London Edinburgh London
In the summer of 2013 MadeGood.films followed six cyclists on a remarkable feat of endurance.
London Edinburgh London follows a group of cyclists from around the world on a remarkable feat of endurance. Travelling over 1400km, our unlikely and eccentric heroes are not only tested physically, but face the mental challenge, "can I push myself further, can I go one more day?". This is a documentary about what happens when you push the limits of cycling.
The ride in question is incredibly difficult: 1500km in 125 hours. That's about 300km a day in a little over 5 days, including sleep and rest. The terrain, up the east of England the Scottish borders is profoundly beautful, but also exposed, hilly, hot and rain-soaked in equal measure. This is an intimate account of half dozen or so riders, dealing with the elements, the route, their own bodies and minds. It is a genuinely moving experience to join them on their journey.
Introducing the characters
LEL attracts a whole range of riders, from different backgrounds and different countries, and there are no entry requirements. If you are keen enough to get a ticket before they sell out, you're in. Let's meet some of the characters we follow in the film.
"It’s kind of difficult to put into words why somebody might cycle from London to Edinbrugh and back again, because for me at least it involves quite a lot of suffering. Maybe there’s a bit of a mid life crisis sort of a thing happening, but I’ve been going through that for sometime now, so I’m not sure. As you get closer to the event a fear factor starts to set in, you start to question whether you’ve done enough training, but I suppose it’s good to respect the distance. For somebody like me there’s no guarantee I can finish, but I have to keep telling myself it’s a possibility. If I start to believe I’ll fail, if I let that negativity creep in, then there’s a real chance I might let that happen. "
How’s the training been going? The training’s been going well. I’ll be riding a single speed bike which is a very different type of riding, It’s purer and it’s harder. In fact, it’s very hard, a lot harder than I thought. The thing is, on a geared bike you ride the bike, and on a single speed bike you ride the road, and I love that connection with the road and the landscape. I work as a personal coach in my day job and I teach people to be maverick thinkers, to go in and just challenge that conventional way of thinking. You have to live it, what’s your brand if it’s not something you live? There’s no downtime for personal brand.
"I have to admit that cycling saved my life, because in 2008 I was on my bike and I had a pain in my chest, so the next day I went to the doctor. I had quadruple heart bypass surgery. But I said, ‘It’s do or die’, I would rather die on a bike than just do nothing. In most countries you have to qualify for this kind of ride, but you English are crazy. They say, ‘If you think you have the stamina, then have a go!’. But I promise my wife I’ll always be safe, and she allows me to do this so long as I promise to go and come back in one piece. So this is always in the back of my mind. But this is my first time travelling to the United Kingdom, and the first time doing the legendary 1400km London Edinburgh London, so I’m sure it will be out of this wold for me."
"My Dad is probably the most competitive man on the planet, so I guess he passed that on to me and my brother- though just for the record, I am the fastest sibling. I don’t believe that ‘can’t’ is a word, and if someone doubts I can do something it just spurs me on harder to do it. I don’t really like sitting still and doing nothing, I’d rather be doing some sort of challenge because I get a buzz out of it. If you stop doing those hard things and go back to doing something easy, it’s just… disappointing. I have this worry that because I’m always trying to find the next thing, the longer thing, the bigger thing, that it’ll never be enough. Where do I draw the line?"
"It’s difficult for me to talk about ‘Englishness’ but for me it’s bad breakfasts. Other than that I’m not really sure, but you have nice motorbikes and you drive on the wrong side of the road. So for me London Edinburgh London will be a crazy ride. I can meet some local, rural guys and share the race out on the road with them. In some ways my work life and sporting activities are the same, because I have a very clear goal of what I want to achieve, but in other ways they are completely different. Out on the road I can completely relax, and it’s just me and the bike. "
Paula & Steven
"He’d just started work on a mental health ward and I went to work there as a student nurse. The first engagement we had was when a lady had become incontinent in her chair. I was round the corner and I overheard Steven say, ‘Go and get Paula, she’s a student nurse, she’ll sort it out!’. Finally he asked me on a date and he took me out to an Indian. I got all dressed up and when we sat down at the table he leant over and said, ‘Try and keep it under a tenner, would you?’. We have a lot of fun together and I think that’s what’s kept us ‘rolling’, in a way. We’re quite different in our personality and our make up, but I’m in awe of who he is as a person and what he does. I don’t say it very often, but yeah, you’re just a really great guy."
"When I was sixteen I had an horrendous accident. I was on my Cousin’s bike and I came off it really really badly. I smashed my teeth up, completely wrecked his bike, spent days in a hospital with a bruised brain and they weren’t sure I’d come back to so called ‘normality’. Some say I still haven’t but ten days later I was out of hospital with severe memory loss and teeth all over the place, and it took me a good four years then to get back on a bike. I’ve had a fair few accidents since then, too. I knocked some teeth out falling off a mountain bike before I met you guys, my front few teeth are implants. I suppose in my own way I try and make light heart of tragedy I suppose. That’s my way of coping, I guess. "
"My wife doesn’t understand long distance cycling. Every time I go out for a ride she says, ‘Who allows you to do this? Who allows you?’. She thinks I’m completely mental riding a bike such a long distance. But my wife is from Thailand, and they don’t have a cycling culture at all. ‘A car or motorcycle is easier’, she says, ‘Why do you do it by bike?’. But my family in Japan thinks it’s good, and my father loves cycling. That’s how I got into cycling. So they’re quite positive, but they probably don’t have any idea how far it is from London to Edinburgh, and back again. "
"My wife’s in Japan and I’m single here. We both enjoy our own lives separately. I have a son and daughter, and Grandchildren, all living in Japan. Sometime’s I report that I’ve finished a long ride but that’s it, they don’t interfere. I don’t have that kind of headache, they are open minded. "
"I used to be a rodeo trick rider when I was younger. I would travel the country and ride my horse, jump off and on and run hang and drag. When I quit that, life was almost boring, until I found the bicycle. In America we usually ride from one convenience store to another, which is great because we can buy all the things we might need, but it’s also a bit impersonal. I always wanted to come to England, it’s kind of like the Mother country to me. I was amazed when I went to France, I didn’t see one pick-up anywhere. I thought that was really strange. Back where I’m from in Texas we have what we call ‘Rednecks’. They always have a pick up, and they might even have a shotgun. "
"I’ve only really been riding a bike as an adult for 3 or 4 years, and I’ve never ridden for one full day, then started again at the beginning of the next day. I also quite like my sleep, but I’m hoping that the sense of occasion on London Edinburgh London, and the excitement of people getting up to ride, will pull me through. I’m a little worried that I have aspirations beyond my abilities, and I’m not really sure how resilient a person I am. That remains to be seen. "
"It’s not usually the people at the front of a ride like London Edinburgh London that are the happiest. Because even though it’s not a race, they’re racing. And that’s fine, it’s their event too, but they’re not very happy. And certainly the people behind them aren’t very happy, because they want to be at the front. You get this dip of happiness, then once that’s passed the riders coming through get happier and happier. The riders that are the happiest, are the ones who are frankly dossing at the back. They’re relaxed, they have plenty of time. They’re enjoying the ride. But for me all the excitement is over before the event has even began. I’ll have to pack all this stuff into a lock up in Doncaster, which I know from four years ago is an extremely dispiriting experience. It’s like the world’s biggest house party. "