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Lands End to John O'Groats (LEJOG) Cycle

The following is a daily log for Helen and Roger's cycle bike ride from Lands End to John O'Groats (LEJOG) in the summer of 2006, cycled during the World Cup football. In 2006, the smoking ban had recently started in Scotland, but not in England. There was no external support, and it took the 49 year olds less than 2 weeks, carrying their own luggage. About 3000 was raised for Marie Curie Cancer Care. If you are thinking of cycling this yourselves, send us an email and we will provide you with as much information as we can.

The training for LEJOG

We started mid January with a target of one long ride per week of 40 miles and a weekly total of 70 miles. Each month this was increased by 10, so Feb was 50 mile long ride and 80 mile total, June was 90 miles and 120 total. In practice, we rarely achieved the target long distances, due to the 6 hours it takes to do say a 80 mile ride over the hills.
May was a wash out due to the wind and rain, and the various foreign business trips caused further gaps in the training. January and February was icy and bitter but just great. Total miles covered during the training was around 1600 each. However, here we are in June ready to go, as long as the sun is shining!

Journey record, route & facts and figures:

We expect to cover about 1,000 miles.
The record for shortest time is 1 day and 20 hours in 2001
Even more impressive: 14 days in 1882 on a penny farthing
Most impressive when you consider the state of the roads then and the lack of bridges.
Perhaps the oddest form of transport ...... a motorised toilet!
It should take us about 14-15 days, averaging 70 miles a day.
We will stay in B & B's and maybe the odd youth hostel (cheap but with horrible breakfast) - we want to travel light.
Our route is on B roads wherever possible. If not then minor A roads. The shortest route is by A roads which is easier (less hilly & about 150 mls less) but not peaceful. Any record attempt is always done on the flatter A roads mainly because of the lack of steep hills and no sharp bends but if you have ever cycled along the A30 in cornwall, you will know just how unpleasant this is.
We will go from the South West tip of England, via Bodmin, Bristol, Telford, Blackburn, Penrith, Edinburgh and Inverness to the North East tip.
We will wear yellow lycra - not pretty at 49 years old!
Expected weight loss is about 8lbs. See the epilogue at the end for the actual loss.



Bikes - Giant OCR and Marin Lucas

Day 0
Firstly, thank you to all who have sponsored us for Marie Curie Cancer Care. Every little helps, so whether big or small – thank you.
Took the train to Penzance, then 11 miles against a gale to Sennen, about 3 miles from Lands End. No punctures so far, so a good start for tomorrow. Being mid summer (21st June) and about as far west as you can go in the UK, it stayed light until gone 10:00pm, which was about the time we arrived in Sennen. Tomorrow will be a quick trip to Lands End for photos, then around 70-80 miles to Bodmin via Penzance and Redruth. Our 1st B&B smelt of boiled cabbage and the decor is hideous. The only way is up!

Day1
66 miles to Bodmin today, but first some more information on Lands End (LE).

The eagle eyed among you will notice that the signs on the post at LE are missing. That is because they charge for photos and someone might just sneak in for a free one in the early hours. At 7.30 in the morning no one was there to put the sign up or charge us.

A heart warming tale:
A man in his eighties had had a lifelong ambition to cycle LE-JOG and was determined to realise that ambition despite his families objections. He did
it last year with his son on a tandem trike.

Bodmin Gaol
Bodmin,although once the county town of Cornwall,  is one of those Cornish towns that is best missed. The grey stone and slate houses gives the place a depressing feel, especially when wet. However, one unmissable place is Bodmin Gaol. This Victorian jail depicts all the horrors of our ‘civilised’ society in the 19th Century. Examples include the death sentence for a 16 year old for setting fire to a haystack. The place has been done on a low budget, but the cold dank building and examples of past sentences makes the place a must visit. Combine it with a trip to the Eden project.

Day2
70 miles today, 136 total,  from Bodmin to our house in Devon, via Camelford, Holdsworthy (thanks for the lunch Jan) and Torrington. If you read any book about cycling Land End John O'Groats (LEJOG) they all mention just how bad the hills of Devon and Cornwall are. They are likened to dragon's teeth - short and sharp. The books are not wrong. Today was tough. This dragon had many sets of teeth. At the bottom of each steep hill are two right angle bends and a narrow bridge, preventing any build-up of speed on the downhill leg helping on the uphill part.

The weather has been kind so far. Both days have had slight tail winds, with a maximum temperature of 18C - ideal for cycling. However, even in these warm (not hot) conditions, drinking enough liquid is a challenge. Because one's body looses salts when sweating, we use an electrolyte drink that replenishes the salts and sugars. It tastes absolutly disgusting. Anyone who has tried Dioralyte will know.

Tomorrow Roger is busy until about 5pm, so it will only be a short 40 mile cycle to Taunton in Somerset - 1 county per day.

