I’m always keen to connect with others who have ridden LEJOG/JOGLE to get their perspective on the trip both before they set off and after. If nothing else, it puts more information out into the ether which some may find helpful when planning their own LEJOG/JOGLE.
Richard ordered a copy of Point North & Pedal to help with preparation for his trip in June 2016; he was particularly interested in my LEJOG because he was undertaking a solo effort too. Our routes appear to be very different in that Richard is aiming to stay away from the main roads as much as possible. In a way I envy him that as there is nothing much better than rolling hills and solitude without the traffic. Another time perhaps!
He kindly agreed to field some questions for my blog which I hope will be useful to others, please read on and enjoy!
How did your interest in bikes begin and what kind of cyclist would you class yourself as now?
As a kid growing up in the 70s, everybody played outside and just about everybody had a bike, it was the given mode of transport and our entertainment all rolled into one. That was a few moons ago now but the thrill of riding and the adventure it offered has never left me. In recent years, although I’ve not owned a bike, I hire them out on occasional weekends with my two teenage sons, so I’d certainly never classify myself as being anything other than an occasional leisure cyclist, well, that is until now!
What bike will you be riding and why did you decide upon it for the trip? (be as technical as you like and talk about kit you will have with you!)
I was in a position to shell out on a new bike and so it made sense to look at a dedicated tourer for the purpose. After a bit of shopping around I settled for a steel framed Dawes Galaxy. It was a slight leap of faith as I couldn’t find anywhere local to actually view one, let alone test one out. This seems common place as cycle shops simply don’t shift that many and so fill their floorspace with stock that sells more quickly such as conventional road bikes and racers.
So what of my Galaxy? since it’s arrival in June I’m now fast approaching a thousand miles of use and so far I must say it’s been faultless. All expectations have been met and I’m very pleased with it’s all round performance, particularly the gearing and the comfort afforded by the steel frame itself. The bike is completely standard other than the addition of Shimano touring pedals (A530). They are clipped on just one side so allow freedom of choice to go clipped or free. However, if I were to pick a hole in the Galaxy then it would be the brakes, namely the standard issue Tektro Alloy Cantilevers, they are an old, but trusted on-rim design, and I find them very average. Perhaps I should of held out for the next model up as I’ve since read disc brakes are the way to go with their added stopping power.
Incidentally I did not realise it at the time but my Dad used to own a Dawes road bike back in the 1950s and from the photo he showed me, they’ve not changed much, probably including the brakes!. Unlike my father however, he was never quite crazy enough to contemplate an End-to-End, so I guess I’m not quite that chip off the old block.
Choosing a bike is always a (nice) problem, let’s face it, if we all had unlimited cash there would be a bike for every occasion! The comfort and relaxed geometry of a tourer plus clipless pedals will certainly make the trip more enjoyable. Nice touch on the one sided pedals, another option that makes life a little easier.
At the point you decided to ride the End to End, what was the biggest ride you had undertaken and how does it compare to the challenge of JOGLE?
Years ago I took part in a London to Brighton charity ride for the British Heart Foundation. I was in my 20s and it seemed like a worthwhile and fun thing to do with a few lads from work. With seemingly thousands of others I endured a quite testing ride on a very hot June day (using a mountain bike with knobbly tyres). I treated it as a bit of a laugh and so did little in the way of training, but having youth on my side I just about got away with it, crossing the finish line with nothing more serious than ‘jelly legs’. That ride was 60 odd miles, which is almost the planned daily mileage for my End-to-End ride. Although it was nearly 20 years ago, that ride helped put things into perspective when I began to consider the effort required to cycle the length of the UK. It was very obvious I would have to put in some serious training to begin to even dream I could finish.
Have you settled on a route and what type of roads will you mainly be riding on?
This is about the journey itself and in no way a need to cover a thousand miles in the quickest time. Within reason, I looked to where I fancied going and then simply marked out a route that would take me there. I’m particularly keen to take in the west coast of Scotland, an area I’ve grown to love from previous non cycling visits – it’s a place of sheer raw open beauty.
As for the type of roads, I will look to quieter roads and paths to try and avoid the busier A roads where possible. I must add I’ve gained good ideas and a degree of inspiration by checking out the journals and blogs of those End-to-Enders that have gone before me, which has helped form my own ideas on how I want this to be. I’d certain recommend Sustrans who promote cycle friendly routes, they have a comprehensive website which is worth checking out if anybody is in the planning stage www.sustrans.org.uk. As the End-to-End has no set route, whatever path I do ride will make for a very personal journey and I like the uniqueness in that.
Did you use any online mapping and how do you intend to navigate your way on the trip itself?
There are quite a few different planning and mapping sites and apps freely available or at little cost, but I tend to use ridewithgps.com and cycle.travel/map which work well enough for me. Using these cycling aids helps make identifying cycle friendly routes, elevation profiles, local accommodation and those all important bike shops, effortless. However for the actual ride I shall use paper maps, taken from a cheap, 3 mile to 1 inch scale road atlas. It’s not that I’m a luddite, just my way of keeping things simple with less chance of failure, and there’s nothing much simpler or fail safe than paper.
