Cycling from Land’s End to John o’ Groats (LEJOG), the entire length of the UK, is an iconic challenge that is high up on many cyclists bucket list.
The shortest most direct route is 814 miles (1300km) and can be achieved a number of ways: Supported, with a car or van carrying your kit and supplies. Unsupported, where you carry everything you need but stay in accommodation you find along the way. Or unsupported and self-sufficient, where you carry everything including camping gear and stove etc.
I completed the challenge with my dad in the last week of September 2016. We did it unsupported staying in B&B’s along the way. We also choose a slightly longer route (1400km), that meant we avoided all the busy A roads, opting for the quieter, safer, more scenic route.
Prior to peddling away from the signpost at Land’s End, my dad had never ridden further than 100km and never ridder two days back to back! Despite this, he smashed out 200km a day to finish a little under 7 days… well done dad, what an amazing adventure we had!!
Although we were unsupported, and carrying everything we needed, by staying in B&B’s & pubs and eating in restaurants meant we didn’t actually need that much kit with us and we were able to keep the bikes fairly light. The steep gradients come fast and furious in Cornwall and Devon, so to protect those knees and Achilles you really want to pack light.
In addition, whilst you travel up through England, shops are pretty regular along the route, so you don’t need to pack spares of everything. Scotland is, of course, a little more remote, so it’s important for the last few stages you make sure you have suitable supplies of food and spares on the bike, but for England, you can resupply more frequently and therefore keep the bike weight down.
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Top Tips for riding Land’s End to John O’Grotes
Although the following might sound obvious, it’s something that people often don’t get around to, they usually end up just packing everything up for the first time the night before! However, I would highly recommend you work out what you’re going to pack were before you leave and ideally have a practice ride getting things in and out of the bags. If every item has a specific place, rather than just ‘shoved in’, it will be easier to find what you need in a hurry. I can assure you you will get very frustrated if you get a puncture and it’s hammering down with rain and you can’t find the repair kit, and in the process of trying to find it you have to pull everything out of the bags, which in turn gets all wet in the rain! Have the things that you might need while you’re cycling with easy access, and the items you will only need in your accommodation can be tucked into the bottom of the bag.
Here’s my recommended kit list for an unsupported LEJOG Staying in B&B’s/Hotels
Bike & Bags
Bike: Felt Z4 Road Bike
Aero Bars / Tri Bars: Profile Designs T4 Carbon
Tyres: Continental 4 Seasons 25c
Rear Bike Bag: Apidura Saddle Pack 17L
Top Tube Bag: Topeak Fuel Tank 0.75L
Food Pouch: Alpkit Stem Cell XL
Waterbottles: 2 x Camelbak Podium 710ml
Personally I don’t think you need to get hung up on what ‘type’ of bike you need. Road bike, Touring bike, Gravel bike, even a Mountain bike would get you there. Just make sure your bike is comfortable and set up properly to fit you, so you don’t get any un-necessary niggles and injuries.
As for the aero bars, of course, you don’t need to have these, most people don’t use them. However, when you plan to do big mileage and long days in the saddle day after day, they are fantastic for offering another couple of riding positions and allowing you to take the strain off your hands and wrists. Which will hopefully prevent ‘Cyclist’s Palsy‘ something I have suffered from in the past.
I would highly recommend putting your kit in dry bags and then putting them in your bike bags. Many of the ‘showerproof’ bike bags can start to let water seep through during prolonged rain.
GPS: Garmin Edge Touring
Front Light: Supernova Airstream 2
Back Light: Exposure Lights Blaze MK2
USB double adaptor wall plugs
BBB Microsafe Lock BBL-10
Relevant charging cables for each electronic item! (easy to forget one!)
I am a big fan of the Garmin Edge Touring for routing on challenges like this and would go as far as saying I have never got lost thanks to it. Other Garmin models that are also good for this kind of navigation are the Touring Plus or the Explore 820. When you are staying in accommodation overnight you can charge all your lights phone and GPS unit, but you will still need a power block with you as well, as when you have turn by turn mapping turned on your GPS unit, your battery will not last all day, so will need to be charged on the move.
