LEJOG postponed…life gets in the way

Right – the reason I started this blog was to document my preparation for LEJOG and also to document the journey itself. However, I have had to put my plans on hold as Life has taken a few twists and turns since I came up with the idea.

Firstly; I will be moving house soon. Moving 310 miles up the road. Returning to Scotland. I’ve been away for 10 years and it’s been too long; I only meant to stay in England a month…

Secondly; I need a new job. A lot of people will think me slightly touched dans la tete for resigning from a ‘perfectly good’ public service job in this current situation of redundancies and cut-backs. But I have to change job – this one is just NOT ME. I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t get out of this situation.  As soon as I’m safely out of there, I will be able to expand a little on that.

Thirdly; I just don’t have the money this year to do a trip like this. Between moving house and losing two thirds of our joint income (partner forced out of job earlier) there is nothing spare.

Hence, the LEJOG journey will have to wait. I’ll do it one day. In the meantime, I hope I’ll be using this blog to document my more small-scale ventures. Next up is a short cycle trip from South Glasgow to Edinburgh, then over the Forth to the Kingdom of Fife. Next weekend, all being well! I have changed my bike’s riser handlebars for ‘butterfly’ style touring ones. I’m pretty sure they’re not meant to be installed the way I have put them on, (they look v weird!) but after much tinkering this was the comfiest position. 66 miles should tell me whether this will work long-term. I still need grips for them, but have posted before and after pics below:

THE OLD SET-UP – the way the bike has been for the past 16 years.

THE NEW SET-Up – yes it looks weird; I’ve probably put them on back to front and upside down…but it seems comfortable!

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A Change of Plan..?

I may have just completely changed my mind about something.

I set this website up mostly because I wanted to record and publish my preparations for cycling Lejog (Land’s End – John O’Groats) in spring 2010. Ever since I started trying to work out my route, I’ve found that I really have no interest in cycling anywhere south of Manchester. I had a look last night to see how much the train will cost me to get from my house to Penzance, and the minimum amount is a whopping £105!! It strikes me as a little arse-about-face to pay that amount of money to travel south, only to spend about 5 days cycling north to get to where I started from. It’s not just illogical ( although I admit I’m not a great fan of logic), but the only function it serves would be able to say “yes, I have cycled the length of mainland UK”.

What if I was to do the same mileage (1000 miles), cycling from my house around a load of places I fancy visiting on a bike? It may not sound as impressive as cycling end-to-end, but miles are miles and it would give me so much more scope for a varied route off the path well-beaten by generations of End-to-Enders. Thinking about doing a non-traditional cycle challenge is bringing up all sorts of wacky and tempting ideas, such as riding about re-enacting scenes from Monty Python’s ‘Holy Grail’ in the places they were filmed, to going on a ‘mystery tour’ where my direction of travel each day is decided by chance, or staying in haunted sites or working my way between ancient stone circles….
When route-planning is thought of in this light, it makes doing Lejog seem a little, well…unimaginative.

So on the one hand I’m excited by the prospect of having a much more flexible route, but on the other I am concerned about not having completed this classic challenge. It seems to me that there is something in the psyche that rates travelling between two farthest points on a land mass higher than riding around a little more haphazardly. It’s all in the mind though, it’s just that it’s a little harder to visualise a route that doesn’t go from A to B but from C to B via X and P.

1000 mile cycle challenge does sound quite good though… I’ll have to think about this a little more before I decide not to complete Lejog. Damn difficult call to make though.

An account of Cycling through Norway

Just had to share this cycle-touring report from Tim Moss, owner of The Next Challenge blog. It’s a well detailed and recorded account of his solo cycle down through Norway earlier this year.  Good photos, maps, charts, stats and tweets! Makes me even more certain that I will do something similar one day. Scandinavia seems perfect for my kinda cycle-touring.

Click here to read it (PDF)

Good morning, campers!

I think most people who cycle LEJOG choose to stay in B&B’s/travellodges/guesthouses. Myself, not being most people, I have

Room with a view

You don't get this at the Holiday Inn...

chosen the luxury of a foam mat and a tent, cooking my own food where possible and of course lugging all this heavy equipment around the country with me.

The primary reason for this seemingly bonkers decision is…money. I just can’t afford £20-30 per nightand living off Texaco sandwiches/pub lunches. Actually, I can’t face living off pre-packed sandwiches. Having the means to cook your own food is cheaper and healthier and much more flexible (porridge and coffee at 5am is luuuuuverly).

With the ‘staying in buildings’ option, I would most probably have to book in advance, and I don’t like the pressure of having to stick to a schedule no matter what. By camping, I can always stay in a B&B in an emergency (tent gets ripped up by marauding sheep, etc). I’ll still have to look up all the campsites en-route, but shouldn’t have to worry about booking a pitch, as I won’t be travelling in holiday season. I can stick to my own schedule pretty much and if I get woken at 4am and decide to set off at 6am, I won’t need to wake people up demanding breakfast.

I don’t plan on wild camping in Scotland (where it’s legal), as I don’t think I’ll be far enough into the wilds to be safe (what with cycling on roads, like). I certainly don’t plan on stealth camping in England, as my tent is bright blue and not really very…stealth-like. Not that I would *ever* dream of illegally camping…(don’t do it kids, farmers may shoot you).

My tent is pretty waterproof (Vango Tempest, with 5000mm HH) as was proven last May when I woke up to a river running underneath the groundsheet, a la an unplanned water-bed. It’s a 2-man, but that’s perfect for me and 4 panniers. It’s not lightweight (2.5kg), but was only £80, compared with £200 – 300 for something like a Hillberg Akto at 1kg.  I can cook in the porch area and I padlock my bike to a tent pole at night, if there are no fences nearby. This is not realistically a preventative measure against theft, more of an alarm system which would alert me to my bike being stolen by collapsing the tent on my head. Perhaps not the most elegant system, thinking about it. Probably should revise that…

My wheels

So heavily laden the tree next to it started bending...

So heavily laden the tree next to it started bending...

I’ve got a pretty old bike. It was a present for my 16th birthday, so yeah – pretty old! It’s a Ridgeback 920sx Urban Series – basically a hybrid designed for commuting. Normal pedals; haven’t been convinced by clipless yet, but that may change.

It hasn’t got disc-brakes or carbon-fibre forks or titanium rims and I’m still running on the original City Slicker II tyres (although they are getting a *leeeetle* perished around the edges and I should probably replace them).

The picture is from my first long-distance cyle trip in May 2009, fully laden. I fitted a front pannier rack to accommodate all those extra pairs of (unneccessary) socks/pants.  I’ve got front and rear lights from Halfords, cheap and not-waterproof panniers, an 8-function cycle computer (Halfords again) and a rather lovely saddle by Velo. The saddle is a ladies-specific one, with a hole for increased, err… ventilation. (TMI – sorry).

Just the one bottle cage (need to add another somewhere), but I have a BRILLIANT old-skool bicycle bell that is even older than the bike. It’s one that goes *BRRINGG BRRRINGGG!* That was bought from Jeanstown Stores, Lochcarron, 1989. It work better than just shouting  ” Get out of the way! ” It probably weights about 1kg, but it’s staying.

So, the bike is old, heavy, not designed for long-distance and showing signs of damage from when my Dad borrowed it to come back from the pub and performed a spectacular face-plant into the gutter.  Perfect.