A Final Blog from the Four Mikes

As the Four Mikes 2019 Tour wraps up, and the participants fly or drive home (thankfully not cycling back – phew), some thoughts have been sent by Mike Carney and Mike Burton.  So without further ado…

From Mike Carney:

This journey to Rome was meant to be flatter but longer than the Via Francigena of 2016.  However, we had not reckoned on the location of the  hotels  chosen by Malcolm and the difficulty of following the Saint Francis Way.  Had we followed the road from Padua to Rome, not only would it  have been be more flat, but the desired side trips (to Hockenheim and Modena) produced a 97 mile detour of which the last ten miles were a climb steeper than Joiners Lane in CSP.  On this trip, we cycled over 1400 miles  and  climbed over 60,000 feet.  As every parent or guardian knows,  kudos from sons and daughters does not come freely…. so to receive a text from my daughter saying ‘wow that is impressive!’ is praise indeed.  I just think there must be an easier way of getting it!

From Mike Burton:

Having finished the trip and celebrated our arrival in Rome, it is only fitting that we should spare a thought for the machinery that has helped us along our way. 

Firstly, Lydia the Trusty Transit has coped flawlessly with all the steep hills and winding streets to and from our hotels. The minor wing-mirror damage inflicted by Malcolm is hardly noticeable, and he only hit unoccupied vehicles so it doesn’t count. Her dash-cam served as an extra cameraman to capture all six of us riding together on our short day to Assisi. Rather than publishing this footage on the blog we have saved it for later, so make sure you come to the slide-show evening. Not only this but the dash-cam caught red-handed the perpetrator of a nasty crash, who tried to claim the young lady he hit was on the wrong side of the road. Luckily no serious injuries, and the evidence was greatly appreciated.

Denise’s satnav helped Lydia to find all of our hotels, in spite of people arguing with her and on at least one occasion directly disobeying her. And she never complained, though I’m sure I detected a raised and slightly impatient tone on the times we chose to know better than her.

I had high hopes for my new [tame] orange gravel bike, designed to take tough treatment like this. Three punctures and a cracked rim during the Germany-to-Rome ride section was not ideal; she was put to shame by the other bikes, and to quote my school teachers “could do better”.

Father Michael’s Specialised Allez could put in a good speed, but in spite of being nurtured along by his delicate caring hands, the rear brakes hit self-destruct and denied Father Michael the well deserved pleasure of a speedy descent down the Dolomites towards Florence.

Mick Claridge honed, tweaked, tuned and lightened his Forme Stealth Black Shadow extra-light [note: it is a bike, not a fighter jet ] to within an inch of its life, hence the amazing 53 mph top speed he achieved on descending from the Brener Pass. But unfortunately it did let Mick down once, exploding both the rear tube AND tyre.  Luckily the support crew were nearby!

Which just leaves the Carney machine, completing the full distance from his house in Chalfont St Peter all the way to the seat of St Peter in Rome, with no failures at all. His tender care probably helped, at one point as we completed a very bumpy section he sounded almost distraught with concern as he dodged the bumps and stones saying “Ahh promisssed er ahh woodnt tek er uver any boompy roobish or owt” . 

So top prize in the Mechanical Awards goes to Mike Carney’s admirable steed!


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All Roads Lead to Rome

Ladies and Gentlemen, drum-rolls please!

Today, the Four Mikes on Bikes left Montefranco and cycled 76 miles to Roma.IMG_4336  As they departed this morning, the Mikes were all smiles.  After all it was a beautiful day and they were almost there.  They hadn’t seen Grims for several days (he must have heard about that 24-hr wine fountain), the bikes were in good repair, and Mick & Malcolm had patched up their ‘coming round the mountain’ misunderstanding.  What could go wrong?

Having become accustomed to amorous Italian lorries snuggling up when overtaking (imagine the gentle swish of a giant wheel-well brushing against your cheek), the Four Mikes were sanguine when they were passed very closely by two vehicles.  However, one lorry then burst a tire but kept going, which pelted the riders with hot rubber and steel wire, and set the grass verge alight.  Fortunately no one was injured, but Mike Burton’s bike suffered a puncture from being hit.  This makes the 3rd flat tire for Mike’s bike – it deserve a long rest and an ice cream when it reaches Rome!  Despite all this, the grins remained in place as can be seen from the photos below!



First Arrivals



I am not sharing this


Meeting Mother Tekla

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The Road to Montefranco

On Monday, the Four Mikes on Bikes hit the road again, riding 60 miles from Assisi to Montefranco.  Along the way they detoured to see the Marmore Falls, built by the Romans and the tallest man made waterfall in the world.   The day was sunny and clear, and the Editor awaits pictures of Mick Claridge swan-diving or the Mikes riding together in a barrel over the edge.

In the meantime, we have nice pictures of the ride, the lunch break and Denese meeting Jeff Bezos (only kidding – he is Brendan from Northern Ireland, who made a spot donation the LASR!)  Also Lydia is finally enjoying some well-earned earned sightseeing.

