Posts Tagged ‘LEJOG’

Epilogue: Final Thoughts…

March 6, 2011

Apologies for the delay, dear reader…I’ve got no real excuse other than these things always do have a habit of taking longer than perhaps you plan them to, hey?

Anyway, my final thoughts on the trip? I don’t think that a LEJOG is a hard journey per se; it is, after all, simply a case of getting on your bike and pedalling yourself from A to B daily! My training certainly wasn’t anywhere near the sort of distance or volume that is recommended as necessary to undertake this challenge; I only completed two rides of over one hundred miles before setting off!

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy doing it, though. I’ve seen an extremely thin slice of this country in a way that very few people can say they have and there’s moments I recall fondly now and hopefully will do for many more months and years to come.

Having never blogged before, I’m really glad that I decided to start doing so on WordPress for this journey. I’d hazard a guess that I spent two to three hours a night doing so, but people that were following have told me that they appreciated it and it has also given me something special to look back on, and provided me with the content to produce this book!

I’m pleased with all of my kit decisions bar the Carradice! I never once felt like I didn’t have enough, or that I’d carried too much with me. My Garmin HCx may well have taken a bit of ‘magic’ out of the navigation of each day, but certainly made the whole process less stressful. I’d perhaps go as far to recommend one to anybody attempting a similar journey ahead of anything else.

I was surprised to see how much I spent over the twelve days although, to be fair, around a third of the total money that went through my hands was on bike repairs that nobody could have honestly foreseen. Certainly not the rack for my bag failing on Day Two! Otherwise I think that I got reasonable value for money for everything else considering.

Splitting my overnight stops between B&Bs, hotels and hostels may well have added extra cost to my journey, but I think it was worth it overall. Perhaps if I had a support vehicle or others with me then camping would have added to the adventure but I think the way I approached it was best for a solo attempt.

On that note, I have been asked by many people why I chose to do my LEJOG solo and unsupported, and also if I was lonely on the way?

First of all I decided to undertake the trip on my own as, whilst I was confident I could complete the distance, I wasn’t sure of my own abilities on the bike and didn’t want to be the one slowing a group down. Having now completed it, and read other encounters I don’t think I would have done but I don’t regret doing it alone at all. It’s a hell of a party story if nothing else!

I can honestly say that the only time I felt alone was as I realised I was the only sober individual amongst a bustling Princes Street in Edinburgh on Day Eight. As I wandered along that street all I wanted to be was back home. On reflection, a Saturday night stopover in a big city after the previous few days probably wasn’t the best choice!

In conclusion, did I enjoy the trip? Yes, without a doubt. It’s made me appreciate the island on which we live in ways I certainly didn’t before. It’s certainly opened my eyes as to how beautiful parts of it can be, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s gone end-to-end that looks on as the map scrolls behind the television weatherman without thinking ‘bloody hell…I’ve cycled that!’.

Would I do it again? No, probably not. Certainly not in that direction anyway, and probably not solo if I was to go from top to bottom. That trip’s been done, it’s onto the next challenge now I’m afraid.

What’s next? You’ll just have to wait and see…

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March-ing on…

March 28, 2010

…so it’s only two months to go now, and progress is being made both on and off the bike.

Another steady month of cycling with more or less the same mileage recorded. I think it’s important for me to get used to staying consistent, it’s days of steady cycling that’s going to get me through the challenge rather than lots of effort over shorter distances.

I do need to step up the mileage I’m covering on a day and, with that in mind,  I’ve got a plan in place for the Easter Weekend (hopefully a full report to follow next week!) and I’ve also booked myself into the Essex Lambs’ Spring Lambs Sportive – a 93 mile loop around Essex – to try and get some quicker miles under my belt.

I’ve plotted out an initial route that I’m going to look at in more detail over the coming weeks, but it looks like a challenging but achievable one. There’s certainly going to be long days, but I’m also going to be taking in some nice sights over the twelve days which, as I’ve mentioned before, I think is important rather than simply going head-down and as fast as possible!

Rather than rely on paper maps alone I’ve bought myself a portable GPS. The Garmin etrex Vista HCx is designed for walkers primarily, but does fit onto the handlebars and offers an opportunity to pre-load your route and alert you as to when you’ve gone wrong. I’m getting to grips with it at the moment. As with all new ‘toys’, there’s a learning curve to get over and features to try and decipher but…once I’ve got through all of that I think it’s going to prove invaluable.

Finally…I know you’re itching to see the numbers for March? Okay. Eyes down, look in…

Mileage for Week (w/e 21st March) – 81 miles
Mileage for Week (w/e 28th March) – 18 miles

Mileage for March – 406 miles

A grand start…

March 17, 2010

…and a good way to end the week, my first ever fifty-miler on Sunday taking my total miles for the year to date over the 1,000 mile mark.