I would also recommend having your route files downloaded onto your phone as a backup. I use Ride With GPS to make all my routes, when I uploaded them onto the Garmin I also download a copy onto the Ride With GPS app on my mobile, so that they are available even if I have no phone signal, as a backup for the Garmin GPS unit.
Spares & Repairs
Duck Tape and Electrical Tape wrapped on the pump
Spare Inner Tube
Magic Chain Links
Fiber Fix Emergency Replacement Spoke (optional)
Innertube Repair Patches
Mini Bottle of Chain Lube
This is a fairly minimalist repair kit, but you are never going to be that far away from a bike shop for most of the journey. So this lot should patch you up sufficiently to get you to a repair shop. Maybe you might consider two tubes for the more northerly section of Scotland or at least make sure you still have plenty of patches.
Paracetamol Pain Killer
Rehydration – Dyrolyte
Zinc Oxide Tape
Like with the repair kit, you will never be that remote during this journey and are likely to be able to receive help from passing traffic in the event of an accident. So this is a minimal kit to patch you up until you can get to a pharmacy for additional supplies if needed. I find the Anti-inflammatory Gel can be a godsend for the knees! I would recommend always taking a foil blanket, for the weight they are incredibly versatile. I have slept on then and under them when I needed a little power nap, stuffed it down my jersey on a cold descent, and of course, it can be a real lifesaver in an emergency.
Oakley Radar EV Path Sunglasses
Sleeveless Base Layer
Short-Sleeved Cycle Jersey
2 x Cycle Shorts
Castelli Nano Flex Sleeves
Patagonia Down Gillet
Hiking/Mountain Waterproof Jacket
2 x Socks
Lightweight High Vis Vest
Off The Bike Clothes:
Lightweight Technical Running T-Shirt (tends to be the lightest)
Lightweight Running Shorts or Leggins (tends to be the lightest)
Lightweight Down/Synthetic Jacket (Decathlon do a cheap one)
Socks x 1
Pants x 1
I always take a cheap (£7) rain poncho. I can throw it on over the top of my clothes, even over my waterproofs if it’s prolonged heavy rain which keeps my bum and shorts dry. If you put your high vis vest on over the top, not only will that keep you safer in bad weather, were viability for drivers is diminished, but it will also stop the poncho flapping around in the wind.
If you are going in the Early Spring or late Autumn, another great bit of kit was the Castelli Gabba Jersey as it offers great warmth and windproof properties.
I tend to use a snug-fitting lightweight hiking jacket, made from Gortex, rather than a cycling-specific waterproof jacket. I just find they keep the rain out much better, and can ride with the hood under my helmet if needs be.
When I arrive at my accommodation, I have a shower as soon as possible, this helps to prevent saddle sores forming, and I usually rinse that day’s shorts in the shower at the same time. You’re just rinsing out the sweat. Then get them on the heater to dry if there is one. If there isn’t a heater, and it’s summer, then you can always dry the shorts the next day by attaching them to the top of your bike bag if the weather is good. By rotating and cleaning your two pairs of shorts like this, should help to prevent saddle sores. As for the rest of your kit, I wouldn’t risk washing it and hoping everything drys, just embrace the stink. Obviously, if you are taking your time to ride the route and have more time off at your B&B, or perhaps your even going to take a day off, then, of course, you would have more time to get your clothes washed and dried.
Once you are out of the shower, get into your sleep / off the bike clothes to head for some food. I usually put my waterproof trousers over my sleep shorts and pop on my down jacket to head out for food, just so that I look a ‘little less strange’ 🙂 I still wear my cycle shoes though!
Mini SPF 30 Suncream
Sudocrem / Chamois / Bum Cream
Zip Lock Bags
Cash / Credit Card
Personally I don’t use Chamois cream, I find it blocks up pores which leads to more saddle sores, but I have included it as many people swear by it.
For the weight of a spork, I think it is worth throwing it in your bag, as it just gives you options of what to snack on during the day, as cereal bars soon get boring! I also take a couple of zip lock bags to put food in, whether that’s leftover pizza, or have been known to order two portions of Spaghetti Bolognese in an evening, then put the second one into a zip lock bag to eat cold the next day on the road 🙂
Feel free to ask me any questions, happy to help where I can.
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