Linnaeus charity bike ride for StreetVet

Written by Richard Gore

Back when I planned this ride in Autumn of 2022, the first weekend in August seemed like a great time to do it – warm, dry and with nice long days. I imagined that the worst thing we would have to cope with when it came to the weather was carrying enough water and sun-cream. Funny how things work out.

Saturday 5th August 2023 – I arrived and made one final check of the weather forecast – would it be as bad as it had been looking in the week proceeding? The definitive answer provided by the Met Office was “Yes! And then some.”

It seemed that Storm Antoni decided it was going to bless our ride.

We all met up at Willows Referral Centre in Solihull in the pouring rain and loaded our bags into the car of our support driver (and supplier of inner-tubes) Matt and got ready to leave. Only our mascot Bertie seemed unconcerned by the rain, so off we set.

Within minutes, we were riding along lovely quiet country roads and counting down the miles. The rain, however, was incessant. The advertised wind did not seem to materialise, but Storm Antoni was making up for it with the rain. However, you can get only wet once and at our food pause 20 miles in we were still smiling!

With the promise of a proper lunch, coffee and shelter and a mere 25 miles away in Upton on Severn, off we set.

We made it to the pub in Upton on Severn (45 miles in) in time for lunch and squelched our way through. It’s a very fine line timing your food stop on a ride like this – you need long enough to get a rest, but not so long that you give up completely and order beer! We timed it right and fortified with coffee and some of the best sausage sandwiches and jacket potatoes possible, we set off, this time into a brief pause in the rain, knowing that we’d covered more than half of the day’s ride and were on the home stretch.

The routing website I had used gave three options for the type of route to follow – “Fast”, “Balanced” and “Quiet” so I had picked “Balanced”. Unfortunately, it was not quite as good as Apple or Google mapping (which doesn’t do cycling routes) and included some questionable choices, including this one, which it had declared an “unpaved road”.

It was certainly unpaved, but at least it wasn’t raining at that point! Terry was happier though as the significant amount of energy he had to spend over the rest of us in doing the ride on a heavy mountain bike was now looking to have been worth it. Unfortunately for him, the majority rules so we back-tracked and found a mettled road and were off again.

Just on the outskirts of Gloucester, I spotted a pothole too late for my attempt to bunny hop over it to be successful and managed to puncture both my tyres and buckle my rear wheel! Luckily, the rain held off until after we’d fixed the punctures and were on our way again.

Getting through Gloucester City Centre was tough, but we made it eventually and finally came upon the very welcome sight of our hotel for the night.

Hot showers and dry clothes were very warmly received before we went out for dinner and beer (got to replace all those burnt calories)!

We woke on Sunday morning to the beautiful sight of clear skies and revitalised with a good breakfast, a good night’s sleep and inflated tyres, we set off on our newly planned route back to Solihull

We made our lunch stop in Worcester in good time and enjoyed a sit-down in the sun.

Sunday was a lot closer to the ride I had imagined we would have – the sky was warm (and dry!), the roads were quiet, but smooth and direct and we made good progress.

Suitably refreshed, we set off on the last leg of our journey. Enjoying quiet country roads (once we got out of Worcester) and somehow missing the rain, we made our way towards the finish line and a very welcome sit down!

Before we could reach the finish however, there was the slight issue of “the hill”. We had seen it on the route map the night before, its elevation trace rising up like a knife point from an otherwise smooth page. Everybody has their own way of tackling climbs so we agreed to meet at the top and off we went. This is where having as light a bike as possible helps and Mountain Bikes are amazing machines, but weight is not their first concern, as Terry will attest to! The summit of the climb could not come soon enough and we were grateful to stop at the top and catch our breath and a drink and let the stars disappear from in front of our eyes!

With a small welcoming committee waiting for us as we pulled into the car park (as well as some bemused looks from customers), our adventure came to an end!

We did it! 230km over two days covering rain, wind, sunshine, potholes and fields! It feels brilliant to have completed it and for such a worthy cause. Your generosity is very much appreciated! You have helped smash my £1000 fundraising target for StreetVet, thank you!

Time to start planning the next one!