You'll find here a page dedicated towards biking coast to coast across the UK over 3 days and 150 miles with fully labelled routes, a travel diary and some top tips. Crazy Legs Crane and Chums completed the cycle between St Bees and Seaham in summer 2011 for a challenge, charity and lots of cream teas (well home-made cakes and a couple of restorative pints). We took it slow choosing a home blend of established cycle routes and quiet country lanes suitable for anyone who is cycling fit even if they are not cycling machines.
The route takes in the English Lake District, the Pennines via England's highest pub on Tan Hill, and the cathedral city of Durham before ending at Seaham on the east coast of England. We unexpectedly hit a 20% and 17% climb on our 300m ascent of Tan Hill and the Whinlatter pass is long but steady requiring 2 out of our team of 7 to push for a bit. But if you've practiced your cycling and don't live in the flat part of the Midlands then these are the perversely fun nasties you'll be used to. So if you can tuck a 50 miler under your belt, ride a day in rain and stay dry and travel at a minimum average speed of 7mph including short breaks then you too can do it. We did. All seven of us.
THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO DONATED TO THE TOMMY'S CHARITY - WE EXCEEDED OUR £500 TARGET. YOU'RE ALL GREAT!!
5 of the larger group of 7 yet to cycle anywhere - note the blue sky!
GETTING TO THE START St Bees is a good place to start the coast to coast because you are in a quiet village with far less traffic than the bigger towns of Whitehaven or Workington which is where the standard c2c routes start. Two of the team caught the train to Carlisle and then changed for a 76 minute train journey to St. Bees. The only downside to this arrangement is that there are only 2 bike spaces on this type of train which can't be booked in advance. Cycling from Penrith to St. Bees is around 50-60 miles so that's a pre-cycle warming up option.
For lazier/normaller folk there are a wealth of great taxi services that can take loads of bikes from virtually anywhere near the route to the start and pick you up at the end too. In the end we paid Alba Travel around £230 to bring their people carrier with a bike trailer that takes around 10 bikes. It was an excellent service and our driver, Elliot, was a super-friendly super-capable cyclist himself (does the Hardknot pass every weekend and had cycled LEJOG in 10 days).
Picked up at Raby Castle to be driven two thirds of the way across the country. The trailer can take 18, possibly 20 bikes.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD IN ST BEES A highly recommended place that I stayed in with my partner is Abbey Farm (£70 B&B for a double/twin). I visited a £60 option where the rest of the gang were based and was very disappointed. It was tired, with messy public areas and some dark bunker-like rooms. It was certainly not as nice as the online photos suggested. If you go for Abbey Farm you will have excellent decor, clean and charming rooms, a warm welcome and a top quality and varied breakfast menu - essential for us cyclists about to embark on a 150 mile bike ride. There's also room for the bikes in the garden although the kind hosts took ours into the kitchen. And!! They supply a nice pack-up to take away with you for about £5.
We ate at the Queens Hotel which has a nice restaurant room and beer garden and serves standard, but on the whole, tasty pub food. There are a couple of other places to eat and a small grocery store/post office.
A tasty breakfast in the fantastic Abbey Farm B&B
Back in 2008 Liz, Mal and Nixter cycled (successfully) across France. We were all novice cyclists at the time and compiled a record of our training. The same useful tips would apply to this ride across the UK. In essence take the cycling easy to start off with, especially if you're starting from absolute zero. Steadily increase your distance over the weeks, slip in a ride to the shops wherever possible, listen to your body and you'll begin to notice a difference in your bicycle fitness within a couple of months. If you can break through the magical 30 mile barrier you'll be able to cycle any distance you want. Here's the link to the training we did for France, as well as other information about bikes, gear etc.
WHAT YOU NEED FOR THE RIDE You know the British weather is highly changeable so make sure you've done a long cycle on a rainy and cold day as part of your training. This will tell you if you've got the clothes and equipment to deal with the weather. To fight this potential problem and others here is a list of what the gang took:
1. Waterproof jacket.
2. Waterproof trousers (or a change of bottoms in case you get soaked wearing your first pair and they can't dry).
3. A spare pair of socks (in case your first get really wet)
4. 2 inner tubes (in case of punctures)
5. Alan Keys, Tyre Levers, Spanners that are required to remove your wheel, change your tyre, and adjust your seat and handlebars.
6. Lights and high-vis jackets (in case it gets foggy/dark)
7. 2 water bottles
8. Padded undershorts/kicks (to reduce numb-bum)
9. Sleeping bag (for Friday night and Saturday night)
10. Shoes and clothes for the evenings
11. Clothes to keep warm (it could feel like 4 or 5 degrees in the wind and rain when we're 500m above sea level)
12. Clothes to keep cool (it could be 30 degrees centigrade - oh the vagaries of British weather)
14. PANTS!! (Recommended by Gill)
WHAT WE SHARED
16. Advanced tools
18. First-aid kit
20. Home-made flapjack to ration through the trip
21. PANTS !! (Recommended by Lee)
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE? aka THE SLOW CYCLIST'S SCHEDULE It is very useful to know if you are spending too much time in the pubs and cafes and not enough in the saddle, especially if you're planning to meet people on the way or at the end of the day. To help you I have added a Slow Cyclist's Schedule on each of the daily route pages and I used this in my map holder to check how we were doing. This is calculated based on an average cycling speed of 7 miles per hour (11kmph) per day, excluding any long (i.e. more than 10 minute) breaks. If your average cycling speed is different then substitute the 7mph for your value. Please note that you need to calculate your speed based on the slowest rider in your team. I also think that the more cyclists you have the slower you become (unless you do proper road racing) as you tend to wait more often for more people. This follows the same logic as the brake-light ripple effect that can cause traffic jams for no apparent reason. It seemed particularly bad in undulating terrain where people feel an increased need to stop at the top of each climb.
One major ommission is the wind and we all know what a huge difference that makes. If you're into a head wind you'll be slower and you'll have to modify your timings based on the circumstances at the time. The Slow Cyclists Schedule uses speeds related to terrain, always rounding down:
Downhill sections = Average daily speed x 2 mph (7x2=14 mph)
Flat sections = Average daily speed x 1.5 mph (7x1.5=10 mph)
Undulating sections = Average daily speed x 1 mph (7x1=7 mph)
Uphill sections = Average daily speed x 0.75 mph (7x0.75=5 mph)
Very steep sections = Average daily speed x 0.5 mph (7x0.5=3 mph)
Here is an example taken from day 2: