Friday, 14 May 2010

Reflections on the ride

So, how did it all go? Would I do it again? Would I change anything in hindsight? Have my sore bits recovered?

Well I was certainly glad of a couple of days off but I've already been out on the bike and am eager to get out on some longer rides again so I suppose I haven't suffered that much as a result of the ride. I still think I need to rest the knee a bit longer yet though. I'm not sure if I'm loads fitter as a result of the ride because I never really pushed my cardiovascular system that much. Having said that I lost some weight and my resting pulse is noticeably lower so maybe I am. I am confident that my cycling stamina is considerably improved. Keeping going all day isn't a problem and I'd have no qualms about doing consecutive century rides. I just wouldn't do them quickly. Classic touring cyclist attitude I suppose.

Thoughts on bike and equipment
I definitely made the right choices there. The Specialized Tricross was comfortable and I was glad of the short reach/upright position on the bike. I can't recall any significant neck/back pain. It was stable and even managed a bit of unplanned cyclocross with no drama! That happened in Scotland when I made the mistake of watching a Buzzard glide alongside me rather than focus on the road. My attention was quickly re-focused as I bumped along a rocky verge towards a ditch! Thankfully I got back on the tarmac quickly and without injury.

Just the one puncture (in Devon) and enforced mechanical intervention (changing very worn brake blocks before a hilly day in the Cairngorms) so I got off lucky there. However, I like to think it was because I made sure the bike was in good nick before I set off.

Travelling light was definitely worthwhile. I love cycle camping and being self sufficient on the bike but all that extra weight would have really told. I don't think I could have managed an average of nearly 95 miles per day in hilly terrain with a full complement of panniers. Not without being LOTS fitter beforehand anyway. Taking the bare minimum made the whole trip much more enjoyable. I probably stank to high heaven at times but no-one was rude/honest enough to tell me.

I know that Cath and Sarah enjoyed their holiday too but having them there as support in the evenings and, every now and then, en route helped a great deal and kept my spirits up when otherwise they may have dropped.

The route
The CTC B&B route is described as 'scenic'. They mean 'hilly'! I noticed that some translation of the route instructions was required from time to time. For example where it says 'ascend the hill' it should say 'ALERT: engage bottom gear and continue for 1.5 miles until lungs explode and your heart beat sounds like a drum roll'. In all seriousness though you can't avoid hills on LEJOG and it wasn't that bad. I actually preferred the hilly bits. I could get into a spinny rythym going up without really suffering and I could enjoy some exhilerating descents. And I never had to get off and walk! Some days/sections were tough but I wouldn't have changed it. All part of the challenge and it did afford me some spectacular scenery. The Cairngorms were a great example of this. I could have skirted the hilliest roads but that would have meant long stretches on the fearsomely busy and unpleasant A9. As it was it was one of the best days of the trip and certainly the most rewarding.

The section between the Crask Inn (wonderful pub in middle of nowhere) north of Lairg to Altnaharra in the early evening sun. Rounding a corner and seeing clouds shrouding the summit of Ben Klibreck. Fantastic. I'll never forget it.

The whole day through the Cairngorms. Awesome views and very rewarding.

Hills in the Scottish borders. Gradual ascents and miles and miles of descent on perfectly surfaced roads.

Hey, Scotland is doing pretty well here!

The Wye Valley. I love cycling alongside waterways and this whole area was beautiful.

From Whalley to Appleby through Bowland Fells. Hilly, remote, great scenery and the sun shone most of the day.

The not so good bits
The wind! Prevailing south westerlies my arse. 9 days of headwind. Some days better than others but to be honest I just forgot about it after I'd got into Scotland.

Maybe I've got the rose tinted specs on but actually I can't recall many bits I really didn't enjoy. Those bits in the blog where I said I hated it were probably more down to the fact that the weather was crap and I couldn't get warmed up. I suppose I'd nominate:

The day from Ludlow to Chorley. It was cold the wind was right in my face and quite strong. 134 miles of mostly uninspiring landscape. I didn't get to the B&B until after 9.30pm. Just one of those days where all I did was get the miles in.

Peebles to Edinburgh. Scenery might have been nice but I wouldn't know because of the fog and rain. Freezing too. And then I had to try and navigate my way through Edinburgh and towards the Forth Road Bridge.

John O Groats. Not a plastic tat hole like Lands End but still a hole. And you have to pay to use the toilets.

Finally, the roadkill. You never really notice how much there is in a car. Badgers in England became lambs and deer in Scotland. Very depressing.

So, would I do it again? Yes of course. Might give it a week or so first though.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Day 11: Altnaharra to John o'Groats

Yay! Done it.

I've got sore gentleman's veg, I've got knees that will take a few days to work properly again, I've got blisters on ears and fingers from sun and windburn and I feel a bit drained but overall I'm in pretty good shape. And the aches and pains don't matter one bit. All I'll remember is a fantastic 11 days of cycling.

After a huge breakfast I set of a bit later than usual knowing that I had a shortish day of 75-80 miles ahead. For some stuuuupid reason I decided to wear shorts. That didn't last long as after 15 miles of chilly cycling and a freezing rain shower I put the longs on. The first 20 miles or so to Bettyhill were gorgeous despite the weather. Loch Naver and then the river Naver always on my right and reasonably flat. That soon changed when I hit the north coast road! It went up. It went down. It went up. It went down. Fairly challenging gradients too! All the way to Thurso. And the wind from the North was fearsome today, bringing sharp cold showers with it. Very tiring indeed. At times the road direction and the subtly changing wind direction meant I was slogging along at under 8mph. And that was on flat sections!
Wind? You're not kidding!!!

At one point I saw a cyclist ahead and put a bit of extra effort in to catch up. It took ages. And when I eventually got there I very slowly overtook a 60+ year old lady with a basket of shopping on the front of her bike! Either they are very fit/hardy up here or I was very tired or I wasn't really trying. I'd like to think it was a combination of the first two.

