London > Dorset return

On 31 July, I set off from London to cycle to Bridport, Dorset for my friend Lusea and James’s wedding – yet another transport challenge under my own steam that I welcomed! I started day 1 well, feeling relatively well rested but nervous. The weather was good, around 20 degrees, sunny with a bit of wind.

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Saying farewell to Bermondsey for the week and setting off for Bridport, by bike

After riding through Wandsworth and then Putney, I cycled through Bushy park, following almost the same route that I did when cycling to Portsmouth a few weeks earlier.

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Pretty Bushy park

It wasn’t long before I was back on my favourite ferry, chatting to the driver about how there was bad weather scheduled for the days ahead. The driver was saying how he enjoys sailing the ferry in bad weather, as it’s a challenge to get to the other side – not quite the same as how I feel when riding in bad weather!

 

Even though I had already completed almost half of my distance for the day, I struggled to get into my rhythm, finding it hard to be riding on my own since my previous ride was with my cycling buddy Kieron Ramsay. Still I got my head down and battled on, knowing it felt fantastic being on the bike and outdoors all day on a Monday, rather than being at work!

Sticking to the canal path, the path went under a large bridge with lots of graffiti scattered around, one of which said LAGER in bright, bold style. Being a huge lager fan, I had to stop and take some snaps and after, couldn’t think about anything other than a cold pint at the end somewhere.

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Lager, Lager, Lager!

The canal paths were challenging to ride on at times, as there were tree cutters out and some paths had debris all over the stop. Still it was quiet and peaceful, with hardly a person or cyclist in sight.

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Where exactly am I meant to ride?!

Coming off the canal path, I ventured onto the quiet open roads, crossing various railways lines along the way. As I reached the outskirts of Southampton, the roads got a little busier. I’d been riding for several hours and it was almost 7pm, so I slowed down to make sure I got there safe and sound.

 

I arrived at my Air B n B for the night in Totton at around dusk. Howard and Helen were so welcoming and congratulated me on my ride from London. The house was lovely and cosy and the room had everything I needed and more for the night.

View my London to Totton route on Strava here.

Totton > Bridport

After a great nights sleep I was greeted to a cute white and ginger cat outside my bedroom door. Too cute to not have a cheeky snap with!

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Morning!

After some breakfast and a cup of coffee I set off for my final destination, Bridport. The weather was on my side again, with a bit more head wind, but lovely and dry. Within just 5 minutes of riding I entered the beautiful New Forest, with wild ponies and cows hanging out freely amongst the cars and people – a stark contrast to the London life I left a mere 24-hours ago.

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Beautiful New Forest

 

I reached the seafront just before the city of Bournemouth. It was a real treat to see the sea and the perfect opportunity to stop for a bit of a break, take my shoes and socks off and put my feet into the sand – had to be done!

 

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Hitting the sea front!

Riding through Bournemouth was pretty, but busy and very hilly in parts. I saw a sign that said no riding during July and August in the day along the promenade, which was where my planned route was taking me. So instead, I went in-land to cut through, meandering through residential roads, passing some beautiful houses situated in a pine-forest, didn’t seem real!

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Jurassic pine forest just in-land from Bournemouth sea front

I stopped for a brief spot of lunch in a pub and left re-energised after some food and drink, and quickly got into a good rhythm.

 

The roads were quiet, beautiful, passing through some forests and picturesque towns such as Wareham and following the Jurassic coast. I headed onto the National Cycle path 2 to Dorchester, stopping in Dorchester for some coffee, cake and to recharge my batteries for the final leg.

I left feeling very tired with a sore body and mind! I got my head down and focused, knowing Bridport was in sight, which also meant a full two nights and a day’s rest off the bike. The scenery got more a more beautiful, but also incredibly hilly and perhaps some of the most challenging I’ve ever encountered cycling in England.

 

With less than 15 kms to go it was getting hillier and hillier and really making me crack. I had to stop at the top of one of the climbs for a lie down and to compose myself to continue on.

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I just need a lie down for a minute!

Approaching the downhill I could see signs for Bridport and less than 5 minutes later had arrived! It felt so good to finally be here, knowing tomorrow I would be celebrating Lusea and James’s wedding with my best friends – what a great end to my ride from London!

View the route from Totton to Bridport on Strava here.

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Arriving in Bridport

 

Mr and Mrs Gale’s wedding day

I woke up feeling battered and bruised and to Gale force winds and rain over the quaint town of Bridport, apt as James’ surname is Gale. I felt gutted for Lusea and James on their wedding day, but they weren’t fazed whatsoever! It was a lovely little church ceremony, followed by lovely local food and drinks into the evening and a great dancing session to end!

 

Bridport > Winchester

Despite the fairly late night, I set off early for Winchester. I felt tired and had a pretty bad hangover, but knew once I got going the riding would sort me out. It was overcast but dry and within minutes I was once again on the National Cycle path 2, winding through the most beautiful scenery.

 

A few hours in and the clouds were getting darker and the wind was picking up. I was worried as had given all of my wet weather gear to my friend Hollie to take back to London on the train. I’d been checking the weather and it looked to be OK for my ride back, so I decided to risk it and ditch some of the weight I was carrying on my back. It perhaps was a big mistake as when the rain arrived, it was so heavy I was soaked in seconds. All I had was my thin waterproof jacket and there was literally no where for me to take shelter.

