The Big Night Out

I’m sure we have all been there. You are sitting in the pub, having a nice quiet drink, someone makes a suggestion and the next thing you know you are 100 miles from home trying to buy a pizza from a kebab shop at half past three in the morning. Peer pressure is a wonderful thing.

Sunset in Lincolnshire. Big skies and big fields.

Richard had long ago decided that it would be a good idea to ride a 24hr time-trial and I’m foolish enough to go a long with his ideas. However, he had never ridden longer than 12hrs before and has never ridden through the night. With about six weeks to go it was decided that he should really get some practice at these things and so I was again volunteered to get involved.

The ‘plan’ was a bit vague, just a rough idea of a start time and an even rougher idea of a route. Five us met at the market place in Sleaford and set off at exactly seven and a bit minutes past eight. Only two us, Richard and myself, were intending to complete the whole thing, the others would come with us for about an hour before turning around and heading home. George, Henry and Max decided that as they were only doing a short ride they would quite like to complete it at about 20mph and so immediately took off into the distance.

We just about managed to keep up with them until we split. They headed for home, a hot drink and a warm bed, while Richard and I turned up the lights and headed off into the night.

A lovely photograph of the Lincolnshire Fens at night

It looks as though some of the night-time photography hasn't come out as intended. However, it does you a very good idea of the amount we could see!

We headed passed RAF Coningsby, home of the Typhoons and also The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with their Spitfires, Hurricanes and the only flying Lancaster in the country. We didn’t see any of these as it was dark. This lead us towards the first brief stop at Richard’s sister’s house, about 40 miles in. We eventually silenced the dogs, had a quick drink and then hit the road again. We didn’t see the non-flying Lancaster at East Kirkby, also due to the dark. The ride would become a bit of an impromptu tour of the county's airfields, not that we could see many of them in the dark.

East Kirkby runway at night

We continued east passed the old RAF bombing range at Wainfleet until we ran out of land at Skegness, where we turned and headed north up the coast road, leaving the bright lights and the funfairs behind and on into the darkness.

A lot of the roads we followed were unfamiliar to me. I kept recognising various places along the route, and no doubt would have recognised more had I been able to see them, but I don’t know exactly how we strung them all together.

A badger on the road to Cleethorpes in the dark 

We made good progress up the little country lanes, dodging foxes and badgers as we went. We arrived at Cleethorpes just after 3am and decided that as we were getting a bit peckish after 107 miles we would head into the town and attempt to find some food, now dodging taxis and local drunks.

We eventually spotted a kebab shop on the High Street which was still open. Richard remained outside with the bikes while I went inside to order pizzas. Pizzas of course take a while to cook and two blokes in rather flattering tight lycra and bright helmets attract a bit of attention from the revellers. They were all friendly enough, although slightly confused by what we were doing. I get the feeling that they would have been equally confused had they been sober, they just couldn’t understand why someone would attempt to ride through the night when they could be drinking beer and dancing instead. It is indeed a good question, and one which I asked myself several times during the night. Richard seemed to be attracting just as much attention outside.

We took our pizzas over to the park to find a bench to sit and eat them. The hot food was very welcome, although it was a relatively mild night it was still a bit chilly, so we took the opportunity of a break to put our hats on under our helmets. We were entertained by another local drunk attempting to relieve himself in the bushes. He eventually got the hang of standing up without having to hold onto anything, which freed up both hands for undoing his trousers. This took him a great deal of time and effort but he did get there in the end. The reverse process was not nearly as successful. He had been standing unaided for quite a while by this stage and had clearly been for too long, he had to again find something to hold onto. This meant that he only had one hand available to do his trousers up again, something for which he was sadly lacking in coordination. He fumbled for the duration of the pizza before giving up and walking away, one hand steadying himself on the wall, the other holding up his trousers.

Looking out to sea, north of Cleethorpes, in the dark

Leaving Cleethorpes behind we continued north towards the bright lights of Grimsby and then to the even brighter lights of Immingham. When I say bright lights, I’m not referring to the Casinos and seafront bars, more the fact that the refinery is very well lit. It actually looked rather pretty.

