Blog - Page 2 of 17 - Phil Cox


Re-Launch of Point North & Pedal – Get your FREE Kindle copy now!

Download FREE from 3/1/16 – 00:15

I’ve learned a lot about self-publication since launching Point North & Pedal in 2013, a book about my experience of riding nearly 1,000 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Sales have been OK but I thought I would apply some of this new-found knowledge to re-launching the book. I’ve read a lot of blogs and listened to countless videos about the best way to promote a book, hopefully some of it has rubbed off!

So, what’s it all about and what’s the point?

I rode the UK End to End in 12 days, a solo effort on a heavy mountain bike but it had a clear purpose, raise lots of money for the Cri Du Chat Syndrome Support Group. I was a fairly new to riding a bike at the time but made sure I practiced everything I would need to ride an average of 80 miles a day for nearly two weeks. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, I can’t recommend it enough.

The book is an amusing look at the physical and mental side of taking on such a ride. It’s supposed to be funny but also inspirational, something I hope comes across to the reader. I have been honest about how I felt, especially regarding the severe homesickness, something I have never suffered from in the past. I have also resurrected the word ‘wassock’, a very satisfying term when applied to people who wind me up.

I originally wrote up my notes purely as a personal project, as I got into the detail, it became steadily more fascinating. I had always planned to write something when I got back so I maintained a meticulous journal during the ride. It was a positive way to spend the evenings once all the ‘housekeeping’ had been sorted out. I had a lot of thinking time, usually in a freezing tent and isolated from the rest of my life.

The book also developed into a ‘top tips’ guide for those looking to research the ride, I made plenty of mistakes so I hope prospective LEJOGers will find some useful information. Check out the About section of this web site for further tips and kit reviews etc.

The end result should have something for everyone, it’s not just for cyclists or those interested in touring on a bike, it’s a story too.

I have received some nice reviews on Amazon, I think this one sums them all up well:

‘A truly amazing book for cyclists and non-cyclist (like myself!) everywhere. This book tells the story of one man, one bike and a 1000 miles for charity. The planning, the physical and emotional endurance and pressure of cycling one end of the country to the other without a support vehicle all for the selfless goal of giving some financial support and help to this wonderful charity. The funny bits made me laugh out loud and the sad bits made me remember those that have gone before. A truly remarkable read written by a man and his family who are an inspiration to us all. Please, please buy this book you will not regret your purchase.’

All the above sounds very self-indulgent but there was a point to the exercise, I sell the book to profit the Cri Du Chat Syndrome Support Group. They are a great (small) charity that supports families of those with CDC Syndrome, they also fund research into this rare chromosomal disorder. I have a personal connection with the charity so raising money for them seemed a natural thing to do. To date, the figure stands at over £7,600 but I can and must do better!

So, moving into 2016, I am offering the book for FREE for a limited period of 5 days only! A little counter intuitive but I hope to improve future sales as a result; more people see what I have done and talk about it to their friends etc.

Please help me to make this a success, there are several things you can do:

  • If you have a Kindle, please DOWNLOAD the book – after all, it’s FREE!


  • If you don’t have a Kindle, you can down load reading apps for most devices.


  • Share this post with your friends on Social Media


  • Like my Facebook Page (there is also a ‘Like’ button in this blog, under the Twitter feed on the right).


  • If you read/have read the book, write a review on Amazon, this really helps to drive sales.


  • If you don’t have a Kindle, buy a paperback copy (they make great presents too!).


You may own a copy already, if that’s the case, thank you for helping to raise a little more cash for the charity. It all adds up and makes a difference. More information about the charity can be found here.

Here’s to a great 2016, whatever you are doing.

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How well do drivers see me & my bike lights in the dark?

Winter is definitely here but are my bike lights up to it?…..

I know that because I am commuting less and struggling to set foot outside the back door when I do ride. Bike maintenance and cleaning becomes more frequent because of the conditions, something which costs time and money. Bike lights are a no-brainer, you must have them.

I recently gave thought to the effectiveness of my bike lights and hi viz for rides to work; mornings are semi dark but the evening ride is completely dark. The last few commutes have left me feeling a little vulnerable, so I decided to look at my lighting from a driver’s point of view.
My current lighting set up is:

Front Lamp:

  • Cateye R2, rechargeable, twin LED Trail Light (around 450 lumens from memory).

