Bike Fully Laden and Ready to roll

Now weighing 17.5 kg the steed is ready to go.  I will set off in an hour and a half to cycle the 12 miles to Plymouth Station, trying not to break a sweat before sleeping in the train.  That will be a new experience.  The train leaves just before midnight and gets into Paddington at 05:00.  Not sure how fresh I will be.  I then need to cycle to Liverpool Street and catch a train to Norwich.  I only have five minutes to get the bike off that e train and onto the connector to Lowestoft, so I might miss it.  Equally I am not sure you can take a bike on the train to Lowestoft, so it is possible I might end up cycling an extra 25 miles before the start.

Tomorrow looks sunny but with a strong headwind through flat country.  Might be like climbing all day.

If the technology holds up I hope to post tomorrow to let you know how it went.

Lowestoft to St David’s (and home again) Tour – Google Map Links

If anyone is interested in looking at the route, below are links to Google Maps.  The route is following Sustrans routes: Route 30 for a few miles to join Route 1 to London and then Route 4 all the way to St Davids (and then Google’s route home).  Some days have more than one map becasue Google Maps could not deal with all the twists are turns the Sustrans rote made away from its own proposed route within one file.

Day 1 – Lowestoft to Colchester

Day 2a – Colchester to Greenwich

Day 2b – Greenwich to Oakley Hotel

Day 3a – Oakley Hotel to Hampton Court

Day 3b – Hampton Court to Newbury

Day 4a – Newbury to Bath

Day 4b –  Bath to Caerphilly

Day 5a – Caerphilly to Kenfig Hill

Day 5b – Kenfig Hill to Solva

Day 6 – Solva to Swans

ea via St David’s

Day 7 – Swansea to Cheddar

Day 8 –  Cheddar to Home

Pre Ride Bike Tribulations

It is inevitable that before any event your bike starts to develop ticks and squeaks, the gears suddenly don’t click through properly and the saddle gets uncomfortable.

The reality is you are just getting worried and looking for problems.  That inaudible tick becomes a hammer blow, the slight delay is shifting becomes an insufferable gear problem, the saddle is tiny, of course it is uncomfortable, it always is.

That didn’t stop me from panicking over a couple of ticks and frantically switching to my back up bike.  This involved swapping over the wheels, having to change over the cassettes becasue they had worn to the chain, changing saddles, swapping over pedals for the recessed spd ones, changing the tyres to make sure I have the best puncture protected ones and moving my saddle bag mount.  When I came to run through the gears I found adjustment impossible becasue the chain on the back up bike was worn so I had to fit a new chain.

When  I test rode the bike the next day it not only ticked but squeaked as well.  It was also sluggish and the set up was all wrong. I swapped everything back.

Now my number one bike seems fine, apart from the minor tick, the slight imperfection in gear shifts and the tiny discomfort of the saddle.

To blog or not to blog?

Normally when I set out on a week long tour my wife keeps a blog running for each day.  This year life is just too manic for her to be able to find the time.  Working and looking after three boys on your own is no joke without an extra burden.  It is certainly much harder than being out on the bike all day with nothing to worry about other than pedalling, eating and sleeping.

So, this year I either have to do it myself or not do it at all.

Being a Luddite when it comes to mobile communication I do not have a smart phone or a tablet. Until now.  I have been persuaded to invest in a tablet for the family. This is mainly for my children to play games on but I am now experimenting to see whether I can use it to blog. This is my first blog post using the tablet. I’ve accidentally clicked something on the screen which is now allowing me to speak directly into, or at, the tablet and the words are magically appearing on the screen. Perhaps I should have bought a tablet a long time ago ☺

At the beginning of this post I was sure I would not be blogging. Having found this fantastic feature I am sure I will be able to blog each evening. I am also sure my kids will wish I had never found it

Spiritual guidance on your pilgrimage

I was recently approached by the parish priest for Land’s End asking if I could pass on her details for anyone who is seeking a few prayers before they start their ride to John O’Groats, or perhaps prayers of thanks for having reach Land’s End safely if they have travelled the other way.

