50 miles to home: Mick’s cycling story

Doncaster resident Mick has been in touch with the project to share the story of his teenage cycle adventure in the summer of 1980:

“My tale starts with a plan between four friends in the hamlet of Kirk Sandall. It was 1980 and I had recently turned 16. We decided one Saturday morning to cycle to Cleethorpes. I pored over my Dad’s AA atlas and found that we needed to head down the A18 through Hatfield and towards Keadby. That was the limit of our navigation for the whole journey.

My steed was a standard 1980’s ‘grod’ with a rusty chain and cow-horn handlebars. The chain squeaked so I coated it in oil from the pump oil can in the shed.

It was June and we chose the hottest weekend of the year to cycle further than any of us had cycled before and for most of the group, even since. Not me though. This trip continued what has been a life-long love affair with the bike.

We set off and by lunchtime we were all dripping with sweat and probably dehydrating. But battle on we did until we reached Scunthorpe. Excitement grew as we saw signs for Grimsby. We knew that Grimsby Town played their football in Cleethorpes so it was as good a sign as any that we were on track.

We reached Brigg thinking that the sea was just around the corner. The 50 mile trip must surely be within our grasp. Alas not. We were just over half way and had another 23 miles in the saddle.

As we passed through Somerby we were in the wide open expanses of North East Lincolnshire. The heat of the day was draining our energy and the foursome were now cycling in silence. The quiet belying the fact that we were all shattered. As we approached Great Limber our first catastrophe.

My chain snapped and my shin smacked the pedal drawing blood. The other three stopped to assess the situation. It didn’t look good but necessity being the mother of invention and all that, I found a piece of wire in the gully at the side of the road which I was able to fashion into a chain link.

We resumed our journey on a day so hot that as often seems to reserve itself to our memories, we stopped at a number of roadside houses and cadged drinks of water. Provided, of course in glasses, this being the days before the plastics industry took over our lives.

Amazingly, the wire link held and we were soon travelling through the outskirts of Southern Grimsby. We passed the stone lions of Weelsby woods and took the opportunity to sit on top of the lions. By now, the heat of the day was dwindling and it was early evening. We rode to the commune that was Fitties but is now Thorpe Park and launched ourselves into the bracing River Humber/North Sea. We had made it. The rest of the trip is something of a blur but cheap beer may well have rounded off some of the edges.

We slept in sleeping bags on a playing field, open to the elements but we awoke, all of us amazed that we had actually made it. We dawdled around for a couple of hours before making our way home. Unbelievably my chain snapped again at Great Limber, this time there was no mending it. We managed to persuade a lorry driver to give us a lift to the outskirts of our village and our untrustworthy steeds limped back into the village. I went straight to bed and slept for a few hours. I remember later that evening walking to the village shops and the world seemed to have changed.

That trip wasn’t my first bike ride and neither has it been the longest. But it did teach me that life is much easier with a well maintained bike and a few basic tools. It also taught me to hydrate properly as I suffered from sun-stroke on the way home. But most of all it showed me that if I wanted to, I could cycle to the seaside.”

If Mick’s cycling story had sparked a memory for you, please have a look at how you can get involved with the project here.


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