Bangor to Brighton Bike Ride Blog
Between 11th and 15th July, a brave bunch of cyclists rode from Bangor to Brighton to raise money for the Starr Trust.
Starting in Bangor in North Wales, they travelled through Snowdonia to Shrewsbury, Stratford upon Avon, High Wycombe over Leith and Box Hills before returning home to Brighton’s West Pier on Sunday.
Here is the blog of their journey:
We started bright and early with a 6am start and a quick breakfast in Bangor. The challenge we faced was huge: 150km and 3077m of elevation change across the width of Wales, through Snowdonia and across the border to Shrewsbury. Awful signal, lots of sheep and Scott’s bare chest (standard for the Welsh) were recurring themes as we set off towards our first stop in the village of Rhyd. We made quick time and reached the stop for a quick refuel.
The operation was running tight and smooth, like Scott’s pants. After setting off from Rhyd, we began our first major climb of the day at the edges of Snowdonia national park. It was worth it; the views were stunning. We continued at a relatively high altitude across plains, birds of prey flying around us for 15 miles before starting to descend. Our new destination was Bala, a small town next to a beautiful lake. The café and scenery were picturesque, so we took an extended lunch break by the Bala lake to prepare.
Creamed up and ready to go, we faced the major climb up 350m of relentless but beautiful hill. It was conquered with help from Brown and the support van. We bombed down the other side after a quick refuel and were soon back on the flat. The next 10 miles to the stop were challenging, and there were lots of aching bottoms as we ploughed on to the Green Inn. Everyone was tired but determined. Cream was applied, water refilled and a few too many lagers later we were back on the road.
Ken had run out of mildly offensive jokes and had promptly fallen asleep on the support vehicle. We crossed an underwhelming Welsh/English border and proceeded to Shropshire. The end was in sight. Overwatered and underfed at the inn, the newly nicknamed ‘scottpants’ needed a pit stop so the support van pulled over and gave him a mars bar, which brought him round. The following 15 miles to the hotel were long, tiring but steady and eventually the group arrived at 6:30, eagerly anticipating dinner and a signature Ken speech. The only remaining job was preventing Dan, Scott and Webby leading a charge on the local Wetherspoons.
Dinner came and went, accompanied by a classic Ken speech, who is living up to his name as an entertainment officer. Tony gave important details for the ride the following morning and gave the ‘star of the day’ to Rob for persevering and keeping mentally strong in spite of the bloody massive hills. After 150km, 3070m, one national park, a border crossing, 50 flapjacks, 9 hours in the saddle and an unconfirmed amount of larger consumed, day one was complete. Here’s to day 2, and hoping they make it back from Wetherspoons.
Tony: “Beautiful views and a great team bonding experience”
Johnny: “A difficult but rewarding a day”
Rob: “A really tough day”
Check out Bangor to Shrewsbury on Relive: click here!
Day 2 began in a similar fashion to the first, wolfing down Premier Inn breakfasts and hastily assembling peanut bagels for the onward journey. Bags packed, we met in the Premier Inn car park ready to leave. First stop: Ironbridge. The cyclists rolled out, lead perhaps slightly prematurely by Tony and tailed by the support vehicles, racing to catch up. The first order of business was navigating out of the urban metropolis of Shrewsbury. Thankfully, the local Shrewsbury pub didn’t claim any scalps from the night before; Scott continued his amusing habit of falling asleep in random places and nodded off in the pub, probably representative of what Shrewsbury had to offer on a Thursday night.
There was a slight burst of rain, but we soon rode through it and were on track to hit our first stop in very good time. The first 20 miles rolled by and we were seemingly unaffected by the gruelling ride a day earlier. Rosie and Tracy had barely put up the flags when the first cyclists came in to the small town. Ironbridge was charming, filled with history and lovely people. The first stop was outside the china museum, by a hostel and (appropriately) a beautiful custom bike shop. Spirits were high and before long, full of coffee and brownies we set off once more to our lunch stop.
