Monday, 2 April 2012

Getting Ready for Paul's and Ash's LEJOG Challenge

Paul's and Ash's LEJOG Challenge


Getting Ready for Paul's and Ash's LEJOG Challenge

It was quite early on in 2012 when one of my friends from the cycling club (Ribble Valley Cycling and Racing Club - www.ribblevalleycrc.com) approached me and some of the other members with the idea of doing a long distance bike ride.  We met as usual on a Monday night, after we’d previously ridden on the Sunday club run, and the general topic of conversion was our cycling related plans for the coming year.  He suggested riding our bikes the length of the country over the course of a few days (well, a week or two).  I’d heard a few stories about people doing this before, but I’ll be honest the whole tourist thing hadn’t appealed to me before.  Even though I’d been a member of the CTC (Cyclists' Touring Club - www.ctc.org.uk) for some time, I had a need for speed and carrying anything vaguely resembling luggage on my bike just wasn’t that appealing.

My cycling friend (Paul) suggested a trip that went from the very South (West) of England to the far North (East) of Scotland.  He started speaking in cycling tourists’ terms, such as LEJOG and End to End.  I’d previously taken my bicycle away with me on holiday (to Spain), but this was going to be somewhat a different approach.  A holiday of sorts, but no rest and cycling most of the day every day for over a week.  Anyway, to cut a long story short, I fancied the challenge and agreed to join him.

What is LEJOG?

LEJOG is a Land's End to John o' Groats journey, which is approximately 900 Miles.  In this case an 'unsupported' bike ride.  The ride is also sometimes known as the ‘End to End‘.  It is generally done in a South to North direction to take advantage (hopefully) of the prevailing winds.  It is more common for the winds to be coming in from the sea in the West, when in the South West of England.  From that point of view, riders should hope to get a bit of a tail wind for the first few days of their ride.

It was quite a surprise to me, but the trip is also most often done in a South to North direction to tackle the majority of the climbing at an early stage.  Having not ridden my bike in either Devon, Cornwall or any of Scotland before, it seemed very unlikely to me that the South West peninsula would be any more mountainous than Scotland.  However, this is was the initiated were telling me, so it seemed reasonable to go with it.

Our aim was to cycle between 100 & 120 miles each day with overnight stays in Bed & Breakfasts, Hotels, Friends' Houses and one sneaky night at home in our own beds!  It’s probably not the case for many LEJOG cyclists, but we had the advantage of passing through our home town (well now a city - Preston in Lancashire).  This was great, as it would afford us a little time at home.  During that period we could catch up with our better halves, change kit and carry out any necessary tweaks to the equipment.  It also meant that we could potentially spend some time riding with a few of our cycling club members on the Sunday morning as part of our northward journey, if we planned to arrive in Preston on Saturday evening and leave on Sunday morning.

Our LEJOG (End to End) Route

Over the coming weeks we made rough plans for our route and when we would be setting off from Land's End.  We had a few discussions about the best time of year to do the ride and decided that April was a good option.  In recent years it has been one of the drier months and, to all intents and purposes, Winter should have been well behind us.  It also meant that realistically, the temperatures should be fairly moderate and unless we had an unexpected heat wave, we wouldn’t be likely to be overheating.

As part of the planning and preparation we spent quite a bit of time researching what other riders had done.  We found quite a lot of useful information on the CTC web site.  There are a number of interesting accounts on the CTC web site (http://www.ctc.org.uk/article/cycling-guide/land-end-to-john-ogroats-riders-stories) and there are also some useful guides specifically available to members.  We downloaded an ‘End to End’ pack from the CTC and Paul went away to read through it.

Now suitably clued-up we eventually decided (probably in late March) to start the ride on Wednesday 11th April 2012.  We were going to make the journey in nine days with no rest days.  Paul needed to get back home for a wedding (not his own) at the end of the month and we booked enough time off to allow for a couple of days to spare if anything went wrong.  Prior to setting off we had our route up to Preston planned.  However, our route from Preston to John o'Groats was as yet undetermined!

Our LEJOG (End to End) Preparation

We were both reasonable cyclists.  I’d been cycling on and off for most of my life and was recently rekindling my interest.  After many years of cycling mainly alone, and occasionally with a few friends, I’d decided to join the local cycling club in the summer of 2011.  Paul was much newer to cycling, whilst he was slightly older than me, and had been a cycling club member for longer, he’s only been riding the bike for a couple of years.  He was now a regular cyclist though.  The bike was (and is still is) his main mode of transport and he commutes to work in the next town (Blackburn) on a daily basis.

Whilst cycling with the club, the Spring, Summer and early Autumn rides are generally quite long and would be reasonable preparation for our challenge.  However, the rides are more often than not about 80 miles (perhaps a bit more if you ride to and from the meeting point).  From the 'Club' rides we started building up to longer rides.  It was a long time since I had ridden over 100 miles in one day and we certainly had never done such a long ride on consecutive days.  We met up (just Paul and I) on a few Saturdays in the spring and rode up to about 120 miles.  If possible we then did the club run on the Sunday.

Paul approaching 'The Bridge' at Runcorn 
Crossing the Runcorn Bridge on a training ride


We also embarked on some ‘high altitude’ training.  It wasn’t until a few weeks before the ride that I realised  Paul wasn’t keen on heights and it was very likely that we’d have to pass over at least one significantly high road bridge on the journey.  As part of one of our longer (Saturday) training rides we took in the Runcorn bridge to see if Paul could cope with the crossing on his bike!

Paul riding into Tatton Park after safely exiting the Bridge

In Tatton Park on a long LEJOG training ride

We were now physically and mentally prepared.  Family, friends and colleagues were aware of intentions and the dates.  All that remained now was to book the transport, accommodation and get the bikes ready.

More to follow - Our final preparation for the LEJOG Challenge...



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