>My Way

>Its now just over two weeks since I finished my ride and I’ve had chance to reflect upon the same and to sort my thoughts out. I intended to write this post shortly after I got home, but time pressures meant now is the 1st chance I have to complete this post.

I’ve been on my bike everyday since I got back. However, most days I’ve been riding my fixed wheel bike again. Its good to be back riding fixed. I know I couldn’t do LEJoG on it though.

Yesterday, Tom & I took part in the British Heart Foundation London – Southend Ride, some 52+miles. It wasn’t long enough, so we rode up to the start as well, adding another 8 miles on. The main ride we had planned to do at a leisurely pace, expecting including stops to take about 5 hours. As it happened, despite Tom having a puncture, we did it in about 3hrs 08mins riding time ( 3 hrs 20mins in total- including changing the puncture). Jo was to meet us in Southend at 12 noon, but we told her of our good pace and got her to meet us there at 11am instead! We then made it to Southend by about 10:20am. I’m sure that Tom would want me to tell you all that as last year, I beat him to southend, even after he sat on my wheel for 50 miles. Next year son….

The loser offers his congratulations to the winner who has already received his cup…

LEJoG Reflections

The first thing to say is that it was a great experience and I’d do it again like a shot. Tom, get some miles in and we can do it together….!

As a rather fat and unfit 40something, the idea of doing LEJoG (or even JoGLE) was surely an unrealistic challenge. I really only started cycling about 8 years ago, and then only to accompany my son when he rode his bike. Tom was about 8 then. I eventually got fit enough to cycle to / from work, then some 20 miles a day. From there I have done the odd longer ride, but before starting LEJoG, I had never ridden more than 70 miles in a day.

Gradual building up of stamina between January and May was achieved by increasing my commute from 12.5 miles each way to 25 miles each way. This obviously took more time, but meant that I could get the miles in daily without too much effort. Its hard getting up and out of the house in January to ride to work, setting off in the dark before 7 am. When the snow hit in February, apart from changing to my touring bike and missing 2 days riding, I continued to ride to work.

I never managed to get any long weekend rides in, but my son Tom did encourage me to ride, and the thought that he had done the Coast to Coast ride last year made me determined to get fit enough to go one better and do LEJoG. What’s that I hear you say about me being a competitive father? I have also been encouraged and helped by my partner Jo, who has got out her bike and ridden with me. At the start of the year, she had not ridden more than about 10 miles in one go. By the time I finished LEJoG, she had managed to ride 30 miles in busy traffic, and since then has managed over 40 miles on a very lumpy route with Tom and I. She has done incredibly well to increase her riding ability in so few rides.

To reflect on the ride a little

Was it worth doing?
Absolutely. It was a great personal challenge and a chance to see Great Britain at a relatively leisurely pace. I would go back and do it again tomorrow if I could get the time off work and could afford to do it.

What was Best Part of LEJoG?
I have asked myself this so many times and can’t give a single answer. There were so many highlights along the way.

1. Seeing my friends in Penzance before I set off. I get to see so little of John & Jayne these days, so to spend a night with them and their daughter was a real pleasure.

2. Completing my first ever 100 mile ride at Monmouth.

3. The feeling of achievement at riding up the climb at Underbarrow( & later at Drumnadrochit).

4. Completing the ride up and over Shap Fell. That was thanks to the help of my father who rode with me (I’ll even forgive him for taking me on a detour up that incredible climb at Underbarrow).

5. Passing through Carlisle and over the Border into Scotland only 6 days after setting off.

5. Completing the 104 miles from Crianlarich to Drumnadrochit via Rannoch Moor, Glen Coe, Fort William and Loch Ness. It was the longest ride I have ever done, and the fastest ride of the trip.

6. Reaching the top of Berriedale Braes, and seeing the cemetery there and realising the plot set aside for me was not needed and the knowledge that there were no more major hills between there and JoG.

7. Seeing JoG and riding down into the village. It was a very proud moment for me, especially as Jo, Tom and my parents were there to meet me.

The Worst Part?
1. The climb out of Tavistock up onto /Dartmoor.

2. Getting the bonk after leaving Chepstow and struggling to Tintern, hardly ably to keep turning the pedals on the bike

3. THAT CLIMB at Underbarrow after following my father’s suggestion to change the route. It was possibly the steepest part of the whole ride, and was at least a mile long. Everytime I went round a bend thinking this was the top, another climb loomed.

4. The CLIMB out of Drumnadrochit, see comments re Underbarrow, except this time it was my change of route choice!

5. The view out of the Hotel at Navidale– the hotel that night looked directly up at the 2 mile climb I would have to complete the next morning. Not a view to make for a relaxing night’s sleep.

6. Reaching JoG – Why you ask, well two reasons, firstly the thought that my trip was coming to an end and secondly because I had only done 50+ miles that day. It wasn’t enough.
I wanted to get back on my bike and ride further. I felt I hadn’t done enough that day.

&. The worst part however must be the realisation between Loch Lomond & Crianlarich on day 8 that I was going to have to stop the ride owing to injury. I can’t tell you how bad that feeling was. I’ve seen my football team be relegated 3 times & lose in 3 cup finals and 2 semi-finals, and it never felt as bad or hurt as much!

There are so many memories, but a few of the ones that spring to mind immediately are:

1. Seeing Dartmoor Prison and knowing I was at the highest point on Dartmoor, little realising that the steepest parts of that day’s ride were yet to come!

