Day Six: Chester to Morecambe

May 21, 2010

or, The One Where Tony Buys Daphne Some Rings…

Made the decision last night to wash all my cycling clothes and leave them to dry as I slept…

…of course they were still wet when I woke up with the intention of an early start – hmm, must remember not to do that again! Anyway, problem to solve…clothes to dry. I packed everything into a bag and set out looking for launderette nearby with a tumble drier.

Nipping into the nearby newsagents to ask if they knew of one, the two ladies in there told me ‘no’…before one of them said ‘what is it you need to dry?’. I explained it was just some cycling bits and was then surprised to hear her reply of, ‘bring it back to mine, I’m just round the corner. I’ll do it for you’!

So round to Dorothy’s house I went, with Max (her Yorkie), where she put my wet cycling clothes in the drier – before suggesting I get out for breakfast and come back when it would be dry. So off I went to Wetherspoons…

…a large breakfast later and I was on the way back. Walking past a cycle shop I nipped in to see if I could get some grease off them in a bit as the creaking was on it’s way back as I pedalled. No worries, brilliant.

Collecting my now dry clothes from Dorothy and thanking her for her kind offer (how kind of her!) I set off to the hostel to pack up and get my bike to the shop for that dab of grease…

…well, I told Ellis at The Edge Cycleworks the problem and after a quick look he informed me I was missing a crank bolt and the noise was in fact the crank wobbling. Bugger.

Unfortunately he didn’t have a part in place that would make do (and it would be a make do, not permanent) and whilst a bodge could be done, he couldn’t guarantee it would last long at all – certainly not another six hundred miles.

I was planning on upgrading the bike anyway at some point in the future, just not quite so soon…but with the threat of a crank snapping off at some point soon I thought it was as good a time as any.

One hour later and Daphne was fully upgraded with a new crankset, rear cassette and chain…having seen the old crank it was definitely something that needed doing, a gouge in the side signalled just where that noise was coming from every pedal turn.

Thank you to Ellis for fitting me in at short, short notice – and for giving the bike a quick tune up in the process. Good luck with your singlespeed LEJOG next year…you’re mental!

So, on the road at 12.00ish (so much for the early starts!) and my wallet was lighter, but the bike was certainly running smoothly – it was strange hearing nothing as I was pedalling! Yes, it was another odd start to the day but at least it makes for a more entertaining blog, hey…?!

A solid day of cycling, into a slight northerly headwind for much of the day. Nothing particularly exciting as I passed through villages on quieter roads than the last couple of days which made for a far more pleasant journey.

With twenty five miles to go I pulled into a garage for a feed stop. As I started to tuck into my strawberry yoghurt drink (I swear I picked up a milkshake!) a familiar face strolled up. Richard, a friend from football had been waiting with his daughter Sophie to appear on the A6!

It was good to have a bit if a chat, and thanks once again to him and her for taking the time out of their day to see me…much appreciated!

A bit further up the road there was a local cycling club hosting a ten mile time trial event. Of course, had I not been fully loaded and already completed seventy miles for the day I’d have blitzed the field…instead I simply admired their pace as the pairs zipped past at regular intervals. Chapeau!

About ten miles to up and I passed someone walking his laden bike with a flat rear tire. Stopping to ask if I could help he explained he was stopping at a campsite just up the road, but thanks for asking. After a bit of a chat (his tip; NEVER take camping kit, it’s a pain in the f*cking arse up hills!) he said he was heading up to John O’Groats and was due on Wednesday. I wished him well and suggested we maybe meet to have a laugh about it all over a beer then.

I sailed through Lancaster on a lovely sloping road. It looks really pretty and I couldn’t help but think it would have been a nice stop – shame there was no cheap accommodation availiable.

I arrived into Morecambe at 21.15 after completing the last four miles or so on a lovely cycle path. Have to say, Morecambe’s not nice…and if definitely needs investment. Imagine a cheap version of Blackpool and you’d not be far off!

Tea was courtesy of Tesco again – hot cross buns, a blueberry muffin and strawberry milk (for a change!).

I treated myself to a bottle of…Deep Heat (!) and drifted off to sleep in the glow of that, dreaming of tomorrow and the big climb up Shap…

Stats for the day

Distance for the day: 95 miles
Time in saddle for the day: 6hrs 51mins
Average speed for the day: 13.8mph
Maximum speed for the day: 28.3mph

Total distance to date: 517 miles
Total time in saddle to date: 38hrs 17mins
Average speed for trip to date: 13.5mph

Route for the day…

Day Six: Route

Route profile for the day…

Day Six: Route Profile

Day Five: Hereford to Chester

May 20, 2010

or, The One Where Tony Gets Lubed and Sticks It In The Little Ring For The Day*

Up reasonably early and got over to Coombes Cycles by 09.15 to try and sort out the incessant squeaking. The guy working there, Mark, was also a user of LOOK pedals and had a chuckle as he sorted out my problem with a bit of grease. He also kindly tightened up my bottom bracket (ooo-er!) and pedals which had worked themselves a little loose. What a guy!

