How it all started

Hello everyone. As a blogging virgin I don´t really know how all this works but I feel it is important to keep the communication juices flowing with our forthcoming event.

So let´s go back to the beginning. One afternoon around 12 months ago I was out walking my dog near my home when a cyclist passed me. Then it hit me. Why don´t I do that? I wanted to change my lifestyle and get healthy. I wasn´t particularly active, or certainly not as active as I should be and my weight was a constant frustration.

I went to work that night and told Karl that I was going to buy a bike. Karl instantly said he would do the same and we would get fit together. Neither of us had ridden for some time so didn´t really know what we were doing. Then a mate at work told us about the cycle to work scheme. It all seemed too good to be true. We went to the local bike shop, chose our bikes and accessories, put in our applications and waited.

Although the wait for the approval was only around 4 weeks, it was all we could think about. We were like 2 kids waiting for Christmas. We both had grand plans. We were going to conquer the world and become super fit. So we started bigging things up about what we could achieve. In a moment of madness we both agreed we would do a charity ride. We would give ourselves a few months to get used to the bikes and then decide if the idea was viable.

The bikes arrived. So did reality. It was March. It was wet and it was cold. Was this such a great idea? Like brave little soldiers we ventured out and realised that although it was a lot harder work than we realised it was actually really enjoyable. Then we went out together and disaster struck. As I had not really ridden since I was at school I pulled the wrong brake lever by mistake and the new disc brakes were very efficient, throwing me over the handlebars and my face got very intimate with the tarmac. What a mess! Luckily the bike wasn´t damaged and my pride was hurt more than my face so I put up with the ridicule for a few days and just got on with it.

The weather started to improve and we really started to enjoy getting out. We went gadget mad. Solar panels were fitted to keep our phones charged that were mounted on the handlebars. Apps were acquired to plot our exact mileage and location. Sunglasses, with built in headphones, socks to keep your feet cool. You name it, we bought it.

I managed to get a place on the London to Brighton ride in June and raised over £300 for BHF and I was really pleased to complete the 55 mile ride relatively easily. Karl followed suit and as part of a team at work did the ride in August, raising a similar amount. So the decision was made that we would pursue the idea of a charity ride, but what would we do?

Thinking about the cycle to work scheme and how we had acquired our bikes I had the idea of the ‘Big Cycle To Work Tour´. Dav Grocery deliver to 13 DC´s every day and it´s our job to make that happen so the big ‘cycle to work´ tour incorporated the cycle to work scheme and visiting our ‘customers´. The idea was born. Was it achievable? Would we get the support? Would people sponsor us?

All questions we asked ourselves as we looked at the practicalities. We worked out the most efficient route and rough mileage. It started off as 1200 miles. How long would it take to achieve this? We are both MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) with little experience but lots of enthusiasm. The target has to be a real challenge for us to attract some good sponsorship but achievable. We set the target as 20 days, so averaging 60 miles per day. We knew we could cover 60 miles in a day but could we do that for 20 days in a row? We looked more closely at what was needed to physically achieve this. 3 weeks off work, a support vehicle with willing driver, trained medic, hotels, ferry crossings etc. etc. The list seemed never ending.

We prepared a presentation and pitched it to our Depot Manager, Jim Whitehead. Jim, to his credit, was very enthusiastic and agreed in principal to supporting us with the practicalities but needed some more details. We went away and reworked what we wanted to do. The route turned into more like 1400 miles as we can only use minor roads and the extra distance to and from the hotels. So the daily distance is now 70 miles, the challenge is growing.

We needed to look at all the other aspects of the task as well as the actual ride. It was becoming evident that the ride itself would just be the culmination of a whole year of preparation. Karl´s Dad, Peter offered his services as support vehicle driver. He is a retired Sergeant Major in the army so would keep us in order. One big box ticked.

We then needed to look at the promotion side. We wanted a website and it needed to look good. If we were doing this we were doing it properly. What do you know! Karl´s Uncle is a web designer and after some pestering from Karl he designed www.thebigtescosaddlesoretour.co.uk, a triumph.

Things are really picking up a pace now. It is now Christmas and neither of us have managed to get out as much as we would like. Life is just getting in the way. Right, a new year. Let´s do this. We hit training hard. 150 miles per week. This is taking a lot of commitment. We both work nightshift and after we have had a sleep there are not many hours of daylight left to fit in a meaningful ride. All of our long rides have to be fitted in on our off days.

We are now looking at the finer details of the ride. The bikes will need maintenance as well as spare parts. With a bit of gentle persuasion, our local bike shop, Leisure Lakes in Daventry agreed to supply us with a selection of parts to take with us on a sale or return basis with the sale being cost price. They would also give our bikes a full service before we leave. Tick. We need a medic. Both Karl and Peter are trained first aiders but we need to look for someone with physio capabilities. I contacted Sheila Leddington-Wright who is the senior sports therapy lecturer at Coventry University and after an initial meeting she has agreed to give us advice on nutrition and injury prevention before the ride and to supply one of her students to travel in the support vehicle behind us to be on hand to keep our legs moving. Tick. So now the main bits are in place.

It has officially taken over my life. I had no idea at the start what a huge amount of work would be needed to put our idea into practice but the more things crop up, the more determined we are to get over them and make them happen. The training continues but we both wish the weather could be just a bit warmer.

I think this brings us up to date. My ramblings will be shorter from now on but I will endeavour to update every week.

Best wishes
Simon and Karl