The views across some of the bays towards the Orkneys were stunning and I chose my places to stop and eat accordingly.

Beautiful north coast of Scotland

Soon realised that I had less than 10 miles to go and this spurred me on to put some extra effort in. At about 4.15 I rolled into the cold, windy, desolate hole that is John o'Groats and was greeted by Cath and Sarah and a small bottle of Laphroaig. Their support made this whole trip much easier and enjoyable than it could have been.

MADE IT! I'm not fat on this pic. Its the wind!!

It is supposed to be late spring/early summer and yet when I reached JOG the temperature was 5 deg and it was blowing a gale! For the last 9 days I've cycled (mostly) into a headwind and although it was tempting to cycle back and take advantage of the tailwind I decided to get in the car and drink the whisky instead.

Day 10: Grantown on Spey to Altnaharra

Penultimate day and another one over 100 miles. 108.2 tiring hilly miles. Nothing like the hills of yesterday but with my legs a bit drained it was all a bit of a struggle. The scenery, particularly from Lairg to Altnaharra, more than made up for this. In fact I'd say that the final stretch of 20 miles was the most beautiful of the trip so far.

Set off in really cold weather and climbed up and over from Grantown to Inverness. It felt like slow going and it was. Joined the busy A9 and crossed the Kessock Bridge to The Black Isle. I, mistakenly, thought this bit would be flat. No. Managed to find, and take, the road over the highest point at Mount Eagle - about 250m. Nice descent and rejoin the A9 for the Cromarty Bridge. Beautiful views out over the firth but couldn't take full advantage of them as I had to focus on the busy road. Terrible road surface and speeding traffic.

As for much of the day the next stretch included some of NCN route 1. It seemed that along here (on relatively quiet B roads I might add) that route appeared to have been designed to keep cycles off the road. Tracks running parallel to the road that then crossed the road to do the same before crossing the road to do the same before crossing ... well you get the idea. I can sort of understand why this might of been necessary but if I had been trying to follow it religiously it would have driven me insane.

Another longish climb over the Struie and some good views at the top before a speedy descent down towards the road to Bonar Bridge. The road then eventually went past The Falls of Shin where I met up with Cath and Sarah for a break (much needed as I was thirsty and hungry).
Feeling refreshed and ready for the last 25 miles

The road from here to the B&B at Altnaharra was just superb. Breathtaking views on single track road. I was really tired but the reason I kept stopping wasn't to recover but to take in the views. I did stop for a pint at The Crask Inn though. An oasis in the middle of nowhere. Feeling refreshed it was downhill to Altnaharra and a run I'll never forget. Clouds over Ben Klibreck and just stunning scenery.

Summit of Ben Klibreck covered in clouds.

Last day tomorrow. 80 miles, or thereabouts, to John O'Groats.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Day 9: Blairgowrie to Grantown on Spey

A tough day through the Cairngorms and although, without doubt, the most strenuous day of the trip it was definitely the best. The weather was kind (apart from the northerly wind again) and I felt in good shape. The climbs were challenging but the views were just spectacular. If I was choosing a LEJOG route again I'd definitely include this.

Straight out of Blairgowrie and you are in to a gradual climb. There are a few really steep bits up towards the cafe/hotel at Spittal of Glenshee but nothing in comparison to what would follow. After this cafe the road kicks up and keeps getting steeper towards the ski area at Glenshee. Slogging up in bottom gear for what seemed like ages. At about 2250 ft it was really cold at the top and still some snow around on the ground. I was looking forward to the descent but it was miserable! The northerly wind was strong and I had to pedal down in a low gear struggling to maintain a speed of 13mph. Demoralising but at least the views were still good.

On the way up to Glenshee.

At the top!

A food and drink break in Braemar and then a stretch of gradual descent alongside the river Dee before turning left near Balmoral and climbing steeply again up to over 1500 ft. A steep and fast descent and then a really steep climb again. Someone told me that all ascents in Scotland were gradual and long. Well these were steep and long. Generally ranging from 8% to over 20%. Tough going. Respite came when Cath and Sarah passed and I had a welcome break near the summit. Can of relentless and loads of peanuts!

Near the top of one of MANY big climbs.

Also had a cup of coffee. Probably a mistake as near the bottom of the next descent I felt really lightheaded and had to stop for a few minutes. Needed to recover before the next 20% climb which then levelled a bit before really kicking up to the ski centre at Lecht. A biker had stopped to wait for me near the top of the 20% bit and I stopped for a chat and some more food. He gave me some useful advice about the rest of the route before speeding off on his motorbike.

The climb up to Lecht.

A fantastic descent down to Tomintoul and then another short climb before another fast descent and the final big climb from Bridge of Brown. I was glad of the descent down to Grantown but overall I'd enjoyed the day tremendously. It was probably the most challenging 81 miles I've spent on the bike but also the most rewarding by far. And I'm feeling fitter every day! I might be fit to drop by Sunday though :-)

Looking back to the mountains.

Distance: 81 miles
Av. Speed: 10.6 mph (slow but not bad considering the terrain)

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Day 8: Peebles to Blairgowrie

A day of contrasts!

The first 30 or so miles this morning were lousy. I hated it. Drizzle, mist, strong and icy NE wind right in my face and I couldn't get warm or warmed up at all. Spent most of the time struggling along at under 10mph and swearing at the elements. And when I'd exhausted my potty mouth vocabulary I repeated them all! Then (inevitably) got lost in Edinburgh and took ages to find a route to the Forth road bridge. Got there eventually and after a food top up and a drink I started to feel a bit better.

