Frequently asked questions
Why did you do this?
Can I get back to you on that?
How does it feel to do it?
Happy, annoyed, excited, bored, energised, exhausted, elated, depressed, delighted, miserable, content, frustrated, pleased. Not necessarily in that order.
It looks like a long way
How fit do you have to be to do it?
To do it at the rate some people do, very fit. To do it at the rate I did it, not extraordinarily so. You probably shouldn't attempt it if the most exercise you ever get is walking from the sofa to the fridge, but I would say I was no more than averagely fit when I began the ride. I don't do gyms, and typically cycle around 50 or 60 miles a week. You will get fitter as you go (or die, of course).
How many miles a day did you do?
Our shortest day was 38 miles, our longest one was 71, but usually we did 50-60 miles a day. Our overall average was 55 miles a day.
What speed did you do?
My moving average was usually in the 11-12.5mph range, comprising 3mph up some hills and over 40mph down some others. My overall average is a bit of an unknown as I kept forgetting to reset the GPS immediately before setting off each day.
What sort of bike can you use?
Pretty much anything in good condition. Let's face it, if it can be done on 20kg trikes, there isn't much that would be impossible - provided you have a decent number of gears.
How many gears are needed?
If you have no further use for your knees after the trip, none. (I do know one person who did it on a fixie - he seriously damaged his knees doing it.) You'll go up some extremely steep hills, and down some very fast ones, so I'd say you want to be able to get up the steepest hill you know and be able to do 30mph plus on steep downhills to keep your average speed up.
Just how bad are the hills anyway?
I'm a Londoner who now lives in Essex, so the concept of hills was fairly new to me. Cornwall is just constantly up & down, with no flat bits at all. Scotland has some extremely lengthy climbs, some of them steep. I did the Isle of Wight Randonee a couple of weeks beforehand, and can highly recommend this as training for anyone else unfamiliar with hills.
What about the weather?
It's Britain. You'll need thermal underwear and Factor 70 sun-block. However, I had an arrangement with the weather gods, and apart from day 3, they stuck to the deal. Honestly, they're anyone's for a large Shiraz.
Oh yes. Good ones. I had Montane eVent, and highly recommend them. Carry waterproof gloves, too.
What did you take with you?
On the bikes: waterproofs, fleece, tools, some spares, spare gloves, CamelBak with rehydration mix, spare rehydration powders, high-energy snacks, spare batteries (enough for all three lights and the GPS). In the motorhome: changes of clothes for eight days (so we weren't constantly needing to do laundry), washkit, more spares (including tyres).
Why LEJOG rather than JOGLE, and east rather than west?
We selected Lands End to John O'Groats (rather than the other way round) because the prevailing winds are from the south-west. This paid off. We selected east of Pennines rather than west to avoid the hills of Cumbria and because, statistically, the east of the UK is drier. This also paid off. (It is about 100 miles further this way, however.)
How did you navigate?
Badly at first. Then we learned to do it this way:
- join the dots on a map that shows contours (OS maps, mapmyride, etc)
- mark that route onto a compact road atlas (for a broad view)
- use a GPS to navigate from point to point (for the most direct routes)
What GPS settings did you use?
The wrone ones, initially. Like 'Avoid highways', which randomly avoided some perfectly sensible A-roads but not others. And telling it we're on a bicycle, which then randomly avoided other perfectly cycle-able roads. We learned to use: Shortest Route, Best Route, Car, and just manually ensured that it was not using motorways (which is where the paper road atlas is handy, to find parallel roads).
What mix of roads did you use?
Mostly B-roads and quieter A-roads, but a few stretches of busy A-roads (including dual-carriageways) here and there where the alternative was too fiddly.
How scary are fast dual-carriageways on bikes?
Usually not too bad, but then I was wearing shockingly hi-viz yellow t-shirts and using Dinotte flashing lights, which are visible in daylight from around a mile away. I wouldn't have wanted to do some of the stretches without those. With them, a 1.5-mile stretch of the A1 (a motorway in all but name) was the only scary bit.
What did you eat?
For breakfast, bananas on toast with jam/honey/ etc. I can't eat too much first thing, but am fairly religious about bananas when cycling. Usually a lunch-stop after 20 miles, for a main meal and a pudding. A cake stop (usually another pudding at a pub) after another 20 miles or so. Vast quantities of Earl Grey at every opportunity. For dinner, we did a mix of pub meals and meals cooked in the motorhome. I tried to ensure a good mix of carbs and veg. I carried a banana and high-energy snacks on the bike just in case we ran out of pubs along the way (which we did twice).
Are you glad you did it?
Absolutely. See the afterword at the end of day 19.
There must have been some crap times too?
There were, but that's the nature of adventures.
Would you do it again?
Definitely. I would, however, probably make it nearer 40 miles a day so that there's more time for stops along the way.