Loading up

Loading up

Originally uploaded by Andrew Birkett

Training for lejog might be hard work, but having a reason to eat an entire cherry cake – 1500 calories – does somewhat make up for it. Being bored on a train with a bag of food is dangerous.

Long way down

I’m on the train, 1.5 hours into the 12 journey to Penzance. I was glad to see the train already sitting waiting, which avoided any time pressure when getting the bike onto the train. The weather is all blue skies and sun as I this morning, but the forecast is predicting strong winds from the east this week. East? That’s not in the plan. Still, one thing I’ve learned from Frank recently is that the forecast is always wrong! So hopefully it will be sunny and still all week long.
Had i bit of a last minute panic last night booking a B&B for Monday night. Had to phone four before I got a place.

Gear list

Since I’m up early today and have a couple of hours before I get on the train, here’s my final gear list. It’s about 10kg total, and fits nicely into my two panniers.

The bike: Courier Nexus, 44t/22t gearing, SJS mudguards, aero bars, 2 bottle cages, rear pannier rack, 2 ‘front’ Ortleib panniers. Front + rear lights + mountings
Bike bits: Small chain lock, GPS and bar mount.
Entertainment: Kindle ebook + charger, iPod + headphones + charger, mobile phone + charger
Misc: 2 x AA batteries (for gps), 2 x AAA batteries (for rear light), some random nuts and bolts, string for clothes line,
Rain gear: Waterproof trousers + jacket + shoe covers, rain gloves, waterproof sealskinz socks
Sun gear: suncream, lip balm, sunglasses
Clothes: 1x cycling shorts, 2xtop, 2xsocks, summer gloves, cycling shoes, helmet, hiviz reflective vest
Evening: light trousers, light fleece, pants, socks, tshirt
Extra: warm leggings, thermal base layer, beanie.

Tools: 6 * cable ties, 2 * spare inners,
– 3x tyre levers,
– puncture kit, pump
– 6 * spare spokes
– spoke key
– tyre boot
– duct tape
– allen key multitool
– 15mm spanner (rear wheel)
– jewellers screwdribver
– 8mm spanner
– cone wrench
– spare chain link
– chain oil
– spare brake cable
– 20t sprocket
– nitrile gloves
– cloth
Road map (pages)
Written direction
B&B phone numbers, map/location
– Inhalers
– Travel towel
– Shower gel/shampoo/conditioner
– Toothpaste/brush
– Razor/shaving gel
– sudocream
– first aid kit
– spork
– Hairbrush
– Earplugs
– Ibuprofen

GPS download

Tonight, I’ve been transferring the planned route onto my GPS.  It’s a fairly old device with limited memory, so I’ve had to make some compromises.  It can only store 20 “routes” consisting of 50 points.  Having studied the maps, I decided that navigation in Scotland was pretty darn straightforward, whereas navigation through England was much harder (no bias here!).  So I decided to spend all my GPS points on the first 7 days, using three ‘routes’ per day to pack in maximum detail.

I designed the routes on mapmyride.com, which allows you to download them as GPX files – however these typically use about 300 points per day.

Next, I used gpsbabel’s “simplify” filter to get each day down to 150 points, and another filter to convert the “track” files which mapmyride provide into “route” files. Finally, I needed to split each day into three separate 50-point routes. I briefly entertained the notion of using xslt, before seeing sense and doing it in about two minutes using emacs keyboard macros.

So now I’m tooled up with high-res tech, ready to navigate across the country using relativistically-corrected satellite quad-lateration.

Here is my planned route, with links to maps showing each day’s travels:

d1  (Mon) Lands End to Wadebridge [64miles]
d2  (Tue) Wadebridge to Great Torrington [57miles]
d3  (Wed) Great Torrington to Bridgewater [68miles]
d4  (Thu) Bridgewater to Tintern [72miles]
d5  (Fri) Tintern to Much Wenlock [81miles]
d6  (Sat) Much Wenlock to Leigh [83miles]
d7  (Sun) Leigh to Sedbergh [77miles]
d8  (Mon) Sedbergh to Longtown [62miles]
d9  (Tue) Longtown to Auchinleck [73miles]
d10 (Wed) Auchinleck to Tarbet [63miles]
d11 (Thu) Tarbet to Ft William [73miles]
d12 (Fri) Ft William to Inverness [61miles]
d13 (Sat) Inverness to Brora [56miles]
d14 (Sun) Brora to John o’Groats [63miles]

T minus 5

Five days left until I get the train down to Penzance to start the ride.  I broke the cardinal rule by futzing with my bike just before starting the ride.  I added SKS mudguards, and replaced the sprockets (42/22t) and chain.  Mudguards should make any rainy day less bad – although I’ve ridden through countless winters without them.  The new spockets and chain make everything much smoother, and make life noticably easier (at least going up Craigleith hill on my one test ride).  I don’t like making big changes without a decent shake-down period.  But I have two rides to work to do, and I’ve been doing all the work using only the tools I’m taking with me.  This leads me to add a couple of extra tools – an 8mm spanner (because the mudguards have many nuts on them) plus a tiny jewelers screwdriver (to lever off the snapring on the rear sprocket).