The next 'stage' of the route took me through some drab, grey Scottish towns such as Inverkeithing and Cowdenbeath. Not much you can say about it really. Nothing inspiring anyway. And me left leg/knee was starting to hurt. Bugger.

Things then started to pick up a bit. After Yetts O'Muckhart (great name, nondescript place) the sun came out for a bit and I could enjoy a lovely climb where, at the top, there was a breathtaking view north to the snow-capped mountains. Stood there for a good 15 mins taking it in and scoffing more food. Great descent too. The car in front even pulled over to let me past :-)

Breathtaking view!!
Spent 5 minutes waiting to cross the A9. God knows why some people cycle on there. Its like a motorway! Then had a long 20% climb (thought I'd left those behind!) that actually wasn't that bad. Obviously getting used to the hills. And, strangely, my knee hurt less on the climbs. Weird.

PLENTY more of these tomorrow!
If the knee/leg pain wasn't enough I then got cramp with about 3 miles to go. Owwww! I'll eat more salted peanuts tomorrow. Made it to the fantastic B&B (Heathpark Lodge in Blairgowrie) feeling a bit better. Big day tomorrow through the Cairngorms. Looking forward to it.

River Tay with the Cairngorm foothills in the distance.
A few stats:
Distance: 101.8 miles
Av. speed: 12 mph (felt a lot slower)
Roadkill: A change from badgers to deer :-) WHY CAN'T PEOPLE TAKE MORE CARE?
Wind: Sick of it! Blimmin northerly for 6 days now.
Most frequent political posters: SNP (unsurprisingly)

Day 7: Appleby to Peebles

If I gave the impression that yesterday was tough - it was. However, I enjoyed it a lot. The weather and scenery kept my spirits up. My body was aching though and so I did have some concerns that I'd struggle today. I was wrong.

107 miles today and apart from 10 miles or so this morning I had a fantastic day. And I cycled into Scotland. Yay. I'm not there yet though.

Goodbye England. Hello Scotland
Set off in miserable weather. Low cloud and drizzle. Yuk. Decided to use the A66 for the first 8 miles which on the one hand was good - good road surface and I could trundle along at 20mph. On the other hand it was bad - very busy with lorries. Left A66 at Temple Sowerby and then had 10 miles or so of up and down including some steep, short sections. This bit, in horrible conditions, did lower my morale. On one bit the road looked like it was going downhill whereas in fact it most definitely wasn't. Strange optical illusion and it had me swearing and wondering what was going on. A little later I turned a corner to be met with another 1 in 6 sign and gave forth with every curse known to man. I think it may have upset the lady sweeping her drive!! Sorry dear.

A stop in Brampton for a drink anbd some cake and I was soon rolling into Scotland.

The borders are beautiful. One of the best regions I've cycled through so far. Plenty of hills but the gradients are gentle. Go on for a long time but you can get into a rythym and never get tired. And you get miles of descent afterwards. Had about 3 or 4 of these long ascents and dsecents on way to Peebles. The B709 was a great road and included a superb stretch which had just been re-tarmaced. The only thing disturbing the integrity of it was sheep poo.

I didn't expect to see this! A Tibetan tea room in the middle of the Borders hills!
Rolled into Peebles at about 6.00pm so made very good time today. Legs a bit sore but a massage from Cath and they feel good as new again :-) Looking forward to the ride to Blairgowrie.

On the bridge in Peebles.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Day 6: Chorley to Appleby

88 very hilly miles today. 9000 ft of climbing. One tired Rob at the end of the day.

Set off about 9.00am after a smaller breakfast and felt better for it. The terrain around the north of Blackburn was rolling hills and it wasn't too long before a sustained climb up to and through Mellor. Then a nice descent to Whalley (about 20 miles) where I sat out in the sun and scoffed a pork pie, some cake and a coffee in preparation for the longer, steeper hills to come.
View from Waddinton Fell. Ingleborough in the background.
Helmet hair!
You can just about make out the road snaking upwards ahead.
The climb up Waddington Fell was actually quite enjoyable. Stopped and chatted to a cyclist called Mike at the top who very kindly donated £20 towards St. Luke's Hospice. Great descent down towards Slaidburn and then a longer, more challenging climb up and over the moors again. Beautiful, single track road and nothing but sheep for company. Has anyone ever noticed how a sheep's cough sounds just like a human's? Another exhilerating descent to Bentham and then up and down to Kirkby Lonsdale where I needed a proper refuelling stop. Huge sandwich, pot of tea and a deserved rest.

Relatively flat (not that flat)for a few miles towards Sedbergh and then more challenging climbs all the way to Appleby for the last 20 miles. I was starting to suffer from 'Jelly Legs of Doom' so Jaffa Cakes to the rescue. Knee starting to hurt a bit too so Nurofen required too. THe last hill from Orton towards Appleby was tough going at the end of the day but at least I had a downhill bit for the last 5 miles.
The look of a man thinking "who put that **!??* hill there at the end of a day?"

More hills tomorrow I suspect.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Day 5: Ludlow to Chorley/Preston

Phew. Even longer day today. 134.8 miles. Should have been a bit less but I made some navigational errors around Ludlow, Market Drayton and N.W of Manchester. Oh well.

It wasn't the most enjoyable days cycling I've ever had. Far from it. It was just one of those days where you get your head down and get the miles in. For a start I set off a bit too soon after a massive breakfast and a bit later in the than I'd hoped to. It took AGES for me to get going and find a rhythm. I was cold and the wind was blowing right in my face. My legs felt a bit dead and I knew it was going to be a long day. Had a tea break and some malt loaf in Ironbridge after 32 miles or so and after getting a bit lost I climbed back out of the Gorge and got lost again. Soon found a decent enough route north but the road was busy. From here and for the rest of the day the scenery was a bit uninspiring. Flat, rural, boring.

Improved a bit through parts of Cheshire (nice villages, expensive looking houses, more Audi TT's, Merc SLK's and Land Rover Sports than you can shake a stick at!!) and then all bit urban sprawl mixed with a few surprises - like a lovely bridge over the ship canal - west of Manchester. My cycling also improved after necking a can of Relentless and shoving some Nurofen down my throat. Amazing what that can do for a man's morale! The wind also began to die down. It started raining a bit but so what. I'd have sold my soul to the Devil for the wind to have died down hours and hours earlier! An indication of what an improvement there was could be seen in my average speed for the day. 13.1 mph for the whole ride after it had been just over 11 mph at 75-80 miles.

Met up with my mate Pete and his girlfriend Jacqui at a pub quite near that bridge at about 100 miles in. A pint, plenty of peanuts and half a lemon cake that Pete had kindly baked me. Thats half a WHOLE cake not just a slice. The rest went in my rack bag.

It was starting to get late and I had another 30 miles to go. Didn't help myself by getting lost again. Eventually rolled in to the Travelodge at about 9.30pm. Bit tired but spirits good and helped loads more by Cath having a bath ready for me and a take-out pizza. Lovely. Hilly day tomorrow but fewer miles.

Day 4: Cheddar to Ludlow

Awoke to the sound of heavy rain and strong winds. Yuk. I'd seen the seather forecast and knew about the unfortunate change in wind direction but it looked horrible out there and on any other day I would have thought "Nah! I won't bother today." No choice now though. Had to get going and the first thing facing me was the climb of Cheddar Gorge.

Despite the rain and wind (trying to blow me off my bike in place as it channelled down the Gorge) I actually enjoyed the climb. Its steep in places but you can't deny the beauty of it. Just stunning. No stopping for pictures as it was too wet. As the gradient eased at the top I could grab a few gears back but not many! Struggled along at under 10mph for ages in to the teeth of the wind and already my hands and feet were numb with cold. My mood wasn't helped when I took a wrong turn in the thick low cloud and ended up going for a few miles in the wrong direction! Retraced my steps and eventually descended off the Mendips worrying that my numb hands couldn't use the brakes.

Met a couple of other LEJOGers and we moaned about the weather for a while before I left them and followed my route around Bristol. Decided that I HAD to detour in to Bristol, find a bike shop and buy some spare gloves. Eventually did and it was sooooooo nice to get my hands warm! Took a different route oput of Bristol under the Clifton suspension bridge and followed the road along the river, past the docks and towards the Severn Bridge. It seemed to to take ages. Near the amazing Clifton suspension bridge people had scawled massive graffitti on steep rock slopes on the hill sides. God knows how they'd managed to do it!

The wind on the Severn Bridge was really strong and the bridge itself moves about alarmingly; especially when big artics thunder across it. Rain had stopped now thanks goodness. Just the wind to annoy me. Through Chepstow, past the racecourse and then beautiful wooded route to Tintern Abbey where I stopped for a double helping of beans on toast, a HUGE piece of choccie cake and a pot of tea. Met another cyclist from Derbyshire who was on hols and exploring the area. Got chatting as I noticed his bike was an Edison - made in Clowne, just down the road from me.

Rather than stay on the main road I then climbed out of the Wye Valley on a long steep road to the north of the river (up past St Briavals I think) and entering the Forest of Dean. Big cycle event going on - Forest of Dean Spring Classic apparently) so I took advantage of a small group and sheltered from the wind behind them for a while. They didn't mind! Stopped In Ross-on-Wye for a fuel stop and stumbled across something that will help me along every day from now on - those energy drinks called 'Restless'. Worked a treat and I felt like a new man. About 80 miles in now and around 30 or so to go.

Then had probably the nicest part of the day. Tiny lanes that ran alongside the river Wye. The whole of this area is just beautiful. Jaw droppingly so in places. I forgot the headwind and dawdled along gawping at the spectacular scenery and thinking I could just have sat there for hours watching the river and its associated wildlife. Had to press on though. Beer stop at a village called Mordiford I think with about 20 miles left. Enjoyed that.

Rain showers returning now and getting a bit darker. Head down, through Leominster and up the A49 (nice road surface but a bit busy) towards Ludlow.

Interesting stats:
Distance: 112.4 miles
Av. Speed: 11.9 (very pedestrian but blame the wind)
Roadkill: More badgers and a Barn owl :-(
Scenery: probably the best of the trip so far.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Gt Torrington to Cheddar

More hills. 65 miles of them followed by 20 miles of pan flat cycling on the Somerset Levels. I was glad of those last 20 miles.

Route: Torrington, South Molton, North Molton, Withypool, More Exmoor climbs, More Exmoor Climbs, Up, Down, Winsford, Elsworthy, Bishops Lydeard, More up, More down, Bridgwater, and back roads over the Levels to Cheddar.

Started out with some sunny spells but within 10 miles I'd hit the first 20% climb of the day. Not a long one but I was not really warmed up and feeling a bit jaded after a less than perfect nights sleep. Plenty more (much longer STEEP climbs) were to follow but I'd like to make it clear that at no point did I get off and walk. Can't remember swearing out loud either. I can't comment on what was going through my head though. The next task was climbing up on to Exmoor. Tough going but I thought it might be flat up there. I was wrong. More energy sapping climbs and fast descents that were often compounded by stinging rain. I seemed to be dodging the heaviest showers though. I'd convinced myself that the cartographer responsible for the maps I was carrying was either a sadistic b*st*rd or just couldn't be bothered to add chevron symbols.

Climbing up on to Exmoor

Pub stuck in middle of Exmoor
Dropped down off Exmoor in Bishops Lydeard and realised I'd not had anything to eat yet. Legs were becoming jellified and I needed to raid the snacks in the bag. A whole Malt Loaf lasted about 3 minutes! And boy did I need it. Looking at the map and the road ahead I thought I must have taken a wrong turn. A HUGE hill lie ahead. Surely the road wouldn't go over the top of it. It did! Ouch.

