Around the Coastline of Britain – Interview with Andrew Mathias

The top of Bealach na Ba Pass

This autumn, Andrew Mathias rode around the entire coastline of Britain in one setting. Many of us followed his beautiful journey on Instagram. Now I had the opportunity to interview Andrew about his epic journey.

JH: Congratulations on riding around the coastline of Britain. It was fun to
follow you on Instagram. You rode 5000 miles (8000 km) in 64 days?

AM: Thanks very much, and I’m glad you enjoyed following the journey. I really enjoyed updating and creating a small mini log via Instagram. I rode 5,000 miles in 61 days. The original plan was to do the ride in 64 days, however, I finished ahead of schedule.

At the start of the 5000-mile ride

JH: How did you get the idea for this ride?

AM: For a long time, I’ve wanted to explore several areas of the UK coastline on two wheels, especially the west coast and the islands off the shore of Scotland. As I delved into planning and research, highlighting places I wanted to visit, it soon became clear that it was an option to do the whole coastline in one go. Once the idea entered my head it was always going to happen!

JH: Did you ride every day? No rest days?

AM: Yes, I rode for 61 consecutive days. I had multiple chances to have a day off, however, with no pain or injuries, and wanting to keep the momentum going, I just kept plodding on.

The first night at Aberystwyth

JH: And you did it self-supported! Where did you sleep?

AM: Yes, I rode solo for the entire tour and was self-supported. I camped using a tent I carried for most of the first month. A few areas were close to friends, so I stayed with them. I used hostels/bunkhouses and some bed & breakfasts. I also used Warm Showers, which is basically the bike-touring equivalent of couch surfing. I met many interesting, like-minded people this way.

Portpatrick Stranraer

JH: I really enjoyed your photos. I realize that riding along the coast, you
had plenty of great views, but I still was amazed by the beauty of your
shots.

AM: Thanks, I loved stopping to take photos! If I had stopped every time I wanted to take one, then I’d still be on the road! I knew there would be spectacular scenery in places, however, I was genuinely amazed almost daily at how underestimated the UK is in terms of beauty. I am massively lucky to have had the opportunity to undertake this journey.

Lake District

JH: It seems that the weather was OK despite your riding in late autumn?

AM: October and November worked best for me in terms of taking time away from work. However, it’s very nearly the worst time of year to do this ride. I was incredibly lucky with the weather. It was a risk for sure, but I’m a big believer in the statement “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad kit.” Having only had around six days of constant rain, I can’t complain whatsoever!

Helmsdale

JH: What did you carry on the bike?

AM: The main items were a few pairs of bib shorts, a few jerseys, rain jacket and wet-weather gear, tent, mattress, limited casual clothing, spares and tools. I tried to pack very minimally and include things only if they could be used for multiple purposes. Anything I needed en route I could buy, and anything surplus to requirements could be left behind.

Harbour town of Kippford

JH: Did you get your bike and equipment for this ride, or did you just ride
a bike you had?

AM: I spec’d the bike specifically for long days in the saddle with lots of miles. It was built with touring in mind, however, the frame that Triton Bikes and Cloud9 Cycles built is super-versatile, meaning that, with small changes, I can use it for pretty much anything. I’m now making the change to ultra-endurance race events; the bike will also be perfect for this, too. I bought the Apidura bags specifically for the journey and was massively happy with the way they performed.

JH: Any equipment trouble?

AM: One of my tent poles snapped a few days in. Not ideal, but I was able to improvise. Apart from that, I was extremely lucky with how the bike and my setup performed.

John O’Groats at the northeastern edge of Britain

JH: You rode Compass tires. How did they perform for you?

AM: This was the first time I used Compass tyres. In fact, it was the first time I ran anything larger than 28 mm tyres on the road. I went for the 35 mm Bon Jon Pass tyres and set them up tubeless. Within 20 miles I had already fallen in love with how comfortable I was. The low rolling resistance was a big asset: They were super quick once momentum had been gained. The grip was great in both dry and wet conditions. I ran around 4.5 bar (65 psi) front and rear, and I experienced only a minimal drop in pressure overnight. I covered around 2,500 miles (4000 km) before getting my first puncture! I was carrying a new spare which I changed over to shortly after this. I picked up a few more punctures before the end. However, I was massively happy with the way they performed, so much so that I will continue to use them for definite. I will find it very hard to go back to anything smaller than 35 mm tyres, especially with races next year totalling over 200 miles (320 km) a day… Comfort is key!

The bottom of Bealach na Ba Pass

JH: Tell us about some highlights of your ride!

AM: There were many highs as well as many lows, all adding up to create an incredible journey. My biggest highlight was Bealach na Ba Pass. This is a renowned climb in the Scottish Highlands. It takes you through the mountains of the Applecross Peninsula. A hurricane was forecast for the day I reached the pass. The wind was strengthening as I a approached Applecross, but the scenery was spectacular. I was lucky to get clear skies, so I could enjoy jaw-dropping views during the ascent. The climb itself is around 6% average for 3-4 miles, followed by four 20% switchbacks at the summit. I felt a massive sense of relief and achievement before enjoying a hugely fast descent.

Approaching Applecross during a hurricane

JH: And what were the hardest parts?

AM: As well as being a highlight, Applecross was also the hardest physical day on the bike. The fact it was so difficult made it even more of a highlight. From a mental point of view, keeping morale and motivation high was difficult. Taking every day as it comes is all you can do. Enjoy your surroundings, and the freedom that your bike gives you, and the mind will look after itself.

At the westernmost point of the ride

JH: If you were to do it again, what would you do differently?

AM: The obvious answer is to do it in the summer! However, doing it in the cold, wet and, at times, dark conditions added to the challenge. Seeing areas like west Scotland in its raw and rough state was something that I will never forget!

JH: I was glad to see that just after finishing your great ride, you already
were back on your bike. Any plans for another big adventure?

On the white cliffs of Dover – almost at the finish!

AM: For sure! I was out and about the day after finishing, and have been a fair bit since. I’m currently training for the TransAtlanticWay, which is an ultra-endurance race in Ireland next year. However, I want to explore Europe for six months or more by bike. That is also in the pipeline!

JH: Good luck on those endeavors. I look forward to hearing and them!

You can see all of Andrew’s photos from his trip on his Instagram feed at mathias0487.

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Compass Cycles, that turns our research into high-performance components for real-world riders.
This entry was posted in Rides. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Around the Coastline of Britain – Interview with Andrew Mathias

  1. Jonathon Cassel says:

    Awesome and way cool and inspirational! Than you Jan and much thanks Andrew! A Christmas gift for all riders that adventure! Thank you both!

Comments are closed.