I have spent a lot of time with a road atlas and highlighter pen this week.  I originally mapped out my route on mapmyride.com so that I can have a version on my GPS unit.  But I also want paper maps in case the GPS dies – and also because the GPS really only shows a line going across a mostly blank screen without much context.

I’m initially following the CTC recommended route, along tiny country lanes – although I wonder if I’ll get bored with unsignposted roads after a while.  Certainly, as I get to north England I’m going to start doing my own route.  From Lancaster, I’ll follow the A6 up and over Shap.  It’s apparently a fairly quiet road nowadays (since the M6 replaced it) but the ascent up and over Shap is legendary, and I want to collect that one.  Later on, I’m going to do the east side of Loch Ness – another seriously steep ascent, but it means I avoid the main road on the west coast.

Dang, I just want to get on and do me some cycling.  I’ve kinda enjoyed the preparation phase up to a point – doing a solo unsupported LEJOG ride requires a fair amount of planning.  But now I’ve crossed a line and I don’t really want to ‘do’ anything LEJOG related unless it’s actually doing the ride itself.  I’ve been ready to go for weeks now.

Route planning

For the last few evenings, I’ve been plotting my LEJOG route on t’internet.  I’ve used the CTC B&B route for England/Wales, and then my own way through Scotland.  I’ve aimed to keep the first few days a bit shorter, since they are hilly, but that makes for some longer days later on.  Anyhow, here’s the rough plan:

Day 1 (Mon) [64m] Lands End – Wadebridge
Day 2 (Tue) [57m] Wadebridge – Great Torrington
Day 3 (Wed) [68m] Great Torrington – Bridgewater
Day 4 (Thu) [72m] Bridgewater – Tintern
Day 5 (Fri) [81m] Tintern – Much Wenlock
Day 6 (Sat) [83m] Much Wenlock – Leigh
Day 7 (Sun) [77m] Leigh – Sedbergh

Day 8 (Mon) [62m] Sedbergh – Longtown
Day 9 (Tue) [75m] Longtown – Auchinleck
Day 10 (Wed) [67m] Auchinleck – Tarbet
Day 11 (Thu) [70m] Tarbet – Ft William
Day 12 (Fri) [64m] Ft William – Inverness
Day 13 (Sat) [56m] Inverness – Brora
Day 14 (Sun) [63m] Brora – John o’Groats

Gear ratios

Tonight I tried to figure out if my hub-geared bike is a sane choice USING THE POWER OF MATHS!

For example, this guy sounds pretty pleased to have had a “25-12 tooth cassette and 30 – 42 – 52 chainrings” to get up the hills of Devon.  That means his “easiest gear” used a 30 tooth sprocket at the front and a 25 tooth sprocket at the back, and so one turn of the pedals turned the back wheel 1.25 times.

My hub gear bike came with a 44 tooth chainring and a 20 tooth sprocket at the back – a ratio of 2.2 by itself.  But the hub gear itself provides a ratio of 0.53 (easy) to 1.61 (hard).  So the combination means that my easiest gear ratio is 1.16.  Looks like I should have an even easier time uphill than Mr Derailleur.

What’s more, I think his racing bike has larger wheels (700mm = 27.5″) than mine (26″) which means that each revolution of his wheels makes him go further.  Good news for him on the flat, but bad news for his hill climbing.  To be truthful, I can’t figure out whether those measurements reflect the distance to the wheel rim or the outer edge of the tyre.

– Sponsor me at http://www.justgiving.com/andrewbirkett_lejog

The Competition

I wonder if I’ll meet these guys:

“Two men expect to take 12 days to travel a 970-mile route from Land’s End to John O’Groats in two vintage tractors. James Williamson and Johnny Sinclair, both from the Highlands, must avoid motorways during May’s charity effort.”  (see full story)



Originally uploaded by Andrew Birkett

Tickets booked, sponsorship getting up towards £300. I guess i’m committed now! Unfortunately, the touring bike i ordered has turned into a disaster. It didn’t arrive in the order which the bike shop received this week. Ridgeback in turn say their supplies can’t get them the bits they need to build the bike. Grr. I’m going to phone them now …