Touring Award Winner 2015

This is a new award and was created to encourage and inspire club members to go on a cycle tour. To participate in the award members were asked to submit a short summary of their tour, including photographs.

The judging panel for 2015 were: Christine Thwaite, Chris Boulton and John Churchman.

There was just one entry from Karen Spence for this award in 2015 and these are the comments from our judging panel who commented that if there had been further entries these would have been “hard pressed to beat Karen’s report”.
“This entry ticks all the boxes, being a delightful account of Karen’s tour, as well as being motivational and inspirational.
Karen’s account would be encouraging to anyone who might want to have a go at touring, and links her personal experience to communities of cyclists- through mentioning other touring cyclists, and Karen’s own OtleyCC experience”

“I think anyone reading this might well consider having a go- both at touring, and writing an account of their adventures for the award next year!”

“Karen writes well, and succeeds in getting across her enthusiasm for cycle touring, and touring in France in particular. It’s good, too, that she makes links back to her experience of riding with Otley CC, reminding us that all aspects of cycling are in some way linked to one another. Cycling becomes part of one’s life, and not just a pastime or transport.”
“Congratulations to Karen, let’s hope her excellent account inspires others next year not just to tour, but to tell us about it!”

“What a lovely report. Most interesting and enticing to its readers. I have never done cycle camping always preferring a nice warm bed after a day in the rain and cold. It does however seem to have great benefits”

“Well done Karen –richly deserved”

Our Winning Entry –
Well done to Karen Spence on a well deserved win. Here is Karen’s entry which we hope will inspire other members as much as it did our panel!

Cycle Tour France 6th to 22nd June 2015
Karen Spence
Otley Social Series member
I cannot call myself a seasoned cycle, however my trip to the Poitou-Charente region this year was my third cycle camping tour. I can definitely say that I am hooked to the freedom that cycle touring brings. I looked up what the definition of cycle touring is, “self-contained cycling trip for pleasure, adventure or autonomy rather than sport, commute or exercise”. Isn’t that the beauty of the bicycle! One minute you are riding along to work and the next minute you find yourself out in the quiet lanes around Otley with the Social Series.

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I especially enjoy touring with full panniers with my tent, cooking gear and clothes for the whole trip. I relish the planning side and the challenge of packing everything that you need into a small space and as light as possible. Cycling in the daytime and camping at night is a great way of enjoying the outdoors. As long as you get to the destination in time to set up camp there is the freedom to stop at a nice cafe and to see the sights on route.

This year was the second time that I have been on a CTC cycle tour. Pat and Mike Strauss have been leading cycle tours in France for more than 20 years. It certainly felt like I was a new member of a large cycling family. A similar feeling to when I joined Otley Social Series in March 2014. This year the choice was to go cycle touring for a month or to start the tour and do the first two weeks or join the tour halfway. I joined the tour at Saintes at the halfway point. In all there were 25 of us on the tour. Like Otley there was a mixture of ages and abilities, although at 54 I was certainly one of the younger ones and certainly in the small group of inexperienced cycle tourers. Many having cycled all over the world including in the Himalayas. The oldest cycle tour members were in their 80’s and had an electric converted Moulton bike all laden up with their panniers. It was great to see how cycling keeps people young. Everyone was really supportive and helped to share hints and tips. The purchase of a lightweight chair where you use your thermarest mattress was a tip I learnt from last year’s tour.

An important part of the tour is getting yourself and the bike to France. This is done by meeting the European Bike Express at Crossgates, Leeds, early on the Saturday morning. A bus arrives and behind is a bike trailer where your bike is hung up along with the panniers. The bus then continues south to Calais picking cyclists up on route and then dropping cyclists on route down to the South of France.

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It is hard to pick out the highlights. A heavy thunder storm in Nontron was certainly memorable! The new tent for this year’s tour passed the test and did not let any water in. There were a few fellow cycle tourers who had to move their tents due to getting water logged and the toilet blocks were flooded. Other highlights; the daily stops at cafes, the sharing of stories at the campsites in the evening, lunch breaks by rivers, castles, churches and town squares. Getting to know the local history. An example was the ride to Oradour. Oradour is where 642 inhabitants were massacred by the Nazis on 10 June 1944. Part of the town has been left as it was as a permanent memorial. Visiting beautiful places like Brantome. Food is always important and the cafe liegeois ice cream in Angouleme was a real bonus as I thought I was ordering a coffee with cream I got this massive icecream sundae for the price of a coffee. An evening at a local restaurant where we were presented
with a large bowl of moules and frites. The wine. The sunshine and heat. Fields of sunflowers. The list can go on…….

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One event which sticks in my mind is my breakdown. No punctures this year but I was cycling along and suddenly I felt a heavy thump and I could see that my pannier rack had fallen off. I have a picture of it below. As I was at the back and no one could hear me calling, the others continued cycling and had not realised what had happened. Luckily I had my multi tool with me so I could fix the rack back on and carry on. This highlighted for me how important the back marker role is on our Social Series rides. Thank you so much to everyone who does this so important role!

So my message to you is have a go at cycle touring. It can be the coast to coast challenge over a few days or the Yorkshire cycleway, which is on our doorstep. It can be done with comfort by moving on to a hotel or at a bas c level with your tent. It can be for a few days, weeks or months. It can be in the UK, Europe or anywhere in the world. Get on your bike and do it!