Tuesday 10 April 2012

LEJOG (End to End) Before the Ride - Preparation

Preparing for Paul’s and Ash’s LEJOG Challenge

Unfortunately, only a few days before the ride Paul had his bikes stolen from outside where he lives and this left him without anything to ride.  Time was very short for sorting out an alternative and it seemed unlikely that the stolen bikes would be retrieved in time, if at all.  The only bit of luck he had was that he’d previously passed on an older bike to one of our club mates, and he was still refurbishing it to sell.  Paul took the decision to abort the sale and get the bike back.  It seemed less risky to be doing a long distance bike ride on a bike he’d owned and ridden before, compared to having to borrow or purchase one with an unfamiliar set-up.  Paul had already been experiencing a bit of back pain on the run up to April, so we were worried about anything that would exacerbate the situation.

Last Minute Fixes

The weekend leading up to our Land’s End to John O’Groats was the final chance for any preparation.  We’d been using the bikes we were going to be taking most of the time, so putting things like the pannier racks on was left to the last minute.  They weren’t something I particularly wanted to be carrying around for any longer than really necessary.  I was going to be using my everyday training bike for the LEJOG, so the panniers weren’t being added until the eleventh hour.  This was perhaps a little bit risky, as it wouldn’t give me much chance for testing or becoming accustomed to the extra weight and different balance.  My bike didn’t have any lugs on the frame or forks that would normally be used for clamping on things like mudguards or pannier racks, so I had to improvise with ‘P’ clips.

Most of my new equipment for the ride hade been purchased from various sellers on Ebay.  I was taking the view that pannier set up was only going to be for the End to End ride and I’d be removing it on my return.  This meant that I was trying to strike a balance between something that would last the duration without giving me any problems and something that would be expensive and last for a long time.  I took the view that as long as the pannier rack was stable I shouldn’t need to spend a lot of money for something that needed to be sufficient for only about two weeks and a thousand miles.

The only slight problem with my approach was that I didn’t really have any time for tweaking the set up.  I fixed the pannier rack to the bike and this seemed stable.  Although, with the ‘P’ clip attachments, I didn’t have much room for manoeuvre as far as it position was concerned.  I’d opted for the cheaper end of the market and purchased a set of Twin Pannier Bags that were fixed together and draped over the rack.  I think I’d only paid about ten pounds for them.  They certainly seemed durable enough and I was happy with them, but weren’t watertight.  The real downside was that I discovered that my heel clipped the bottom corner of them, due to the very square design.

I didn’t have too much time and a solution needed to be found.  I couldn’t ride that distance with my heels clipping the pannier bags on every pedal stroke.  The conclusion was that I needed to lift the bags up and possibly back a little bit without moving the rack.  I am a bit of a hoarder, so I ended up rummaging through everything I’d accumulated in my garage over a couple of decades and came up with a rectangular plastic window box (for flowers or plants) that was near enough the same width and length as the top of the rack.  I commenced drilling holes in the bottom of the box to allow me to attach it to the rack with cable ties.  Once attached, I had a quick test and the extra three or four inches in height was enough to lift the front corners of the bags away from my heels.  The only problem was that I had now covered the spring loaded clamp, so had now way of holding down the flap that joined the left and right bags.  I bit more rummaging in the garage and I came up with a short bungee rope that would hopefully do the job.  It was all a bit ‘(William) Heath Robinson’, but it did the job.  By good fortune rather than good design, I ended up with some extra storage space and the bungee rope that acted as a nice place to clip my gloves when I was taking out my phone, wallet or camera.

Ash's LEJOG Bike with Pannier Rack and Window Box

A Closer View of the Window Box Attachment

Booking our LEJOG Transport and Accommodation

We’d decided to make the popular South to North journey and had taken a view that we’d only plan and commit to the first half of the route that would take us back to our home town (city) of Preston and a night in our own homes.  We’d been fortunate enough to get a couple of invites to stay with friends and family on the way.  This meant a slight adjustment to the route (travelling further East than normal) that would mean we wouldn’t be passing near or through Bristol.

Our plan was to pick up a hire car the day before the ride, load the bikes in and drive it (one way) to the nearest place to Land’s End that the car hire company had an branch.  This turned out to be Penzance.  We’d accepted that there wasn’t much available in Land’s End itself in April, as far as accommodation was concerned, so we booked a night in a hotel at St. Just a few miles away from the start.  This meant that we’d need to ride from the car hire office to the hotel the night before and from the hotel to Land’s End on the day prior to officially starting the End to End ride.

Our plan was as follows:

  • Leg 1 - Land's End to Sourton Cross (Okehampton) - 11/04/2012
  • Leg 2 - Sourton Cross (Devon) to (Royal) Wootton Bassett - 12/04/2012
  • Leg 3 - Royal Wootton Bassett to Ladywood (Birmingham) - 13/04/2012
  • Leg 4 - Ladywood (Birmingham, West Midlands) to Walton le Dale (Preston) - 14/04/2012
  • Leg 5 - Preston to somewhere near the border of Scotland [RVCRC A Ride] - 15/04/2012 

Before the Official LEJOG Ride

We’d decided to make the journey unsupported, which meant that we had to carry everything we needed in our pannier bags.  However, we were not camping (yeah!), so we didn’t need to pack a tent, sleeping bag, etc.  I got everything together and the rough weight of kit came to about 18 lbs (pounds).  Considering that there was a bit of weight in the pannier rack itself and my bike normally came in at about 21 lbs (pounds), this meant that are bikes with kit were approximately twice as heavy as they normally were when we rode them.

Ash's Pannier Bags and Full Kit for the LEJOG Ride

The ride from the car hire company Penzance branch to the hotel on the night before our LEJOG challenge was a bit of an eye opener and a slight concern.  Stupidly I’d practised riding the bike with the rack and the pannier bags attached, but they hadn’t previously been packed with any of my kit in.  I found the eight mile journey quite difficult and felt like the bike was swinging about all over the place when I stood up out of the saddle to climb some of the Cornish hills.  I was more than a bit concerned as the day after we needed to cover more than ten times this distance!

Anyway, it was too late to change anything now.  I would just need to get used to things!

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