Somewhere between there and the Humber Bridge dawn snuck up on us and it was daylight as we crossed the river. Looking at my map as I’m writing this I see that it I not very far from Immingham to the bridge which means that either the sunrise had happened very rapidly indeed or that we were riding very very slowly. I was struggling as we crossed the bridge so I suspect the latter.

All of my energy seemed to have deserted me, and I was finding it rather difficult to keep the bike moving in a straight line, I had a couple of near misses with Richard’s rear wheel as I tried to keep from nodding off. Fortunately he was far more awake than I was and collisions were avoided. Arriving on the north bank we had a quick detour into Hessle (in my half-awake state the signs looked like they were pointing towards Nessie) to attempt to find some caffeine for me.This was unsuccessful. However, I seemed to have perked up a bit then and we headed back across the bridge a little bit more quickly and without speaking to any chefs (don’t ask). By the way, crossing the bridge and then coming straight back again doesn’t mean we were lost (that bit comes later) it just seemed a shame to go as far the bridge and not cross it.

We turned and headed down to Scunthorpe. By the time we arrived it was properly morning and places were starting to open. We found a petrol station which did have a stock of caffeine tablets and also restocked our chocolate, flapjack and water supplies.

Now comes the getting lost bit. Richard had assured me that he knew the route but Scunthorpe town centre confused him somewhat, we rode around for a bit until we found a way out and then rode around a bit more until we could work out roughly in which direction we were heading. The sign posts were not a lot of use, since the majority of them pointed towards the motorway and this was a section of road we were keen to avoid. Eventually we found ourselves heading south towards Massingahm.

We pulled over to have a flapjack and navigation break, on the stem bit of a T junction. While we eating a local club run came passed along the top bit of the T. They seemed to know where they were going so after a minute of deliberation we decided to follow them. It is amazing what you can do when you come over all competitive. With over 170 miles already under our belts we found ourselves doing about 23mph attempting to chase down a pack of about 20 riders. Even more surprising than our sudden turn of speed was the fact that we actually managed it! We had anticipated latching onto the back of them and having a nice tow in the slipstream. Instead we found ourselves involved a through-and-off chain gang, this was not really what we were looking for. We made our way to the front, as you do, thinking we should at least do our fair share, but then realised that we were leaving them behind. This caused further problems, having pushed quite hard to catch and then pass them we would look like a right pair of wallys if we just backed off then and so we had little choice but keep the pace up and press on. Luckily for us they did eventually turn off and we were able to slow down again.

We had also by this stage worked out where we were and so were able to head towards RAF Scampton, now home of the Red Arrows but probably more famous as the base from which the Dambusters mission flew, and on towards Lincoln.

We saw a number of signs for the forthcoming Lincoln Grand Prix bike race as we headed into the city. This being the UK the signs were all traffic delays and diversions on the day. Had this been France they would have been telling us where we could watch the race and where we could get tickets, bike racing is a much more popular sport over there.

We entered Lincoln from the north end and then hurtled down Yarborough Road weaving our way through the early morning traffic. Despite Richard’s best efforts we failed miserably in the attempt to takes James’ KOM up Bracebridge Hill, not really surprising over 180 miles into the ride. We stuck to the smaller roads as we headed round the back of RAF Waddington, home of the AWACS and back towards Sleaford. The route took us passed RAF Digby, Britain’s oldest operational Airforce base and home of the signals unit, and then passed RAF Cranwell, the RAF college. Richard had driven in the night before and so had done fewer miles than me, he only had 193 by the time we got back and so he joined me for some of my journey home to make sure he got passed the 200.

We bumped into George and Henry, looking remarkably fresh and alert, it’s amazing what difference actually going to sleep at night can make. We stopped for a water top up and then carried on. It was nearly lunchtime by the time I finally made it home again. The target had been 200 miles so I was very pleased to see 217. Richard reported later that his total had been 202. Job done.

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