So the Crosscountry train in which I’m sitting is flying along the tracks, carrying me home. There’s time to gather random thoughts together. Every long distance trip teaches its own lessons, so what were mine?
The first is that I was underestimating my level of fitness: the easy first day was probably wise, but, distance-wise, days 2 and 3 were a bit too short. I was arriving shortly after 2pm, so unless serious hills are involved, I should be aiming at 55 miles plus per day from day 2.
The second is that I need to revise my prediction of road conditions along the following lines: if a B-road is straight, and there isn’t something bigger in parallel, then traffic will be fast, if not heavy.
Thirdly, in retrospect, I think it should have avoided the Rochdale Canal route out of Manchester, gone around the eastern hillside edges of the city instead, then joined the canal at Littleborough. Sustrans really should think about declassifying the Manchester city stretches of the route, which are substandard – although there are some wonderful mill buildings between Manchester and Rochdale, especially at Failsworth. Still, I’m fit enough to make more use of small hill roads than I did, and as a result I probably missed more countryside in days 4 and 5 than I needed.
Fourthly, I’m really glad I forked out for those Schwalbe tyres – there were no punctures, and hardly any mechanical problems at all (just the aforementioned spoke-tightening and an adjustment of the front deraillier limiting screws to stop the chain rubbing at bottom gear).
Fifthly, my 27-year-old tourer remains as good as I can imagine for this kind of trip. The renewed power-train with its wide gearing ratios proved absolutely adequate for the variety of terrain and the load carrying. I’m very lucky to have it. If I were doing a longer, international tour with camping gear, I’d need something different, but what I have suits my choices just fine.
Lastly, I certainly need to get out like this more often. I last toured in 2010, which is too long ago. At my age, I need more, not less of this kind of physical challenge. I also love this kind of solitude: notwithstanding the blogging and social media in the evenings, I’ve been on my own with only my thoughts and tunes going round in my head for most of the past six days. It’s a good way of being me to myself, and I actually quite like my own company – which is reassuring…
… But enough for now.