When I chose my front bike lights, my main criteria was to be able to see the road in front of me given its sometimes shoddy condition. The bike light has a high beam (rarely used) and a half beam; the lower setting adequately floods the road with light and is very visible to on-coming traffic. I recharge the battery every two commutes, apart from that it requires little maintenances except for drying it off after each ride if the conditions are wet.

There is only one issue with this bike light; it can leave you, quite literally, in the dark when the battery goes. There is a small green/amber/red indicator on the switch which gives you an idea of battery life but if it gets to red, you know there are only minutes left and then it just goes out, quite dangerous if you are not expecting it!

Rear Lamps:

  • 2 x Fibre Flairs LED (mounted on the seat stays).
  • 1x moderately priced Cateye LED light.

These Flair bike lights look great and are very bright. They require AA batteries which power two LED’s, one at either end of the transparent silicon rod. The attachments are flexible, rubber-type straps that clip to plastic hooks. A lot of thought has been put into the design of these bike lights; there is even a small flap of the strap material to protect your frame from the plastic clips.

I also have a smallish Cateye rear light attached to my seat pack, a more traditional location which I hope helps drivers to recognise a bike.

The Flairs have two settings: flashing and solid. The smaller Cateye has 3 flashing settings and a solid mode.


Additional Lighting:

  • Helmet mounted front/back light

The main candle power is attached to the bike, but I have a small light attached to my lid which lights up front and back. My thinking here was to give the approaching driver some sort indication that I am bike-sized and not another vehicle with some of its lights not working. If the driver identifies me as a cyclist from further back that can only be a safer situation?

Rucksack Cover:

  • HUMP Delux

It is unfortunate, but I need to carry a rucksack to work for my shirt, towel, lunch etc. The discussion about a pannier system v rucksack for commuting is a whole different blog for another time!

My rucksack has its own integral cover which is now a dull orange, I’m not sure it’s even that visible in the daytime anymore. My main issue is the lack of reflective Scotch tape; this stuff really shows up in the dark when car lights shine on it.

Having looked at various options (including covers with their own red LEDS), I went for the HUMP Delux. It fits securely, is very yellow for day time visibility and has plenty of reflective chevrons for night riding.

My final consideration was clothing. An old school friend, Penny, had posted a comment on Facebook about cyclists wearing black; this prompted me to think about my visibility given the onset of winter.

My bib shorts are black (sorry Penny!) but I do have options around socks and jerseys. My solution was simply, I landed a half price deal at Decathlon Sports on a plain white jersey at £4.99 (should have bought a few)! OK, the quality wasn’t great but then I am only using it for commutes and it saves my ‘nice’ jerseys for the weekend rides.

I understand that white socks are the only acceptable colour for racers…apparently it’s an old school cycling thing. Again, a bit more white will help in the battle to be seen.

In conclusion, I have spent the best part of £230 on the items above but I don’t begrudge a penny of it. At least I can know ride in the dark in the knowledge I have done my best to be seen, it’s only fair to other road users. This was spent over a period of time and will take just under 40 commutes to be repaid (savings calculated upon fuel and parking) – a nice incentive to keep riding to work!

I would be interested to know others opinions/set ups, please consider posting a comment or visiting my FB page to start a discussion.

Further reading…..

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

Please click the cover image for the Kindle version or click here to order a paperback copy. Thank you!


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Interview with Richard Nokes as he plans a solo JOGLE….

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 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 and 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.

 Please visit Mind’s website for further information

 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!

Further reading…..

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

Please click the cover image for the Kindle version or click here to order a paperback copy. Thank you!

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What’s your approach to riding in blustery conditions?

Finally, winter appears to have arrived in no uncertain terms after a gloriously mild autumn. All of a sudden there is water on the ground messing up my nice clean bike and the winds have picked up. I thought I was reasonably well prepared for the winter commutes to work but I had forgotten about the effect of higher winds when riding on the road, being reminded has not been very pleasant!

Riding to work is one thing, but how do winds affect a long distance rider and what can be done to mitigate the effect of a stiff breeze in your face?

