LEJOG Journal

Cycling Lands End to John O'Groats April 22nd 2011; 1000 miles, 10 days…will we make it?

Day 2

We started today with a minor technical disaster which threatened to kill the whole trip after only 1 days riding. That sounds dramatic but it really was that serious.

Our plan was to start riding at 9am and pick up some breakfast up around 15 miles in as there was nothing close to the Travelodge in Wadebridge that seemed suitable.

So there we were, outside the hotel at 8.15am as planned, bikes and bags ready to load. Then began the problem.

No matter how many times we tried locking and unlocking the van, the rear load area door would not open. All we got was an automatic beep from the door signifying a fault with the central locking system. This was a major issue as our helmets were in the back. Also because of how we planned the route & accommodation we had approximately a fifteen mile drive at the start and end of each day to get to/from hotels – no way to carry the gear would mean a major rejig of the route, plus possibly picking up a replacement van en route too. Not what we needed!

After deciding that unlocking/locking the van was going to do nothing more than further wind up the Travelodge patrons (with the repeated ‘beep’) we decided we needed to reassess the situation. The only possible solution involved removing a seat so that we could unbolt an access panel on the bulkhead, in the hope that if someone could crawl into the back through the gap the panel had left, then they’d be able to open the doors from the inside.

After unsuccessfully trying to purchase a spanner from the nearby petrol station we managed to borrow one from a friendly old chap we had popped down to fill up his work van with diesel. Very lucky!

Anyway, say no more, we now have a 5 seater van (rather than 6), a gap in the bulk head and a successful days riding under our belts.

The whole event cost us about an hour and a half, and with almost 120 miles to cover it couldn’t really have happened on a worse day. Still, the weather was great and although we didn’t finish until 8.30pm, we still completed our planned route.

We had to dig in together for the last 25 miles or so and riding in formation really paid off, bringing our average speed up to 17mph. Not bad over a distance of 118 miles.

Highlights of the day were: seeing Danny stop without unclipping his feet (always funny and got a great photo); the moment we realised we were going to be able to get in the van; finishing as planned in the face of adversity and meeting all of the other LEJOGers and kind doners that we did along the way.

Hopefully tomorrow will be less hilly, all will go to plan and we’ll get some decent recovery time tomorrow evening.

Apologies go out to Greg Venn (a Twitter friend and local to the parts we’ve cycled through today). Greg set out to meet us this evening but the fates conspired against us and our rides didn’t cross. It’s a shame as we wanted to thank Greg in person for the advice he has given us building up to our trip. Sorry Greg!

Until tomorrow.

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Day 1

Yesterdays entry was thwarted by lack of WiFi connection in the hotel. It’s written up on my laptop and I’ll transfer it when there’s more time tomorrow. As you’ll see from Day 2’s entry which i’ll be posting shortly, today has been a beast of a day and we’ve literally just arrived at the Travelodge in Brigwater.

Watch this space tomorrow when I’ll upload the Day 1 entry, as if all goes to plan tomorrow we should have more evening time.

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LEJOG Eve

Well, this has all come round a bit quick! It doesn’t seem two minutes since me, John and Danny were sat around eating Chinese food, having a few beers and only halve seriously making the first plans for this trip.

Now we’re in the van on the M6 heading for Newquay before our first days riding tomorrow.

Have we done enough training? Probably not, but I think even if we’d done double the amount I’d still be saying that. Averaging 100 miles for 10 days is always going to be a bit of a shock to the system, so I think there would always be a question mark over how the ‘ol body is going to cope. There’s only 1 way to find out I guess!

It’s nice to be on our way to start now after so much preparation – planning the route, accommodation, all the training (or, at least thinking we should be training!) and I’d say the mood is a healthy mix of nerves and excitement.

Anyway, keep an eye on the blog to see how we’re getting on. Challenge 1: keeping John off the booze in Newquay.

Oh, and don’t forget to sponsor us too!

