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 cyclist’s 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 and stay in accommodation you find along the way.
- Or unsupported and self-sufficient, where you carry everything including camping gear and stove etc and camp.
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), which meant we avoided all the busy A roads, opting instead for a quieter, safer, more scenic route.
Prior to pedalling 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, we didn’t were able to keep the bikes fairly light as we didn’t need much kit with us. 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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I would highly recommend you work out what you’re going to pack where before you leave and ideally have a practice ride getting things in and out of the bags. I know that might sound obvious, but 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, if every item has a specific place, rather than just being ‘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 soaked 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 kit list for an unsupported LEJOG staying in B&B’s/Hotels
Bike & Bags
Bike – 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 unnecessary niggles and injuries.
Aero Bars / Tri 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.
Rear Saddle Bag – I took a 17L saddle pack, which was home to pretty much everything, such as clothing, spares & repairs, first aid etc.
Top Tube Bag – This is where I kept all my electronics so that they were easily accessible, such as my camera, phone, charging block etc.
Food Pouch / Stem Bag – This bag I stuffed full with easy access snacks, as well as sun cream, lip balm etc.
Dry Bags – I would highly recommend putting your kit in dry bags and then putting them in your bike bags. Many of the ‘showerproof’ bike bags (and even some that say they are ‘waterproof’) can start to let water seep through during prolonged rain.
Water Bottles – x 2
GPS Cycle Computer – I am a big fan of the Garmin Edge Touring for navigating on challenges like this and would go as far as saying I have never got lost thanks to it. When you are staying in accommodation overnight, you can of course charge all your electrical items while you sleep. However, you will still need a power block with you, as when you use routing/mapping features on your GPS unit, your battery is unlikely to last all day, so will need to be charged on the move.
Mobile Phone – I would also recommend having your route files downloaded onto your phone as a backup. You can use apps like Ride With GPS or Komoot, if you have the files downloaded within the apps then they are available even if I have no phone signal, as a backup for the Garmin GPS unit.
Powerful Front Bike Light (make sure it works whilst it’s being charged as not all do), Back Light, Power / Battery Pack, USB Double Adaptor wall plugs x 2, Mini Bike Lock, Compact Camera, Charging Cables for each electronic item it’s easy to forget one!
Spares & Repairs
This is a fairly minimalist lightweight repair kit, as you are never going to be that far away from a bike shop for most of the journey. It should be just enough to patch you up sufficiently to get you to a mechanics or bike shop. Maybe you might want to consider two tubes for the more northerly section of Scotland, as towns are more sparse.
Bike Pump (don’t just go for the smallest and lightest, I recommend the Topeak Road Morph G Pump), Duck Tape and Electrical Tape wrapped on the pump to save space, Bike Multitool, Tyre Levers, Inner tubes, Tube Repair Patches, Cable Ties, Magic Chain Links, Chain Lube, Gloves for bike repair/cleaning, Emergency Spoke Fixer, Tyre Boot, Micro Leatherman, Superglue.
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 lightweight 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 them and under them when I have needed a little 10 min power nap off the bike, I’ve stuffed it down my jersey on a cold descent, and of course, it can be a real lifesaver in an emergency.
Paracetamol, Anti Inflammatory Gel, Sterile Dressing, Antiseptic Wipes, Antiseptic Cream, Triangular Bandage, Strapping Tape, Medical Tape, Rehydration Sachets, Safety Pin, Foil Blanket.
Cycle Jersey – If you are riding in early spring or late autumn like I was then I would recommend something warm like the fantastic Castelli Gabba Jersey as it offers great warmth and windproof properties.
Cycle Bib Shorts x 2 – I usually go for bib shorts with a zip or clip at the back to allow for peeing without getting undressed (makes life easier in cold temperatures).
Waterproof Jacket – 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.
Lightweight Rain Poncho – 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, where visibility for drivers is diminished, but it will also stop the poncho flapping around in the wind.
Helmet, Sunglasses, Cycle Shoes, Sleeveless Base Layer, Long Figured Cycle Gloves, Warm Gloves, Waterproof Over Mitts, Waterproof Over Socks, Toe Covers, Sports Bra, Cycle Leg Warmers, Cycle Arms / Sleeves, Down Vest / Gillet, Waterproof Trousers, Socks x 2, Lightweight High Vis Vest.
Off The Bike Clothes:
Lightweight Technical Running T-Shirt (tends to be the lightest), Lightweight Running Shorts or Leggings (tends to be the lightest), Lightweight Down Jacket, Socks x 1, Pants x 1.
When I arrive at my accommodation, I have a shower as soon as possible, this helps to prevent saddle sores from 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 riding the route and have more time off at your B&B, or perhaps you’re 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 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!
SPF 30 Lip Balm – I never overlook lip balm, it can be invaluable against cracked and blistered lips from the wind, even in places that aren’t hot and sunny.
Sudocrem / Chamois / Bum Cream – 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.
Spork – 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!
Zip Lock Bags – 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 🙂
Mini Deodorant, Travel Toothpaste, Travel Size Toothbrush, Travel Size Suncream, Cash / Credit Card, Toilet Roll.
Feel free to ask me any questions, happy to help where I can.
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