Monday, August 10, 2009

London Edinburgh London

I’m at the highest point of the ride, on top of Yad Moss, making my return to London. We have been dealing with head winds now for the last couple days, and how it’s standing me up. I’m riding on a flat section on the top, while using my smallest gear. The rain is coming down horizontal. This is the 6th edition of London Edinburgh London. It started back in 1989 with 29 starters. It’s held every four years, and this year we have nearly 600 riders from 31 countries.


We joined in on the 8:15am start, which consisted of around 50 people. After the first 10 miles or so, the group worked down to me and a fellow from Finland, with maybe 5 guys up the road, including Will. The first group started at 8am. After the morning waves of 50 IMG_2133 IMG_2136 riders each, there was also a 2pm start group. I had a small mechanical early on, as my stem wasn’t snug, and managed to twist a little. Fortunately, that was the only time I had to spend on my bike the entire ride, other then adding some chain lube a couple times. After some rolling hills out of London, the wind really helped for most of the day, coming out of the southwest. The first control was Thurlby, at 94 miles. The entire community was out, helping in any way they could. There was a big variety of food, with loads of good sweets too. It was a pretty quick stop, and then onto Washingbourgh, which was a much shorter 41 mile trip. I continued to ride with the Fin, and we still had the wind, and the roads were dry, but we have been lucky, as it has been cloudy all day. The roads are starting to flatten down now after the rolling hills north of London. On making our way to the Thorne rugby club control, a 65 mile stretch, the rains started. I also hooked into some groups, as big as 10 or so, for a quick ride into the control. We arrived there just before 9pm, so it was still light but dark was approaching. It was still raining too. At this control, I met up with my British tandem buddies, Steve Bateman and Aidan Hedley. We left together heading toward our decided sleep control at Coxwold. This would be the 257 mile point. Upon arriving at the control after some fast flat miles, we arrived just after 1am. I was fortunate to be with Steve and Aidan, as Aidan’s wife was heading up this control, so we were on their home court. I understood the sleeping quarters was busy and loud, but Aidan set up a tent on the back lawn before the start of the ride, so, after dinner, the three of us laid down for 4 needed hours of sleep.



The alarm was ringing at 6am, and the rain had stopped during the night, so it was a great morning. We were on the bikes at 7, flying to the next control over the shortest intermittent distance of 33 miles. The roads were still on the flat side, but understood things were going to change soon. We were in Middleton Tyas before 9am. A big effort was right in front of us now, as the next control was Alston, which is 48 miles away, and also contained Yad Moss, the highest point of the ride at 1794 feet. Aidan mentioned we will make a café stop near the halfway point, and just before the climb, in Middleton-in-Teesdale. Oh yea, that sounds great to me. Now one of joys of riding in the British countryside was starting. A couple from Seattle joined us at the café. With the local knowledge of my riding buddies, they informed them of what was to come. I found the climbs were usually pretty long, but the grade was not bad. I found most were fine using my 34 tooth middle ring, and a 23 or 25 IMG_2154  IMG_2158

rear gear, at a moderate cadence. The climb was over 10 miles, starting in a wooded section, and then quickly changing to open and exposed. We also had a change in the wind from yesterday, and had more of a headwind coming down the valley, as we climbed up Yad Moss. There were some flats at the top, before descending toward the Alston Outdoor Center, arriving just before 2pm. We were again greeted by very nice folks, and great pasta. The next section to Eskdalemuir was 59 miles. Again, Aidan suggested a café around the midpoint in Longtown. I could get used to this! Just after rolling out of Longtown, we crossed to Scottish border. Eskdalemuir was between a couple climbs, which had a similar grade as Yad Moss, but just a shorter climb. Traquair would play host to a secret control going out only. These guys were serving up some great porridge, which was, of course, Scottish oat flakes. They had some Scottish whiskey to flavor it, or you could just opt for sugar. Scotland was very scenic, and was generally these long grades up, back down to cross over an A road, then back up another. I ended up climbing the last one of the day with an Italian, Ricardo, which we rode with most of the afternoon. After cresting, we were treated with a great view of the lights of Edinburgh down below. We had a great decent to a suburb of Edinburgh, Dalkeith. We arrived just after midnight. After having an excellent cheese omelet, and my first shower, if was off to sleep for about 4 hours.