After that it was downhill to Bridgwater and a flat 20 miles to Cheddar. Quick stop at a cider farm on the way to pick up a carry out for the evening.

Todays stats:
Distance: 86.4 miles
Av.speed: 12.3 mph
Max speed: 50.2 mph (a record for me and, to be honest, a bit frightening)
Total ascent: 7947 ft
Rain: showers most of the day
Calories burnt: over 6000 apparently. I'd better eat a lot this evening.
Dead badgers seen: 2 :-(

Internet speed is slow again so pics will have to wait I'm afraid. I will catch up.

Climbing up Cheddar Gorge first thing tomorrow. Gulp.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Carland Cross to Gt Torrington

Just a quicky as the internet connection is a bit poor. I'll update properly as soon as I get the chance.

Great day of cycling today. Hilly (more hilly than yesterday) but the wind at my back and some beautiful scenery and pretty villages. Really, really enjoyed it despite the showers. Rain was sporadic but heavy at times. In fact to the extent that it was a bit hokey cokey. i.e. 'you put your waterproof on, you take your waterproof off, on, off, on, off ...' Blimey. In the end I got fed up and left it on. Some good climbs today. Especially out of Boscastle.

Made very good progress and was just short of Gt Torrington before 3.00pm. However, the puncture fairy struck as I was going downhill at some speed. Tell tale wobble at the back end and it got a bit hairy. Had plenty of time so sat and repaired it rather than just change the tube. Then met up with a guy called Al Pewsey for a couple of pints in Torrington before climbing the hill to the B&B at Furze Farm. Thanks for the donation to the pot Al. Much appreciated. Furze Farm is v. nice. Classy farm house.

I've realised that I got through the whole of Cornwall without having a single Cornish Pasty. Damn.

Some stats:
72.3 miles
Av. speed 13.2 mph
Total ascent: 7092 ft.
Max speed: 42.4 mph (wheeeeeeh!)
Punctures: 1
Beers: 2 so far but I'm off out for tea in a minute!
Rain: plenty but not as bad as yesterday
Fun: lots.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Day 1: Lands End to Carland Cross

Left Lands End at about 2.00pm in rain, fog and single figure temperatures fearing that the poor weather would stay with me all afternoon. And it did.

Rainy, rainy, rainy

After having the obligatory photos taken at the post I set off and for the first 4 miles wondered what all the fuss was about regarding Cornwall's hills. The rest of todays 56.6 miles was rarely flat. Up, down, up down, up, down. You get the idea. Nothing too bad though. A few steep pitches but generally short and I can't say I struggled on any of them.

The rain was a constant annoyance but never particularly heavy. Most annoying aspect of it was that it stopped when I got to the B&B.

Some beautiful quiet country lanes and close encounters with a rabbit (running alongside and considering hari kari by virtue of front wheel spokes), a tractor, a fox (ran right across the road in front of me and then took part in a staring contest with me before legging it when I reached for the camera) and a badger (dead).

Some navigational errors added about 5 miles to the planned total. Must try harder tomorrow.

Uppy downy view of today.

Very nice B&B at Carland Cross. Recommended. Trip to a local pub (Clock and Key) for some industrial size plates of scampi and a couple of pints of Skinners Cornish Ale. Food 8/10. Beer 6/10

Miles: 56.6
Hills: Plenty
Rain: Lots

I'll add some pics ASAP.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The hour is almost upon us ...

Well work is done (only just and I'm sure I've forgotten something important) and its time for some last minute packing and preparation which I'll get on with soon. After a last minute drink and a listen through a fave Cult album :-)

Setting off at about 5.30am so should get to Lands End about lunchtime and feel ready for a gentle introduction to my adventure - just 50 miles to Carland Cross (between Truro and Newquay). Plenty hills though.

Here we go.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Here's what I'm taking for the trip:

Specialized Tricross Sport with Brooks B17 saddle, mudguards and Tubus Logo rack

Carradice Super-C rackbag (just realised that that reads like 'crackbag'). Don't get any ideas.

Garmin Edge 205 (thanks to Ian Loasby for the loan).

Tools etc:
Spare inner tubes (x2), puncture repair kit, tyre levers, pump and CO2 inflator, multitool, penknife, cable ties, old piece of tyre (bead removed) to act as a 'boot' in case of a split in a tyre, spare brake and gear cable, small bottle of bike lube, water bottles x 2, mini cable lock, LED lights.

Cycling clothing:
shorts x 2, jersey x 2, light fleece, cycling socks x 2, arm and leg warmers, waterproof jacket, cycling shoes, mitts, cap and helmet, sunglasses

Evening clothes:
trainers, 1 pair trousers, 1 shirt and a couple of pairs of underwear (I'll only be wearing stuff for a short time each evening anyway so there won't be time for it to get smelly!!)

Other stuff:
Small first aid kit (including ibuprofen and sudocrem!!), a few toiletries, maps and route sheets in plastic wallets (can throw pages away when no longer need them), wallet, compact digital camera, mobile phone, iPod, latex gloves (keep hands clean when repairing punctures etc), laptop.

I won't be carrying all this on the bike as I'll be meeting up at the B&B each evening so stuff like evening clothes, spare set of cycling clothes, toiletries, the laptop and all chargers won't contribute to the weight. Everything else will fit in the rack bag with plenty of room to spare. I'll probably fill that with food/snacks!

Weather forecast

After the gorgeous weather of this week the long range forecast for next week looks naff! Much cooler, night frosts, rain and winds from the North. Typical! Grrrrrrrrr.

Friday, 23 April 2010


I had a physio 'pre-hab' session today.