Bit of a dull day scenery wise, but then what more can you expect when the route consists of a sixty five miles on the A49, a bit of the A5, back onto the A49 and then a few other smaller A-roads into Chester itself?

So yeah, boring in terms of views but seduce a mallard it was a quick one – helped no end by the fact there were no silly climbs and the road undulated perfectly for the majority of the trip. Here comes the science bit, concentrate…

undulating (un-joo-lay-ting); adj.
1.Moving up and down like waves; wavy
2.Forming a series of regular curves

Now…whilst I was doing my preparation for the marathon (ha…listen to me, the ‘athlete’!), hearing a route described as this was the last thing I wanted. Slight inclines are hard when you’re running, but ideal on a bike. Bear with me…

Steep hills are bad, obviously; and quick descents, although fun, are over far too quickly. A flat surface may sound ideal, but requires constant effort so is more tiring than it appears…which leaves undulating. This gives you a chance to work on the slight inclines and relax on the downward sloping bits. And if you could have taken the traffic off the roads today, it would gave been cycling nirvana…!

With my leg and knee giving me some gyp the day before I spent the day with my knee brace on and concentrated on ensuring I was ‘spinning’ the gears as opposed to ‘mashing’ them – spinning means keeping the gears in the lower chainring and therefore getting more revolutions in at a higher speed. If you ‘mash’ the gears you usually have the gears on the big chainring and really push through…putting much more pressure on your knees and legs.

So I stayed in the little chainring all day and my knee felt a lot better for it, which is a good thing!

With favourable conditions and a decent route for the day I arrived into Chester at 18.30…woo, early for once!

I booked myself into the hostel for the night (just me and one other this time, very quiet!) and nipped out to grab some tea. Once again there was a kitchen available to use so I decided to be a bit more adventurous this time and opted for chicken pizza (Poultry? On a pizza?! Crazy!), some jam doughnuts and banana milk for a change…it’s like being a child again this trip!

Quick update to finish off, as I’ve been asked a few questions to date…

‘How’s the arse?’ – I can happily report no chafing issues to date (Assos Chamois Cream. Mmm…tingly!), although my sit bones are starting to complain if the road surface deteriorates…who’d have thought that would happen, hey?!

‘Got a silly tan yet?’ – yep, it’s started. Nice lines where the cycling top sleeves end and nice white hands where the gloves are. Amusingly, it’s more noticeable on the right arm, but then I guess that’s where the sun is as I’m cycling. Not burnt though…hurrah!

‘Did you pay a toll at the Severn Bridge?’ – nope, bikes are free. Wouldn’t recommend it though. Especially if you don’t like heights…!

‘How are you securing your bike?’ – I actually think you’d be okay without one, as I’m rarely more than ten yards away, but I did pack a coil lock. Will update the kit list later.

‘Have you met any other cyclists?’ – going my way, until Bristol, no. Even then they were only out on a short run or commuting. Today though I saw my first group of LEJOG-ers, a small peleton of four first of all passed me as I was on my phone on the side of the climb out of Hereford. We obviously took different routes as, sixty five miles later as I was on the side of the road on my phone, they passed me again…who knows what they think of me! Anyway, I chatted to their support vehicle and found out they’re due in John O’Groats late next week (Their blog is at if you fancy seeing how a group does it). Good luck guys!

‘How are you feeling?’ – pretty positive actually. It’s a bit odd only having one thing to focus on for the day and as bizarre as it sounds, knowing you’ve ‘only’ got to cover ‘x’ miles before the sun sets is strangely relaxing. I’ve had a lot of time to think!

Thanks for reading so far. I know Ive said it before, but it really is nice to know that I’m not simply rambling for no reason (does a blog with no readers make a sound?!).

Off to Morecambe tomorrow. Seaside fish and chips and a photo with that statue methinks…!

* Snigger. Oh, come on…you must have at least smirked?!

