Thurs. 18 April
- From: Whitehaven
- To: Alston
- LEJOG miles cycled: 0
- Miles cycled: 77.7
- Map of the Journey
A tough sapping day in blustery conditions in which many lessons are learned, we have a couple of breakages and we cross the Lake District.
Many months ago this journey was put into our training schedule deliberately to test us out with full kit, full panniers etc - as realistic a LEJOG day as we could make it. It really did the job and found a few problems, some human and some not!
Breakage 1 occured at home as I loaded the panniers on to the bike's rack. A plastic clip snapped with fatigue - amazing given the pannier had been used less than 5 times. This was worrying as there are three clips per pannier and it is pretty useless without one of the top two (the one that broke) and the panniers come on and off twice a day on our planned LEJOG! Still, I was a boy scout and was prepared. A cable tie to the rescue (I carry several as I am told these can fix many breakages on bikes) and pannier temprarily fixed for the journey. Not very reassuring though and it may be a case of "Buy cheap, buy twice", so the panniers may be destined for replacement before LEJOG proper.
Due to getting the train from home to Whitehaven in Cumbria we did not manage to start until after 10am today, the train was also running late. Still it was a nice start as much of the early journey uses old railway track bed now turned into cycle and walking paths and it would be a few miles before we had to start climbing the outer slopes of the Lake District.
The first hint as to how hard the day would become was at Winlatter pass with some steep climbs on side roads to the head of the valley. Great news at the top though. We decided to stop early at the cafe there rather than stop in Keswick as planned. As we entered the site we bumped into someone Robert knew - result another donation! Tremendous. Then when we sat down in the cafe he realised half way through a conversation that he knew someone else - a second donation. Remember the blog advice about taking the donation tin on the journey? It could not be more accurate.
At Winlatter we were directed down the main road rather than the cycle path as it had been windy (and still was) and there had been some tree falls. This was fantastic and made at great speed only limited by the car in front which timidly kept braking. I will add the video of the down hill run here.
We were lucky most of the route was either sheltered or we had the wind behind us today as the wind was gusty and strong. Whenever we crossed the wind you could never be certain which lane you might end up in on the road!
On through Keswick and out on the old railway for a while (beautiful and full of old bridges across lakeland rivers in spate) and the rest of the West-East Lake District crossing to Penrith via Greystoke where we arrived around 5pm running later than we had planned. At Greystoke we used the Greystoke Cycle Cafe. If you have never been please go (on your bike). It is not luxurious but it is a wonderful example of a trusting British way of life we largely seem to have forgotten. They also run 'Quirky Workshops' - I picked up a brochure and intend to do one!
Breakage 2 occured across the Lake District. I was adjusting my GoPro Camera on the mount when the bottom mounting bracket fractured! It's a segmented mount so it was easily sorted but this resulted in a lower camera which gets more of the bike in the picture making the images less interesting. I had a spare segment at home so would be OK for tomorrow. This was not reassuring though as I want the mount to last throught the vibrations of 1001 miles - not just a few.
I was getting tired by Penrith but we had a good few miles to go and it was all up hill, some OK but some agony. I was slowing up by now.
The hills through Renwick seemed steeper than I remembered and the route up to Hartside was sheer agony. Robert was getting a good way ahead by now and it was becoming dispiriting. I definitely need to redress those front two chainrings to give me similar lower gearing to Robert for these hills - even if it means a top gear sacrifice. I could make the hills but it was simply a huge strain on the knees in particular with a very slow rate of pedal turn. A lesson learned today.
On to the top of Hartside where visibility was now reduced in places to 20 metres because of dark wet cloud. I had my flashing lights on by now and we were running late for our pickup in Alston but had no phone signal up here. My chest felt like it had reverted to the worst of two weeks ago and breathing was wheezy - thankfully the top of day one's ride loomed from the mist where Robert emerged from shelter having kindly waited for me. The last 6 miles were all down hill at some excellent speeds and we zoomed out of the cloud.
Home to a hot meal, bath and bed to rest for tomorrow when we resume our journey from Alston to Sunderland. We had covered 77.7 miles today, our longest day yet, with full kit in stretching conditions. We would see little as difficult as this on LEJOG, thank goodness.