I've been a bit worried about twinges in my left knee as the training miles have built up and concerned that it would become significant on the 'big ride'. Comprehensive assessment and good advice on a variety of exercises that should help (as well as advice on stretching exercises too). Money well spent I'd say although I still reckon Ibuprofen will be my friend on the trip!

Thanks Ken.


Is going well. Thanks to all those who have put their hands in their pockets. Over £1000 now and rising which is great news. All for St. Luke's Hospice in Sheffield.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Route and navigation

Not sure if I've put this up yet but planned route is as below. Will be travelling down very early on 29th April and setting off from Lands End in the afternoon:

29th April: Lands End - Carland Cross (between Truro and Newquay)
30th April: Carland Cross - Gt. Torrington
1st May: Gt. Torrington - Cheddar
2nd May: Cheddar - Wooferton (just south of Ludlow)
3rd May: Wooferton - Chorley
4th May: Chorley - Apppleby in Westmoreland
5th May: Apppleby in Westmoreland - Peebles
6th May: Peebles - Blairgowrie
7th May: Blairgowrie - Grantown on Spey
8th May: Grantown on Spey - Altnaharra
9th May: Altnaharra - John O'Groats

Many thanks to Ian Loasby for lending me his Garmin Edge 205 for the trip. I'll log my actual route/progress and upload it every day (internet access permitting).

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

All systems go

Back on the bike and feeling good!

Friday, 16 April 2010

A dental update ...

Antibiotics (Metronidazole) seem to be working as the pain is subsiding and I'm regaining some sanity as a result. HOWEVER, they've got some nasty side effects. I've got a constant pounding headache, aching muscles and joints, annoying itching, no appetite, metallic taste in the mouth and, strangely, urine so dark its as if I'm very dehydrated (which I'm not). The lymph nodes on that side of my face and neck are enlarged and painful but thats a result of the infection so they'll ease off soon enough I hope. So, although they're unpleasant and it means I've got no hope of getting on the bike at the moment I'm sticking with them because I can't countenance the idea of THAT pain again. There is what looks like the abscess coming to the surface on the inside of my jaw near the floor of my mouth. Too much information? Anyway, have made another dentist appt for Monday to have it checked out.

Hoping to feel well enough to get a ride sometime next week. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


I've developed an abscess on a tooth. Bloody Hell its painful! Constant throbbing that never goes away. Painkillers not helping and antibiotics haven't really kicked in yet but I hope they do soon. Struggling to sleep or eat. My dentist can't extract the offending tooth because of the size and shape of the roots so it needs removing at the dental hospital. And in any case they can't do it until the abscess has been treated. BAD timing. With luck I'll have it out and be recovered before the 29th April but I'm waiting on an appointment. Otherwise I'm a bit stumped. I'm not up to cycling this week and am hoping that once the abscess has gone then the pain will have too so I can get back on the bike. Bugger!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The bike

It'll be this one:

2010 Specialized Tricross Sport complete with Tubus Logo rear rack, SKS mudguards, Shimano M520 pedals and a Brook B17 saddle - the only thing I'd perch my arse on.

I've ridden it for a few days and its really very comfortable. This is the first Aluminium frame/carbon fork touring style bike I've ridden and I expected it to be a bit harsh compared to (the traditionally compliant) steel framed bikes I'm used to but its most definitely not. It has quite a short reach/upright position so there is less pain in my neck and shoulders for those long days in the saddle. Not particularly fast but I think its probably safe to blame the engine there! In any event, comfort is more important than speed for my End to End ride.

As for the rest of my kit ... well more on that soon.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Clumber lake

Gentle spin around Clumber trails to loosen the legs. Chilly but fun.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Weather: bad. Mileage: good

Despite the foul weather I've got 3 long rides in this week (all over 70 miles and including hilly terrain) and over 250 miles so far this week. Since Monday I've ridden in sun, rain, hail, snow and, worst of all, wind. Is there anything more demoralising on a bike than a vicious headwind for mile on mile? Oh yes, when your face is being pelted with hail stones at the same time. Oh, and freezing cold wet hands and feet at the same time!!!!! I suppose I should be thankful that I've been punct*re free this week. Anyway, I can't guarantee the weather for my end-to-end ride so I've got to be prepared to cycle in whatever the elements throw at me and just get out there and do it.

I hope that whoever required the air ambulance and mountain rescue at Burbage on Tues is OK. It all looked a bit worrying when I cycled past.

Other top tips from my experience thus far this week:
  1. Don't cycle over wet cattle grids with skinny slick tyres and not expect to have a bit of a brown trouser moment.
  2. Shouting every known unrepeatable swear word at the wind won't make it blow any less in your face.
  3. Carry a spare pair of gloves if you know its going to be (very) wet.
  4. Alcohol has a rapid effect when your knackered from lots of cycling.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Near Abney gliding club

A welcome break from the rain as well!

Monday, 29 March 2010

One month to go ...

And 3 more weeks with (I hope) mileages in the 200+ region before I take it easy in the week before I set off.

The return of poor weather is a bit of a setback but it'll just have to be a case of 'get out there and get on with it!' Managed to squeeze in 15 miles (on the fixed gear bike) today in the pouring rain and enjoyed every minute of it. Its only water! I've got 3 long rides planned this week each of over 70 miles and then its Easter weekend with a couple more days off at the beginning of next week. Every opportunity to get out and get the miles in. Yay!

