By Reuben Bakker-Dyos & Cycling Plus
Riding the length of Britain: 6 days and 1,000 miles
Reuben Bakker-Dyos enlisted the help of some buddies to ride the end-to-end route in just 6 days
Tackling the length of Britian in six days
Tackling the length of Britian in six days (Dave Caudery)
Callum, Daniel, Jørgen and myself had known each other for a while before we’d even ridden together. We met through one of the dustier, more niche corners of the internet, Reddit’s cycling forum reddit.com/r/bicycling/. Despite coming from varied cycling backgrounds, we all had an appreciation and a longing for that one challenge that would test us. So when a reader suggested Land’s End to John o’Groats, I pitched the idea and without hesitation they said yes.
For months the challenge didn’t feel real, even while trying to solve the arduous logistical puzzle of organising a week-long journey for six people. Then suddenly there I was, standing outside my front door with Jørgen awaiting the imminent arrival of our home on wheels that carried the rest of our six-person ensemble.
Leading up to our Land’s End grand départ, the weather had been fairly spectacular, which bummed me out. Not because I hate nice weather but because I knew it was only a matter of when, not if, the weather would turn. However, on the morning of Sunday 31 July, day one, the sun provided a pleasantly warm start to our 1,000-mile journey.
Three days of being at various degrees of damp to wet take their toll on enthusiasm. At times we did get a bit… snappy
Our planned route that day was just shy of 200 miles through Cornwall, Devon and Somerset’s steep, undulating hills, and was the day I was most worried about. Thankfully the wind was on our backs giving us a gentle push through the 15-hour day.
Arriving at The Caravan Club’s Burnham-on-Sea campsite as the clock ticked over into the early hours of the next day after 15,000ft of climbing was a real eye opener into what we’d got ourselves in to. We still had to deal with our post-ride routine (showering, locking the bikes up, laundry if required, eating, tidying up, charging gadgets and prepping for the next day). We finally got our heads down around 2am, after a brilliant meal cooked by our soigneurs-for-the-week, Don and Gwen, Daniel’s parents.
Day two’s early route visited Weston-super-Mare, Clevedon and on into Bristol (my adopted home and home to BikeRadar and Cycling Plus magazine), which meant we received welcome support through car beeps and drivers waving their arms as our four-man train snaked its way through Somerset bound for Wales. I’m certain it was all encouragement and nothing else; we were all in Team Cycling Plus Sugoi kit after all.
The drizzle turned into rain almost as soon as we crossed the Severn Bridge, conditions we would have to contend with for the next three days. On and off spells of rain plagued us all the way through to the Lake District where our 150-mile day ended with an eerie but incredibly atmospheric six-mile climb up the south side of Kirkstone Pass through fog, resulting in an even more spectacular north side descent into the valley surrounding Ullswater. There we were greeted with the warmth and comfort of sunshine.
We ended our day in the hospitality of The Caravan Club at Troutbeck Head campsite. Warm showers, dry clothes and the evening sunshine rejuvenating not just our legs but also our spirits.
You might think that riding from one end of the country to another would mean an endless maze of picturesque country lanes and villages. Reality struck fairly early and about 70 percent of the time it was the complete opposite. Traffic-laden A-roads, potholes that resembled Arctic crevasses, petrol and salted road spray that stung our eyes to near blindness in the rain, with miles of broken roads that shook our bones to the core.
Three days of being at various degrees of damp to wet take their toll on enthusiasm. At times we did get a bit… snappy. Thankfully there were no major ones, but certainly grumpiness at times, which came as no surprise with six people living in close proximity for eight straight days.
We’ve all seen motorhomes crowd the car parks of start and finish towns at professional races, and hiring one was an exciting part of this journey. I felt that the classic hotel-to-hotel option that most supported LEJOG rides feature had been done to death so wanted to test just how feasible it was to live in and out of a house on wheels — thankfully the others agreed.
In a nutshell it’s cramped. You have to ditch any ideas of privacy and accept a life of bumping into people, saying sorry when you realise you’ve been standing in the way and trying to keep as organised as possible. Organisation is the key to keeping sane in such small spaces.
