Category Archives: LEJoG

Visualising my Sabbatical

I like this graphic of my sabbatical bike rides (click for larger version):


This is thanks to the brillant website which collects all my rides from Strava and presents them in lots of creative and useful ways.

Here is a similar wheel for my LEJOG ride in 2012:



Why I love my Bike for Life when it is 11pm and I’ve 10 miles to home with strong headwind and heavy rain

It is a long title “Why I love my Bike for Life when it is 11pm and I’ve 10 miles to home with strong headwind and heavy rain” but I feel I need to explain why I had a grin on my face as the rain got a lot heavier as I was riding through Burton on the Wolds last night.

It seemed to me that when you are out riding in bad weather late at night 3 things allow you to grin and enjoy it.

  1. You need to be wearing the right clothes and have the right food and drink at hand.
  2. You need to be confident that your bike can cope and it not going to let you down in any way.
  3. and it really helps if you know that when you get home you don’t need to worry about cleaning the bike or doing any work on it because of the conditions you are riding through.

This is the route last night:

So for me last night I was able to grin because

1. Clothes/Food/Drink

On the top half I was wearing a thermal t-shirt (don’t know the brand, it is old but still effective), a very old short sleeve cycling top and a new Dare 2 Be shell long sleeve top. It was all warm and kept me feeling dry.

On the lower half I was wearing a cheap pair of old cycling shorts and a pair of winter cycling tights from Altura (at least 5 years old). Again very comfortable and warm.

On my feet I was wearing Shimano MW81 Gore-Tex Winter Mountain Bike Boots, these keep my feet dry upto a few hours of riding in heavy rain and usually warm after that. That is helped by the full mudguards and mudflaps which mean I don’t get much water splash onto my feet.

trail42-packflaskTo drink I had just finished some great hot filter coffee (Cameroon Hosnia from tankcoffee) which has been kept warm in a Trail42 Pack Flask. I’ve only had this since Saturday when I used it for the ParkRun support ride. This time I did make sure the coffee was really hot, using the microwave, before putting it in and it was still a good temperature after nearly 2 hours.

Plus also a bottle of water and a couple of energy gels which I ended up not needing.

2. Confidence in the Bike

At that time of night I find it impossible to enjoy the ride, however comfortable I am, if I having any nagging doubts about the Bike. I find it easy to let nagging doubts drag me down and so in the past instead of enjoying the ride I would be worrying:

  • are my lights going to last to the end of the ride
  • am I going to get a puncture
  • am I going to damage a wheel in a pothole hidden by a puddle
  • are my brakes good enough or do I need to slow down on the downhills
  • am I so tired that I will run out of gears uphill against this headwind

I am sure that you are not like me and don’t let these things cross your mind or get you down. But they have spoilt rides for me in the past. If you have to stop to fix the bike or walk home or call home for a lift then you quickly switch from being warm and comfortable to cold and wet.

While I was fortunate and didn’t get a single puncture on my 2012 LEJoG I also knew that Jane was available in the car not far away from me with full tools, parts and even a spare bike. Even so my Trek Pilot didn’t leave me feeling as relaxed about finishing a ride as my Bike for Life does.

The confidence comes from:

  • The Schmidt Hub Dynamo that you know has been so carefully engineered to last and last.
  • LED front and rear lights powered by the dynamo. The only maintenance they have needed since new is to wipe the lens clean.
  • The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, 35mm front, 40mm rear. Incredibly puncture resistant and big enough volume to not worry about pinch flats on unexpected potholes etc. So far I’ve had no punctures ever on a Marathon Plus.
  • The wheels are handbuilt, they have stayed true for the first 4,000 miles. As I use disk brakes the rim has not been worn at all and it wouldn’t matter if they got a bit buckled on this ride as it won’t affect the brakes.
  • There is nothing better than hydraulic disc brakes for inspiring confidence that they will get you home. You can stop reliably and controllable right to the limit of the tyres grip no matter what the weather. These are Hope Tech E4’s and they have been superb from day 1. I wore out a complete set of new Swissstop brake pads on my Trek in the first half of LEJoG (and I mean fully worn out). I wrote about this in A bike for life: Cascading decisions.
  • As the Trek had got older I used to worry about the Carbon fork a little, you read scare stories about forks breaking. This is one of the many reasons why the frame and forks of my Bike for Life are all steel (although it is a very fancy steel that Shand Cycles use). So the whole frame inspires confidence that it is not going to suddenly fail.
  • One of the beauties of the Rohloff 14 speed hub gear is that I have a mountain bike range of gears (wider than a road bike). It is brilliant because, however tired you are you are, all you do is twist and there is another gear available. It is very rare that I get to use first gear (I certainly didn’t last night) which is great. That feeling when you are in first gear and struggling up a hill against a headwind is a horrible one and one I have never had with the Rohloff.
  • h10_loopbar_alFinally, the Jones Loop H-Bar is also great in these conditions. You can put your hands close together on either side of the loop (depending on how tired you are) getting a much more aerodynamic position than you would expect on a fairly upright bike. I find this makes a huge difference in strong headwinds and is much more comfortable than riding in the drops of my Trek was. This really helps remove the impact of a headwind on my morale.