There is a classic belief (at least it feels like that) amongst those planning to ride the UK End to End, that the start should be Land’s End to take advantage of the south westerlies that we more often than not get. The argument for this, I suspect, becomes much stronger in winter when wind speeds are higher and the logic is sound given that the average direction does indeed appear to be from the south west. However, this doesn’t help you much when you are riding from south to north and the wind decides to be a northerly!

Winds, like hills, come and go so there is always the positive to be had in the knowledge that the wind will drop eventually and you can crack on. But what can you do in the meantime when each pedal stroke feels like an effort? Let’s assume that you have the optimum touring bike without deep dish aero wheels that capture the wind like a sale and look at what you can do to make life easier.

Prepare in advance

Most people will take a smart phone with them, it makes sense to stay in touch with people if you are out on your own, especially as some of the Cumbrian and Scottish roads are very remote. Have a look at the weather forecast for the next day and get an idea of what you might be in for, knowing takes a lot of the fear out of things.

Eat well and ensure good hydration to prepare for the next day, we all know that horrible feeling when your energy reserve is exhausted, commonly known as the ‘bonk’. Riding in winds will use more energy compared to a still day.


A big, flappy coat won’t help your cause much, over an 8 hour day the cumulative effect of it catching the wind will sap your strength and lesson the pleasure of the days riding (it is supposed to be fun, right?).

Dress in layers to insulate against the cold and ensure that there are no exposed bits of skin where the wind can get in. Bib shorts are less than flattering for most of us but they do have a nice, high back which helps to keep that area warm even if your shirt rides up. Being warm gives you something less to worry about.

Don’t let the wind chill make your hands and feet painfully cold. A decent pair of winter gloves and overshoes do a sterling job to keep extremities nice and warm. The only issue you will have is drying out your gloves when arriving at your destination, most are very waterproof on the outside but easily get wet on the inside with sweat.

On a serious note regarding apparel, how visible are you to other road users? Cyclists are the first to complain about drivers who don’t give them enough space etc., etc. but was the cyclist giving the driver best chance to see them and their bike? Lights/hi viz/light coloured clothing?

Manage your energy as you ride

Eating well the night before won’t matter a jot if you shoot your bolt in the first hour. Take your time and accept that, for the same given amount of effort through the pedals, you will be slower on average overall on a windy day. Maybe drop a gear from your usual cruising ring and increase your pedal cadence, take regular breaks out of the wind and continue to eat and drink. Think about riding at a slower speed that can be sustained over the whole day.

Mental Approach

Break things down, think about riding to the next village or the next coffee shop, try not to think about the overall trip or your final destination for the day, it just makes things drag. Look around and enjoy the countryside you are riding through, this can take your mind off things and before you know where you are, it’s the last hill before the next stop.

Try to avoid the temptation to keep an eye on your computer, time seems to go quicker that way and you won’t be continually disappointed by the speed data!

If you are riding with other people, morale can suffer a bit on days like these. Try and remain cheerful, almost laugh in the face of adversity but remember that some might be suffering more than others. Work as a team and take turns at the front so people get a rest on those really breezy days.


Yes, have a good look around at the countryside and enjoy but try not to zone out so much that you end up playing chicken with a 38 tonner. Gusty winds can push you out into the road or into the ditch at the side; riding in conditions like this takes concentration, especially if your panniers are carrying extra weight. Be aware of natural wind breaks like hedges ending suddenly and subjecting you to a strong gust. If it’s really bad, consider canning the day and live to fight another, you won’t get a posthumous medal for pushing on regardless.

Be as fit as you can be

This is not just for cycling but for anything in life. There is no such thing as too fit. Your core muscles do a lot of work on the bike, their workload spirals upwards when you are trying to balance a laden tourer in strong winds. Everyone is different and fitness is a whole different blog, I’m just saying it’s good idea to consider exercise to supplement all of your riding.

People adopt their own approach to cycling, the above isn’t meant to be prescriptive, just fuel the debate; I hope there is something useful in there somewhere! Feel free to comment constructively below and share for others to comment. The best thing about windy days in my opinion, is getting to your destination, sitting down with a pint or cup of tea and recounting that arduous day in the saddle with your mates. It’s a mid-life crisis thing?

Further reading…..

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

Please click the cover image for the Kindle version or click here to order a paperback copy. Thank you!

Read More