Scicon had provided us with kit bags, personalised with our flag of origin and name — a nice touch that made us feel a little special.
Power on the move is a concern when doing big rides, because we all know if it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen. So, when you include all the gadgets a modern day cyclist needs on a multi-day ride (for us it was three action cameras, four Garmins, four mobile phones and three laptops), power does become an issue. Goal Zero provided us with its impressive Yeti 400 portable generator for the nights when we were off The Grid and away from The Caravan Club campsites.
The Cannondale Synapses we rode had surprisingly few mechanicals given the distances we were covering, a lot of the time on pretty horrible surfaces. Graphene has been touted as the new wonder material for tyres and Vittoria’s Corsa G+s were excellent, but not infallible with two punctures throughout the week.
The only other notable issue was a frayed gear cable, but Arragons Cycle Centre in Penrith sorted my bike out quick sharp to keep our time off the road to a minimum, so big thanks to Phil and Ben.
Unfortunately, our bodies couldn’t be fixed so quickly. Callum had a reoccurring knee injury midway through day two and decided to rest up and hit day three fresh. Sadly the same injury bit hard early on day four, which ultimately meant he had to pull out of the rest of the ride. Thankfully Callum used his kitchen talents to join Gwen in cooking up some morale-boosting meals.
Our second big loss came as we rolled into our penultimate campsite on the edge of Loch Ness when Jørgen said to me in a very croaky voice, “I’m broken.” The steep and exotically named B826 climb out of Fort Augustus up to Suidhe Viewpoint had inflamed a niggling Achilles heel to the point where walking was a struggle. Only with the loss of our Norwegian powerhouse did it hit me how much the other guys had been suffering. We tried but ultimately failed to talk freely about how we were feeling throughout the week.
With the team down to Daniel and myself on the final day, everything came to the surface at the final feed stop at Bettyhill — an agonisingly close 50 miles from John O’Groats.
Throughout the morning and early afternoon the conversations with Daniel became shorter and my time on the front got longer, which gave me the sense he was suffering behind me. After reaching the motorhome 110 miles after leaving it that morning, Daniel fell to the floor and let out a considerable amount of emotion. The sheer physical exhaustion we could see Daniel was in meant something had to break.
Our original plan was a quick grab-and-go stop, but circumstances dictated a longer feed so we could gather our thoughts and hit the final 50 miles in slightly better shape. With the tearful release came the moment where Daniel’s head cleared, enabling him to push on to the finish.
The final run in to the famous John O’Groats signpost seemed to drag, but once there we exchanged some weary thank yous and tired handshakes and still managed to pop a bottle of bubbly in triumphant glory.
A ride like this is more than just jumping on a bike each day and following the route. The logistics, at least for me, have been the source of endless head scratching in the months preceding our departure and this is where I want to talk about the two most important people who were with us during the week.
Don and Gwen deserve more recognition for putting up with the four numpties on bikes than we do for riding from one end of the country to another. Don drove every mile that we cycled while Gwen cooked every meal accompanied by a seemingly bottomless barrel of coffee regardless of the time of day.
Despite the fatigue they were no doubt suffering, both remained upbeat and smiley, which does wonders for motivation. When you see first hand the amount of work a carer (and that’s what they were for us) does then it puts the job of a professional soigneur into perspective, allowing a bunch of cyclists to concentrate on doing what they’re best at — riding bikes.
What started out with four blokes talking bikes on the internet ended with four friends having travelled the length of an entire country together
It’s hard to find too many regrets with a ride that encompasses everything you wanted from a challenge such as this, but due to the amount of miles we covered I didn’t appreciate exactly where we rode.
Trawling through Strava and Google Maps I’ve been reminded of some of the incredible landscapes we rode through, down, up and around — the valleys of Exe, Wye and Hope, over the unforgiving Lake District, climbing above Castle Stalker on Loch Laich, under the shadow of Ben Nevis and through the barren, midge-infested yet still beautiful lands of Caithness and Sutherland.
