A new sportif for me (Sunderland Big Bike Ride)

After having competed in the Cyclone every year and taken part in the Great North Bike Ride I wasn’t intending n entering any sportives this year.

Until a Facebook group I’m in called ‘Cycling Around the North East (UK)’ started talking about a ride leaving from Sunderland on 11 June.

It’s organised by Active Sunderland and comprises of 20 or 35 miles (which is way shorter than I’m used to) but I thought if I cycle there and back from my home in Gateshead it would be nearer 70 and it only costs a tenner!!.

And of course it wouldn’t be a challenge unless I was doing it on the Chopper.

Anyway, I entered but foolishly left it until the day before to do some much needed maintenance on the bike. this comes with its own issues as , if anything goes wrong I can’t just go and buy parts off the shelf. Thankfully it all went well and the bike was ready to go.

I decided that as registration was from 8am I’d get dropped off at the start which is what I did and soon had quite a few people coming to talk about the bike and seemed really surprised I’d take on the ride on a heavyweight 43yr old kids bike.

Registration complete I hung around talking to many riders before the off. There were only 450 riders taking part and 90% must have been on MTBs. I didn’t know the route so wasn’t too sure what to expect.

I was asked by Peter Noone (I think) the organiser if Doris (lord Mayor) could have a photo so got them taken and rejoined the back of the group.

Off we set along the C2C route on what was probably a little too rough conditions for my bike but hey ho it’s a bike ride. I’ll have to include my strava link as I’m not au fait with the area so couldn’t tell you where I was for most of the time. Riders were talking of a couple of hills Moorsley and the quarry climb at Hetton lake.

conditions luckily stayed dry all day despite massive black clouds but I must say the SW wind was testing and seemed to be in our face most of the way out and fairly strong. Soon I came to the Moorsley Climb and as I don’t have gears like modern bikes I just grit my teeth and power up, passing quite a few riders in the process. At the top I stopped for a snack and to chat to other riders who had made it or pushed up. Dropping down from Moorsley I soon skirted the lake and started on the quarry climb which seemed steeper to me with even more pushers but thankfully I made it.

From there we seemed to head down towards the coast with at least a couple of miles of freewheeling before picking up Sustrans route 1 heading back towards Sunderland. When we approached Sunderland we passed a Metro station with a marshal on but after that the signs seemed to disappear (and others commented later on it) so I headed through the town centre over the bridge and dropped through the car park and through the finish line to pick up my medal, rucksack, waterbottle, bottle of water and most importantly chunky kit kat ūüôā

chopper finish

I sat around chatting to a few riders for quite  while before heading down to Faustos cycle cafe on the seafront for a coffee . Finishing off my ride I cycled up to south shields, ferry across to North shields and followed the C2C route on north side of the tyne on my detour back to Gateshead.

 

Thanks to the organisers and the participants I had a nice ride out.

I was contacted by a couple of riders following the ride who asked if I’d beaten them on the climbs so I sent them my strava link and yes I had. but it wasn’t a race.

 

And here is the link to my strava :

https://www.strava.com/activities/1032076948/embed/32db62e68af76f90c94fa773e2fa6050fd2f199a

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2016 Adventure

In 2016 instead of a UK based challenge I decided to organise a trip abroad.

The plan was to tour the mountain range of Mallorca whilst lugging our panniers with us, staying in a different location each night and still take on all the massive climbs in the process – on a budget

To find out how we got on checkout www.mallorcacycletouring.co.uk

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It’s all about the Cafe, Coffee and Cakes and the bike is just an excuse

I post many photos when I’m out cycling around the North East region, many of them are cake related and I often get asked, where is that cafe?