The route I picked for my fifty-miler was an out and back to Greenwich, taking in the London Marathon route on the way back.

What struck me the most was although the roads were populated with weekend drivers and there were quite a few people out and about on Mothers’ Day jaunts, the journey of a cyclist is very much one of an individual…just you, your bike and the road ahead.

I guess you can make of it what you want, but given that the roads I’m going to be travelling on are likely to be ‘B’ classified or lower you could quite feasibly spend the whole of LEJOG in solitude – if you chose to camp rather than spend the nights in hostels or hotels you need not speak to anyone for your whole journey!

In other news every booking is in place and has been confirmed to get me and my bike to the start and bring us back home at the end of the journey. A sleeper service reservation to get down to Penzance on May 14th, a ferry ticket to Orkneys for a pootle after arriving in John O’Groats, a ferry ticket back to Aberdeen from the Islands and then a final seven hour train journey back down to London…phew!

All that’s left now is to plan the route and book some accommodation. Oh, and do more miles in preparation. Yep, the easy bits have been left ’til last!

It has dawned on me that the start date is a little bit closer than perhaps I’m comfortable with (yep, it really is less than sixty days away), but equally I’m starting to get a little bit excited about the challenge ahead.

Right, an update on stats for the last six or so weeks…

Mileage for Week (w/e 7th February) – 144 miles
Mileage for Week (w/e 14th February) – 57 miles
Mileage for Week (w/e 21st February) – 82 miles
Mileage for Week (w/e 28th February) – 93 miles

Mileage for February – 351 miles

Mileage for Week (w/e 7th March) – 108 miles
Mileage for Week (w/e 14th March) – 148 miles

Longest Daily Mileage to date – 51 miles

Oooh…Daphne, and celeste!

January 31, 2010

…yay, finally got round to taking the time out to go and look at road bikes.

Having asked for advice on the best local bike shop (LBS) in London on the Bike Radar forums, Geoffrey Butler Cycles down in Croydon was mentioned by a few posters – a quick look on their site showed they were in the middle of a January sale with 20% off 2010 bikes and at least 20% off all accessories. A quick phone call to see if they had the Specialized Secteur in stock confirmed they did…well, I didn’t need much more persuasion to go and take a look!

Now, when I get in my head that I want something it usually is what I end up with. Might take a few weeks, but chances are it’ll eventually be mine once the seed’s been planted in my head that I want it. Which makes the fact I didn’t walk out of the shop with a Specialized Secteur pretty amazing – I didn’t even try it out!

After quite a long chat with Steve at Geoffrey Butler he showed me their range of 2009 Bianchis that they still had in stock, and mentioned he could let them go for 30% less than their ticket price…

…I’m now an owner of the Bianchi Via Nirone 7 Alu C2C 105! Yes it’s a bit ‘tarty’, a little ‘poncy’ but it’s lovely to look at and a joy to ride. Big, big thank you’s to Geoffrey Butler Cycles and in particular Steve who took time out (three hours) to sort me out with everything I could possibly need despite the store being short of staff and busy with customers. I’m sure I’ll be back in future for more bits and pieces.

Now, I mentioned it was a bit ‘tarty’. This is because it’s painted in traditional Bianchi celeste (pronounced che-les-te in Italian, se-lest in English), a turquoise-y colour. There’s a few myths about why this is their colour, ranging from it being the colour of the Milanese sky, the eye colour of a former queen of Italy for whom Edoardo Bianci made a bicycle and that it was a mixture of surplus military paint. The shade changes slightly year on year but it remains distinctive and considered to be the only colour a Bianchi should be seen in, the same way a Ferrari should be red!

Anyway…what with the looks of the bike I thought I may as well name ‘her’, and given the colour there’s only one name that sticks out…Daphne – could it be anything else considering the colour?

Basically, the Via Nirone is simply a nicer looking touring bike than the Specialized Secteur with their blurb offering: ‘the Via Nirone bikes are Bianch i ‘comfort’ road models, with geometries designed to deliver speed and comfort in equal measures for the long distance rider’. Sounds ideal for my plans, which leads me nicely onto them…

I still need to sort out the leave from work, but the plan is to go for two weeks at some point between the middle of May and the middle of June. I’ve got my route more or less sorted in my head having browsed a few excellent blogs on the LEJOG experience. Dan Hargrave’s Lands End to John O’Groats Cycle in particular was interesting in that he’s done the solo LEJOG in twelve days which just so happens to be what I’m planning. So, thoughts are in mind…just need to get them down on paper / screen now. Want to have it all in place come the end of February so that I can simply focus on getting my legs and mind ready.

