Addendum

Just two quick things to add on yesterday’s “final” post, one more important than the other  

The important one is that we found chamois cream to be an essential bit of kit and the less important one is that the tyres I used were Continental GP4000S not GPS or whatever I said they were yesterday! Must have been thinking of the GPS which came off the bike on the first day… 

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LEJOG reflections and photos

Well, I’ve been home a couple of days now and had my first day back at work. Just thought I’d use this last post to share a few reflections, figures, and photos.

I’ve also written a couple of lists – one of kit and one of thoughts on the accommodation we used. I’ve put these at the end, as I guess they’re probably more either for real enthusiasts for the blog or (more likely) someone looking for information before embarking on their own ride, just like I was over the last few months.

GENERAL THOUGHTS

In general terms, it’s probably fair to say that the first week was mainly hard work – especially the first 2 or 3 days – and there were a few times when I thought that we’d been over-ambitious to try to do a 14 day route in 12 days, albeit with a rest day in the middle. If we were to do it again, or if we were advising someone doing the ride, we would say to take a few more days if you can, and enjoy a bit more some of the great places that you ride through.

The second week was much more enjoyable and we really benefited from the rest day. The scenery in Scotland was stunning and there were plenty of places I’d love to go back to. The Crask Inn is probably the most remote pub I’ll ever visit.

A few stats to finish this main part of the post with (in no particular order):

1. Approximate total mileage – 980-1,000 (my bike computer said 982 but the Garmin map – before we lost it – reckoned it was a shade over 1k)

2. Latest finish – around 11.30pm (Minehead)

3. Top speed – a slightly scary 44.8mph (going down a 26% hill in Devon), followed by around 42.5mph on our favourite hill in Scotland.

4. Approximate cumulative climbing – 42,000 feet (12,801 metres).

5. Mechanical issues with the bikes – three (Andy’s crank coming off and Phillip’s chainring jamming, plus me needing another new cassette and chain in Carlisle) plus some one set of brake pads, and some minor tinkering. To be fair, the crank had come off before so that was a pre-existing problem.

6. Worst injury – me slipping over in Asda before we got on the ferry to Arran when I got a minor cuts and grazes (note to self: bike shoes have no grip when not on bikes, especially in the wet!). Plus some minor bruising for Phillip when he came off near Ratlinghope.

7. Punctures – none!

ACCOMMODATION

I’ve listed where we stayed (when we weren’t with friends or family) and my, completely unscientific, thoughts and feedback.

Day 1 – Boscastle YHA – seemed nice enough. Lovely setting but basically got there, had something to eat, slept, got up and left again so can’t really comment.

Day 2 – Minehead Backpackers’ Lodge – friendly warden who is a keen cyclist (unless you are very fit, don’t believe him when he tells you how long it takes to get from A to B – he reckoned 5-6 hours from Boscastle to Minehead and it took us about 12!). Accommodation is basic but fine.

Day 3 – Monmouth Bistro Prego – right in the town centre. Nice setting. Friendly. Let us leave bikes in the restaurant bit overnight. Room itself was OK but not brilliant for the price.

Day 4 – Ratlinghope YHA – Angela (warden) was very friendly and chatty. Not sure they get many staying there. She made a really nice pack lunch and gave Phillip a lift to Church Stretton when his bike was broken so that he could get the train to Shrewsbury. Very knowledgeable about bikes. Apparently a really nice pub in the village but we were too knackered to go!

Day 5 – (staying with family in Preston)

Day 6 and 7 (staying with friends in Carlisle)

Day 8 – Prestwick Travelodge. It’s a Travelodge – not much to say, really. Staff were nice and took our bikes into the staff room overnight. They won’t let people have them in their room after one guy ruined a bathroom by trying to wash his bike in the shower, getting oil everywhere and causing a lot of damage!

Day 9 – Oban SYHA. Recently refurbished. Very nice accommodation. Whatever you do, don’t buy the packed lunch – worst sandwiches I’ve ever had!

Day 10 – Loch Ness SYHA. Very basic but fine. No real food available. Separate shed for the bikes. In the morning we noticed a B&B over the road which was cheaper (compared to the price of a private room) and would have included breakfast.

