The first weekend in June I decided to cycle to Swanage, which was where I cycled to on my first long distance cycle ride and the reason that I base most of my trips on cycling 80 miles a day, that being the distance from my home to the campsite in Swanage.
How it Started
My first ever long-distance bicycle ride was back in 2002. I’d recently given up smoking, and as a way off taking my mind of the fags, I’d started to ride my bike. I’d given the cigarettes up for about six weeks, and could now cycle ten 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!
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.
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!
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!
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 surprise! I thought it was only going to be a 50-mile ride!
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!
Back To The Isle Of Wight
Had another weekend camping on the Isle of Wight this time with Julie, I managed to get my stuff and Julie’s stuff all onto my bike and even managed to carry a 4 man tent, which I really noticed, it was so heavy.
We went over on Friday and camped at the normal campsite I use, Grange farm at Brighstone. It was a very windy weekend and using a tent that I’d never used before was a bit of a challenge, it was more of an occasional summer tent and was useless in the wind, I spent the first night getting up every hour and re-tightening the guy ropes while Julie who had her ear plugs in slept through it all! I made some modifications the following morning which did make it a lot sturdier!
The Saturday we cycled along the coast to the Needles and then up to Yarmouth for lunch and managed to find the most expensive place to eat on the island! £26 for cod and chips which normally costs about £5 or £6! But it was really good and tasty. Spent the afternoon cycling back to the campsite, stopping off for a few beers on route!
On Sunday we had breakfast and packed up, deciding to get back across the island sooner rather than later before the wind got any stronger, as we’d be cycling into it this time! A nice weekend despite the strong wind and very peaceful on the campsite, no bikers next door!
Another Day Out
I got rained off from work one day; Julie was also off so we decided to go to Bucklers Hard on the banks of the river Beaulieu, in the heart of the New Forest National Park. It’s an old 18th-century shipbuilding village which is now a maritime museum. A very interesting place, with some of the cottages, set out as they would have been back in the 18th century and a maritime museum telling the story of Bucklers Hard. After looking around these we went for the short walk to Beaulieu and got soaked!
I’d recently bought a new front light for my bike, one that I can charge my mobile phone from as I cycle along. So I decided to go to France for the weekend and test it out.
Off to france
I got to Cherbourg at about 8 o’clock on the Friday evening after getting the fast ferry from Portsmouth. (it only takes 3 hours) Upon arrival, I went off to find a campsite. I’d already looked online before I left home to find a campsite near Cherbourg, knowing that I was going to get there fairly late.
I managed to find the campsite I’d found online without a problem, the only trouble was that there was a music festival going on and it was really noisy, luckily it was full, so off I went down the road to find another campsite.
The good thing about France is that campsites are all over the place, there cheap and have very good facilities. I’d only gone down the road a mile or so before I came across my next campsite, with nobody on reception I just went to find a pitch to put my tent on, the only place that I could see to put my tent up on was right on the seafront it was very windy and there wasn’t any shelter, so I decided to give that one a miss too and continue on down the road. Again it wasn’t long before I found my next site; again nobody was on reception so I just found a pitch and settled in for the night.
the following day
In the morning I packed up and managed to get away from the campsite without paying, the old trick of turning up late and leaving early always seem to work! I did notice on the way out that it was a 5* campsite, always good to get away with a freebie especially a 5* one!
The battery on my phone was now dead so I plugged it into my light; it worked brilliantly and was fully charged after about 2 hours. I’d always thought that there must be a way of charging your phone whilst riding along. But apparently, they’ve only just started making them. What a brilliant invention, it worked absolutely perfectly.
Wish I had it when I went around the world it would have helped no end. These new smart phones are fine but the battery life on them is useless, the battery barely lasts a day! But with the new charger camping is a real option again. Just plug it in as you cycle, you have a red light to tell you it’s charging and you have to cycle over 5mph to generate enough electricity. To start with I felt a bit under pressure to keep peddling fast enough to keep this red light on like it might explode if I let the red light go out! It did make me peddle up hills a lot faster!
back in france
Going from Cherbourg to Le Havre you pass the beaches that witnessed the D-day landings back in 1944, it’s all so peaceful now and I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like back in 1944, so many people lost their lives. Although I’ve ridden along this coast before I think I might come back again another time and explore it all in a bit more detail rather than just fly past everything!
Had a nice little campsite on the Saturday night (had to pay at this one €9) and met Peter from Cork in Ireland, he’d been cycling around France for 4 weeks but think he’d had enough and just wanted to finish, luckily he only had to get to Cherbourg for Tuesday, where he was to catch his ferry back to Ireland.
Had a nice early start on Sunday morning I was on the road at just after 6, I wasn’t too sure how far it was to Le Havre and didn’t want to miss my ferry home. Needn’t have worried it was only about 60 miles and I was in Le Havre by 12 o’clock, so I went and found somewhere to eat and sat there for an hour or so watching the world go by, well sort of, had a bit of a problem staying awake, what with the combination of a fairly fast ride, something to eat, a couple of beers and the sun I was playing the nodding donkey and struggling to stay awake!
The crossing back was a lot longer about 5 hours; I walked in my front door at about 11.30 Sunday night. A really good weekend covering a good distance (200 miles) lovely French food, good campsites, warm weather and a fully charged phone!