Gaz

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We got LEJOG kit sponsorship, woohoo! Which do you prefer?

We got some great news today; the company that John & Dunc work for, Sperry Rail, have agreed to sponsor us cycling jerseys for our LEJOG. It’s amazing how generous people can be when you are doing something for a good cause. Thanks Sperry guys!

Here are the two designs we have drafted so far, there will probably be a few more iterations yet…

Kit Design option 1

Option 1

Kit Design option 2

Option 2

I also want to thank everyone that has sponsored the charities that we are supporting so far too, again lots of wonderful generosity. We’re doing a lot better than the widgets to the left indicate as most of the donations have been made off-line. We’ve not hit our target yet though so please keep it coming, much appreciated!

Comment below and let me know what you think of the designs.

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My Training Ride for Tomorrow – Lancaster to Hawes loop.

Just put some new brown leather bar tape on to match my saddle and my bike now looks as comfortable as a vintage arm chair (the desired effect). I hope it feels that way too as I’ve just mapped out the following 76 mile loop from Lancaster to Hawes and back. There’re a few climbs to contend with, I’ll be cycling alone and the weather is forecast to be pretty poor…so wish me luck!



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Experienced End-2-Ender talks route, cafe’s, pubs and tips.

If you’re planning an End to End trip and you’re anything like us, you’ll probably have lots of questions that you’d like to ask someone who has done the trip. That’s why I decide to contact Al Pewsey, who runs what is probably the most extensive Land’s End to John O’Groats resource on the web, Pewseys.co.uk.

Not only has Al completed the End to End himself, he has heard about the experiences of many others through his website over the years. After you’ve read the interview below, I strongly recommend you check out his site.

Gaz: What is your own End 2 End experience?

Al: I completed my one and only LEJOG journey in 2003 over 2 weeks, and I have to say it was one of the most memorable and enjoyable things I have ever done. I completed it with 3 very good friends and we had a ball from start to finish.

Gaz: Route choice is often a source of much deliberation for End 2 Ender’s, particularly whether to head North (LEJOG) or South (JOGLE). What do you advise route-wise from your experience?

Al: Difficult question to answer as in my view an End-2-End journey is a very personal one. People frequently have the ambition to do it for sometime, or decide to do it to raise money for a good cause following a major incident or trauma in their life. Whatever the reason the route planning and preparation (including building up your fitness and choosing your equipment) is all part of your personal End-2-End journey, as well as the people and places you see along the way.

Preparation and planning isn’t always the mantra though as one particular journey which I thought was a fantastic idea was George and Ben’s LEJOG in 2006. The plan was simple – to get from Land’s End to John O’Groats, by foot or by bike, without spending a single penny. The reason for doing it was to prove that hospitality and generosity is alive and well amongst the people of Britain. Inspiring reading, I highly recommend their blog.

For us, the route choice evolved overtime as we jointly discussed our plans, invariably over a beer or two as the original idea started to take shape and we took into account places we wanted to see or people we could stay with. We wanted to do South to North as the perceived wisdom is that the UK prevailing south westerly winds should be helping rather than hindering you although that is not always the case as I do remember the final Easterly push from Tongue being into a very strong headwind. Also as Devon and Cornwall is our stomping ground we were familiar with the territory that is often feared and hence we felt starting on familiar ground and getting the ‘worst’ over first would be a good strategy.

It’s not necessarily that you climb high passes in Devon and Cornwall its just that the terrain is short sharp steep ups and downs that sap the energy and ruin the rhythm. Some people like to get that over with first and others prefer to hit it when they are fitter at the end; again it’s what you think will suit you best.

My personal advice would be avoid busy roads where you can, and remember that it is about the journey not just getting to the end. The end for us was actually a bit of an anticlimax and tinged with sadness, as we didn’t want the journey to finish. We in the UK live on a fantastically beautiful island and I would advise people to use the journey to discover places you never new existed and marvel in the Great British scenery as it’s not all motorways and cities.