Day 11 – Crask Inn. Definitely recommend this place. Very out of the way but friendly welcome and good food and drink. Not especially cheap (£45 each for dinner, bed, and breakfast) but would certainly go back if I was anywhere near.

Day 12 – Thurso “Bed and Breakfast @ 4”. Beautifully furnished. Reasonable price for the quality (£60 between us for the room). Very friendly owner who has done the LEJOG herself and welcomes cyclists.

KIT LIST

I may have missed off one or two things.

Bike – Specialized Allez (no pannier holes) with Continental GPS 4 seasons (Phillip was running the Continental Gatorskins)

Bags – Carradice SQR Tour, Revelate Framebag, Revelate Sling (plus drybag)

Bike kit – wet and dry weather lube, multitool, chain tool, spare chain links, cable ties, pump, 2 x spare inner tubes.

Plus clothes and wash kits, etc.

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Lejog day 13: 6th September

After a good breakfast and an equally good hour or so of faffing, we set off for the last 30 miles or so of the journey. Fittingly, as we’d started in the rain in Cornwall it was pouring with rain and windy as we left.

We thought we would take a slight diversion to Dunnet Head, which is the most northerly point in mainland Britain. Then, after a journey of almost 1000 miles, we finally made it to John O’Groats met by a welcoming party consisting of my mum, dad, and sister. A good lunch and then a lift to Wick to drop Phillip and his bike off for his train back.

More reflections and photos to come in the next day or so, but for now just the afternoon to enjoy it!

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Lejog day 12: 5th September

Fortunately the wind had died down somewhat since yesterday and after a very tasty breakfast we headed off around 10.30 am into the sunshine. For much of the day the scenery was as before: beautiful and almost unspoilt. We also got our first view of the Scottish north coast, which was stunning.

In terms of miles, today was a bit shorter, about 70 from Crask to Thurso. Seven significant climbs and descents later, things levelled off a bit as we went past Dounreay nuclear power station and then into Thurso, arriving at a nice B&B at a very civilised 5 pm. Turns out the lady who runs it had done the ride last year and very kindly, and certainly bravely, offered to clean our water bottles which had become a tad dirty. Beyond the call of duty, that…

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Lejog day 11: 4th September

Looking at the map over breakfast, we decided to slightly change our stopping place for the night as what I had thought was around 80 miles turned out to be more than 90 and over 4 sets of hills!

We were also reminded that when someone from the Highlands says that the route will be flat with one hill, what they mean is hilly with several big sets of hills and one massive one! The hardest one up was 15% gradient for a mile followed by a long downhill that was so much fun we wanted to go up and do it again…

Today was another day of beautiful scenery with woods, lochs,  moorland, and open countryside the pleasures of which were offset slightly by very blustery conditions with some gale force cross winds.

Still, after 82 or so miles, we made it in one piece to Crask where we were staying at the inn. Not hard to spot it as the hamlet consists of the inn and one house! A warm welcome, delicious meal, and nice beer awaited us, so that made it all worthwhile!

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Lejog day 10: 3rd September

Today has to be one of my favourites so far: 86 miles from Oban to Loch Ness. Even constant rain for the last 40 miles or do couldn’t put me off!

Oban is lovely and we even had time yesterday evening to pop out and sample some of the local whisky. Then a reasonably leisurely start around 11 am after a trip to a friendly bike shop to borrow a pump for the tyres and then to the station to get Phillip’s train ticket home once we finish the ride.

We passed plenty of beautiful scenery along the way: lochs, mountains, and forests all on largely well maintained roads. The youth hostel here is on the basic side and quite a contrast to the recently redeveloped hostel in Oban. On the plus side, though, we’re right on the side of the loch and can see it from our bedroom window. No sign of the monster yet, but I’ll keep looking!

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Lejog day 9: 2nd September

Apart from the finish, today was the day I was looking forward to the most. An early start at 7.20 then 20 miles to Ardrossan for the ferry to Arran. 15 miles round North Arran then the next ferry to Kintyre. I thought we then had 50 miles over relatively flat ground. Turns out it was another 61 miles over pretty hilly terrain to get to Oban. Hard work but the scenery made it well worthwhile.

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