The best Palace to Palace bike ride yet

We made it: at the Palace to Palace finish, Windsor

We made it: at the Palace to Palace finish, Windsor

Today, I joined colleagues from PayPal UK and thousands of others to cycle from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle (Palace to Palace) to raise money for The Prince’s Trust. It was a brilliant day that will have raised a huge amount of money for this very important charity, which gives a fresh start to disadvantaged young people.

This was my third Palace to Palace. It was definitely the best yet. Part of that was down to me – I’ve cycled hundreds of miles this summer, which helped me keep up with colleagues 20 years younger than me, and finish at an average speed of 15.9mph compared with 11.9mph last year. I’ve also got a wonderful road bike – a Specialized Roubaix. But it also reflects great work by the organisers. We were back on the faster traditional route via Fulham after last year’s slog through Wandsworth, caused by the summer 2014 closure of Putney Bridge. And they seemed to be managing the flow of departures better – while it took ages to get to the start line, we didn’t find anything like as much cycle congestion in London compared with the previous two years. We got to Richmond Park, 10 miles out, in just over 40 minutes.

Thanks to my new found fitness, I enjoyed a novel experience – being in a peloton. About seven of us from PayPal rode in formation, taking it in turns to lead the train. I was leading the way as we passed the M25, and again as we climbed towards the M3. That effort took a lot out of me, and I rode solo for a few miles before rejoining the train at the last water station at 35 miles. I braced myself for the hill I dreaded in previous years after Englefield Green. Suddenly the road plunged – and I realised I had already climbed the hill without noticing it. It was a delicious moment.

Windsor is a wonderful destination – whether you’re on a bike or arriving by car or train. This year we had the added bonus of cycling up the Long Walk towards Windsor Castle, which offers a wonderful view of the largest castle in Europe. Soon after, we arrived at Windsor Racecourse for a much needed drink and sandwich. (You can even grab a free massage in the End Village.)

Thanks to everyone who sponsored me – and all the other cyclists. If you’d like to add to the money raised, please visit my JustGiving page.

Here’s to next year!

PS: best wishes to the female cyclist who had an accident near Hampton. I hope she is OK.

Why I’m cycling Palace to Palace for The Prince’s Trust

Ready for Palace to Palace 2013 - on three wheels

Ready for Palace to Palace 2013 – on three wheels

Almost 40 years ago, the Prince of Wales had a brilliant idea: to give disadvantaged and vulnerable young people a fresh start in life. So began The Prince’s Trust. On Sunday, I’ll be joining thousands of others cycling from London to Windsor to raise money for this excellent cause.

It’s my third Palace to Palace, riding with friends from PayPal UK. My first in 2013 was on my trike – as I blogged at the time. This time I’ll be on a faster road bike, my Specialized Roubaix, which has been a constant companion this summer. It’s a lovely ride from Buckingham Palace to Windsor, especially once you’ve got to Richmond Park and can start to build up speed. (If you think cars cause congestion, imagine thousands of cyclists negotiating London’s traffic lights!)

If you’d like to sponsor me – and more importantly help The Prince’s Trust and young people – please visit my JustGiving page. Thank you!

Riding Palace to Palace on a trike

I’m not an attention seeker. But last weekend, I did something conspicuous. I rode an ICE Adventure recumbent tricycle on the 45 mile Palace to Palace bike ride for the Prince’s Trust. I was, as  far as I could see, the only person on three wheels rather than two.

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Above: in The Mall, ready for the start at Buckingham Palace

It was the trike’s first big outing, and it was a revelation. During the countless traffic lights between the start in The Mall and Richmond Park I relaxed in my comfortable seat, feet still clipped into the pedals, ready for the lights to change. By contrast, everyone else was clipping and unclipping. The Adventure was as fast on the flat as I’d been told to expect. I loved (carefully) overtaking groups of cyclists on the trike, seeing their surprise and delight at the unlikely vehicle passing them.

I’d also been told to expect the trike to be slower on the hills. I’m a slow climber on any bike, but only struggled on the last climb, after some 35 miles. The ICE trike comes with very low gears, and I found it easy to take my time on the ascents ready to enjoy the downhills that followed – especially the 34mph swoop towards Windsor…

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 Above: my ICE trike folded ready for the trip to London

My trike is long. And big. Yet I can get it in the back of my MINI, thanks to the amazing compact flat twist fold. The rear wheel folds into place between the front wheels after you’ve taken off the seat. It meant Karen could take me to London for the start in our estate car (above), and meet me in Windsor.

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Above: ready to ride to the start!

Karen dropped me off in Wigmore Street, and I loved the first mile to the start in the Mall, cycling through Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. It reminded me of my long-ago days commuting by bike from Teddington to Holborn. I got a similar dose of nostalgia in Richmond Park: that was my route home, past White Lodge, Pen Ponds and Ham Gate. At the time, when people at work complained about the Northern Line I’d sympathise and say I had a terrible journey, held up by a herd of deer…

As I said at the start, there’s no hiding place on a trike. Children and adults smiled and said, “Cool!” – referring to the trike, not me! And I couldn’t help smiling as I steered it like the go-kart I loved as an 11 year old growing up in Cardiff.

Windsor is a wonderful destination for a bike ride. It’s got everything: history, the largest castle in Europe, the royal connection, the Thames and lovely cafes and restaurants. It was a special moment as I crossed the finishing line at Windsor Racecourse.

Finally, the whole point of this ride was raising money for the Prince’s Trust, a worthy cause that helps disadvantaged young people make the most of their potential. The Trust did a brilliant job organising the event, with superb organisation, signposting and marshalling, and a great welcome village at Windsor. I was lucky enough to be part of the PayPal UK team riding Palace to Palace. I’m pleased and grateful that friends and family have helped me raise over £600. If you’re feeling generous and charitable, I’d be delighted if you added to my total. You can do so here. Thank you!