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.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Holiday At Last!

The title of this blog has to be a little ironic, but it is true that until last week I hadn’t had a holiday since January.  Providing you don’t count the ten weeks I spent cycling 4,440 miles around the coast of Great Britain!

With sunshine and warm temperatures normally somewhat lacking in the UK in November, we thought Malta might be a good bet, and it was somewhere we hadn’t been before.  I knew that the island – which is smaller than either the Isle of Man or the Isle of Wight - had a long and turbulent history, so I guessed it would be an interesting diversion rather than a sunbathing break. And as anyone who knows me will be well aware, I don’t do sunbathing (unless I’m doing something else at the same time!)

The Harbour at Valletta

We had a great hotel (the Meridien at St Julians) – although being designated a ‘privileged guest’, when you know that each and every other guest is accorded the same status, can wear a bit thin at times!  We had an open-top ‘hop-on – hop-off’ bus tour, a harbour cruise (very good) and a few shortish walks, both in what little countryside there was, and around the city of Valletta and the towns of Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa.

The Harbour at Valletta (again)

Traditional boats at the fishing village of Marsaxlokk

One of the highlights (you’ll like this!) was on Monday, when we took a ferry across to Malta’s companion island of Gozo and, during the course of our tour, visited the ancient site of Ġgantija, where an ancient stone temple pre-dates the Pyramids by over a thousand years and is reputed to be the oldest surviving building in the world.  As our fellow-travellers, Frank and Bern, paid their €5.00 entry fee each, I noticed the fact that there was a concessionary rate of €3.50 for those aged 60 and over, so when it was my turn I said to the lady behind the glass – as a light-hearted remark:  “I am very old, but my wife is very young.”

Ancient stones in the Temple at Ggantija, Gozo

With only a cursory glance she simply replied “Two senior citizens? €7.00 please.” Well, it seemed churlish to start an argument so I handed over a €10.00 note, received my €3.00 change and entered, stifling a giggle which at first I thought was of a childish nature but then I worried if it might be an early sign of senility…

Val, on the other hand, was not amused.

Spectacular scenery at Dwejra, Gozo

On our last day, yesterday, we walked around much of the Great Harbour:  the bus journey back was certainly memorable, as the traffic on the island is busy to say the least, and the bus itself was so packed there wasn’t even room for an anorexic sardine.  At one stop I’m sure I heard a voice near the back say “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me… oh, sod it!” as the bus set off again!

But is it Art?

Back to the UK in the early hours of this morning, feeling cold and with lots to catch up on, I still couldn’t resist a bike ride in this afternoon’s weak sunshine. 17 miles in just over an hour seemed OK, and my total mileage for the year is over 7,000, but it’s going to get more and more difficult to motivate myself to go out in the cold and wet.

Fabulous narrow street in Vittoriosa

But I need to keep up the cycling – this year’s effort for Cancer Research UK was so successful that I would love to do something again next year.  The Just Giving site is still taking donations and if any persuasion is needed – whether to get out and do something special, or simply to make a useful donation - we only need to think of the friends who have been afffected by cancer to know that it’s something well worth doing.

If you are new to this blog, or even if you have donated already, please consider doing what scores of readers have already done and make a contribution to help Cancer Research UK continue with their vitally important work – thank you!

Monday, 7 November 2011

A Cracking Cumbrian Cracker!

For the last few years Epic Events have organised a great sportive called the Christmas Cracker, based at Grasmere; but being in early December, the last two years’ cold weather have caused havoc, so this year they brought it forward to early November.  And what a good idea that was!  The weather could not have been better, with clear blue skies, no wind, and fabulous visibility.  The Lake District at its best.

Dave Hargrave (aka @roadbikedave to Tweeps) had entered the event before his untimely death last month, and many friends from Sunderland and beyond decided it would be a fitting tribute to carry on with the ride and dedicate it to his memory.  I’d been in charge of one of the gates at Clitheroe’s Town Bonfire the night before, resulting in a bit of a late night and general rush-around to get ready. But I only had one pint in the New Inn after the bonfire so at least I got a good night’s sleep and no hangover!

After scraping the frost off the car we headed off for Grasmere and parked about two miles from the village in one of the National Trust roadside car parks – where we discovered you can pay by credit card (and you need to, at £7 for the day!)  We only just made it to Grasmere for the meeting time of 10.00, but the Sunderland contingent was also running a bit late so we didn’t hold anyone up.

Thanks to www.sportsunday.co.uk for the photo.

Dave’s wife Hannah was there with the three children, and Craig Stephenson said a few words before we held a minute’s silence together.  I met – ‘in the flesh’ - a few other Tweeps - @iBenjamin, @jennyvelo and @northernpetman, and also a guy from Richmond (I didn’t get his name but he’s on the left of the photo) who had seen me on last weekend’s Audax ride, and recognised me by the Clitheroe Bike Club jacket and the unusual rear light I have on the back of my helmet.

By the way, I don’t know why more people don’t do this – all you need is a couple of tie-wraps to fasten an ordinary bicycle rear light to the back of your helmet.  It is so much more visible than a light fixed low down on the rear bike forks.

Almost immediately after setting off we were faced with the steep ascent of Red Bank. It always catches riders out, but it’s a nice feeling pedalling past cyclists who have already decided to get off and push! From there it was on to Elterwater, Coniston and the minor road down the east side of Coniston Water.  This used to be one of my favourite roads in the road rally days: once, when navigating for Ian Woof in a Chevette, we did the whole stage with a throttle that was jammed open – Ian’s only means of controlling the engine was by switching the ignition on and off, and he did pretty well to achieve this whilst still driving flat out and trying to listen to my pace notes!

Lunch was at the Scout Hut at Cartmel. Just to prove, yet again, what a small world it is, I met the ride mechanic, Dave Farnworth, and found out he was at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School at the same time as me (although he’s only a young 57!) and then Dave and Kath Gamble – Dave has had a lifelong interest in the Scouts, used to be manager of Boots the Chemist in Clitheroe and knows my next-door neighbours well! Benjamin from Sunderland decided to call it a day as he had had the mother of all chain malfunctions on what appeared to be a rather snazzy bike.

On the return we re-crossed the busy A590, climbed up past the Grizedale Visitor Centre with its magnificent Zip-Wire ride, then through Hawkshead before travelling along the minor road at Under Loughrigg and back to Grasmere, after a most enjoyable sixty miles.

I must say I would have appreciated a bit more food at the mid-way halt and the finish, but apart from this the organisation was as slick as usual.  We said our good-byes, cycled back to the car in the gloaming, and joined the masses of traffic heading out of the Lakes.  It had been a day of gorgeous sunshine, crystal-clear visibility and stunning autumn colours.  Were we just lucky, or was RoadBikeDave up there pulling a few strings in the weather department for us all?

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!)