Dan Black is a radio DJ and producer at Metro Radio – the North East’s number one radio station. Dan presents Metro Radio’s “Hits Not Homework” 7-10pm every Sunday and co-hosts the Esh Group Eagles Newcastle basketball home games at Northumbria University Sport Central. Looking for a fun new challenge, Dan decided to take on the annual Virgin Money Cyclone, one of the premier cycling events in the country! Having not ridden a bike in over 16 years it was never going to be easy… Here’s the radio DJ’s account of conquering 63 miles on a road bike:
I talk a lot and for the past year or so I’ve been all-talk about getting fit again and wanting to get into better shape. The trouble is motivation, I’m sure there are many workaholics like me who tried desperately to squeeze going to the gym while spending the daylight hours sitting on their backside tapping on a keyboard. Gyms are great, but I find it’s easy to throw in the towel when I’m really busy. I knew that the only way the fitness I had back in 2012 when I did the Great North Run would return was if I had something to work towards.
It was on the same day that I’d been nominated for an industry award when a colleague suggested just the challenge I’d been looking for, the Virgin Money Cyclone and to do it in aid of our station’s charity – Cash For Kids. I would have probably said yes to anything on that day, so I accepted and the wheels were set in motion. At that point I genuinely had no idea what I’d got myself into, what’s a Cyclone anyway?
So it turns out the Virgin Money Cyclone is a 104, 63 or 32 mile bike ride with thousands of cyclists hitting the roads of Northumberland. It sounded brilliant and I was psyched… wait, there’s one problem, I don’t have a bike and come to think of it the last time I’d been anywhere near one was about 16 years ago! “When is this Cyclone thing?” I asked, “21st June” my colleague said, giving me only weeks to get ready for it – this definitely was going to be a challenge!
After opening up to my audience about all of this on my next Sunday night Metro Radio show couple of days later, Saddle Skedaddle came forward with the offer of a ‘roadbike’ (aren’t they all, I thought), helmet, jersey and some padded shorts. The latter I didn’t imagine they’d want back, but someone get the person who invented them a drink or something!
Time to train. As part of my training routine I took up spinning classes at Northumbria University Sport Central alongside kindly sponsored personal training sessions with Speedflex to help speed up my route to fitness. All this accompanied by a drastically changed diet became my new regime. It was starting to feel like I might actually be able to do this.
The Tuesday of the week before the Cyclone was when I visited the awesomely located Cycle Hub to get the bike, this was a serious piece of kit and having it to ride on wearing my Saddle Skedaddle jersey really made me look and feel the part, boosting my confidence further. The team were going to support me through my training and said I could ride with them on the day – I was all set.
I’d really loved running over the last couple of years and I’d never been interested in cycling, but it’s brilliant! I think it’s because I’m always listening to something, whether it’s checking out new music for my show, something I’m editing or one of our radio stations, but as a cyclist you need your wits about you so it’s just you, the bike and the road – earphones out for some blissful headspace, I can tell you.
Nervous about the distance and particularly the hills as I’d started to spend some time in the saddle I opted for the middle distance 63mile route rather than my slightly ambitious (that’s an understatement) initial plan on doing the big one. Then to knock my new found cycling confidence, just 7miles from home on a training ride, disaster struck as at the top of the town moor – I broke the chain! Feeling as broken as the bike I called LA Taxis and sheepishly tweeted the tale to my followers. Fortunately the team at The Cycle Hub understandingly replaced it and chalking it up as ‘pilot error,’ offered me advice on the best way to change gears. This advice, I have no doubt, proved invaluable for the Cyclone.
Talk about a chain reaction…
After a final Speedflex session in the morning, my final and furthest training ride on the Wednesday afternoon of the ride week was along Hadrian’s Cycleway to Tynemouth and back, just resisting the urge to stop for an ice cream next to the Priory. While only 23miles, less than half of what lay in store for me on the Saturday Cyclone event, I had my confidence back and felt ready…. I was not.
Feeling like a packhorse with my jersey pockets stuffed, the ‘Skedaddlers’ (my unofficial team name for us) posed for a photo and then made our way to the start line. I really had no concept of how far 63miles really was, only estimating from my training that it was probably going to take me about 7 hours not accounting for any stops along the way.
Cyclists have got it right, I can’t imagine anyone doing the Great North Run and stopping on the Felling Bypass to sit down for soup and sandwiches, but around the 30 mile point that’s exactly what we did! This is after all the “feed stations” in quaint village halls and their many bake sales, the army giving out free bananas and water to top up your bottle and opportunist’s pop-up stalls just where you need them along the way. Talk about making a day of it. However even the Skedaddle pre-planned pit stop for lunch was out-done by the group stopped next to us celebrating a birthday with champagne and even party hats and balloons – I doubt I’ll ever see a party hat on top of a cycle helmet again.
I cannot thank Olly from Saddle Skedaddle enough, I still don’t know if he’d always planned on being my coach for the day, but I could not have done it without his support the whole way round. 6:26’56 – I couldn’t believe it!!
Top Coach Olly!
It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done and made doing a half-marathon feel like a walk in the park. The Northumberland scenery was as breath-taking as climbing the hills and I’m writing this a couple of weeks later on the weekend of the Tour de France’s Grand Depart in nearby Yorkshire, with new found admiration for the riders’ abilities! Thankfully the unusual muscle soreness has subsided and feeling has returned to my lower body, I’ll never forget the pain I felt when my calf muscles cramped up on the dreaded “middle section” nor the relief when I made it to the summit of the Ryals, two hills that from now on I recommend you drive up. In future I’m definitely going to ask more about a challenge before I say ‘yes’, and insist on more time to train in advance, as just over two weeks was pushing it!
Thank you so much to the whole team from Saddle Skedaddle for everything, you might have just made a cyclist out of me, although it will still be a little longer before you get my back on a saddle and I’m definitely not doing live call on the radio whilst going up a hill again…
“Doing the big one next year, Dan?” I’m not saying ‘no’.
What an amazing achievement! Well done to Dan for completeing the ride, and all for a fantastic cause too. You can still add to Dan Black’s Virgin Money Cyclone fundraising total in aid of Cash For Kids, to donate money for this cause click here