On Thursday 5th September the third annual Sons of Bitumen UK cycle ride began. The chosen route for this year's event is Hadrian's Cycleway, part of the Sustrans Challenge series. We decided to use this opportunity to raise money for a worthwhile cause that's very close to a lot of the people on this fund raising event. Starting at the Roman Baths in Ravenglass and finishing at the Roman fort in South Shields, the route is almost 180 miles, including the odd diversion for accommodation. Hit the following link to see the Sons of Bitumen's first blog entry for our Hadrian's Wall Cycling Challenge.
It was the best of days, it was the worst of days. We woke to grey skies and the promise of wind, rain and a cracking hill to climb up.
A good pace was set and we had soon clocked 12 miles in the rain so it was time for a brew and a cake.
We headed out towards the Solway, an area of outstanding natural beauty apparently. Nobody noticed.
The prevailing wind on these islands is south west, yes? Not today. A relentless wind from the frozen north was a constant and unwelcome companion, but with everyone taking their turn at the front of the peloton we pulled each other along .
We were soon knocking off the miles with an average speed of 20 mph at one stage, hoping to find somewhere out of the rain to have lunch.
Dont know what the Romans gave their navvies for lunch when they were starting their wall but we couldn't scare up a sandwich in such a godforsaken place.
Re-fueled on tea, coffee, bananas and chocolate the peloton charged, in the way a collection of asthmatic sloths might charge, towards Carlisle.
By this stage every slight incline hurt and every slight down slope was embraced.
We rolled into town together. Everything was dampened apart from our spirits .
Day 2 done - tomorrow has to be easier
What a difference a day makes.
After a short delay for a little bit of bike maintenance and we put Carlisle to our backs.
The sun made a welcome appearance as we headed east along the route of the wall.
We finally got up close to parts of Hadrian's Wall and we took the opportunity to stage a few photos with the solitary Scotsman in our party.
We stopped at the Samson arms for an excellent lunch washed down with a couple of pints of the stuff that fortifies the soul and pressed on.
The hills started coming more regularly now and getting steadily steeper, providing sightseeing opportunities on the downhills, but we started picking up signs for our accommodation not long after Haltwhistle which helped.
At 5pm we roll into the yha at Once Brewed .
A shower and a big plate of lasagne later, we reflected on a really enjoyable day in the saddle.
To ensure that we kept to the schedule, the team were woken by a bike horn being sounded up and down the corridor of the Youth Hostel. It's what the Romans would have done.
It was the last leg and the plan was to set off as soon as everyone had cleared their Full English. All reinvigorated by a good brekkie and the reappearance of blue skies, we rolled out and headed for the final pair of serious climbs. Within minutes we were all struggling as the first climb is on us before the sausage and bacon had a chance to settle.
A timely spot for a breather presented stunning views back across the valley towards Vindolando, the remains of an impressive major Roman fort.
The peloton pressed on through Hexham and then passing the first tee of Tynedale golf club to the bemusement of the Members in the 19th. We went straight down the middle and it was a fair way.
The stunning rolling Northumberland countryside was soon behind us as we hit the banks of the Tyne with the next two hours spent weaving along the busy towpath. At one point a feisty toddler on a bike almost took the Yellow Jersey out of the ride by refusing to move aside. Eventually, the forty-something outwitted the lad and passed him.
Soon we were amidst the industrial suburbs of Newcastle and heading for the City Centre. With the famous Tyne Bridge ahead we regrouped and set off towards the busy Sunday market on the towpath. Without an obvious diversion, we inched along between the stalls ensuring none of the team made a beeline for the Bratwurst or bread counters. Clear of the market, the next point of interest was Tynemouth.
It's hard to believe that it is almost ten miles to Tynemouth from the City, but the peloton were in no mood to dwell on it and kept pedalling with growing thoughts of fish'n'chips by the sea!
We finally got to within yards of the official finish point of the Coast 2 Coast route only to realise that it was at the top of a cheeky steep path - definitely not what you are looking for after another 6 hrs in the saddle. Cheered by team mates and onlookers everyone mustered enough energy to make it up to the finish line.
After a few minutes of photos, we were soon back on the bikes to continue on to Whitley Bay. Before the final few hundred yards, the peloton gathered to crack open some bubbly and plastic glasses and, led by the Yellow Jersey, continued on to our unofficial finish line whilst raising a glass and to be met by proud friends and family.
Another fantastic tour completed with big grins, aches and pains but, more importantly, hundreds of pounds raised for a great charity.
Now, where's that fish'n'chip shop?
Thanks for reading my blog about The Sons of Bitumen vs Hadrian's Wall. We cycle for charity annually as a group. Please visit our Just Giving page and donate to help us raise money for a good cause and great charity. We have raised over £1500, and aim to reach £2000. Thank you.