CYCLE BLOG: Punctures, falls and saddle sores as Fenland man nears end of 1000-mile bike ride

A FENLAND man cycling the length of the country in memory of his father has shrugged off falls and punctures to make it deep into Scotland.

James Fuller, from Chatteris - who describes himself as a non-cyclist - is now 12 days into the 1000-mile Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge.

The 38-year-old is tackling the ride in a tribute to his father Tony, who died from a heart attack in 2009. He is raising money for the British Heart Foundation and can be sponsored by visiting www.justgiving.com/James-Fuller1

Blogging exclusively for The Cambs Times/Wisbech Standard, James Fuller wrote:

Day 10 of 15 Ecclefechan to Motherwell


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There is a member of our party, who shall remain nameless but hails from Gloucester, who is suffering with the bane of the cyclist’s existence, saddle sores. Now saddle sores are no laughing matter, no let me rephrase that, saddle sores are no laughing matter for the sufferer, for everyone else they’re a source of almost constant amusement, an endless purveyor of mood-lightening, heart-warming quips and gags.

Each morning we have a briefing of what to expect and today’s made mention that we were in prime Scottish midge territory and recommended a cream to combat them.

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“I don’t care about bloody midges, all I care about is my aaarrrrssseee,” said my teammate in his delightful Gloucestershire burr.

“You still having trouble?”

“Yeah, right ere,” he said grabbing a handful of crotch and thrusting like MJ in his prime.

As we set out beneath banks of downy cloud, through which the sun forced itself with enough regularity to warm our backs, we passed Lockerbie, headed through Moffat and up into the Scottish Borders region.

We cycled by the source of the River Tweed and travelled along its picturesque course, flanked on the right by the boulder-strewn river and on the left by the mountains which define Scotland’s image in many minds.

As the sun pierced the rolling cloud it picked out the rough-hewn whitewashed crofters’ cottages, dotted about like rugged little bricks, and intermittently perked the beautiful browns, greys and greens of the hillside into vibrant life.

The scenery may have been spectacular but concentrating on it was problematic. Some of the roads in this region, and as we headed up to Motherwell, are horrendous. If I thought the cattle grids of Dartmoor were bone juddering they were as nothing to this, it was like riding over 40 miles of pebble-dash with the local roadworks teams seemingly adopting a minimalist approach to smoothing materials.

“Jum, we have nae mur tarmac.”

“Nae bother Willie, jus throw dun sum mur stun. If it were good enough fuh the Romans.....”

“Aie.”

It was a jarring, uncomfortable end to the day, with backsides bouncing, vibrations coursing through our hands and up into the neck and shoulders, we emerged with teeth chattering like we had just cycled the Antarctic.

Miles completed: 683 of 1,035

Day 11 of 15 Motherwell to Inverary

At certain times in a journey like this, if you don’t want to add needless miles, you have to pass through major urban centres and this unhappy fact was reflected in the morning briefing. It seemed chocked full of legal disclaimers and “we did warn you” advisories; it was the precursor to a day in the streets of Glasgow.

Leaving with a sense that flickknives might be a wise investment, the weather had already closed in and it was raining steadily, it would continue throughout a day which would prove our longest both physically and mentally.

As any good Western-watcher knows it’s always the posse’s leader or backmarker who gets picked off first so, team player that I am, I opted for the assumed safety of tucking in behind our lead rider Marcus.

As we passed through wooded parkland, with eyes darting around and over shoulders, we turned onto a slatted bridge where I discovered a combination of thin-profile tyres, rain and a mossy, wooden surface were not ideal for traction. As my rear wheel made contact it slid from under me and the next thing I knew I was over, flat on my back like an upturned turtle, entangled in a mangled bike and feeling very sorry for myself.

Rising gingerly to my feet, but sensing no real injury sustained, I was delighted to see a gratifyingly-sized egg appear on my right knee. Whilst others surveyed the bike I chatted to Marcus and Dominic, sufferers of earlier falls, in a back-slapping, brothers-in-arms manner about the fact that three of our six now had war wounds.

“I got mine don’t you worry,” interrupted our saddle sore sufferer. “And trust me you don’t wanna see it.”

We paused to absorb that mental image.

“And I’d swap it for any of them!” he added with conviction whilst pointing disparagingly at our lightly-scraped knees.

My front wheel was buckled and the right gear lever now arranged at a jaunty angle; limping to the nearest bike shop was our only option. But we were having a bad day despite my spill, Glasgow is puncture paradise and we were suffering blowout after blowout. As we were huddled nervously around our sixth, in a depressed, hard-bitten, industrialised area near Celtic Park, a vision emerged on the horizon.

Each day a ‘sweeper’ rider from the Bike Adventures support team assists with breakdowns and ensures nobody is left behind. Today’s was Rob, a vertically-challenged, comfortably-proportioned northerner with a genial, dry wit and a cheeky twinkle in his eye. Rob is a lovely man but with his diminished stature, stubby arms and legs, knee-length shorts and small black rucksack he looks like he’s popping off to double Maths.

There’s a classic scene in Only Fools and Horses where Del and Rodney, dressed as Batman and Robin, emerge through the Peckham smog. Well out of the Glasgow mists came Rob, little legs whirring, like an Ewok on a bike; never was there a more welcome sight.

As we stood beside spiked palisade fencing, amongst discarded Tennants’ cans, we bounced like boxers before the first bell, trying to stay warm as the chilling rain continued to fall. Rob worked his magic swiftly, realigning my front wheel and with puncture also fixed we were on our way.

Glasgow has benefited much from regeneration projects over recent years but still has the capacity to put southern softies like me on edge. We exited with extra pep in the pedals through underpasses daubed in territorial graffiti, past soul-sapping community housing projects and abandoned supermarket trolleys and into the Scottish countryside towards Loch Lomond.

We would not hit the sanctuary of our campsite until 7.30pm, meaning a 10-hour day in continuous rain, yet we were lucky, others did not arrive until 9pm and one, demoralised by the weather and still with plenty of miles to go, retired to the support van halfway through the day.

Miles completed: 765 of 1,035

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