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.

1 comment:

  1. Your blog was brilliant, with lovely scenery at times. A bit depressing about the road kill, I agree.

    And I must thank you for reading my blog sometimes. It's nice.