Charity challenge

The intrepid SAIF charity cycle team had an inauspicious start to their epic 166-mile ride from Scotland to Harrogate – heavy snow and driving cold winds.

As they huddled around warming cups of tea in a Berwick-upon-Tweed café, there were thoughts about delaying the start of their enterprise. However, after an hour the snow stopped and they decided to mount their bikes to set off down the Northumberland coast on their three-day quest to reach Harrogate in time for the SAIF AGM in late March.

The group included SAIF President Paul Allcock, incoming Vice President Gary Staker, Grant Porteous – substituting for his father, Scottish President Mark Porteous, who broke his elbow training for the event in late February – David Fry and Lisa Platts from funeral supplies company Clarke & Strong, as well as Arran Brudenell, Past President and Managing Director of Anstey & District Funeral Services, who was providing back-up in the support vehicle.

Paul admitted that he was the least experienced cyclist in the pack and suffered from his lack of training. He said: “During the first 28 miles I was struggling to keep up, as the wind was so strong against us. I actually thought that I would never make it through the three days. But when we stopped for lunch I found out that my back tyre was too soft, and when we inflated it to the right pressure it was like cycling a different vehicle.”

The team cycled for four to six hours a day, depending on the mileage covered, and then stayed overnight in hotels. There was an early start each day and a light breakfast.

Paul said he missed his fry-up: “We had to have porridge for breakfast to keep our energy levels up so it was hard looking at the other guests around us enjoying bacon and eggs. I thought that’s going to be my reward for reaching Harrogate: a celebratory full English breakfast!

“We did not get much time for lunch either, as Gary said we had to keep moving or else we’d seize up. Which was true… and the reason why we all jumped into hot steaming baths when we reached our hotel to ease the aches away.”

Remarkably, Arran had an easy time in the support vehicle as there were no punctures or incidents on the trip, apart from Paul falling off his bike – twice: once when he crashed on a cycle path and ended up ripping his new cycling outfit; and another when he was simply blown over by the wind – much to the hilarity of the others.

Paul said the toughest bit was the last stretch from Ripley to Harrogate where they had to climb a particularly steep hill.

He said: “That nearly finished us off! We struggled up that but we made it and were able to ride into the Old Swan together and enjoy the moment of finishing our journey.

“Although I felt tired, I had finally got used to the cycling regime and thought I could do another day of cycling.”

However, reality set in the next day when the aches and pains persisted, and Paul decided to hang up his “cleats”, and in a final gesture towards his fundraising efforts he auctioned his bike for charity.

He said: “I thought it would save me trying to get it home, but my brother-in-law bought it in the auction, and then asked me to take it home for him anyway!”

Paul’s year of fundraising has brought in more than £10,000 for his chosen charity MIND, which provides advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem and also campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding of mental health issues.

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