As we were driving home there was plenty of time to think about things that worked and things that didn’t. First, the things that did work:
1. The style of support.
While it may not be an option for many, our solution of driving together to the start, then having Jane drive with all the stuff to each night stop, and finally driving home together has worked brilliantly for us. I felt supported all the way and a couple of times met Jane during a days ride when things were not going well. At the same time Jane also had enough free time to visit lots of National Trust places that we have not been to before.
Given that I don’t ride very fast or even it seems very consistently (especially during the last 3 days when my legs were very tired) riding alone with support available was much less stressful than struggling to stay with a group.
2. Our new bike carrier.
From roofbox.co.uk our new Atera Strada DL 3 has been great. Both the carrier itself and Bikes on it are easy to fit. It feels really secure when driving and the way it provides access to the boot works well & easily.
We have had 3 bikes on it for the long journeys and 2 the rest of the time. Has been the easiest way ever to carry Jane’s step through frame. Not only that but Jane has found it easy to operate with two bikes on.
3. My Schwalbe 28mm Durano tyres
Zero punctures says it all really. They feel pretty fast but more importantly they coped with some terrible road surfaces as well as lots of off road riding. At least 3 times I hit huge potholes at high speed (at least once I stopped because I was sure something must have broken – but fortunately it nothing did). All that and no punctures at all.
What is more. I only pumped them up at the start and then at the half way night (and that was only because I deflated them to take the wheels off to change the brake pads).
4. My Brooks B17 Select saddle
This has been used for several thousand miles during my preparation for LEJOG. So it was no surprise to me that it was comfortable. It has never got this wet before though, most days so that it had not dried out fully by the next morning (despite always putting the saddle cover on whenever I was not riding).
A Brooks saddle like this demonstrates a huge disconnect between the reactions of non cyclists and the experience of my bum. When non cyclists look at the saddle they almost always comment that it must be uncomfortable. When people hear that you are riding all day every day for 11 days they almost always think that your bum must hurt, that you will have sores and suffer mightily. My experience is very different. Yes for this challenge I wore padded cycling trousers (most days 3/4 or full length because of the rain), but my bum was never in pain. I used a bit of sudocream a few days, more as a precaution than anything else. But I didn’t use any other creams or anything else and it was just comfortable. For the last few days the muscles above my knees were hurting and that meant I couldn’t really stand to pedal, so I was sitting on the saddle for about 9 hours a day with no bad side effects. Sitting in your favourite office chair for 9 hours is often less comfortable.
Of course it has continued since. With the exception of Friday (13 hours 40 minutes to drive home) I have been on the same Brooks saddle every day, I have not been put off it and it will be moved from bike to bike probably for the rest of my life. I suppose my only regret being that when I bought it I didn’t splash out the extra dosh for the version with titanium rails to save a bit of weight. Over a 40+ year lifespan the extra outlay would have meant almost nothing.
Bottom Brackets are one of the least glamorous parts of a bike. Yet when you do a long ride like this in the wettest June since records began the quality of the Bottom Bracket is important. On days 6 and 7 I rode through long floods which included sections over 30 metres long which were deep enough that the Bottom Bracket was under water the whole time. The hope bracket has never made a sound, it has continued to perform perfectly, completely smoothly. When you switch from an ordinary bottom bracket to a smooth one you really can feel the difference. After the abuse this bottom bracket has had during this ride it is still smoother than the original bottom bracket ever was.
So just a few of the things that worked well for me.