OK, people do do it as a race or a record attempt but most people who contact me have a much more leisurely timetable. However you do the End-2-End, whether it’s a solo effort, as part of a group or on one of the very good organised tours, it’s definitely very worthwhile and I’m sure you won’t regret it as it’ll restore your faith in human nature.

Gaz: What would you say are the highlights in terms of places you passed through on your End 2 End?

Al: We enjoyed most of the route we chose, seeing fantastic scenery and meeting great people along the way. Too many places to mention – you’ll just have to read my LEJOG blog! However, here are some of the main highlights I would pick out.

We chose our own route through Devon and Cornwall using local knowledge that avoided most of the busy tourist routes and steeper climbs as it wound its way through the quieter backbone of the counties whilst the tourists tend to stick to the coasts. It was a highlight for us and having lived in the area all our lives, we found beautiful rural scenery and villages none of us had ever seen before.

Another definite highlight was going via Arran which was stunning and the road from Lairg to Tongue, past the wonderful Crask Inn, was also breathtaking – although the weather was very kind to us that day and it might be a different story in rain and strong winds!!

Also, I’d have to say the section from Slaidburn north to Penrith was glorious as we entered the fells of Northern England, an area I have a lot of fondness for personally.

Sections we didn’t enjoy quite as much were the main road through The Great Glen that was busy and dangerous, likewise the road out of Dumfries. Also the bit around Bridgewater was interesting thanks to obscure Sustrans signposting where we ended up under the M5 at one point in a scene of broken cars and bonfire ashes that resembled something out of Mad Max.

Gaz: Any pub/cafe/accommodation highlights you’d like to pass on?

Al: The Crask Inn is a must on the road between Lairg and Altnaharra for a coffee or a beer. Fabulous setting and lovely people.

Hurlers Halt on Bodmin Moor was also a very welcoming and friendly cafe. There was a superb combined tea and antiques shop with excellent friendly hosts just off the A75 near Lochfoot.

Presteigne also had a nice cafe with wonderful South American recipe scrambled egg but I can’t remember its name.

These were places we found welcoming but that was 8 years ago now. Since then people have contacted me and I have loaded recommendations on my website. One of which who is worth a mention is Joe Halls Pies at Chorley (Lancashire). The owner (Joe) is an End-2-Ender himself and welcomes people on their LEJOG or JOGLE with free Chorley cake, soup and a cuppa to help them on their way.

Gaz: What preparation tips would you give to prospective End 2 Enders?

Al: The best advice I can give is enjoy it and make it your own.

Although you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete or an expert bike handler to complete the trip, I would say that generally speaking good preparation and the fitter you are, the easier it will be and hence the more you’ll enjoy it.

Good preparation isn’t just about getting fit, it’s also about the bike. Get used to riding it – you can’t beat miles in the saddle for good preparation as you learn how the bike handles and performs with you and your luggage. Making sure you can complete basic maintenance on the bike should a minor repair be required. Safety is paramount so obey the laws of the road make sure you are a safe and competent bike handler as accidents do happen and sadly cyclists have been killed in road traffic accidents whilst doing the End-2-end. You can minimise the risk by researching and choosing your route carefully.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask. There is loads of information available on and off the Internet from people like me who just want to help. Ask your local bike shop or find out if their are any local cycling groups in your area that you can join for rides to gain valuable advice and experience. Lots of people have an opinion and you will get conflicts, but just listen and learn and use what is right for you.

Gaz: What were the high points of your trip and were there any low points?

Al: On the whole we had a very happy trip and the route provided most of the highs and lows I’ve already mentioned. I did have a knee problem just south of Chester which I thought may jeopardise my trip at one point and was a low, but fortunately it cleared up.

