Cycling In Plymouth

Gruelling Travel, Homelessness and Balancing Bike Weight

That’s what my partner and I have done since I last posted from New Zealand. Flights, more travel, bad luck, sabotage and finally left with (planned) homelessness. Our flight, for anyone that would like to imagine such a thing, went like this:

New Plymouth – Auckland (45m)
Auckland – Hong Kong (11h30m)
Hong Kong – London (12h30m including the 1hr delay sitting on the plane but not in the air!)

Back to back! Insanity was lurking perilously close. I was one more in-flight film away from sucking on my own trousers.

After the grueling and demoralising flight we stayed with my Dad in Reading, cycled to Cornwall to see Ellie’s family, took a train (with bikes) to Leicester and now we’re staying with my parents for a week before scooting off to Cambridge to see more family.

Ellie kayaking in Cornwall
Ellie kayaking in Cornwall

During this disruptive transition my laptop HDD failed in Reading and our websites were compromised by hackers!

Hackers, I’m talking to you now! Can’t you use your tech powers for good rather than evil? Attacking sites about cycle touring?! Your mothers would be ashamed.

On the bright side we are very happy to see family again and have been very comfortable post flight. Travel and hackers aside, here is the most valuable nugget of wisdom I gleaned from our ride down to Devon;

The Cycling Gentleman and The Princess/Cheerleader

Ellie cycling in south west england
Ellie cycling in South West England

On our light-weight cycle tour I decided that we would use one of my rear Ortlieb panniers each and that I would carry them on my Thorn Sherpa touring bike. In addition to this would be one extra dry bag sat in the middle of the rear rack. In almost every way we adopted the ultralight cycle strategy from my book but with the addition of more clothes, shoes and our laptops as we would be visiting friends and family and working. Ellie or ‘The Cycling Princess’ as she became known would ride with nothing but a small and light inflatable sleeping mat under her handlebars and cheer me (The Cycling Gentleman) on.

(NB: Ellie would like me to inform readers that she came up with ‘The Cycling Princess/Cycling Gentleman’ skit and will henceforth be known as the ‘funny one’ in the relationship. Since she edits my posts, I don’t have much choice).

What I had failed to account for is just how strong Ellie has become on the bike since our early tours. Cycling in the hilly New Zealand city of New Plymouth, where she worked as a midwife, has built up her strength and stamina whilst I pottered around the garden using power tools and growing feeble.

I spent the entire ride from Reading to Exeter in one of two positions, the first with sweat beading on my forehead and Ellie tucked into my slipstream half asleep or, second, with Ellie breezily disappearing over the horizon and me hanging sideways off the bike miles behind her.

On the flats, I must admit, I was quite enjoying myself. Ellie was having a great ride I felt challenged and stimulated, the mileage was acceptable and I was always the first to throw in the towel and declare camp.

It was only when we reached England’s South West that the hills were too much. With timeframes to meet with family and a very exhausted ‘cycling gentleman’ we took a train from Exeter to Plymouth to stay on track.

What I’ve learned from all this, is that balancing the cycling abilities of two people on tour is a fine art and my ham-handed attempt to even things out was no more effective than if we had just carried our own luggage! I can’t belive it’s taken me so long to figure that out and you probably already know that, don’t you…

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