It’s not often you get asked to put together a film of an attempted new aviation record as most have already been set years ago.
Serial adventurer and good friend of mine, James Ketchell set off from Popham airfield in Hampshire,UK, on 31st March to fly a gyrocopter (auto-gyro) around the world. No one has ever succeeded piloting one of these tiny aircraft for a full 37,000 km circumnavigation and other attempts have succombed to weather, mechanical problems, logistical issues regarding permissions to fly in a particular country’s airspace or a combination.
A gyro-copter is unlike a helicopter in that the rotor blades are not directly driven by an engine but are spun by a combination of forward motion and the airflow created by the pushing propeller situated behind the pilot. James is piloting a Magni auto-gyro which is powered by a twin-turbo Rotax engine developing ~ 140 bhp. The turbos not only provide boost for take-off but also mitigate the effects of air pressure loss at altitude. They are quite stable craft for the size and are very safe at low speed. Top speed is nothing to write home about though as they are only capable of 110 knots.
Captain Ketcfh as he is dubbed will be speaking in as many schools as he can as he travels West to East through Europe and into Russia and then the Americas and is raising money for two fantastic charities: Kindled Spirit, who support and rehabilitate young victims of human trafficking and slavery; and Over The Wall, who run residential activity camps for children with serious health issues. For more details and how to donate please click here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JamesKetchell.
James’ farewell speech in front of a packed crowd at Popham.
James’ progress minute by minute can be followed here and his Instagram feed is here
On a recent trip to East Africa I documented the cycling scene in and around Uganda’s capital, Kampala. There are alimited number of those who ride to work in the city:
A cyclist makes his way up the shoulder of the shoulder of the congested Kampala – Jinja Highway L near Namanve
…and indeed those who ride for work – ferrying commuters on the backs of their heavy steel machines:
Boda boda riders ferry their fare paying passengers across the city.
Further out ‘in the sticks’, however, bicycles are relied upon for both personal transport and to move goods for sale:
Not all roads in Uganda are surfaced and bicycles make for efficient transport.
(from a previous trip in ’03) Transporting charcoal with papyrus wound around it.
The sport of cycling is seeing some grassroots development in this part of Africa,most notably in neighbouring Rwanda but Uganda has it’s own cycling Association and sent a couple of riders to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in the months after my visit. Cyclists here aren’t professional but race in local trade teams and have to hold down a day job. I saw many at their places of work.
Fancy making 500 bricks a day and training?
These two guys do
and it’s done like this
then baked in the sun and then fired
These racers are mechanics as a day job
A scaffolding pole makes an effective stand
I caught up with the team on a training day:
Coach Jesper Fiedler and the riders.
Roads are quite quiet on a Sunday.
Seasoned racers and up and coming juniors.
Kololo Heights is uptown in more ways than one.
Team and coach in formation.
Descending from one of Kampala’s several hills – which top out at 1300m above sea level.
I’m still in touch with a couple of the guys and the future looks bright inthe longterm for racing in the country.
For a bit of fun I strapped a GoPro to my helmet and did a quick training session ona slick tyred MTB I borrowed. They trounced me on the hills!
As many of you will know by now I made it to the far tip of Cornwall in just under 10 days from the time James and I started.
True, it wasn’t the 7 days we had planned but what a great journey it was all the same!
Picking up from where I last left off, the A6 south from Penrith rises up over the bleakness of the route’s highest point at Shap Summit. Back in the day trucks would struggle – especially from the South and in Winter the road would frequently be blocked. Not so the day I arrived on the scene. A great howling Northerly wind ensured I managed to ride all the way top in the big chainring at roughly 12 mph!
In a way I was sad to not have seen the lake District but if I was to try and keep to the schedule, albeit several days askew, I couldn’t afford to go the pretty route. Shap is bleak and barren and somewhat industrial. Criss-crossed with electricity pylons and granite quarries with the M6 thundering 100m below the old road. It was the confusion over the height of that road (319m) that led me to believe this was the second highest point on route in the this short clip:
After the brief pause then came the long roller-coaster ride into Kendal and in true big dipper fashion the first downhill stretch was the fastest and steepest: the speedo nudging the 50mph mark at one point. Shortly after I passed (!) a rider on a carbon race bike only to be caught as the road levelled out a bit and my weight advantage was gone. Turns out he’d given up going up Shap from the South because of the wind.
