cycling or in life first place is a very bad place. When you are 1st things can only get worse. A dozen or so cyclists assumed I knew where to go and followed me out of the car park and around the Trafford Centre perimeter to the starting point in the car park that we had set out from.
Tonight at the stroke of midnight we all set off towards Blackpool. Being with others acted as a motivation booster. I quickly settled into a comfortable cadence that was occasionally interrupted to stop at red traffic lights. Within the first few miles several cyclists had pulled off the road and onto the pavement to repair punctures. I was so pleased not to be amongst them.
BHF rides are exceptionally well organised. We all stopped for refreshments at 25 miles. Trestle tables were staffed by hard working volunteers offering fruit, cake, hot soup and bread rolls. I drank water, ate couple of oranges and set off with an energy bar.
During the cycle route it is surprising the number of people that clap and shout encouraging words to the passing riders. Many are just returning from wherever they have been on their night out. One man gave me £10. If he is reading this, yes, I did hand it over to the the BHF and thank you again for your unexpected donation.
This evening I was chatting to a chap who was doing his first midnight ride. He was worried about falling asleep whilst cycling. I’ve known of people falling asleep when driving, but is it possible when cycling? Along the ride an emergency ambulance passed by, so perhaps it is.
Arriving in Blackpool its world famous illuminations twinkle to feed cyclists with that final boost of enthusiasm to cycle along the golden mile and arrive at the Tower Ballroom and its dazzling finishing line. ‘Yep’, it started to rain again but hey-ho who cares.
Supporters cheered every cyclist as we received a BHF finishers medal – the icing on top of a truely wonderful and worthwhile event.
Since leaving Shrewsbury I had cycled 125 miles. It had taken me 13½ hrs at an average speed of 9¾ mph.
The time was nearly 6:30am, I had been awake for 24 hours and reached the finishing line before 2 thirds of the other entrants
Not bad for a pensioner eh !
After returning to Manchester I cycled to a nearby railway station and caught a train to Runcorn leaving me with a short cycle ride to the hotel I had booked into the previous evening. After much needed shower I retired to bed having now been awake for 30 hrs.
Thank you to all those who have sponsored this years night ride and to the BHF team that made it such a success.