Since last winter I had planned a number of epic rides for 2018, only for them all to have failed one way or another. But before we ended up with our epic ride: Coventry to Holland, there were a number of events and rides being planned for this year. The first was London to Paris ride for Myton Hospice, was a friend who asked if I could join and be a riding mechanic for their group. But by early February the group fizzled out and nothing came of it. But that seeded the idea for me to be a riding mechanic and see how I fair with tools laden down and riding the course too on my bike.
Then the next idea came, to ride 109 miles from Coventry to Wembley Stadium to raise money for a local Coventry school (Parkhill Primary) where my brother went to many years ago. They were approached by the FA to build an all weather mini-pitch at the school, but the school had to raise £20k to get the rest from FA, it is one of the first schools in the Midlands to get such partnership with the FA. So the idea to ride along to support the 20 odd guys to ride down to Wembley Stadium was meaningful and challenging. However a month before the ride, I hurt my right hamstring badly in my usual Friday night badminton session and basically couldn’t do it. Instead I still supported the guys and drove along the route far behind and on call in case anyone had any mechanical issue. Fortunately the weather in early May was fantastic and we got to enjoy the Ladies FA cup final at Wembley in an executive box!
Also there was a trip to Ardennes and also the July Radamring ride on the Nurburing course both of which I couldn’t go, due to being busy with servicing customer bikes. I did however get to be a “riding mechanic” for the HSBC City
Ride on the Coventry Ring Road, which was great fun, but tiring.
So when my parents said they will take our kids and fly over to Holland to visit my uncle’s family in the Summer, it gave me another idea. What if we rode our bikes over to Holland and surprise them and then ride back while they were over there?
As we started to plan for this, I accidentally told my mum and before you know it everyone knew about our plans. The surprise was gone, but then everyone thought we wouldn’t or couldn’t do it. Particularly when I have a quite dodgy right knee. We did some training on the bikes, I managed to do a 65 mile charity ride for Parkinson’s Disease as part of my preparation, but a week after that ride my right knee went into some major spasms and I could hardly walk for a couple of days. That really scared me and my wife. Then my sister wade in and suggested that we took the ferry over with our eZo Cycle van and only ride the Dutch side.
That was never going to happen, we were determined to get ourselves ready to ride the course, although we did have a last resort which was on the day if I hit knee issues early we would bail and get the van to Hull and leave the van at my sister in law’s house and ride to Ferry and over to Rotterdam, Holland.
We had planned to travel over via Hull with P&O Ferry which is a night ferry instead of trying to rush for a day ferry over at Harwich, also Hull was actually closer to Coventry than Harwich was. So with that in mind it was clear that doing Coventry to Hull in one day was not a possibility for me at least. So we decided to break it up to 2 days of riding then night ferry over to Rotterdam.
Epic Ride: Coventry to Holland. Equipment:
I was having lots of issues with battery life on my Cateye Padrone Smart+, so I ditched that and got myself a new Garmin Edge 130. How I have used Garmin before many years ago, and never got on with them, but the new Edge 130 had some newer tech and was said to be much more stable with satellite signals for the GPS. I didn’t feel the need for mapping as I had planned to set the course for our Epic ride: Coventry to Holland and upload onto the Garmin to give use route guidance. Therefore not actual mapping, but had navigation and showed whether we were riding the route or not. Also the battery life was said to be 15 hours continuous use. We’ll see about that.
My wife convinced me that we only needed to backpack the ride, as we had my sister and brother in law in their car doing the Dover to Calais crossing using the EuroTunnel. They were to set of a day after us, so we could actually give them a bag of clothes and stuff and use it when we got there, or to swap clothes over, etc. So we can pack light, but after carrying 8kg of tools on my back when I did the aforementioned City Ride as a riding mechanic and getting knee issues afterwards, I realised that carrying such weight on my back for many hours and days of riding wouldn’t be a smart thing for my knees. So I changed tact, we already had a sturdy Pletcher pannier rear rack, so I thought I would get a set of pannier bags to hook onto them.
I chose the Altura Sonic 40l waterproof bags for our journey. They are totally waterproof, came as a pair, and had a good 40 litre capacity each. 80 litre is plenty enough space for our adventure to Holland. With minimal set up they hooked on securely and kept things water tight. I tried them out on a couple of rides, was a bit weird at first as it was heavier at the back and it catches the wind a bit too easily. However it wasn’t something I couldn’t get used to.
Epic Ride: Coventry to Holland. Bike Setup:
The week before we set off, I got busy servicing both our bikes to ensure they were ready for the long journey. My Genesis CdF needed some new headset bearings and was close to needing a new chain, but I decided to finish it off on this ride and change them when I got back instead. Put on some new Cinelli blue bar tape to go with my bike. My Issi pedals has been squeaking for the last few months, so I tried to give them a service. There was alot of play between the bearings and the axle, which I couldn’t really work out what the issue was. So I just greased them up and use them on the ride anyway. I had recently setup some Schwalbe PRO One tubeless setup for my Hunt 4Seasons Gravel Disc wheels, these were performing really well. Even though they are 25mm only, I felt the comfort level for long rides was good enough, not so sure with the extra weight we would pile on with the Altura bags though.
My wife’s bike, Cannondale Quick Hybrid, has been modified over time, and has a Sora 9 speed drivetrain now, meaning she now has a compact 50/36T chainset, my hacked Hollowtech II BB with hybrid ceramic bearings. She already have the Zefal mudguards on, but they are a bit narrow for the 35mm Continental Speed Kings. But these wide tyres were great in winter and now proving to be great in summer for gravel and road rides.
The Planned route:
Day One: The route plotted took us up northbound of Coventry through Bedworth and Nuneaton then Hinckley up to Nottingham then towards somewhere close to Lincoln, Normanton on Trent for our first night stay at a pub with some rooms called Square and Compass.
Day Two: We ride from Normanton to Hull along the river Trent and up through Scunthorpe and cross over the Humber Bridge and then to the ferry port. Then over night ferry to Rotterdam.
Day Three: Arrive and depart at Rotterdam Europoort and start riding out of the south side of Rotterdam and then up towards Gouda and then to Utrecht where my uncle’s family lives. Stay with my cousin’s family for 2 nights then set off again for our ride back before my kids fly back.
Day Five: On the way back we planned to reverse our route and ride back to Rotterdam Europoort then overnight ferry back over to Hull.
Day Six: We would ride east of Lincoln through the Lincolnshire Wolds and down to The Olde Barn in Marston for our stay overnight.
Day Seven: We ride back to Coventry via Leicester.