Bike

A bike is a fairly fundamental piece of kit for a Lands End to John O’Groats cycle ride!

The end to end has been completed on just about any kind of bike you can think of so don’t feel restricted in your choice. 

Of course, for most of us the choice may be limited to the bike we have.  But if you have a number of bikes to choose from or are looking to buy a new bike for the trip (it’s a good excuse) I have listed the main types of bike below with a few pros and cons for each, taking into account the journey.

Road racing
bike

LEJOG - bike - racing

Designed for racing on solid road surfaces, these bikes are light weight and responsive with an aggressive frame geometry built to maximise aerodynamics, not comfort.

They have high gearing to maximize speed. They have restricted loading capacities without attachment points for racks etc. It is often difficult or impossible to fit full mudguards and tyre size is limited due to lack of clearance between the wheel and the frame. 

They can feel unwieldy with the back and front loaded (which, whilst difficult, is possible). 

It is not surprising that the end-to-end ‘normal’ bike record was set on a racing bike (fully supported so no need to carry anything other than a water bottle).

Pros

Cons

  • light weight
  • responsive
  • fast
  • gives impression you mean business
  • uncomfortable enough to make dropping off to sleep unlikely
  • can feel unwieldy when loaded
  • restricted loading
    capabilities
  • uncomfortable for long
    distances
  • high gearing may be tiring at
    the end of each day

 

end-to-end
record:

1 day,
20 hours,   4 minutes and 20
seconds for men

2 days,  4 hours, 45 minutes and
11 seconds for women

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Road touring
bike

LEJOG - image of touring bike

Designed for touring on solid road surfaces.  These bikes look very similar to racing bikes but have a frame geometry built more for comfort than aerodynamics. They are stronger, and hence heavier, than racing bikes being designed to carry loads.

They have mounting positions for racks and mudguards and generally have wider wheels accommodating fatter more comfortable (but slower and more energy draining) tyres.  They have a wide range of gears, some very low for slogging up hills fully laden.

Pros

Cons

  • more comfortable over long distances
  • can carry heavy loads
  • wide range of gears
  • heavier than a racing bike
  •  fatter tyres cause greater
    rolling resistance

end-to-end
record:

There is no specific end-to-end record for a touring bike

Mountain bike

LEJOG - Image of mountain bike

Designed for use off road.

These bikes have a low centre of gravity making handling easier.  And being designed for off road use they offer the opportunity for more adventurous routing and off road detours.  They also have some very low gears that can come in handy on steeper sections, especially towards the end of the day when your energy levels are flagging.

However, to deal with off road conditions they are built to be robust and therefore tend to be heavy.  Their tyres are considerably wider than those of a road bike and even after fitting slicks they have a much greater rolling resistance (more friction between the tyre and the road).  They are therefore less efficient than road bikes, a factor that you will certainly feel in your legs over a long tour.  Despite a more relaxed riding position most people find mountain bikes uncomfortable to ride over long distances.

Pros

Cons

  • easy handling
  • ability to do off road routing
  • lower gears for hills at end of day
  • heavy and inefficient
  • uncomfortable over long distances

end-to-end record:

There is no specific end-to-end record for mountain bikes.

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Hybrid/Urban Cycle

LEJOG - image of hybrid bike

Designed to be somewhere between the mountain bike and the road bike this has more comfort than the road bike and a good spread of gears from high to low.  Weight and rolling resistance are somewhere between the two (on like for like cost machines).  They offer a compromise between the pros and cons of road and mountain bikes.  They are designed with a commuter and occasional weekend use market in mind.

Pros

Cons

  • Wide range of gears
  • more comfortable riding position
  • mounting points for racks, etc.
  • heavy
  • a compromise of good and bad features

end-to-end record:

There is no specific end-to-end record for hybrid/urban cycles.

Recumbent

LEJOG - image of recumbent bike

These bikes have a completely different seating position to a traditional upright bike.  The rider is seated low to the ground with the legs stretching in front.  This gives the bike a number of positive advantages including a low centre of gravity, low frontal area so less wind resistance and a more comfortable seating position.  The fact that you are low to the ground is also touted as a safety feature because you have less distance to fall when you are knocked off your bike.  [Personally I don’t think this would reassure me much as the juggernaut’s wheel bore down on me at eye level, about to grind me into the tarmac]. 

Because of their low frontal area recumbents are fast, as proven by the end-to-end record. However, they take a lot of practice to get used to.  Balance is more difficult and they are a different beast going uphill because you cannot stand on the pedals.  I’ve also been down plenty of cycle paths with barriers that would be impassable for a recumbent.  Not sure how you jump kerbs, pot holes or other obstructions either!Being of a specialist nature you may find it difficult to find spares for a recumbent whilst on tour.

Pros

Cons

  • efficient
  • fast
  • good added interest for fund raising
  • dangerous [?]
  • difficult to find spares en route
  • weight

end-to-end record:

1 day, 17 hours, 2 minutes

 

Penny farthing

LEJOG - image of penny farthing bike

No gears, solid rubber tyres and made out of roughly beaten iron girders.  If you have a head for height they are much faster than those old fashioned bone shakers.

Actually you can now buy new penny farthings with pneumatic tyres and brakes for about £500.

Amazingly the record (see below) was set in 1886 and is entirely impressive, especially if you consider the state of the road back then and the fact that the shortest route was much longer because there were fewer bridges.  So if you want to break a record this might be the one to go for.  Of course you might break your neck instead.

Pros

Cons

  • nice view
  • good added interest for fund raising
  • bloody dangerous
  • bloody uncomfortable
  • no bloody gears

end-to-end record:

5 day and 1 hour – impressive!

Unicycle

LEJOG - image of unicylce

Rather you than me.

Pros

Cons

  • good added interest for fund raising
  • probably spend more time on your back than on your wheel
  • 50% less likely to get a puncture

end-to-end record:

14 days, 12 hours and 41 minutes

 

Tricycle

LEJOG - image of trike

Or you could ride a big boy bike with stabilisers.

Pros

Cons

  • Great if you want to be the youngest end to end rider – currently 7 years and 9 months (took 22 days) – and haven’t mastered a proper bike yet
  • 50% more likely to get a puncture

end-to-end record:

 2 days, 5 hours, 29 minutes and 1 second – not bad for a toddler

Every keen cyclist knows the formula x = n + 1 where x is the number of bikes needed and n is the number of bikes currently owned. Ok they might not have expressed the sentiment as a formula but they certainly will have felt it. There is always a need for a new bike but not always a good reason to justify buying one.

Now, if ever there was an excuse to buy a new bike, surely riding the entire length of the country is a good one. But if you are thinking of rewarding yourself with a new bike for your trip:

  1. Bear in mind your proposed use for it after the tour.  For example you may decide a road bike is the best for the tour but if you want to do mainly off road afterwards it won’t be much use to you.
  2. Equally, make sure it is for the route you are riding. You don’t want to wreck your brand new £8,000 pro level racing bike on a lot of rough off road track.
  3. Buy it well in advance so you can get used to it on your training rides and make all those inevitable adjustments and tweaks to ensure it as comfortable as possible.
  4. My summary of bike characteristics above is made in the broadest of terms [and is not necessarily very impartial].  Even within each category you will find a baffling array of options leaving you balancing perceived benefits and costs from one bike to another.  For instance a road racing bike could cost you anything from a few hundred pounds up to several thousand depending on the build quality, weight and performance of the frame, gears, wheels and other components.
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