The British Heart Foundation TPT
Rider/Writer : Rob Chalmers
Photos : Harry Cheung
For a While I had been planning a BIG event to both honour my Dad and raise money for the British Heart Foundation. Back in October 2004 I lost my Dad to Heart failure whilst he was mountain biking near the family home so there seemed a bit of symmetry to attempt something like this.
As the TPT was close to my house and a gruelling test I thought that would be the obvious choice. Next I decided that seeing how I deal with sleep deprivation racing in 24hr Karting events doing an endurance event on the Trail would add another challenge into the mix, oh and for good measure I thought I’d do it solo too! Sadly due to the history with my Dad, my Fiancée asked if I could have a support rider for the Pennines and night sections.
When the Big Day arrived, the early morning drive with my support crew to Southport built my excitement even more, I was eager to get under way. After setting up the communication equipment of walkie talkies and mobiles I set off from the Seamark at on the 17th of April 2009 into a mild cross wind. Being based in Cheshire the west side of the TPT had been my training ground and my first section from Southport to Warrington flew by. Sadly that cross wind had become a head wind when I’d turned east around Widnes and it was now raining. Donning my wet proofs I set off towards Lymm where the Trail was now water logged and I was glad for my wets as me and the bike got covered!
As quickly as the rain had come, it went, leaving me to strip at Heatley to avoid a boil-in-the-bag scenario! After that my next stop was at Reddish Vale Visitor Centre. I had previously practised the Stockport route and it didn’t phase me.
This was also was where my support rider Matt Allenby joined me and Bradley Wallbank, one of my support drivers. The support car task was taken up by our Photographer, Harry Cheung, who was having fun trying to get ahead of us to take photos. The head wind was now building and making our lives a misery as we slogged up the numerous hills to Hadfield. From there it got very tough. Taking the Reservoir route we were exposed to the wind as we made slow progress to the Woodhead Tunnel. Each turn of the pedals seemed harder and harder and I felt my heart sink as I sat at the bottom of the tunnel looking at what we had to climb. Taking time to compose myself and get a pep talk from Matt and Harry we plodded up the steep hillside walking some bits due to the wind and seemingly vertical nature of the climb. Even when we crested the peak and had the run down to Dunford Bridge the wind didn’t let up and what should have been a rapid decent become another effort. After arriving in Dunford we decided to eat up and push on until Brampton. Luckily most of the decent from Dunford was sheltered allowing us to raise our spirits as our average pace rose and the distance tripped by. Even the odd hill didn’t get to us and as the night closed in the fun of traveling through the woods of Silkstone, Worsborough and Brampton kept us on our toes.
In the cool of the morning we pushed on to Bentley. Even after a run-in with a camouflaged man holding a rifle we arrived at the breakfast holt at Bentley station.
After A service to clear some of the clag out of my rear mech and a bowl of shreddies I was back on the Trail. I was starting to feel a bit sore now especially in the saddle area and the mile after mile of head wind was starting to wear my spirit too. The only thing cheering me up was my iPod and the occasional crackle of Harry on the radio shouting “I’m here – where are you??” Each time a glance at my map on my handle bars meant I could reply “passed that!” Burn Airfield came and went and before very long I was in Selby – another chance to eat, fix and snooze. My head was now starting to work out the maths of where I was and how far I had left to ride. I felt I could almost relax as the wind was picking up again and I really didn’t feel like it was going to drop or miraculously change direction. Selby to Hessle gave me some of the more bizarre memories of the trip. Be it the snake or deer that I almost ran over or the women sunbathing on the side of the road, each minute played on my already tired and confused mind. As I neared Hessle I thought to myself “on the map it looks flat, this should be simple……” how wrong could I be! There are a number of hills which seem to spring up out of nowhere only to sap my already tired legs. But there is always the down hill to look forward to! I pitched up in Hessle under the Humber Bridge.I set off with what felt like fresh legs towards Hull. Well I thought I was. Half way along Hull Road I saw a route 65 sign pointing left,and followed it …and this would be my down fall. I didn’t notice that the route wasn’t anything like what the map had in front of me or that place names didn’t match up. It was only when I starting seeing signs for North Ferriby and Melton again then that I started to worry. It turns out I’d gone nearly 9 miles off route. As I cleared a section of trees to see the Humber bridge on my left my frustration got the best of me and a long black line from my Halo Tyres was left on the ground as kicked my myself for my stupidity. I turned round and went back the way I came, eager not to have wasted too much of that cushion I’d built. It turns out I’d gone up an alternate route that bypasses Hessle by going through a couple of villages. Shame it couldn’t have been called the 65’A’.
Deflated by my mistake I pushed on through the more ‘colourful’ estates of Hull and out onto the path towards the Finish. Being open to the fields the final cycle path let me feel the full brunt of the direct headwind as I soldiered on. Because I was practically insight of the finish I became paranoid about every noise the bike was giving out, was my rear mech going to hold out? It had been changing gear randomly for the last 20 miles. Would I get my first puncture? Was the crank creaking? Going over the last roundabout in Hornsea before heading back onto the path I got my first round of applause from a man walking his dog – that alone seemed to make this hugely difficult challenge all worthwhile. As I crossed the little bridge and came out of the wood I summoned the last bit of strength for a little push to the TPT end Seamarker. After leaving Southport I reached the beach at Hornsea. 232 miles with no punctures from my amazing Halo Twin Rail tyres, no big mechanical issues from my Cauld Butler Cape Wrath. I still managed burn over 2 kilos of fat and 20,000+ calories. But every second was worth it to raise money for the British Heart Foundation.
A BIG thank you to Michelle for letting me do this and putting up with me bleating on about it, Matt for the support on the bikes, Rich and Brad for the support in the cars, Harry for the amazing camera work, Halo Rims for the tyres which seemed to suit every condition and surface the ride threw at me and to Kamtec for the Plastic for the map holder.
Pat and Bryan’s story has helped our Partners right across the Trans Pennine Trail network to see how changes can make the route more accessible. Take a look at what they've helped to accomplish.