I rode on and it was getting worse, with very poor visibility, so I decided to pull into someone’s driveway and try and take shelter – in their garage that was open thankfully! I stuck it out for about 10 minutes, praying no one was going to come out of their house, or come home!

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Taking shelter from the down pour in someone’s garage!

The rain cleared so I set back out again, only to get more rain later on. It was really rainy and windy, with poor visibility and with very little wet weather gear, just no fun. At least my hangover had been blasted away by the wet, wind and cold! I stopped off in a MacDonald’s to shelter from the rain and recharge my stuff, as well as scoff down some pancakes and coffee. After some time spent trying to dry my socks and shoes off in the hand dryer of the women’s toilets, I set off once again, concerned about the time I’d lost taking shelter!

The rain cleared quickly which I was incredibly thankful for. I took a wrong turn and ended up on a very busy road, but could see that the path I wanted to be on would cross the road I was cycling on. I got to the cross roads and realised the road was way above me, up a steep grassy hill and over some barbed wire. I decided to go for it as the alternative was turning around and adding on more mileage.

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Hurling my bike uphill to get back on track!

I passed once again through the beautiful Wareham and with the sun coming out. I passed through Poole and followed the coastal path, risking the warning signs saying no cycling during July and August during the day. The choice was to risk it and not get caught, or take a big detour up hill, adding on more time and mileage. After risking it I was told off instantly by several people, annoying as the coastal path is so beautiful and the promenade was not busy. I decided to part walk, part cycle, which seemed to just do the trick.

 

Passing Bournemouth and entering the New Forest, it wasn’t long before I saw wild ponies and beautiful forests. My final destination for the evening was the picturesque city of Winchester. It was even more exciting to get there, as one of my best friends, Mandy, was meeting me in Winchester, to join me on my final day’s riding the following day. I arrived in Winchester very tired, a bit broken and bruised, but thrilled to arrive and join my friend for some dinner and drinks.

View the full Bridport to Winchester route on Strava here.

 

Winchester > London, with Mandy!

After a very restful evening, Mandy and I had a lovely breakfast at our Air B n B before setting off for our ride back to London. Mandy had previously done some big rides when she lived in Rome, but it was several years ago now, so she was a bit apprehensive about how she would find our full day’s riding.

She’s also borrowed a friend’s bike for the day and had little time to make adjustments and prepare, only having made the decision a few day’s before to join me! We set off to a good start and within the first hour, we were out in the open road, making some good climbs.

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Here we go!

We passed some lakes and followed the off-road canal paths. Mandy’s borrowed bike was perfect, as it was more of a mountain bike with good tyres.

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Obligatory holding the bike up shot!
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So much fun riding with Mandy!

After several hours of canal riding, we finally reached the graffiti tunnel I’d stopped at a few days before and once again, stopped to take some more snaps!

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Lager!
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More Lager please!

We carried on speaking about how hungry we both were. Mandy was picturing penne arrabiata pasta and we were joking about how specific it was. We decided to stop in the first place we saw, which was an Italian restaurant on the canal path, serving believe it or not penne arrabiata, it was bliss and literally just what we wanted!

It wasn’t long before we hit Kingston area and had less than an hour or so before we got back to Bermondsey. Mandy didn’t complain one bit and was just loving the ride. I was so grateful to have a best friend join me for one day and to be able to show them a piece of what Powered by Me is all about!

We arrived in Bermondsey safe and sound and with about 45 minutes to have some beer before Mandy had to get the train from London Bridge to Tunbridge Wells. I was so proud of Mandy and so overwhelmed once again, that I had travelled so far, Powered by Me, to get to places I needed to be, this time a friends wedding in Dorset!

View the ride from Winchester to London on Strava here.

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If you’re inspired by my human-powered year-long Powered by Me journey, why not donate to August’s charity, Dementia UK who help families cope with dementia through their Admiral Nurses, providing specialist assistance and support to carers and those with dementia themselves.

Donate to Dementia UK now via my Just Giving page here, or text PBME81 to 70070, followed by the amount you want to donate.

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Bressuire to Annepont, France + wedding day!

6 July was mine and Kieron’s final day riding together for ‘operation get Mieke to the wedding’, from Bressuire to Annepont, France. The previous two day’s riding had racked up just under 400kms and over 3,000m elevation, so we set off weary and wobbly, but excited for the day ahead.

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Saying farewell to our fantastic host Michele in Bressuire

Due to my bum soreness, I decided to practice standing up going up hill, as for the past two days I had stayed sitting. In our first 10 minutes of riding, we approached the first incline. The sun was beating down, we felt relatively well rested, and I was saying out loud to Kieron, ‘today is going to be a great day.’ Seconds later….snap. My chain had broken! I couldn’t believe it. There was nothing we could do apart from finding the closest bike shop to us and push/walk our way there.

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Noooooooo….!!! The day had started so well…

Luckily we were in the largest town we had stayed in all week and yes, there was a bike shop, Velo Cite within just under 45 minutes walk/push. I stayed on my bike on the downhill, Kieron pushing me up some of the uphill and the rest we walked. We arrived only to find that it was the sorting office for the bike shop and not the actual bike shop. A helpful shop assistant drew a map of how to get to the bike shop for repairs. So we set off again ever so hopeful for a quick fix! Velo Cite bike shop was great, large with lots of room and half a dozen mechanics to see us straight away. Whilst my bike was being fixed, we shopped and made use of the nice toilet with hand wash!

