I’m writing this first entry for our trip on Brittany Ferries’ ‘Salamanca’ ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao. I’m with two friends who’ve been mad enough to ride with me in Europe in the past and were up for another adventure. Richard is a retired consultant psychiatrist and Andy, on the left, is a freelance IT boffin. Both are great cooks, which is handy if we stay in some B&B places, and it’s great to have them along as my carers on this journey.
The plan, such as it is, is to ride around 50 miles each day. If you ride regularly, as we all do, that’s not a big deal and should allow us plenty of time for good lunches and sight-seeing. We decided to cycle to Portsmouth over two days, rather than complete that journey in one, which is what we’ve done previously.
The first day was cool but dry and we enjoyed riding through the most picturesque villages of Wiltshire and Hampshire until Richard noticed his saddle seemed to be stroking the inside of his thigh. While not a sensation to which he would usually object, it clearly indicated a technical problem. In this case, his Brooks B17 saddle (a touring cyclist’s classic) has suffered a broken fixture underneath and was decidedly bent. It was rideable, just, but would need to be replaced.
We found a helpful bike shop in the middle of Salisbury and although it didn’t have a replacement B17 in stock, they had a more modern Brooks C19 saddle which, after a few miles, Richard declared was a comfortable substitute.
We decided to push on an do a few more miles because the weather was due to deteriorate on March 31st, getting down to a few degrees C due to a cold north wind and with the potential for sleet and hail. We chose the Cromwell Inn in Romsey for our overnight stop. We were able to take the bikes into our rooms and everything about the place was perfect, including the free beer on arrival. We’d covered 63 miles and had just 30 more to do to reach the ferry.
The ride from Romsey to Portsmouth was fine for a few miles but it didn’t take long before we reached what felt like endless suburbs and industrial areas. There were designated cycleways but many were on lumpy pavements and we experienced endless delays in having to switch from one side of the road to the other to stay on the cycle routes. The traffic was heavy almost everywhere, the temperature felt below 5C with the wind chill, and we experienced the promised sleet and hail showers along the way. In contrast to our first day, it was not enjoyable cycling and the day was topped off with Andy getting our first puncture of the trip, having ridden over some broken glass in an underpass.
We arrived at the ferry terminal at 5pm with an hour to go before we’d board the ship. The wind was fierce and there was another flurry of snow so we were all wrapped up like Arctic explorers.
When we land in Bilbao at 6am (5am UK time) it’s due to be 6C and there could be some rain.
We have 50 miles to cover, including a final 5-mile climb to our B&B in the Picos, but it is due to warm up as the week goes by, so there’s plenty to look forward to 😀🚴♂️🚴♂️🚴♂️