I'm a double cancer survivor, cyclist and walker who does various challenges for different charities, mainly cancer-related.

In 2016 I climbed every single 'Birkett' in the Lake District - all 542 fells over 1,000' within the National Park, including all 214 Wainwrights. I've also done a three-week cycle tour of Tasmania in February 2015 and amongst other things, I've cycled from Land's End to John o'Groats (2003), Rotterdam to Lemvig (Denmark) (2005), walked the Pennine Way (2008) completed (my first) ascent of all 214 'Wainwrights' in the Lake District in only 55 days (2009), cycled 4,500 miles around the coast of Great Britain (2011), cycled all 42 of the accessible Western Isles of Scotland in under a month (2012), twice abseiled 230 ft from the top of The Big One in Blackpool, cycled the WWI Western Front from London to Compiegne via Ypres and Arras (2014), cycled 750 miles in the Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton (2014), done a bit of sky-diving and cycled Australia's Great Ocean Road - just before lockdown in 2020.

Altogether I've raised over £120,000 for my charities including The Christie, Cancer Research UK, the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, and ABF (The Soldiers' Charity) and I was mightily chuffed to receive the British Empire Medal in the 2014 New Year's Honours List.

I'm a Rotarian and give illustrated talks about my adventures in exchange for a donation to charity, so if you're looking for a speaker leave me a message. I am also Event Organiser for the Ribble Valley Ride Cycle Sportive, to be held this year on Sunday 5 September 2021 - more details at www.ribblevalleyride.org

You can also follow me on Twitter - @CancerBikeMan and on Facebook - just search for Bill Honeywell

Cancer Research UK is the world's leading charity dedicated to beating cancer through research, whilst The Rosemere does fantastic work for patients in Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Friday, 4 November 2011

My First Audax – and a bit of a disaster!

Audax UK, according to its website, is the internationally recognised long-distance cycling organisation in the UK.  And by long-distance I mean anything from 50km to 600km.  The rides have a lot in common with many Cycle Sportives, but for some reason there are far fewer riders (despite the fact that they are much cheaper to enter).  Food isn’t provided but café stops are arranged; there is no en-route signage but adequate directions are given.

I hadn’t done an Audax ride before but Emma, a twitter-friend (@waterrat77), persuaded me to enter one last weekend – ‘The Dales Dance’, a 200k (125m) ride starting at Pendleton, just outside Clitheroe.  Not only were there 125 miles to do but the route also involved 10.000 ft of climbing over all those Yorkshire Dales hills! The 7.00 am start was softened by the fact that the clocks went back an hour the night before, but of course it meant that the ride would probably end in darkness – so I made sure I had some good lighting on the bike.

This was the first time I’d met Emma, who was already at the start together with her other friends from the Hebden Bridge and Todmorden area – Daniel, Richard and Phil, and after the formalities a total of 19 riders set off towards Settle in the morning gloom. My group were strong riders but I didn’t feel that I was doing too badly as we headed through Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Ribblehead, and on to Hawes. 

Buttertubs Pass

The weather, at first dull and drizzly, was beginning to brighten at last as we climbed the impressive Buttertubs Pass.  A café stop was scheduled for Thwaite, and I forgot that on the other side of the pass you have to turn left for the village before retracing your steps a quarter of a mile.  The fruit cake at Keartons Restaurant was stunningly calorific, especially with the slice of excellent Wensleydale cheese on top (despite the fact that we were now in Swaledale).

Onwards through Muker and along Swaledale through lots of villages, towards Gunnerside, then over the top again to Leyburn and Reeth.  Plenty of climbing but good fun, although when I saw a sign saying ‘3 miles to Catterick Camp’ I realised there must still be a good way to go.  The route now went through the village of Middleham (twinned with Agincourt – unusual, I thought) and climbed some more near Ellingstring before descending once more.

It was here that disaster struck.  At the bottom of a steep descent was a sharp left-hand bend over a bridge:  I realised I was going too fast for comfort but wasn’t worried because I thought I could just swing out a bit wide on the exit – that was, until the six motorbikes suddenly arrived, coming in the opposite direction!  I could see a collision coming and knew that if I tried to tighten my line I would probably come off and end up underneath one of the bikes, so I straightened up and sped across the face of them towards the wrong side of the (already narrow) road. Another tenth of a second and I would have made it, but with a sickening crunch the lead motorbike hit my rear wheel, buckling it beyond hope of further progress.

Having said that, a tenth of a second slower and it would have been my leg rather than the wheel, so I counted myself very lucky indeed.  There was no damage to the motorbike and neither of us was even slightly hurt, thank goodness.  One of the bikers turned round and went back up the road to tell one of my colleagues what had happened – there was about another eight miles to do before the next stop at How Stean Gorge so I asked him to carry on and let the others know of my plight, not that there was very much they could do.

I said good-bye to the bikers – who had been perfect gentlemen – and realised I had to get to How Stean Gorge somehow.  As I was ringing Val to put her on ‘standby’ I saw a Cherokee Jeep approaching, so not wanting to miss this opportunity I stood in the middle of the road and flagged him down rather than just extend a feeble thumb!  The driver was heading within half a mile of How Stean Gorge so kindly offered to take me all the way, where I was able to ring Val again and arrange a lift home with my sad-looking bicycle.  It was a shame to leave the other cyclists and a bit embarrassing later on as we passed them in the latter stages of the ride, but at least we got home before it was too dark, with no broken bones.

Oops! It's not supposed to be that shape...

As I write this on Friday the bike is repaired once more, with a gleaming rear wheel – ready for the 57-mile Cumbria Cracker this coming Sunday.  I may take those South Cumbria hills a little more slowly (on the downhill side anyway!)


  1. I remember, all too well, that I came off in this area near Reeth about 8 years ago due to my rear wheel locking up due to a twig getting caught between my mudguard and the tyre. I was in a bad state with a
    broken helmet and blood coming from every joint on my right side. I took out the badly buckled wheel and straightened it between a gate post and the gate and rode back to Sedbergh before Steph got to me -
    was I glad. Richard Dugdale

  2. Thanks Richard - I'm pleased it's not just me that gets into these scrapes!