So I thought I’d drop in a post just about the cafes I frequent on the bike (normal people are also welcome)

Pedalling Squares, Swalwell, opened 2014, going great guns, riding high on Trip Advisor. Great ambiance. Store your bike securely inside, outside eating area with pizza oven, great local produce sweet and savoury, often cycle related media on the big screen, various music nights and welcoming staff and their own Barista, Bike shop attached Рfree wifi http://www.pedallingsquarescafe.com/home.html

Fausto Cafe, Sunderland Р the new kid on the block (opened this year), just off the seafront. Small but perfectly formed. all home baked goods, friendly and chatty owner. Welcoming cyclists and non-cyclists alike. If finishing C2C you get free cake with the purchase of a cuppa Рfree wifi http://fausto.coffee/

Capheaton Tearooms – Green tin hut with open fire. Run by an elderly lady and be on your guard if you haven’t pre-warned her you are attending with more than 6 riders (it’s a rush). home made cakes. Very limited outdoor seating and cakes can run out by 2pm. lucky if you get a phone signal. Open Sat/Sun

Blacksmiths Cafe, Belsay РNice cafe with indoor and outdoor seating with views overlooking the rolling fields. A large selection of cakes and other savouries. Can get very busy especially around lunch time. Popular with the purple rinse brigade. http://www.blacksmithscoffeeshop.co.uk/

Impromptu Cafe, Elsdon, Northumberland. The old schoolhouse – it’s the owners front room. It’s like stepping back in time with vinyl table cloths and cycling related¬†memorabilia adorning the walls and ceiling. Great owners offering an honest service and will never turn a cyclist away whatever time they arrive. Home made grub and baking including Gibbet Cake. I think they are closed on Thursdays¬†http://www.cyclistswelcome.co.uk/establishment/impromptu-cyclist-cafe

Parkhead Station, top of Crawleyside Bank. A favourite stop off of the C2C’ers having just climbed Crawleyside or come across the rough track on the moor top. Can get busy.¬†http://www.parkheadstation.co.uk/

Hownsgill Tea Rooms, Castleside, Consett РSet on a working farm with great views of the rolling countryside. Inside and outside seating areas and very reasonably priced http://c2cstopoff.co.uk/tea-rooms/

And yes there are more I’ve visited which I haven’t listed – but this should be your starter (pun intended)

I DON’T GET IN THIS SHAPE BY AVOIDING CAFE AND CAKES

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With huge thanks to Cycle Centre, Byker, the Chopper is back in action

In late December 2014 I thought I’d treat the chopper to a replacement chain, which I ordered and fitted .

Unfortunately I didn’t get chance to test it right away and ditched the old chain. When I did get around to testing it I found it jumping horrendously making it unrideable ūüė¶

To cut a long story short, I tried different new chains, different cassettes, jockey wheels as well as many other tweaks until I finally had to admit defeat, something I’ve NEVER had to do with any bike mechanical issue.

Then one wet Sunday afternoon I was representing Sky Riders (British Cycling) and I bumped into Rob from the Cycle Centre in Byker who, when I explained the predicament stated “I love a challenge” and I love a mechanic who loves a challenge ūüôā

So, I dropped the bike off, explained all the permutations I’d tried and left it with him.

He set to work trying some things I’d already tried along with some others I hadn’t considered.

The culmunation of his various tweaks means the Chopper is finally back on the road after 6 months and I can’t thank them enough.

Checkout their shop http://www.cyclecentreuk.co.uk/

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Last post I was considering wrapping the Chopper up for winter (2013)

A year crammed into one blog post

Just over a year ago I last made my blog post and in it I was considering wrapping up the Chopper for the winter months. Well, that never happened due mainly to an ultra mild winter meaning I could continue riding he bike at weekends throughout the year.

2013 had brought about a few changes for me namely leaving Northumbria University and the starting at LSL (Your Move/Reeds Rains), still based in Newcastle. At the end of the year I also qualified as a Sky Ride Leader which meant I would be responsible for taking
groups of people on organised shortish (up to 30 mile) bike rides from June – November. It’s free for any member of the public to sign up for one, just checkout http://www.goskyride.com. This has changed my outlook on cycling where I receive a lot of positive feedback about our sport and it’s certainly widened up my circle of friends.

