Sprits were high as we pedalled out of London. Our bikes fully loaded with tents and bags we stood out from the lycra brigades on their weekend race around Richmond Park. Weaving between cars in the morning traffic we got a few drivers asking where we were headed, most expressing disbelief when we answered Land’s End. The most memorable response from a middle aged bloke who shouted ‘bollocks!’ followed by a big grin before we left him behind in traffic. These reactions made me feel like we were doing something a bit different and affirmed the building excitement amongst our group.
London to Lands End isn’t the biggest cycle undertaken and in the touring community it is next to nothing. For me though this was my first multi day tour and I was excited. I didn’t realise but every day was going to have a cycling first for me to try and conquer, whether that was miles cycled, steepest gradient, highest hill or hours in the saddle. We were going to follow the Sustrans Route Two which winds along the south coast to St Albans in Cornwall, from there we’d get onto the Route 3 and finish in Lands End. The projected route which had been painstakingly planned by Jim and uploaded to his Garmin was 350 miles, with a lot of hills.
None of this was weighing on my mind now though as we wound our way down the side of the Thames in the dappled sun from overhanging trees. We were chatting away, playing with cameras and messing about on our bikes. This did result in our first fall of the trip from Jim attempting a Superman but other than grazed knees he was fine. 35 miles from the city and halfway through our day we stopped for lunch. Nothing beats being able to completely stuff your face guilt free, knowing it’ll all be burned off. The rest of the guys all enjoyed a pint but I was aware that I’d began to lag behind and knew a pint would only increase that distance.
Packing up to set off from lunch we had our first inclination that 25 year old mountain bikes might not have been the greatest idea when my seat post slipped down and threaded the nut. I was pretty worried I’d be doing the remaining day cycling low down and gangster style until Jim appeared with a small bag of nuts and bolts. The bodge got us to a cycling shop where Jim was buying a new chain and I had my seat post sorted out in exchange for some chat about our upcoming route. Our man at the shops expression gave us a clue what was in store when we mentioned the Jurassic Coast.
After a day total of about 70 miles we stopped at a Co Op to load up on supplies and find a spot to camp. We found a relatively secluded area on a treelined footpath leading from the road to the River Itchen between rows of very expensive looking houses. Excited about our first camp we went all out with a campfire. Standing around sipping whiskey and cooking up what was going to become a regular meal of boil in the bag rice and tinned mackerel we were feeling good. We had completed our first day of 75 miles, Mark and I’s longest ride yet and we were ready to rest. Evidently one of the nearby houses were throwing a rave so we settled our heads down to the comforting, floor throbbing beasts of The Prodigy until 3am.