Most attempts to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats fail or take 10-14 days. For some reason, 32-year old financier Graham Davies felt he could achieve the feat in four days and, spurred on by the desire to raise money for the Walkabout Foundation, did just that – 874 miles at an average of 15mph (equating to 58+ hours of cycling).
This resulted in elation, a very sore body and an initial £2,500 for his chosen charity; a sum that continues to grow as more and more people hear of the man’s extraordinary achievement.
Delayed by the worst weather on record, Davies began his epic journey at 3.50am on Friday 13th of July (the superstitious among us might have waited a further day!). The initially invisible ‘humungous-sized’ potholes made for an uncomfortable ride and the hills of North Somerset were more akin to mini-mountains, yet 235 miles were still achieved by 8.30pm. After 5.5 hours sleep he was back in the saddle. With regular stops for peanut butter and jam sandwiches washed down with Yorkshire tea, he reached his native Cheshire slap bang in the middle of a competitive time trial, but was pleasantly surprised they were travelling only a little quicker than he. Day two ended just short of Shap at 10.30pm.
Now 20 miles behind schedule, our man settled for just 4.5 hours that night and, fuelled by porridge, banana and raspberries, began day three with an everlasting climb out of Kendal. Missing the sign in Edinburgh that read ‘No cyclists on the main ring road’ resulted in a telling off from the Highways Agency and further delays, and by 8.00pm Davies was running sufficiently late to contemplate an all-nighter. So, fully lit, clad in hi-vis top and dosed up on ibuprofen and codeine, he took to the road once more at 10.00pm. Things went well until 2.00am on the final morning, when rider, bike and supporting motorhome were all nearly flattened by a large truck. Discretion called for a two hour break – the good news was the ride was back on track. The final 100 miles were far hillier than expected, and cramp and knee pain meant the last 20 or so were accomplished pretty much one at a time, with short breaks in between. Nevertheless, against the odds, the apparently impossible mission was accomplished by 9.15pm on day four. Some celebration photos were taken, but those with the famous John O’Groats sign had to wait until the following morning – it is removed every night by its owner/operator!
A finance professional, London-based Graham Davies focuses on making private equity investments in the agricultural sector around the world – especially Africa. A former lightweight rowing Blue (Oxford) he enjoys the outdoors and cycling in particular, so a two-wheeled marathon of some description was the obvious basis for his charity attempt. His loyal support crew comprised his girlfriend Becky King (30), a clinical trials manager for Pfizer, and his parents Brian and Kathy Davies of Winsford, Cheshire. His diet included: pasta, porridge, fruit, nuts, chocolate, roast chicken, soreen, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, plus specialised endurance powders with sugars and electrolytes etc. He lost 3kg in weight during the four days. Davies’ chosen mount was a Focus Izalco Pro 3, which performed faultlessly and didn’t suffer a single puncture. He gradually built up his training over six months, ending with 14-hour sessions. The record for riding from John O’Groats to Land’s End on a conventional bicycle is 44 hours, 4 minutes and 20 seconds, which was achieved by former professional time trialist Gethin Butler in 2001. It is thought few people have accomplished the feat inside four days, as Davies did.
The Walkabout Foundation was established by Davies’ friend Carolina Gonzalez-Bunster, whose brother has been paralysed from the chest down following a car accident when 18 years old. Davies said: “I take my mobility and independence for granted. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to have that taken away. I knew that any money I raised for the organisation would go straight to the people that need it most, and I fully agree with the approach the Foundation has taken in supporting scientific research to find a cure for paralysis.”
Does he have other such plans for the future? “I would love to do an East to West coast ride of Canada, and recently saw the record for cycling round the world was 18,175 miles in just under 92 days – idle thoughts for the future, but please don’t tell my girlfriend!”
Anybody suitably enthused by Davies’ remarkable accomplishment can make a donation to the Walkabout Foundation by logging onto walkaboutfoundation.org and searching for Graham Davies under ‘Find a Friend’ – any such support would be very gratefully received.