On the 7th of November 2014, Tim Wickham and 14 Aviva colleagues set off from Bishopbriggs, around 12 miles north of Glasgow in Scotland and began a grueling 4 day cycle ride back to Norwich in Norfolk for the BBC Children in Need charity. The route would take them via Carlisle, York and Spalding and cover over 430 miles. But the real test would be on Day 2 when the riders took on a 120 mile route via the Pennines. Involved a leg-zapping 8000ft of climbs. All of the group are keen cyclists but non of them had taken on a challenge quite as big as this.
Tim wrote a ride diary at the end of each day and kindly sent us some excerpts:
Day 1 – 7th November – 98 miles Bishopbriggs to Carlisle
Up early this morning for the 1st day of our ride. Had a cracking breakfast courtesy of Premier Inn and we then got into the taxis to the Aviva Bishopbriggs office which was where we were starting. After some bike tweaks we then took some photos and were sent off by quite a few of the Aviva staff.
Literally about 1 mile up the road we had the first mechanical. (My chain! Doh!) After sorting that we got on our way for a very eventful 1st hour. Punctures, faulty derailleurs and lights, it all happened! Then we had a faller after hitting a pothole and I began to wonder if we’d ever get out of Glasgow!
After a nervously eventful first hour we managed to escape the city and got to see the incredible scenery this part of Scotland had to offer! What was also incredible was the weather. Rain and wind had been forecast, however we didn’t experience any bad weather at all. We attacked a couple of hills before lunch which was spent at Abingdon services. The Children in Need kit bought plenty of comments from members of the public which was great!
The next 40 miles after lunch were Superb! Fast roads, and favourable gradient meant we made good progress. With 20 miles to go the chat on the group did subside somewhat but we managed to keep each others motivation high!
Made good progress and rolled into Carlisle as the light was fading! Shower, bike clean and food now all done…..beer and then sleep next!
Day 2 – 8th November – 124 miles Carlisle to York
Ok, so day 2 and on paper it looked like it was going to be the toughest….It didn’t disappoint!
An early alarm call beckoned and after warm up massages and prep we were set to go. We left Carlisle at 7.20am after a cracking breakfast, again thanks to the Premier Inn for opening up early specially for us!
We prayed for a better start than yesterday and fortunately it delivered. In fantastic weather we knocked off the first 35 miles without any incident, gradually gaining altitude knowing that at nearly 40 miles we would have to tackle our first real climb. Before that though we came up onto a military firing range. Red warning flags were flying but the public road through it was open. An executive decision was taken to proceed as automatic gunfire resonated around us! I did particularly enjoy the descent as well as a cattle grid bunny hop competition ensued!
We survived the gunfire but the killer climb was next up. A 7 mile climb from Brough up Tan Hill with it’s maximum gradients of around 12% in places, to the highest Inn in England. The group splintered as we attacked at our own pace and it was brutal! Stu and I kept each other company and I was delighted to hear not just me but Stu also yelling in determination to get up the hill as we cranked the pedals! I was so grateful of the company as it was about an hour or so before we reached the top. The weather also turned nasty as we were climbing but like the pro’s we are we managed to get our jackets on without stopping! The sight of the pub at the top was incredible and the fact he had an open fire going was a bonus!
After a spot of lunch we had the first mechanical when Stu punctured immediately. Not ideal in the stinging rain but we fixed that and made the descent off the moors.
What then followed was a battle of attrition and will power. The spirit within the group was amazing and the support was always on offer to those that needed it. I’m dumbing down the final 70 miles but it truly was tough.
We rolled into the hotel at Tadcaster after 9hrs 30mins in the saddle. 124 miles complete, over 8000ft of climbing and I’m exhausted!
Day 3 – 9th November – 133 miles York to Spalding
Although Day 3 was high in mileage it was meant to be much easier than yesterday so we had a slightly later start after a good breakfast courtesy of the little chef next to the hotel.
