Author Topic: First Edinburgh London - 1989  (Read 2539 times)

First Edinburgh London - 1989
« on: January 13, 2013, 02:41:39 pm »
In 1988 I was in good shape and rode my quickest 200km and 1000km to date, but I also bought my first house in Nottingham and spent the next 9 months renovating it in my spare time. This left no time for cycling apart from my commute of a measly 0.7 miles each way to and from work.

Bernard Mawson had been talking about organising a ride between London and Edinburgh for some time and set a date of 9thJuly 1989 for the start of his new ride from Doncaster to Edinburgh and back, then London and back. I entered, but until the end of May I was still only riding 1.4 miles a day. At last in June my house renovations were complete and I could start training. I entered the Bernie’s Long Flat One 600km due to start on 10th June, four weeks before the big ride.

Less than two weeks before the 600, I started to go out every evening for a 20 mile training ride except on the Sunday before the 600 when I rode 50 miles. It felt good to be cycling again and on the 600 I was flying along due to having fresh legs. I regretted my choice of a narrow Concor racing saddle though and it took weeks to get the feeling back to affected areas. I would have to try a wider saddle for the Edinburgh London with a lot more padding. Another problem I had on the 600 was my rat trap pedals digging into my feet through my worn out cycling shoes. I was surprised and encouraged by my sub 29 hour time though.
I carried on with a few short evening and weekend rides until the big day came along. I had sold my car to pay for a new kitchen and was still skint, due to the high mortgage rate at the time, so had to cycle about 50 miles to the start. I had left myself 4 hours for this, but only took 3 so I had time to join Peter Coulson for an early lunch in a café before heading up to the Mencap Centre for the 12pm start.

Some photos were taken at the start and one of me ended up in Cycling Weekly, although I never saw it until it appeared on John Spooner’s Flickr photo-stream. This brought back quite a few memories. I was wearing hush puppies instead of my worn out cycling shoes and I had taped some small slats of wood from my old fence on top of my pedals to stop the edges digging into my feet. (Peter Coulson told me that he had solved this problem by having titanium plates welded to the top of his pedals!) I fitted the only other saddle I had which was a cheap plastic padded Selle Royal from my Dad’s old mountain bike. I had used it before and found it OK but had not tried it above 200km. I was wearing wool gloves with string back driving gloves over the top. I still have the red and green short sleeved acrylic jersey that I was wearing over my soon to be infamous Helly Hansen long sleeved thermal top. I still have the 531C Superbe frame although the bottom bracket threads are stripped.  I must get it repaired and back into use as it was quick and fun to ride.
At last we were away and the tempo was high in the lead group. This was not surprising as there were several strong riders including Graham Moult, a 60 hour PBP finisher; Anthony Flavell, a 24 hour time trial champion; Peter Coulson, a sub 50 hour 1000km finisher; Keith Benton, 1988 CTC DATC Champion; Sheila Simpson, an AUK Individual Award Champion and Robert Fry, who later became the first AUK rider to beat 200 points in an AUK season. I was quite happy with the pace until we were leaving York, heading for Thirsk. This was when Sheila passed me and told me that my back tyre was almost touching the frame. I had to stop to centralise the wheel and tighten up the quick release skewer. This didn’t take long but that group took a lot of effort to catch and this took me deep into my reserves very early in the ride. In Thirsk my back wheel slipped round again and this time I made no attempt to catch the lead group. Instead I went to a chip shop and bought a big fish that I ate on the move. (I turned veggie in 1993.) It was too late though; the damage was done from chasing that group and my 50 mile ride to the start had not helped. I soon had to call at a garage for some chocolate bars to cure my hunger knock. I had to take it easy for a while and some of the riders who had been riding at a sensible steady pace from the start passed me. These included Dave Pountney and Ron Sant on trikes.

I reached the first control at Scotch Corner at 18:25 after covering just 126km in 6hr25min; not the start I had hoped for and I was already riding on my own. After a feed at the garage I headed for the notoriously hilly A68. This was my sort of road. I didn’t mind the long climbs and blind summits but the fast, exhilarating descents were over too soon and I was spending most of the time climbing. Bernard signed my card at 20:55 at the 187km control at Carterway Heads. He commented that I was in my top gear of 52x13 and it was before the summit. I was having fun again and after a quick chat I continued north. I passed a pub at last orders and could not resist a couple of pints of Newcastle Bitter. The second was used to fill my water bottle.

