A record of my cycling trips in Britain and abroad


Into the Lakes

Day 4
Distance: 110 km / 68 mi

dscf2350.jpgWe woke early, and after hot showers we were refreshed and ready to go. We rolled out onto the main road, the three of us now making a little convoy as we left the campsite. Simon joined us late last night, having taken the train as far as Southport and then joined us at the campsite after tea. We set out along the road to Preston in single file, along a road with some traffic, but not so much that it was unpleasant. After half an hour or so we were into the outskirts of Preston, and - spotting a parade of shops with a cafe - we stopped for a proper breakfast (our first was only cereal bars this morning, as we wanted to get on the road quickly). The large, fresh sandwich I had was washed down with a similarly large and fresh milkshake; if there was one thing I would take to a desert island I think it would be milkshake!

One thing I like about life when camping is being up so early, and being able to really make the most of a whole day. It was barely after 9 o’clock when we reached Preston, already with 10 miles and a good breakfast behind us; we still had most of the day ahead. At this point we were following the signs for cycle route 6; however, this isn’t the easiest way of navigating sometimes. The signs are not big, and there’s often quite a gap between them, which means that in cities especially they can be hard to follow. Cycling through Preston this morning felt like a treasure hunt, as we cast our eyes around, shouting out whenever we saw the tell-tale blue and white. Despite the relatively quiet roads in Preston, it was nice to turn off them onto a dedicated cycle path, even if it was only for a short way as we made our way upwards to the north. However, it was at this point - perhaps with the added stress of the hill - that our mechanical problems set in. Simon’s rear derailleur jockey wheel disintegrated (for non-bikies: one of the little wheels that help the chain onto the rear cogs). After a bit of poking around we managed to stabilise the chain on the sprocket, but he was now limited to only three gears (using the front mech). Fortunately we had a relatively flat start to the day, but we were heading into the hills so it would not be flat for long! Thanks also to a missing brake cable - again on Simon’s bike - a bike shop stop was definitely required.

day4route.pngDespite the mechanical problems, the road was flat and fast, and we had the wind behind us; we were making good progress towards Lancaster, and by lunchtime we were almost there. A little hunting around in Lancaster found Simon a replacement derailleur (although none of the bike shops we went to were able to fit it there and then; I was surprised at how busy they all were!). We decided to leave it until we stopped for the night to change it, since the route out of Lancaster would be along a canal towpath (and hence, completely flat). However, we hadn’t even left the town before the problems started in earnest: a flat tyre on Simon’s bike, followed almost as soon as we’d repaired it by one on Polly’s. The punctures then came thick and fast. We weren’t even five miles outside Lancaster, and the plan to be at the foot of Scafell for the night was disappearing as fast as the tailwind. Having used up the supply of spare inner tubes, there was nothing else to be done except sit down and try to repair the old tubes, although given the state of the tyres by this point I wasn’t sure how long they were going to last. (An attempt to ride on flat tyres along the towpath was swiftly abandoned.) Polly and I sat down with the repair kit, and meanwhile Simon set about changing his derailleur. After what felt like a good few hours, Polly’s bike had repaired inner tubes and new rim tape, and Simon had a new derailleur - but, having broken the cable during the repair, was still limited to three gears! Tired and frustrated, we set off once more, unable to really appreciate the views, which were fantastic - the canal winds along the hillside with a sweeping vista to the west over Morecambe Bay. I nearly replicated the earlier incident with the rat, except this time with someone’s pet dog.

dscf2348.jpgWe were now well behind our expected schedule for the day. However, a couple of flying descents through tree-lined avenues partially restored our spirits, and a stop for fish and chips helped no end. As the land got steeper we could sense we were approaching the Lake District. However, night was falling, and we could not make it to Langdale - the planned camping ground - tonight. We clipped lights to our handlebars and continued on through the dusk; but it was fully dark by the time we reached Kendal, on the edge of the Lakes, 15 miles short of our objective.