I got on the road about 6am, riding by myself, and really feeling good about making the turn and now heading back to the barn. The roads were dry, but the wind managed to shift during the night, and we were again dealing with a headwind. After a quick stop in Traquair for a couple more bowls of the best porridge in Scotland, it was back to the climbing. On some of these gradual descents, we IMG_2168 IMG_2169 had to work much harder then we expected, as the winds were pretty furious coming through the valleys. It seemed as the folks still making their way north to Edinburgh were having an easier go of it, even though they were climbing, but with the assistance of mother nature on there backs. I arrived at the next control, Eskdalemuir, and found that my buddy, Will, hasn’t arrived. I didn’t see him at Dalkeith, but he obviously got more sleep then I did. While I was eating, he rolled in. We caught up on what’s been happening the last two days of riding. He had been about 2 hours in front of me at most controls, but just getting a little more sleep at the same overnight controls. We rode together to Alston, and after making it up the cobble streets in town, we made our way up to the outdoor center. The roads were still dry, and the wind continued in our face. 101_1282 After refueling with some more great pasta, we were heading back up Yad Moss and then putting the mountains behind us. Will took off just before me, and as I was filling up my water bottles, the rain started again. After getting a little protection from the wind on the way up, the wind stood me up on the top. I was in my smallest gear on the flats, which was a smaller gear then what I just used to get to the top of the beast. The rain was horizontal. No one was in site. Fixing a flat in this environment would be a monumental task. The road finally started pointing down, and still at a slow pace I started the decent. At the bottom, in Middleton-in-Teesdale, Will parked his bike close to the road to get my attention, as he munched down on some hot food at the local fish and chips shop. We arrived at the next control, Middleton Tyas, at dusk, which was around 10pm. The control was pretty quite, and had showers. The next control, Coxwold, would be much louder, and they didn’t have showers, so we figured this would be a better place to overnight, even with Coxwold being only 32 miles away. I slept for nearly 6 hours.



Our pace was slowing. I left at 6am, and spoke to Will, who just got up, as I was rolling out. I rode the 32 miles to Coxwold with Joe, a British fellow that rides a fixed gear. The roads were dry, and the wind was pretty light as we started our day. Will met up with us at Coxwold, and not long after getting back on the road, the rains started. This day ended up being the wettest for us, as it didn’t stop all day. One new piece of equipment I brought was a Showers Pass century rain jacket. This jacket performed great. After a full day of rain, my jersey and arm warmers were dry underneath. Will and I rode the 55 miles onto Thorne, arriving around 2pm. The first thing I noticed upon entering the rugby club was a little notice board that had the surprising news that the organizers added an additional 2 hours to the allowed completion time to the ride, due to the weather! I’m glad we weren’t in a situation to need that, but I’m sure that was a relief to some. I had a great dish of sausage LEL Thorne control casserole, with was more like our beef stew, but with sausage. We also heard of some misfortunate buddies of ours. Rick Carpenter, from Pennsylvania, was leaving out earlier the same day from Thorne, and managed to pull out in front of a car. He just suffered from a shiner on the side of his face, but his bike didn’t fare as well, breaking in a couple places. Our Israeli buddy, Lev Broitman, was also at the control. He had digestive problems that stopped his 101_1315 efforts in Thorne on his way north to Edinburgh. So, the volunteers at the control put him to work, helping in the kitchen. He also loaned out his Independent Fabrications bike to Rick, who completed the ride. Lev took the train back to London that evening. As Will and I got back on the road, we were considering riding to Thurlby tonight, just leaving 94 miles back to London. As we got to the next control in Washingborough, still in the rain, at an early 8pm, we decided to go ahead and get a shower and wait for better weather 101_1300 tomorrow. The forecast looked promising, so we ordered a pizza and spent the entire evening there. We were turning our return trip more into a tour, but hey, we were on vacation and didn’t see the need to ride in dark and rain to get another 40 miles closer to London. We met some really helpful folks at Washingborough too, with one fellow taking our wet cloths to his house for a spin in his dryer. Our buddies, Mike Dayton and John Ende came in around midnight too. The last 200k was setting up to be a great day.



After a long nights sleep, we were back on the road around 6am. Will’s knee was starting to bother him some. The forecast held true, and the skies were party cloudy, but we still had that headwind. It was nice to have the rain jacket buried in my bag. We met up with George from New York, and his riding buddy, Robin, from the UK, and soon after hooked up with Mike, John, and Spencer. We had a great group in high spirits as we rolled into Thurlby. The nice IMG_2187 IMG_2180 volunteers were serving up some great bacon sandwiches that were loaded with salt, which I was craving. The last control on the route, Gamlingay, was 54 miles away. After a little confusion getting into Gamlingay, and another shower popping up, Will and I pulled into Gamlingay around 2:30pm. Mike pulled in just after us. As we were getting ready to leave for the last 40 mile section, a shower popped up. Will got out before the shower, so Mike and I waited it out. IMG_2119 After getting on the road, we were met up with George and Robin. With about 10 miles out from the Lee Valley Hostel, our starting point, we stopped at the Woodsman Pub for a celebratory beer. We finished at 6pm.


TOTAL DISTANCE – 875 miles

The next couple days after the ride, Will and I hung out at the hostel. We spent some time at the local pub, the Windmill. We met the owner, Dave, before the ride, where we watched a couple stages of the Tour de France. We also had some dinners with Phil Creel, a two time finisher of LEL, from South Carolina, and Lev Broitman, our buddy from Israel. I found LEL to be much tougher then Paris IMG_2199 IMG_2200 Brest Paris. First off, it’s 200 kilometers longer. We also had tough weather conditions. This course has many more sustained mountain climbs too.

Will Shore took the picture of the rainbow.

Thanks for reading,



  1. Great report, Jimmy. It sounds (and looks) like an epic ride. Congratulations to you, and pass them along to Will too.

  2. Jimmy,
    Thaks for posting such a vivid description of the ride so that I could experience it vicariously, & am now never tempted to actually do it. The beer details seem a little sparse...
    Impressive accomplishment.