3. The Bike after the ride.

The combination of Gates Belt drive and the Rohloff means that when you finish a ride in horrible conditions you can simply leave the bike alone. There is no chain to go rusty, there are no derailleurs that are going to have been clogged up. No wheel rims or brake pads to clean or check. Again compare that to the state of my Trek after LEJoG.

It is so nice to ride your bike without having to think about the maintenance you will have to do afterwards. There will be no guilt because you simply put it away and lock it up. Late at night that is a very good feeling which again keeps the grin on your face.


I love my bike and it means I can be 10  miles from home with a strong headwind, heavy rain at 11pm with a great big grin on my face 🙂


LEJoG 2012 Photo Gallery

All the photos from my Lands End to John o’Groats ride in 2012


Approaching the year end and considering future goals

So with just a few days of 2013 left I’m starting the process of reflecting on the year just ending and considering my goals for the year to come.

I will have cycled just over 3,500 miles which is about 2,000 miles down on 2012. I am putting that down to last year’s LeJoG ride and the training for it. Probably the key loss for me has been a much reduced number of longer day rides.

On the plus side I have had some fantastic rides on my Bike For Life which continues to be all that I had hoped for: a delightful bike to ride that is incredibly reliable, low maintenance and practical.

Less good is that my Pearson Touche fixie has been off the road for a while. Hoping to find time to sort that out soon.

Next step is going to think about my goals for the next year and how public I am going to be about them. For various reasons (including an approaching 50th birthday towards the end of 2014) I want to be more intentional about my health than I have achieved in the past. Making that challenge harder is my proven poor interest and stickability at daily routine and good habits. Riding a bike is going to be a key part of this but it isn’t enough.

Maybe more on that later.

I am also interested to see how the blog develops over the next year now that I have moved it onto a more powerful hosting platform. Suggestions are welcome.


Direct Comparison turns out to be good news

Today provided a unique opportunity for me to compare my Bike for Life (a Stoater Plus from Shand Cycles to my previous bike a Trek Pilot 1.2
Last year I cycled from Syston to the Greenbelt Festival at Cheltenham racecourse on the Trek (just weeks after completing Lands End to John o’Groats in 11 days).
Today I did the same ride (but with an improved, slightly longer route), again as a group of 3.
Last year the group was myself, Neil and Ann. This year it was Rachel (married to Neil), Ann and me with both Rachel and Ann were on Giant road bikes.
Ann noticed a huge improvement (obvious to me as well) as last year she was on a heavy hybrid.

So given so many similarities, how does my Shand Stoater Plus, fully equipped with belt drive, Rohloff 14 speed hub gears, hydraulic disk brakes, dynamo lights, full length mudguards, kickstand and 3 racks (rear, front low rider and front randoneer) compare with a lightish audax bike without mudgards and with 27 speed derailleur gears.

I’m not sure about overall speed and that was set by the group anyway. However, I clearly felt less tired when I arrived (despite being on antibiotics and paracetamol and ibuprofen for a problem wisdom tooth). I would have been quite happy to have continued quite a lot further. Despite the  extra weight the Shand climbs much better. The Jones H-Loop handlebar gives great options for headwinds and downhills as well as the times when you need great control. The Hope M4  brakes inspire confidence so I brake later and less. The 32mm Durrano tyres are noticeably more comfortable than the 28mm ones on the Trek.

Not only was I less tired I was also more comfortable on the way with a better view.

These are exactly the sort of things I wanted from my Bike for Life. Not only that but it also comes with far less maintenance. FANTASTIC!!