Other preparation is ongoing. Have started booking B&B's and purchased some new cycling shorts, jerseys and mitts. Question I'm now asking myself is "Which bike?" My Vernon Barker Audax bike or Specialised Tricross Sport? For a brief insane moment today I considered doing it on the fixed gear bike and then I came to my senses!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Off-road exploring

I usually like to stick to the roads. Not literally of course, although recent close encounters with the tarmac may suggest otherwise! As a result my mountain bike, lovely as it is, spends much of its time sulking in the garage. Giving me the evils as I wheel a more skinny wheeled, dropped handlebarred beast past it. Snubbed like a bacon sandwich in an Israeli cafe! However, as everyone knows, bacon sarnies are irresistable and petty idealogies such as Judaism or Vegetarianism are unlikely to thwart the primal urge to get stuck in to one every now and then. Such is the case with trails, bridleways, canal paths and my oft ignored Kona.

This afternoon was one of those times. My cold now just about overpowered I sought to take advantage of the much improved weather and get a few miles in. 'Where to?' I thought? 'Don't fancy Friday afternoon traffic and haven't got lots of time to spare.' Quick look over the map and I thought 'Why have I never ridden on those bridleways or that trail?' So, decision made. Mostly off road towards Cresswell and then Robin Hood Way through Welbeck and parts of Clumber Park that I've never got round to exploring. Almost all new to me and 25 miles of fun.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Ride when you can ...

Been really busy with work so far this week and its been difficult trying to get the miles in. However, I took some time off today, ignored the filthy weather and ventured out for an easy going 60 miles. Found a few hills for good measure and enjoyed it despite:
1. the rain wind and cold
2. forgetting to take snacks or money for food (need to eat little and often)
3. tw*ts who pass too close when they overtake. Why do they tend to be driving BMW's?


Is, sadly, such a rarity

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Training going well

155 miles this week including 80 miles in one day (yesterday) which went well. A bit tired afterwards but happy that I could have got on the bike and done another decent ride today. Kids football took over my Sunday as usual though so having a rest day.

The 80 miler was a fairly flat route with no serious hills to speak of but the weather on the way out was pretty terrible. Freezing rain and a slight headwind. My fingers and toes were numb and I've made a mental note to take a spare pair of gloves with me on the big ride. Once gloves are wet you just can't keep your hands warm! Had a couple of fairly well filled panniers too so happy that I can do bigger mileages with considerably more weight than I'll be carrying on the end-to-end.

Fell foul of the p******re fairy on the way back yesterday. First ones for ages!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Not quite so many miles last week

Probably half of what I should have done out on the road but yesterday's 30 mile ride was very hilly and I did fit in 3 really tough spinning sessions during the week. They do seem to be helping my cardiovascular fitness no end and this was evident on some of the climbs yesterday where I was able to maintain a higher gear than usual. Losing a few pounds helps with the hills as well and although I have lost some weight I'm still a lard-arse at nearly 13.5 stones. I really need to try and shed some more of the excess in the next couple of months.

Managed to break a rear spoke twice this week! Thats 3 in a couple of months with that wheel now! Most annoying and it was clearly badly built, probably by some ham-fisted, spotty bike shop yoof who'd been given it to practice on. Time to rebuild it properly myself with new spokes. I enjoy wheel building. Very satisfying and, so far, all those that I've built have stayed true and strong.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Am I that unfit?

The last couple of spinning classes I've been to have been very hard work and I've got to the cool down bit in a pool of sweat and with a (just about) maxed out heart rate. I've then noticed that some who have finished look like they've been for nothing more than a gentle stroll round the shops!! I suppose that you get out of it what you want to put in though. I'm aiming to keep up the 3 sessions per week until mid April.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Last weeks training

Went quite well I think. 150 miles out on the road plus 2 spinning classes plus a couple of turbo-trainer sessions. Similar planned again this week.

I'm definitely starting to feel fitter and more prepared. The spinning classes help but do leave you in a pool of sweat after 45 minutes if you work hard. Off again tonight :-)

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Route planning

So many options! I spent ages browsing LEJOG journals with route details - in particular, a really good one from Al Pewsey. I pored over road atlases. I downloaded the CTC end-to end pack. I got progressively confused and indecisive. The criteria for the route can be boiled down to:
  1. Avoid main roads wherever possible.
  2. Must be achievable in 9-10 days.
  3. Er, thats it.
So, for the time being, I've plumped for the CTC B&B route which, albeit hilly (but then every option will be!!!) looks splendid and meets my extensive list of requirements. I'll plot the route on G-Maps or some such software when I get time and add it to the blog but suffice to say it is just over 1000 miles and sticks to minor roads and lanes for much of the time.

Have add a chat with Ade (riding partner for the trip) and agreed that it would be a good idea to not over-do the mileage on the first couple of days. Cornwall and Devon are hilly and it seems silly to risk over-use injuries early on in the trip. I've read of others who have fallen foul in this respect. So, the plan is to get a bit of a head start with 40-50 miles when we arrive down there on 'day zero' (29th April) and keep mileage down to 80 miles per day on day 1 and 2. In addition, we also have a 'spare' 10th day in case of problems etc. en route although the advance booking of B&B's might influence whether we do use it. It's really there in case of emergency anyway.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Sudocrem is my friend ...

Starting to rack a few miles up with the training now but an unfortunate side-effect is some saddle soreness between my thigh and nadgers! Have never really suffered with it before and have had to resort to sudocrem. Off to the gym for a spinning class this evening and so will be applying it liberally beforehand! I'm definitely taking some with me on the end to end ride.

I've also resolved to buy some new cycling shorts! The ones I've used recently are embarrasingly old and I'm placing the blame for all this unpleasantness squarely on them.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Sick of snow

Was planning to ride for a couple of hours this afternoon but the weather really deteriorated whilst I was walking the dog at lunchtime.  Hail and then heavy snow!  Decided not to risk slipping and falling so sat in front of the fire and did some work.  Wuss.  I will be making good use of the time during this crappy weather though.  Route planning starts this week!

