This is a fairly essential piece of kit if you are following a written route of the ‘turn left after 1 mile’ variety. You might get away without one if you are purely following a map. But even then it’s nice to know how far you have gone.
Personally I find a bike computer essential to help me calculate how far I have been, how far I have to go and how long it will take me to get there. Mine also has a heart rate monitor so I can keep an eye on how hard I am working. I have a tendency to push too hard and need to make sure my heart rate doesn’t creep up too high for too long. It’s not a problem over a short training ride but on day long rides it means I run out of energy before the end.
With costs reducing over time many cyclist now ride with power meters which can be used in a similar way.
For my first end to end I also purchased a satellite navigation device (‘sat nav’) for the bike. In fact my wife insisted upon it when I said I wasn’t taking any maps (because they were too bulky). It would have been a very useful aid if:
- I had remembered to load my route onto it before I left! [I managed to download it via the computer at my overnight B&B near John O’Groats].
- The built in rechargeable battery lasted longer than 8-9 hours. My average day was 10-12 hours cycling. I have since bought a Garmin 800 which has an alleged battery life of up to 20 hours. However this is if used without navigation turned on which for the purposes of touring is pretty pointless. The length of the battery life is mostly determined by how bright the screen is. If turned down to minimum I have had 15 hours out of my Garmin 800 whilst navigating. However, at full brightness the battery will only last about 7 hours. You can buy cheap (compared to the cost of the sat nav) external batteries that will charge the sat nav a number of times over. With a bit of ingenuity you can attach this to your bike with a cable feeding to the sat nav for continuous power. In 2017 I rode the London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) Audax ride (same distance as end to end) using this method without having to recharge the external battery at all. After 112 hours there was still some charge left at the end.
- Most importantly, I had worked out how to use it properly before I started the trip.
Since my first End to End I have learnt how to set up and use my sat nav properly. I now find it an invaluable aid. Gone are the fumblings with paper routes and desperately trying to remember whether it is L or R at the next T. And if you are riding in the dark it is ideal – just follow the line on the screen. I have ridden Land’s End to John O’Groats twice since my 2009 JOGLE trip and both times I relied solely on the sat nav for navigation, the last time not even taking a paper route as back up.
The Garmin 800 has been superseded by newer models available at Amazon. Scroll through the images below and click to link to other Garmin products and the external power pack I used on LEL.
If are foolish enough to risk travelling without a map, like me, and you don’t have a sat nav, a more basic bit of equipment that might be useful is a compass. If you do get lost it’s better to know you are at least heading in vaguely the right direction. You can download a compass app to your phone.
Of course, you could also utilise Google Maps or something similar on your smartphone. I know people have downloaded the gpx files from my Safer Way guide to their smart phones and used navigation apps to follow the route successfully. The only downsides to this are the possibilities of not receiving sufficient signal and the drain on your battery. Depending on your phone, navigation apps can chew battery power, especially as the screen will need to be bright to view it in outdoor light.
Kickstart your Land’s End to John O’Groats planning
Everything you need to know to get you started on your Lands End to John O Groats adventure is contained within these three books: a How To, a detailed account of riding the Google Map route for LEJOG and a ‘safe’ Route Book using GPX files.
Click the image above for free samples.
Available as electronic or paperback books from as little as £2.99 each or get all 3 for the price of 2 through this site for only £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, including training for long distance cycling, thinking about the cycling equipment you will need, how to look after your bike, 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.