Tuesday to Rome!


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Malcolm in the Middle

A blog by Mick Claridge:

Day Infinity   (Subtitle: Malcolm in Trouble)

As we rode into Laverna it had always been the plan to take the long way round the mountains, rather than go over them.  Riding south along the range, I began to sing, starting with ‘She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes’, followed by ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’.   We hit the southern tip of the range, rounded the edge and headed north. 

The headwind hit me like a freight train.  I stopped whistling.  I stopped singing. I even stopped saying hi to cyclists coming the other way.

This headwind was all Malcolm’s fault.  He had booked us into a monastery. This monastery meant we had to cycle into this headwind.  How could he have done this to us?  (Anyone with kids will be familiar with this logic.)

A rear tire explosion meant we had to stop at at small town where we spotted the van – and Malcolm and Denese swanning around like they owned the place. I quietly changed the tire and gave Malcolm the odd scowl. 

We hit the road again….and ran directly into a 9% gradient climb.  A monastery into a headwind and at the top of a mountain….Malcolm’s demise suddenly went from hypothetical to essential, and the details began to take shape.  He had to be stopped, and I was the one to do it.   The Reaper was nothing compared to me this day! 

Looking at the climb ahead, in the lowest gear already with another 3 miles to go,  I murmured to myself,

‘I’m gonna kill him.’

Then I said it louder,

‘I’m gonna kill him!’

Then for no reason I began to laugh aloud, like an evil Bond film baddie:


Half way up the hill now. 6 mph, breathing like a wounded rhino…..

I spoke aloud once more but this time with more detail. 

‘I’m gonna kill him. Then I’m gonna bury him. Then I’m gonna dig him up. Re-animate his body……THEN I’M GONNA KILL HIM AGAIN!   BRING HIM BACK TO LIFE. THEN I’M GONNA DRIVE A STEAM ROLLER OVER HIM AND FEED HIM TO ALL THE LITTLE HEDGEHOGS. MUAHAHAHA!!’

I’d seriously lost the plot.

The summit and monastery appeared just in time.

But something had changed. The Reaper was still on my back.  But now I was the Reapers Apprentice on Malcolm’s back. 

Would we ever be the same again? Would Malcolm ever redeem himself?

Read on. 

Day Infinity +1  (Subtitle: Malcolm’s Redemption)

Perugia to Assisi

13 miles and a day of riding for the whole team.  And a sight to never forget. Was it the view of Assisi in the distance, standing like a giant on the horizon?  The cake -tea – cake combo fed to me at the cafe?  The beautiful Italian countryside bordering a dead straight Roman road, or the fluffy white cloud-filled sky? 

No.  It was something more spectacular.

The plan was for all six of us to ride the route that day and send Mike Burton back for the van.   The van was parked and Denese emerged fully kitted up.  Then the door opened….. and a calf muscle appeared. Then another.  Dragging my eyes upward, I realised the person operating those calves was vaguely familiar.  It was the bottom half of Arnold Schwarzenegger joined to the top half of………… Malcolm.

What twisted alchemist had Malcolm been visiting to grow these enormities?

Just then he turned his back to the road. This was a bad move. A car swerved across the middle lane and an ice cream van spilled its load trying to miss the car. Doors and windows slammed shut and people ran inside screaming.  A woman emerged from a doorway, pointed at Malcolm and howled, “The prophecy!  IT’S THE PROPHECY!!”  A man ran past shouting, “PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” 

 When the smoke cleared, Malcolm climbed on his bike.  He pedalled once and the clouds parted.  It felt like an earthquake. We could do nothing but bow down to the magnificence of these two steam engines powering the pedals.  Before we knew it, we were on the road with Malcolm leading…and me following, hypnotised by the movement taking place under that smooth skin.   Malcolm was pounding out 16.8 mph on a flat surface into a headwind. This was not the plan for the day.  It was supposed to be a nice easy 13 miler for the whole team.  We did the ride in 45 minutes.  Well, at least Malcolm did. 

I will NEVER trust that man again for as long as I live. Those calves are the real thing.

I’m truly glad he’s on our side!

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Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

A naive reader might suppose that a successful tour requires only that each rider sustains his inner Mike through good food, the right clothing and not getting [too] lost going from A to B each day. But spare a thought for the bike – two thin wheels, a light frame and a chain – that has to carry a substantial load up and down hills every day. Although usually stalwart and uncomplaining, the Bikes of the Mikes occasionally have a wobble and need to lay down. Literally. Bike punctures, chain problems, broken wheels and worn-out brakes have been some of the Tour events to date, which is why having Lydia, Malcolm & Denese on hand is so helpful to provide cycle triage. Bike maintenance is an ongoing requirement for such a long ride, and the Mikes are now adept at adjusting chainsets, cranks and derailleurs.

Mick making sure his bike gets a good night’s rest.

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