Tour des Hubs: One Month On

Posted on: 10 May 2016

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Tour de France – lots of hills, plenty of lycra, a few drug scandals. But you may not have heard of its sister event, the Tour des Hubs. With slightly fewer hills and pic n’ mix as the drug of choice, this 392 mile cycling challenge took place on 10-15 April and has raised a whopping £5,253.98 so far for Student Hubs’ activities.

From Warwick to Oxford to Bristol to Southampton to Winchester to London to Cambridge, it was six days of mental and physical challenges for the team of staff taking part. They included Anna (Cambridge Hub Manager), Francis (Network Development Director), Rachel (Volunteering & Incubation Manager) and Tom (Bristol Sustainability Engagement Manager), plus Catherine and Catherine from our Hampshire Hubs who joined the team for day 4.

Tour Des Hubs Map

We caught up with everyone a few weeks after the Tour.

This time four weeks ago you were in the middle of Tour des Hubs. Remind us why (on earth) you signed up for it?

Anna: I love being outdoors and commute to work on a bike every day. I figured a 392 mile cycle was a natural progression from my 15 minute commute…
Rachel: I loved the idea of traveling to all of our Hubs in an environmentally-friendly way and spotlighting the amazing student social action happening in each city.
Tom: I really wanted to show my support for all the great work that Student Hubs does and I’m always keen to get people using more sustainable transport. Hopefully my foolhardiness will encourage others to get on their bike!
Francis: I wanted to raise money that will help Student Hubs support more and more young people to positively impact their communities and develop into social leaders in the future. Plus, it was a big fitness challenge for myself.
Rachel: Yeah, I should also admit that I’m very competitive, so while I was not mentally or physically prepared for 392 miles, there was no way I wasn’t going to do it if other people were!

2. How would you sum up each day in a few words?

Day 1: Warwick to Oxford, 50 miles – windy, pedal falling off, vegan feast in Oxford, packed lunch on a village green.
Day 2: Oxford to Bristol, 75 miles – the hilliest day, Costa in Swindon is great, Isotonic Gels <3, lunch in Malmsbury (sheltering from the rain!).
Day 3: Bristol to Downton, 73 miles – towpath trauma, terrifying A-roads, Cranbourne Chase Area of Natural Beauty, amazing B&B!
Day 4: Downton to Winchester, 35 miles – ice creams in Southampton, New Forest ponies, views of Winchester from St Catherine’s Hill, sunshine, fajitas!
Day 5: Winchester to London, 80 miles – pic n mix in Fleet, b-e-a-utiful B-roads through Surrey and a terrifying roundabout in Kingston, riding along the Thames.
Day 6: London to Cambridge, 65 miles – hilarious amounts of rain, Anna wringing out her gloves, the only two punctures of the whole trip, and they both came along at once, the amazing feeling of accomplishment!

TDH Downton to Winchester

3. What was the most challenging thing about the week?

Francis: The last day, in the mostly pouring rain. The route itself was not the hilliest or the longest, but the constant rain made the last few hours miserable and a really tough mental challenge.
Anna: Agreed. The amount on a bike was really hard; I hadn’t accounted for how painful the slow build-up of muscle ache in my thighs would be as the days went on. Also, my pedal fell off twice, I had an emergency saddle-change in Bath and I got a puncture in each tyre on our last day. And I still don’t know anything about how to fix a bike (god bless Tom).
Rachel: Oh, the quad & hamstring pain! I also managed to bruise my palms (yes, really) thanks to one too many bumpy towpaths.
Tom: Navigating some of the way was quite tough as it can be really draining just cycling along, never mind having to find your way as well! Massive thanks to Francis who did most of the guiding for the week!

Anna TDH

4. But hopefully it was more good than bad, so what were one or two of your highlights?

Rachel: There was one view in particular that I loved on day 2. It was at the top of an hour or so of hills, and it had been raining and then suddenly it stopped and it was so beautiful! A second highlight was just realising what my body was capable of and pushing my physical limits more than I ever have before – it was tough but gives you the most amazing feeling of accomplishment!