It wasn’t much further to the 251km control at Byrness and as I approached I finished off my bonk food and drank the last of my beer. Unfortunately I could not find the control; the route sheet said that it should be at a caravan site on the left, 3 miles after the village, but there was nothing to be found. It was midnight so no commercial establishments were open and the midnight feast I hoped for did not happen.  I could not understand it and had no choice but to carry on with empty back pockets and empty water bottles to the next control at Edinburgh 112km up the road, worrying about whether my ride would be validated with a missed control. I was tired and it took me 7 hours through the night to reach Edinburgh. Fortunately I had found a bakery open very early in the morning and bought some currant buns to keep me going, but I had no drink until I reached the 363km control at Links Service Station, Edinburgh at 7:05.

I was almost starving and dehydrated so had to stop for a while to refuel and replenish my water bottles and bonk rations. Shortly after I began to head back towards Byrness, the weather deteriorated. A westerly wind brought heavy rain. My spirits were already low from riding tired, hungry and thirsty through the night and this torrential rain showed no signs of easing. I was getting soaked and cold and I still had to find the control that I had not been able to find on the way up. I then worked out why I had been unable to find it. The southbound route sheet said that it was at a caravan site 3 miles after Byrness on the right, so I had been looking for it 6 miles after I had passed it when heading north. The route sheet should have said that it was 3 miles before Byrness on the way north. At 14:42 on the Monday I was extremely happy to reach that 475km control for some welcome refreshments served by Ted and Marj Slater in their caravan. Ted kindly signed my card for my northbound passing with a time of 23:55.

The grim weather continued into the evening and it took me until 18:23 to reach Bernard at the 539km control at Carterway Heads. After this brief pleasant interlude, my spirits hit new lows as I crawled towards the 600km control at Scotch Corner Service Station. I arrived at 21:43 giving a split time of 33hrs43mins for the first 600km. I would be delighted with that now, but was not happy at the time.

At 2:18 on Tuesday I controlled at a garage in York after 666km; very appropriate as this ride had turned into a beast. It had got the better of me and I planned to pack at Doncaster. I had not slept for two nights and was soaked through. I had no choice but to keep grovelling on to keep warm.

When I eventually reached the Mencap Centre in Doncaster at 726km the rain had eased off. It was 06:50 and I was surprised that not many riders had actually set off towards London. Most had arrived at night and sensibly taken the opportunity to sleep through some of the rain. Heartened by the encouragement of the controllers, some refreshments and suddenly being nearer the front of the field than the back I decided to carry on after all and set off, without sleep, in pursuit of those who had already left.

At 09:30 I arrived at the 778km control at Pete Gifford’s home near Newton on Trent. Pete was riding and his wife Jenny was doing a great job of looking after the passing riders, helped by Nora and Don Campbell. I had a welcome second breakfast and continued towards Thurlby.

Tuesday was a completely different day; the wind dropped and the sun came out. I was soon drying out and speeding along on the much flatter route. The trouble with the flat route was that I was spending all the time in the saddle and was getting sore. My lack of previous miles meant that my backside had not been toughened up. The hot weather made it worse especially as my saddle was made of plastic.

By 13:20, when I reached the 854km control at Thurlby Youth Hostel, it was getting quite hot. I caught up with Peter Coulson and Robert Fry there. Robert was suffering with severe pain from his Achilles tendons. Peter Poppy stamped my card. He was helping out after packing near the Scottish border due to problems with his new tyres.

On Tuesday afternoon, it was getting almost unbearably hot. I had taken my Helly Hansen top off and put it on my head with the neck around my forehead. The body was flowing behind my head, keeping the sun off my neck and the arms were tied under my chin to stop it from blowing off. I felt like I had joined the French Foreign Legion, but actually just looked silly.

It was a long gruelling leg of 160km to the turn control at Potters Bar and about half way I saw Graham Moult, probably about 100 miles ahead of me, going like a train on his way back to Thurlby. After a few more kilometres I saw Anthony Flavell and Keith Benton, also heading back together at a brisk pace and looking fresh.

There was a glitch on the route sheet that sent me left instead of right. The next few instructions seemed to fit the road that I was on, but then I came to a roundabout in Welwyn Garden City that was not on the route sheet. I stopped to try and figure it out and a young man on a motorcycle asked if I needed any help. I told him that I had cycled from Edinburgh and needed to go to Potters Bar. He said that he lived around the corner and had some maps there. I followed him and his girlfriend to the large house where he lived with his parents and brother. He kindly gave me some sandwiches, tea and cake and we had a good chat before finding out where I needed to go. He then escorted me, at breakneck speed, around several roundabouts and back on to the correct route to Potters Bar.

