It seems incredible, but on this very day twelve months ago I set off from Vancouver Island to cross Canada. The months have gone by very fast, and although I think I’m mostly reaclimatised to normal life, the trip remains very much on my mind. I thought it would be nice to mark the occasion by cranking the CrossingCanada blog back into life, and giving you all a bit of an update on some things that have been happening since then.
A SURPRISE OFFER TO JOIN THE ‘RIDE LONDON-SURREY 100‘ IN AUGUST
I was honoured when the charity I supported across Canada, SOS Children’s Villages, gave me a call recently to offer me a place on the big London cycling event this summer, the RideLondon-Surrey100. It follows a 100-mile loop around the capital, starting in the Olympic Park and ending, very grandly, in the shadow of Buckingham Palace on The Mall. I actually rode this event three years ago and loved it, so I’m hoping to achieve two things this time: firstly, I’m going to be raising money again for SOS, who have been working tirelessly this year, as ever, to keep up with their existing villages and to help countries cope with some awful natural disasters, often weather-related in this new era of climate change.
To donate, or just find out more, my brand new VirginMoneyGiving charity page is now up and running, so all you need to do is click below – and thank you!
My second aim is to try and go round the route FASTER than I did last time in 2015, with far less time for training and preparation! The time to beat is: 5h 11m 34s. Can it be done? I will be wearing some splendid new cycling gear, courtesy of SOS Children’s Villages, so that should shave a few seconds off here and there:
I have also decided NOT to use my trusty Trans-continental touring bike, which should shave a couple of hours off (I actually set this 2015 time using the Jan Janssen bike that has gone on to cause so much trouble – see ‘The Bike That Won’t Go Away’ below).
Why not have a look at the map of the route above, and if you live nearby you could lean out of your window and give me a shout of encouragement? I should be fairly easy to spot, even without the trademark flagpole waving off the back of my bike, and I’ll hand out free chocolate minstrels to anyone who makes it. Anyone living in Canada or the US, why not just drive to London, Ontario, and pretend? Any photos will be posted here, I promise.
BLOG NOW SET TO BECOME A BOOK
The next thing to mention, and perhaps the reason that I’m still thinking about last summer so much, is progress on the book I’ve been writing, based on this very blog.
As regular visitors to the blog will know, even though so many people encouraged me to turn the experience into a book, I was by no means sure I would be able to make the transition from a picture-dependent blog to a fully-fledged book. With lots of thought, help and advice I hope that most of the hurdles have been overcome, and something new and different has emerged.
I have enormously expanded it with lots more detail, as well as many stories and incidents that I didn’t manage to include the first time around. It’s been a fascinating experience knocking it all into shape, and very hard work. I’ll be sure to let you all know how things progress from here – any updates will come via this blog and Facebook etc.
CANADA CONTINUES TO BE CROSSED
On Day 33 of my trip, when I stopped at Kakebeka Falls outside Thunder Bay in Ontario, I met Andrew and Vanessa having a quiet picnic at a table. Thanks in part to our conversation that afternoon, they are now crossing Canada by bike themselves this summer, and are currently travelling up the Okanagan Valley in search of the Rocky Mountains…
I feel so happy that they got motivated enough to plan an adventure of their own, but also a bit responsible – Andrew’s rear wheel had to be completely rebuilt on Day 3 after some spokes broke, and I went through the pain with him. If you’d like to follow another trip this summer, why not dip in? Here’s their Facebook page link for those interested.
GUINEAFOWL PROVEN TO DISLIKE STEEL TOURING BIKES, FAVOURING CARBON FIBRE
To Beechwood Park School next, great supporters of last summer’s exploits, where an interesting scientific discovery was made the other day. Having cycled to work at dawn throughout the winter on my Trans-Continental Hewitt touring bike, without the slightest flicker of interest from headmaster Mr Edward Balfour’s collection of roaming guineafowl, I was amazed to find that the first appearance of my super-lightweight speed machine sent them into a frenzy:
They flocked around it all morning, admiring the sleek lines, Dura-ace groupset and the white saddle that so closely resembles their own head-markings, wondering why on earth no one had told them that bikes could be so attractive?
THE BIKE THAT WON’T GO AWAY
In more bike-news, you may remember the mention of a bike I sold to my friend John Mills in May last year, made by the incomparable Jan Janssen, No.19 in a list of “The 25 Most Stylish Cyclists Of All Time“, according to Cycling Weekly. I would suggest that this position is a little low:
The bike was bought in a hurry in Amsterdam in 2015, after my own bike was stolen, and it turned out, after being ridden on the RideLondon-Surrey 100 that August, to be a bit too small for me. I passed it on to John, who rode it for a few months, before it in turn was stolen from Richmond Station. Meanwhile, the other bike from the Dutch trip, ridden by my son Jacob, was also stolen from his college in Cambridge. Bad things happen in threes. But that’s not the end of it…
John was alerted to a Jan Janssen bike for sale on eBay last week, and the photo confirmed that it was indeed the same missing bike, minus a couple of wheels:
How did we know it was the same one? Well firstly, they’re pretty rare in Holland, let alone in the UK, but also I bought it without a bottle holder. That red one in the picture was put on by yours truly.
So what to do? We came up with a plan. John would try to buy the bike, promising cash on collection, then turn up with a member of the constabulary to either seize the bike or at least to find out where it had come from.
Unfortunately, we were working together in a studio at exactly the time the bidding would finish, so John left a final bid, and the red ‘RECORDING’ light went on. In a short break I managed one more bid before we were outdone, and the plan collapsed. We have not given up. In the words of the late great Shaw Taylor on his TV show ‘Police 5’: