Mudguards

Confession: I have not ridden end to end with mudguards.  Consequence: I have become thoroughly soaked  and muddy on several occasions whilst riding end to end.

So, on the positive side, mudguards keep you drier in the wet, especially you lower half.  It is amazing how much water is thrown up my your tyres onto your legs, backside and back.  They also protect your bike and your clothing from grit and grime cutting down on cleaning time and making your equipment last longer.

On the negative side mudguards are additional weight (although with modern materials very little) and they can become clogged with mud if you are riding in very muddy conditions.  If not fitted properly they can also rub and/or rattle, which is annoying.

There are various types available offering different degrees of protection.

Full mudguards

Image of full mudguard

Full mudguards offer the maximum protection from mud and water from the road but are heavier than other varieties and may not fit on some types of bicycle, such as some mountain bikes and racing bikes.

Full length mudguards curve around both wheels. The rear mudguard is semi circular in shape, extending from the bottom of the seat tube, around the top of the tyre and down to nearly level with the axle. The front mudguard is a quarter circle wrapping from in front of the fork to about the level of your feet when the pedals are horizontal. An additional mud flap at the bottom of the front mudguard can help to keep your feet drier.

Half Mudguards

Image of half mudguard

These are a compromise.  Shorter than full mudguards, they are lighter but offer less protection.  Some brands will fit bikes that do not accommodate full mudguards.

Shorties

Image of shortie mudguard

The shortest of mudguards that, perhaps, looks the best and are the lightest but with a corresponding drop in performance when it comes to keeping you and your bike dry and clean.

Clip ons

Image of clip on mudguard for lejog

If your bike’s frame does not have the necessary attachment point for mudguards clip on versions are available.  These attach either to your seat stay or seat post at the rear and your forks at the front, either direct of via a quick release attachment.  Seat post attached rear mudguards have a tendency to swing away from the wheel when cornering if not attached firmly, which somewhat mitigates their usefulness.

Clip ons are light and easily removable but can be difficult to adjust to provide significant protection from water and dirt off the road.  Also make sure that for clip on rear mudguards that attach to the seat post that you have sufficient seat post clear between the frame and the saddle to make the attachment.

Ass Saver

Image of ass saver mudguard for lejog

Originally produced by the company Ass Saver but now much copied, these are perhaps the ultimate in convenience and light weight.  These are strips of flexible plastic that insert into the back of your saddle. They are surprisingly effective at keeping your backside dry (or at least much drier than it would have been).  They are also cheap, just a few £s.

If you watch videos for the Ass Saver product they show it being fitted in seconds and bent to store under the saddle without having to remove it so that it is always there.  The reality is that it depends on your saddle and, more importantly, your seat post attachment.  Also, most of us do not have a team car following behind and need to carry spare inner tubes etc with us.  Many do so in a saddle bag, which immediately restricts fitting and storing. I have used ass savers on four different bikes and each one had its own fitting issues but I could ultimately fit it (just not in a few seconds) and it worked well.

Books that will help you complete your End to End CycleLand's End to John O'Groats Route Book Special Offer - image

Three books are available related to this website (including gpx route files) as ebooks or paperbacks. As little as £2.99 each or all three for £5.98.  That’s less than an inner tube or a Costa coffee with a slice of cake.

Where to next?

The most popular pages on the site concern planning your End to End, training for long distance cycling, thinking about the cycling equipment you will need, what you should be eating and drinking whilst cycling and how to create a route for Lands End to John O Groats. Or you can read my own account of cycling End to End to get some idea of what to expect.

Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page

Cycling Mirrors

Much as in a car, mirrors can be very useful in increasing your traffic awareness.  They are particularly useful when cycling in a built up area (or come to that on a dual carriageway so you are have some warning before the juggernaut comes thundering past).

Aside from traditional mirrors, which can be quite bulky, there are a number of small, sleek versions now available for a range of bicycles.  You can even get stealth aerodynamic ones for racing bikes which plug into your drop handlebar ends.

For years now I have been using Spintech drop bars mirrors. They weigh nothing (well, not nothing but as good as) and are almost unnoticeable.  The mirrors come as a pair but you only really need one on the right so you can kit out two bikes (if you are lucky enough to own two) for the cost of one.

I have also found that, as I get steadily older (no matter what I do I just can’t seem to avoid it) my dexterity is diminishing and casually glancing over my shoulder is becoming more and more of an effort. Being able to see behind me by merely glancing down is a great benefit.  In fact I now do it instinctively every few seconds, again like checking your mirrors in a car.  I realise this every time I ride a bike without mirrors and find myself glancing down at the tarmac all the time, where the mirror should be.

Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page

 

Cycling Helmet

Without stepping into the bear pit of debate as to whether helmets are a good or a bad thing, it is highly recommended that you wear one.

The three main factors to consider when buying a helmet are:

Fit

Cycling Helmet Fit Check Image

A properly fitted helmet should cover half of your forehead and as much of the back of your head as possible.  The internal cradle and straps should be adjusted so that they are tight enough to stop any forward and backward or lateral movement across your head but still be comfortable.

Keeping cool

Image of Cycling Helmet for Lejog

A helmet should keep your head cool with vents to allow a flow of air across your head.  The more vents the cooler your head will be (or colder in winter!).  Of course, to create more vents there is, of necessity, less padding between your head and whatever you might crash it into, so a compromise might be what you are looking for.  You might also want your helmet to look cool.  This is probably where most of your money is going on the higher end helmets.

Cost

Anything between £20 – 200.  You will probably get most of the protection benefits you need from a low cost helmet.  The higher end helmets will have the very latest innovations in ventilation, aerodynamics, weight saving construction and head cradling fit technology but you should be able to find a lower cost helmet that fits well, keeps your head cool and provides the protection you need.

Features to look out for

  • Easy to adjust fit.  Ideally a one handed operation so you can make adjustments on the bike.
  • Padded inserts for comfort.  Preferably removable and washable because your head sweats.
  • Light colour/reflective trim.  This will increase your visability to other road users.  Some helmets even have built in lights.
  • Rounded outer shell without edges that might get caught on something in a fall.
  • Peak to keep glare of the sun out of your eyes.  This can restrict your vision if riding low to the frame, for instance with your hands on the bottom of drop handle bars, which is why most racing helmets have no peak.  You can buy helmets with easily removable peaks to cover both options.

Books that will help you complete your End to End CycleLand's End to John O'Groats Route Book Special Offer - image

Three books are available related to this website (including gpx route files) as ebooks or paperbacks. As little as £2.99 each or all three for £5.98.  That’s less than an inner tube or a Costa coffee with a slice of cake.

Where to next?

The most popular pages on the site concern planning your End to End, training for long distance cycling, thinking about the cycling equipment you will need, what you should be eating and drinking whilst cycling and how to create a route for Lands End to John O Groats. Or you can read my own account of cycling End to End to get some idea of what to expect.

Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page

What Happened to My Bike?!!

One day a cyclist chained their beloved bike to the rails outside Plymouth bus station.  For some reason they didn’t come back to claim it.  If you have read my post about a car becoming obscured by parking tickets near the office you might draw the same conclusions here, that the owner might be scratching his head wondering where he left it, in a coma or dead.

Whatever his condition he probably won’t want it back now anyway.  In an effort to reduce the weight of the bike and improve its performance the local populace has been pimping it.  Over a period of a few days they have removed all the unnecessary and weighty items like: tyres, inner tubes, wheels, gears, saddle, seat post, handlebars, stem, pedals, cranks, brakes and even cables.

All that remains, without the enterprise of removing the lock, is the forks.  I wonder how long they will last?

Cycle Breakdown Cover and Insurance

One of the worrying issues for most end to enders is how to deal with mechanical problems en route. Certainly you will need to be prepared to deal with punctures, although if you have a decent pair of new tyres you might get lucky.  But what about more drastic mechanical issues?  How many tools should you carry?  Should you carry spare parts; spokes etc?  What if you cannot fix the problem…and you are twenty miles form the nearest house in the wilds of Scotland…with night setting in?

