They did it. Two women with a love of tea cycled on a tandem from one end of the country to the other. We caught up with the achy-legged ladies to find out how they got on.
Do you think you were fully prepared for the journeys events?
We think there’s only so much you can prepare for! We had trained and felt fit and healthy, but nothing can prepare your body and mental strength for 12 solid days of cycling through wind, rain, shine and midge swarms! We weren’t endurance cyclists, so it was always going to be a big leap for us to suddenly cycle 1,000 miles and scale more hill climbs than the height of Everest! But we proved we were strong enough to push through, even though we had the worst weather the Highlands have had on record!
Your last day was one to remember. What happened?
Our final day started so incredibly! We arrived at the start point for the day and were greeted by Amanda’s best friend Lucy and her fiancé Jules, clad in leather and astride their amazing motorbikes! After trying to convince them to swap their bikes for ours, we pulled out of Bodmin to blaring music, flanked by two super cool bikers. We felt like rock stars! But 15 miles in, the weatherman had different plans for us. As it started to drizzle, the winding country roads became like an ice rink and within a split second we went from two confident tandemers, to a crumpled heap on the floor. We think we might have caught a small stone, and when that front wheel goes from under you, there is nothing you can do to counter the weight and fall of a heavy vintage tandem and her two riders. We were badly hurt, Amanda taking the brunt of the fall with the bike landing on her ribs, both of us hitting our heads, sustaining big grazes on our legs and getting a big shock! We called for our support guys to give us some roadside first aid, and after a while of calming down and warming up, we tentatively got back on the road. Babs was in a bit of a state too, battered and bruised with half a back pedal missing, but we all only had 50 miles left to go which, at that point, felt like a thousand all over again.
We were nervous and had the lost the confidence we had accumulated over the past 11 days. For the first time we were cautiously taking the downhills at a slow pace, whereas before it was as if we were on the free fall at the top of Nemesis at Alton Towers, bombing downhill, calling out with excitement as if Hanson had just made an appearance at our 13th birthday party.
So, our progress was slow, but we were pushing through the miles. It was a blooming hilly day so as lunch time approached, we were desperate for the break. And a pasty. Also, both our mums were there to give us a cuddle, a cup of tea and fresh bandages. Jecca's mum made us cry like school kids as she sprayed our sore bits with antiseptic. What a sight we were, two grown women sobbing, dirty, covered in cuts and scrapes, clutching half eaten pasties. Once again, we forced ourselves back on the road, this time with full bellies and a bit more confidence in our hearts. We sang and chatted at we skimmed along the coast of Cornwall during our final couple of hours, stopping only to take pictures, have water and, 5 miles before the end, give our bags to the support guys so as we rode to the finish line our charity t-shirts were fully on-show. The last 5 miles were a record. We absolutely flew! We were so happy to be finishing, in utter disbelief that we'd actually done it and in so much pain that the nearer the finish line got, the more happy-hurt-exhausted tears came flooding. We arrived at the finish line to a crowd of all our loved ones waving banners, cheering and joining us in our proud crying. We hugged; best friends, adventurers, tandemers, charity fundraisers. The captain and the stoker, or in our case, the driver and the turbo.
How did you find the motivation and courage to get back on Babs?
There was no other option. We'd done over 11 days, cycled the length of the UK and we couldn't fail at the last obstacle. It was hard, we were both nervous, Amanda more so as she was in charge of steering, but we did it. Just as we overcame every other challenge we faced. It wasn't easy, we took it slow, but we dug deep for the last bit of fight left in us and told Babs she only had 50 miles left to get us through, then she could have a long break!
If you had your time again what would you change?
Hindsight is a beautiful thing! We had so many problems with Babs, but even during the ride we still loved her! The fact that she was old and heavy and caused a lot of problems, just made our adventure what it was. Without the heavy, old tandem, without the worst winds on record in Scotland, without the random routes making us carry Babs over footbridges and push her through fields, without the crash, it just wouldn't have been our adventure.
We maintain, although we had the head wind, we chose the right way for us, going Scotland down. We may have been wrong thinking it would be downhill.... But it meant we got the lonely bit done first and then cycled in to civilisation as the ride went on, ending with all our family there.
So, maybe we wouldn't actually change anything..... Except having face masks for the midges in Scotland, they were rank!
It was great to see you rocking the Sundried gear across your travels, how did you find it?
The Sundried gear was amazing! After a day in, normally wet and cold, cycling gear, the first thing we did at the end of the day was to shower (when possible!) and change into our super comfy Sundried outfits. We trained in it before the ride and are still living in it now! Our Sundried bottles also came on every mile and were attached to Babs with our well needed electrolyte water every day! You guys provided our hydration and our comfort and for that we are eternally grateful!
How much money have you raised?
So far we've raised an incredible £5,000 across both Parkinson's UK and Breast Cancer Care. We're so over the moon, but of course would still love to raise more!
What are you doing for your recovery?
Sleep and rest and physio. And apparently still consuming like we're burning 5,000 calories a day! We were both left with different aches and pains, Jecca got tendinitis in her right knee so has been having Physio for that and trying to regain strength whereas Amanda had more injuries from the crash, such as bruised ribs and really bad grazes which need to heal before she can do much training. During the ride we were getting around 7 or 8 hours sleep a night, which isn't a lot when you're on a bike for 10 hours a day, so we really caught up on a sleep afterwards! Our bodies almost went into shut down and we had a really big come down leaving us feeling pretty lethargic and low. We pushed through with tea, cake and friends but we've definitely got a tandem adventure shaped hole in our lives. It's difficult going back to normality after such an incredible 12 day adventure, where every day we woke up knowing exactly what we needed to achieve that day and we'd do it together no matter what got thrown at us, and that we were doing it for all the right reasons.
What are your top tips for anyone looking to do their first long distance ride?
Just do it! Don't listen to anyone who says you aren't prepared or fit enough, or that you're going the wrong way or your bike is too old! If you believe you can do it then you will. It's an incredible way to see the world and it's definitely given us the cycling bug. Do your research (read our blog!), pack the right stuff, plan the right amount of miles and hill climbs each day and don't let the rain or wind or midges get you down.
Also, buy really good chamois cream…
So they made it back in one piece, Babs and all.Congratulations girls.