The aim of the RAF Waddington Cycling Club is to promote cycling throughout the Station by partaking in events and activities. As well as organised mountain bike events and road cycling Sportive and Audax events, the Club decided to take up the challenge to ride to Bournemouth and back.

Cobham Aviation, whose HQ is just outside Bournemouth, kindly provided funds to kit out the riders with Club shorts and jerseys. The aim of this arduous challenge was to visit historic military sites on the way and help promote the Club to non members. Such a feat would enable us to raise money for two local charities; the Lincoln Air Ambulance and CANDLES Cancer Research.

Unfortunately, a mixture of work commitments (at home and abroad) and injury, the planned team of up to 16 riders was whittled down to seven. So we began with cyclists Corporal Jon Taylor, Senior Aircraftman Matt Simkin, Senior Aircraftman Mark Butler, Sergeant Matt Cocking, Corporal Richie Nation, Corporal Daz Wigmore, Corporal Neil Corless and the support team meeting outside JSST at 0630. After loading kit, tools & spares onto the support vehicles, the riders lined up and smiled for the pre-cycle photo before setting off, with the first stop scheduled at Stamford approximately 30 miles from Waddington.

The pace was planned to be an average of 15 mph; one of the reasons myself among others agreed to do this event. However the pace was much quicker than expected; with the wind behind us, we averaged 22 mph arriving at our first stop 20-30 minutes ahead of schedule.

With everyone feeling fresh and vibrant at this point the Officer In Command (OIC), Flight Lieutenant Ged Kilkenny, handed out Mrs K’s heavenly homemade flapjacks which proved to be a godsend throughout the four days of cycling. After replenishing ourselves with water and Mrs K’s delicious energy supplements, we set off making our way towards Silverstone which was at the 90 mile point of the day’s ride.

As the ride progressed the roads became busier and slightly dangerous at certain points in our travels. Approaching peak traffic times our route brought us onto the A45 at around 1200, a three-lane ‘A’ road is not recommended to any cyclist reading this. Due to the intense traffic noise, it was very difficult to hear instructions on which slip road to exit and the group split up with four of us exiting and three carrying on.
At this point we were 10 miles away from Silverstone, where we were to receive our first Force Development (FD) brief by Senior Aircraftman Technician Matt Simkin on the circuit’s history. With guidance from the support vehicles the two separated groups met at a Silverstone Visitor Centre to have some lunch. Once we received the brief, we posed for some photos outside of the Silverstone entrance and set off with about 40 miles to go.

Arriving at the halfway stop at RAF Halton without incident, we were pleased to be maintaining an average of 18 mph. The team decided to seek some well earned refreshment before retiring for some much needed rest for the days ahead.
After a good night’s rest from the previous day’s 128 mile ride, our slightly stiff legs began making our way from Halton to Cobham Aviation in Bournemouth via the Gurkha Museum in Winchester. Another glorious morning helped us start with high spirits, however, after 5 miles SAC(T) Mark Butler suffered the team’s first puncture. After a swift repair, we carried on without further mishap to Winchester.

The ride to Winchester consisted of a number of hills and leg muscles were truly pumped up. With the consecutive climbs we had to endure, a much needed stop was required where Mrs K’s ‘energy supplements’ kept us going. Arriving at the Gurkha Museum we changed out of our cycling shoes to enter the magnificent museum to experience the history of the Gurkha Regiment in the British Army. The riders also took the opportunity to have a walkabout in the heart of Winchester, feeling slightly embarrassed clad in our Lycra but rewarded ourselves with a visit to well known fast food outlet.

Once replenished and having more photos taken at the Museum, we set off from our location, halfway up a hill, not the best way to warm your legs up. After battling up the hill and with our legs not just warm but absolutely sizzling, we were now on our way to Bournemouth. Similar to the first day we had to ride on a busy ‘A’ road at peak hours, which was not the most pleasant experience but we knew our destination was nearby. Due to a missed turn, the team carried out an impromptu cyclo-cross move to get them back on track and heading for Cobham Head Quarters. Fortunately, the support vehicles were able to take the longer but faster route and meet up with the team just as they arrived at the entrance to the site.

We arrived at Cobham Aviation for 1600 where we had a number of staff to cheer us in and welcome us with sandwiches and cake, which was much appreciated by all. Now we had the luxury of locking up our bikes and having a rest day in Bournemouth getting the chance to show off our ridiculous cycling tan lines in the jacuzzi. We had planned to visit the Bournemouth Aviation Museum but poor weather prompted the OIC to cancel the visit.
Up early on the Sunday and after a hearty breakfast, we begin our return to Waddington; our legs were fresher with some slight lingering aches left over from the ride to Bournemouth. So far the average speed (of what was supposed to be 15 mph) had been maintained at 18 mph. The stronger riders of us had been instructed to slow down, unfortunately their helmets must have been covering their ears as the pace began strong and stayed strong. Beginning our journey back to RAF Halton the weather was looking slightly unpredictable and it we were not to be as lucky as our first two days.

Riding out of Cobham Aviation was a much smoother journey due to the minimum traffic on a Sunday morning. Once off the A33, the support team directed us to our next FD stop. At Greenham Common, the OIC gave us a brief on the former military airfield which is best known for the Women’s Peace Camp that was established there in protest at the deployment of US Cruise Missiles.

We then headed towards RAF Halton, unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse and the rain proceeded to lash down on us all. On our travels we stopped at a Sainsbury’s where we had some lunch and were able to dry off a little. Shortly after leaving Greenham Common, with a further 40 miles to reach RAF Halton, we suffered our second mechanical issue when Matt Simkin’s bike suffered a blown tyre. As it were getting late the group decided to leave him with the support vehicle and he could catch up in the van once sorted. We then cycled the next 10 miles averaging a quick pace of 24 mph, a speed that everyone seemed to be coping with okay. That was until we arrived at the hilly town Wendover, with two miles to go to, my body felt like it had shut down. I persevered, finally arriving at Halton (the first time I’ve ever been happy to reach those gates) and we were able to shower and grab a bite to eat ready for our final (and longest) leg.
Luckily we woke up with the weather report informing us that the final day would be pleasant. Although it was cloudy no rain fell and the clouds kept it cool for us throughout the day. Due to the fast pace getting to RAF Halton, it was important that as a group we slowed the pace down for our longest journey yet. The final FD brief was near the former RAF Cardington where Corporal Richie Nation briefed us on the huge hangars that were constructed to build two rigid airships R-31 and R-32.

Although the pace was slowing as fatigue set in, we were still averaging 17-18mph, the group stopped at about 60 miles for a well deserved lunch and, with over 70 miles to go, we were all quite upbeat about achieving this feat. Unfortunately, Mark Butler was to suffer our last and most significant mechanical failure, which resulted in him and his bike covering the final 15 miles in the support vehicle. At around 1700 we turned into the Waddington gates finishing off where we started at JSST, having covered 137 miles for that day alone.

Overall the group cycled 491 miles and averaged a pace close to 18mph. We were able to raise £1600 for the Lincoln Air Ambulance and CANDLES cancer research and got to see the history of various military sites. All in all it was very enjoyable experience and we’d like to thank Cobham aviation for their £1200 sponsorship towards the club, Arrow cycles for providing us spare kit for the Bournemouth journey and all that took part and supported us before, during and after this challenge.

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