On my last LEJOG I suffered a ripped tyre and consequently a series of four punctures within a couple of miles on a canal path.  It was my own fault for riding with lightweight road tyres, that were badly worn before I started (my excuse is I was testing the limits of what I could get away with for the sake of research).  I used up all my spare inner tubes and was stuck.  I phoned home, got the emergency services (wife) to locate a nearby B&B and limped the four miles to it, having bodged a very low pressure repair.  The next day I rode the bike very slowly ten miles to a bike shop, which was closed.  I then limped another eight miles to the next closest bike shop and had new tyres fitted.  Hooray!  But I still had 150 + miles to ride to get to my next B&B and it was already 11:00.

Since then (and I may be slow on the uptake) I have discovered Cycle Break Down Cover. This is an AA style service for bicycles. From researching on the internet I have taken out cover with ETA Insurance. They seem pretty ethically minded and I have full cover for £18 a year.

Cover includes:

  • 24/7 pick up from any road in the UK that is navigable by recovery van
  • transport for you and your bicycle back to a safe location*
  • unlimited call outs**
  • 90 days european cover
  • 60 days worldwide cover

* they will take you to the nearest repair shop, railway station, car rental agency, overnight accommodation or home, within 25 miles.

**  if you have been rescued for the same fault three times in a year you will need to provide proof of the issue being fixed before they will pick you up for the same fault again.

They also provide cycling specific insurance.  If you take this option then the break down cover is included for free.

If I had been covered on my last trip I would have been rescued and at the bike shop within an hour or two.  I could have then continued on to my prearranged B&B stop.  I would have saved the £60 cost of the additional B&B (I had paid in advance for the much cheaper one I missed) and wouldn’t have had to face a 160+ mile day.  Now, in my mind that would have been £18 very well spent!

If you want more details on the breakdown cover here is a link:

Link

Please note that this link takes you to the Cycling Insurance page, which includes Cycling Breakdown Cover.  If you want Breakdown Cover only, scroll halfway down the page and there is a link in the menu on the left hand side.

Final ‘what should I take on my ride’ check

Do this at least a week before your trip in case you need to amend your plans!

Lay out everything you intend to take on your trip and check it off your list.  Then try and pack it into your selected bags.  When packing, keep items that you are likely to need on the road accessible, in particular bike tools, spare tubes, pumps, sun cream etc.. If after several attempts you cannot get it all in, you will either have to change bags or get rid of some stuff.

Once the bag(s) are packed to your liking, get someone to help you haul them to the bike and load it up.  Hop aboard and ride a couple of miles down the road and back, preferably taking in at least one stiff hill.  When you get back and have recovered sufficiently you can decide what you can do without!

Seriously, if you are not used to touring make sure you test ride the load before the start.  Be careful because the bike will feel very different with a lot of extra weight, especially when setting off and around corners.  Your braking will not be as sharp either!

Equally, at the end of your Lands End to John O’Groats ride be prepared for how weird the bike feels when you take the extra weight off, after your body has adjusted to it over several days. Bizarrely it is almost the same change in handling as when you put the weight on. It is much easier to ride though.

LEJOG - Final Equipment Check - Man Sitting on Tick
Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page

Cycling Clothes

LEJOG What to Take - Image of Naked Man

I don’t know if anyone has completed a naked end-to-end on a bike. Someone has walked it naked (apart from boots, a hat and a rucksack) but it took them seven months because they kept on getting arrested and spent two spells in jail en route. A couple of lads started in their underpants with no money or equipment whatsoever. Their mission was to complete the end to end in three weeks by relying upon the generosity of the Great British public. They had to blag everything from food to bikes to accommodation to clean pants. I’m all for reducing the equipment list but that might be taking minimalism to an extreme! It makes a great read though – if you are interested click on the Amazon link below.

But, for those of us that want to wear clothes on the ride:

What should I wear?

This is very much down to personal choice and depends on what you are used to cycling in. Some people like to wear normal casual clothes that they feel comfortable in on or off the bike. Others like to wear technical cycling clothes designed specifically for the job. I once saw a rider in a time trial skin suit and a rider in corduroy trousers and an Argyll knitted tank top on the same sportif (in fact the latter was passing the former up a very steep hill).

