Fuelled by a mixture of adventurous, generous and festive spirit- combined with the simple need to get home for Christmas Rob and I decided that the best course of action was to ride home from Sheffield to London, raising money for MacMillan Cancer Support along the way. This instantly seemed like a brilliant plan, as is often the way on a balmy 3 hour late October ride in the Peak. Plans were made, revised, made and revised again until suddenly it was time to carb load and finally it was 4.55am Sunday 18th December and time to step out into the cold to meet Rob at the Art’s Tower, where all the best rides begin.
We began by rolling up Eccy Rd to get out of the city and the customary Sheffield gradient soon got the blood coursing and began to warm us, the plan being to cut east as far as Ollerton before swooping southward. Plunged into darkness as we outpaced the sodium lighting in Coal Aston Rob was expressing his enjoyment of night riding moments before a suicidal rabbit raced across the road just about avoiding our front wheels as we hit the brakes, phew! We cracked along through the freezing darkness, riding over a few patches of ice and seeing less cars still, before arriving at Ollerton services for cake and banana ice cream. The hour and a half of pedalling to Lowdham which followed was pretty much ideal, smooth flat roads with a light tail wind saw us flying along as the sun gradually set the sky ablaze with reddy, orangey hues beautifully silhouetting winter bare trees on the horizon.
In stark contrast the A46 which was next along the route was not such a poetic affair, a tough slip road climb to join followed by a draggy 2 mile climb up the coned off dual carriage way was topped off by a deflation event for Rob’s rear wheel. Riding back down the road in the wrong direction, not advisable, once I realised Rob was gone I came back to find him hands caked in the mud we had just ridden through searching for the culprit. Must admit I had a bit of a laugh at this scene but as the chill started setting in on top of the hill with the faint but present threat of a blizzard we worked together to and were quickly under way again. Leaving the A46 behind and hitting the road to Melton Mowbray and eventually Market Harborough our spirits finally started to flag as the road relentlessly rose and fell, testing our resolve and making our friend Adam and a hot cup of coffee seem further and further away; we pressed on through this tough section and hit Market Harborough just after 11.
Revived by a ubiquitous Christmas themed turkey sandwich, coffee and millionaire short bread kindly paid for by Adam (thanks!), and having timely avoided a snow shower, it was time for the second half of the ride- a mere 110 miles lay ahead. Not long after leaving MH behind the sun began to shine, just in time to turn the ice to slush as we hit a couple of sketchy descents whilst riding through quaint villages and passing the rah Jack Wills bag toting girl, “is that Gap-Yah’s girlfriend?” Rob joked. Around this time we picked up Martin who was joining us en route at Earls Barton, and with the sun blazing overhead we scorched across the midlands towards the home counties making only two brief stops as we went. The second of these was at Tescos, Flitwick where the strain was again starting to show as Rob struggled to make basic conversation with the checkout girl and to retrieve his coke bottle from the floor (sorry Rob…). After almost 9 hours in the saddle it finally felt like the end was nye as we cut across the M1 north of Luton to Dunstable and hit the A5, route one and dead straight all the way into London, hooking up with the very laid back Andy A just north of St Albans. We finally rode into suburbia down the Edgeware Rd spotting our first London bus and battling traffic, here we said goodbye to Martin who was 3 hours late for a dinner party, and made stuttering progress towards Hyde Park before triumphantly rolling down Constitution Hill and the Mall passing the palace and reaching the finish line amongst the hustle and bustle of Trafalgar Square. Photos and a sense of relieved accomplishment all round, as well as Robs soigneur and carers (mum, dad and brother) were on hand with chocolate milk and apple crumble- mild embarrassment turned to delight as we stood freezing but happy. We decided to forego the planned Maccy D’s on the strand as the mercury continued to fall and we still had a job to finish we weren’t home yet! Rolling down the embankment and over Blackfriars bridged with renewed vigour we shot out to Lewisham where Andy A and I left Rob to finish the journey to Bexleyheath and carried on south to Bromley and Orpington.
Lastly a massive thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and a reminder that it’s not too late http://www.justgiving.com/Robert-Ricketts