The Barcelo Hotel very kindly put us up the night before, and they let us park Miss CoBi in the foyer, which caused quite a stir among the coach touring guests. The 84 year old Walter was quick to jump into the saddle for a photograph, and went on to tell us of his cycling days since passed (as a boy he would cycle 100 miles a day down the deserted war-time lanes, shooting rabbits for supper).
In the morning a large crowd of about 30 gathered outside the hotel, which must count as our biggest send-off yet; they sang a short refrain of 'we'll meet again' as we pedalled with all our might towards Hemel Hempstead.
We had a really rather racy relay team, so there was lots of swapping on and off which kept the pace up nice and high. The girls screamed louder than a lobster in boiling water as we came down a few of the hills, and Chris (Teeta) lost his trainer in frenzied roundabout pedalling. I accidentally got us onto another dodgy dual carriageway into Milton Keynes ; talk about out of the frying pan into the fire ... more like out of the coffin into the crematorium.
We passed by IKEA, which I mooted as the perfect location for Miss CoBi's next challenge (although we might need more than one month to complete a full entrance to exit Ikea ride).
In Leighton Buzzard we picked up the hugely talented Spring Offensive - a very up and almost coming band based in Oxford. I think the image of us riding a seven seater bike at about 30mph down a main road carrying a 4-man band playing their greatest hits thus far will have to go down as a highlight of my life. However so lost were we in the music that we spent an hour going round in one big circle, ending up in, yes you guessed it, Leighton Buzzard (we stupidly took directions from a 'Police Community Support Officer').
Eventually we rolled into Hemel , where we were met by Ed's granddad, Edward Guinness, who was actually at the meeting where the Guinness Book of Records was created .... SPEECHLESS.
OR IF YOU WANT A DIFFERENT, SLIGHTLY BETTER PERSPECTIVE THEN PLEASE SEE BELOW
My Day On A Seven Seater (Single Geared) Conference Bike , by David Sheffield
After a car journey, a brief train ride to Long Buckby (no, I’d never heard of it either) and a lift in the van (which was in the exact state I expected it to be in after almost 3 weeks of things being bundled in and out) I arrived at the Barceló Daventry Hotel (4*). Immediately I was warmly welcomed into the CoBi family by fellow riders, Sarah and Harry. This was a pleasant surprise as I had come fully equipped to camp.
Dinner was delayed due to the fascination of the coach tour that were seduced by the seven seat bike sitting in the foyer, one of whom was 84 year old Walter, a former Cancer Research scientist and avid cyclist. He didn’t need much encouragement to climb aboard for a photo.
Three more cyclists joined us before bedtime and we spend the final hour of the day debating whether or not crocodiles make good pets* and was CoBi a fitness or social thing – the second pint of San Miguel confirmed it was more likely the latter.
After a cosy night sleep (6 beds, 9 people) and a hearty breakfast, we set off, not before wrestling the bike from the members of the coach tour who were threatening to abandon their previous days transportation for Miss CoBi.
On the bike to begin with were Ed (Can I tell you a story?), Amy (Scream if you want to go slower), Laura (the extra weight of that hoodie will slow us down), Martin (I enjoy a good poke), Harry (it’s all about the lycra), Stewart (I could start my own business but I’d rather ride a single gear seven seater bike) and myself (I don’t want this to be too easy), while in the van were Sarah (get your butts up this hill now), Jack (Whatever stories Ed told you, they’re completely made up) and Ian (I think I’ve cracked this driving lark now).
Our first stop came after only 1.5 miles when we were stopped by the man from BBC Radio Northampton for an interview. Over the next few hours we seemed to pick up people at every turn. Paul (I’m going to build my own conference bike) joined us at Towcester after driving 5 hours from Essex that morning, Chris (who needs shoes anyway) and Emily (from Norway) joined at Milton Keynes.
We made good time, completing a marathon distance in under 3 and a half hours, and we were delighted to see an actual buzzard hovering over Leighton Buzzard. There a real life rock band (Spring Offensive) joined the journey taking the total number of riders for the day to 16. They entertained us by playing most of their back catalogue both on the way out of Leighton Buzzard and back into it again. The 40 minute detour was a slight set back but once back on the road it was time to cruise into Hemel just after 7PM, our final destination.
An amazing and motivating day with really interesting people who'd joined in for all kinds of reasons, taking part in something both bonkers and worthy and as I laid my head on my pillow I could still feel my legs spinning round top speed.
If you see this big purple machine in your area in the next week, give them a honk or a cheerful wave and please give generously!
* we decided not as it might eat the cat.