Route planning

Planning a LE-JOG route is quite good fun in the internet age.  You can fly around the country on Google Earth, and use tools like to design routes which you can copy onto a GPS system.  You can experiment with routes and check how bad the hills are!   Quite a few people have done this ride before and put up GPX trails of where they went.

One problem is that my GPS system (ok, actually my brother’s!) can only store 50 points per route, and 20 routes overall.  I’ve found that you need about 250 points to accurately track all the roads on each day of the LEJOG route.  Apps like gpsbabel can simplify routes down so they use fewer points, but you also lose accuracy.  This isn’t much of a problem in the highlands of Scotland where there are only two roads.  But trying to pick your way through a city with waypoints that are a mile apart won’t work.

I don’t really want to buy a new shiny GPS system just for this trip, so I’ve decided to stick with a combination of lower-resolution GPS routes plus pages torn from a roadmap.

On my training rides, I keep having to stop and get my map (or food) out of my panniers.  This is a pain, so I’m definitely going to invest in a handlebar bag so I can check the map or grab something to eat without stopping.  A waterproof map cover is a must in the Scottish weather!

By using the bikehike site, I’ve been able to scope out what kind of hills I’ll be hitting.  Day 2 through Dartmoor looks one of the worst, with 400m climbs.  In constrast, Arthur’s Seat in the centre of Edinburgh is only 100m high.  I’ve been hunting for good hill-training routes, and have settled on the road from Sanquhar up to Wanlockhead as being pretty representative of the Devon hills.

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Also, Epic Fail

Also, a week after I finish my Lands End – John O’Groats ride, I’m going to be doing a 10 hour endurance mountain bike race called “10 Under the Ben“.  Team Epic Fail (myself, Jeremy and Frank) will be doing a relay team, racing around the Fort William XC mountain biking track (as used at the mtb world cup!).  We’re just doing this for fun, but if you want to come up to Fort William and cheer us on, we’d love to see you!  It’s on May 30th.

This means I’m cutting my road training with stints on the mountain bike, going to work on the muddy offroad trail along Silverknowes and through the Dalmeny estate.  In April, I’m going to head up to Fort William to check out the course – the bikehike site shows a few good 100m climbs in there.  I read a riders review from last year talking about lots of people walking the rocky sections – but now I have no idea whether that means they’re scary huge or ridable.

The Story

At some point last year, I decided that cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats was something that I could attempt.   Since then I’ve been doing lots of training rides, cycling to work as much as possible, deciding on gear and tech and plotting potential routes on maps.  I intend to keep this blog updated as I complete the buildup and will also send updates whilst en-route.

I’m raising money for the Sick Kids hospital, and you can visit my sponsorship page at

I’ll be getting the train down to Penzance and then starting the ride from Lands End on May 11th.  I’ll be doing the ride solo and unsupported (ie. carrying all my own stuff) and will be staying in B&B’s along the way.  The total distance is over 1000 miles, passing up the west coast of England, through Glasgow and then heading north along Loch Ness towards the highlands.  I picked the start date to avoid busy school holidays and to try to get decent cycling weather (neither too hot or too cold, fingers crossed).

I originally intended to do the ride on my hub-geared Courier Nexus bike because I love hub gears, but after doing lots of longer rides I found that wind resistance is a big deal.  So now I’ll be doing the ride on a Ridgeback Horizon touring bike with drop handlebars.  For navigation, I’ll have pages torn out of a road atlas, plus a GPS system to keep me going in the right direction.

For training, I’ve been gradually doing longer rides.  Last summer, I cycled to my parents place and back (~50miles).  Then in September I cycled to my inlaws place (60miles) and then back the next day (another 60 miles).  I try to cycle to work when life allows it (10 miles there, 10 miles back).  I got back into training in January with a freezing cold 25 mile loop through Musselburgh, Dalkeith and Loanhead – made the mistake of not taking enough food, and underestimated the effect of getting chilled.  Then, a few weekends later, I did a 20 ride out to Gullane with the wind behind me, followed by a painful return home against a gale.  Last weekend, I did a 55 mile loop around via the Kincardine bridge – it was even warm and sunny at one point!  And this weekend I’m planning a 65 mile ride.  I seem to be averaging about 14mph over a typical 4 hour ride.

Training also involves getting used to eating more food than I normally do.  Last weekend’s ride burned something like 2,500 calories and I need to keep myself fueled during the big ride.  So I’m trying to get used to loading up with extra food.

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