At the end of 2013 our local newspaper, The Evening Chronicle wanted to do an article about the Raleigh Chopper and asked for an interview which I duly gave:

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/raleigh-chopper-boyhood-biking-dream-6123657

At the end of it I said I was looking for a¬†Tomahawk for my 7-year-old daughter and a ¬†Budgie for my 4-year-old boy. I was fortunate to be contacted by a friend who offered me a Silver Jubilee Edition (1977). but that only started Jude asking when he would get a Budgie, it’s not as simple as that son. Eventually, I managed to locate a suitable purchase in Hartlepool.

So now we are a stable of 3 retro iconic bikes ūüôā

3 Retro, Iconic Raleighs - Cycle Hub Cafe, Newcastle Upon Tyne

3 Retro, Iconic Raleighs – Cycle Hub Cafe, Newcastle Upon Tyne

As I said earlier I’ve been leading organised¬†Sky Rides in Newcastle area since June but during the year each of the Sky sponsored cities have their own BIG ride which is a day of cycling events in and around the city. 8000 riders signed up for the Newcastle event. Unfortunately, the day before the ride the Met office forecast torrential rain in Newcastle and it turned out ‘only’ 3000 riders turned out. As it happened it stayed dry all day until the event finished… then the rain really came down.

Bradley Wiggins bike Vs Iconic bike

Bradley Wiggins bike Vs Iconic bike

I spoke to a few of the other ride leaders and some of us (Bronwen, ¬†Max and myself) decided to take the train down to York for their big city ride a month later to meet and support the York ride leaders. ¬†York was still buzzing from their success hosting the start of TDF so not surprising 10,000 riders had signed up and the weather was glorious all day. As we arrived at the start line I was asked for a few photos which I’m always happy to oblige. Then we tootled down to the assembled start line where the press asked for a photo of ‘the chopper man’ and the Lord Mayor which I duly obliged. Then they asked for one with the pro rider (who I didn’t know at the time). Turned out to be none other than Russ Downing who rode for Sky last year and NFTO this year. He asked if I was happy to lead out the ride with him only then to be told he was only doing the first 500metres before looping back. So it left me leading 10k cyclists on a route I’d never ridden – what could possibly go wrong. Actually nothing went wrong, had a fantastic day out.

From L-R Lord Mayor, Me, Russ Downing (Team NTFO), 10,000 other cyclista

From L-R Lord Mayor, Me, Russ Downing (Team NTFO), 10,000 other cyclists

Russ Downing - Team NFTO

Russ Downing – Team NFTO

Big rides 2014

Ride for Red June

I was contacted by someone who was aware I’d completed the Great North Bike Ride on the bike in 2013 and asked if I would do the Ride for Red, a 60 mile ride from Seahouses to Newcastle Quayside which followed and inland route unlike the coast hugging of the GNBR. It was a select field and instead of making up the numbers I thought I’d have a go to see how fast I could cover the ride up against some of the proper roadies. Turned out I was in the first 30 finishers – I can live with that.

If you get chance to do the ride, don’t hesitate, the organisation is great, the riders friendly, the route doable and scenic and the hospitality at the end is by far the best I’ve seen on any ride I’ve ever done , top marks to Claire Blake and the rest of the organisers.

http://www.strava.com/activities/148205879

Cyclone 6/14

My first attempt at the Cyclone (the biggest cycling event in the North East) in 2013 had been a cautious one as I had just built up the bike and I was having a few teething issues with the gears so only entered the 35 mile ride which I managed with ease. This year would be different, My daughter Hannah 8 wanted to do the short ride with me but after careful consideration I thought it too far for her on a single speed bike with 20″ wheels. So I couldn’t ‘just’ do the 35 again I would have to up the anti and go for the 67 miles middle route which takes in the infamous Ryals climb, a climb feared by many cyclists.