Stats for the day

Distance for the day: 94 miles (again!)
Time in saddle for the day: 6hrs 28mins
Average speed for the day: 14.5mph
Maximum speed for the day: 36.4mph

Total distance to date: 422 miles
Total time in saddle to date: 31hrs 26mins
Average speed for trip to date: 13.4mph

Route for the day…

Day Five: Route

Route profile for the day…

Day Five: Route Profile

Day Four: Bridgwater to Hereford

May 19, 2010

or, The One Where It All Started Creaking

A less stressful start to the day, although I didn’t get out of the B&B until gone ten o’clock – I’ve settled into the habit of jotting down notes about the day for the blog in the evening and then writing it up properly in the morning. In theory this should stop you having to read a blog strewn with errors caused by drowsiness!

Anyway, once on the road I made good progress with a well-surfaced undulating thirty miles or so to start the day. I stopped half way into this stretch to pick up some supplies, and having noticed a slight niggle in my inner right thigh, got some stretches in.

As the road started climbing for the first time I passed a pub with a board outside offering a mid-week meal deal for a fiver…

…forty minutes and a cheeseburger, apple pie and custard and a Pepsi later and I was back on the road. Sixty miles to go and it was 14.00. In my head I gave myself a ‘deadline’ of eight o’clock to get to the B&B and gave them a call to let them know my planned arrival time (well, it’s only good manners isn’t it?!).

I noticed as I set on my way that my left pedal was creaking slightly – nothing to worry about really, anyone that uses LOOK pedals will know they have a tendency to do this. I made a note to get it sorted when I passed a bike shop…bit of grease will do it.

The miles were passing steadily and although the surfaces were no where near as good as I’d experienced to date, I made my way through Bristol; the cycleway following along the gorgeous Avon Gorge which looked incredible in the late-May sunshine.

Bristol came and went and I carried along the approach to the Severn Bridge. After what seemed like miles and miles I made it to the bridge and set about crossing it – cycles allowed down the side of the bridge on what’s also used as a maintenance roadway. Got to be honest…I didn’t like it. I’m not a huge fan of heights and, as I stopped to take a photo, the way in which it bounces as trucks rumble past is really unnerving!

Back on terra firma and a slight misreading of the map took me about a quarter of a mile off course, up a road and towards a Tesco Express. Whilst this gave me a chance to stock up, I also had the opportunity to treat myself to a spell of time in what’s easily the ‘scummiest’ area I’ve seen so far!

Leaving behind the kids in their Corsas and their groupies in the Tesco car park was a tough thing to do, but I had to crack on…sorry guys.

Remember that creaking pedal? Well it had got worse. It’s not a nice ‘eek eek’ mousy squeak either. Oh no, it’s a full on plastic-y ‘crrk crrk’ and I reckon I can be heard for a good half mile or so as I, literally, grind myself onwards – must find a bike shop…

The latter part of the day is where the hills start. There’s a few peaks which, although no where near as bad as that one yesterday, are still testing and that niggle in my leg was getting more noticeable and seemingly spreading around the leg.

Fifteen miles to go and I pulled out the knee brace that I’d packed last minute and put that on the troublesome leg – I’m not a huge fan of supports, and firmly believe they should be a last resort…but needs must. It did the trick and the pain eased enough to carry on at a reasonable pace.

The final four miles or so was a lovely downhill stretch and was needed after what had turned into a bit of a slog. I eventually found the B&B at nine o’clock, having first of all gone completely the wrong way (bloody GPS had been set incorrectly!).

A wander to nearby Sainsbury’s to pick up some tea (honey and mustard chicken pasta, orange juice and a For Goodness Shakes milkshake) and some frozen veg to use as an ice pack on my right leg (classy!).

A quick google has thrown up a bike shop nearby that looks good, a proper local one – so a trip there early doors tomorrow to sort out the creaking, then on my way to Chester. A hundred
miles, reckon that’s a good ten hours…

Finally, a big thank you to everyone that’s been in touch (be it by text, phone or online) – it’s nice to know that there’s someone out there reading my ramblings. Thanks also to everybody that’s sponsored me so far, it really is appreciated and is another factor that’s keeping me motivated.

Stats for the day

Distance for the day: 94 miles
Time in saddle for the day: 7hrs 9mins
Average speed for the day: 13.0mph
Maximum speed for the day: 46.0mph (eek!)

Total distance to date: 328 miles
Total time in saddle to date: 24hrs 58mins
Average speed for trip to date: 13.1mph

Route for the day…

Day Four: Route

Route profile for the day…

Day Four: Route Profile

Day Three: Westward Ho! to Bridgwater

May 18, 2010

or, The One Where Tony Hits the Heights (and the Shops)

Reasonable night’s sleep all things considered, but I was up at six o’clock with thoughts running through my head about how best to tackle the problem in hand – re-checking of websites and route cards didn’t do much to settle me!