It was a chilled out 24 miles to lunch, perturbed only by Johnny nearly single-handedly taking out the entire peloton with a rapid stop, probably to get some bum cream out of his bag. Scott had a minor collision with Julie but kept control of his bike and chose to fall on the grass instead of on Julie. A true gentleman. It was decidedly uneventful, gliding through Shropshire’s quaint villages in search of Belbroughton. The village itself was beautiful and the pub that we stopped at was a great hit. The food and drink was tasty, although Leo was quick to point out the inefficiencies of their table number system which culminated in a frantic mix up of club sandwich bread types. Dan, always the diplomat, agreed to go half and half on bread colour. Curries eaten, Garmins refigured and tans compared, the group were ready to depart, eyeing up a speedy arrival in Stratford.
The final leg proved less smooth however, and after some navigational errors and a very busy roundabout a third stop was arranged around 15 miles from the end. A road closure required some quick thinking from the leading pack and we diverted down a little path back towards historic Stratford, under the advice of a pensive suburban Shrewsbury resident. Tricky directions in Stratford resulted in Ken standing at the crossroads, waving his crutch wildly at the cyclists in the direction of the Premier Inn. It was a wonder he didn’t get taken in by the local council. Meanwhile, Dan had managed to snap his hanger (much to the delight of Ken’s joke supply) but luckily the support vehicle was right behind. Brown had the right spare part in his van and performed an impressively quick fix on his bike. Cruising past a dogged Ken, the final group turned into our third Premier Inn.
Phones recharged, showers taken and runners admired, we settled down in the restaurant after a few drinks. Dinner was as smooth as ever, thanks to the brilliant Premier Inn staff who have been consistent across all our locations. Dinners digested, we assembled on the canal for some (more) drinks and, of course, a Ken speech. He highlighted the camaraderie amongst the group and the great cause we have been cycling for. He gave a special mention to Rosie and Tracey, who have been excellent in organising and coordinating the event, always with a smile. After telling a few more questionable jokes in front of horrified/amused bystanders, the sensible majority were ready for a good night’s sleep. As for the rest, a farewell party for Chloe awaited. After 80 miles, 2 trays of brownies, some slightly scared premier inn guests, 7 Jagerbombs, a suspicious roundabout, a broken hanger and some minor travel sickness, day 2 was over.
Rob (morning): “It was a pleasant morning ride”
Ken: “Great community spirit”
Rob (afternoon): “When I get back I’m going to throw my bike away”
It was 6:15AM in the Stratford-Upon-Avon Premier Inn and, right on cue, the all too familiar phone alarm rung out across the corridor. The cyclists rose, some more groggy than others, apart from Dan who required a poke from Scott. A textbook Premier Inn breakfast followed. 87 miles faced the riders. First was a quick photo opportunity in front of the canal. We said goodbye to Chloe, who was departing in favour of a New Forest hen party. Pulling out of Stratford in the direction of Basingstoke, Day 3 was well and truly underway. What a day we were in for.
The first destination of the day was the sleepy village of Tadmarton. Arriving early, the support team met the landlady of our pub stop, the Lampet Arms, Phyllis. After arriving, we were charmed by Phyllis and her brilliant hospitality. She was particularly taken with Scott’s bare chest and lycra pants, but Ken was having none of it, sweeping in and grabbing her attention. Sufficiently watered, the group departed, tailed by the support team.
A decent climb in intense heat proved exhaustive for the riders and the miles rolled past slowly. Matters were complicated by the Support team’s revelation that the designated pub lunch stop was effectively abandoned. A mild panic ensued, and in the chaos the press officer was woken up and groggily found a pub relatively near the route. Efficient communications between the two support vehicles resulted in a Brown-led roadblock to inform the cyclists of the correct way to the new route. The riding was slightly more laboured after two intense days but we doggedly continued onwards and pulled in at The Eight Bells in Long Crendon. An impressive amount of diet coke was drunk. The cyclists did brilliantly and ascended without any complaints, especially Julie who negotiated it with ease, barely breaking a sweat. She has been a complete machine throughout the ride and is immensely respected and loved by the entire group. There was a brief stop at the top of the hill for cake, ice cream and cider. Spirits were high, apart from a slightly irate Tony, peeved that no one had bought him a cream tea. Tony has been the rock of the group, consistent and caring, and his contribution to the charity has been immense. It was discovered that Johnny had broken his hub flange and so Brown had his work cut out trying to source a new one. The support van had its work cut out as Dan had a flat tire but after a quick rave in the van to ‘insomnia’ by Faithless we reached the tire and pumped it up in no time.
The group finally rolled into the Maidenhead Premier Inn – everyone was tired and fractious and quite honestly just wanted to go to bed. Naturally, it was a perfect opportunity for Ken to speak and give out the awards. It was all too much for Leo and Scott, who left and fell asleep mid-speech respectively. All but a small group had fallen asleep, dreaming of finally reaching home. Day 3 was complete, and home was beckoning.
It was a beautiful morning in Maidenhead, and the cyclists roused from their beds like clockwork, accompanied by the dawn chorus and Andy’s snoring. It was time to depart from the all too familiar yet comforting Premier Inn. We trundled towards breakfast, aching, and set about dispatching more fried eggs. Disagreement over the route was swiftly resolved and the two big hill climbs, Leith Hill and Box Hill, were dropped from the route. Predictably, we were all tired and eager to return to Brighton. Bags (mostly) in the van and a quick final photo opportunity later, we all hit the road. Destination: home.
It was a 84 mile cycle through the heart of commuter land through classical, pretty English villages. As it was a Sunday, cyclists were everywhere, and the group felt at home amongst the other lycra clad peddlers. We cycled through dense Surrey and made our first stop near Leatherhead, just off the A24. A rather irate Surrey citizen seemed aghast that a group of charity cyclists had leaned their bikes against her wall and was keen to let that be known. She soon realised the error of her ways however, and access to her wall was most generously granted and a donation the Starr Trust was given. The heat was fierce so water bottles were refilled. As a unit, we left in search of lunch.
Rusper was our next stop and the cyclists found it without a problem. The farm shop served delicious salads, which were met with huge approval by the cyclists. We had a leisurely lunch in the full heat of the sun. A comic moment occurred when John stood up from his seat to reveal a suspect white patch left on a bench. It turned out the copious amount of Sudocream that he applied managed to secrete its way through his cycling shorts. On that savoury note the cyclists left. The end was firmly in sight.
The next 30 miles turned out to be taxing and the different groups had considerable distance between them. The welcome to Sussex sign provided a morale boost. The support group found a discrepancy in the route and communicated it with the cyclists, who managed to follow the advice and stick to the roads. Brown stopped in order to give water refills and to point everyone towards the last climb of the year, the Dyke. The first two groups passed through seamlessly, if not a little thirsty, but the last hadn’t got their heads round the route change. Much to the support team’s amusement they had managed to complete a significant distance across fields and as a result were behind the other cyclists.
The first two teams had scaled the Dyke and had time to visit a golf course club house and, slightly smugly, watch the last group cross the hill, pint in hand. Eventually they appeared, in one piece, and the end point, the i360, was in sight just behind the hills and Tony was actually right: It really was all downhill from here. The relief was palpable as everyone rolled through Hove and down to the seafront, where a welcome party was waiting.
After the obligatory group photo, prosecco was popped and pizza was eaten. Everyone was happy and rightly proud of their immense achievements over the past 4 days. Scott, never one for clothes, lead a celebratory swim for a well needed cool off. After 360 miles, countless counties and considerable camaraderie, the Bangor to Brighton 2018 ride was over.
Photos Courtesy of Jeff Mood Photography.