I arrived in plenty of time at the start and was soaking up the atmosphere when one of the Shimano team mechanics asked if I’d done it the year before which I nodded and he told me they still had the photo from the start. I explained I would be tackling the Ryals at which he shook his head and wished me good luck. ¬†Then a guy and a videographer asked to do an interview as they were looking for different types of cyclists (read: eccentric) where I explained 67 miles wouldn’t be a challenge ona normal bike (of course it is) . ¬† I knew the Ryals were near the end of the ride so I deliberately didn’t go out all guns blazing leaving myself nothing left at ‘the hill’. There was still one major hill before we got there which caught out many of the riders and they pushed it. one big effort from me saw me crest it to a well-needed feed station at the top. Then it was onwards until I eventually reached the bottom of the biggy along with loads of other cyclists on their ‘normal’ bikes ranging from ¬†MTB thru hybrids to full on carbon road bikes., but not one other chopper. Off I set away gritted my teeth and went for it. ¬†I must say it gives me inner strength when I saw other cyclists pushing up the hill on all sorts of bikes. Eventually I made it (and there are photos to prove it), fisting in the air in delight. I must ¬†admit if it had been a couple of degrees steeper I may not have made it. Off I tootled to the food station at Cambo where I met up with the Shimano mechanics again who would eventually tail me all the way to the finish.

One weekend in October I suddenly started getting tagged on Facebook in a video which turns out to be the promotional video for the 2015 event and it has me as the cover and contains some of my interview within it.

The Ryals - Grimace or Smile?

The Ryals – Grimace or Smile?

The Ryals - Conquered

The Ryals – Conquered

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top of the Ryals

Top of the Ryals

http://www.strava.com/activities/156387985

 

Great North Bike Ride(GNBR) 30/8

3013 I had been really quick (for aChopper) covering the 60 mile route at an average 14.9mph. This year I was aiming for a faster time. Alas it wasn’t to be, as the headwind gods were against us which slowed progress significantly. So yes, a slower ride but enjoyable all the same. Same again next year

The start at Seahouses

The start at Seahouses

http://www.strava.com/activities/184633807

Rob’s race for the disabled

I often get invited to join in big bike rides mainly due to the publicity the bike will draw. There was one ride I was asked to join in for the week prior to Children in Need when a disabled cyclist, Rob Groves was hand-cranking his trike from Edinburgh to London calling at the BBC studios on the way. He was after 50 able-bodied cyclists to join him for the last 3 miles into the studio which would be with a police escort. This meant meeting at Gosforth Asda and riding in. As I don’t do things by half I decided to head up towards Kirkharle where I would meet him and his 2 friends followed by his crew in a camper van. Sio I turned around and joined in, using my local knowledge along the way. As we came in to Ponteland we met up with Max Hall with quite a few other riders who were pitched at the cafe so they joined us and we were soon heading down into Gosforth and into Asda where we were met by the Police cars. Off we all set along Gosforth high street, bells ringing and the Police stopping all other traffic at junctions and road lights – fancy being encouraged to run red lights? Great fun and we were soon down to the BBC Studios where Rob had arranged to collect a Pudsey Bear. All the other riders retraced their tracks and headed home but I navigated us through and across the Tyne, through Gateshead and stopped near the Angel of the North where¬†I wished them well and bid them farewell.

A few days later and Rob arrived at the London Studios in time for the live screening – huge congratulations to him and his team.

Chopper and trike

Chopper and trike

If you want to read more: http://raceforthedisabled.com/

 

A non-chopper ride – Border Reivers

I also organised for a group of friends to do a long ride this year on ‘normal’ bikes. This was the Border Reivers, Tynemouth through Kielder¬†before eventually finishing in ¬†Whitehaven. It poured down for 3 days but we still had a great ride . Thanks to John, Ian, Jed, Carl, Tony for a great weekend of wet cycling.

Strava

Although I signed up with Strava a few years ago, I never really used it in earnest. so for 2014 I decided to try and log all of my rides just to see how many miles I clock up in a year. At the time of publishing, ¬†I’ve completed¬†1,729 miles which are not bad for a bike taken out normally only taken out one day most weekends. Add to that 4,000 on my touring bike for the year.

Website stats

Despite the fact I haven’t updated the site in a year it still gets regular visitors who search for the most iconic bike you could find resulting in 22.5k views to date. And my http://www.nigelend2end.co.uk has passed through 65k views.

What’s the plan for 2015?

Well, as if a 40 year old bike isn’t enough I’ve recently bought a 50yr old (1964), 3-speed, Moulton F-frame bike which is yet another British built marque. I’m sure I’ll be taking out for spins in the coming year.