After getting up and having a cup of tea the hostel owner advised me of a bike shop in Bideford (pronounced Biddy-ford, random English coastal town fans) that should be able to sort me out.

Rather than cycle over there then back, I thought I’d give them a call and see if she was right. A quick google and I was on the phone to Freebird. Speaking to the owner he let me know he couldn’t sort me out with a rack and panniers (‘we used to stock that sort’…) but they had ‘hundreds of backpacks including some specific cycling ones’. I asked what sort, but he suggested going to look. Hopeful, I set off…

…what a load of squit! His ‘cycling specidic’ bag (yes, bag…singular!) was a cloth musette with ‘US Postal Cycling Team’ printed on the side! As for the others, suitable for round town but not a hundred mile journey to Bristol!

Slightly peeved (to put it mildly) I headed out and onto the road for the four mile or so journey back out to Atlantic City – the lovely downhill into Westward Ho! the night before wasn’t quite as much fun in the opposite direction, and the headwind only added to the occasion…although it did mean I’d have a favourable tailwind for the day ahead!

Got to the outlet village, parked the bike up outside a massive ASDA and wandered into Mountain Warehouse. After perusing the massive range options (that’s hundreds of bags, Mr. Freebird!) I opted for a 10ltr pack, bought it and got ready to set off.

Realising it was now 11.00 and I hadn’t eaten I slipped into the ASDA and settled into the cafe with a Full Monty breakfast. Whilst eating, my situation hit me. Ten days to go and I’d encountered a problem that I’d never even considered would occur. It took a moment to convince myself that I’d manage fine but I got myself back on track, finished off my breakfast and set back out to return to the hostel.

After arriving I shifted all my stuff from the Carradice into the rucksack – hmm…maybe the bigger one would have been better, it was a tight fit!

Off came the broken rack and into the Carradice bag it went. ‘What did you do with that as you said your rucksack’s full?’ I hear you cry…well, I pootled into Westward Ho!, found the Post Office and got it packaged up and sent back home – where it will wait until I get back to return to its maker alongside an, erm, strongly worded letter!

Finally on the road at 12.15ish (so much for those early starts!) and after tackling the steep climb out of Ho! I joined the A39 heading towards Barnstaple.

It became apparent very quickly that the bag wasn’t working, and there was no way I’d cope with another ninety five miles or so. A new plan was needed, so I pulled over to the verge and got on the iPhone.

A google for ‘Barnstaple cycle shops’ threw back three promising results. Tried the first one (The Bike Shed), but their response to my request for a seatpost rack and panniers for a road bike without eyelets wasn’t inspiring; ‘er, I’m sure we could fashion something together’. Decided to try the next one, Planet Bike who simply said ‘yep, no worries’. Sold!

Put their postcode into my GPS and made my way through the ten miles or so into Barnstaple proper and arrived in an industrial estate where hopefully I’d get myself sorted…

…what can I say? Paul and Neil at Planet Bike were superb, my heroes for the day! Within minutes I had a new, secure, rack fitted and no more than twenty minutes later I had my stuff transferred over to a new bag.

It turns out that Paul did a LEJOG with his twin brother last year, so I had a bit of a chat. I knew the day would be tough, but his sucking of teeth and nervous laughter did nothing but confirm that. After looking at my route for the day he cheerfully told me I was in for a hell of a climb with a ‘terrific Cat. 1 effort’ for the first hill of the day. Oh joy…

The final ‘pep talk’ from Paul as I bid them farewell cheered me up no end; ‘I’m envious of you, a great two weeks ahead. Get through today and you’ll be fine, Scotland’s easy after this!’.

Pulling away from the estate with the weight back on the bike was amazing. Planet Bike I salute you and kiss you on both cheeks! Back on track, although it was 14.00 and I had sixty miles still to cover. And that climb…

A ride through town towards Snapper and the climb started. Dear God, what a climb! As I reached about three quarters of the way up I passed Bratton Fleming. Stopping for an ice cream at the village stores I had a chat with the owner. After telling him where I was off to, his reply of ‘another one?! You all come in here’ tickled me…imagining the state that some may be in at that point of the ascent. He assured me there wasn’t much further to go which, whilst a little bit of a lie, did cheer me up!

The road finally peaked and levelled onto Exmoor National Park. With the road to myself and the sun beating down on fields strewn with sheep and lambs I had a chance to reflect on the journey so far – passing a hawk (kestrel perhaps) literally yards away bathing in the sun only added to the experience.

A couple more ups and downs before reaching Wheddon Cross where the road plummets – winding through woodlands with a decent road surface. What a thrill, and a lovely reward for the struggle at the start of the day and I really enjoyed the few miles, despite the chill that the shadows of the trees cast onto the road.

