Munga – Get The Book!

Really pleased to be able to announce publication of the first Just Keep Pedalling book. “Mungral” is the story of the adventures myself and friend Theunis Estherhuizen had on Munga 2018, together with an extensive section of tips for those inspired to see if they have what it takes to become a finisher themselves.

The Kindle edition, and paperback version for those in the UK and US is available on Amazon.

A special print run has been commissioned to ensure South African readers can also enjoy the authentic experience of a proper book. Orders can be placed here.

H2H – Epilogue

Highlands to Home was an experiment. All of my previous long rides have been events – personal challenges to see if I could ride that far, pushing my own boundaries driven by the desire to finish in time. And although (mostly) solo and unsupported in nature, all of these were organized events, which means they were never really done alone, or in isolation. H2H was the very opposite of this. I had a goal to complete it in 10 days, but there was no cutoff clock running. And with no official route, or checkpoints, my route was not only my own, but also not fixed – I could (and did) change it on a whim. The daily distances I set myself were also conservative – designed to maximise my enjoyment of the scenery by riding almost entirely in daylight, and ensuring I had plenty of time to sleep and recover for the next day. So how was very much my first experience of what could be called “solo long distance touring”?

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H2H – Day 10

Just over 100 miles left to home – I woke up eager to get started. But there was zero point in rushing – Yoli would be on a work call in the evening, meaning the optimum time for me to arrive home would be 9:30pm. Being forced to curb my enthusiasm did bring the benefit of having time to really enjoy the breakfast and coffee that was waiting for me downstairs.  There was a definite sense of rain in the air as I trudged out and kitted up in the slightly damp market square.

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H2H – Day 9

1338km – 23 Aug 20, 07:15 – Nantwich

I looked at my watch before rolling out. If I waited another hour and a quarter I could set my day up with a solid breakfast before riding – one which was probably included in the room price as well. But adding the time it took to arrive and savour, I’d be two hours later leaving this spot. At touring speed that was around a sixth of the distance I wanted to cover today. As I rode slowly back past the entrance I could almost taste the delicious food I was missing. It took a massive act of will to resist and keep pedalling along what seemed like the high street of the lovely old town, and out into the countryside beyond. I knew the road ahead would offer up some kind of breakfast, but I had no idea of when. The instant coffee and biscuits were only going to keep me in good spirits for so long.

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H2H – Day 8

1145km – 22 Aug 20, 07:04 – Cross Keys Inn, Tebay

Tempting as it was to lie in and wait for the staff to arrive so that I could enjoy a full breakfast at the pub, the best way to start pulling back some of the lost time and distance from the previous day was to get up and going. Luckily the emergency provisions in my fork bags still contained one freeze dried breakfast, although despite its name (chocolate muesli), it was actually the least tasty of the lot – closer to weak hot chocolate with a few grains floating in it. Of course it’s entirely possible I hadn’t read the instructions properly and had over-hydrated it. If the energy stats on the side of the packet were to be believed though, the lack of flavour would be compensated for in calories to fuel what appeared to be another damp morning.

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H2H – Day 7

Any notion that the storm predicted for today by charity group riders in Lairg wouldn’t materialize was dashed when I looked out through the glass door to the pub car park. I stared across an expanse of tarmac, that the rain had already turned into a shiny, grey mirror which reflected the dark clouds above. It wasn’t an inviting prospect – getting wet during a ride is one thing, but starting out in the rain is an order of magnitude harder. The arrival of my bike up from the cellar broke the contemplation – I dropped my bags beside it in the hallway and headed for breakfast in the vain hope that the conditions may brighten up whilst I ate.

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H2H – Day 6

875km – 20 Aug, 08:00 – Loch Lomond

There’s something special about reaching the point where you have less distance in front of you than already travelled. It feels like a big wave of kilometres building up behind you, and all you need to do is keep your balance and ride the surf home.  As if that feeling weren’t enough, today also offered the unusual pleasure of an extra hour of lazing around in luxury room, and a properly good breakfast before fetching my bike from the shed and kitting up for the day. To top it all off Diane, as hoped, had been able to spare some strapping for my nigglingly painful Achilles. With only a short stretch to ride I had plenty of time to get to Alexandria (just north of Glasgow) to meet my friend’s for a quick coffee and a catchup.

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H2H – Day 5

695km – 19 Aug, 06:36 – Fort William

At least one of my plans from the previous night was still roughly on track – I was up and out early in an attempt to beat the traffic. I had not, of course, been noisy in my exit, although carrying rather than wheeling my bike was mostly an attempt to slip past the night manager and avoid any awkward questions. He didn’t seem remotely bothered though, and wished me a good journey as I returned the key and stepped out into another damp, grey morning. And indeed, the roads were not that busy, but they were not that pleasant either. The few vehicles travelling south were mostly large trucks who seemed never to have heard of safe passing distances for cyclists. My second encounter with the A82 did at least confirm that I wanted no more time on it than absolutely necessary – a feeling that transferred itself through my cranks, picking up some pace as it did so. It was a good job too – as the expected 10km of busy road ended up being 20km – clearly my previous evening’s map studying had been somewhat awry.

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H2H – Day 4

The day started with a rather comical scene – a group of lycra clad cyclists, stood at the foot of the narrow stairwell from their rooms, waiting to get back into downstairs reception area of the hotel (which was locked). Eventually, after debating the Fire Escape as an option (and whether it was alarmed) some sounds of life were heard emanating from the bar/dining area, and a couple of loud knocks got the door unlocked, accompanied by profuse apologies for it not having been done at the usual time of 7am. Whilst stood waiting the charity group riders gave varied descriptions of their route. As it had last night, it still sounded fairly similar to mine and I wondered if our paths would cross during the day. I was going to be on the road an hour and a half ahead of them, due to the only breakfast slot the hotel could offer being rather too late. But I was sure some of the group looked strong enough to easily close that down with me riding at touring pace (or in fact any pace I could manage, given their bikes and physiques).

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H2H – Day 3

I woke up more excited than a kid at Christmas. Today would, hopefully, be the day I travelled to  the point which had, in large part, been the inspiration for the whole ride. All thanks to stumbling across this article on the Cycling UK website, and a writeup by Michael Hutchinson about the journey to Cape Wrath:

There is an 11-mile road from the ferry slipway to the Cape. It is not a good road. It was created in the 19th Century to build the lighthouse, and it has not received a lot of attention since. It’s narrow and horribly potholed, it winds and undulates, and sometimes it deteriorates altogether into a patch of gravel. It passes through a live-fire training area for the army, so it gets bombed every so often. You can navigate it on a road bike if you’re careful, and don’t mind getting a lot of punctures, but it’s more a job for a proper tourer, a cross bike or a mountain bike.

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