I first rode from West to East back in 2009 following Alfred Wainwright’s famous Coast to Coast walk route (and recently started this route again 7-weeks ago). During that ‘ride’ by mountain bike back in 2009, we (a group of five) had given ourselves four days to complete the 200-mile trip. Easy, you might think, but the route involves many sections of carrying and pushing. We experienced a complete washout, and it forced us to ride from Kirkby Stephen to Osmotherley on the road rather than the trails.
That was the day I realised I wanted a road bike, and told myself I’d come back and ride the Coast to Coast by road bike one day.
So, with the daylight hours of each day reducing dramatically, and with every weekend in September already looking busy, I figured this would be the last good weekend to give it a stab, and announced on Wednesday night I’d give the double C2C a blast.
I fucked my road pedals up on Wednesday evening. They were early-90’s Dura-Ace pedals that had seen better days anyway. I wanted to use the Crank Bros EggBeaters but the cleats have found themselves completely fixed to my MTB shoes. That left me with the Shimano MTB SPD pedals, and I hate these. I didn’t fancy them at all so I placed an order late Wednesday night for some Shimano 105 pedals to be delivered Friday. They didn’t arrive and I was stuck with my last-choice pedal. Great.
Thursday night saw me scurrying round trying to find somewhere to stay, and to figure out an attractive route over to the West coast.
Day 1: Marske-by-the-Sea to Workington
Saturday morning came and I hit the road at 0700. It was surprisingly cold and I fished out a fleece I had packed for the evening in Workington. I was glad I had it.
My bladder (my actual bladder – not a CamelBak bladder!) is by no means the best, but on this particular day it went in to overdrive. Within my first 30-miles I had stopped for no less than four pisses – the first one after just four miles! The journey continued and I struggled to find rhythm.
Rhythm is so important on a long ride. Without it, you constantly feel like you’re battling away, that every pedal stroke is labourious and slow. It was too cold to wear just a short-sleeve jersey (with sleeves), but too warm to wear the fleece. As such, I found myself stop-starting, removing, packing, unpacking, and donning the fleece again. I also experience several instances of the chain coming off when changing in to the big chain ring. I found myself using a fair bit of foul language at times.
Nevertheless, the scenery of The Dales did not disappoint. I was treated to magnificent views of the valleys, the dry stone walls, the luscious hills, and roads that stayed relatively quiet. It really is a great place for the 2014 Tour de France to kick off next year.
I had my first sit-down rest at Hawes after 60-miles while I stopped for a sausage roll and a caramel shortbread, then I was back on the road.
The wind seemed to have picked up (so I stopped to put my fleece on again!) and the headwind made for slow riding as I passed in to Cumbria. Looking back, it felt like I had covered 30-miles by the time I got to Sadbergh, but it was only 75. After just 15-miles since my last rest I felt ready for another so I stopped for a coffee and sat outside the rather lovely Parish Church.
It was around about now I started to feel my knees. I’ve never got on well with the MTB SPDs from Shimano and I was dreading this. I don’t think the cold wind help either, but I had little choice but to carry on.
I crossed the M6 as I made my way in to Kendal on what was a very busy day with the annual Kendal Mint Cake Show taking place. The views really opened up as I climbed out towards Windermere, but I could see dark clouds surrounding the mountains ahead. Traffic was hideously busy between Windermere and Ambleside and forced regular stops when it wasn’t possible to weave in and out of the traffic. The rain started to come down heavy and although still only early, I switched the bikes lights on as a precaution.
Cutting through Grasmere I decided to head up to Keswick even though I had planned a much longer route that would take me through Eskdale > Sellafield and up the coast. I was more than happy to shave 20+ miles off the journey.
The rain eased off by the time I got to Keswick and I was glad there were only 25-miles left. I was expecting this last stretch to be a breeze; a gentle slope down to sea-level but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I initially opted for the C2C route from Keswick to the coast but this involved too many stops, twists and turns and I craved speed, so I hopped on to the A66 westbound instead. A gradual climb of probably no more than 4-5% with a headwind for 20-miles had me cursing each mile all the way to Workington. My right knee was causing a fair bit of discomfort at this point and I was glad to finally get in to Workington just before 1800.
142 miles covered in 10 hours 50. Total riding time, 9 hours 27.
The Workington Experience
The night in Workington would merit a full blog post in itself. Honestly. What a place. It wouldn’t surprise me if Morrissey had written ‘Everyday is Like Sunday’ about the place:
This is the coastal town
That they forgot to close down
Armageddon – come Armageddon!
Come, Armageddon! Come!
[If you’re from Workington, or a particularly fond of the place, please don’t read any further]
In short. I met my wife’s uncle, already drunk upon arrival
. We had a pint in the local club then went back to his house where I had a shower and he rustled up a dry jacket potato and some oven chips for me. No sauce, no cheese, no salt. I had literally taken my last mouthful and was ushered to the door to get back to the pub, where on arrival, his friends had left. I was thirsty and the Guinness was cheap and lovely. A few pints later we went to The Appleyard. What a dump, what a karaoke, what people, what the fuck. And we stayed in that place until 2330. Drunk and hungry I demolished a very delicious Chicken Satay en route home, and was asleep for half-midnight.
A whole lot more happened that night but what happens in Workington, stays in Workington.
It wasn’t the perfect day by any means, and it certainly wasn’t the most ideal of nights. How would 7 pints of Guinness feel in the morning after 6 hours of sleep? And could I manage to ride another 120-140 miles tomorrow with dodgy knees? CLICK HERE FOR DAY 2.