The Final Countdown

IMG_0817One month to go until I tackle my biggest cycling challenge to date pedalling from Lands End to John O’Groats. Many thousands do it every year and I have been excited at the prospect and hoping I have the stamina and mental toughness to complete the challenge. Full time retirement convinced me that I needed to try it while I was still in good health and reading books and blogs of other cyclists attempts have spurred me into action.

After I had decided that 2015 would be the year I picked a start date of May 11th and began a bit more detailed planning by writing a list.

Is it to be LeJog or JogLe ? The arguments for, suggest LeJog favours the prevailing wind and from my perspective I am nearer to Lands End, the argument against is that Devon and Cornwall are the hilliest counties and best tackled when you have built leg strength on the ride. In reality whichever way you choose Murphy will make sure a headwind so Its LeJog for me.

The next decision was how to support the trip, should I book accommodation in advance, carry a tent or join a supported group ride. I really wanted complete flexibility so after a bit more consideration and a lot of grovelling to my wife Kaye I hatched a plan to go with our motorhome. This would make it a team effort and Kaye would drive and keep an eye on me and with her newly acquired life skill of puncture mending would assume the position of team mechanic, cook, laundry maid, driver, soigneur, masseur, director sportif, housekeeper and PR and I will turn the pedals and avoid walking as much as possible.

I will use my Van Nicholas bike with a 50/34 compact groupset, Ultegra wheels and Shwalbe Durano Plus tyres. I have a comfortable Fizik Arione saddle, I was also advised to make sure I have tested all the clothing for chafe which could present a problem on longer multi day rides.  My plan was to split each day into three rides and meet up with Kaye at the stops, a 30 mile ride to a morning coffee followed by 25 miles to lunch and a final 20 – 25 miles in the afternoon. This will then give us time for any sightseeing along the way.

The biggest dilemma was the planning of a route, much has been written and many and varied opinions about which roads are best but after many days research and deliberation I settled on the route travelled by my good friend Darren Lavender who undertook the journey in 2010 and routed up the west coast of Scotland and a total of 1023 miles. I have chosen the same daily targets hoping to complete the journey in a relaxed 14 days but the motorhome gives us flexibility if required.

The last item on the list was the preparation of the rider. I have now been in training for a full 3 months, I try to get a ride in most days of about 20- 30 miles with longer rides of 60 -70 miles at least twice a week but it will be about 70 miles a day to complete the 1000 mile route in 14 days, so that will be new territory. I also took the opportunity to get a bike fit a month ago and the adjustments to my riding style have resulted in a more comfortable position. I am hopeful that my with my preparation this alteration will stand me in good stead.

The training continues and so far this month  I have completed a 120 mile ride to Beaulieu and back as well as a day out in the Surrey Hills. I have joined #30daysofbiking for which you pledge to cycle every day in April. I am hopeful that with this preparation I will be ready for the challenge. The daily routes have been plotted and printed out with cue sheets as well as loaded as .gpx files to my Garmin Edge 800 and all is now ready. I am presently assembling a box of spares, chain, chain lube, brake blocks, brake and derailleur cables, tubes and spare tyre and if anything else fails my flexible friend will be at hand. I am now counting the days until I can load up the camper and go, and of course praying for a following wind and just a bit of co-operation from the legs.