Perhaps the best way to do this is for me to copy Rev’d Canon Vanda’s email verbatim:

Hello, I am the new parish priest in the Land’s end Benefice in Cornwall. I know you offer details about the cycle route from Land’s End to John O’Groats and wondered if you may be able to help me?

Part of the work I wanted to do in this community is to help those who would like to offer a prayer or ask for prayer on their journey between Land’s End and John O’Groats. We find that occasionally folk want to come to church in Sennen or St Buryan and ask for us to pray for them on their journey.

Additionally we have had a few folk who were really struggling and in need of some support to complete the journey, their supporters do come to ask the local churches for help.

In early Christian times pilgrimages always started with very simple prayers of protection and guidance for the pilgrim and their family. It would seem that some are interested in repeating this experience.

We are happy to offer some simple prayers either in church or at the start/end point.

So many folk take on the journey to raise money for a charity that is very close to their hearts and want to dedicate their efforts, and indeed to thank God for their safe finish.

I wondered if it may be possible to have contact details on your site to make it easier for folk to access the local churches?

I look forward to hearing from you,

with every blessing,


“the church is to be a catalyst not a catacomb”        

Martyn Percy

Rev’d Canon Vanda Perrett MA

The Rectory, Rectory Road, St BuryanPenzance TR19 6BB

01736 810216

Cycling Breakdown Cover?

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:

  • 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 LEJOG when I ripped my tyre and punctured 4 times in a very short distance, 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:

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.

Erratic, Spontaneous Training – Why Not to Do It

In June I am supposed to be cycle touring.  Two days ago I was undecided upon my route.  Today, wiped and shattered, I am fairly sure which roads to follow – the short and uncomplicated ones.

My training this year has consisted of 10 mile commuting cycles three days a week and then a 175 mile ride to the Isle of Wight at Easter.  This is not the smooth, double peaking training programme I recommend on my website, but I thought it should definitely have two peaks.  So, I booked in at very short notice to the Surf and Turf 400 audax ride out of Newton Abbot on Saturday.

The Surf and Turf 400 route consisted of a straggling loop along the north coast of Cornwall to Polzeath and back across country to Newton Abbot at roughly 300km and then a bonus loop of 100km.  The weather was wet.  Very wet.  By the time I reached Polzeath I was extremely cold, shivering uncontrollably.   I decided not to linger at the control and carried on.  The 20% climb from the beach helped warm me, as did the frequent climbs thereafter (and before) but on every descent the chill reclaimed me.  By the time I had reached Launceston and plunged down to the old A30 I had endured enough.  I decided I would not be doing the extra 100km loop – 300km was it for me.  The trouble was I still had about 90 km to go.  And it was nearly dark.

Felt like this!

I will not go into details about the misery of the next 4 or so hours.  I will definitely not go into details about my urgent bowel evacuation following downing a certain drink that provides you with modified forelimbs that bears large feathers and are used for flying.   I will be positive and say that the rain stopped and I warmed up a bit.  And by 01:00 yesterday I was safely tucked up in bed feeling sorry for the people still chugging around the bonus loop – the ride was a qualifier for Paris-Brest-Paris and had to be completed by some, despite the allure of a car home at the 300km point.

My training profile now has its two peaks.  I am unlikely to do any more training, other than my usual commuting, before my tour in June.  With that in mind the thought of 1,500 miles or so to complete a tour through every county in England is not appealing and would probably be foolhardy. In my current state of exhaustion the idea of planning a trip onto foreign soil is not pressing the right buttons, so Roscoff – Santander is on the back burner.  That leaves me with Lowestoft to St David’s, via London.

A quick look on Google Maps suggests a trip of about 450 miles.  If I get a train to the start and then cycle home from the end (300 miles or so) that will make a cycling tour of 750 miles.  If I allow Saturday for travel to Lowestoft and get back home on the following Sunday evening, that gives me 8 days cycling for a week’s leave from work.  I should be able to manage just over 90 miles a day. With the lack of training it might prove trickier than my previous LEJOG jaunts but hopefully do-able.

Of course, I should have followed my own advice viz training.  But life isn’t like that.  There is only so much time and for the past few months’ life priorities have been pointing in other directions.  I will have to set off and see what happens.  If physically I am unprepared, my psychological advantage is in knowing that I have cycled 100 miles a day for an 8 days period twice over the previous two years.  And getting the head right is half the battle.