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Thanks team Velo Cite for putting on a new chain for me so quickly!

The bike fix had set us back a solid 2 hours. We weren’t phased as our ride was a shorter one at around 130km and we just said, ‘we’ll get there when we get there.’ I was trying to arrive to catch the tail end of Mandy and Chris’s pool party pre-wedding day celebrations but knew I would be cutting it fine, so sent my WhatsApp apologies and we set off on our way again.

The ride was hot, humid and hilly. At every opportunity we could, we cooled down. At cemeteries (weird I know, but they all have taps!) and local farms. Passing through the beautiful town of Niort, we knew we were getting so very close to our final destination and to keep ourselves going, decided to stop wherever 100km was to celebrate, chill and eat some pizza we had stashed in our bags which was probably cooked to perfection from the heat.

 

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THIS IS HOW WE ROLL

 

 

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Destroyed

 

 

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Any attempt to cool down and give those legs some TLC

 

 

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Cheese!

 

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Oh yeah, let’s hang out in a cemetery. Why? Because they have taps!

 

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After celebrating at 100km and speaking about how feral I felt, we pushed on knowing we were only a few hours away from Annepont. We passed beautiful sunflower fields and watched the sun go down and as we approached our final few km’s, got stuck behind a tractor. I didn’t even care, I was feeling good, happy and just overwhelmed that we had made it from London to Annepont and all for my friends Mandy’s wedding to Chris – I was so chuffed!

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We had made it! What a feeling. Everyone was so welcoming and asked what we wanted first; shower, food or a drink. I literally wanted everything all at once! The chateau was beautiful, picturesque and had that day-before-wedding buzz feel about it. It was amazing to see my friends and the bride to be. Even though it was around 9pm, people wanted to hear all about our journey and were pouring us beers and asking questions left right and centre. It was an uunbelievablefeeling and one that I will never forget.

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Mandy and Chris – the wedding day!

After a well-earned rest, I was up and excited for the day’s celebrations ahead. Even though I felt exhausted, I was buzzing from all the excitement and still processing the 4 day’s riding I had just done. I was one of the bridesmaids, along with my best friends, some of which I have known since the age of 3. Mandy was the most relaxed bride I have ever seen and this made us bridesmaids feel chilled and able to enjoy every moment.

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Everything about the wedding was perfect. Great company, well organised, beautiful weather, fantastic entertainment and local food and drink. I had a blast and was so honoured and grateful to have been part of it. Memories I will cherish forever. Thank you Mandy and Chris and to the Talbot’s and Barton’s for their endless hospitality!

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To see the full Strava ride click here.

Click here to read Kieron Ramsay’s blog write up on day 5 – Never Break The Chain.

If you’re inspired by my human-powered year-long Powered by Me journey, why not donate to July’s charity, Right to Play UK who help vulnerable children overcome poverty, war and disease through the power of sport and play.

Donate to Right to Play UK now via my Just Giving page here, or text PBME77 to 70070, followed by the amount you want to donate.


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Argentre to Bressuire, France

On 6 July, Kieron and I set off from Argentre to Bressuire to continue our ride south to Annepont. We had another monster day ahead of us at around 190km’s of riding and it was set to be another scorching hot day. We had our matching Holme Moss cycling tops on (thanks to Kieron) and were set for the day in true team spirit style.

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Matching cycling jersey’s team style

 

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For the first 50km, we followed the cycle path which ran alongside an old railway line. It was peaceful and car free but a bit tedious at times and every so often got the better of me. All we’d had was coffee for breakfast, so as soon as we passed through a town, we stopped to find a patisserie. We stopped in Craon for pastries and Orangina, good timing, as by this time the heat was rising.

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Who ate all the pastries…?!

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Whilst eating our pastries a car reversed into my bike. At first, I didn’t think anything of it as it was a very small knock, but after careful inspection, it had jilted my gears a little. The driver was extremely apologetic which made me feel better and after all, I had to just ride and get on with it! It was working OK and could have been worse.

The next part of the ride was made up of lots of straight undulating roads that just seemed to go on for ever. It was mind over matter. The heat didn’t help as there simply wasn’t much shade around, so we saw a fountain and immediately stopped to have a dip and try and cool down.

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Loch Ness Monster type roads that mess with your mind!
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Shameless fountain dip

It wasn’t long before we passed a small town where outside a church there were mannequins dressed up in different clothes and scenarios from around the world. It was so weird we just had to stop and have a gander. We proceeded to piss ourselves laughing by inspecting the weird models and having our photos taken in each country; Mexico, Peru, Alaska, America, Brazil and Canada. Needless to say, it was a welcome break from being in the saddle for hours.

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World tour stop: Mexico
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World tour stop: Canada
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World tour stop: America
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World tour stop: Alaska (my favourite!)
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World tour stop: Peru
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World tour stop: Brazil

At every opportunity, we tried to cool down as we carried on our ride to Bressuire. We stopped at a farm to fill up our water bottles and a crazy farm lady welcomed us into her home with open arms and poured us ice cold juice and gave us cold wet flannels whilst she filled up our water – bliss! We found an outdoor tap in a small town and hung out near it for a while getting some strange looks (when you’re that hot you just don’t care) and best of all, waited for several rotations of a farmer’s sprinkler watering their field. After we left Kieron said, ‘I think they put pesticides in that,’ oh well, it had been done now and perhaps it made us stronger!

