First Long-Distance Bicycle Ride

My first ever long-distance bicycle ride was back in 2002. I’d been a heavy smoker and had smoked for much of my life. Smoking between 40/60 cigarettes a day, so giving up was a struggle! As a way of taking my mind off the fags, I started to ride my bike. Not for fitness, it was purely because trying to smoke while cycling was always hard! So cycling more made a lot of sense.

I’d given the cigarettes up for about six weeks, and could now cycle four or five miles! When some friends were off to Swanage, camping. I joked that I might ride my bike down to visit them! Well, the joke got a bit out of hand! And before I knew where I was, I was cycling to Swanage!

The Start

Deciding that I was going to cycle to Swanage, I needed to modify my trusty Marin. I bought a rack and some cheap panniers and attached them to my bike. Converting it from a mountain bike to a hybrid. I attached a tent and sleeping back, and off I set, on my epic ride! Not knowing if I would make it or not! But not being one to be beaten, I was determined to make it.

Bicycle
Garry’s Marin bike, a few years later on the Isle of Wight. Now with a front rack fitted

The first leg of my journey was a flat, 25-mile ride to Portsmouth. Finding my way to Portsmouth was easy! Finding my way through the city was another thing, and one I still struggle with today! Thankfully I met another cyclist, who knew the area. And got me to the Isle of Wight ferry. My route to Swanage would take me via the Isle of Wight. Which if you look at the map, is the most direct route! It also missed out a lot of busy roads and Southampton. Another city I probably would have got lost in! The forty-minute crossing to the Isle of Wight also gave me a chance to rest after my first 25-miles of cycling!

The Second Leg

Fully rested, and feeling fit again, sort of! It was time to disembark the ferry and start my ride across the island. Immediately I was confronted with a hill! Great, just what I needed! But I had to get up it to continue my journey! I put my bike in it’s highest gear, and started to slowly peddle up the hill! It seemed to go on forever! But once at the top, I had a nice downhill. Which unfortunately turned into another uphill slog!

That was pretty much, the story of the Isle of Wight! Uphill and downhill all the way to Yarmouth, where I would catch my ferry, off the island. It was only 15-miles, but it was a hard 15-miles! I was glad to reach Yarmouth and board the ferry, so I could rest once again!

Back on the mainland after crossing the Isle of Wight, I was in Lymington. Where I then rode through Christchurch and Bournemouth on busy roads. The roads weren’t as hilly as the Isle of Wight. But by now, I was finding it pretty hard going, and even the slightest of hills felt like mountains!

I’d made it to Sandbanks where I would get my last boat of the day. An old chain link ferry that takes you across the water from Sandbanks to Studland and my final leg! No chance of rest on this ferry, it only takes five minutes! I did, however, stop at a cafe and have sausage and chips! Before getting the ferry!

Ferry
The chainlink ferry between Sandbanks and Studland
The Final Leg

Across the water and on Studland, I set off on my final leg! I was now feeling pretty tired, but with only 10-miles to go, surely I could manage that? After all, I’d already cycled 70-miles!

The last 10-miles, across the Purbeck Hills, were the hardest, as you might expect! Even without cycling 70-miles, they would have been quite a challenge! The ride started off flat, but I could see the Purbeck Hills looming large in the distance!

The flat road didn’t last, and soon I was starting to climb! I reached the village of Studland and stopped at the shop for another rest! And a bottle of coke! But I couldn’t stop there all day! The only way to get up this hill was to keep cycling! Eventually, I reached the top! Stopping frequently, to catch my breath!

Hills water
Looking down from the Purbeck Hills

After conquering the mountain! I sat back and enjoyed freewheeling down the hill into Swanage, and the end of my epic ride! Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, the campsite wasn’t actually in Swanage! It was a couple of miles out of town! Will this ride ever end?

Oh well, let’s get these last miles out of the way! Those last few miles, where hard, very hard! All uphill! And I had to stop several (loads) times to catch my breath! Finally, though, I arrived at the campsite! Exhausted and worn out! But what a feeling, thinking that I’d cycled 80 miles all on my own without any help! Which was a bit of a surprise! I thought it was only going to be a 50-mile ride!

Field tents
The campsite at Acton
After The Ride

That evening I contemplated whether I should get the train home, or to try and cycle back! In the end, I decided to cycle it, after all, if it got too much, I could always hop on the train further down the line. Well, I managed to make it home without the train! Cycling another 80-miles! And without any training, or practice, and on my first attempt!

And that’s why when working out how long I might be away on a trip, I base it on cycling 80-miles a day.

All mileage on this trip was worked at a later date, apart from the finish milage. I never looked on the trip until I’d finished! And to this day, I still don’t look at my mileage until I stop!

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