Well, what can I say about Paris the Barcelona 2013 charity bike ride! What an experience.
As a completely inexperienced cyclist, last getting on my bike 30 years ago, I signed up for the ride after much persuasion! My motivator – raising money for Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Swansea, which was helping my dad get over his two bouts of cancer.
My only other endurance challenge was running the London Marathon six years ago, where the training and race itself was very much a solitary experience. P2B was completely different!
From the moment I signed up, I was part of the P2B community. Training rides were organised with the Action Bikes team (often three times a week) and they spent a great deal of time teaching the more inexperienced riders the skills we needed for the challenge. The guys even helped me get a second hand road bike for the event to ensure that I was ready for the challenge that lay ahead.
The team were patient but forthright – which is what we needed to get us through the 700 or so miles we were to ride over seven days. And they never tired of us popping into the shop with questions or wanting advice.
As well as training, Action Bikes also organised meetings at Maggie’s Cancer Centre, where we were not only able to see the wonderful facility we were supporting but also get nutrition, clothing and lots of other invaluable advice.
Getting 60 riders from Paris to Barcelona was no easy challenge but the ride went without any major hitches, in fact, you can’t really count wasp stings, 40 degree plus temperatures, the Pyrenees and Mistral winds hitches, more forces of nature! The routes were beautiful, taking us through some amazing countryside.
The hotels were clean and comfortable, and very accommodating to 60 tired riders turning up with their bikes, wanting to be fed and watered! The food wagon three were a welcome sight every day, keeping our energy up at the tea and lunch stops. They catered for everyone and went the extra mile with treats to keep our spirits up. And we always had a mechanic on hand so we didn’t have to get our hands dirty mending punctures or chains.
And what can I say about the broom wagon! Martin was a saviour, sweeping us up when we were struggling to make sure that everyone returned to the hotels at the end of the day, safe, sound but most importantly with enough energy to get back on the bike the next day.
The advice we got from the team throughout the ride was invaluable. Sometimes we didn’t want to hear it (I never once argued about getting in the broom wagon, unlike some!) but they always had our best interests at heart and ultimately wanted us to enjoy the experience.
Each of the riders taking part had a different motivation – be it raising money for the charity, the personal challenge or ticking something off the bucket list. But the one thing that nobody could anticipate was the camaraderie between the riders and the support team, in the lead up, during and after the event. We’ve all made friends for life and still continue to annoy the Action Bikes team after the ride, popping in for chats and biscuits.
If anyone is thinking about doing a similar challenge, my advice is DO IT! It doesn’t matter if you can’t ride every mile, ultimately you’ve done something amazing by signing up for it and you’ll get the support and advice from Action Bikes to make sure you complete is safely.