Ebike Africa Blog

A baptism of fire – my first day as an expedition cyclist

It’s da4_pedelec-adventures.com_ebike-africa_2015-11-17_Glasgow_DSC_4012y 7 and I’m still alive. I’ve had a good deal of time to reflect on the events of last week, and there were a lot of events. I’m going to download what’s in my head more regularly from now on, I just think I needed a bit of time to get to grips with all the goddamned cycling!

I thought I’d start at the beginning for this blog and I feel I’m proficient enough as a ‘cyclist’ now (sitting in Rotterdam!) to be honest and see the humour in the farcical things that took place on launch day.

So…I woke up at 5am and lay in bed thinking about all the things I hadn’t done. I’d gone to bed without packing shit, not a bit of clothing, not a toiletry, nothing. I’m a bit of a ‘manana’ guy, so here I was, it was ‘manana’, ‘d-day’, ‘lift-off’ and the empty pannier bags were basically a physical manifestation of my lack of physical and mental preparation for the journey ahead.

As I drank coffee I had the vaguely amusing thought that today I’d be learning to cycle again, that old adage ‘you never forget how to ride a bike‘ was to be tested to the limit, with a 50kg trailer thrown into the mix for good measure. Amusement turned to anxiety as I started shoving stuff into pannier bags and had a sense of foreboding, there was so much that didn’t feel right. I was thinking of my boys, wondering if they’d be proud of me, or pissed off at me. I imagine it’ll be a bit of both right now, but I hope in time they’ll view this as a positive thing.

Anxiety took a greater hold as I remember this was my idea, I had put myself forward for this, had dreamed of doing something like this for years. Not only is it a massive privilege to be able to something this but there’s been a Herculean effort from so many people to get me to the start line, none more so than from Jo. She’s been a tower of power and whipped E-Bike Africa, The Purple Heart Network, Last Mile Deliveries and, of course, me into shape.

Anyway, I digress. After packing everything Susanne and I headed to Dales Cycles with Sascha, who had come over from Germany to do some filming. It was the start of an eventful day, we were supplied with an amazing car that Sascha would ride in to take footage – unfortunately beautiful cars are designed to be in front of cameras, not behind them, so we had to come up with a new plan. Thankfully Rab stepped in at the last minute, he was a total god send that day, especially later on when he drove to my house to pick up the bike battery keys that I’d left on the kitchen counteLaunch 1r (insert lols here)!

We had a fantastic turnout for the send-off from Nelson Mandela Place, I have no idea how these things work but you don’t just turn up, wave and cycle off. You have to ride around in circles for an hour or two while people get their pictures. 2 hours later we were still cycling in circles for photos and film, not quite the departure I’d envisaged.

Finally we set off, this is where the real ‘fun’ begins…have you tried to cycle out of Glasgow to the countryside? If you have are you still alive? What an experience, cycling along the hard shoulder of an A road that quickly turns to motorway we found ourselves being advised by the Police to find an alternative route, they escorted us off the motorway and into a little village. Unfortunately all roads out of the village led to more motorways and dual carriageways.

It was now 6.15pm, it was dark, we were cold, our batteries had long since died, desperation, hunger and misery set in. Equal distance from my house and New Lanark, our target destination, we decided to take drastic action. Susanne began flagging down any van she could see, I frantically rang round friends trying to get transport, but to no avail. We were really beginning to worry, it wouldn’t look good to die of hypothermia 50 kilometers into a 18,000 kilometer expedition!

About 40 minutes later, we were ready to throw in the towel and take the psychological hit of just trying to get to my house. Then, we spotted a halo of light ahead, raindrops diffused by yellow sodium streetlamps, leading us to salvation…a train station! It took us about 30 seconds to swallow our pride, struggle onto the platform with bikes and trailers and take the train…ONE station to New Lanark.

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