I’ve been asked a fair few questions before, during and after the trip so in case it’s useful for other people I thought I’d put them here:
Q: What kit did you take with you? What was your set up?
I have a pretty basic road bike, nothing special at all but it’s an aluminium frame (Pinnacle Gabbro 2 2012) and the panniers I used are these with the sides folded out and used. I also had a really small bag on my top tube to put my purse and phone in so I could get to those easily. But that was it! I took with me:
- a change of clothes for the evening
- pyjamas (just because I was staying with friends and hostels on occasion – if I’d been in single room B&Bs the whole way I’d’ve forgone this weight)
- change of shoes for the evening (like flip flops)
- bike lock + key!
- 1 inner tube
- small hand pump
- tyre levers
- electrolyte tablets
- wet bag
- travel wash for washing kit overnight
- body wash (hostels wouldn’t have it)
- chamois cream/sudocrem
- a travel sized bottle of sun lotion
- travel sized moisturiser
- lip balm (can’t recommend lip balm enough),
- drinks bottle for my protein shake in the evening (in the day I’d store things in that bottle so as not to waste space).
- I made sure I stored my house keys somewhere safe. Worst thing would be to get home and not be able to get into the house.
I’d buy bananas and extra snacks whenever I ran out and came across a supermarket etc. If you flash a nice smile and are really nice about asking for water, pubs are extremely generous at topping up your bidons. I didn’t take a change of kit – I washed it overnight in the sink and hoped it would dry by the morning. Sometimes it didn’t and that wasn’t too good putting back on wet kit but it soon dried. If you ignore the outlay of buying extra bits and pieces of kit (e.g. upgraded my Garmin) then I averaged about £20-30 a night on places to stay, dinner was about £12-15 since I kept myself to water the whole time which aided hydration, £3-5 lunch and for B&Bs I had breakfast included. For hostels I either went hungry (error) or was prepared by buying porridge pots the day before which just needed boiling water and a spoon. Then you’ve got to remember the transport to and from the start and end (including maybe a taxi to/from Lands End which is about £20-ish (I think) if you’re too knackered to cycle back to/from Penzance. Timing the train booking correctly is essential to be able to get a bike reservation. The trains to/from John O’Groats only have a capacity of 2 so book as soon as you know your dates and the tickets become available (usually 6 weeks ahead). I knew I wanted to take sports nutrition but 13 days worth was a few kilograms so I contacted a couple of B&Bs/hostels I was already booked with and asked if they were OK for me to send ahead a package for myself. All were fine with it and I only ever carried with me 2 days worth of gels/bars/protein shake for the evening.
Q: Did it make the days seem longer without a ride partner?
A: No not particularly. I’m quite comfortable in my own company so I didn’t ever feel lonely and I also had texts, Twitter and Facebook to keep in regular contact with people. The two days I did have company were two of the longest days (in distance, cheeky) so I suppose I definitely pushed myself harder and got the miles done quicker. Whether you do it solo or in a group is a personal choice and shouldn’t be influenced by others considering you a loner for doing it solo. Similarly, if you do it in a group or with company it doesn’t make you weaker. If you’re doing it with a friend then you need to know that you match speed/expectations before you really get going. Train together, talk about how often you think you’ll want to stop for breaks, your expectations of the trip etc etc. The worst thing would be to ruin your trip by not enjoying the company you’re with. And similarly with going alone – do you get lonely easily? Have a good long think.
Q: What are your best memories about the whole trip?
A: That’s a tough one – even through all the pain and fatigue there really are so many. I suppose my top 5 are (in no specific order):
- Being given free bottled water by a lay-by truck stop vendor
- Cycling along the promenade at Blackpool
- The views in the Lakes from Kendal to Keswick
- Cycling through Glencoe
- Chatting to everyone who asked what I was doing
Q: Having done it… Is there anything that you would have done differently knowing what you now know about LEJOG?
A: I’d have done Cornwall and Devon in three days rather than two but I was restricted by visiting my friend a few days later at the weekend so that’s how it worked out. Other than that I managed to adapt to how my body coped but it took me a day or two to realise I needed longer at lunch to let the food digest a bit. I also would’ve avoided quite a few of the canal paths I ended up taking because often they were of poor quality. It’s hard to know which are good and which aren’t though.
Q: I’m guessing you’re a dab hand at fixing punctures (did you have any?) and suchlike… but what about broken chain or something unrepairable at the roadside? Did you have a ny kind of back up plan?
A: I didn’t have a single puncture on the whole trip and only had to stop off at bike shops for a pump twice (thought the second time it wasn’t needed). I had prepared against as many problems as possible – Marathon Plus tyres (pretty much indestructible), new brake pads at the start, had the bike checked for all possible weaknesses or things which could go wrong just before I left and I guess part of it was down to luck. I didn’t have to do a single thing o the road – the bike ran like a dream. My back up plan was underpinned by changing from SPD-SL to SPD touring shoes/cleats a few months before so if I did have to walk along way to the nearest shop/house then I could do it more comfortably. There is a trade off with peddling efficiency here but it’s worth it in those emergencies. I used a Garmin for GPS so I always had phone battery and I only lost signal for a significant period of time at the top of Scotland. I knew my phone provider’s coverage was meant to be good for the whole trip. I knew I wasn’t ever going to be going anywhere so remote I couldn’t walk or call anyone (except for Scotland) and I was always kind of hoping for the kindness of strangers. It’s hard to cover for all eventualities. Some suggested I take spare brake cables, brake pads, oil etc etc etc but you need to be realistic about bike weight. I only took one inner tube, tyre levers and a mini pump. I took a big gamble on that but again chances are you can walk to some kind of transport or call for help. I also figured twitter would probably end up saving the day if it got that bad. As for the phone signal in Scotland – I didn’t have signal for pretty much 24 hours from Lairg up to Bettyhill (because I stayed overnight in the area between). There’s nothing you can do about that so preparation before you go through that part is essential. Make sure people know where you’re heading and the contact details of the hotel.
Q: Was saddle soreness ever an issue?
A: Ummm… yes but in woman specific areas (you did ask) so nothing chamois cream could help with. More of a pressure issue. I had the occasional sore skin patch but sudocrem just fixed it overnight so it wasn’t ever a real issue.
Q: What did you eat/drink to keep going?
A: High 5 energy bars and gels to tie me over between breakfast, lunch and dinner. In Scotland I had wrapped up flapjack I bought at home in Glasgow which was great. I think Haribo got me through a couple of days too. When I could I’d buy bananas (and eat two or three a day) and the odd chocolate bars for emergencies. To drink: just water with electrolyte tablets in them. I occasionally let myself have a can of coke but only about twice on the whole trip. Breakfast I’d try for porridge, lunch would’ve been something carby, dinner lots of protein with complex carbs. I struggled with eating lots at once, so little and often worked best.
Q: Did you have a low point that sticks in your mind across the whole trip?
A: Day 2. The whole of day 2. Also when I was crying in a lay-by near Loch Lochy due to the pain in my knee but that was fixed with pain killers.
Q: Would you do it again? What are you going to do next?
A: If I were to specifically cycle LEJOG/JOGLE again I’d have to do a drastically different route. I know there are some people who are eager to do it over and over and over again but there are so many other places to see and explore. Whilst I’m not criticising other people’s desires to do such a brilliant route repeatedly, it’s not for me. So my short answer is ‘no’ not the same route but I do want to do more multi day cycling adventures. I’m thinking Ireland next.