Twenty miles ’til Bridgwater, but being back on the main road (A39) and with it having a reasonable profile gave me a chance to make some time up.

One spell in particular was magical, sweeping curves at a decent speed with the Atlantic in full view and the sun setting behind me…breathtaking.

I rolled into the B&B as the sun set around 21.00. A long old day…

Sure you’re desperate to know, but I’ve no idea what the state of Bridgwater’s fish and chips are like. With a lowly kitchen available in the B&B I took full advantage and used it to cook…an oven pizza!

So in conclusion. A long, long day both physically and mentally…bit so, so satisfying as I made it to Bridgwater.

Here’s hoping for a better day tomorrow, with ninety miles to cover and a trip over the Severn…


Stats for the day

Distance for the day: 86 miles
Time in saddle for the day: 6hrs 26mins
Average speed for the day: 13.3mph
Maximum speed for the day: 39.9mph (gah!)

Total distance to date: 234 miles
Total time in saddle to date: 17hrs 49mins
Average speed for trip to date: 13.1mph

Route for the day…

Day Three: Route

Route profile for the day…

Day Three: Route Profile

Day Two: St. Agnes to Westward Ho!

May 17, 2010

or, The One Where Tony Hits Forty

What. A. Day!

I’d initially planned this trip thinking I’d be up and away from wherever I was staying early doors, and on the road by 07.30ish – giving me time to make as many stops as I felt necessary, yet still getting to my destination for the night with a bit of time to potter around before bed.

This plan was thrown into disarray on day one when it became apparent that breakfast was served from 08.30…bugger! So, after a later than planned breakfast I was out on the road and setting off at about 09.15. With this in mind, and ninety five miles to cover, I estimated I’d hit the Ho! at 19.00ish…I’d be happy with that. A quick check on the YHA website told me that the hostel’s reception closed at 20.30 so I had a bit of leeway.

Much cooler day today, with the sun hiding itself behind a solid cloud cover as I headed off – resplendent in legwarmers and armwarmers…how eighties, although arguably less tasteful!

From the start I was winding through Cornwall’s minor roads. Whilst picturesque, the ‘temporary road surface’ signs were a clue that the roads weren’t great to ride on. Any descent had to be taken cautiously; loose chippings littering every bend, almost inviting the front wheel in before throwing it out.

It was after seven miles of this I reached a crossroads and, after consulting the GPS, made the decision to scrap my initial route plan and simply hit the A-roads. Not anywhere near as nice to look at, but a far, far better surface to cycle on with the minor roads so far giving me no confidence and therefore slowing me down.

So to the A30 I went, and it’s fair to say it was a little busier than the lanes I’d just left! I settled myself into the hard shoulder and set on my way…

…with the start to the day not quite going to plan I’d re-assessed my day and mentally split it into three chunks. St. Agnes to Wadebridge, then to Bude and finally to Wesward Ho! Three thirty-ish mile chunks, although each one containing a fairly big climb.

Whilst on the road, I also made the decision to give Padstow a swerve – not only was it a detour I didn’t really feel like taking, it was also only on the plan for fish and chips at Rick Stein’s restaurant. As I’d get there about eleven o’clock now, I thought it was too early to eat that heavy a meal.

I was making good headway, the A30 offering some lovely sweeping descents and with the road surface much better I had confidence to let the bike do the work without feeling the need to brake.

Approaching Wadebridge I stopped off at some services for some food and drink. Olu (or anyone at the gym that might be reading), I had a lovely egg and nut feast; no carbs. None at all…anyone else, I’m making my way cross country at the moment sustained between meals by Snickers, Coke and strawberry milk – it’s quick, easy and is doing alright so far!

As I filled up my water bottles and snacked on a fine blend of peanuts, nougat and chocolate, drizzle started to fall, swiftly followed by a heavy shower. Someone was obviously looking down on me, as the skies cleared by the time I was ready to set off again…what luck!

Just past Wadebridge I turned onto the majestically titled Atlantic Highway (the A39), which I saw I could just sit on for the rest of my journey rather than meander around the back roads as initially planned. Not the most exciting of plans, but with the distance involved in the day I didn’t want to try my luck too much.

There was a lovely descent as the A39 started and with the road clear I settled in to enjoy it – towards the bottom I knew it was a quick one, a glance at the Cateye once settled I confirmed it was…42.8mph, whoop!

The rest of the second leg wasn’t quite as eventful. I’d go as far to say it was a bit of a slog to be honest and I was starting to doubt if I’d get to my finishing point in time. Dinner was had in the glamourous settings of St. Kew’s service station forecourt – Costcutter’s chicken and stiffing sandwich, whilst nice, probably doesn’t compare with Mr. Stein’s fare!

