Stoke to Basingstoke - cycling 200 miles to raise money for Naomi House Children's Hospice

Stoke-on-Trent to Basingstoke; 7 cyclists, 200 miles, 2 days, Friday 26th - Saturday 27th September 2014

The Plan...

This was the easy bit really, the plan was for a number of our directors (and me) to ride from one office (in Stoke on Trent) to another (in Basingstoke) to raise money for Naomi House Children's hospice, simple....

But hang on a minute, that's 200 miles, in two days? Oh yes, 100 miles a day, back-to-back with some fairly decent (for the UK anyway) hills to get over and a total ascent of just under 7,500ft.

Well, the directors seemed up for it and talk was of training, kit and new wheels! So on to the planning.

The Planning...
Being "a cyclist" and having planned the Isle of Wight ride with a similar group in 2012 I was happy to plan the ride but in hindsight this was way more of a challenge than I expected it would be.

The route planning was the main worry but "luckily" we found a company that planned out the route for us although, as I found out at 5am on the morning of day 1, they'd omitted the "turn-by-turn" instructions so I had to re-draw both routes from scratch on - as a side note, this is a fantastic site and well worth a look for route planning and management.
Both routes (in GPX format) can be downloaded here;

Day 1 - 100 miles - Stoke-on-Trent to Evesham
Day 2 - 100 miles - Evesham to Basingstoke

So having the route pre-planned was the tough bit out of the way, or so I thought.  Actually the logistics, kit, accessories, food, stops and marketing pretty much took it out of me over the next few months and almost removed any excitement from event - had it not been for one of the directors (Mark K) I'm not sure we'd have managed to pull it off.

Rather than write up a blow-by-blow account of all the planning here's what we took and planned for over the 2-3 days;

Stops were planned for every 25 miles (3 per day) to be manned by either the directors' family or "the van"
Hotels for Thursday, Friday and Saturday
Transportation to the Stoke office on the Thursday afternoon ready for the start on Friday morning
Kit - Exertis branded and Belkin (one of our vendors/sponsors)
Van + driver - invaluable for repairs/recovery (although this wasn't needed thankfully) and being at pre-arranged stops
Food - lots and collated into the various stops and spares just in case
Bottle, gels, bars for the ride - from Wiggle
Spares: chain, tyres, inner tubes, CO2, pumps, First Aid Kit, Neurofen, chamois cream! - again from Wiggle
Tools - courtesy of my fairly well stocked garage!

Sponsorship - this was a charity event so we'd asked our vendors for sponsorship and, after expenses, raised over £30,000 towards Naomi House and the locally selected charity from our Stoke Office.

The Day Before the Ride...

I'll admit now that I didn't enjoy Thursday 25th September 2014.  I was so pre-occupied with boxing food, drink and equipment, loading the van, contacting people and double checking reservations that while the day passed quickly it wasn't particularly enjoyable.
We also had a number of drop-out's - all for a variety of valid reasons and actually it was no bad thing in the end but at the time it was a bit of a blow considering the effort that had gone in to organising the event.

But, by 4.30pm, we'd loaded up the bikes and were on the way up to Stoke-on-Trent in the van loaded with bikes, kit and a lot of sugary food!

That evening was a fairly tame affair, lots of pasta and a beer or two each - by about 9pm the nerves were starting to show on everyone as the reality of the next 200 miles started to really kick in.

The Ride - Day 1

(from Social Hiking - altitude data is not as accurate as the links to Ride With GPS at the bottom of the post)

8:30am, Stoke on Trent
After a bit of faffing, my 5am re-plot of the routes, and subsequent re-loading of the route onto the 6 Garmin GPS's we headed off from the Stoke office on the 100 mile route towards Evesham.

At this point it's worth mentioning 1 person; John from Belkin.  John had accompanied the directors on last year's trip from London-Paris and was touted as "a good cyclist" and when he arrived with Dura Ace spec'd Fondreist bike in hand he certainly looked the part.
John was, quite literally, my rock over the 2 days and without him the ride would not have ended quite so well.  We got on, over the 200 miles, like a house on fire and the impromptu races to 30mph signs kept the competitive spirt going and helped to break up the tedium of long sessions at "the front" of the group.  So thank's John, you're a legend mate!

The first 25 miles of the first day were hard.  Not because of the hills, route or anything like that but because all of the group (of varying levels of fitness, training, cycling experience and with a variety of bikes) wanted to ride their own ride and group etiquette was a foreign term.

The first stop (at around 25 miles) came and went without incident and the first real hill hit us around 28 miles and did a fairly good job of regrouping everyone and forcing everyone into a single group that stayed together through the days largest hills around 48 miles and on to the lunch stop at 50miles.