Day 3

Finally, we have left the Devon & Cornish hills. The route over Exmoor (stunning scenery) took us via Bampton to the flat plains of Somerset (a complete novelty as there are no flat roads where we live).  A mere 46 miles today taking the total from Lands End to 182. We were unable to leave until 17.00 today due to Project Propeller

Every year Roger flies 3 ex WW2 pilots to a location for a get-together. About 300 ex pilots come from all parts of the UK. This year the meeting was at Halfpenny Green airfield near Birmingham. These 3 guys, all in their mid 80s are great. They probably think Roger is doing them a great favour, but in reality, their outlook on life makes it the other way around. I guess that when you have lost many of your friends during the various war time raids, you outlook has to change. Anyhow, this year’s meeting is on the 24th June, hence yesterday's diversion back to Devon

Tomorrow (Sunday), although a day of rest, will be about 80 mls to Gloucester.

Day 4

Left Taunton too early for breakfast, so set off to find the transport cafe voted 2nd best in the UK. It is on the A38 near Bridgewater. It was closed (Sunday). So, went to the M5 motorway service area at Bridgewater. Unable to find the bike racks.
To Bristol via the Somerset levels, just like Essex marshland, and over the Mendips. Bristol is surprisingly cycle friendly, including on Brunel's masterpiece, the Clifton suspension bridge.
Final destination, Gloucester - 90miles today, 272 total since Lands End.
Tomorrow, aiming for Telford or Market Drayton

How many car drivers wear lycra? Why do all Travel Inn receptionists ask us for the car number plate?

Day5

Anyone waiting for the nightly update will have noticed that this one was late. Too tired after 103 miles! (375 total from Lands End, approx 625 to go to John O'Groats). From Gloucester via Ludlow and Telford to Market Drayton. Helen's father and wife Joyce live in M.D. so a free bed for the night. Thanks Joyce and Dad for your wonderful hospitality.
Shropshire has many surprises - some beautiful market towns and a sprinkling of hills to give Devon a run for it's money.

A lesson learnt in Gloucester - dont eat a hot curry before a long cycle. Most uncomfortable.

Day 6
Up North now, in Bolton. We cycled slowly in case a pack of  whippets jumped out but none seen, only pigeon droppings and broken glass.

Ever tried booking your bike onto a train? These days, most people book their tickets through the web, however you cannot book the bikes this way. There is no central booking system for bikes, so having bought your tickets, you have to either phone the rail company direct (in India, naturally) and try to book the bike onto the train (works with Great Western but not Virgin trains) or go to a rail station and try to book it there.
There is only one train a day from John O’Groats and on this, bike spaces are in short supply. At peak times, Scotrail run a lorry to take the bikes to Inverness. Today we discovered that this lorry only runs week days. We intended to leave JOG on Saturday. Looks like we will have to cycle more miles each day to gain 1 day.

The last time we had Sudocrem on our bottom was about 49 years ago.

Day7

Return trip for bikes now sorted. They travel on a van on Friday 7th whilst we go by train.

We are now in Shap, in the foothills of the lake district. 90 miles today, 530 total, approx 470 to go.
These 90 miles were some of the hilliest hills we have yet met. The forest of Bowland in Lancashire was beautiful but especially hilly - maximum speed reached downhill was 48mph.
Blackburn was interesting. A big town, very light on traffic. Spot the woman not wearing a burka. In a school playground of 200 or so, it was obvious there were no white children as the kids were too immaculatly dressed.
Lost an hour in the morning when the road turned into a quarry on the pennines.

Why was Yorkshire's county sign the smallest and cheapest we have met? (see the photo below if you don't believe me)

Day 8

We are now about 20miles into Scotland, North of Langholm 602 mls completed, approx 400 to go. To celibrate this achievement, it was a toss between a 4 star country hotel (voted best scottish breakfast) or a Buddhist retreat. The retreat won. With hindsight, sitting cross legged for 1 hour of evening prayers was not a sensible decision after all the cycling.

Apart from the knees, the rest of our bodies are coping well. Ibuprofen and Asprin are useful partners.

The North South divide does exist, or a least it does for traffic density. North of Blackburn the traffic is about a quarter of that further South.

Mobile phone reception now poor, so having to search for reception to send this mail.

Had our first scotch pie for the trip. Now we know why so many Scots migrate south

Day 9

Yesterday, we washed our souls in the Buddhist retreat, today the rains washed our bodies and bikes. However, with the correct cycling clothes one does not notice the rain. Initially, during training we used normal shorts and T shirts, however once it rains, these stick to you. Proper cycling clothes, although they look daft, are ideal for the job.

Tyres - I will never moan about the cost of car tyres again. Roger’s tyres last a maximum of 1000 miles, and to achieve this, the front and rear must be rotated. Helen’s, due to her  sylph like figure, last a little longer (about 3000 miles). At around 15 per bike tyre, car tyres now seem cheap. Roger had not rotated his tyres at 500 miles, so his back tyre has worn out. A new one was fitted today. Thank you Travel Inn for allowing their bedrooms to be used as a cycle repair shop.

Now in Edinburgh, 662 miles done, approx 340 to go.

Money saving tip - drive to Edinburgh to buy your fuel. It is about 5p a litre cheaper here.

