Written by Bicycle Co-op fan Tom who cycled from Glasgow to Bruges and raised £3k in memory of his friend Tony
On 2nd of April I undertook a challenge in memory of family friend Tony Diver who passed away on 25th December, 2015. Tony had MS and was admitted on several occasions to the Physically Disabled Rehabilitation Unit (PDRU) in what was then the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, a unit that provides care and rehabilitation for people who have many different types of illness and disabilities requiring different types of therapy. So I decided to cycle from Glasgow-Bruges and to raise £3,000 for the PDRU so that others could receive the same care as Tony had.
In one of our last conversations, Tony was talking about holidays and, knowing the affection I have for the Netherlands and Belgium through my cycling visits, said I really must visit Bruges. He talked about how much he was sure I would love the city, so when I decided I was going to do a cycling challenge I knew immediately what the destination was going to be…
I cycle most days to the office and back. My round trip of 12 miles occasionally causes a raised eyebrow – “You cycle that far? Every day?” – which is fine and well, but 12 miles is not really an athletic achievement, nor is it a challenge by anyone’s standards.
The furthest I’ve ever ridden in a single day is around about 65 miles, and the challenge of the fundraiser was to complete a bicycle ride starting in Glasgow and ending in Bruges; a distance of 400 miles. I planned to split the distance into two rides of 200 miles: The first to North Shields ferry terminal to catch a ferry to Ijmuiden, Holland, then from Ijmuiden to the iconic Markt Square in Bruges. I decided to undertake the challenge with the minimum of support, and ride it on my Revolution Audax.
GLASGOW TO NORTH SHIELDS
In hindsight, the three days to North Shields were the hardest of the entire trip. The first section was supposed to be ridden by me, my wife Stella and our friend Jimmy Wilson, but a mix up meant Jimmy was not able to take part in Glasgow to Edinburgh along the canal paths. So after riding out to Linlithgow with me, Stella caught the train home and I carried on to my first stop in Portobello. While the canal paths are free of motor traffic, they’re busy with walkers and bikes so progress was slow but I got there eventually, two hours later than planned.
This set the tone for the UK side. Targets I set for arrival were affected by conditions underwheel, such as a long section past Berwick-upon-Tweed on Day 2 which meant I had to get off and push for several very long stretches until I was able to cycle on quiet roads again, down to Seahouses for my second stop.
By day 3, however, I was in the groove and even taking pictures en route. Seahouses to North Shields was, for the most part, a lovely ride, apart from Newbiggan and Blyth which were less than picturesque (sorry folks.) A couple of roadies guided me along the cycle route to the ferry from Tynemouth which wasn’t very well marked, and I got to my accomodation safely and settled in for the night to await the support crew’s arrival in the morning to catch the ferry to Holland.
IJMUIDEN TO BRUGES
The plan had been for Stella and Jimmy to do Glasgow to Linlithgow, and then days 1 and 3 in the Netherlands. When we set off from Ijmuiden to Den Haag I expected no different. The LF1 coastal route goes through mile after mile of sand dunes before arriving in Noordwijk, where we met the support team of Frances (Tony’s wife) and Sylvia for lunch before carrying on to an early evening arrival at our hostel in Den Haag.
Day 2 of Den Haag to Vlissingen was beset by problems from the start, entirely down to a navigation error on my part. The intrepid two had decided to join me again as the first day had gone better than they expected. However, I took a right turn instead of a left at the end of the street, and a lot of extra kilometres were added to an already long day after circumnavigating Den Haag city centre and ending up back near the hostel!
Once we were back en route it was another lovely day for cycling; the weather gods had looked down favourably on me (us) since Glasgow with unseasonably warm, sunny weather. When we arrived in Vlissingen we were all ready for a Belgian beer or two after a hot day in the saddle. Also during day 2 I discovered we’d smashed the fundraising target of £3k, which gave us all fresh legs for the last leg.
Day 3, the final day to Bruges started well when we missed the local ferry over to Breskens but eventually we got across, had a fantastic coffee in Breskens then hit the road down towards Sluis and then to Bruges itself. At one point I recognised a long straight as Jaagpad, which I remembered from Google maps, and I knew we only had about 15km to the centre of Bruges. In due course we arrived and were met in the Markt Square by Frances and Sylvia, John from Edinburgh, friends Annie and Guy from Brussels and Frances’s son John who’d flown in from Manchester. Champagne, frites and mayo were consumed with gusto.
The trip was completed after six days on the road, 400 miles covered, 0 punctures, 1 slipped chain, 1 fall off into a hedge, 1 smack against a canal wall near Falkirk but otherwise all safe, sound and slightly tanned. Would I do it again? Yup, you betcha.
Cheers! Tom, far right, with friends.