What started out with four blokes talking bikes on the internet ended with four friends having travelled the length of an entire country together on two wheels in six days — quite an achievement whatever way you look at it.
LEJOG in numbers (According to Strava)
1,018 miles ridden
50,048ft of ascent
60 hours, 26 minutes and 17 seconds total moving time
16.9mph average speed
37,656 calories burned
13.5°C average temperature
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
This morning (8 November) the Government announced that anyone caught using a hand-held mobile phone while at the wheel of a car would be fined £200 and receive six points on the licence – a doubling of the existing penalty.
The issue was brought into sharp focus last week when lorry driver Tomasz Kroker was jailed for 10 years when he killed a family of four in a crash caused by him being distracted by his mobile phone.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy and Research, said: “Addressing the growing problem of smartphone use whilst driving will require a combination of enforcement and education as well as drivers, passengers, companies and individuals taking more responsibility.
“IAM RoadSmart is disappointed that the government did not support our calls for first time offenders to be sent automatically on a re-education course specifically tailored to mobile phone use and breaking our apparent addiction to being constantly connected. We also want to see car companies, mobile phone makers and social media providers working together to develop technical solutions to hand held mobile phone use in vehicles.”
Neil added: “It is essential that drivers get the clear message that if you are on the phone and have a fatal crash you can expect to go to prison for a long time. There is a lot of support among the driving public for stronger penalties and more enforcement focus on mobile phones, but also a feeling that this is not always reflected in sentencing.
“The Home Office must also review it’s policing priorities to ensure they reflect the risks that new technology can bring on the road.”
Everywhere I go pods are appearing.
Staying at Run Cottage near Woodbridge Suffolk this weekend http://www.runcottage.co.uk there are a couple of the best I have seen in terms of the way they are sited next to a lovely and beautifully looked after pond, the comprehensive specification of what is on offer – and a competitive price around £50.
Described here rightly as luxury glamping pods they include TV, DVD, fridge freezer,tea and coffee making stuff, crockery and cutlery, BBQ, heater, pillows sheets and duvets.
Both pods were rented out and the occupants seemed entirely happy sharing other facilities such as the loo block with motorhome owners like me and other caravaners even though they themselves were on a glamping experience and in no way part of the camping or caravanning fraternity. Much as I love my motorhome lifestyle I am the first to acknowledge that one person’s lifestyle choice is another person’s anathema and the extent you can successfully mix it all together is up for question.
But here it seems to work just fine presumably giving the site owners an additional income stream which I am sure they are monitoring closely to see if additional pods might be justified and viable. On an entirely unscientific basis, it was interesting to see the glampers this weekend were young people; a title which could scarcely be applied to me or my near neighbours on site.
Is this the future then?!
Wellhouse Leisure offers the widest choice of campervans and more new model launches at The Motorhome and Caravan Show 2016
• Wellhouse Leisure will have its largest and most diverse range of new campervans ever, including the show debut of five new models, on its stand in Hall 12 at The Motorhome and Caravan Show 2016, at the NEC from 11 to 16 October 2016. This includes:
• Ford Terrier – SE, M-Sport and the new long-wheelbase model with up to seven seats
• Ford Evie – compact camping-car based on the Ford Transit Connect Grand Tourneo
• Hyundai i800 Camper – facelifted version returns to the Wellhouse Leisure range
• Mercedes Moselle – based on the new Vito, with all-new interior furniture by Tecnoform
• Zooom Mobile NV200 – a two-berth, compact campervan based on the Nissan NV200
• new Toyota Proace – prototype model fitted with elevating roof and windows only
• new Ford Nu-Venture – first Nu-Venture coachbuilt on a Ford Transit Custom cab
• new SsangYong Turismo – an MPV-based, four-berth camper with a kitchen, elevating roof and 178PS, 2.2-litre Euro 6 diesel engine, plus value for money with prices expected to be from £29,995
The Wellhouse Leisure stand in Hall 12 at The Motorhome and Caravan Show 2016 is particularly worth visiting this year as it will have its widest range of eight different campervan ranges to see, including the debut of five all-new models.
