The map shows only half the story. Perhaps less than half. The other element of it is this:

The Isle of White doesn't have many flat bits on it. In fact, in some places they couldn't be bothered to build a road so they just painted one onto the side of a cliff-face and hoped we wouldn't notice.


The trip didn't start in an ideal fashion.

There are often engineering works on bank holidays, so I'd checked both my local line into London and the Southampton line; both were fine. Except in the few days between me checking and heading off, they'd brought the engineering works forward, so my train was only going as far as Ilford.

This wouldn't have been a problem if I'd known about in advance: I'd simply have caught an earlier train to allow for the 11 mile cycle to Waterloo. As it was, it left me just under an hour to do the ride, with about a million traffic lights en-route.

All was going well until I reached Tower Hill, at which point the front fairing bolt fell out and bounced off somewhere down the road. The build quality of Streamer fairings does seem to be very un-Germanic, I must say. (I'd previously given up on them when the rear mount kept coming loose.)

I wasn't about to go play with the traffic looking for the bolt, so gaffa-taped it back together and dashed onward to Waterloo. I made the Southampton train with 94 seconds to spare.

The good news was that the trike fitted into the cycle compartment without any more dismantling than removing the fairing, and the train manager was very friendly and helpful.

On board, I phoned Donald to advise him of the slight technical hitch, and he kindly agreed to visit a local cycle shop to see if he could get a replacement nut and bolt.

Despite having to retape the fairing at Southampton, I managed to catch the 6pm ferry with a few minutes to spare. My trike was first on, and thus first off. :-)

We had a bit of a treat on the way over, as we followed the Queen Mary out:

She then turned across us to give us the perfect view:

Cruise ships always seem very romantic, but I suspect I'd actually die of boredom, so I think I shall settle for admiring them from afar.

I'd booked the Anchorage Guesthouse more or less randomly, but it was fantastic. A very comfortable twin-room, so somewhere to dump my stuff (not that you can carry much stuff in a pair of pod bags!):

Peter kindly reserved an equally cosy bedroom for my trike for the night:

And the one thing that will always keep me happy in a guesthouse:

(One of the things I'd managed to fit into the pod bags was my eee.)

Donald arrived shortly afterwards and set about sorting out the fairing. He'd succeeded in getting a replacement bolt, and some ingenuity was applied in creating some temporary spacers. He then installed his custom RockSolid(tm) fairing mount. "That's not going anywhere." I hope he's right!

Thence to the pub for some food and liquid sustenance.


I'd arranged breakfast for 8am. The full English, naturally: one of the great things about long cycle rides is you can eat what you like - we were going to burn around 5000 calories on the ride. Add in the base 2500, and that gave me 7500 calories to play with. :-)

Another Randoner was staying at the guesthouse, and he and Peter helped lift the trike over the four parked cars - including a Ferrari. Glad we didn't drop it.

All the CycleChat forumites had pre-registered. Donald, Darren and Gary were camping near the Wooton checkpoint, so they picked up their brevet cards there at 8.30am while I picked up mine at East Cowes at 8.45am.

I was staying on the Cowes side so had to cross the chain-link ferry to pick up my card:

Some early birds were already on their way:

I then had to head back across it again to start the ride, and met the rest of the gang in the queue.

I was conducting a camera experiment in preparation for my LEJOG attempt in a fortnight's time. I usually carry a pocket camera on cycle rides, but that doesn't provide the quality or flexibility of a DSLR. I decided to use a DSLR on this ride to see how practical it was.

One immediate downside is that I had to stop to take a photo, as unzipping the sidepod bag is awkward on the move, and I didn't fancy risking it with even my backup camera and lens (still a grand's worth).

But no great hardship in stopping to admire views like this:

And obligatory trikes shot, of course:

The conclusion of the experiment, incidentally, is that a DSLR on a trike is practical, but you still want a pocket camera for on-the-move shots, so I shall carry both on the LEJOG.

The first stop was in Yarmouth, not to be confused with the Great variety in Suffolk. The traditional cyclist's first-stop fuel was consumed:

I'm a great fan of bananas as cycling food. I used to suffer from cramp on long rides, did some reading-up on the subject and it seemed that potassium was the key to preventing it. Bananas are high in potassium and also have plenty of sugar, of course, to meet energy needs. Since making a habit of eating bananas on rides (as well as the mandatory cake, of course!), I haven't suffered cramp at all.

A look at the mileage so far:

And got my brevet card stamped:

The stop also showed the route, enabling us to see how far we'd come:

There was a long queue for the toilets, so a hedge stop was performed a mile or two further on.

Some of the roadies weren't keen on the unmade surface of this section. One could be heard complaining that he'd get a p*nct*r*, while another was asking if there was any way round it.

This was one of the occasions on which I really wish I'd had a pocket camera too, as the path was lovely but it would have slowed us down too much to keep stopping to get out the D200.

Still, it provided a handy excuse to stop for a breather on the hills:

Daren was having problems with his chain slipping off, so we stopped to wait for him at the next junction:

This was just a random stop at a junction rather than a photo stop, but virtually every point on the island has a picture postcard view - this was the scene immediately to my left:

This was a photo stop; it's just a coincidence that it's at the top of a long climb:

Gary (aka 'Biscuit') had been getting worryingly low on Jaffa Cakes, but assured me that he still had chocolate in reserve.

Donald asked for a photo of him riding off into the distance. Ready:


Towards the bottom of this hill, there was a speed-detection sign. It has long been an ambition of mine to set off a speed camera with my trike, but I haven't yet found one on a suitable hill. I did at least get halfway there by getting the flashing sign to display 33mph in disapprovingly red numbers.

Meet Blackgang Chine - a very long, very steep hill:

It started down close to the cliffs you can see in the distance, and it was unrelentingly uphill all the way. The above photo was only halfway up.

When we reached the top, I set my facebook status to 'Ben Lovejoy has just cycled up a bastarding bastard of a bastard hill and wishes to observe that it was a real bastard'.

I wasn't familiar with the word Chine, so looked it up afterwards on Wiki:

A chine is a steep-sided river valley where the river flows through coastal cliffs to the sea. Typically these are soft eroding cliffs such as sandstone or clays. The word chine originates from the Saxon "Cinan" meaning a gap or yawn.

Fortunately, resuscitation equipment was available at the top:

The view wasn't bad:

This wasn't quite at the very top, and Gary had gone on to the absolute top before stopping, so there were just three of us available for the group pic here:

Left to right: Daren, Donald and me in a shockingly hi-viz t-shirt

The t-shirt had been part of my prep for the LEJOG. I wanted some high-wicking t-shirts, and the material of choice seemed to be Coolmax, so I ordered eight of them. Since they were specifically for cycling, I thought I might as well go for the hi-viz ones. They are, indeed, high-viz.

In yet another demonstration of small world syndrome, the random stranger we asked to take the photo turned out to be a fellow member of the CycleChat forum I'd been exchanging messages with. We discovered this not at the time but when he saw the photo here. :-)

Obligatory trike shot:

I was reassured by those who'd done it before that this was the worst hill of the ride. It was also just past the halfway mark. The Wooton gang had triumphantly announced their halfway mark some time earlier. I responded by succinctly requesting that they in future refrain from any such announcements; I believe I demonstrated admirable efficiency in the surprisingly few number of words required to express this sentiment.

The next official stop was at Whitwell:

Where my mileage was:

Daren and Gary refuelled their air-horns:

While I focused on more important refuelling matters:

There was a serious emergency when they temporarily ran out of cake, but the emergency services responded quickly and a catastrophe was averted when fresh supplies were delivered a few minutes later.

Paul, a Catrike rider, had been sending texts advising his progress catching us, and he finally managed it here:

So now we had five trikists present, a group photo was in order:

Left to right: Daren, Paul, me, Donald, Gary

I have absolutely no idea why I look like a Bond villain plotting the destruction of the universe.

The dogs were Daren's - his wife, Claire, was there as support crew and met up with us at a couple of the stops.

The stops were getting closer now, so it wasn't far to the next one: Alverston in the parish of Newchurch (apparently):

This was 46 miles in:

I'd initially followed Daren's example of putting my Camelbak water carrier in the webbing of the seat, but his waterbed description didn't seem very apt to me: I found it uncomfortable, so switched to hanging it off the back:

This did obscure my lights, though, so I need to reposition those.

By 44 miles, I was starting to feel the strain. My usual day ride is 40-50 miles without any major hills, so this wasn't surprising. I was glad of the more frequent stops. Benmbridge was at 52 miles:

Here, disaster struck: the refreshment people had run out of tea!

