So, unfortunately, the bike trip is over for the time being…
After cycling about 20km, accompanied by my host from the night before, Brian, on Day 2, Llanfairfechan to Chester, I started to feel a pain in both my knees. I continued on for the next 70km to reach my hosts in Chester for the night. This ride caused severe pain. I knew something wasn’t right but decided to carry on riding.
That evening I could barely walk up and down the stairs without wincing in pain with each step. After icing and a night of sleep, I decided to give them a try and cycle 45km the next day. This turned out to be a ride too far.
Right from the off I felt the pain. With each pedal, the pain would grow and grow. My host the night before, Rob, accompanied me to purchase camping equipment in a nearby store. I was relieved to have the gear as I feared I wouldn’t last the 45km ride to Market Drayton. At least I’d be able to camp out somewhere along the route if needs were to be.
The route I choose for Day 3, Chester to Market Drayton, had me crisscrossing the English-Welsh border. The roads were as flat as you can get in the UK and if it weren’t for this fact I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did that day.
As I was coming out of Holt, Wales and crossing the bridge over to Farndon, England my left knee started shooting intense pain signals to my brain. It felt like the top of my knee was tearing. A single pedal rotation had me doubling over in pain. I couldn’t go any further.
I feared that I would be out of action for a while. Something similar happened when I attempted to cycle from Clontarf to Athlone 2 years ago. After 40km my right knee started paining me. After 100km I felt the tearing sensation atop the knee. That time I was out of action for a few weeks and had to get the train back to Dublin with the bike.
On the bright side, I had broken down in a place where there was the only active host on Warm Showers within a 10km radius. I decided to get a bite to eat and send the host a message, all the while scouting the area for a potential camping spot.
An hour or two later John, the host, replied to me saying he was on his way to collect me and bring me back to his place. I was delighted, to say the least.
As it transpired, I got extremely lucky. John had been preparing to go on a cycle of his own but, thankfully for me, checked his emails and saw my request just as he was heading out.
I have a history of being extremely lucky in these sort of situations. situations where I appear to be unlucky but then the luck that befalls me greatly outweighs the unluckiness. On Day 1 my plan was to cycle to Conwy once I got off the ferry in Holyhead and spend the night in the local youth hostel. However, the ferry got delayed so I sent a message to a Warmshowers host who lived 10km closer to Holyhead than Conwy as I was concerned about not making it to Conwy before dark.
He replied to me saying that I would be able to stay with him if needs were to be. This was a great relief and I enjoyed the ride through the Welsh countryside more knowing I wouldn’t be racing the extra 10km to Conwy.
Upon leaving Bangor, 40km down, the Sustrans cycle track I was following had a major detour. I checked my messages and sure enough, host Brian had sent me a message warning me that there was a big hill as part of the detour and if necessary he would be prepared to pick me up.
The rain had been pouring on me for the past hour, my quads were burning from going up the Welsh hills, my gloves and shoes were soaked but of course, I wanted to push myself and arrive at my destination without any assistance on Day 1. I decided to give the hill a try.
20 minutes later I sent Brian the SOS…
Brian gave me a masterclass on bike maintenance, camping and cycling. He, like all of my hosts, has children around my age. We chatted for hours once I had showered and changed into dry clothes. It was similar with hosts John & Sarah in Holt and Rob & Wendy in Chester.
The generosity and warmth I received from the hosts on Warmshowers were at a level above that of through Couchsurfing. I’d like to devote an entire post to this topic. It’s amazing.
Back in Holt with John, my knees have given up. I take the decision to get a train to London the following day to stay with my aunt, Anne, and family in London to give my knees the rest they need. I was determined to get back on the bike the following week.
After an amazing experience of spending the night with John and fam in Holt, he gave Saoirse (the bike’s name – Irish for ‘freedom’) and I a lift to Crewe train station. Again, I got so lucky here as he was on his way to his homeland, Scotland and has a van big enough to fit Saoirse in. He usually wouldn’t have space for Saoirse but on this occasion he did.
To add to my luck, the train I was looking at allowed bikes onboard. Furthermore, my aunt Anne lives close to the Thameslink train line which allows bikes to be brought onboard. She was also able to work from home thus, freeing her up to collect me at the station. All I had to do was walk the bike from Euston to St. Pancras, hop on the Thameslink and Anne met me at the station. Her car had just enough space to fit Saoirse in too.
Anne had booked a physio appointment for me that evening. After the consultation, I was told I probably have tendinitis and it usually takes 3 weeks to heal. I was determined to be back on the saddle in 1 week…
After a few treatments over the coming days and plenty of icing, rolling and exercises, I felt a reduction in pain. I attempted to cycle the bike a mere 1km but the pain came back straight away.
I decided to call it a day on the trip as there was a high chance that I would cripple myself even further if I started cycling without recovering fully.
Now I’m home in Dublin determined to build up my legs to do a cycling trip in the near future.
My destination was Bar Montenegro and I will now fly there. I’ll collect Saoirse from my Anne in London during the summer and either cycle around Europe or cycle her home.
That’s the plan for now. Many lessons have been learned.
I’ll be back on the saddle again, don’t worry.