Wonderful Brooks saddle maintenance

It may sound daft but I have just enjoyed doing some maintenance on my lovely Brooks B17 Select saddle. During the very wet weather of my Lands End to John o’Groats ride, especially on the off road sections, the thread of the tensioning bolt had got so clogged up with grit that I had damaged the thread when tightening the saddle a bit.

So I ordered a new bolt and it arrived today.

Isn’t it wonderful to have a product that is easily user serviceable! The old bolt came off and while it was off it was much easier to apply proofide to the under side of the saddle. Then on went the new bolt and the saddle is back on the bike.

All very easy but with so many products a problem like this would have meant throwing the whole saddle away. That would be a pity as it is so beautifully worn in now and I also prefer the much darker shade of brown that it has gradually become.

Anyway in the future my Bike for life will avoid this problem through high quality mudguards!

Yet another reason why Brooks saddles are the best 🙂


A bike for life

This is the start of a new series of blog posts: “A Bike for Life”. It will follow my plans and choices for a new bike, one for the rest of my life.

I have already blogged about how my Trek Pilot 1.2 worked brilliantly for my 11 day Lands End to John O’Groats ride.

However, I have also blogged about how my goals, plans and dreams for the future are quite different, some of the more immediate plans illustrate this nicely. At the same time we harbour dreams of rides like Eurovelo 6 (the Altlantic to the Black Sea:  3,653 km and 10 countries following some of the key European Rivers).

For these things my Trek Pilot is no longer the right bike. Even while riding LEJoG things that worked for that distance and time frame were obviously not so good for what I plan in the future (and I’ll go into these in more detail in these posts to show how they influence my choices).

I have also been inspired by Rob Penn’s book and TV Show “It’s All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels“, but my needs and desires are quite different.

So I am starting a journey of my own to my “Bike for Life”. Not the only bike I will have (for example I still need my Bullitt Cargobike and I still want the Tandem Recumbent Trike to ride with Jane) but the bike that will be my main bike for everyday transport and that will be great for long day rides and longer tours. A bike that will last me as long as I can ride a bike (and still be running beautifully beyond that).

I am going to write blog posts about each of the key choices I am making and then later about how they turn out in reality.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

The Series so far:


At last online giving to sponsor me for LEJoG is possible

It has taken months to sort out but at last you can sponsor me online for my LEJoG ride. Yes I know it is slightly odd to ask you to sponsor me now that the event is complete. But that’s life.


Yes I did get there, even if I look half dead at the end 🙂

All the money I raise is for Syston Methodist Church going towards mission projects, particularly our work to create a new community hub with Coffee Shop and Youth Cafe.

I’ll use this opportunity to thank the Church who were fantastically supportive during my preparation for the ride. That continued during the ride I had loads of expressions of support by email, text, facebook messages etc (plus Ann and Paul joining us with Ann smashing her own daily ride record by riding with me on the Saturday to and through the Lake District) and I know that many of them were praying for me. Their offline sponsorship is getting close to £500 already with more arriving all the time.

So now you can join in as well. Go on I know you want to at 🙂


LEJoG Choice of bike

Before I rode LEJOG I did spend some time being Tempted By Carbon and more generally thinking about what the best bike for LEJoG would be.

Now I have ridden it my conclusions are:

Phew! Thank goodness Jane didn’t let me give in to temptation and buy a Carbon Bike! With the route I took it would have been a real problem. I can’t imagine riding a Carbon Road Bike on the off-road sections. As demonstrated below:


Bodmin Moor




More Dartmoor. It got a lot worse a bit further on being very stony/rocky and with streams to cross and indeed ride along.


About to join the Granite Trail near Okehampton


Heading for Taunton (yes I walked this)


The end of that off road section somewhere before Taunton

My conclusions following my LEJoG is that for the route I took which avoided main roads, had a fair number of off road sections and was an average of 90 miles a day my Trek Pilot 1.2 was close to ideal.

I would have been worried on a more sporty/lightweight bike on the off road sections. A steel or carbon frame might have been a little less harsh than my aluminium one (but I did have a carbon fork and seatpost), but I would not have wanted smaller tyres than the 28mm I used and that rules out may high performance bikes.

