Name - Greg Harradine
Lives - London
Profession - Freelance Composer at the Soho Theatre
"A FOOLHARDY QUEST DOOMED TO FAILURE OR A BRAVE FEAT OF ENDURANCE AND ADVENTURE? ONLY TIME WOULD TELL....."
I was in Glasgow on a grey August afternoon about to mount an ElliptiGO for the very first time and ride 450 miles to London in four-and-a-bit days.
How did I end up here? Well, Dave had been lending his orange ElliptiGO out to various people for adventures and I noticed on the YesTribe Facebook group that he was looking for someone to ride it back to London. After a mere nanosecond of consideration, I emailed and offered my enthusiastic, if inexperienced, services. How hard could it be? I’d completed a LEJOG ride some years ago and I’d ran several marathons – this would be doable, surely, even having never set foot on a GO before? My plan was to put in an initial afternoon’s ride of 20-30 miles to get used to the new machine, and then crack out four 100-110 mile days to get to London in time for celebratory drinks with friends on Sunday evening. I would wild camp along the way; Dave’s GO even came with a Burly Nomad trailer for all my camping supplies. My route was planned, I was hyped and ready for adventure. What could go wrong?
Before I dive headlong into recalling my darker moments on the long, long road from Glasgow and allow you to indulge in some light schadenfreude at my expense, let me first start on a lighter note.
The ElliptiGO is an attention seeker. She turns heads. Everywhere I went, people wanted to know all about the GO and my plans. Where was I going and why? “You’re not even doing this for charity…you’re doing it for fun? Madman.” I was bought drinks in corner shops. An elderly gentleman invited me to his home for breakfast. My route had a constant soundtrack of whoops and car-horn fanfares. The GO seemed to generate positivity wherever it went. There was one moment in particular when I was cycling through Lancaster at a particularly low ebb - tired and overwhelmed by the mileage still to go - when a group of friends chorused from a passing car "You are awesome!". This cheered me up massively. Of course, there was a small amount of opposition to the GO from the sorts of people who take an immediate dislike to anything they class as ‘different’. Several young men (and it was always men) shouted sentiments along the lines of “you look like a right c*nt on that mate” from their cars, and a gang of youths in Carlisle threw a tennis ball at me. It missed; they were fuming.
But, the biggest problem of my journey came not from these minor jibes. No, I had one nemesis who was hell-bent on making my life as difficult as possible. Their name? Burly Nomad. This Beelzebub in trailer form made cycling up any sort of incline like trying to beat the travelator on Gladiators. I felt like Sisyphus – he who was doomed to push a huge boulder up a hill only for it to roll back down, over and over again for eternity. To make matters worse, the route I had planned took in both the Lake and Peak districts. I cursed my fate. (To be fair, Burly Nomad is a good quality trailer, but when packed to the gills with camping gear it becomes, on hills, a demonic Everest of immobility.)
On the flat I could manage an acceptable, if not world-beating, average speed of 13-14 mph, but with elevation thrown in my average dropped to a paltry 8 mph at best. This meant at least 12 hours riding time each day to even approach my 100-mile target.
The long days were lengthened further by punctures (on the trailer wheels, not the GO), the innumerable people who wanted to chat to me wherever I stopped (heathens), and a hair-raising incident involving one of the trailer wheels flying off down a hill. And then there was my route. I’d planned it so well. What I failed to realise is that many of the National Cycle Routes take in rutted dirt tracks, overgrown canal paths, narrow gates, and other byways utterly unsuitable for an ElliptiGO dragging a trailer. After persevering with one jungle-like towpath for an hour and traversing the grand distance of three miles I gave up on my route entirely and re-planned as I went, sticking resolutely to roads. I also decided, with a heavy heart, to forgo the Peak District. I’m not a total masochist.
Each day I would rise at 5.30am and ride until dusk before finding a quiet field to camp in – a relatively trouble-free experience, apart from one late-night run-in with an irate farmer’s daughter. Somehow I just about managed over 100 miles each day and by Sunday evening I found myself coasting through central London, as if in a dream. As I trundled into The Scoop – broken, grubby and sunburnt – I was greeted by a group of friends and Dave, whose first action upon meeting me was to hand me a pint. What nectar! What godly libation! I’d made it.
Despite having never ridden one before, the ElliptiGO got me safely to London in my allotted time – even with the diabolical trailer doing its best to slow me down. A hugely memorable first ElliptiGO experience, made possible by Dave’s generosity and encouragement. #SayYesMore