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Quick dip!
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Oh yeah…water!
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Rocking some helmet hair there Kieron

We had finally arrived in Bressuire, a large built up town with a friendly face, Michele our host for the night. Once we dropped our bikes off in her garden, she immediately brought us out water melon and beers, amazing. The only problem is, I couldn’t sit down. Literally. Kieron and Michele laughed at my attempts for several minutes until I found a softer chair to sit on. Now I could relax!

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Sums up well the extent of our efforts this day!

Our total distance was 188km, just under 10 hours riding time and 1,500m elevation climbed. What a whopper of a day and two big rides in a row. Watch the short film below to see the entire journey.

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To see the full Strava ride click here.

Click here to read Kieron Ramsay’s blog write up on day 4 – More Fun Than Pain.

If you’re inspired by my human-powered year-long Powered by Me journey, why not donate to July’s charity, Right to Play UK who help vulnerable children overcome poverty, war and disease through the power of sport and play.

Donate to Right to Play UK now via my Just Giving page here, or text PBME77 to 70070, followed by the amount you want to donate.


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Day 1 to Annepont > London to Caen

On Monday 3 July I was completing my final preparations to depart the next day for London to Annepont, France. One of my best friends, Mandy Barton was getting married and I was honoured to be invited as one of her bridesmaids. Whilst planning Powered by Me, I often considered not including international travel in the challenge. Yet, whilst learning more about cycling and talking to others about their own experiences, everyone always said how wonderful it was to cycle in France. I was told, ‘the roads are so smooth, people give you lots of room and that people were exceptionally respectful of cyclists.’ I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to travel Powered by Me to another country and when a fellow blogger and endurance cyclist, Kieron Ramsay agreed to ride with me to Annepont (and back), it was a done deal.

The final hours before departing on a 1,600km round cycle trip

My final preparations helped to get me in the right frame of mind. One of the biggest challenges was to fit everything I needed into a 6L capacity Apidura bag that fitted in my bike frame. I managed to fit most items, but of course had to ditch a lot. And almost all items were for eventualities. Things I’d rather not carry on a 1,600km ride, but I needed ‘in case of…’ It was doable, as I gave one of the other bridesmaids another bag to take to the wedding with my dress, shoes and makeup. There was no way I was cycling 1,600km with that!

When Kieron arrived and I saw his bags, I also had nothing to complain about. Kieron was riding with around 30 + kgs of weight on his bike (panniers) and in a large backpack (the type you take to go hiking or travelling). The difference was, Kieron was using our ride as a test for his bike European cycle trip, so he literally had everything he was planning on taking for 2-3 months; tent, sleeping bag, spare clothes, spare bikes parts and more, good effort!

London to Annepont – the route

The entire route to the wedding and back was a big one. The biggest and most badass ride I had ever planned and contemplated. I was a lucky lady to have Kieron ride with me. He is more experienced, knows way more about bikes and is perhaps one of the most positive and happy-go-lucky people I have ever met.

London to Annepont route

The total ride was going to be just under 800km one way (and including the ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Caen which unfortunately I wasn’t able to travel human-powered, maybe next time). Once the entire route was planned using the fab app Ride with GPS, I then broke it down to 4 days one way, to cycle on average 150-ish km a day with no more than 1,600m elevation daily. It was then a case of finding cheap Air BnB’s to stay in as close to the end of each day’s cycle was possible, just to make sure we had a hot shower and a good bed for the night!

Day 1 > London to Caen, France

Rather than write a long-winded blog post about our first day’s riding to Annepont, covering London to Caen, I’ve decided to illustrate it in the form of a poem. Enjoy!

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Can we Caen?

Hearts beating, adrenaline pumping,
Cleats creaking, nobody’s beating,
Heading West to Vauxhall Bridge,
No thrills just the grills.

Over and around, up and down,
Turn the corner and we’re in no sound.

Quiet towpaths, winding along the riverway,
Before we know it, we needed to cross the Thames way,
No way, a ferry crossing you ask?
How long does it take to get to Ports-mouth?

Two quid down and a tiny boat ride,
It wasn’t long before we passed the tide,
Gravel throwing and Geese rowing,
The Thames widens and the wind stops blowing.

Ducklings quacking and grass crackling,
We stop for lunch in a chilled out cafe-in,
Beef, chicken and burgers galore,
We left fuelled up and ready for more.

Half pipe rides and gliding slides,
Winding canal paths leaving us to just enjoy the ride,
Eyes on the horizon, the sea was nearing,
Pedal, Pedal, Pedal, what a good feeling.

Giant sea Kale was where it was at,
Samosas-a-plenty, and some beer on tap,
Watching the world go by, as we waited to board our boat,
Caen was calling, legs down for the night, as we set sail on our float.

I was thrilled to have completed day 1 of 1 in England with a friend by my side to experience it all the way, knowing that first thing in the morning, we would wake up in France and really begin the adventure.

Day 1

To see the full Strava ride click here.

Click here to read Kieron Ramsay’s blog write up on 1 + 1 = a couple of freaks on a bike.

If you’re inspired by my human-powered year-long Powered by Me journey, why not donate to July’s charity, Right to Play UK who help vulnerable children overcome poverty, war and disease through the power of sport and play.

Donate to Right to Play UK now via my Just Giving page here, or text PBME77 to 70070, followed by the amount you want to donate.


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Hills, Night Rides and Weddings

It’s been two weeks since my last post with no excuse other than I’ve been tired and busy. During this time I hadn’t even noticed that I had surpassed the 3,000km mark, which makes me even more determined to celebrate the next milestone more, so watch this space.

My total distance Powered by Me is 3,028km and I’ve raised a total of £2,130 for five different causes. Thanks to all those who have supported along the way, it makes the world of difference when I am out there riding knowing that the money raised is helping others in need. Interested in donating? Visit my donate page here.

Hills, Heat, Night Riding and Weddings

On 26 May I set off on my ride from my home in South East London to Robertsbridge in East Sussex to go to a best friend’s wedding. An expected heat wave hit South East England with temperatures reaching just under 30 degrees Celsius. Usually I would bask in temperatures like this, but by lying down in a park with a picnic and a cold beer! Until this ride I hadn’t cycled long distances in hot temperatures before. I’d run and played other sports in the heat but not this.

It wasn’t long before I just felt like I was climbing and climbing and climbing. It felt never ending in parts and something that I’m just not used to as most of my rides are within London. The hills paired with the heat meant that I tired out within just a few hours. I did what I could to make sure I stayed in the shade, stopped to stretch every hour and kept myself hydrated.

The route took me through Bromley, Halstead and Sevenoaks where I stopped for a long lunch at a cute little sports themed cafe called 1809 in Hildenborough. I ordered most of what I laid my eyes on, I was so hungry and thirsty I had the lot! Would highly recommend as a pit stop for any cyclists passing through, friendly and welcoming with some great food and drink.

Leaving lunch I had several more hours of cycling, getting through more hills as best I could and coping with the heat. I passed through Matfield, Goudhurst and Hurst Green. With less than an hours riding to go, I was close to heat exhaustion so decided to stop for a brief pit stop at the Ringden Farm Shop and guzzled down an ice cold homemade lemonade and fudge – it was just bliss and gave me the sugar hit I needed!

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The farm shop owner asked where I had cycled from and was shocked that my answer was, ‘London,’ and thankfully told me it was downhill for most of the way to Robertsbridge. It wasn’t long before I saw that sign and arrived at my destination for the weekend with beautiful quintessential countryside views over looking the South Downs at The Dairy, Willow Cottage. I finally made it and it was now time to recuperate, relax and prepare for the wedding the next day.

Mr and Mrs Meakins Wedding Day, followed by Night Riding

The wedding day came and was only 6km away from The Dairy. BUT. I had to somehow get to the church sweat free and looking presentable, but I also needed to wear some sort of sports wear and my helmet! It was all good practice as this year I have endless hen dos and weddings that I needed to travel to and from Powered by Me.

I set off nice and early so that I could cycle as slowly as possible to the venue to make sure I didn’t sweat off my make up and be sitting in the church smelling. Fortunately it was a bit cooler and I passed my heavy items (locks, jacket, lights) to a friend who was driving to the church. Shortly after I arrived at the church relatively sweat free and after a quick shoe change, I was ready to go!

The wedding was just fantastic, a cute little church ceremony followed by a festival themed wedding in the beautiful setting of Brightling Park with tepees, outdoor fires, afternoon tea and a hog roast – what’s not to like! It wasn’t long before the booze was flowing and even though I had to cycle home that night I made sure it didn’t stop me having a good time.

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It wasn’t long before several bottles of prosecco had been drunk and countless shots of tequila and I began to make my way home, cycling the same route as I had done that morning. Within minutes I was in trouble. I didn’t expect it to be so dark, literally pitch black and my lights not even helping my visibility. At one point I was picking up speed but I couldn’t see I was going down hill. I made a silly mistake of not packing a head torch and all I had was my phone torch and Google maps for directions.

In the end I walked most of the way getting lost several times and after setting off at 12.30am I arrived back at The Dairy at 2.00am! Never again will I not pack my head torch. Lesson learnt and it’s all learning for the future weddings I have coming up, some of which I may be staying further away from venues than this one…watch this space and if you have any tips, advice or just want to tell me how stupid I am please get in touch. 

The next day I was a little broken but knew that a days riding had to sort out my hangover. Cycling the same route home I passed familiar villages and towns and fortunately for my mind and legs, it was more downhill than up!

The weather was much cooler but yellow rain warnings were forecast for later on in the day, which basically meant torrential down pours and flash flooding. With an hour to go the heavens opened and I took shelter in a bus stop near Lewisham as the visibility was so poor with the rain and I also had to put on what little wet weather gear I had.

After pulling myself together and braving the rain, I arrived home just after 5pm to some familiar sights and knowing I had food, drink and rest ahead of me. My first wedding weekend complete Powered by Me!

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In total, I’d clocked up another 200 odd km Powered by Me and raised another £100 for May’s charity The Dystonia Society. Despite some tough hill climbing, one traumatising night ride and some intense heat and torrential rain, after a few days recovery I am feeling stronger, more confident and generally chuffed!

