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Phil’s Cycle to DriveWorks HQ

DriveWorks Key Account Manager, Phil Gilbanks recently cycled from his home in Newcastle, to our HQ in Warrington. For anyone not familiar with the UK – that’s a pretty long way!

We caught up with Phil to find out why he was taking on this challenge and how it went.

Phil’s Story

Sometime ago we were asked to come up with fundraising ideas for raising money for our 2022 charity.

I thought as a personal challenge it would be pretty cool to cycle from my home office in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to DriveWorks HQ in Thelwall. I suggested it and then didn’t think too much about it for a while.

Fast forward a few months and I started planning my route to realize that it’s actually a really long way to cycle. It’s also not a flat ride.

In the end I borrowed a route from a Katie Kookabura, an endurance cycling YouTuber, who made a similar journey in 2021. As I’d never rode these roads, copying someone else’s route made the most sense. Especially as she has way more experience in route planning than me.

In the end the route came to 176 miles with 9700 feet of climbing. Quite easily the longest ride I would ever complete.

As part of my planning, I figured I would break the ride down into 3 x 100km rides. Meaning that as long as I could ride one 100km comfortably, then doing it three more times should be easy, right?

I soon learnt that fitness alone isn’t what was going to get me across the country. I had to eat and drink properly. I had to learn how to pace myself on the hills, so I didn’t burn my legs out. And so began the learning process.

Eventually September 24th rolled around, and I was pretty confident that my legs could get me to the office.

I’d built the mileage up gradually with some 50-, 60-, 70- and 80-mile rides. I finished my training with a 100-mile ride to test out what I’d learnt with fuelling and pacing and thankfully it went well.

If I was going to fail it would be because I didn’t follow my plan.

Setting off just after 5AM, cycling out into the darkness of the morning with some borrowed lights to guide my way, the first hour flew by. Turns out not many people are driving the roads at that hour. I did come across a group who were just making their way home from a night out who gave me some shouts of encouragement, at least that’s what I think they were shouting…

1 hour in and 18 miles down I was ahead of schedule, but I knew the first couple of hours would be the easiest part.

Riding south from Newcastle past Durham and Middlesbrough the terrain is flat, if not actually downhill most of the way. Plus, I’d been blessed by the weather gods with a tailwind that looked to be in my favour all day.

My first “official” stop was scheduled for 80 miles. To get there I had to go through the North York Moors where I’d face my first few challenges in terms of climbing.

The signs were there that it was going to get lumpy when I could see the hills form just outside Middlesbrough.

I passed Stokesley, gateway to the North York Moors, and started the first of 3 climbs. The first climb was a steady 4 miles, but the second climb gave me a glimpse of what was to come. Back-to-back climbs that would hit 25% gradients certainly made me work harder than I’d have liked.

As I rode over the top, passed White Horse I had my first bit of cramp and my first worry. I was only 60 miles in.

I made it to 80 miles and the village of Easingwold where Carol would meet me for the first time with our dog Luna. I topped up my water and hydration salts, re-filled my pockets with food (stroopwafels, flapjack and bananas were my fuel for the day) and took some time to stretch my cramping thigh.

A pleasant surprise was also having my friends Matt and Sarah and their daughter Lily join me in Easingwold at my first stop.

I set out from Easingwold and started heading West where my next stop would be Headingley, Leeds for another top up of water and food.

The roads heading west were pretty uneventful. No climbing, just lovely country lanes.

I hit Leeds and the roads started getting bigger and busier. At my stop in Headingley, strategically chosen because of a bakery I’d always wanted to visit, surrounded by students in fancy dress I fitted right in with my high vis cycling gear.

I topped up my water and food again and set off for what I knew would be the hardest 30 miles.

The ride out of Leeds and through Bradford and Halifax was going to be the biggest challenge of the day.

I knew the roads wouldn’t be great as it was all urban roads, some dual carriageways, a lot of traffic lights and traffic. But it was also going to be very hilly. I had to make the climb up and over Blackstone Edge from Halifax. 3 miles and an average gradient of 7% would be a challenge. Especially with 130 miles in the legs.

Looking down at my Garmin computer at the climb it seemed like it went on forever and never let up in gradient until the very top.

I reached the top and took a moment to enjoy the view. Knowing that I had just one short climb to go before it was downhill to the finish gave me the boost I needed to power over the last climb and to my last scheduled stop.

At the top of Blackstone edge, I could see central Manchester and knew I was close!

One more food and water top up and I headed off, with my aim to arrive at the office before sunset.

This part of the route took me along the Rochdale canal before dropping into Clayton Vale Park. This gave me a much-needed break from riding on roads amongst the traffic. And with central Manchester still to navigate I thought it might be needed.

As we hit central Manchester, passing by the Etihad Stadium on the way to Piccadilly and then out through Old Trafford I was on roads I knew. I thought this might have made the miles tick down faster, but it had the opposite effect. The last 10 miles seemed to take ages.

Eventually I hit the outskirts of Lymm. I rode into Laskey Lane and was greeted by some of the DriveWorks team members but most importantly by Rob, Abby, Louis and of course Sophie.

I stopped the watch. 13 hours and 30 minutes later I had made it to the office.

Thanks to everyone’s donations, messages and cheers along the way. They really helped keep me going!

For the stat nerds amongst us, you can view my ride on Strava.