If you fancy joining me for a ride you will often find me @Pedalling Squares Cycle Cafe in Swalwell enjoying their hospitality or feel free to drop me a note on the contacts page.

Or of course you are always assured of a warm welcome on any of the Sky Rides http://www.goskyride.com

Some random photos from 2014

Millennium Bridge

Millennium Bridge

 

 

Tyne Bridge - Sage

Tyne Bridge – Sage

Raleigh Chopper - British Cycling

Raleigh Chopper – British Cycling

Chopper socks

Chopper socks

Tynemouth Priory

Tynemouth Priory

Inside of my Sturmey Archer

Inside of my Sturmey Archer

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Putting the F’s back in Fun Factor (and a long overdue update)

As the (Chopper) season draws to a close I realise that following the C2C there are many adventures I haven’t documented and details I haven’t previously explained.

One thing I didn’t explain was that I added ANOTHER external gear, giving 3 in total x 3 internals so I fess up I now have 9 gears. I also changed the original 145cm cranks to 170cm adult cranks which gives more leverage but results in having minimal ground clearance resulting on having to be careful on fast sweeping bends for fear of ‘catching a pedal’.

So that’s the update about the additions to the bike and now to the 3 (major) rides I’ve completed since the C2C:

1 VIRGIN MONEY TYNE CYCLONE (32 miles)

This ride and the GNBR are the two biggest mass participation events in the North East. It comes in 3 flavours: 33, 63 and 104 miles starting from Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club  РI completed the 107 in 2011 on my carbon road bike.

I erred on the side of caution this time so entered the 32 on the Chopper.

Mrs B dropped me off at the start after the 107’s had left but there was still lots of activity at the start with loads of riders and all the support teams etc. I met a few friends including Neil and Joanne Southern who were both going for the 67 on their ‘proper’ bikes. It wasn’t long before the bike had drawn a crowd and requests for photos of the bike. the funniest of which was from the official Shimano mechanics who were really pleased when I let them take the bike and get photos of them all with the bike in the Shimano tent.

Falcons chopper

Falcons chopper

Best of British cycling

Best of British cycling

Soon it would be start time and I headed off and soon was feeling good and from the start I was reeling riders in (I know it’s not a race). Heading out through Ponteland before the first charity/unofficial stop in Walton – cake and drink – oh go on then, in fact make that 2 cakes!! Again plenty of questions re the bike (which I’m always more than happy to answer/expand upon). Soon I was off ¬†heading around Belsay, crossing the A68 towards Stamfordham this is where I ended up cycling (and having a great chat) with @sportbetty and her friend who were looking forward to the refreshment stop in Stamfordham. I stocked up on refreshments but also went inside to purchase coffee. From there it was only the return to the rugby ground and the finish to collect medal and T shirt etc and yet more photos. a few roadies came to speak to me and said they couldn’t drop me ha ha. Once I’d talked for long enough I cycled the 14 miles home via the Cycle Hub cafe

A very enjoyable ride I had!!

Stats for the ride: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/335887597

2 BIKE FOR BOBBY (40 miles)

A couple of my friends Richard Manley-Reeve and Anji Rippon (both new to cycling) entered this charity event which is aimed at raising money for the Sir Bobby Robson’s (legend) ¬†charity.

I fancied a ride out so thought I’d tag along and provide company /be a gooseberry.

Start was anywhere between 8 and 10 so Rich suggested a meeting at 9 so off I set to cycle over to the start at the hallowed St James’ Park where I met Anji and Rich, both wearing their Newcastle tops.

Bike for Bobby

Bike for Bobby

Bike for Bobby

Bike for Bobby

Bike for Bobby

Bike for Bobby

Bike for Bobby

Bike for Bobby

I was surprised at the lack of participants but apparently lots of riders had left at 8. At the start line one of the organisers read out the safety info to us but became more interested in chatting about the chopper. Off we set at a rather leisurely pace but Anji seemed pleasantly surprised at the nice quiet country lanes we were using. First refreshment stop I stopped with the pair but didn’t dive in (as I wasn’t officially entered) but it wasn’t long before the helpers started asking questions about the bike (and being amazed I’d done the C2C on it) . Anji, being competitive was riding ‘at pace’ whilst I tootled along with Rich but I did chat for a while whilst riding with a roadie who had come down from Edinburgh to do the event – he also commented how fast I propelled the chop.