Finally here’s the stats for the last fortnight, and I think it’s been a solid start to 2010…

Mileage for Week (w/e 24th January) – 94 miles
Longest Daily Mileage – 24 miles

Mileage for Week (w/e 31st January) – 157 miles
Longest Daily Mileage – 40 miles

Mileage for January – 403 miles
Mileage for Year – 403 miles

Rumours of my demise…

January 11, 2010

…have been greatly exaggerated! Apologies for the lack of updates since October but you know how it is when things get busy – I’ll try to keep the updates a little more regular now we’re into 2010.

Anyway, a quick summary of 2009…

The number of miles I managed in trips to the gym and work, as recorded in the Silly Commuter Stats table (kindly run by a poster on bikeradar),  totalled just over 1,200 miles – all of which done between July 21st and December 24th. Not a bad total but one I know I could have done better on. This year I’m aiming for a figure of at least 3,000 miles from my gym trips and commuting.

Since my return back from the Christmas break I’ve noticed a few more problems with the Marin. Not sure if it is actually wear and tear getting to it or just that I’m more or less settled on the fact I’m going to get myself a new one, but the gears are slipping a bit and the brakes definitely need a re-tune. Will probably end up getting it all sorted over the summer and have it ready as a winter hack come the latter months of this year.

Anyway, that’s 2009 out the way and a look forward to 2010 and my LEJOG attempt. I’ve pencilled in rough dates and put together a bare-bones plan – basically a two week stretch in the latter half of May which should give me a reasonable chance of decent weather and lack of midges in the Highlands!

I haven’t yet had a chance to try out the Specialized Secteur properly, although I did sit on one in Evans Cycles down in Chiswick last week. I will be looking to test ride one next Sunday and will hopefully enjoy it enough to purchase one – failing that I should have a road bike of some description to start practising by the close of play next Sunday on the recommendations of a member of staff there!

Right then, to finish here’s a quick update of stats for the first week proper of 2010…

Mileage for Week (w/e 10th January) – 70 miles
Longest Daily Mileage – 24 miles

The tricky first update…

October 12, 2009

Here goes, first update of the blog…

A steady week all in, rounded off nicely with a long trip up north to see City beat Carlisle with a display that was far more dominant than the 0-1 scoreline suggests. Train trip back to London on the Sunday evening and back on the bike Monday night which felt good.

Bit of an accident on Wednesday night in the rain that seemed to envelop London for the day. Not entirely sure where I was I tried to get up on the pavement to consult the bus-stop map – front wheel hit the edge of the wet kerb at far too shallow an angle, ended up with a cut in my right hand and a bit of grazing / bruising elsewhere. Won’t be making the mistake of hopping up kerbs in the wet again! Other than that a good week though.

Have more or less decided to purchase myself a decent road bike now my commute’s a decent-ish length and after a bit of browsing of cycling forums during the week I’ve realised that Specialized have just released the Secteur for 2010. Have to admit the blurb did pique my interest…

‘Long rides feel short with the efficient, reliable and plush new Specialized Secteur…this Endurance Road bike will make you want to go the distance every day’

It sounds like it’d be ideal for a task such as LEJOG, and I quite like the idea of getting a comfier bike as opposed to an out and out race model. There’s a Specialized Concept Store out in Ruislip – I’ll be off there next Monday to see if I can get a test ride.

Might as well use this as a bit of a training log now as well I guess – eyes down, look in stat fans…

Mileage for Week (w/c 5th October) – 84 miles
Longest Daily Mileage – 30.42 miles

Commiserations…

October 5, 2009

To be fair I already knew it, but the first paragraph of the e-mail that dropped into the inbox at 13:06 today from Dave Bedford confirmed it – I wasn’t going to be running the inaugral Virgin London Marathon come 25 April 2010. Whilst disappointed I do now have the rain jacket as a consolation prize courtesy of my bequeathing of the entry fee (£32 for a rain jacket? Madness!) and also the opportunity to set myself a new challenge which brings me nicely onto the point of this blog…

With a gap in my calendar and an urge to do something that I can look back on and say ‘yeah, I’ve done that’, I’ve decided to attempt a solo, unsupported LEJOG (Lands End to John O’Groats) by bike next year. After reading a few threads and other people’s reports I’m aiming for the end of May / start of June as the time to do it, and I’m setting myself aside two weeks to get it done.

Now, I’ve never ‘blogged’ before so apologies if I’m not following any particular format – but I’m planning on using it as a training log and (hopefully) a record of achievement, something I can look back on come June 2010 to remind myself on just what I’ve managed to do.

I’ll try not to waffle too much – reckon a weekly update for a while will suffice, unless there’s something really interesting to report (ha!). So, er…I guess that’s it for now. If there is by some chance anybody out there that is reading already, hello…!