Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Mental Side of Cycle Touring

Location: Southwold, Suffolk, UK
Sophie and I cycle fairly often and are both, I would say, both pretty competent, confident riders.  The first few days on the trip showed that we have planned well.  Our kit, for the most part, is good and we know how to use it.  However, setting off in the morning from the campsite near Isleham and other challenging of the aspects of the days ahead really showed that there is so much more to cycle touring than confidence and good kit; you need "Mental Toughness".

We awoke in Isleham to another dreary day and packed up our damp stuff in the drizzle.  A lot of our clothes were damp, our tent was soaked, our tarps were wet, our shoes were soggy and our solar chargers rendered useless so we were very low on battery for Nokia Lady.  Needless to say our hearts weren’t really in it as we headed off for our third 60 mile day in a row towards a village called Campsea Ashe.  We planned to stop in Stowmarket after about 40 miles, have lunch and find somewhere to charge phones.  Two miles from Stowmarket I got a puncture.  It was pretty painless, and all sorted out in less than 30 mins but I really find things that slow me down or get in the way of the cycling frustrating.  Sophie is much more measured and sees punctures, wind, rain and dangerous car drivers all part of the rich fabric of cycle touring.  I do not, but the colourful language I would use is probably not publishable here.

The people of Stowe Market that we came into contact with were brilliant and lifted my spirits after the annoying morning.  The library staff let us leave our bags in their office so we didn’t have to lug them around town, the nice staff in a cafĂ© let us charge our phones and the bike shop pumped up my tyre with his track pump.  We left Stowmaket rather lethargically and after a few more hilly hours of cycling arrived in Campsea Ashe.  The campsite was cute and had an indoor kitchen area so we enjoyed the novelty of eating at a table and set about looking for a hotel in Southwold.  We’d had enough of the dampness and needed a bit of comfort.  We got ourselves booked in for a dinner, bed & breakfast package at The Crown Hotel and hit the hay.

The 20 odd miles to Southwold were unexpectedly hard.  The weather kept changing, sunny one minute then raining the next so we were constantly taking our jackets on and off, we were really tired and Nokia Lady had a few frustrating little mishaps.  As an aside, shouting at a computer voice in your ear that is telling you to turn left for the sixth time in a row around a triangular field, might feel like it helps but in reality it just makes your cycling partner worried about your state of mind.  But I digress, we made it to Southwold, the sun came out, we ate delicious crab and crayfish sandwiches and drank refreshing Adnams beers and checked into our lovely, comfy hotel.  We spent the afternoon mooching about after handwashing some of our kit, had a delicious 3 course meal and melted into our bed.

The rest day was well earned and fantastic!  We walked down the beach and looked at the beach huts.  We drank cider at lunch time with fish and chips.  We just rested and chilled out.  In the late afternoon we checked out and headed down to the seafront campsite.  Once we set up camp, we cleaned the bikes and listened to the sea with a drop of whisky.

Some aspects of the previous week's cycling really undermined my mental toughness, but in the coming days it really became apparent that we (read me, Sophie is more mentally resilient) do need to be more laid back about timelines, destinations and mother nature.

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