Francis: The moments when we were able to pick up speed cycling along B roads from village to village in the sun. Also, being able to eat non stop all week.
Anna: Cycling through the New Forest, which I’d never been to before, was wonderful. It was a really fun way to get to see new parts of the country. I also really enjoyed observing Francis on his isotonic-gel-highs.
Tom: My personal highlight was getting to know my fellow riders. I can’t wait for the next time we all meet up and annoy everyone around us with our unrelenting bike-chat.

5. How long did you actually spend cycling each day?

We’d set off at about 8 o’clock. After enormous breakfasts, we’d do 2-3 hours then stop for a coffee (and cake). Then 2-3 more hours of cycling to get well over halfway before stopping for lunch, usually in a cafe/pub so we could refuel properly. Then a few more hours of cycling and we typically arrived at our destination between 5 and 7 o’clock. While we were cycling, we’d have to stop fairly often to check the map, have a snack/water, stretch etc. And when we arrived at our destinations, we were often exhausted and in no particular order would shower, stretch, dry out wet clothes, dinner, plan next day, check the weather, attempt to stay awake to socialise with our hosts, and SLEEP.

6. What was your favourite bit of cycling gear/equipment that you took?

Francis: All of my many cycling apps on my iPhone!
Anna: Padded shorts.
Rachel: Yes, padded shorts are great. It’s a shame they’re not socially acceptable for everyday, really…
Tom: Tool kit! It’s reassuring to know you have everything you need if anything goes wrong.

7. Cycling is hungry work. What was your snack of choice during the Tour?

Anna: Tom’s dust.
Tom: Haha. I nicked a bunch of Slimming World peanut cereal bars from my parents’ house when I stayed with them in Oxford – because obviously it’s important to watch your figure when you’re cycling all day every day for a week.
Rachel: Peanut butter & jam sandwiches! And there was one day that I ate loads of Fruit Gums, Fruit Pastilles, and Chewits… it was probably a bit excessive but when else can you get away with that?
Francis: It’s impossible to choose just one… flapjack, skittles, or a recent favourite – Werther’s Originals.

8. What sort of support have you had from friends and family?

We’ve been so lucky with everyone who gave us advice, donated money, sent encouraging messages, shared our journey with their networks, hosted us, fed us, drove our stuff from city to city or joined us for meals along the way. If you were part of our extended team, THANK YOU!

9. What is the money going towards?

The money we’ve raised will go towards our local programmes, supporting students to connect with their communities through a range of activities – from tutoring school pupils in Bristol and running days out for disadvantaged young people in London, to supporting homelessness charities in Cambridge and connecting with older people in Hampshire. Learn more about our programmes here.

10. And lastly, assuming you would ride a bike again, if you could ride a tandem with anyone dead or alive who would it be?

Rachel: Can I have Tom & Anna & Francis on my tandem? Francis has great snacks, Anna means business when she climbs hills, and Tom actually knows how bicycles work, so that would work in my favour.
Francis: Sir Bradley Wiggins… so I could sit back whilst he does all the work.
Anna: Meryl Streep. We’d have so much fun!
Tom: Mikael Pedersen – I figure he knows his way around a tandem.

Finally, thank you again to everyone who has donated so far. You can catch up with the action via #TourdesHubs on Twitter and Instagram. Still want to show your support? Sponsor the team here.

Rachel Tait

Rachel is Student Hubs' Volunteer and Incubation Manager, supporting our Hubs to run effective volunteering projects with community impact, as well as co-ordinating Student Volunteering Week in partnership with NUS. She started volunteering when she was 12 years old and continued throughout school and university. When not working, she runs, bakes and mentors young people.

Tags: Environment & Sustainability, Impact, Social Action

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