The drop handlebars did help during some long painful stretches with strong headwinds which was important given the need to get the miles done. They also allowed me to gain as much benefit as possible from the down hills 🙂

The gears (30T small chainring, 28T largest sprocket = lowest gear of 28.7 gear inches) were just about low enough given that I was not carrying much at all. I did have to walk some hills but only once for very far (a climb of about 1,200 feet in 4 miles on day 10).

On the other hand given my plans for the future the Trek Pilot does not look such a good match, more on that later.


LEJOG and the rain

In 11 days of my LEJOG ride it rained a bit! After all these 11 days were part of the wettest June since records began. I arrived at Croxton the same evening as it was on the news for flooding. In total I had 4 dry days and 7 wet.

When I say wet days I mean at the least a couple of hours of heavy rain, some days this was for up to about 6 hours. I also mean plenty of flooding with several stretches of 30 metres or more long and deep enough to submerge the bottom bracket.

So I rode a lot in very wet conditions.

On the last but one day I was chatting to another cyclist who said there were many cyclists at a camp site near Inverness who were waiting for the rain to stop. That never occurred to me, I had a limited and fixed time available (as I had to travel home on the Friday to officiate at a wedding on the Saturday) so the weather was essentially irrelevant.

In fact the rain did not really cause me any problems. The greatest irritation was that it made reading the Garmin Edge 800 screen difficult as puddles kept forming on it. In the future I would look for a handlebar placement that allow it to be tilted enough for the rain to run off it. The only other problems were to do with surface water hiding potholes and the lack of consideration by drivers who appear to think cyclists should be riding in the flooded gutter (sorry that is a ridiculous thing to say, most drivers do not think at all).

As far as clothing was concerned I typically wore the following:

  • Specialised Mountain Bike Shoes (with Frog Cleats). I was not able to dry these put every night but they were still comfy.
  • Enduro Road Overshoes. Fantastic, kept my feet dry much of the time and warm all the time. Sadly the day from Fort William to Tain (day 10) included a section of walking on gravel and then a 4 mile walk up a steep climb south of Loch Ness and that wore holes under the toe.
  • Socks (just basic ankle socks most of the time)
  • Dhb tights (one pair full length and one 3/4 length). Never got cold legs and they never felt wet either
  • Short sleeved cycling top (a mixture, all at least 4 years old)
  • Long Sleeved cycling top with full length zip
  • Gore waterproof jacket (nearly 2 years old)
  • mostly fingerless cycling gloves (on one day I wore my long fingered winter gloves but they were inconvenient for operating the Garmin and it was not really cold enough to need them).
  • High visibility Gilet (at least 5 years old)
I wore a sun hat for a while on the second day when it was pretty hot, otherwise no head gear.

On a couple of days I swapped the long sleeve top for a long sleeved thermal undershirt.

I was amazed to find that even after 6 hours in heavy rain the bottom two layers were almost completely dry.

Riding in this I was comfortable and the rain didn’t cause me much discomfort.

I agree that when riding around for transport in normal clothes rain can be more of a nuisance, especially when your trainers/shoes and trousers get wet. But when on longer rides it should not be an issue, the clothing is readily available to ensure you won’t get cold or even too wet. So I find it rather strange that some cyclists on a long ride such as LEJOG hide from the rain and even more odd that some apparently dedicated cyclists were wearing clothing that just does not work well in the rain (like jogging trousers and hoodies).

Here are a few pictures of the floods (I didn’t get many pictures of the rain because I didn’t like getting the camera out in it).


Just one of many floods blocking the road, this on Saturday (Day 6) somewhere north of Croxton. This time we were able to get past on the pavement, we were not always so lucky.


About to leave the B&B at Threlkeld at the start of day 7. I had just changed all my brake blocks, in the pouring rain, as they were completely worn out. The rain stopped for a few minutes before several heavy showers followed by a beautiful afternoon as I entered Scotland.


Looking back along part of the C2C route on Day 7. Not getting wet feet while opening the gate was tricky!


This is what was coming next after the gate in the previous picture. This is a tarmac road (albeit a small one). Part of the C2C route.


And zooming in on the deeper bit to come, this “puddle” was well over my bottom bracket for about 30 metres.


At the camp site at Tain and about to start off on the last day. It didn’t rain for most of the morning which is why I not wearing my waterproof at the start. You can see the rest of the outfit though.


Arriving at John O’Groats you can see the mist (mostly with heavy rain) that I rode through for most of the last day. For 5 hours I could rarely see more than 100 metres.


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