As I entered the second leg of the day I started spotting some roadies heading in the opposite direction on some really nice bikes. Stopping off at the next garage, someone on the forecourt commented ‘impromptu feed stop, hey?’ which is when I realised it was an organised sportive event. I got chatting to a competitor that had stopped off for a cup of tea (funny how the mind works, hey?), and he’d opted for the medium route which was ‘only’ seventy five miles. We bid each other well an set off in opposite directions.

I passed Bude in good spirits, the last fifteen miles or so having gone really well, and entered the final leg of the journey…and what a leg it was.

From out of nowhere fog descended on top of me, literally descended with visibility down to about two hundred yards at best. To not have a clue what was coming up ahead was a little bit of a concern to be honest, with climbs harder as the summits weren’t visible and descents having to be made more warily. Then, to top it all off, the rain came…

…proper rain, Atlantic rain. Oh well, it had to come some time I guess! After about an hour or so (ten miles) it eased off, but it was ‘fun’ whilst it lasted. As it stopped I reached a layby with a picnic area. My saddlebag had started to swing a bit and whilst it wasn’t holding me up at all I decided to stop off and have a look to see if I could stop it.

Well, for the second time of the day I felt that someone must have been looking down on me…as I took the bag off the rack, the attachment snapped. Sheared straight off. So much for British-made quality!

Now, whilst this was probably quite funny to an outsider…I still had twenty miles to cover, and a bag that no longer attached to the bike. Oh dear.

Remember I said it was a picnic area? Well, I sat myself on the bench and had a think…bodge job it was! Cable ties and duct tape used and, whilst not perfect (ha!), it looked like my handiwork would hold. Hurrah!

I carried on, the bag holding, thoughts running through my head wondering just how I was going to sort this issue out – there’s still nine hundred miles or so to cover!

With about ten miles to go and just as I start to ascend a climb that I’d much rather wasn’t there I hear a squealing from the back tire…my bodge had started to fail and the bag was sitting on the mudguard. I moved over to the verge and started to think about what to do…

…in the end I opted to spend the last spell of the day with the bag balanced on my handlebars. Not the best way to travel, certainly not the safest and I gingerly rolled onto Westward Ho! at around half past six.

I have absolutely no idea how I hit my planned arrival time!

After booking into the hostel, I got changed out of my wet clothes and went for a wander to clear my head. A small portion of chips overlooking the sea (just to test them, of course!) and a chance to think about what to do with my stuff.

I know in a couple of days I go through Bristol, which will definitely have a shop that can help – but ’til then I need to get my kit around. A rucksack’s not ideal for cycling with, but I packed light with just under four kilos of bits (more reason to be p*ssed off with the broken rack…maximum weight of ten kilos my arse!) so it would probably get me through a couple of days. Now, where to get one…

Whilst the iPhone’s capable of browsing the web, it can be pretty painful – so I called my brother and got him in front of a computer. Turns out that there’s an outlet village just three and a half miles out of Westward Ho!, and it’s got two mountaineering stores…result!

Picked up some sandwiches that were on offer and an apple pie with custard for tea (I know how to live!) and headed back to the hostel for the evening.

Ah, the hostel…lovely place, but it does appear to be a haven for oddballs! There’s four people booked in including myself; one lad who’s walking the Devon coastline, a sixty seven year old gentleman who ‘has to leave Leicester at least once a month or I go mad’ and a boy who must be in his late teens that’s been sent here for a week by his mother to ‘sort himself out’. What a world!

So the plan tomorrow is to head out to Atlantic Village for nine o’clock opening time (so pleased it’s not a Sunday), pick up a bag and then head back to the hostel to pick up my stuff and head on my way with hopefully a proper solution available in Bristol the next day. It’s going to be a long day time-wise tomorrow, but I’m glad it’s a shorter one in distance…

Stats for the day

Distance for the day: 82 miles
Time in saddle for the day: 6hrs 5mins
Average speed for the day: 13.4mph
Maximum speed for the day: 42.8mph

Total distance to date: 148 miles
Total time in saddle to date: 11hrs 23mins
Average speed for trip to date: 13mph

Route for the day…

Day Two: Route

Route profile for the day…

Day Two: Route Profile

Day One: Lands End to St. Agnes

May 16, 2010

or, The One Where Tony Realised He Wasn’t in Kansas Any More…

‘Oh dear God, not another hill…which b*st*rd decided to route the roads like this…how on Earth am I going to get through the whole journey?!’. Yep, you’ve guessed it…that’s me. Funny thing is it was on the short trip to get to the start in Lands End! More on this later…

There was a good start to the adventure as I somehow managed to miss the turn to Paddington and ended up meandering the streets of London trying to find the station – oh well, what’s another mile and a half in the grand scheme of things…?!