At 01:19 on the Wednesday I arrived at the 1014km control manned by Karl Hrouda at Potters Bar. I had covered the first 1000km in about 61hours. Peter Coulson was also there and we had about 3 hours sleep on camp beds before breakfast and setting off together towards Thurlby.
The time off the bike had made my saddle soreness several times worse. My backside was bleeding and the skin was red raw. It was now absolute agony to sit on the saddle so I rode about five miles out of the saddle. This made my knees hurt so I was forced to sit down. If I could stand the initial agony of sitting down then it was not quite as bad, but after a while I could not stand the pain any more so had to get out of the saddle again. Unfortunately, every time I got out of the saddle, I had to endure the agony of sitting down again. I was seriously worried about whether I would be able to finish the ride as 300km is a long way when you are in that state, on top of everything else.

I struggled on until lunchtime, when the route passed a Ruddles pub. I was hungry again and was soon tucking into a massive helping of Shepherd’s Pie, followed by Rhubarb Crumble and Custard. This was washed down by a couple of pints of Ruddles County, still brewed at Langham in Rutland at that time. This was my saviour. It took the edge off the pain enough that I was able to sit on the saddle again and I was able to pedal a bit faster as a result.

At 16:00 my card was once again signed by Peter Poppy at Thurlby at 1174km. It had been another hot afternoon and I was glad that the last hundred mile stage was over. I began to feel more confident about finishing, but felt tired so after some food served by the controllers, I had a short sleep before heading north again.

By 21:55 I was once again sitting at the kitchen table at Pete Gifford’s house having covered 1250km. Jenny gave me lovely food and lots of encouragement, but went into hysterics when I put my Helly Hansen vest on my head again to keep off the night-time chill when I left.
The last leg was only 52km and it was just a matter of keeping going through the darkness until reaching the final control in Doncaster at 01:13 on the Thursday morning. My card was signed by Caroline Cripps at the finish and I was relieved to have completed the ride and with over 12 hours in hand. Ann Mawson had kindly offered me her spare bed for the night and I was desperate to get in it after just 4 hours sleep over the previous 3 nights. I went back to the Mencap Centre in the mornings to see the riders who had finished and others who were still coming in. 26 of the 29 starters finished within the time limit, which was amazing considering the distance, terrain and diverse weather conditions.

Ricki Goode kindly gave me a lift home in his little van. I was extremely grateful because I did not want to cycle another yard and there was a strong side wind that seemed to put his van on two wheels all the way down the M1. He seemed to be more windsurfing than driving. I found out when I had my next puncture a few weeks later that my rear axle had been broken for the whole Edinburgh London. I had heard a bang on the way up, but hadn’t realised what it was. This was why my wheel kept pulling round, but luckily the skewer had held out until the end of the ride.

I didn’t do any more Audax rides until March 1991, when I began to prepare for the centenary PBP. I didn’t do any Audax events in 1993 either, when the Edinburgh London was repeated. I rode in 1997 when the route was changed and it became a 1400km, but in 2001, I could not ride or help because I was just going back to work when it started after being knocked off my bike the previous December. In 2005 I rode round with Rob Gray without any problems, but in the 2009 season I didn’t do any Audax rides again. Anyone would think that I was trying to avoid the ride. This year I have entered again though and have also entered plenty of other rides to make sure that I am much better prepared than I was for that first one. I have never started from London before and it is amazing that there were over a thousand entries this time. It seems that Bernard’s vision of an Audax UK long ride to rival PBP is finally coming true, thanks to the hard work of Danial and his team.

Re: First Edinbugh London 1989
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2013, 03:21:08 pm »
A great read  :thumbsup: and has me looking forward to this years LEL  :)


Re: First Edinbugh London 1989
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2013, 04:05:06 pm »
Inspiring. Men wuz real men in them days - and a great testimonial to the benefits of BEER ;D !


  • Former Pints Champion
Re: First Edinbugh London 1989
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2013, 08:12:48 pm »
Brilliant stuff.  :thumbsup:
"And I been up to my neck in pleasure
              Up to my neck in pain"

Re: First Edinburgh London - 1989
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2013, 08:59:54 pm »
What an awesome ride, and a brilliant account.


  • Opposites Attract
    • Audaxing
Re: First Edinburgh London - 1989
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2013, 09:10:38 pm »
You rule, great story
Audaxing Blog follow @vorsprungbike on


  • SO @ T
    • Tamworth cycling club
Re: First Edinburgh London - 1989
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2013, 10:55:45 pm »
Great write up Steve  :thumbsup:

Look forward to sharing a few more miles with you in the future.
SR 2010/11/12/13/14/15
RRTY. PBP. LeJoG 1400. LEL.


  • Love everything with two wheels
Re: First Edinburgh London - 1989
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2013, 06:44:10 pm »
Steve Normally when I see a thread with so many words and no photos I move on but in this instance I didn,t and I am glad that I didn,t as it was a brilliant and interesting report.It must feel great to look back and know that you did it and especially on a machine that left a lot to be desired.
Thanks for posting.