Did make myself do another punishing 50 minutes on the turbo trainer this evening though.  Really hard work and ended up sweating like the proverbial pig.  All necessary though given my relatively poor fitness at the moment.  Time for a drink …

Monday, 8 February 2010

Back into training

No excuses now. Even the continuing horrible weather can be a good reason to not get some miles in as I've got the turbo trainer set up in the garage! An hour on it today and a few rides planned for later this week.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Face is healed.

And its been a good excuse not to shave for over 2 weeks!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Post Mortem

Retrieved the bike today. Its totalled! Forks are obviously kaput but rear triangle and dropouts are bent beyond repair. Not sure how that happened.

Looks like some internal rusting in the fork steerer had led to a couple of points of weakness that had become stress risers. Bit surprised at the rust as the bike has always had mudguards fitted. Still not completely immune to the elements I suppose. In hindsight I'd noticed some creaking from the front end for a while, especially when honking out of the saddle, but attributed it to a recent wheel rebuild. A couple of years ago I ignored a similar sound and my handlebars snapped - leading to another face-plant - so the moral of the story is: If the bike makes an odd noise and, in particular, its coming from the front end; INVESTIGATE. Do it properly. What looks like an insignificant gouge can actually be pretty significant if it is in a position of stress. I go through this pain so you don't have to ...

Anyway, on the upside, my face is healing nicely and I can look forward to ordering a spangly new touring bike via the cycle to work scheme. Any recommendations?


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Loads better

Seven days on and my face is, well, like a new face. Still sore but healing amazingly quickly. Simon was spot on - I thought it'd take much longer than this. The inside of my lip and mouth is almost healed and the non-dissolvable stitches come out tomorrow. Only downside is the dental pain. Possibly broken the roots of the upper incisors but will know more when I go back to the dentist on Thursday.

I was planning to cycle to Birmingham on Friday for a weekend conference but I'm going to have to go by train instead. Not sure my face could stand the wind/cold and in any event my touring bike is buggered. Its the only bike I have that I can fit panniers to. Not too disappointed though as I'll be able to relax with iPod, beer and crossword on the train.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

That didn’t go well!

Oh dear. Most of yesterday was spent in Bassetlaw and Rotherham A&E depts dealing with the consequences of a catastrophic failure of my front forks.

I don’t recall a great deal about it but was cycling uphill from Harthilll towards the T-junction at Killamarsh. Then it was a case of introductions: Tarmac meet face, face meet tarmac! Haven’t had a chance to inspect the bike yet but I think the fork steerer snapped where it joins the fork crown.

Anyway, end result was concussion, lots of stitches (inside and out), a top lip sewn back together (nearly had a hare lip there), damaged front teeth and the usual cuts, grazes, aches and pains. Could have been worse though. If it had happened a minute later I would have been going downhill at about 30mph. I don’t want to think about that.

I’m not going to get into the helmet debate but I did happen to be wearing one (sometimes I do sometimes I don’t). It’s now broken. Did it help? Who knows? Possibly is the most likely answer.

So, another enforced break from cycling. Hopefully short. Hopefully I’ll have confidence when I get back in the saddle.

Thanks to the people who came out of the factory to move me to the side of the road and sort out some first aid. They almost certainly won’t read this but I’ll take ‘em a pressie when I go and pick up my bike.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A (shortish) ride at last

Managed to fit in 27 miles over the rolling hills around the borders of South Yorks/Derbyshire and North Notts yesterday afternoon. Not that far but very enjoyable and enough to make me sweat plenty!

Was impressed by the drivers of the Wilkinsons lorries who waited patiently behind me while there was lots of oncoming traffic before passing really wide. Wish everyone was that considerate.

Will get another 41 miles in today with my commute. Looks foggy out there. Best be careful.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Goodbye snow. Hello roadbikes

At last!  All that remains are the rotting corpses of snowmen in people’s gardens and the odd patch of compressed snow and ice looking to catch us cyclists unawares.

The pressure of a work deadline has meant lots of time in front of a PC (not much fun with my dodgy eye I can tell you) and not enough time on the bike over the last few days.  I did brave a very slippy ride in to Sheffield on the touring bike towards the end of last week but otherwise the mileage was much lower than it should have been.  However, the much improved weather and less work pressure this week marks a change in all that.  And I can confidently take one of the skinnier tyred beasts out of the garage.  By the way Caroline – I’ve never even considered naming them :-)

Sunday, 10 January 2010

More snow cycling

15 miles or so on the MTB yesterday, mostly on a snow covered NCN route 1 east of Lincoln.  I really love that stretch of old converted railway line and use it whenever I’m out that way.  It was beautifully quiet yesterday and plenty of wildlife to enjoy despite the freezing conditions.  Maybe just more visible when everything is white?  It was all very grin inducing and despite having VERY cold feet (forgot to wear overshoes) and a  numb face I was surprised how warm I got.

The heating on the train back to Worksop was seemingly set on ‘blast furnace’ and so after finishing the DT crossword I dozed off nearly missing my stop.  This instinct of waking just before your intended stop did not befall the amazingly drunk guy who was so comatose that not even a solid punch on the shoulder could rouse him.  He probably woke up bemused and hungover in Donny.

Very tricky conditions on the local snow-packed roads and it was fun trying to control the involuntary slides.  Home safe though.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Cabin fever


This snow is all well and good if you are a training for a cross-country ski-ing event but not when you are trying to get some LEJOG training miles in.  Cycling withdrawal is biting but the risk of coming off on ice is too great for me to get any of the road bikes out.  I gave in yesterday and decided to venture out on the MTB.  Not far at all; just to do a bit of shopping and have a bit of fun on some local tracks.  I’ve never really ridden in snow since I was a kid (the risk perception and fear genes only kick in in later life don’t they) but after a tentative start and a few hairy moments I was having a blast.  If I wasn’t so busy today I’d be making my way to a quiet Clumber Park and wearing a fixed grin on my icy mug.