Got to the station and boarded the Riviera Express. Have to say it’s all very Poirot or James Bond with the narrow corridors and small cabins – I half expected to be awoken by a Soviet temptress informing me that ‘the snow lies deep in Moscow’…

…that didn’t happen though. I settled into my berth, watched a bit of on-board telly and drifted off as the train pulled out and headed westwards.

To say it was a good night’s sleep would be a lie, but I’m not sure it would have been much better had I done the preparation with a day train down and a night in Penzance or Lands End.

I was up by six o’clock, and watched a bit more telly before the knock on my door let me know my breakfast had arrived; bacon roll and a pot of tea, lovely!

We rolled into Penzance bang on time and the seaside town looked lovely bathed in the late-May sunshine. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the journey as I readied my bike, clipped myself in and set off…

I’d decided to head down to Lands End via the scenic back roads rather than the more direct A30. It was a lovely start, following the shore for a good spell, but I was questioning the decision as I hit the first hill of the trip just ten minutes later…

…hmm, that hill training that people talked about was obviously for a reason! I struggled my way up this ‘beast’ of a hill, and continued my way up and down numerous hills (the downhills quite exhilerating, the uphills less so!) before joining the A30 for the run-in to Lands End.

I have to say that the last mile into Lands End is wonderful, a lovely downhill roll and I couldn’t help but think how nice a finish it would be on a day like this, in the sunshine and with Penzance and the train home just twelve miles away. Oh well!

I sat for a bit as people packed up some flags from the finish line (found out later it was a John O’Groats to Lands End run, sixty miles a day for two months…!), reset my cycle computer and then pootled over to the start line. I asked one of the official runners’ photographers to photograph me on the start line, had a bit of banter and then that was it…the journey had begun!

I travelled back towards Penzance on the A30 and the difference in the journey was amazing…rolling hills, warm sunshine, a lovely view over the sea and a far better road surface made it a far more pleasurable journey.

It was about five miles to go ’til Penzance I realised I didn’t have my RoadID on…must have left it on the train! As I was due to go past Penzance anyway, I made the decision to detour back in and see if I could retrieve it…

…the staff at Penzance station were excellent. A phone call from the information desk saw me introduced to Kane, who directed me to the depot and met me there to see if he could find it on the train that was sat there. Well, he managed to find it and I got it back…thanks Kane, and good luck with your mammoth car journey later on!

It was here at the depot that I got chatting to someone and explained that I’d taken the, er, scenic route down to Lands End. His comments of ‘Really? Is that not a bit hilly?!’ made me realise that perhaps it wasn’t the best option for my first leg if even the locals consider it hilly!

Fully equipped once again it was onto Lizard, and I made good time on the trip down south. Another random individual was persuaded to take a photo and I decided to have lunch in England’s most southern cafe overlooking the seemingly endless sea.

After the break the trip back up towards St. Agnes was hard work. A headwind has developed and the road signs were seemingly only there to taunt me – Redruth was a waypoint and seeing ‘Redruth 8’, ‘Redruth 8’, ‘Redruth 7’ and then ‘Redruth 8′ wasn’t that appreciated!

After making it to Redruth I looked on the Garmin to see what my distance left to cover and my ETA into St. Agnes. It was a bit of a concern to see that it thought I had fifteen miles less than I made it and an ETA that would mean I had to cycle in at 20mph for the rest of the day…which wasn’t going to happen.

It took me a while longer whilst cycling to remember that I’d reset my Cateye cycle computer back at Lands End, the GPS was right and it was a pleasant sight as the Penkerris Guest House rolled into view!

After settling in and showering I had a wander into St. Agnes’ ‘town centre’ and a stroll down to the beach. It’s a lovely little village and the fish and chips I had for tea were as good as seaside fish and chips should be!

Back to Penkerris and a bit of telly and an early night awaited. Day one, done…

Stats for the day

Distance for the day: 66 miles
Time in saddle for the day: 5hrs 18mins
Average speed for the day: 12.5mph
Maximum speed for the day: 37.8mph

Route for the day…

Day One: Route

Route profile for the day…

Day One: Route Profile


May 14, 2010

Hmm…it’s all a little more real now! Today’s the day the adventure starts with a sleeper train to catch this evening it’s just one more sleep until I’m on the journey proper. Eek!

