This year, erz and friends committed to raising £10,000 for the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice by cycling the 5 Ferries Challenge. The event consists of 4 cycling legs across the West Coast of Scotland with 5 ferries between them. The cycling legs cover some 50 miles and over 2000ft of ascent.

Unfortunately, due to adverse weather conditions, the Hospice had to postpone the event until September.

Bikes prepped, lunches packed, legs trained and childcare arranged – there was a sense that we ought to do something. So, with 1 minute to spare, the team boarded the Calmac ferry to Brodick, strapping the bikes to a wall in preparation for a sea of white horses.

After 50 rough minutes, we disembarked onto Arran in heavy rain and 40mph winds.

In retrospect, that moment made my day because I got to see 19 cyclists, a lot of whom only cycle once a week, gamely begin a difficult route in conditions that would repel an athlete. I would have bailed if it weren’t for them (and the prospect of looking like a chicken in front of Christine).

We pushed against a headwind up slow, steep corners and false summits to regroup at the top of Arran’s most daunting climb – ‘the string road’. At some points, the water bore down the tarmac so thick our tyres became ineffectual. I cried but it was raining on my face so nobody noticed.

After a motivational talk from Christine, the weather improved. Several miles of well-deserved downhill took us to the remote side of Arran where we stopped for a seafood lunch at Café Thyme, utterly soaked.

From here to Lochranza, the wind was behind us – a quiet sensation that lends itself well to conversation. With no air resistance and effortless pedal strokes, it occurred to me this is the closest I’ll get to cycling in space.

Ellie Steers handed out some glorious homemade energy balls. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients.
 Dates
Almonds
Lime juice
Desiccated Coconut (in your chosen proportions)

Method:
Blend the ingredients until they form a dough which can be pressed into small spheres.
Roll in more desiccated coconut and place in the fridge to set.

The following section involved an enormous hill but we were well practiced by this point. We put our heads to the tarmac and quietly got in the zone. The summit came quickly (very quickly for Tom!) and we ploughed on without a break into another epic descent. During this section, the curves tightened, speed increased and a crosswind blew gusts of 40mph. Euan Christie lost control while cycling at 25mph and he was blown into a bog. Despite bruising, Euan regained the saddle and continued onto Brodick. The ‘home run’ to Brodick involved 7 miles of headwind. Murray’s bike got a puncture so he ran the last 2 miles to make a ferry crossing that never sailed. Rough weather caused us to wait (sodden) for 3 hours until the weather calmed and the crossing was safe. On the way back we met Ally McCoist, who had been doing a charity bike ride for another charity.

Our group convened at the Roscher/Steers house for the best Chinese meal we have ever eaten. Ever. This is what we ate:
Vegetable Sate, spicy chicken curry, rice, battered chicken, orange spare ribs, crispy green stir fried veg, salad, warm french bread, watermelon, snacks, crackers, beer, wine.
I would like to thank Chan and Donna Luc for making us this meal. It was superb.

We are greatly looking forward to doing the official 5 Ferries Challenge on the 12th September.

Please sponsor us via our just-giving page. https://www.justgiving.com/erz5ferries/

For further information on our proposals for The Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice click HERE

Article by Euan Maharg