How I Lost My ElliptiGO Virginity: 450 Miles from Glasgow to London…
August 12, 2016
A foolhardy quest doomed to failure, or a brave feat of endurance and adventure? Only time would tell. Either way, 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.
Let me explain. I’m a keen runner and cyclist, and always keep an eye out for new challenges. I’d been following Dave Cornthwaite’s exploits with interest on Facebook and Twitter, and when he announced on the YesTribe page that his orange ElliptiGO 8C was in Glasgow and he wanted someone to ride it to London I jumped at the chance.
How hard could it be? I’d completed a LEJOG ride some years ago, so had experience of cycling multiple 100-mile days, and I’d run several marathons – this would be doable, surely? My plan was to put in an initial afternoon’s ride of 20-30 miles to get used to the GO, and then crack out four 100-110 mile days to get to London for celebratory drinks with friends on Sunday evening. I would wild camp along the way; Dave’s GO even came with a Burley Nomad trailer for all my camping supplies. My route was planned, I was hyped and ready for adventure. What could go wrong?
Before I share any of my darker moments of soul-searching on the long, long road from Glasgow and allow you to indulge in some light schadenfreude at my expense, let me first mention some of the more positive aspects of the journey….
Riding the GO was remarkably intuitive and natural. Within 20 minutes I was feeling confident and at ease on the machine – even if central Glasgow was perhaps not the best place for a wobbly learner – and after just a couple of days the GO felt like an extension of my own body. The riding motion is fluid and really very efficient. Even after back-to-back 100-mile days my legs were still fresh enough to power on, hour after hour; the only niggle I had arose across my shoulders, due to gripping the handlebars too tightly over bad road surfaces. (Councils, repair your roads!) The view from the GO is outstanding. Few forms of human-powered transport offer a higher vantage point from which to admire the world as it rushes by.
But the biggest plus for me was the effect it has on others. Heads turn, constantly. People’s reactions are wonderful. They wanted to know all about the GO and my plans. I was bought drinks in corner shops. An elderly man invited me to his home for breakfast. The GO seemed to generate positivity wherever it went.
However, it wasn’t all smiles – not by a long shot. The one thing I had naively, recklessly, monumentally underestimated was the effect of the weight of the trailer on my ride. On the flat I could manage an acceptable, if not world-beating, average speed of 13-14 mph, but on any incline my fate was akin to that of 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. Taking elevation into account, my average speed 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.
Each day I would rise at 5.30am and ride until dusk before bedding down in some field or other – a largely 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, including Dave (the GO’s rightful owner), and was handed the best-tasting pint of my life. 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 memorable first ElliptiGO experience and, I hope, the first of many. #SayYesMore