We chatted for a few more miles before he took a left turn into Westmorland but not before perhaps the most dangerous and unnecessary event of the ride took place:
A brief stop for a bite to eat by the river in Kendal and I picked up the A65 heading south out of the Lake District. The A6 becomes swallowed by a must faster feeder for the M6 here and even the A65 had to be diverted off to work a route avoiding a busy junction. After joning the A6070 I came across two Frenchmen in Burton in Kendal, one on a recumbent and the other on an expedition upright bike stopped at the roadside. I duly stopped and struck up conversation: we clearly had two diametrically opposed view as to what was necessary equipment; me with as little as possible that I could get away with, for the sake of speed and they on the other hand whom I couldn’t quite be sure but was that the tap of the proverbial kitchen sink I spied behind the saddle…
After roughly 550 miles of riding on my own from Inverness to Worcester I was joined by my friend and Cardiff Ajax CC club-mate David Medhurst:
He’d come fresh off his medical elective in Ghana and asked me if he could join me en route: there wasn’t a way in the world I was going to decline this Cat 2 racer’s help and company!
After a great steak meal and a wild-camp at Castlemorton Common in the lea of the Malvern Hills we rode through the gap at Hollybush and into Ledbury where we rendezvousd with some other Cardiff cyclists. They set the pace down the Wye Valley after we fixed an issue with Dave’s chain in Ross-on-Wye and we parted company to cross the Severn Bridge alone thus ending our sojourn in Wales.
Our next stop after some fish and chips in Cheddar (not with cheese) was a fantastic campsite at Wedmore where the couplelet us stay for free. They hada strange combination of Alpacas and a defunked Harrier Jump-Jet! Oh and a fantastic view over West Sedgemore which looks spectacular on a misty morning…
Leaving Somerset behind we skirted the toughest bit of Devon, Dartmoor, in order to keep on track of time,but it’s still hilly believe me! I won’t forget the abuse we got in a pub in Okehampton: being called ‘stick insects’ by stoned pot-heads is a first! We made it into Cornwall by nightfall after one of the very few unscheduled detours off route as we tried to make our way out of Launceston. The hidden valley is a gem by the way, and no, that wasn’t the bit where we got lost…
Another wildcamp, this time on the A385 before Davidstowe was the last sleep before Lands End. A fine morning and a hearty breakfast in Wadebridge, was met with no joy with finding new cleats for my shoes forced me to make as few stops with feet down as I could for fear I wouldn’t complete the ride! Anyway we just went for it: Dave and I rode at an average of 20mph all the way down the A39 and A30 to arrive 1 1/2 hours under 10 days at the Kitsch Lands End resort. I kind of prefer John o’ Groats after all!
Sorry I haven’t updated this for a while. In brief: my
riding partner James, fell ill at the end of day 1: he had stomach
cramps and lost all power to pedal at any decent rate. We resumed
the next day and he clearly wasn’t any better. So, just short of
Inverness we had a tete a tete and collectively came to the
decision he should return home. Naturally he felt bad about leaving
but having him not able to put in the miles or pull on the front
meant we were falling way behind on schedule. I left Inverness
after seeing James off on the train back to Euston and headed off
down the Great Glen… instead of taking the A82 I opted for the
scenic if rather hilly route South of Loch Ness. Seriously hilly…
The wind decided to blow up from the South West so it was a case of
go up slowly or do everything slowly! This wind persisted all day
and I only made it to N Ballachoulish around nightfall. I wild
camped that night in the woods along Loch Leven – an inspired
choice as it was sheltered from the worst of the gusting winds. It
threw it down all night and into the morning. I struck camp in the
rain, headed for breakfast nearby and then rode up Glencoe in
driving rain and wind with the spray from oncoming trucks blasting
my face over Rannoch Moor. The following lorries were very patient
in passing as indeed they have been throughout Scotland. It dried
up after lunch and I made it down Loch Lomond and had a really
wonderful campsite in Arrochar – Mrs MacTavish let me stay gratis
after hearing I was doing the ride for charity! I got to wash and
dry clothes and have a night’s sleep. On the Tuesday I headed down
Loch Long and after a detour around Faslane Naval base due to a
missing sign, made it down the peninsula to Kilcreggan, had lunch
while I waited for the small ferry over the Clyde to Gourock. From
there into Greenock and up a huge climb onto a B road which took me
South. Dinner was at Kilmarnock at the New Hong Kong Chinese – who
let me bring the bike in – and then I found a great B&B nr.
