Ride for MND - We did it!

18 Aug 2020

Ride Diary by tommy zyw

From the 12th-15th August, Gallery Director Tommy Zyw cycled the North Coast 500 to raise money and awareness for MND (Motor Neurone Disease). Tommy's twin brother Davy, who joined him on the challenge, was diagnosed with MND in April 2018. To read more of Davy's story please click here. To find out more about the ride please read below.

Day 1 - 120 miles

We set off from Inverness Castle at 7:30 am on Wednesday 12th August. We hoped to return to the Castle in just four days' time having circumnavigated 500 miles of Scotland's remote northern coastline. After thunderstorm warnings all week we were prepared for the worst possible weather and rain followed us for the first two hours. As we traveled further west the skies cleared and by Loch Carron, we were bathed in beautiful sunshine heading towards the major challenge of the day - the Bealach Na Ba.

Ride for MND - We did it!
Day 1 route map
Ride for MND - We did it!
Inverness Castle, the grand depart

The Bealach Na Ba is one of the most infamous roads in the UK. As the country's longest road climb it is certainly on the bucket list for any serious cyclist.

Ride for MND - We did it!
The beginning of the climb..
Ride for MND - We did it!
At the top!

We arrived at the base of the climb around mile 80 and after a quick feed stop, we started the long ascent. The weather was stifling and with little wind, it was very thirsty work. Davy and I were first up, around 40 minutes later! As you can see from the photo, Davy needed a quick lie down after the extreme effort! The views from the top were sensational towards Skye and Raasay.

Ride for MND - We did it!
The final hairpins of the Bealach na Ba

From the top of the Bealach, you swoop down to Applecross. The route then skirts round the lumpy but beautiful Applecross peninsula before winding its way beneath the imposing hills of Torridon. We were tired and thirsty as we arrived at our first night stop at a bunkhouse in Kinlochewe.

Ride for MND - We did it!
Looking into Torridon across Loch Sheildaig

day 2 - 128 miles

We always knew Day 2 was going to be difficult. It was one of the longest days and had the most amount of climbing spread throughout the day. There was a low mist across Loch Maree as we set off, unable to pose long for a photo as the midges began to swarm! As we cycled passed Gairloch and Laide the cloud was too thick to appreciate the scenery but I was reminded of many Scottish painters who have visited this particular area to find their subject matter, including William Gillies and Charles Simpson. Luckily, as we climbed past the mastiff of An Tealach the skies began to clear, and after a very fast descent into Ullapool were once again in sunshine as we sat down to a terrific lunch supplied by our wonderful support team.

Ride for MND - We did it!
Speeding into the hills, Stac Pollaidh in the distance

For the last 20 miles, there were unrelenting hills, some up to a gradient of 25%. This section we had refered to as the 'Dragon's Teeth', and they certainly lived up to their name.

Ride for MND - We did it!
Day 2 route map
Ride for MND - We did it!
Route checking and cake eating

As the afternoon wore on our legs began to tire. For the last 20 miles, there were unrelenting hills, some up to a gradient of 25%. This section we had refered to as the 'Dragon's Teeth', and they certainly lived up to their name. It was some of the hardest miles of cycling I have ever done. The slower you go, the more the midges get you..

Ride for MND - We did it!
Evening light above Kylescue

Day 3 - 130 miles

We were all excited about day three which touched three coastlines of Scotland - west, north and east. We started from Norton, and crossed the Kylescue Bridge just after 7 am. Unfortunately, Sorley had a puncture just a few miles into the ride. As soon as we stopped we were completely covered in midges... All the more incentive to get the inner tube changed quickly!

Ride for MND - We did it!
Fixing a puncture in a cloud of midges

The midges were everywhere... They were a great incentive to keep moving!

Ride for MND - We did it!
Day 3 route map
Ride for MND - We did it!
Loch Eribol

There was a long and steady climb as we cycled northeast towards Durness. The landscape changed quite quickly at this point, and instead of rocky, twisted headlands, the horizon opened up to reveal a wide expanse of high moorland. We had reached the north coast of Scotland. The beaches were beautiful, with high cliffs enclosing white beaches and beautiful blue water. We cruised around the open water of Loch Eribolll before heading east, with the shadow of Ben Hope on our right-hand side. The mist continued as we rode through Tongue and Bettyhill.

Ride for MND - We did it!
Towards Tongue
Ride for MND - We did it!
The team at Melvich

It was a stunning road between Melvich and Helmsdale, a long, steady climb gave way to a 20-mile descent into Helmsdale, the stop for our third day. We saw two stags and even had a refreshing dip in a river! This did our aching legs some good.

Ride for MND - We did it!
The final miles into Helmsdale

day 4 - 124 miles

It was a grey start to the day as we met for breakfast at 6:30 am in the Belgrave Arms Hotel. The last day was arguable the 'easy' day as we did not have to contend with lots and lots of climbing (only 6,000 feet). Our route wiggled south via Lairg and Bonar Bridge avoiding the busy A9 as much as possible.

Ride for MND - We did it!
Day 4 route map
Ride for MND - We did it!
Reaching 100k landmark in Dingwall

We stopped briefly in Dingwall. At this stage, after four continuous days of cycling my legs were beginning to burn. We had a fantastic turnout for our final lunch spot with a number of friends and family joining to cheer us on. As we wolfed down pasta we had the news that our fundraising page had just hit £100,000. We were ecstatic.

We set off from Dingwall with smiles on our faces. We had only 35 miles before the finish line.

Ride for MND - We did it!
One mile from the finish, posing at Kessock Bridge

The Finish

With one mile to go, we posed for an early celebratory photo in front of Kessock Bridge. The sun was shining, and the thought of seeing loved ones at the finish line pushed us on. As we rode up the final hill to Inverness Castle we could hear the cheers and shouts from the crowd on the Castle ramparts. We had done it!

Ride for MND - We did it!
Supporters at Inverness
Ride for MND - We did it!
We did it! Champagne never tasted so good...

Coverage

The ride has enjoyed fantastic coverage over the past few weeks with articles in The Herald, Sunday Post, The Press and Journal, and The Scotsman. We featured on BBC Radio Scotland and our story will also air on STV News. We have enjoyed some celebrity endorsement, with messages of support from Danny MacAskill, Greig Laidlaw (below), snowboard professionals Pat Moore and Gigi Ruff, and even First Minister Nicola Sturgeon!

Ride for MND - We did it!
In The Scotsman
Ride for MND - We did it!
In The Herald
Ride for MND - We did it!
Good luck message from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

thank you

When we started our campaign in January 2020 we had a target of £5,000. The response to Davy's story has been overwhelming.

We are totally thrilled to have surpassed £100,000 of fundraising. This is all down to you, Gallery friends who have donated and shared the story. I would like to thank everyone who has made a donation, however big or small, and shared our story to raise awareness for MND. Every penny raised will fund crucial research to find a cure for this evil disease. I would like to give particular thanks to my colleagues at The Scottish Gallery for their terrific support, and the artists' Kate Downie, Ross Ryan, and Alison McGill who have pledged artworks to be sold for the charity. For more information please contact The Gallery. Thank you all once again.

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