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All Points North #3

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

Ride #3: Tuesday 7th September

Total hours: 15.39, ride time: 12.57, distance: 288km, elevation: 3052 m

Check points: Runswick Bay Tue 06:53 | Rievaulx Tue 10:53 | Beverley Tue 15:25 | Heeley Institute Tue 20:41


Having lost almost an hour fiddling with brakes last night, I’d decided to give myself an extra hour in bed this morning (better to use the paid for hotel room than take more emergency naps in fields) so the roads were busier than I’d hoped as I headed towards the coast. As the sun came up directly I front of me (making me much harder to see ahead) I regretted my decision not to take the quieter option, but it was too late to change now.

I got to Runswick Bay just in time for the last slivers of sunrise. After pushing my bike back up the ridiculously steep hill up from the Bay I was on my way, and heading for the North York Moors. They didn’t disappoint. The clicking/ rubbing/ wobbling was worse than ever, but sod it, this was stunning, and I was here enjoying it on my bike. At one point my route unexpectedly took me off road. After a long conversation with a woman in a camper van at the start of the track (covering the average life span of a fox, 2 years apparently, but no further info about how long the track went on for) I decided to stick on the road, which whilst being a bit longer had the advantage of taking me past a lovely deli for the first non-petrol station/ supermarket food for what felt like years. And a conversation with the owner: “where are you going to? Sheffield tonight. Wow that’s far. Where have you come from? Sheffield. Wow.” (I didn’t tell him about the bit where I’d gone to the east coast, to Scotland, across to the west coast, and up a fair few bumps in between).

Then Reivaulx Abbey, one more down, one more to go, and then ‘home’ to Sheffield. But by now I couldn’t ignore the wobbling and rubbing any more. I’d worked out the clank was coming from my back wheel rubbing the mud guards, and cursed myself for ditching the little spanner I could have adjusted them with. But that would only have got rid of the noise, not the cause, which seemed to come from the wheel wobbling, even through I’d tested it a million times and there didn’t seem to be an issue. The wobble was worse on the downhills as the wheel turned faster, so by now I was descending stupidly slowly because otherwise it felt like the bike would wobble itself into pieces. I love descending, and this was taking all the joy out of it, as well as the speed reward to balance out time lost on the hills.

Finally I found a bike shop open in Malton (No Limits Cycling, highly recommended!) and he agreed to take a quick look. He listened to my diagnosis, clearly thought I was mad, tried adjusting a few things, and then took it for a ride up and down the hill himself. And then he heard it and felt it. I could have hugged him. There was something wrong, it wasn’t in my head, I had checked all the right things, and there was no rational explanation. It wouldn’t help me get home any faster but I felt so much better! He didn’t have time to look into it more but he loosened off the mudguards so at least they stopped rubbing, assured me that he’d checked for anything too dangerous, and gave me the vote of confidence that he’d be happy to ride it.

I rang Hector, my boyfriend. I’d sort of decided before the bike shop that if the wheel was knackered, I would ride on to Beverley to do the final checkpoint, and then get the train to Sheffield. I hadn’t really planned for there not being something wrong with the wheel, but the plan was in my head and was hard to shift. Luckily Hector was having none of it and put me straight right away, telling me how disappointed I’d be if I stopped, how the route was flat from there so the wobble was less off an issue etc. I wasn’t convinced but set off for Beverley to decide on route.

Oh the joy of riding a bike without the rattle! The constant clicking that had lived inside my brain for the last 24 hours was gone! I could put speed in and not feel like it was all being leached to The Rub. Yes, it still wobbled alarmingly but without the noise drawing attention to it, it was lot easier to ignore. And so I powered on to Beverley. Getting my phone out at the final checkpoint to take the obligatory photo, I saw an error message on the phone screen and it wouldn’t do anything. No photos, no messages, no nothing.

I stopped at a café there (with amazing cakey biscuity things, that sadly I was absolutely couldn’t stomach) and took stock. My bike was falling apart, my phone was dead, which not only meant I had no back up navigation if there was a problem with my route (a very live issue giving we were hitting rush hour and given I’d imagined I’d be here a lot later in the day I couldn’t remember if my route hit the A roads again or played it safe) but no way to contact anyone, find the nearest train station etc. But I’d spend the last hour deciding I was going on to the end, so there was no way I was stopping now! I borrowed a phone to text Hector to let him know I was going on but my phone was dead.

And then I set off, trying to remember whether the roads were walkable if the bike packed up and I had to retrace my steps on foot, the names of towns I’d passed through in case I needed to call a taxi, wondering if I was mad to carry on, or more mad to stop at that stage. The only answer that made sense was to try and go faster so the questions would be over sooner.

The area around the Humber Estuary is a funny old place, sort of like Norfolk but without the quaint villages, just lots of canals and combine harvesters. One last stop (in a shop that had sold out of flapjack, water and sandwiches. Did I actually want to finish this ride? What messed up world was I going back to?), and then full power home. Full power by this stage only meant about 23 kph but after 16-17kph for the last few days this felt speedy!

As I got into Sheffield I had the sinking realisations that I didn’t recognise any of the route, clearly I’d done a draft and never come back to check it, oh well I just had to hope for the best (apparently back at base they were laughing at some of my route choices).

At one point there was a couple standing on a roundabout who cheered me as I went past and shouted out ‘not long now’. My very own Dot Watchers! It was so cool I burst into tears! I hadn’t really thought about what I was doing up until that point, I was just riding my bike, that’s what I do these days, but someone had given up some time in their evening to cheer me on, I wanted to go back and thank them but it was a very steep hill!

Sheffield goes on for bloody ages (or my route did anyway), but eventually after disappearing around the back of yet another back alley and industrial estate I thought I started to recognise things from the day I arrived, what felt like years ago now!

And then one final hill, I could hear voices in the distance, as I got closer they started waving and cheering, at me! And I was done! There was Rory and Emily, and then my chief supporter Hector (first comment as I hugged him: “you stink!”).

And then a beer and a shower and the most amazing curry. And all the lovely team at All Points North (I wasn't sure whether to thank them or curse them for what they had created!) And then sleep, hours of it, with no alarm or list of things to do before I was allowed into bed.

Postscript - The Wobble

So for anyone interested in what The Wobble, that I could feel for the last 500km or so was, here it is in action (it's a bit hard to film but hopefully you can see the whole bike shaking).

And the cause? A delaminated tyre. The sealant has seeped into the layers of the tyre, causing them to separate and start to bulge (it's obvious now, but not so easy to see when you're running your finger along the tyre of a fully laden bike lying on it's side at the side of the road), and presumably it was getting more and more delaminated as more sealant got in, hence The Wobble getting wobblier and The Rub getting more and more soul destroying!

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