Not that I would recommend corduroy trousers and an Argyll knitted top for your trip. In fact I personally favour the technical cycling kit option for a number of reasons:

  • It is shaped to fit the body most comfortably when in a cycling position.
  • It does not [or at least should not] have any seams in positions that will rub.
  • It is close fitting so cuts down wind resistance.
  • The fabric is designed to draw (wick) sweat away from the skin to evaporate in the air.
  • It is lightweight and packs down easily.
  • Padded bottom area! [you have a very long way to go and you will be in the saddle a lot]
  • Back pockets on cycling tops are ideal for carrying food and gels so that they are easily to hand without having to stop.
  • Can be washed in the shower and dried out in an open window over night.

Short Ribble Cycles Banner

The downside of cycling specific kit is that it is not ideal for wearing off the bike so you might have to carry some casual clothes if you intend to eat out or socialize in the evening. I took a pair of three quarter length lightweight hiking trousers and a long sleeved base layer, both of which were very light and could be packed down as small as possible. In the end the only time I wore them was on my journey to John O’Groats.

Shoes are another factor to consider. I have cycling shoes with cleats that attach to the pedals on my bike. This makes pedaling more efficient and requires less energy over a long distance. But it does make walking awkward when off the bike.

So I had to find a lightweight, easily packable pair of shoes for travel and evening wear, if required. I must admit that I struggled but in the end hit upon karate shoes. The pair I chose had a thin, hard, flat soles and the uppers were of silk and lay completely flat when not worn. They were a non descript black and cost less than £5 online.

There are cleated cycling shoe/pedal systems with a recessed cleat so the shoe retains a flat sole, which are comfortable on and off the bike. These are very popular with regular tourers because they negate the need to carry additional ‘off the bike’ shoes. This requires the capital outlay for both new pedals and new shoes though and on my original trip was out of my budget. But if you are intending to move to a cleated system or need to replace your shoes or pedals anyway it is a system worth looking at.  When I re-rode end to end in 2013 and 2014 I moved to this system and have not returned to the more race orientated form of cleat. In addition to being able to walk easily off the bike it is considerably easier to start on an incline because you do not have to be cleated in properly to apply pressure to the pedal without risk of your foot slipping off.

Regardless of whether you wear cycling specific or normal clothes you should aim to wear a number of thin layers that you can strip off or pile on depending upon the temperature and weather. One layer should be a rain jacket or cape because the chances of riding the entire length of Scotland and England (and maybe a bit of Wales) without being rained on are small. Very small.

The other necessity is padded shorts. If you prefer baggy shorts or trousers you can purchase padded short/trouser liners [no not a nappy]. If you have no padding take extra butt cream (see stuff to put in bags section).

LEJOG What to Wear - Image of Man with Sore Bum

 

 

This is a list of the clothing I took with me:

  • Shorts (x2)
  • Tops (x2)
  • Leg warmers
  • Arm Warmers
  • Socks (x2 pairs)
  • Wind stop/rain top
  • Gillet
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Helmet
  • Chest strap (for heart rate)
  • Cycling shoes
  • Other shoes – karate slippers
  • Long Sleeve top – base layer
  • Long Trousers – nylon hiking ¾ trousers

[A list of all the equipment I took can be found here]

The shorts, tops and socks were duplicated in case I was unable to wash and dry them overnight. It meant I could wear a clean, dry set and strap the damp kit to the outside of my bags to dry [unless it was raining – obviously].

I set off each morning before 6:00am so even in early July it was chilly. So I would start each day with my shorts, top, arm and leg warmers, gillet and windstop/rain top on. Then, as the day warmed up I would take off first the windstop/rain top, then the leg warmers and gillet and finally the arm warmers. If I was cycling late the reverse process happened in the evening.

You may notice as your tour progresses and you get tired that your body is less able to regulate your temperature. This means you will remain chilly for longer each day and strip off less and less. Certainly on my last day I cycled nearly all of it in my arm and leg warmers and a gillet despite it being a sunny (if windy) July day.

Remember that you have to carry your clothes so weight is an issue. Even if you are wearing most of it you still have to carry the weight. And packability is also an important factor. Some lightweight clothes (like fleeces) can still be very bulky and you need to be able to stow them all in your bags.

Top Tips

Wash your kit in the shower. Rub some soap or gel into the pad and other smelly bits and then dump it underfoot at the beginning of the shower. Tread it, like grapes, throughout the shower, trying not to trip or slip. Once you are clean give the kit a final rinse to make sure the soap is all out and then wring out as much water as possible. Once you have dried yourself lay your kit out flat on the towel and roll the whole thing up as tightly as possible. Repeat with a fresh, dry towel if you have one. Leave for a minute or two so that the towel can absorb any excess moisture. Unroll and hang your kit in an open window to finish drying over night (or put on a radiator if there is one on).

Another tip that I have yet to find written down anywhere (except here) is that if you are wearing cycling specific shorts (with a pad) you do not wear underpants.  The seams and creases can cause abrasions and sores.

Books that will help you complete your End to End CycleLand's End to John O'Groats Route Book Special Offer - image

Three books are available related to this website (including gpx route files) as ebooks or paperbacks. As little as £2.99 each or all three for £5.98.  That’s less than an inner tube or a Costa coffee with a slice of cake.

Where to next?

The most popular pages on the site concern planning your End to End, training for long distance cycling, thinking about the cycling equipment you will need, what you should be eating and drinking whilst cycling and how to create a route for Lands End to John O Groats. Or you can read my own account of cycling End to End to get some idea of what to expect.Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page

Stuff to put in your bags

Equipment for LEJOG

Your stuff to put in bags has to fit in your bags! 

It is better to reduce the quantity of stuff than to buy bigger/more bags to accommodate it.  Is there anything you can do without?  Really?  Could you reduce things by using mutli purpose items, e.g. a phone that can take decent pictures/video, play music, send emails, act as a sat nav and you can read a book on?

Below is a list of all the things I took on my trip, which may help as a guide to the sorts of things you might need to take. Of course this is very much up to the individual and the type of trip you are planning. I was not camping and I also took the risk that I would not need things like spare spokes and tyres for instance.  As an aside, this caught me out on my last trip and I wish I had heard of and obtained Bicycle Breakdown Cover.  This is an ‘AA’ type of service for bikes and can get you out of a tight spot for a few pounds a year.  I would thoroughly recommend it for any end to ender as a cheap ‘get out of jail’ in an emergency.  You can read how I was caught out and how the cover could have helped me here.

Logo for Bicycle Breakdown Cover

1. Me

2. Stuff to go on me

  • Shorts
  • Tops
  • Leg warmers
  • Arm Warmers
  • Socks
  • Cycling shoes
  • 2-3 hour supply of food in pockets
  • Gloves
  • Helmet
  • Chest strap for heart rate monitor

3. Bike

  • Scott CR1 Team

4. Stuff to go on bike

  • Bike computer
  • Sat Nav
  • Lights
  • Bottles
  • Pump
  • Route holder and day’s route
  • Bag

5. Stuff to go in bag

  • Tyre levers
  • Multi tool
  • Inner tubes x2
  • Zip ties
  • Chain lube
  • Plastic bags
  • First aid kit
  • Wet wipes/antiseptic wipes
  • Sudocrèm ® (butt bream)
  • Toiletries (deo, shampoo/bodywash, toothpaste, toothbrush)
  • Mobile phone
  • Chargers (phone, sat nav, mp3)
  • MP3 player
  • Batteries
  • Lock
  • Book
  • Wallet
  • Route – paper
  • Camera
  • Sunglasses
  • Shorts (spare)
  • Top (spare)
  • Socks (spare)
  • Wind stop/rain top
  • Gillet
  • Shoes – karate slippers
  • Long Sleeve top – base layer
  • Long Trousers – nylon hiking ¾ trousers
  • Spare food and energy drink powder for the day

The only things I did not use on the trip were my pump, inner tubes, multi tool, first aid kit and mp3 player. Of those the only one I could have got away without carrying was the mp3 player.In 2013  and again in 2014 I rode Land’s End to John O’Groats and took the above list with the exception of the my spare kit (shorts, top and socks), gillet (because I had lost it) and my none cycling clothes (karate slippers, long sleeve top and long trousers).  This reduced the weight I was carrying a little but mainly freed up a lot of space in the bag which I could use to carry proper food purchased en route without crushing it.  The only time I had used the none cycling clothes previously was to fly to the start.  On these trip my long journey was the return so I simply sent the clothes to my B&B at John O’Groats.  The decision to not take any spare kit meant that once I had washed my kit every evening I had to wander around in a  towel, having nothing else to wear.

LEJOG What to Take - Image of Naked Man

In addition to the above list I added cleat covers for my cycling shoes to wear on the train to Penzance, neoprene toe covers for my shoes to keep my feet minimally dry but mainly clean for arrival at B&Bs on wet days, an external battery pack to extend the life of my sat nav and Rainlegs (like riding chaps for cyclists) to keep my leg muscles warm in the rain, particularly on the October 2013 ride. It is a good idea to pack your stuff in sealable, clear plastic bags. This will help to keep them watertight, preventing water leaking in and toiletries leaking out. It also makes it much easier to sort through your kit.

Books that will help you complete your End to End CycleLand's End to John O'Groats Route Book Special Offer - image

Three books are available related to this website (including gpx route files) as ebooks or paperbacks. As little as £2.99 each or all three for £5.98.  That’s less than an inner tube or a Costa coffee with a slice of cake.

Where to next?

The most popular pages on the site concern planning your End to End, training for long distance cycling, thinking about the cycling equipment you will need, what you should be eating and drinking whilst cycling and how to create a route for Lands End to John O Groats. Or you can read my own account of cycling End to End to get some idea of what to expect.

Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page

Bike Bag(s)

Unless you are doing a supported ride you will need bags to put all your stuff in.  Even if riding with support you will need to carry a minimum amount of kit like a spare inner tube, a multi tool, a rain cape and a mobile phone [to call the support vehicle when you need more stuff!].

Your bike bag(s) need to be big enough to carry all the stuff you want to put in them.  But remember, you also have to be able to carry them, so concentrate your efforts on reducing the stuff rather than tracking down huge bags.

Get used to the weight and feel of your bags by doing a few cycles with them on the bike.  If you commute to work start using them and add a bit of equipment every day or so to slowly get used to the weight and feel.  A good training trick is to overload with weight so when you come to do the actual ride it is easier!

I stayed in B&Bs and traveled fairly light. Below is a picture of my bike loaded for my second end to end.  Nearly everything was in the saddle bag with a shower jacket and RainLegs strapped to the top.  The top tube bag held my camera, wallet and a battery pack for my sat nav.

LEJOG What to Take - Bags - Image of Loaded Bike

Bags come in many varieties (but check that you are able to fit them to your bike before purchasing any):

Saddle bags

LEJOG What to Take - Image of Saddle Bag

As the name suggests, these attach to your saddle.  They come in a range of sizes from tiny, just big enough for an inner tube and a pair of tyre levers, to spacious 20+ litre capacity models.

I used a Carradice sqr tour bag (see picture of bag on bike at Duncansby Head – the actual most north easterly place in mainland UK).  Technically it isn’t a saddle bag because it attaches to a quick release mechanism that fastens to your seat post.  This means you need to have sufficient seat post clear of the frame to clamp the release mechanism to, so check this before you buy.

The Carradice sqr tour bag has a capacity of 16 litres, most of which is contained in one large compartment, with two pockets on the outside which are handy for the things you might need in a hurry like a rain top, a gillet, inner tubes, tyre levers, multi tool and mobile phone.  With the exception of the bits on the bike and on me, it swallowed my entire equipment list (see below), proved to be very water resistant and acted as a pretty efficient rear mudguard -it even has a plastic strip attached to the underside for the purpose.  And whilst it looks like it might be unwieldy it does not interfere with pedaling and (apart from the weight) doesn’t affect handling, probably because it is behind the body and above the rear wheel.  In fact it is so wieldy that it is normally attached to my bike for commuting in case I need to carry anything home. 

Handlebar bags

LEJOG What to Take - Image of Handlebar Bag

These are very useful for carrying the things that you will need easily to hand, like food, rain cape etc, especially if you do not have nice big back pockets in your cycling jersey. It is also a good place to keep your camera for quick access for those impromptu shots. [But if you are going to do this try to get one with some padding inside (or add padding) otherwise it will get rattled around.]

Features to look out for are:

  • map/route viewer
  • quick release detach – if you keep all your valuables in it you can carry it into shops/cafes etc.
  • side pockets to hold small items
  • interior dividers
  • interior organisation for papers/maps/routes, pens etc
The handlebar bag that I have used, which incorporates all of these features, is the Topeak Tour Guide Handlebar Bag.