What Happens if I Start Training

Having recently posted about what would happen if you stopped training I thought I should make some comments about starting training.

I have set myself the challenge of riding a one or two week route in June.  When I first conceived this idea June was a long way away.  I had plenty of time to get myself in shape to tackle up to 15 days of cycling a 100 miles or so a day.  But that was months ago and the time has slipped without any sign of proper training.  In fact, by the time Easter is over I will have a mere 2 months.

I have tried to squeeze some extra riding in by tackling a slightly longer and much more hilly route on my thrice weekly commute to work.  In my third week I have reverted to my usual route, my legs protesting too strongly to be ignored.  That may be due, in part, to the only non commute road ride I have made in a long time at the weekend.  It was a ride I have ridden many time and is the shortest route I can ride door to door that goes up onto Dartmoor.  It is 40 miles and has about 1400m of vertical ascent (and, of course, descent).

This morning, I felt totally shattered as I clawed my way to work.  At first I put it down to the raging headwind I was battling against.  But then I realised that the daffodils on the side of the road were not even wavering in the gentle breeze.  Next I decided it was simply lack of sleep; pains in my shoulder and arms have been making it difficult to sleep for a couple of weeks and I was up until the wee hours trying to winkle 277 nasty bugs and viruses out of my son’s laptop last night.  In desperation I thought it might be the wrong coffee before I set off; not enough caffeine in the bloodstream.

The reality is I am not fit enough.  It is a worry.  In a week’s time I am supposed to be cycling to my parents’ house on the Isle of Wight.  The plan is to test out what would be my first day’s route should I decide to ride the All Counties of England route in June on a 9 day schedule.  It would be the longest day at around 170 miles and I want to know whether it is feasible.  Right now it seems crazy.

So, what happens when you start training?  You feel tired, your legs ache and you want to give up. What do you do about it?  Either give up or plod on.  As long as you don’t overdo things, if you continue to push yourself you will get fitter and things will get easier.  If you want to reach a fitter state you need to push through the hard rides to get there.

Is trying to ride 170 miles on Good Friday on the back of a mere 40 mile ride and some base level commuting  a good training regime?  No.  Does it classify as overdoing it?  Yes.  Will I make the attempt?  Maybe.

UPDATE: Saturday 4th April

What Happens if I Stop Training?

You become less fit.

That was the short answer.  There is a much better long answer here:

Summarised below:

Day 0 

This is your last day of training.  You have decided to take no regular vigorous exercise.

Day 3

No discernible decrease in fitness.  If you have been training hard up to day 0 you can expect your fitness to be higher than day 0.

Day 7 (Week 1)

Fitness begins to drop due to decrease in blood volume and muscles becoming less efficient at using glucose and at coping with lactate build up.

Weeks 2-3

Things are starting to slip.  Your maximal oxygen uptake 
(VO2 max, the prime measure of your aerobic fitness) has dropped by up to 20%, because the muscle mass in you heart has dropped by 20% and the number of capillaries in your muscles has declined, resulting in a reduction in oxygen uptake to the muscles.

One month

You are definitely on the slide.  Your muscle structure is reverting to that of a normal, non-exercising person.  Your muscles are less able to burn fat for energy and are no longer able to sustain high intensity efforts.

2-3 months

Your heart now 25% less muscle and your muscles ability to produce energy from oxygen has dropped by up to 45%.  You now start to produce stress hormones when exercising which makes it mentally difficult and increases recovery time.

6 months

You are now unfit and have probably put on weight.  Even if you still weigh the same you will be fatter, muscles mass having been lost.  But the good news things have mostly stabailised, although your ability to utilise oxygen during exercise is still declining.


Stop training and your fitness begins to decline quite soon after, continuing to fall away the longer you stay off the bike, until after six months of inactivity, you’ll be a long way behind in the fitness stakes.

What Can I do?

Interval sessions consisting of just 8×30-second efforts, two or three times a week – just 12 minutes a week – can be very effective at preserving aerobic fitness.