We left the hotel and made a slight 7 mile detour to see the York City Walls (thanks Paul)! However we set off on our way from there on what was a significantly flatter day than yesterday. A couple of punctures and mechanicals but nothing major and by lunch we’d made goods progress and were 62 miles in. We’d had some really good riding so far and spirits were high.
The afternoon saw a couple of minor route mishaps, however it was clear that this was going to be another ride to remember. A real highlight for me was whilst chasing down the group just outside of Lincolnshire, I saw a stunning Vulcan Delta Wing Bomber. Very moving given that it’s remembrance Sunday.
As the daylight was fading and as a group we really cracked on into the early evening and passed 100 miles. The lights of Spalding were a welcome sight as we ticked over 130 miles for the day and all of us ate well (plus the obligatory beer or two! ) in the restaurant!
I’m now off to see what magic Colin can do to my quads!
We arrive back in Norwich tomorrow at the Aviva Horizon Building at 3pm.
Day 4 – 10th November – 77 miles Spalding to Norwich FINAL DAY!
OK, so final post to cover the ride! The 4th and final day and I think it’s fair to say that both bikes and bodies were feeling the strain of the previous 3 days of exertion. We’d had a great meal and last evening at Frankie and Benny’s in Spalding and were in good spirits for the final push back to Norwich.
We did know though that the first part of the day meant us encountering some very busy roads (A17 & A47) but fortunately not for too long. Got to say I don’t enjoy cycling on those types of roads and it was definitely a case of head down and get the miles out of the way before hitting the back roads. I did get a cracking surprise on one road when a Mercedes pulled up alongside us and a friend from Norwich shouted out my name. This was a real motivational boost for me. He even took the time to turn round and say hello after spotting us and for that I am really grateful.
Once off the main roads we had a really nice run over to Bawdeswell. However two mechanicals in the space of a minute almost caused disaster for me. The bolt holding my pedal on had come loose and I found my foot floating free with half he pedal still attached! I was grateful for Glyn’s help in getting the Torx bolt on just about tight enough with an allen key to enable me to continue. All at the same time, Paul’s chain had jammed up. This really wasn’t needed so close to home. But we soon got that sorted and were on our way.
Coming back in towards Norwich on familiar roads was fantastic and after a quick stop for lunch at Bawdeswell we pushed on for the final 25 miles. We got in tight formation for the trip back up the Reepham Road and both Stu and Steve managed to drum up some support along the route.
Rolling back into Norwich and the aches and pains all went away. We took a brief detour through the city and headed up the Yarmouth Road. As we were a bit ahead of schedule we pulled over for a quick rest stop (a pint) at the Rushcutters before pushing on to Aviva’s Horizon Building.
It was great to pull in to see so many people welcome us back home and it was great to see Pudsey also make an appearance!
I’m so glad to be back home however, I must a big thank you to Aviva and Norwich Cycle Swarm and a massive thank you to each and every single one of you who donated and helped make this trip possible and so memorable. Despite the group only really having known each other for less than 3 months, the spirit and support offered was immense. Everyone looked out for each other and we had such a giggle along the way whilst knocking off 435 miles!! It’s a real shame it’s come to an end however we have helped to raise in excess of £12k for BBC Children in Need which is a fantastic achievement for a wonderful cause.
If you wish to donate, please text GTON50 £3 to 70070 (charges may apply) or visit: http://www.justgiving.com/TimWickham
The Riders: Matt Parkhouse, Paul Dolphin, Tim Wickham, Stuart Childs, Oliver Quinton, Glyndwr Thomas, Martin Schiller, Sam Littleboy, Jon Burrill, Louis Snowden, Jamie Mears, Kenny Kerr, Fraser Goodwin, Stephen Hare and Roly Cook.
An extra special thanks to our Support Crew & Masseur: Daniella Chantelle Ross, Jennine Schneider and Colin McDermott.
Blog post by AATR and Tim Wickham