The downside of handlebar bags (and any bag on the front of the bike) is that steering is affected. It would be wise to do some training rides with the bag in place (and laden) to get used to the difference in handling.

Rack bags

LEJOG What to Take - Image of Rack Bag


You will need to have a luggage rack fitted to accommodate one of these bags. If you do not have frame fittings for a ‘proper’ rack bag you can get ones that attach to your seatpost, providing you have a sufficient amount of seatpost clear of the frame. [Although personally, if I was going to have to buy a seat post mounted rack and a rack bag I would go straight for a bag that attaches to the seat post like the Carradice sqr tour.]

Pannier bags

LEJOG What to Take - Image of Pannier Bags
These are available for the front and the back of the bike. Most commonly used are rear pannier bags which attach to a luggage rack. In this case a seat post mounted rack will not suffice because it lacks the side framework to stop the bags interfering with the rear wheel.

If you’re considering front panniers you are getting into serious touring territory. You will need to have a front luggage rack fitted to your bike to accommodate the bags. If you are not camping then you are probably carrying too much!

Pannier bags can affect handling quite dramatically. To minimise this, ride with pannier bags each side (front and/or rear) and try and distribute weight evenly between them. Stow heavier items at the bottom of the bags to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible.

Pannier bags that come highly recommended for quality, durability easy of use and waterproofing are by Ortlieb

 

Rucksacks

LEJOG What to Take - Image of Ruck Sack

Whilst you can carry a lot in a rucksack they have little to recommend them for long distance cycling [personally speaking, for any kind of cycling]. All the weight is borne by your body causing aches and pains in neck, shoulder and back. As well as additional fatigue, your back sweats profusely and the weight is up high, making bike handling more difficult. The only benefits I can see are:

  • the additional weight on your body might help you uphill, if you stand on the pedals.
  • you can easily carry the bag into cafes and shops.

Top Tube Bags

LEJOG What to Take - Image of Top Tube Bag

Top tube bags are really handy for carrying things you need easy access to either on the move or when you make a quick stop.  Things like a phone, camera and your money.  It is also an excellent place to store an external battery pack for your sat nav becasue you can run a cable direct and charge on the move.  Their main downside is that they can get in your way when you cycle out of the saddle.  Because of this I personally have avoided designs that hang down each side of the top tube, like mini panniers. 

The bag I have used for my last two end to end rides and for London-Edinburgh-London in 2017 (and all long rides that might require me to carry an external battery pack) is the Topeak Tri Dry Top Tube Bag. This has proven to be stable, durable and waterproof. 

 

Frame Bags

LEJOG What to Take - Image of Frame Bag

Frame bags are designed to hang inside your frame.  They can take quite a lot of kit but if over packed can also interfere with pedaling.  The keep the weight fairly low so should not affect handling overly.  A drawback is restricted access to your bottles.  Depending on your frame size and shape you may need to use side entry bottle cages.  Many different sizes and shapes of bag are available so there should be something to fit your frame. 

Books that will help you complete your End to End Cycle

Land's End to John O'Groats Route Book Special Offer - image

Three books are available related to this website (including gpx route files) as ebooks or paperbacks. As little as £2.99 each or all three for £5.98.  That’s less than an inner tube or a Costa coffee with a slice of cake.

Where to next?

The most popular pages on the site concern planning your End to End, training for long distance cycling, thinking about the cycling equipment you will need, what you should be eating and drinking whilst cycling and how to create a route for Lands End to John O Groats. Or you can read my own account of cycling End to End to get some idea of what to expect.

Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page

Bike Lights

LEJOG What to take - Lights - Man Carrying Light Bulb

Basically there are two types of bike lights – lights to see by and lights that allow you to be seen.

Be seen lights

Bike lights that allow you to be seen are emergency lights for when there is sufficient light to see where you are going, e.g. if there are street lights, it is early morning/dusk, there is mist/fog, but you need something to warn other road users that you are there.  These lights will not provide enough light to see by.