2. Seeing how green and Beautiful Great Britain is. In a car you whizz past places at speed and don’t realise how beautiful the country is. There are so many places I want to go back and spend time in, excluding Devon of course as that day hurt! Tintern and Monmouth are gorgeous places and worth going to see. The Lake District of course, Glen Coe, the far North of Scotland. Jo, I will take you to visit some of these places- honest! [Note I never said we won’t have to cycle to them 😉 ]

3. Perhaps surprisingly to some, the courtesy shown to me all the way by motorists, and especially HGV drivers. I travelled a lot of busy roads and had less problems in the 900 miles on LEJoG than I do on a typical ride to work.

4. The hospitality shown at all the cafes, B&B etc I used on the way. It was no problem to anywhere I used to store my bike, fill water bottles, even providing bowls of cereal at 3pm in the afternoon at one cafe.

Advice to Potential LEJoGgers?
Don’t think about it, set a date, train for it and do it. With apologies to Nike, but “JUST DO IT”
It is a fantastic experience, a great holiday and a chance to become an ENDER.
You can do it. if I can do it, at my weight, then anyone can do it.

What Kit to Take?
This is one of the perennial debates. Everyone has different tips. these are from my experience.

I used a Bronx touring bike with a triple chainset. It got me there without any major incidents. I removed the pannier racks from the bike to reduce the weight. http://www.bronxcycles.com/rx1000t.html

I used a Carradice camper longflap bag supplied by Spa Cycles. Great firm and I thoroughly recommend them. http://www.spacycles.co.uk/products.php?plid=m2b5s73p51 . You will also need a bracket to fix the bag to the bike. I used the SQR bracket, again from Spa Cycles http://www.spacycles.co.uk/products.php?plid=m2b5s73p1040 . This bag, I have used daily for my commute to work. Its excellent, and a good investment.

Tools & Spare Parts
I chose to take no spare spokes. I took 3 spare inner tubes (brand new ones), a multi tool, the Topeak Alien http://www.wiggle.co.uk/p/cycle/7/Topeak_Alien_II_26_Function_Multitool/5360011565/
I took the essential cable ties and electrical tape- these will bodge a repair until you can find a bike shop.
I took 2 sets of tyre levers, metal ones and plastic ones, but will probably only take the metal ones next time.
I had a small bike lock- a cable lock to lock bike up if I popped into a shop etc, but most times made sure I was never more than a couple of feet from my bike unless it was in hotel room or their secure storage area.

I had the shirt, cycling shoes (spd)and bib tights I cycled in, one spare long sleeved cycling top, one t-shirt, a pair of very lightweight trousers ( thanks Jo) and 3 pairs of socks. As I was going to be cycling all day and only in t shirt and trousers for a couple of hours on a night, I didn’t need any more clothing. I used my cycling shoes as evening wear also. 1 pair of sunglasses with spare clear lenses depending on weather

most hotels & B&Bs provide toiletries in room, so took a LYNX travel pack- fits into cycling shirt pocket. I took my glasses, enough contact lenses to last. The razor stayed at home to make room for the most essential item, the tub of sudocrem.

The best advice I ever heard about packing for a cycling tour is: –
1. Select your bag
2. Pack the bag ensuring you can properly close the bag
3. Open the bag again, throw away at least half the stuff
4. Get a new bag 1/2 the size of the original bag,
5. Pack the new bag ensuring you can close the same properly
6. Open the bag and throw away at least half the stuff.

The only accommodation I pre-booked was with John & Jayne in Penzance the night before I set off. I had no problems finding accommodation anywhere along the way. This allowed me to stop when I felt tired, and on the good days to continue on as far as I wanted. However, bear in mind I was cycling outside the school holidays AND I was looking for rooms for 1 person, not for a group. I also ensured I had enough cash to pay for accommodation as some places don’t take cards and were not near cash machines.

I did not take any paper maps with me. I purchased a Garmin Etrex Vista HCx and City Navigator maps from http://www.gpsw.co.uk/ . I plotted my route on there using mainly the CTC fast route together with some changes after reading other people’s blogs. I had no problems finding my way, possibly helped by the fact I have a decent knowledge of the geography of Great Britain, so apart from in major towns I could have got away without the GPS- but it did provide me with lots of useful data whilst I was riding.

as I said above, I used mainly the CTC fast route, with minor variations. If I did it again, I personally think I would stay on the A30 throughout Cornwall and Devon, despite the CTC advising against this.
I chose to ride the old A74 from Gretna to Glasgow- now the B7076/B7078, its a brilliant road being dual carriageway but with nothing on it. However the last 20 miles of this before hitting Glasgow the road surface is very poor. Also, after Dingwall, I stayed on the A9, and despite what the CTC say, I will go this way again. Riding through Glasgow was a piece of cake, but that may be because I did it on a Saturday morning!

Thank you all for reading this blog, for your support through out my ride.

Thank you to Jo for coming to Scotland, not once, but twice to support me on this ride

Thank you Tom for giving me the incentive to do this ride by your completing the Coast2Coast last summer

Thanks to my parents for acting as support vehicle on more than one occasion. Thanks to my Dad for showing me how steep a hill there is at Underbarrow and redeeming himself by pacing my up and over Shap Fell.

What Next?
Well I fancy another LEJOG ride, but this event has taken my fancy http://www.raceacrossamerica.org/raam/home.php?N_webcat_id=1 – anyone fancy riding it with me? I’ll have to stop typing now as some men in white coats are at the door and they seem to have some form of jacket with them…..

Alternatively, a return trip to Gretna could be a better option

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