Robertsbridge to London ride back from Rach's wedding


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LDN to Nottingham return

My recovery time between my first big ride – LDN to Loughborough (and back) was only 5 nights. This time flew by and I was back at work and busy catching up. My body felt pretty destroyed and I needed to find quick ways to recover. A lot of food, water, resting and stretching, as well as a trip to see the fab Mark Hokan at Purus Active Health for a well-needed sports massage.

My body was in pieces, so I was worried about a) the pain and b) the potential warning of my next ride. The good news is, he said my body had gone through a remarkable change in only 1 month and that apart from some to-be-expected muscle soreness, I was A-OK – phew! Thank you for the support Mark and for making me feel more human for my next big ride..

5 nights after I returned from my first big ride I set off for my second big ride, London to Nottingham. I was attending a work conference, CSPN Convention on 13 and 14 March. I was lucky enough to rope in my friend, Kieron Ramsay, to cycle with me from London to Nottingham (although he didn’t need much convincing) and all I needed to do, was cycle home on my own from Nottingham to London. What could go wrong? Find out about my journey…

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11 March – London to Northampton

145km > 7 hours 30 riding time > 19.3km/h average speed > 1,731m elevation

11 March London to Northampton ride

We set off early, around 7.30am after some porridge and lots of coffee. The weather looked to be OK, a bit overcast, slight wind, but dry. I confidently showed Kieron the route to Watford, having done this leg a few times now. The pace was good, faster than what I usually ride and we were averaging around 19km/h. It was great to be able to chat with someone else and share the experience and as a result, time flew by! Part of the route took us down some canal paths, which just got muddier and muddier and slowed us down. We then decided to head onto the roads, but consequently hit a lot of undulating hills, one after the other.

In total, we climbed a staggering 1,731m of elevation, that is almost 3 times up (and down) The Shard. I was enjoying the pace but also tiring a bit quicker than usual, that paired with the hills made the final few hours tough for me. Kieron lives in Sheffield, cycles a lot (as well as blogs about it, read his blog here) so is used to hill riding. Me on the other hand – I still have some adjusting to do!

Once we got to our hotel, we were surprised to meet my husband, Adam Stones! What a lovely surprise, after having not seen him for almost 6 weeks, it was wonderful to catch up and share our cycle stories with someone else. Adam’s mum, Bev and her partner Mick, came and joined us for a celebratory drink, or two – just bliss.

Read Kieron’s blog post about day 1 of riding – Mud, Sweat and Beers – Day 1 London to Northampton.

12 March – Northampton to Nottingham

100km > 5 hours 30 riding time > 18.6km/h average speed > 1,317 calories > 512m elevation

12 March Northampton to Nottingham

After an early night and a comatose sleep, we were the first ones up for breakfast. We ate our breakfast in anticipation, whilst listening to the rain clatter down on the windows. All I wanted to do was eat and eat, drink lots of coffee and go back to bed. Having my husband there and knowing Kieron was cycling with me for the whole journey, gave me the strength to put on my wet weather gear and get back on the bike!

We set off into the overcast and wet sky and headed for the Brampton Valley Way, a long stretch of off road from Northampton to Market Harborough that follows an old railway line and passes through Pitsford and Brampton station and since closing over 30 years ago, has stayed exactly as it was and kept its old fashioned charm. I was nice to not have to battle with motorists straight away, I was tired and a bit wobbly, so the calmness of cycling along a track, through greenery helped me settle into the ride a little better. That said, it was a tough track, very bumpy with lots of rocks and branches to contend with, and seriously, seriously, muddy!

It wasn’t long before we hit the first tunnel – WTF? Yes, a tunnel. We should have guessed but didn’t know how long the old railway line was. At first, it just looked like, well, a tunnel. So I ignored the signs outside and started cycling through it. Within seconds I was plunged into darkness. I couldn’t tell which way was up or down. I was so grateful to have someone else with me! Kieron wasn’t phased, chucked on some lights (he had positioned them on his bag for easy access. Smart, me on the other hand, had them deep inside my huge backpack) and carried on cycling.

I just thought, sod this, got off my bike and walked! It was scary, gruelling, seemed to take forever (it’s 0.5km long) but also exciting and interesting. And at the very least, we were heading toward a tiny circle of light ahead, knowing there was at least a way out. I had to not think of films like the Grudge and just think happy thoughts! Once we were out, we were just laughing and trying to figure it all out. Another 10km on and we approach another tunnel, but this time we knew what to expect and just went for it.

Just past the quiet market town of Market Harborough we were back on the roads. It wasn’t long before we were on quieter roads again, winding our way through middle England. We passed through Leicester and then Loughborough, where we stopped at a service station for a quick break. Prior to us stopping, we had cycled for about 6 miles down a very busy A road. At this point, it was chucking it down and the spray from the bikes and the busy cars was getting us obliterated. I remember looking at Kieron thinking I must be covered in mud and he was looking at me thinking, he must be fine (remarkably my face had no mud on it!). At the service station, someone pointed out to Kieron his face was entirely covered in mud! I mean, it was funny, but also neither of us gave a crap! We tried to clear up a bit and dry off and chucked some food and drink down us pronto.