Even if you are not intending to ride in the dark you should have a set of emergency, be seen, lights.  Fog can descend without warning on high ground, even in the summer, and if you are riding on busy roads even a little spray from wet roads can render you almost invisible.  There were two instances on my end to end where I needed my lights, one due to for fog in Scotland and one due to spray on the busiest section of road I used on the whole route. 

There are a number of be seen lights available, some so small and light you will not even notice that they are there.  I use Knog frogs front and rear and, in addition, a Cateye TL-LD610 at the rear.

Lights to see by

Bike lights to see by mean just that. There are various options at a wide range of prices providing various levels of just how much you can see! As you might expect, the more you pay the brighter the light and the lower the weight (in general).

Options:

Dynamo powered – lights wired to a dynamo (powered either through your wheel hub or a friction mechanism resting against your tyre wall). These provide the convenience of instant power at anytime without having to carry batteries. You are the power source so there is a marginal amount of extra effort required (although with massive improvements in light technology, considerably less than a few years ago). The initial set up costs, especially for a hub powered system, may be higher than a battery light option.

Battery power – there are a wide range of battery powered lights that fall into two broad categories, rechargeable and non rechargeable. The benefit of a rechargeable light is that you do not have to keep buying new batteries, which can prove to be expensive. The disadvantage is that if your light runs out of power before you reach your destination you are a bit stuck (unless you have a back-up light). I purchased the very fine cat eye HL-EL610 rechargeable which provided very good visibility at a reasonable cost. Also, on low power, it provided several hours of light. However, the first time I used it for more than a commute, on a proper night ride (on the night leg of a 600km in South West England) I ran into a problem. I had accidentally switched the light on during the day without realizing it and when I came to use it there was only about 15 minutes worth of power left! All I had left were my emergency Knog frogs, which would keep me visible but did not provide anything like enough illumination to cycle by. I was forced to tag onto another rider and travel at his higher pace. The result was, by the time we reached the sleep stop, several hours later, I was cooked and had to abandon. The lesson learnt was to carry a back up light! (Incidentally the person I cycled with had his dynamo fail on him but he had a back up light).

I now have a  Hope 1 which provides excellent light output. Level one is easily sufficient for road use and it has three more brightness levels above this. I have comfortably cycled downhill at 25mph + without fear of hitting unseen obstructions on level four. It also has a ‘be seen’ flashing mode. This is not a rechargeable light but I use rechargeable cells. I purchased 2 sets of four 3200 mAh AA cells for about £10 on-line. They seem to provide about the same running time as Lithium cells (but are cheaper per cell and can be recharged about a 1000 times).

The main downside of this particular light is that once the battery power is used up it just cuts off. There is no dimming or warning, it just stops! This can be worrying if you are doing 20mph downhill at the time. Actually it is not that bad. If you are going downhill you will be in one of the higher light settings. When the batteries cannot cope with the power output the light does stop but if you click the button it will restart on a lower setting. So a moment of literal blind panic and then enough light to see and slow down by. To avoid this though it is best to change to a fresh set of batteries before the current set are to expire. Two sets will get me through a [summer] night.

Timing your trip will help on your lights strategy. If you go at the end of June you will get about 16-17 hours of daylight to play with. If you try in December it will be more like 8 hours (or less in Scotland).

Do I need to take lights?

You should take emergency ‘be seen’ bike lights.

If you are planning long days in the saddle you should carry main lights in case you are delayed and have to finish in the dark.

If you are camping you could carry main lights that will double as camping lights.

If you are planning your trip in months of shorter daylight hours you should carry lights. The light levels at the beginning and end of these days can be particularly poor, especially if raining.

I took my Knog frogs and a Cateye TL-LD610 main rear light to make sure I could be seen from behind.

LEJOG Top Tip Lights

Books that will help you complete your End to End CycleLand's End to John O'Groats Route Book Special Offer - image

Three books are available related to this website (including gpx route files) as ebooks or paperbacks. As little as £2.99 each or all three for £5.98.  That’s less than an inner tube or a Costa coffee with a slice of cake.

Where to next?

The most popular pages on the site concern planning your End to End, training for long distance cycling, thinking about the cycling equipment you will need, what you should be eating and drinking whilst cycling and how to create a route for Lands End to John O Groats. Or you can read my own account of cycling End to End to get some idea of what to expect.

Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Route Guide Image of Man Lifting Page