- Tell us a bit about To Hull and Back...
To Hull and Back is a 400 mile cycle ride from London to Hull and back again in tribute to my friend Simon, who sadly took his life in February this year. He died the day before his 35th birthday.
After the shock of Simon’s death, I knew I wanted to do something to help both his two young boys and also other men in crisis—and so the idea for the ride was born. We’ll be setting off on Friday the 1st of September from the Olympic Park in Stratford and we'll be aiming to cover 100 miles a day for four days - returning on Monday the 4th.
As well as a small team of helpers working away behind the scenes, I'm being joined on the ride by my friends Jenni and Phil—Phil sadly lost his brother 17 years ago and so the ride and cause are close to his heart also. We’re riding to Hull as this is the hometown of Simon’s wife, Helen, and also the last place that I saw him and so it has great symbolism to his memory.
Before Simon’s death I knew nothing of the issues of suicide or its alarming frequency, and so I’m supporting CALM as I wanted to get involved with a charity that was specifically focussed on the issues of suicide and helping men, but one that was perhaps was not as well know or didn't have as high a profile of some of the larger charities working more generally within mental health sector.
- How have you been preparing for the ride?
The three of us have been training hard prepping for the ride for since April this year. I'd not been on a bike for more than three years, and had never cycled more than about 10 miles in one go. It’s been a big challenge to get ready and I've been out on the bike two to three times a week, slowly building up the mileage to cope with the distances we'll be covering.
I’ve also been planning (and re-planning) the route, practicing changing flat tyres and working out the fuel I’ll need to take on board in order to keep my legs moving—and I feel like I’ve eaten enough flapjacks to last a lifetime.
I remember when 30 miles felt like a massive barrier I had to try and break through, but my last ride was over 85 miles so I’ve certainly come a long way—riding over 1,200 miles since I started training—and hopefully it’ll be enough to get there and back!
- What tips do you have for anyone wanting to get on the bike?
For anyone interested in getting into cycling, I’d say take it slow and go at your own pace. It’s easy to think you can just go out there and nail it but your legs need to build up the distance, as does your bum! Getting a good saddle can make a world of difference to your comfort, and the more comfortable you are, the further you can go.
A saying I’ve come across a lot since I started cycling is ‘it doesn’t get easier, you just go faster’. For a while I didn’t really understand that, but I’m starting to get it now, as once you get into a rhythm your legs will just keep working and you’ll notice your speed and distances increase but it feels like your effort levels stay the same.
Once you find your flow it feels less like effort and more like enjoyment and there’s something really satisfying and energising about feeling a smooth road rushing under your feet and the wind rushing past.
So if you’re out on the road this weekend, watch out for us and feel free to say hi, or join us if you see us riding past.
Ride safely everyone. We’re off to Hull.