Allen Boardman at York Minster

A Rider’s Perspective: Allen Boardman

by Alan Boardman

My cycling life started with me crashing my BMX when I first tried to ride it without stabilisers. This ended in a crash, with my bike wedged between a lampost in front of a fence and the fence itself, throwing me off onto the floor. I should have known then that this was likely to be a theme throughout my life.

I’ve spent many years riding as fast as I dared downhill in South Wales, Peak District, Morzine, Les Gets, the Swiss Alps and Whistler on various lads’ holidays with a full-on downhill bike. Little did I know that these holidays had started an adventure spark inside me that took a while to ignite into a full-blown flame.

“I ran out of food and rode back empty and broken but full of pride.”

Cycling took a back seat for about a year and a half, and I don’t mind admitting that I became very lazy. Eventually, I decided to get back on the bike as I wanted to ride 100 miles in a day. I picked up a road bike and rode three to five times a week, and six weeks later, I set off on my first century ride. It ended up being one hundred and seven miles. The last seven miles were the hardest as I ran out of food and rode back empty and broken but full of pride.

Dales Divide Cycling Event 2024

After my first century, I wanted to cycle the North Coast 500, a coastal route around the Scottish Highlands, in 2017 with a support crew. I took seven days, elapsed with a rest day in Inshegra, to enjoy the route and make it more of a holiday. This then led to wanting to cycle a Tommy Godwin (205 miles in a day), who set the record in 1939 for the most miles cycled in a year. Shortly after this, I picked up a mountain bike and decided to cycle 100 miles in a day in the Lake District, which took just under 24 hours.

I’ve taken on a few official routes since then, both solo and with friends, including the Badger Divide, Cairngorms Outer Loop, the middle loop of the HT550 and the south loop of the HT550, Dark & White Peak, many Jennride routes, sub 40 hours Lakeland 200, two complete Bear Bones 200 with two scratched Bear Bones 200s, the Dales Divide 2023, A week bike packing Iceland with my friend Barry Godin, Moors 100, along with many other non-official multi-day adventures.

“Above-average rainfall made for a completely different experience: bogs, mudbaths and slippy rocky trails.”

The latest event I attended was the 2024 Dales Divide. Last year, I set off at 8:30 am on Friday and completed the entire 600km (including a few wrong turns) by around Sunday at 7:30 pm. I’ve been watching what I’ve been eating for a long time now for most of the week and following my training plan, which included rowing and a bit of core training. I was lighter and stronger this year. I felt positive for a quicker finish until my thoughts took to the weather. We all know the conditions on the trails were not the same as last year, and above-average rainfall made for a completely different experience: bogs, mud baths and slippy rocky trails.

Progress to Elaine’s Tearooms was efficient. I ate on the go and stopped only for the gates. As soon as I got to the tearoom, my happiness level dropped considerably. I was feeling sick, which was hunger. I was eating on the hour every hour, but as my body skipped the alert of hunger and went straight to sickness, it caught me off guard. I managed this with beans on toast and a coffee, and I started to feel good again.

“I never make route decisions at night as you’ll always feel different the next day.”

Even though the trails were slow and my stop time was close to 40 minutes less than last year, I didn’t get to the cafe until the same time as 2023. I still felt strong as I caught up to two friends, Dave and Lee, who were stronger riders than me and would have been able to stop more. After the beans on toast, the rain came. It turned miserable outside, sideways rain, so cold you could see your breath – it just didn’t inspire me to carry on.

Eventually, I headed outside with my friends and cycled along the route. The rain didn’t stop much, so it didn’t make for a fun time, so I opted to stay in a bird hide on Malham Tarn and make plans in the morning. I never make route decisions at night as you’ll always feel different the next day. I wanted to carry on, but with how I felt about this year’s ride and the trail conditions, we all felt that heading back to the vans and covering only one-third of the distance was the best option.

“the combination of being cold and wet is a real struggle for me…”

We rode some lovely, quiet lanes and dodgy bridleways back, going to Arnside via the Meadowside Cafe in Dent. It’s taken me and my friends some time to come to terms with the decision not to carry on, romanticising about the route and thinking how lucky we were with the weather last year. However, the combination of being cold and wet is a real struggle for me that I’m trying to work on. I’ve spent all winter training in the snow, rain, wind and hail and still haven’t cracked being able to manage being wet and cold simultaneously. Maybe I’ll be back in 2025. Those fish and chips are calling me!

Read more about The Dales Divide here

YouTube: @AllenBoardman

NorthernLife June/July/Aug 24