After a half hour or so stop for lunch just outside of Bridgenorth we headed south again on small, quiet roads passing through Bewdley and Stourport-on-Severn before reaching the slightly busier Droitwich Spa at around 82 miles.

People were starting to flag now but, frustratingly. I was feeling really good. My legs weren't tired and I still had plenty of power on the climbs and even managed to win a couple of races to the "30mph" signs against John.  I've been thinking about this and can only put it down to the fact that while I was drinking a energy drink I was also drinking a fair amount of water and hand't succumbed to gels or bars - opting for "real" food and the occasional Torq bar.

We split into two groups with around 12 miles to go as Mark, Mike and Paul (who'd be struggling with a bad back all day) were dropping back so I decided to lead them to the hotel in Evesham while John took charge of the other 2 riders who were feeling a bit fitter and faster.
The last 10 miles flew by and we arrived at the Evesham Hotel around 5 minutes after the other group - not bad considering Mike's frequent toilet breaks!

That evening was fairly subdued, a nice meal with lots of carbs and a few glasses of wine and then bed - I think the last person in the bar that night had retired by 5 past 9 - not very rock and roll!

Day 1 stats (click to view)

  • 100.8 miles cycled
  • 7hrs riding time
  • 1500 meters of ascent
  • 14.3mph average speed
  • nearly 7,500 calories burnt!

The Ride - Day 2

(from Social Hiking - altitude data is not as accurate as the links to Ride With GPS at the bottom of the post)

7am saw us eating breakfast and preparing to head out again for the 2nd and final 100 miles, from Evesham to Basingstoke.
The updated route files were loaded onto freshly charged Garmin's and aside from a quick change of Mike's rear tire we left without issue although talk was on the first of the day's 3 big hills at around 8 miles into the ride.

The reality was that we were pretty much going to be climbing (albeit only slightly) from the off with the hill really kicking in 9.4miles along the route, climbing from 146ft to 758ft in just under 4 miles.

It wasn't really all that bad - yes it was steep and it dragged on for a bit but everyone just got on with it and made it to the top - I had to laugh at one point around halfway up when I rode past the sign warning coaches that the road wasn't suitable, the effect of this sign on moral when you know you've only part of the way up is fairly devastating.

From this point, and pretty much throughout the remainder of the day's ride we stuck together as a group, with John and I doing most of the work on the front but everyone at one point or another took a turn at the front of the group - the effort used, once your 3 or more back from the front, is massively reduced and everyone was feeling the benefit of having a "rest" after doing their bit for the group.

Lunch and the promise of freshly cooked pasta by Mark's wife was on everyone's minds as we headed onto the day's 2nd big hill at 50 miles. Climbing from a mere 8ft through to just over 500ft it was another big climb and broke apart the group nicely, but again everyone made it up and to the lunch stop safe in the knowledge that we had less than 50 miles to ride and only 1 real hill to contend with before Basingstoke.

The only issue with the final 50 miles was the search for the 3rd stop at 75 miles.  I'd planned it slightly off the route (by a few hundred yards) so that it was safe for Mike wife and children to stop and stupidly I voiced by concern about missing the turning as this caused everyone to start commenting on where the turning was and offering suggestions on how to get to the stop - this wasn't helped by the fact that everyone was tired and needed a break.
With the help of Phil in the van and the good old Garmin we made the stop and topped up bottles and food ready for the final 20 or so miles to Basingstoke.

For some reason, with about 10 miles to go a couple of the riders decided that they knew a better way back, that would cut off 3 miles or so, and proceeded to lead us off the planned route.  The quickly found (as I had at 75 miles) that having a group of tired cyclists constantly checking on your every turn makes for a fairly high pressure navigational role and, as we rolled back onto the planned route having cut off around half a mile, I took back over and, with John, led us back through the final few miles into Chineham and down the hill to the exertis offices where a group of people were ready to greet us with champagne.

Day 2 stats (click to view)
  • 100.5 miles cycled
  • 7hrs riding time
  • 1200 meters of ascent
  • 14.4mph average speed
  • 7,200 calories burnt!
Overall the ride was great.  200 miles in two days and my legs felt good, I hadn't bonked and still attribute this to not hitting the gels constantly. What's more I was loving riding the bike, and specifically my bike, again.  I enjoyed every one of the 200 miles and firmly had the cycling bug back - something I'm really happy about as I hadn't really cycled much in the 6 months of so preceding the ride and those rides I had been on had felt like more of a chore than an enjoyable experience.  So here's to more rides and the next challenge....


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