Towards the end of the loop we passed back through the refreshments again and had ¬†a short stop and then headed off to the finish where there was a bit more activity. No sooner had we passed thru when 2 girls asked if they could get a photo of me with the chopper – as if that would be a problem ūüôā

Bike for Bobby

Bike for Bobby

Bike for Bobby

Bike for Bobby

Bike for Bobby

Bike for Bobby

Details of the ride: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/362941683

From there we headed (again) to the Cycle Hub Cafe for a bacon sarnie and coffee to finish of a very pleasant ride.

3 GREAT NORTH BIKE RIDE (60 miles)

1950 riders, riding 60 miles from Seahouses to Tynemouth down the North East coastline.

Mrs B again agreed to drop  off and to pick my friend John Bell (MTB) up enroute from the holiday accommodation he was staying at (around half way mark). The plan was for him to ride the first 30 miles with me.

The rendezvous worked well and soon we were heading to a very foggy Seahouses (but at least it wasn’t raining. We got there before the start and I must say I was surprised how many full on ‘roadies’ were there who were obviously ‘looking for a time’ even though the instructions clearly state ‘it’s a ride, not a race‘ and that’s what I was intending to do. John ¬†wasn’t pleased with all the environmentally unfriendly buses, lorries and cars were used to get the riders to the start.

We let a few of the batches of 25 riders head off before we joined in on the back of one of the batches. Off we set along the road towards Beadnell and I was going at my normal pace (which turned out to be 20mph) as I chatted to some of the roadies on the way. When I looked back I couldn’t see John so decided to stop and wait for him which would happen a few times on the way down to his departure at Hadston. We came to the feed station at the picturesque village of Warkworth (with its castle) and it was bustling and thankfully the weather had improved significantly. A few refreshments and I headed off to the loo where I found @sportbetty (from Virgin Cyclone ride above) who was riding this route with her sister so we had a quick catchup. Then it was the only ‘hillock’ on the ride up towards the castle. Soon I was gunning along again until I reached John’s departure point at Hadston where we said our farewells and I headed off down the busy A1068 road to the roundabout and feed station at Widdrington Roundabout where I took on supplies but was going to the Barn Cafe 200 metres up the rise, determined to sit down and enjoy my food and drink. I purchased some hot savoury and a latte and went to sit on a seat (for ages) at the top of the rise so I could watch all the cyclists coming up – some seemed to be really struggling and many took the opportunity to stop and ask about the bike which as normal I was more than happy to comply with. From there it was a drop down to the sea front and along through Cresswell but no time to stop for ice cream unfortunately. From here I was determined to pick off as many as I could and I was flying. Down through Blyth (which must be the most unattractive part of the route) and again down to the sea front. Some riders were now walkers and pushing their bikes – 10 miles to push – ouch!!

I was reeling people in and overtaking them all the way to the finish at Tynemouth where I was disappointed to find only XL tops left (maybe all the lycra clad roadies had grabbed the ‘normal’ sizes) – next year I’ll not be hanging around and I’ll be finishing with them ūüôā

Details of the ride can be found here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/365031588

60 miles averaging 14.4mph then I cycled the 14 miles home – I’d had a great day.

These obviously aren’t the only rides I’ve been doing both on the chopper and on the tourer mostly long but also often – happy days.

The Chopper will soon be serviced and mothballed until next year – bit of a shame really ūüė¶

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The charity totals are in

Just to let all you kind people know I managed to raise £620 in total for motor neurones research which will hopefully help in the battle against this truly appalling condition.

I met up with Mark Taylor, my cousin who is the inspiration for my efforts. It was a family day to celebrate his 30th birthday – great day but I don’t want to see others suffer like he has.

On behalf of the charity,¬† Mark¬† and myself I’d like to thank you for your generosity.

Www.justgiving.com/c2conachopper

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