Sometimes a plan begins but never fully forms. The initial enthusiasm and energy wavers when logistics and life get in the way. When it came to our London to Liverpool adventure, the exact opposite was true. As soon as we planted the #scousetour seed on our whatsapp group, it sprouted and escalated quicker than you can say ‘scousebrows’.
Myself, Lorna and Kati decided to ride from London to my family home up North. It would be 240 miles and across two days. It would also be my first overnight adventure carrying everything on the bike - it felt novice yet novel. And, as we knew no-one else who had taken this on before, there were no other rules apart from the ones we created ourselves (like wearing matching Rapha + Liberty caps). So the planning began and what unfolded was a weekend I can barely do justice for with words alone, a collection of moments I have an uncontrollable urge to document so I don’t forget, and an adventure worth sharing with others so they can ride themselves.
Below is the #scousetour journal. Information and insights that span from the final routes to the food receipts.
1. The route:
London > Birmingham: https://www.strava.com/activities/606263333
Birmingham > Wirral: https://www.strava.com/activities/607235634
Hotel: Copthorne, Dudley. We booked a family room for 3, complete with bed & breakfast and two complimentary drinks each on arrival (after riding 225km and having a quick 10 minute shower to avoid missing the last dinner order, we used our drink vouchers for six beers. Served with a side of lad points).
We’re in the UK, so naturally pessimistic about the weather. Thankfully we found a useful tool (I don’t mean Lorna), called WeatherBagel, where you can plot your route and approximate timings to check the forecast.
We did get pissed on. But then Sir Brad cycled next to us, and very quickly the excitement of Wiggo replaced our weather woes.
3. Packing list:
Our daily excitement leading up to the ride mainly manifested itself into lists and group questions. We agreed to share toothpaste and face wipes and kept reminding each other to bring spare pants and socks.
After much deliberation and editing, the final items that may it into the packs:
1. 1 x Rapha souplesse bib shorts (we washed them overnight)
2. 1 x Rapha gilet
3. 2 x waterproof jackets
4. 2 x socks
5. 1 x jeans
6. 1 x jumper
7. 1 x ballet shoes
8. 1 x disposable camera
9. 1 x sketchbook and pen
10. 4 x Pip&Nut peanut butter sachets
11. 3 x Chia Seed Bars
12. 1 x bag of dried strawberry
13. 2 x inner tubes
14. 2 x tyre levers
15. 1 x portable charger
16. 1 x iphone and Wahoo ELEMNT charger
17. 1 x Wahoo ELEMNT
18. 1 x wet wipes
19. 1 x tube of nunn drink tablets
20. 1 x pack of hay fever tablets
21. 1 x base layer
22. 1 x toothbrush
23. 1 x mascara and bronzer
24. 1 x miniature brush
4. The saddle packs:
I used the new Rapha + Apidura saddle and handlebar packs which easily fitted the above list in. I’ve never used bike packs before and I lack in instinctive Bear Grylls skills. However, these packs were so simple and instinctive to manage that even this northern novice could nail it.
Saddle pack here
Handlebar pack here
5. The stops:
Breakfast: Waterloo Station, 0700 meet. We ordered scrambled eggs on toast and coffee before making final changes to our bike set up. Rolling out at 0800 - the only time this weekend we would be on time.
First stop: 50 miles in we found a pub with a beer garden. In the sun, we sat outside with baguettes and chips. We were in the middle of nowhere with no signal or artisan avocado on toast in sight. We met a friendly couple who shared with us their own cycling plans for the month.
Second stop: 100 miles in we sat on the floor of a Costcutter car park. Glamorous. We consumed chia seed bars, cookies, cans of coke and peanut butter. I ordered a coffee from the machine. It had lumps in and I chucked it away. We facetimed Kati's dad who lives in America and then we got heckled by a woman out on a jog who shouted 'Rapha Women!' This was one of our lowest points physically, knowing we still had another 40 miles to go, but the laughing from having to enter a pub full of old men and dogs (with the fear we wouldn’t make it back out alive) lifted our spirits again. Onwards to the hotel.
Breakfast: 0730 hotel buffet. We watched the rain begin to fall as we tucked into a mixture of eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, oats, granola, beans and coffee.
First stop: 50 miles in we discovered a cafe in Market Drayton. The lady only served soup and bread, but she let us inside with our bikes (and mud-caked faces) so we were sold. No signal again.
No more stops were scheduled apart from two pee breaks in a field. During one of them, Kati walked away to say hi to the farm animals. Onwards to my house.
6. Logistics for returning home:
The journey finished at my family home on the Wirral. After sipping champagne, being papped by my parents and basking in the glory of a hot shower, Guinness crisps and yet another shandy, it was time for the final leg of the #scousetour.
Wallasey village > Liverpool by Merseyrail Trains
Liverpool > Euston by Virgin Trains (arriving into London at 22:28)
We booked the train in advance, meaning we could upgrade to first class for just £5. Recommended. That meant we had actual cutlery and an actual table. We also had an M&S picnic and a final gin & tonic.
7. Five other learnings:
- Make sure you have food in your back pockets. We planned sufficient snacking but often the next bar was hidden underneath our wet wipes at the bottom of the saddle pack.
- We arrived late on the first night and woke up early which meant my bib-shorts didn’t fully dry after washing them in the shower. If you don’t want the first few miles to be through what Mary Berry would call ‘soggy bottom’, maybe prioritise an extra pair of shorts.
- Make sure at least two of you have the route. My Wahoo Elemnt flirted with the low battery sign and being lost in a town that thinks a lumpy coffee is acceptable, is far from ideal.
- Break the ride up into sections. The toughest barrier around long rides is mentally coping with the unknown. We kept disciplined with only stopping every 50 miles, but more importantly I had mental breaks every 15 miles. My mind can manage that type of mileage without being fuelled by fear.
- If you see a huge puddle on a pot-hole filled road, encourage the other riders to go first. You’re a team, but you’re not stupid.
There’s miles of moments I could preach about from the adventure, but one of the emotions I’m missing the most is the power of purpose that is crammed into every single second. In our daily lives, we spend a lot of time doing things that aren't necessary. During a point to point ride, everything you do is fully considered and has a reason. Every pedal brings you closer to the destination and every drink of water or bite of food fuels you forward. Choices are limited which means so is regret.
#scousetour has reminded me that I can fill my days as much as I want with work and personal life, but true fulfilment may not come from doing more but instead focusing more. A focus that is so intensely on one thing, that the miles become meditation.
The label on my Rapha saddle pack says Pack Light Travel Far. I understood the technical meaning, but now I understand the rest. By stripping life back to only what you need, you realise how little that actually is. Ride away the mental clutter that has built up over the years and all that remains is a raw human purpose. A purpose so powerful, you can travel anywhere (as long as there's plenty of peanut butter).
Images: Sketchbook that travelled the full 240 miles and a 35mm throwaway camera (20 of the images didn't turn out).