Day 10

Another 80 miler, from Inverness to Pitlochry, via Perth. Not that the route demanded 80miles. We followed No 77 cycle route from Perth, and although very quiet and picturesque, does go round the houses and is poorly marked. We ended cycling over a rickety bridge over a salmon leap.
We passed a woman in her sixties, cycling slowly to John O Groats. She was very heavily laden with camping gear but seemed to be enjoying the adventure. She mentioned meeting a number of men along the route, all with grim, set faces, aiming to complete LE-JOG in the minimum time. We were advised to enjoy it and treat it as a holiday and this has been very good advice.
Perth is a stunning city and well worth a visit. What it is like in deepest winter is another matter.

Clever these Scots. They predicted the demise of England's football team 2 days ago as soon as we entered Scotland. At least that is what we assume as we have not seen a single English flag up here.

Day 11

Imagine a small Scottish skiing village nestling in the foothills of the Cairngorms. Now fill this same village with 3000 members of the Tartan Army - Scotlands football supporters club. Welcome to Aviemore, awash with kilts, beer and testosorone, our destination today.

Many members of the tartan army save weekly to have money to follow Scotland to the world cup. If Scotland does not qualify (like this time) they all meet somewhere for a long weekend of drinking. No one told us before we booked Aviemore!

Day 12


To get here we came by a dedicated cycle route, the longest we have come across, it stretches from Perth to Inverness and takes a scenic, often tortuous route. It is hilly and the surface often abysmal with loose gravel. We took it to avoid the rather fast A9. Our tyres were on the thin side for the gravel (23mm). Better to go for wider 28mm next time, despite the extra drag.

800 miles now done from Lands End with less than 200 to go over 4 days to reach John O'Groats.

You probably don’t want to know this but did you know that cyclists do not wear knickers under their cycling shorts. If you do your skin is rubbed away even quicker. Thanks to Helen’s friend Marjet for this advice. Sorry Mum, I know you are not happy about this (in case we have an accident  – what would the nurses think?)

Whilst you are all sweltering in your southern heatwave it has been our coldest day so far.
We are now in Tain, about 35 miles north east of Inverness. Most of the day we wore 2 layers, just to keep warm.

We have been advised to avoid the busy direct route to John O Groats (about 90 miles away) and take a quieter but longer route that takes us through the centre of the Highlands. There is unlikely to be any mobile phone reception in these remote parts, so this may be the last update for a few days.

For luggage, Roger has a front and rear bag, and Helen just a rear bag (see earlier pictures). This is all we have for 2 weeks. Apart from toiletries, bike repair bits 2 bivvi bags and a few essentials, we have one set of clothes for evening wear plus our cycling wear. The cycling gear is washed each night so has to be quick drying. No room for warm clothes or Sunday  best. Most other cyclists seem to be carrying much more than us. Perhaps they are camping or maybe just better dressed or fresher smelling.

For tomorrow, the Scottish forecast tells us that the weather will be Haar. Is that good or bad?


Day 13
We are now on the most northern coast of the UK and Scotland at  Tongue. Just the odd wisp of a phone signal here. The road from Lairg to Tongue was stunning, going across the moor, around the edge of locks and between 3000' mountains. If anyone else is thinking of doing this trip, DO NOT MISS THIS PART.

Only about 65 miles now to JOG but this will be spread over 2 days due to train bookings.

The hotels here are saying that tourists numbers are down, blaming the world cup.

Ever wondered where southern cars go once they reach 4, and are too old to compete with the neighbour's? Well, they come to the highlands where they rust away into old age.

Day 14

Today was the day of the fly - black house flys in their millions. When cycling on the flat or downhill, they stayed away, but on uphill parts there was no escaping. Every one wanted to drink from our sweaty bodies. The swarm was so numerous that breathing was difficult without having a mouthful.

This was on the Northern coastline between Tongue and Thorso, our overnight stop. Tomorrow is onto John O Groats, then to Wick for the train home starting Friday.

Scottish pubs no longer need pub signs. Just look for the smokers outside on the pavement.

Epilogue

Total mileage was 1010 miles - Lands End to John O'Groats (LEJOG). Actual miles cycled was around 1100, including travelling to and from the ends, small detours etc.

The bikes performed well. One puncture only plus minor adjustment to gears

Total time taken (due to train bookings) was 15 days, but this could have been condensed to 14 or 13 days.

We were lucky with the weather. Never too hot, and a prevailing southerly wind.

The first week is the worst, whilst ones body adjusts to the daily grind. By week 2, the body has adjusted. During the first week, constant food intake is required. By the 2nd, one's body can go great distances between meals. We used isotonic drinks in the 1st week, but not the 2nd.

The weight loss was only 2 lbs. Must be all the pub meals and second breakfasts. If you read other reports of cycling LEJOG, people often talk about gaining weight. However people who walk LEJOG always appear to lose weight, often large amounts. See more about cycling LEJOG weight loss here.

(Weight loss on a recent cycle through France was a more impressive 4-6 lbs. We put this difference down to French cuisine verses English pub grub). 

We are thinking of repeating this in 2016. Anyone want to join us?

Finally - this is the only advert you will see on this site:

Are you cycling LEJOG for charity and looking for a charity to support? Have a look here at a charity that is supporting the Maasai people in southern Kenya. All money raised goes to Kenya as there are no UK salaries or expenses.