Mauchline at Dykes Farm.
A huge breakfast set me up for the biggest
day yet: 110 miles to Penrith via Dumfries
(no time to
Finally I had a slight tailwind again and not quite
so many climbs for this laden machine.
A very nice hostel bed for
the night at The Wayfarer’s who have secure cycle storage and I’m
off to climb Shap Summit in the morning!
After not being able to get the bikes on the train the night before and the 4.5 hour journey from 7 this morning and the obligatory filming and snapping, we finally got on the road proper at around 3pm…
We were going well until James, my riding partner, suffered stomach cramping and loss of all power. We managed to roll into Helmsdale 50 miles away to get a really greatly needed square meal at the Bannockburn Inn. Heading on for an hour or so …
Just a quickie. The bike has been loaded up and checked and is now broken down and packed out with as much spare bubblewrap and other assorted left over parcel material I could find and stuffed into a huge cardboard box from my LBS (Cyclopaedia).
Here’s how the set-up looks:
Aeron set-up for the big challenge.
The Carradice bag on the back is a bit retro I know: I’ve had it a while and have used it to carry a load of DSLR kit ok with a Lowepro insert so it’s up to carrying a tent, bag and mat.
The framebag is supposed to go into the other end by the seatpost but since this fouls up that bottle cage placing I’ve re-purposed it to the front end.
Overall the balance of the bike seems fine. Whilst not ideal I have ended up with a small backpack but it’s not very heavy. Anyway onwards and skywards, next stop Scotland!
In a little over 10 days, James and I set off to cycle, what I’m now convinced will be, somewhat, over 900 miles in 7 days: I’m both excited and apprehensive at the prospect of covering such a distance.
I know this as I’ve been busy sorting out a proposed route. We’ll no doubt deviate from it when it comes to riding – I’m hoping that’s not because we get lost!
Here you go: 933 miles or 1505 km take your pick! Somewhat disconcertingly it says ‘unknown total vertical climb’. Just check out the profile though there’s not much flat land in GB!
PS. Don’t forget you can donate to Epilepsy Society – my chosen charity – here or by texting EPIC97 £amount (2,5 or £10) to 70070. Thanks!
I hinted at this coming up in my last posting but I didn’t want to steal the thunder away from what is also a great and tough charity event.
On the 24th May I set off to cycle the length of Great Britain from John o’ Groats at the NE tip of Scotland to Land’s End at the SW tip of Cornwall, a distance of roughly 900 miles. Continue reading →
On May-day Saturday I plan to return to Llanfoist near Abergavenny and take part in a charity cycling event called Tumble Up 4 Life to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
The goal is to ride up The Blorenge aka The Tumble or indeed, Iron Mountain as many as 15 times in a day. It’s no mean feat: the climb is over 400m in 7km so if you do the maths that’s a really tough physical and mental challenge. The journey is symbolic of the daily uphill struggle cancer patients face. Continue reading →
Last week was a good one for video at ‘Homer Towers’: I started a new self-shot documentary project (more on that as it takes shape) and later, on the Friday, landed a commission to shoot and edit a 2-3 minute impression piece on the opening afternoon and evening of a bike show for the magazine road.cc . As it is an on-line publication, time was of the essence, so the video had to be live by the next morning…