Yes, this time next week I’ll be a few kilometres into the 650 or so that lie between Hampton Court Palace and St-Emilion, wrapped in Lycra resembling that in the picture to the right and accompanied by nine other like-minded middle aged fellas. Tension will no doubt be high…Lycra’s not designed to stretch quite that much after all…but I’ll actually just be relieved to get on the road.
I’m a relatively organised fella, but organising the ride has been quite a logistical challenge. It sounded easy enough – ten blokes on bikes, a van in support, a ferry crossing and a few hotels en route – but the details…oh the details. I won’t bore you.
I was in London last weekend and managed to get some training in. I picked up a new bike from Condor on Gray’s Inn Road, met friend and fellow-rider Mark at his office near St Paul’s and then followed him home to Wimbledon.
Excuse my blasphemy, but Christ on a bike! And even he’d have filled his nut-hugging shorts. I haven’t cycled through London traffic in years and doing so during Friday rush hour on a brand new bike was one of the hairiest things I’ve attempted for a while. Still, we arrive safely and met up with a few of the other lads for a training ride around Surrey last Saturday. Great fun, and everyone seems to be getting quite excited about the ride.
I’ll be looking forward to landing on French shores next Saturday morning and finding some quiet country roads where motorists respect your passion for cycling rather than resent it.
As I’ve mentioned before (and the eagle-eyed out there will see the logo on the jersey above) we’re doing the ride in aid of NCH, one of the worthiest charities I know. You’ve still got time to sponsor me – you can do so here. I’m not far off my target…
I’m hoping to find the time (and the internet connection) to blog a couple of times on the way, and I’ll also try to send the odd tweet. You can follow me on Twitter here.
My regular reader(s) will know about the charity bike ride I’ve been organising. Others can read about it here.
At various times over the past few months I’ve been poring over maps (old fashioned offline ones, too) trying to finalise the best route for our little peloton to take on its way from London (well, Hampton Court) to St. Emilion. Some aspects of the trip are set in stone. For example, we’re on a ferry from Portsmouth to St. Malo and will also be stopping at my house for one night. Beyond that, it’s pretty flexible. Not too flexible, though, as my general route planning methodology has been based upon the flightpath of the crow.
As luck would have it (or not) the third stage of this year’s Tour de France starts in St. Malo and heads to Nantes. We’re not planning on going quite as far as Nantes in the one day, but can at least cover the first 85km of the stage as we make our merry way south.
Anyway, if you’re interested, here are the routes mapped out on the wonderful Sanoodi:
Day 1: Hampton Court to Portsmouth
Day 2: St. Malo to Redon
Day 3: Redon to La Roche-sur-Yon
Day 5: Les Chapelles to St.Emilion
Wish us luck. We should arrive in St. Emilion on May 6th. There’s still plenty of time to sponsor me, and you can do so here.
Last year my old mate Mark and I decided that we needed to undertake a grand physical challenge while we were both still in our 30s. We decided that – as we did when we were at school together – it’d be a good idea to cycle from Mark’s house to mine. We grew up in Hertfordshire, and the distance from Codicote to St. Ippolyts was about 10km. In fact I imagine it still is.
The distance from Wimbledon – where Mark now lives – to my house in France is about 750km, depending on the Channel crossing you take. It’s unlikely that I’ll be back by teatime.
Still, a challenge is a challenge and we’re doing it. Not only that, but we’re going past my house and all the way down to St. Emilion, which seemed like a suitable place to collapse. We’re starting on May 2nd and should arrive on May 6th. We’ve even managed to convince some similarly middle-aged friends to come along too. In all, there’ll be 10 of us hauling our generous backsides onto the unforgiving saddles of road-racing machinery of varying quality and vintage. Should be quite some sight.
It’s all for charity of course. Our headline beneficiary is NCH, and a very worthy one it is too. Ken Deeks gave a moving speech about NCH’s work at The Flackenhack Awards last year and I can’t think of a better cause for which to be riding.
You can sponsor me here personally (all contributions very gratefully received) and if you represent a company and feel that having your logo stretched across ten slow-moving arses would be good for business, then I’d love to hear from you. There’ll be room for the biggest of logos, I assure you.
Oh, I’m also after the loan of a van for a week. Long-wheelbase Transit size. Ta.
Here’s a picture of it. It’s from one of my favourite brands – Rapha – which makes fantastic, top quality cycling clothing. So it’s a bit of a niche thing. But I’m into my niches.
Rapha’s very much an aspirational brand for me (I’m into my cycling at the moment, too). In fact, it’s completely aspirational as I don’t own a single piece of Rapha kit! It’s quite pricey…but you just know it’s going to be worth the money. I spoke to a bloke once who’d tried on one of Rapha’s jackets. He said that on the peg it all looked a little odd – long arms and back, zip off centre – but when you put it on and sat on a bike it was just perfect. Then his eyes glazed over. It’s that sort of stuff.
Is this sounding a bit sad?
It’s just that Rapha hits so many spots with me that I can’t think of another brand with which I have the same sort of relationship. I can remember quite vividly the first time I read about the company – an article in Management Today a few years back. I visit the company’s website and drool regularly. And now I’ve got a lovely little A5 booklet I can tuck under my pillow.
Everything about the brand is understated. The clothing itself, obviously (none of your day-glo lycra here) but everything else reflects that too. The website’s great. It captures the passion that some of us (and I’m by no means as bad as it gets) have for cycling with some fantastic editorial content and images. The DM piece is exactly the same (as you’d expect). The first 18 of its 31 pages contain some brilliant photos and an article written by Tim Krabbe, a Dutch novelist well-known in cycling circles for his classic book The Rider. Only then are a few of the products presented. Cool. It even smells great.
The fella who founded Rapha, Simon Mottram, used to be a brand consultant, so you might expect him to get it right. But he’s also a fanatical cyclist, which I think is just as important. Honestly, I’m racking my brain and I can’t think of another brand that’s so compelling. Well, to me, at least. It’s obviously an individual thing based on personality and passions – I’d love to know if anyone else has a similar relationship with any other brands?
Anyway, if anyone’s wondering what to get me for Christmas…
Funnily enough, just after signing up I noticed on Ben’s page a message about the site nearing a hundred members and that, “the hundredth member when they do show up is in for a treat. Haven’t thought about what they get yet apart from the glory and being able to tell their grandchildren etc etc etc…but it will be pretty fookin good.”
And guess what? I’m the hundredth member!
I’m quite into my cycling at the moment. The countryside round here is fantastic for getting out on the bike…which is just as well, as next May I’m organising a charity bike ride from London to St Emilion and need to get considerably fitter if I’m going to make it…
Best of luck to Ben with the network. I share his interest in niche audiences, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one develops (and, as it does, how quickly commercial organisations become interested).