Looking back at the trip so far
(In the words of Bum on Bike, Charles)
The stats at the halfway point
So we have reached the end of day six and have been in the saddle for nearly 39 hours, cycling 506 miles climbing over 33,000 feet. To put this into perspective Everest stands just over 29,000 feet. We have averaged just over 13 mph and put in some 177,000 pedal strokes.
You can definitely bicycle yourself fit over three to four days, particularly when it comes to climbing those hills. Monitoring ones average heart rate is a great way to test the theory. My heart rate has declined over the last six days from a daily average of 144 to 118 today. However, the more alarming number was the maximum heart rate at 192 on day one, well above the recommended level (220 minus your age which would take it to just below 170). Ideally one should not be taking it above 70% of this for prolong periods of time. For the first two days the alarm on the Garmin was beeping with each and every climb to the irritation of co bums. Devon and Cornwall were particularly brutal and we were cycling in temperatures of between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 32 Celsius).
Trying to work out what is the right input of food to keep the energy levels while making sure it does not sit heavy on the stomach. Porridge has proved a great staple for breakfast. We look to stop every couple of hours to take on fuel as you burn through the calories. It varies from person to person, you need to listen to your body and to find your own rhythm. Taking on water regularly is as important as taking in food. Dehydration, particularly when it is hot, becomes a massive issue. With any form of endurance at some point you have to dig deep and it simply becomes mind over matter.
The biggest challenge has been a tender ‘bum’. No amount of cream or padding can make up for the number of hours in the saddle or the state of our roads. You pray that it goes completely numb but I am still living in hope.
The high speed wobble
Day four we were traveling through Herefordshire and Shropshire, which has some of the most spectacular countryside. We were descending a long steep hill (17% incline) followed by a sharp climb the other side. I was towards the back of the group which had spread out into a single file for safety as the lane was not big enough to allow two cars to pass. I was at the back taking it at a measured and controlled pace traveling at around 25 mph when my bike started to oscillate violently form left and right what is known as a ‘high speed wobble’ or ‘bike shimmy’. There are a number of theories to the cause but all inconclusive with how to bring it back under control. The perceived wisdom is that you should stay calm, apply brakes gently (braking hard will lock the bike) and rest a knee against the top bar. Easier said than done when you are hurling down a steep slope at 40 mph hanging on for dear life while your bike violently vibrating from side to side. Thoughts rushing through your head range from “how am I going to explain this to Liza and the boys” – “Where can I crash that would do the least amount of damage to the bike and me”!!. – the exit strategies or get out jail card were limited bard wire and hedges on both sides and a stationary vehicle straight ahead. “How do I managed to warn people ahead of the danger”. To add a further complication, at the bottom of hill a truck had kindly stop to let us pass leaving a two to three foot gap. There was no option but to headed for this gap and prayed. I could see Jules negotiating the gap while I rushed passed Paul who was a few feet from entering the channel. The van drivers stared at me in horror with eyes wide and mouth open as I shot through at 35 mph hitting the gravel on the side of road somehow staying up right and shot out the other side missing Jules back wheel by a whisker. Finally coming to a stop ahead at the top of the next hill with the legs shaking from adrenaline in a slight state of shock wondering how I had managed to survive!!!