I agree on the map front, low/simple tech is sometimes better! I used a Garmin on a 24 hour charity ride, it worked well until we got near the New Forest, then it got very confused! The other issue is battery life/chargers/finding a socket etc. etc.
‘Conventional’ wisdom has always recommended riding from Land’s End because of the prevailing winds, why did you decide to ride north to south?
I wasn’t overly phased by this as I’ve read plenty of accounts of winds affecting riders in either direction. What I am even more wary of is the wetter weather I am likely to ‘enjoy’ on Scotlands west coast, my intended route of travel. The main reason however behind my North to South route is simply to clear the more time consuming haul up to Scotland by rail first, thus leaving the relatively shorter journey back to Kent after the finish. I also think there is that school of thought of travelling south, and therefore aiming for home, will offer up a slight psychological lift. In addition to this my girlfriend will meet me at Lands End for a lift home after so it underpins my decision based on my travel logistics, rather than the conditions of prevailing weather during the ride. Not forgetting another very good reason for heading south of course is that I’ll have warm weather and glorious sunshine to look forward to, that reminds me – must pack the sunblock and shades!
What type of physical preparation have you undertaken and were there any particular issues that have surfaced during the training?
My health is generally good but there is no escaping the fact that some weight has crept on over the years. Since the summer I have built up to several weekly rides of around 10 miles or so each with an added weekend ride of 30-40 miles. After six weeks of regular riding I also wanted to give myself an early test, to see how I would fair stringing together two long days of cycling. This I did on what was the hottest weekend of the year last August when I cycled to Canterbury and back with a loaded bike. This turned out to be a very satisfying and successful ride of just over 110 miles and although a little dehydrated and saddle sore I felt fine. So in essence my only real exercise has been from the cycling itself. With regular mileage and a watchful eye on my diet, I’ve shed nearly 2 stone in as many months and feel absolutely great for it.
When the going gets tough, specifically ‘undulating’ terrain in the Lakes and Scotland, what is your mind set for dealing with the hills.
I will try to maintain a good pace and rhythm especially on the climbs, but I have to be realistic and concede if I need to stop as king of the mountains I certainly am not. I recently read Ellie Bennett’s amusing account of her own LEJOG, ‘Blood, Sweat and Gears’, a very worthwhile read. She shares her own ideas on the subject of hills and how ‘counting elephants’ along with the use of the ‘F’ word does the trick for her. Got to be worth a go I think.
Swearing goes hand in hand with LEJOG/JOGLE, it helps no end!
Riding End to End is tough enough, but to do it on your own brings a whole new dimension to the challenge, in my case it was loneliness that could have become a real issue. What is your greatest fear during the ride?
Certainly there is no getting away that I’ll be foregoing the moral support and companionship a cycling buddy may bring. Usually I ride on my own so in that respect I will be used to this, but cycling End-to-End will be a different matter, so it will be interesting how it turns out. Strangely, in a way, the solitude won’t be completely unwelcome. I commute to London for my work, I’m often stuck in ridiculous traffic and continually surrounded by the hum drum of the rat race. In essence I am look forward to connect with that inner peace of my own thoughts that a quiet road may bring.
I know you have decided to raise money for Mind, can you tell me more about this and also let people know where they can sponsor you?
I’ve decided to raise money for MIND as they offer support to sufferers of mental health all over the UK. They also push for better services and campaign to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people who experience mental health problems My own family were touched first hand by this when my younger brother, who at the time was just 17 years old began to suffer the onset of mental illness. This was an extremely difficult time but as a family we pulled together to help in what ways we could. Unfortunately others may not have this support and so this is where Mind can help, as they state that no-one should have to face mental health problems alone. Their support can quite simply be a lifeline to those who feel nobody cares.
For anyone wishing to donate I’ve set up a Just Giving page, any donations will be gratefully received. https://www.justgiving.com/RichardNJOGLE/
Please visit Mind’s website for further information http://www.mind.org.uk/
And finally, if you could take one luxury item with you, what would it be and why?
Just the one? Oh well, I guess it would be the luxury of having the company of my girlfriend at the end of each day. She has given me much support since I came up with the idea, not only that she is also a trained therapist who would help bring me back to life with her healing hands each day. If that was too much to hope for then I’d happily settle for a nice plump pillow, it’s the thing I miss the most when I’m camping.
My thanks to Richard for going to considerable effort to answer my questions, it sounds like his preparation is well on track for next June and I wish him all the best. Perhaps we can do a post-JOGLE blog in 2016?
Please do consider sponsoring Richard, from my own experience, seeing donations role in from people is a real positive for the project as a whole, particularly during the ride.
Best of luck Richard!
If you liked this blog please take a moment to check out my book describing the solo Land’s End to John O’Groats ride in 2012, all profit from sales to www.criduchat.org.uk
Please click the cover image for the Kindle version or click here to order a paperback copy. Thank you!