My favourite emails start like this; “would you be up for……”
and so it was, 45 minutes after handing in my freshly printed MBA dissertation I found myself on a train to Scotland, about to ride 450 miles as a guest of Adidas in the 2014 Deloitte Ride Across Britain. My riding companions for the trip were Emma and Lenkova, both newish to cycling and eager to break their 100 mile duck for the first time!
There’s a whole argument about the merits of spending the best part of £2k on a trip which is essentially free to do, and whilst I’m not going to go into it in depth I would say this in defence of the riders that wish to send that kind of money; if you are looking at a fully inclusive holiday, with a good day’s riding, excellent food, mechanical, physical and logistical support then the £2,000 seems like money well spent. The riders had nothing to worry themselves about, from eating to showering, to signage, everything was taken care – and with impeccable precision.
That’s really what you are paying for, when I first rode lejogle I spent about 10 hours on mapping, others will spend months and will relish the challenge, and some wont have the time nor the inclination, the RAB caters for those!
In the 4 days of riding I got to talk with lawyers, analysts, auditors, and entrepreneurs and the common glue that bound us together on this ride wasn’t a love of filthy lucre and avarice, but rather a love of riding bikes. Bikes of all types, from recumbents to MTB’s all the way past dozens of Boardmans up to a smokin’ hot Serotta, not forgetting the TdF liveried Dogma!
Some were fit, others not so much, but all were out there on a bike, riding in sunshine and rain, and really enjoying themselves – a special mention to the woman from Dulux who managed to crash and bruise herself a treat, yet still hobbled out the next day to complete the ride! My tent was next to hers on the last night and I was really impressed with her tenacity in getting out to ride after hearing her winces the previous evening.
I’ve got to say it, and I think I was rather surprised by my own reaction, but I had an absolute blast at the ride! The routing was great, with as much off of main roads as possible. A great mix of scenery and directness, meant we were really treated to some great sight-seeing. The ride chaperones were superb, helping those who needed it and keeping up the pace for those who fancied a quicker finish each day.
If you’ve never ridden in Scotland then you really should, it’s a fantastic place to ride, and the scenery is just stunning, this was my third time up there and I just love it. The grandeur of the place is astounding, with views that open up around every corner and each bend promising more opportunities to have your breath stolen from you. You are made to work for it, hills come frequently, but provide stunning returns on a scale thats different to England, I spend a lot of my riding time in the Peak District, but Scotland is off the scale in terms of beauty.
Rides started out each day at 7, with an hour for everyone to leave camp, so there’s no real rush, unless of course you want to. I preferred a leisurely breakfast so normally left at the last possible minute, and played catch-up with my Adidas team-mates. With an overall pace of about 10mph possible before the broom-wagon caught you there was plenty of time for photos, and if you were feeling brave/stupid there was the opportunity to go for a swim in the Lochs as you cycled past (really quite chilly).
Each evening despite tired bodies, the camp was filled with high-spirits and laughter, with fun being had by all. Sadly Day 7 brought tragedy to the event with a rider from Lloyds being struck by a car, passing away the next day in hospital. This was a sombre moment for both the ride, and the participants themselves, however in the spirit of the event, and with heavy hearts the remaining team members rode out together that next day as a unit and continued on with the ride as a team. It was a very moving experience to witness this and testament to the event and the riders characters that despite their loss they still went out.
The organisers, I believe, took every precaution with the ride and route, helping riders with etiquette and group riding as the week went on, providing a route that was as safe as possible, but with only limited roads and not being able to control the actions of others they were sadly caught out with this collision. My own view is that as sad as this death was, by providing this event I think the Ride Across Britain is actively preventing the early deaths of a great deal more people. As I mentioned before, not everyone on the ride is whippet-thin and super-fit, and the ride is almost certainly helping these riders to improve their fitness and reduce their BMI etc. Cycling lowered my cholesterol level by over 25% in the first 9 months of me taking up the activity, and I am sure it will be helping the recent converts who took it up purely for the RAB.
In conclusion, the Deloitte Ride Across Britain (I bet they are glad that it is still going to be Britain next year!) is a fun filled event, with the riders every need taken care of. It comes at a fairly steep financial price, but if you are looking for 9 days of good riding, with like-minded company, and nothing to worry about at the start or end of each day then I think it’s a great way of seeing this beautiful country of ours.