This obviously cast serious doubts about whether the event could continue. Urgent discussions were held with Health & Safety officials, with one side pointing out that cyclists were entirely fueled by tea & cake and the other side observing that coffee was available. After a formal risk assessment, it was agreed that, as we were 52 miles in, it would be safe to complete the remaining distance on the basis of coffee & cake:

(In my defence, I should like to point out that these are mini cupcakes!)

We also met Cumbolin here, but his trike was being repaired so he was on some kind of eccentric two-wheeled contraption.

I asked the Randonee people to reassure me that it was mostly downhill from here. Their response was "Errr ...". This wasn't 100% reassuring.

The penultimate stop was Wooton. For the rest, who'd started there, this was the finish. For me, I had another six or so miles to go. I was seriously tired by this point: I didn't even get out of my seat to get my brevet card stamped, and I relied on the Quackers Support Team (aka Claire) for my photo:

Heading out of the stop, I tacked onto the back of a group of cyclists who rode up yet another hill. On reaching the top, they turned down a rather unlikely-looking side road. There were no cycle-route signs, so I looked across the road and spotted a Cowes sign - pointing back down the hill! Yep, I'd just followed some cyclists halfway to wherever they lived ...

I set off back down the hill (41mph in a 30, very naughty) and headed in the correct direction towards Cowes.

I was pretty much on automatic pilot by this stage as I headed up yet more hills. Towards the top of one steep one, with very little energy remaining, there was another speed-detection sign. I checked my GPS as I approached it: 2.6mph. The sign glanced down at me with a condescending look and decided it really couldn't be bothered to go to the trouble of lighting up for such a pathetic speed: it remained blank.

Finally, I decided I must be on the final downhill run into Cowes. No. There was another uphill ahead. I climbed that and then set off down what must really be the final downhill run. No: more uphill. Bastard island.

Eventually, though, I started back downhill and it kept going in the correct downward direction all the way to the final checkpoint. The officials had packed up, so there was no-one to stamp my card and hand over my completion certificate. I waited for the chain-link ferry.

On the ferry, a guy got out of his car and came over: "Were you doing the ride?" I confirmed this. "Do you have your card?" I handed it over. "You just missed us - we packed up two minutes ago, but I'll get your certificate." What a nice chap.

On the far side, the last few hundred metres of climb before I was back at my guesthouse (trike-eye view):

My total mileage for the day:

I swear that most of them were uphill. This wasn't the longest day's ride I've done (that had been 90 miles on the flat), but it was the toughest.

The trike had no mechanical issues at all, just a slight slipping of the rear fairing mount requiring it to be adjusted a few times. I'm going to drill a hole through it to fit a bolt to hold it in place, while still allowing it to be collapsed when needed. It was tucked up for the night for a well-earned rest:

My maximum speed was 44mph, so 10mph short of my 54mph record (down the far side of Ditchling Beacon on the London to Brighton), but the length of the hills meant that decent speeds could be sustained for quite some time:

Indeed, several times I had to brake for cars.

With the trike put away, I had a quick shower, changed into civvies and got a taxi into Wooton for an enjoyable dinner with the rest of the gang before an early night. I slept very, very well.


The train manager on the return service to Waterloo was rather less friendly than on the outbound journey. The bike compartment was full, so I asked if it could go in the wheelchair space (saying I'd obviously get off the train if there was a wheelchair user wanting to get on anywhere en-route).

She said there was a push-chair in the space. I asked if that could be moved, and she said "Why should I?" and walked off! Not exactly an ambassador for South West Trains, then ...

That left me getting on the next service, half an hour later. The train manager was a little stressed as they'd just had a theft on board, with the police meeting the train to deal with that, but after some discussions the trike was slotted into the wheelchair space (fitting very neatly once the rear wheel was folded).

An 11-mile cycle from Waterloo back to Ilford, to pickup my train home, proved that I was at least capable of getting back onto the trike after a tough day's ride!

Would I do it again next year? Yes, but I think I'll probably hire a van to avoid any hassles with trains. Chuck a mattress and sleeping bag in and it can serve as a tent too, so I can join the happy campers.

For those interested, a more detailed tracklog is shown below:

Many thanks to all involved in the Randonee for an excellent event - it was much appreciated.