Nicole Mann loved to ride her bike. She went out in all weathers. She loved to go cycling tour and was inspired to do unusual coast to coast routes with alliteration as a theme (Barmouth to Yarmouth her last cycle tour) She would have loved seeing how 15 people from Otley Cycle Club and Leeds Cycling Campaign set out from Barrow on Friday 8th June and for 3 days enjoyed riding our bikes all day, finally arriving in Jarrow late on Sunday tired, happy and with new strong friendships forged along our way.
The route had been planned by Nic with her friend Vanessa in the months prior to the devastating diagnosis of terminal lung cancer. Nicole was never well enough to cycle again as the progression of her cancer was rapid and soon left her struggling to walk and speak, she died on the anniversary of her diagnosis on October 5th 2017. Andrew , Nicole’s partner was keen to take up cycling seriously in Nicole’s memory, and so we started to plan the logistics of a ride so that it would be possible for less experienced riders to do it comfortably. The Barrow to Jarrow Ride was launched on Nicole’s birthday in November 2017. We thought it might just be the four of us but the response was overwhelming and we had 17 people sign up, although 2 sadly could not make the ride due to health issues.
Most of us got to Barrow on the Bike Bus from Yorkshire Cycling Tour but 4 hardy people – Vanessa, Carol, Barry and Andy cycled to the start. Those who knew Nicole well would have known about her passion for Wetherspoons so it was only right that our first night of the tour was spent at the very large and impressive Wetherspoons Hotel in Barrow. We were joined that evening by Nicole’s mum and dad who were so touched by the efforts we had made to make this ride happen. Extra poignancy was added to the event as another Otley club mate, Jeff English had died that week at a young age, also from lung cancer. This helped give us an extra push to fundraise throughout the tour, Andrew turning into a fantastic charity chugger!
The next morning the riding began and as we hit the first hills on the “relatively flat section” we were very grateful to Andy Boylan and Judith Morris who were driving the route and carrying our bags! Nicole’s love of hills was apparent throughout the route, there were virtually no flat sections!!
Before the ride we had identified two coffee stops for each day and these were all perfectly planned, breaking up the ride into manageable chunks for our riders, many of whom had not done multiple day touring before and were not as bike fit as Nicole.
The first big climb on day one was Kirkstone Pass. It was an emotional time for Andrew as he rode Nicole’s bike up a hill he had watched her previously climb. He paused near the top to look at the Struggle, the last Lakeland hill she had climbed. As he got to the top we all cheered him on to complete the final few meters to the pub.
The next day we were joined by Gary and Sandra who were in Pooley Bridge for their honeymoon and the whole group made it to the top of Hartside. Awesome climbing by our team and another big cheer for Andrew when he reached the summit. After Hartside the next challenge was the UK’s highest road and then a nice descent in freezing hail and rain to St John’s Chapel
After another excellent night of food and friendship we assembled wearing Nicole’s cycling tops and an assortment of tutus (due to a rash promise made by Andrew to get our fundraising to over £1,000) After a photo call we set off for the final leg to Jarrow which was listed as a mainly downhill section. This was a total lie!! It took real heroic efforts from all the team to get all our riders over the many very steep inclines, including the bonus hill climb up to the Angel of the North – a very worthy symbolic diversion.
We finally arrived in Jarrow and our route took us to the Town Hall where the Jarrow Marchers had set off. The poignant moment was when Andrew spotted that date of the Jarrow march was the same as Nicole’s death – October 5th. The final stopping point was the beautiful Hive café at the Jarrow Monastery. They kindly agreed to continue serving when our second team got delayed by a combination of hills, tutus and a puncture.
And so the journey ended for most of us, although Barry and Andy carried on cycling to Durham and then the next day to Leeds – an awesome effort from two cyclists who truly reflected Nicole’s love of cycling and touring.
The highlight of our tour was definitely the teamwork. Everybody helped massively whether it was helping sort out accommodation, transport, the mapping, evening meals, support vehicles, coffee/lunch stops as well as all the support that the more experienced rides gave to those riders who were not as strong. It was a great example of everyone working together to ensure that we all had a fabulous weekend (and all finished the ride) It really showed the awesomeness of club riding – it is not about personal glory or speed but about helping everyone enjoy cycling.
It was a great memorial ride from Leeds Cycle Campaign and Otley Cycle Club in memory of our club mate and friend Nicole Mann and her love of cycling.
Our fundraising is now at just over £3,000 – including gift aid which is a fantastic amount of money to be divided between the three charities that were part of Nicole’s support network:
Macmilian, Wheatfields Hospice (Sue Ryder) and Yorkshire Cancer Centre
For more fantastic photos and an appreciation of just how nice the scenery is on this ride, take a look at our Flickr album
The Ultimate Guide has details of the accommodation, the bike bus, the café stops and the route maps for each day. The routes were created by Nicole and modified by Andy Gibson from Leeds Cycling Campaign.