Its most successful campervan, the Ford Terrier 2, will be there with three variants to see: the best-selling SE, the eye-catching M-Sport, and the new long-wheelbase model launched this summer which can seat up to seven people. All Terriers feature the practical, sliding rear seat, stylish, high-quality Tecnoform furniture and the new 130PS, 2.0-litre, Ford Euro 6 engine, with improved fuel economy and torque compared to the previous 2.2-litre, 125 PS TDCi unit, plus the new option of automatic transmission.
For something more compact based on a Ford there’s the two-berth Wellhouse Ford Evie camping-car, winner of the Micro Motor Caravans class of The Caravan Club Motor Caravan Design Awards 2016, available from £28,500.
The popular, and award-winning, Hyundai i800 Camper will be at The Motorhome and Caravan show after making a welcome return to the Wellhouse range this summer, with prices starting from £42,000. It has a particularly high standard specification, including oven, heating and hot water system, plus an external shower, with standard or special edition trim levels available, plus the option of automatic transmission.
Another model returning to the Wellhouse stand is its redesigned Mercedes Vito-based Moselle, which now features an all-new kitchen and storage unit from the Italian furniture designer, Tecnoform. It still has an SCA elevating roof, seats five people and has Wellhouse’s trademark sliding rear seat system, with prices from £44,500. The luxury specification includes solar panel, heating, a choice of three Mercedes BlueTec Euro 6 engines, with rear-wheel drive, plus the option of automatic transmission.
The Zooom Mobile NV200, based on the compact Nissan NV200 van, is a new model that Wellhouse Leisure is considering introducing for the UK in partnership with the German manufacturer, Zooom. It is offered with two or five seat models plus an elevating roof, and can be fitted with storage units in the back, including a fold-away kitchen unit.
The first of Wellhouse’s all-new models is based on the stylish, new Toyota Proace. Wellhouse is one of the first in the UK to develop a campervan conversion of Toyota’s new van. In fact, this exciting new model is so new that Wellhouse is not able to show the finished interior conversion yet, with the example on show fitted with side windows and an elevating roof only so that people can see what size and look of it, and pre-order one. It will have four-seats, an economical 1.6-litre diesel engine and a body length of 4.9m. Prices are expected to start from around £38,000.
Wellhouse has co-operated with Nu Venture motorhomes to develop a coachbuilt-style model based on a Ford Transit Custom cab, which makes its debut at the show. The two-berth coachbuilt body is the same width as the base vehicle to make it easy to drive and compact enough to be used every day. This two-berth model is 5.5m long with an entry door at the rear, and a comfortable interior with all the features of a full-height motorhome. This includes a front lounge with side dinette that converts into two singles or a double bed, over cab storage area, kitchen and full washroom with shower. Prices are expected to start from £46,000.
The final all-new campervan being launched at the show is its first conversion of the SsangYong Turismo MPV. This car-sized campervan, powered by a 178PS, 2.2-litre, Euro 6 diesel engine, really is a multi-purpose vehicle with an elevating roof, kitchen unit, four seats and four-berths, with prices expected to be from £29,995.
David Elliott, Managing Director of Wellhouse Leisure commented: “Wellhouse Leisure is really pleased to be launching more new campervans, and to be able to offer such a wide choice in a mixture of sizes and brands. Wellhouse now offers something for everyone and every budget, from micro campers to our best-selling, award-winning models, all offering exceptional value for money.”
The 1936 Pontiac Six has been described as “outstandingly original” after still being fitted with all its original features, including the curtains, water softener and old tins of jam.
The time-warp motorhome went under the hammer as part of a Bonhams vintage car sale at Goodwood Revival this weekend.
The original owner, Captain Dunn of Bexhill, East Sussex, ordered the motorhome in 1935 through a local coachbuilders, Russell’s of Bexhill.
Doesn’t happen very often but this weekend we have abandoned the motorhome and are staying with friends in Dorset. What you might call a classic country weekend.
My personal view is that both Suffolk and Dorset are two of England’s best kept secrets and certainly our weekend near Sherborne is confirming that.
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