In 2006, I rode my 3 Speed Dutch Bike – An Azor Oklahoma from Land’s End to John O Groats. A total of 980 enjoyable miles exploring the length of the UK, from Cornwall to Scotland.
Getting a large Dutch Bike on a relatively small car proved to the biggest challenge of the ride. I’m not a fan of bikes on the back of cars on this style of bike rack, but we managed to drive from Littlehampton to Land’s End without incident.
The Azor Oklahoma is manufactured by Azor, a quality Dutch bike manufacturer who also build the Bakfiets Cargo bikes. I fitted a front cargo rack to my bike, which carried all sorts of things I forgot I had during hte ride and never used… On the rear I fitted a set of panniers similar fitted with things I never used, but thought might be useful when packing. Overall the bike weighted more than 30kgs, which goes against all the advice of long-distance cycling touring.
Hugh Salt, the UK main agent/importer for Azor Dutch bikes gave me the flags and other things for my ride. Leaving Land’s End on the 6th October, I rode for 14 days to arrive in John O Groats in Scotland and then took a day riding around the area including going to Dunnet Head, which is actually the true most Northern part.
I came across this cycle lane which led to a load of steps where you have to cross the corad up onto a even more narrow cycle lane which lead to absolutely nowhere. Having to lift my 30kgs plus bike down the remaining steps wasn’t easy.
Arriving in the lovely village of Par in Cornwall. My overnight destination for day one of my trip. The lovely weather wasn’t to last and most of the trip was wet and windy.
Roads like this with no area for cyclists as road works are underway were typical of the route. In my experience, the UK, many local authorities and County Councils fail to factor in cyclists needs when they plan road works. They’ll all tell how pro-cycling they are all, and ‘green’ is their mantra, while the reality is, they really don’t think about cyclists at all. On this stretch of the road, I rode in the middle between the two cones much to the annoyance of some motorists who tooted their disapproval. It seems odd to me that even though you go to considerable effort to get out of the way of slowing down traffic, some motorists still see you as being in the ‘wrong.’
A decent cycle path in Bristol running alongside the road with adequate width and nice views.
Riding over the hills, which at times I took to walking to take in the spectacular views.
Arriving in Scotland – the sun shone and the weather improved. In my experience, the Scots were the most welcoming of all during my ride. Everyone I met in Scotland from hotel staff to those in the shops I stopped in were exceptionally helpful and encouraging. Same can’t be said for other places in England. Despite pre-booking my room in a B&B in Gloucester, the landlady/owner told me that she had no such booking for me when I turned up wet and muddy at her door. She took one look at the bike and me and slammed the door shut. I stayed overnight in a nice hotel in Gloucester.
Taking a rest overlooking the beautiful Loch Lomond, Scotland.
Enjoying a night at the lovely Ardlui Hotel, Loch Lomond. This is beautiful hotel overlooking the lake and includes a campsite and small marina.
Arriving in John O Groats – 14 days after I started and thanks to the generous sponsors of my ride – family, suppliers and customers, I managed to raise just shy of £10,000 for MacMillan Cancer Support.
John O Groats and the lovely view out over the sea in the sunshine.
Helmsdale, a very pretty small, Scottish fishing village where I stayed on my final night prior to reaching John O Groats.
What happened to my Dutch Bike after the ride.
Having returned to Littlehampton via the overnight train from Scotland, a local lady who’d seen the press coverage of my ride, offered to buy the bike with a generous donation to my fundraising efforts for MacMillan. With a heavy heart, and much regret, I sold her the bike.
Some years later, I wondered what had happened to the bike and as luck would happened, the phone rang and a lady asked could we service her ‘Dutch Bike’, which she’d purchased from us and regrettably had sat deteriorating in her garden shed as she’d been too unwell to ride it. When I picked it up, I was shocked at the condition of the bike and as it would need considerable care to restore it back to its former glory, I offered her a part-ex deal against a new Batavus Old Dutch, which she agreed. Work began on restoring the bike which included stripping down to the frame, which we had repainted and fitting new Azor Oklahoma decals. After much love and care and hard work, the bike is now back to its original glory and can usually be found parked outside our shop. We get regular offers to buy it, but it’s not for sale. I ride it regularly and it’s always a joy to amble along and reminds me of how wonderful it is to ride a bicycle.
Littlehampton Dutch Bike Shop.