Whoosh 2022 Day One, Hull to Scarborough. Distance 60.7 miles. Time: Five Hours Two Minutes

“Isn’t this magnificent cycling?” a fellow Whoosher asked as we rolled at speed down a quiet road in Yorkshire’s East Riding in brilliant sunshine and it would have been churlish to disagree. The first full day of this year’s annual Whoosh fundraising cycle ride was largely a reminder of what made so many of us enthusiastic about cycling in the first place.

Around 30 of us rolled out of Hull around 10am along a largely tarmacked old railway line. After the sun came out, it was easy to ignore the unseasonal cold and riders were soon stopping to remove the extra layers they had put on in overcast Hull. Some of the most exhilarating cycling came after we left the railway line after a brief stop at the house of a Whoosher’s friend in the seaside town of Hornsea. The countryside was gently rolling picturesque and the sky a clear, cloudless blue.

There were, nevertheless, reminders of the ride's serious side. Hull was full of memorials to William Wilberforce, once the town’s member of parliament. Wilberforce based his successful campaign to abolish the slave trade at Holy Trinity Clapham Church, not far from most Whooshers’ home parish of Herne Hill. The link with Wilberforce brought to mind how Christians for more than two centuries have felt the obligation to make a positive, practical difference in the world around them.

The journey prompted thoughts of more contemporary issues. Several houses by the route were flying the flag of Ukraine – a reminder that not far away across Europe people have far graver concerns than whether they will feel up to tackling the hills after lunch. A roadside memorial to one of the many second world war fighter squadrons based in east Yorkshire showed that within living memory people in Britain faced the same. Many of the roadside fields were growing oilseed rape – a product that is suddenly in short supply in much of the world as Ukraine’s war hampers production in a country that provides much of the world’s vegetable oil.

Those passing scenes turned my thoughts to Afghan Aid, the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal on behalf of the still suffering people of Afghanistan, one of the two charities for which the ride is raising funds. I recalled how late last year, before Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the news was full of the now largely neglected disaster engulfing that country. Soaring worldwide food prices are only exacerbating the desperate plight of people in that country. It’s encouraging that Whoosh’s fundraising has already raised £2,300 for this cause – but it’s clear that the needs are vast and acute.

But, just as cycling affords time to think, it can also be absorbing. Nearly all of the day’s 1,004ft of climbing came after a lunch in the picturesque fishing village of Bridlington. We were soon digging into making some sharp climbs. Then, after magnificent views of beautiful Caxton Bay, we were sweeping at speed downhill into Scarborough.

It was an exhilarating end to a day that was a potent reminder of the privilege of being able to ride bicycles amid nature’s beauty.

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