Nottingham was a sweet 20km away and well within our reach. Moving on, we cycled down some lovely quiet farm roads, sort of parallel with this giant power station. As we were nearing Nottingham, it got hillier and hillier. At this point, my knee began to get really sore, so sore I was crying whilst cycling. Kieron was ace and tried where he could to cycle next to me uphill and push me along!

With about 2km to go, I was just ecstatic. I also knew my husband was waiting for me at the hotel, even better! We arrived, wet, tired, covered in mud and slightly mentally scarred from the tunnels, but – WE DID IT. Adam was waiting in the room with food and a bottle of Prosecco. I don’t think I’ve ever drunk Prosecco that quickly before and within minutes I was all over the shop! Kieron stayed with us for about half an hour, had some coffee and food and got back on his bike to complete the final leg of his journey back to his home town of Sheffield. I had no idea how he got back on that bike, but he did and 4 hours and another 60km later later he arrived safe and sound!

Read Kieron’s Day 2 blog post – Mud, Sweat and Beers – Day 2 Northampton to Sheffield (via Nottingham).

14 March – Nottingham to Northampton

102km > 5 hours 20 riding time > 19.2km/h average speed > 1,349 calories > 412m elevation

At the CSPN Convention itself, I received a warm welcome. Lee Mason, the CEO of CSPN did a shout out about me cycling to the convention and consequently, a lot of delegates came up to talk to me about Powered by Me and find out more! It made me feel extremely proud of what I had done so far and confirmed some of the reasons as to why I was doing it!

CSPN tweet

The second day of the convention, I snuck off a little early (I had 100km to cycle after all) and was thankful to have good weather. I felt OK, a little rested after having not cycled at all the day before and was ready for it! I was heading for the Hopping Hare in Northampton, where Kieron me and Adam stayed on our way up to Nottingham. I felt strong, confident and able.

I cycled through Loughborough (my old University) and stopped off for a quick toilet break in the Pure Gym. I also decided to drop into Halfords to get some bike oil. My chain was crunching and I was terrified it would snap. A bit further south, I cycled through Leicester, past Leicester Square (but not the Leicester Sq I know!) and also past this weird looking bubble building, which looked like a massive grub or cacoon and was the National Space Centre. Have always been interested in visiting, so might decide to stop off one day.

Doing the same route Kieron and I had done a few days before, I knew the final few hours would take me on the Brampton Valley Way and through those tunnels! I made a decision that if, for whatever reason I didn’t have a lot of day light by the time I reached Market Harborough, that I would find a road route instead. Thankfully, I made good time and was hitting the Brampton Valley Way at around 4pm. I had 2 hours left of daylight, so only a puncture or an injury would hold me back.

Two tunnels later, no punctures, feeling tired but OK, I get to my hotel! I was dry, relatively warm and not scarred from the tunnels (which I was so proud I did on my own – well, I had to)! I had a long shower, some snacks and headed down to the bar for a beer and sone dinner. It wasn’t long before I hit the sack, to get as much rest as I could for the longest leg and final day of riding the following day.

15 March – Northampton to London

15 March ride snippet

After some rest and a good breakfast, I set off at about 7.30am for the last day of riding. Knowing I was going to be home that day and that I had good weather ahead, I felt able, confident and up to the day! I made sure I paced myself, as I knew it was a full day of riding. After getting out of Northampton and nearer Milton Keynes, I must have climbed higher, as it became really cold, misty and foggy. I struggled to see ahead, so put all the lights on I had to make sure cars could see me.

A few hours in, the weather became clearer and it was the perfect temperature, little wind and continuous blue sky. It wasn’t long before several hours had passed and I had already cycled over half way. I felt happy, strong, confident and was enjoying it! At around 80km in, I stopped off at the Fred and Ginger in Berkhamsted for lunch. Some pasta, cake and two coffees later, I was ready to do my final 50km. Time and weather was on my side, so I had nothing to loose.

A few hours in and I was approaching recognisable parts of London – Mill Hill, Edgware and just couldn’t wait to see a London bus! Once at Maida Vale I knew I was so close. Another hour later and I was cycling along the super cycle highway alongside the Thames. The sun was shining, I still had the evening ahead and I was so, so happy to see the familiar Shard, which meant I was minutes away from home! I got home at about 5pm, with a beaming smile on my face and my husband to greet me, immediately followed by some celebratory snaps – it was good to be back!

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My first big ride – LDN to Loughborough (and back)

A month or so ago, I wrote a post called A cry for help. This post shared both my fear and excitement of my first few big rides. This post, tells the story of my first big ride from London to Loughborough return.

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Why was I going to Loughborough?

I needed to be in Loughborough on 6 March to interview potential Marketing and Communications interns to join our team at London Sport. I was lucky enough to rope in my colleague Amy Hewick to ride with me to Loughborough, as she was on the interview panel. Amy is training for a bike ride this Summer from North to South France, so this was the perfect opportunity for her to train, whilst using her bike to travel to her destination.

4 March – London to Milton Keynes

95.4km > 5.10 hours riding time > 18.4km/h average speed > 1,758 calories > 514m climbed

London to Milton Keynes 4 March

I set off solo at around 7.30am, extremely nervous for my first big ride, but excited too. The weather was OK, quite windy but dry. Getting out of London was OK, as I recognised the route from London to Tring due to the training ride I had done the weekend before. After Tring, it was all new and I began to follow the Grand Union Canal during some of the ride. Parts were pleasant, others just too difficult to cycle on due to the tow path, paired with mud slowing me down.