All of our group have a very silly sense of humour so having trip mascots such as ‘The Official End-2-End Carrot’, ‘The Copper Boot of Destiny’ and not forgetting ‘The Yellow Thong’ did help tremendously with keeping things fun and happy. One memorable moment was on Day 9 of our LEJOG when we entered Scotland and the famed blacksmith shop at Gretna Green. We had our picture taken with the official piper (you’re going to have to look at my blog again!) who spied our Official Carrot in its beautiful toilet roll wedding gown and you could almost read what was going through his head. Very silly but good for morale as we found it very funny.

Gaz: Finally, you are a prominent figure in the online End 2 End community – what makes you so passionate about it?

Al: That’s very kind of you to say so but I am just a cyclist who completed LEJOG in 2003 and thought I would pass my experiences on to help others with their own trips. I don’t know all the answers and I can only relay what I’ve learnt, and what was right for me may not be right for others but hopefully I can help people find that out for themselves. It started as just writing a blog about my trip as part of a teaching myself webpage building, and it’s just grown from there. I get emails every week from all sorts of people telling me about their plans, asking advice or telling me about their trip, and I answer them all. It’s nice to think that maybe I have helped one or two of them in a small way to complete their own journey, tell their story to others, or raise money for a good cause.

Gaz: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Al, I’m sure it will be of interest to our followers. If anyone has anything to add please feel free to comment below.

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What does cycling End to End mean to you? Duncan speaks!

Gaz: Duncan, leader of the pack and the youngest of our group, provides this weeks update with what doing this ride means to him. Thanks for the input whippet!

Dunc: Land’s End to John O’Groats has captured the imagination of cyclists, sports people and the like for generations. If you say to anyone ‘I’m doing Lands End to John O’Groats’ chances are they will know instantly what you mean.


But what is Land’s End to John O’Groats? Is it more than just a bike ride? The pursuit of the end to end journey most likely originates with hikers, the first recorded completion of the journey was made in 1871 by John and Robert Naylor. By foot the journey takes between two and three months. But for most people there really is only one way to get from Lands End to John O’Groats under your own power and that is by bicycle. After all the humble bicycle is a very efficient machines that has been subject to well over 100 years of refinement, innovation and technological advancement. But that’s another story!

The journey by bike can be tailored to suit your fancy. The shortest distance by road for the complete journey by road is 840 or 874 miles (depending on whether you’re asking Google maps or Wikipedia). We are going to be taking a less direct 1020 mile route that will take us right through the heart of the Scottish highlands and along the length of the Great Glen. Many people choose to do the trip this way, seeing the UK from a whole different perspective by bicycle, doing minimal distances and taking many stops along the way, visiting places that might usually be overlooked. This for me really captures the big picture of cycling; it doesn’t have to be a race and it is something that can be enjoyed by almost anyone on a level at which they are totally free to find in their own time.

The journey can also be part of a charity ride, as in our case where the ride and the journey only fill part of the events greater purpose. This must be what has given the journey a wider meaning to non-cyclists who would otherwise have scoffed at the notion of completing such a ride. Charity is an excellent reason to do something, and for generations now the UK ‘End to end’ ride has been viewed as a top charity challenge. As with anything, LEJOG and JOGLE can also be viewed from a competitive perspective, in the form of a super-endurance pursuit where riders push themselves to the limit in order to save minutes on the total time taken. The record of 44 hours, 4 minutes and 20 seconds is held by Gethin Butler and was set in 2001 (Gaz: we expect to come in slightly behind this time!). Numerous other records have been set outside of cycling, including the fastest ever run from end to end which was completed in nine days and two hours by Andy Rivett. (Gaz: Ah, that’s a bit more like it…hold on though, he did it WITHOUT a bike??).

For the perspective of us ‘will-be end to enders’, rest assured, it is a highly daunting feeling to be set with the challenge of riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats along a 1020 mile route that covers the length of the British Isles.

To find out how we are fairing in our preparations for the challenge and to follow our ride diary, you can join our mailing list here: Join our mailing list you lovely swines!

Thanks for reading, Dunc.

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