Anna Hughes

Planning LEJOG? Here’s some advice

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Planning LEJOG? Here’s some advice

On November 13, 2018, Posted by , In Cycling,LEJOG, With 2 Comments

JoG#2

Land’s End to John o’ Groats is one of the most iconic rides the UK has to offer, completed by hundreds of people each year, each experiencing the varied landscapes, challenging terrains and pot-luck weather that makes cycling in this country so special. Cycling UK recently announced a network of routes that, once opened, will allow cyclists to traverse the country without once mixing with traffic. I completed my very own LEJOG three years ago. Here are my hard-won lessons from the road.

  • It’s a long way – but it is ultimately achievable
  • Your bike is the best luggage carrier there is, so let it take the strain
  • Don’t split hairs about the route – there are hundreds of ways to get from Land’s End to John o’ Groats (although crossing the Severn Bridge and riding through the Wye valley was one of my highlights, as was the west Scotland route north of Glasgow through Loch Lomond, Glen Coe and the Great Glen). Sustrans can help, as can Ordnance Survey
  • Travel from south to north – you’re more likely to benefit from a tailwind, and you’ll have the sun on your back not in your eyes, EVEN THOUGH it means starting in Cornwall and Devon, which have the most fearsome hills in the whole of the UK, no question
  • Canal towpaths are great for traffic-free, peaceful riding, but are slow
  • Disused railway lines can be similarly wonderful, but they tend to by-pass settlements, and I often find the pleasure of a journey is riding through little villages and seeing the architecture and the people who live there
  • People make the journey
  • Use Warmshowers to make the journey friendly/comfy
  • Don’t be scared of ‘wild’ camping. I pitched in the grounds of a National Trust property, in a secluded spot on the NCN, and on a hillside in Scotland. Arrive late, depart early and leave no trace
  • Ferries are always an exciting way of crossing a river
  • Swim, even in the off season. The sea holds its warmth so it’s milder in October than in April
  • It doesn’t have to be for charity
  • Don’t take too much
  • It’s not a race
  • Build up your mileage – ease your body into it, and allow tendons and muscles to recover
  • LYCRA is not compulsory
  • Knowledge of maintenance isn’t essential, but can be useful
  • The 700 mile mark is the hardest. The initial buzz has waned, it’s an awfully long time ago that you left home, but you’re not there yet, not nearly
  • JoG is not the furthest north or furthest north-east. To get the furthest north-east, you’ll have to go up to Duncansby Head, and to get the furthest north, it’s Dunnet Head. Both are worth it, Dunnet Head especially – the Old Man of Hoy is visible on a good day
  • You can kill yourself training, but what you really need to do is just do it
  • The end can be confusing:

After four weeks of mountains, lakes, sea swims, midges, non-stop rain, t-shirt weather, wide open skies and endless vistas, not eating enough and dodgy camping spots, it was with a jumble of emotions that I finished. Exhaustion, elation, confusion, anti-climax even – I’d spent so long building up to this, now what? The journey had been a rich insight into what makes up Britain, but at the same time had been just a glimpse, and left me itching for more. And that’s the beauty of long-distance cycling: though it was with relief I loaded my tired bike onto the train home, if I’d had the time I would have turned around and done the whole thing again.

To read the full series of blogs from my LEJOG ride, go here

2 Comments so far:

  1. Jon France says:

    The trickiest part to organise can be the travelling home. Limited bike carrying capacity on trains, the need for 2 or more connections and the difficulty of predicting if and when you arrive at the finish can be a headache. If you find you have a day or two to wait for a train south, jump on the John o’Groats foot ferry to Orkney. If you catch the last sailing of the day you are likely to have the whole boat to yourself. It is about 60km across the mainland to Stromness for the ferry to Thurso and the train home. A lovely way to round off your ride and removes the anti-climax of turning around and cycling 30km back to Thurso, probably in a block-headwind.

    • Anna says:

      Excellent advice, Jon. Train travel is always best booked in advance but as you say, logistics of that can be tricky. I returned on the sleeper from Inverness with bike pre-booked, and was able take it on the Thurso shuttle with no problem. I love the idea of a loop across Orkney – a beautiful (if windy!) island.

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