Thankfully I got to my hotel at around 4.30pm, and when checking in realised the gym across the road had a pool, sauna and jacuzzi. I didn’t even have a swimming costume, so forked out £20 just so I could lie in the jacuzzi for an hour! After some dinner and a good nights sleep, I was ready for day 2 of my ride.

5 March – Milton Keynes to Loughborough

145km > 9.2 hours riding time > 15km/h average speed > 2,569 calories > 847m climbed

I had a good breakfast, put on my wet weather gear (forecast was bad) and attempted to set off. My bike had a flat tyre, the look of horror on my face must have been priceless. Never before had I repaired a puncture before, so I kept my cool, and began to repair it. By this point it was raining hard, which made it even more difficult. I managed to get the inner tube out, tried to find the puncture and just couldn’t. Racking my brains I checked the tyre and saw there was a small piece of glass in the tyre and part of the gel poking out of it. I didn’t have a spare tyre on me, so the next option was to find the nearest bike shop open on a Sunday and get it sorted as quickly as I could.

Thankfully I found an Evans cycle shop open inside the Milton Keynes Xscape Centre. They saw me straight away and changed it within about half an hour. I got a coffee, waited and look on enviously at hundreds of runners milling about the centre preparing for a running event. All I wanted to be was one of them, free of a bike, loads of kit and things to have to sort out like punctures! By the time I was on my way it was 11.10am, I had got up at 6am and was meant to be meeting my colleague Amy in Daventry for lunch at 1pm, for us to then continue our ride to Loughborough together. Despite the problems I had faced, I just kept on thinking to myself; pick yourself up, continue on, and you’ll get there when you get there!

The head wind was just awful and the rain just continued to pour. That paired with signs increasing in distance the closer I got to my destination (seriously, just ask Amy as she saw the same sign!) drove me slightly mad. By the time I met Amy in Daventry, it was 3.30pm, she had been there an hour and was looking a bit traumatised from her wet and windy journey from Oxford to Daventry which took her longer than she had anticipated. I had a quick bite to eat and we set off for Loughborough, just laughing about the situation to keep ourselves entertained, it was all we could do!

At about 5.30pm and at the thought of darkness hitting soon, Amy decided to cycle to the nearest train station (Rugby). Without any lights and getting colder by the minute, she wasn’t able to carry on. I was so close to going with her, but decided to continue on, on my own. I needed to do this, get to Loughborough by bike and practice cycling at dark, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to build my confidence for future rides. It was 8.30pm by the time I got to our hotel in Loughborough. Truly broken, cold and hungry, I was happy I had got to my destination in one piece, but was delirious to say the least. Amy had ordered us Pizza and I hopped in the shower to warm up. After some food and a well deserved beer, it was time to hit the sack!

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6 March – Loughborough to Northampton

55.9km > 3.26 hours riding time > 16.2km/h average speed > 906 calories > 304m climbed

Loughborough to Northampton ride 6 March

After our interviews had finished, I got back on the bike to make my way down south, at around 2pm. The weather had cleared up and the sun had come out. About an hour into my ride, I took this picture. A beautiful snap shot of riding alongside the canal, through a country park, without a motorist in sight. It made me feel tranquil and happy to be riding on a Tuesday afternoon.

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This tranquillity lasted about 20 seconds, as I began to slow down and looked back at my wheel to see I had a flat….NOOOO…not again. To get through it I just stayed calm and began to do what I needed to do. I was so grateful that another cyclist called Mike and his grandson Alfie stopped to help. Mike must have been in his 70’s but a keen cyclist, knew what to do. It took us a long time to locate the puncture, but once we had, repaired it and put all the pieces back together. I was on my way again at around 5pm, but already knew I was losing a lot of light and had many more miles ahead of me. So, again, it was more night time riding, thank god I bought a head torch! At about 8.45pm I got to my hotel, cold, wet, tired and emotional. After something to eat I cried to my husband about how hard this challenge was, sometimes you just need to let it out!

7 March – Northampton to London

132km > 10.3 hours riding time > 17.2km/h average speed > 2,243 calories > 744m climbed

After a good nights rest I felt a bit better and ready to tackle the final day of my journey. Physically and mentally I was ruined, so did everything I could to ensure my mind was thinking positively, so I could carry on. The wind was still quite fierce, but thankfully it was dry, and knowing I was going to be home that day made me just feel great and ready to tackle the day ahead. About half way in, I was riding through these woodlands to join the canal path, and found myself heading for a dead end. I just had to put this on Instagram and ask if this was the way to London! Sounds silly, but the humour was the only thing getting me through.

Is this the way to London.

At about 6pm, I finally made it home, back to South East London. I was just ruined, but was so pleased I had made it from London to Loughborough and back, in one piece. It was on hell of a ride, with two consecutive days of punctures, testing my boundaries physically and mentally. But I knew I needed to do these big rides, to ensure my body and mind adjusts for the many more big rides to come!

If you’re inspired by my Powered by Me adventure, please like, comment, share and donate to my chosen charity for March, London Wildlife Trust, just click to donate below, or text PBME93 to 70070 to give just £5.

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