Everything’s been bought and tested where necessary (Woolie Boolie socks are, quite simply, amazing!), everything fits into the bag I decided to use which is a huge relief, the route’s on the GPS and I’ve and cleaned and lubed up Daphne (stop sniggering at the back, it’s the bike!). Think I’m pretty much ready. Well, as ready as I can be. It’s only twelve days on the bike anyway, hey?!

Some people have asked why I’m travelling from Lands End to John O’Groats as opposed to the other way. Well, despite popular belief, it’s not actually uphill all the way but that’s not the only reason! Traditionally the winds around this time of year are South-Westerly in Great Britain so, in theory, there’s more chance of a tail-wind to help me on my journey. Added to this is the fact that the terrain in Devon and Cornwall is actually tougher than the Highlands with repetitive short, sharp climbs the norm rather than slow, undulating hills. Tackling this whilst fresh (ha!) sounds more appealing than knowing for the best part of a week and a half that it’s only going to get harder at the end!

So that’s why I’m going that way…I am starting to question why I’m going at all, but I’m sure that feeling will pass once I’m on the road… [cough cough].

Finally, a quick thank you to everybody that has sponsored me so far…it really is appreciated, acts as even more motivation for me to be crossing that line at the end of May and will help The Stroke Association with all their work. If you do want to sponsor me on my journey, the easiest way it through my JustGiving page. The link is .

Right, that’s it from me for now. See you for a pint in the John O’Groats House Hotel? Say four o’clock-ish on Wednesday 26th May…?

One week and counting…

May 9, 2010

…well that’s come round quick, hasn’t it?! Not long until the journey proper starts and I’ve been getting all the final bits of preparation sorted in the last week or so.

All the kit I’m going to need has now been bought, including some nice lightweight clothes for evening wear – I have a feeling my days are going to end with arriving at the place I’m staying, eating and sleeping but it’ll be nice to have something other than the cycling gear to change into should I feel like a wander or something.

In terms of actual cycling, a busy week at work has meant I haven’t been able to get any longer cycles in before heading to the office in the morning which was my original plan. Whilst not ideal, I’m hoping it won’t be too much of a hindrance in the long run and perhaps it may actually do me some good instead of cramming in miles on top of what was an already busy week.

My aim for the week ahead is to make sure I get some decent night’s sleep in so that I’m sure I’m as refreshed as I can be getting off that train at 08.00 on Saturday 15th May. Tick tock, tick tock…

What an motivational evening…!

May 6, 2010

Mark Beaumont. Either you’ll know the name or you won’t. He’s arguably the world’s most well-known solo cyclist, the world-record holder for the time taken to cycle round the world (194 days and 17 hours, if you were wondering!) and has also just recorded the recent BBC series ‘The Man Who Cycled The Americas’.

Anyway…he’s touring the country at the moment with his show ‘The Man Who Cycled The World’ and I headed along to Epsom to see what he had to say about his travels.

Having only seen ‘The Man Who Cycled The Americas’ and not read his book I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I have to say it was brilliant. Mark’s an excellent public speaker and had the close to capacity crowd captivated from the start with tales of his trips and amusing anecdotes along the way.

The whole evening was extremely inspiring and it was interesting to hear how he got into the position whereby he was circumnavigating the globe on just two wheels – if you don’t come out of one of his shows fully motivated that you can do something on your own than I’m afraid to say that there’s no-one that could offer that to you!

I thought there were perhaps a couple of points where more details could have been given – it would have been interesting to hear how he found the five to six thousand calories he needed each day, especially in the more remote areas, but other than that it was a really good show.

Details of the current tour are on his website. If you get the chance, go and see him. You really won’t regret it!

‘So who are you doing it for?!’

April 26, 2010

I’ve had a fair number of people ask me this question after telling them my plans since deciding to take on this trip.

Now (as I mention in my About Me page) my general motivation for taking on such a challenge was pretty much self-indulgent but, with less than three weeks to go until I start (eek!) and with people asking me more frequently than before where they can sponsor me, I’ve finally got round to setting up a JustGiving page to raise some money for a cause that I think is worthwhile.

I’ve chosen The Stroke Association having seen the affect that the condition can have on family life after my Nan suffered from a stroke whilst on the way to Cromer on a family outing on 30th May 2007. I truly believe it’s a cause that’s worth supporting and it affects far more people than you perhaps realise. To read bit more about why I want to raise money, please look at my Support Me page.

Whilst I haven’t got a specific target to reach, I think it would be nice if I could raise a pound per mile I cover and I know it would certainly help The Stroke Association who rely heavily on voluntary donations and support.

The direct link to my sponsorship page is at