Let’s get iconic, time to LEJOG!
Pascal here. It’s time to get iconic, in the form of a Lands End to John O’Groats ride (or LEJOG, as it normally gets shortened to). For UK based cyclists it’s a bit of a rite of passage, the equivalent of a marathon for a runner – just with more bum soreness and fewer kids handing you emergency jelly babies from the side of the road at mile 24!
As the map shows, we’re taking a slightly non direct route, adding an extra 500km to the ‘standard’ LEJOG route. This is particularly true once we are into Scotland, but there is method to our madness – we didn’t just plan the route when drunk in the pub one night, honest….!
Scotland’s access legislation (the Land Reform Act 2003, specifically) allows camping on most unenclosed land. This means that we will be able to wild camp in our bivvy bags for the Scottish legs, making sure we ‘leave no trace’ of our overnight stay – it’s all about keeping this outdoor paradise looking pristine! This route allows us to fully test out our camping set up, all of which will be strapped to our bikes.
Our ‘sleep system’ consists of the following key items:
Sleeping bag. We’ve gone for 2/3 season bags, which are generally good for overnight temperatures of down to freezing or just below. Ideal for British summer conditions.
Bivvy bag. This is basically a thin, waterproof layer, in the shape of an enlarged sleeping bag. Our sleeping bags then slip inside of these, ensuring the rain is kept out. Also ideal for British summer conditions, because it will inevitably rain! You can zip it up to almost completely enclose yourself, which has the added benefit of giving me an 8-hour break from seeing Dan’s face, every night. Win.
Inflatable roll mat. A vital item that really improves comfort, and therefore morale. Far more lightweight than the ‘old school’ foam roll mats that seemed to have been mandatory on all boy scout camping trips pre-1995! Lying on this mat ensures you don’t lose a tonne of body heat into the ground below and wake up freeing cold, and they smooth out any bumps you might be lying on.
With all of the above items, size and weight are key considerations for us. This kit needs to be small enough to be attached onto our bike frames, and as light as possible. Hills become even more emotional when you are on a heavy bike, which then requires ‘tree trunk power legs’ (technical term!) to get you up the slightest incline. Or a lot of extra cost as you order an Uber XL for every uphill section of the ride, simply chuck the bikes in the boot right….? But we wouldn’t do that, would we?
No, clearly we wouldn’t!
But only because you can’t get Uber XL in Cornwall or Scotland, where all the hills are.
But seriously, we still wouldn’t. Maybe.
Going unsupported, as we are, also means that there will be no support crew on hand to assist us at any point. It’s just the two of us, our bikes and the open road. What could possibly wrong…?! The vast majority of folk who complete LEJOG do so with a support team, available to provide snacks, help with any bike repairs, and deliver morale hugs if it all gets a bit much. For Dan and I, we will have to provide mutual hug support – you can’t beat a roadside man hug, as the trucks whistle past you on the A-roads. All very romantic.
For the England legs, where wild camping is not allowed, we have a secret weapon. With us both being serving military officers in the Royal Navy, we have access to a network of military bases dotted about the country. These will provide us with basic overnight facilities, up until we get to Scotland. When I say basic, think bunk beds (it’s like being 9 yrs old again) in a dorm room that hasn’t been decorated since 1965, with a basin next to the bed (we love a good basin in the military!). It’s all so dated that it’s probably back in fashion again, you could probably brand it as ‘retro boutique’ and charge some Hackney Hipster £200 a night to stay…(in fact, I copyright that idea, it could be my ticket to early retirement!).
Furthermore, the military is a surprisingly small family. This means that most bases we end up staying at, we will almost certainly randomly bump into some buddies, who will duly jokingly point out that it would have been quicker for us to catch the train rather than cycling all that way. Secretly, they will all be wishing that they were on the expedition too, because everyone in the military loves adventure.
So, two weeks to go. We set off on from Lands End on Sunday 18 July. Our plan is to provide daily updates via our Instagram (@starsandspokes). If at any point you feel like our efforts are worthy of a donation, then please head across to www.justgiving.com/starsandspokes - you are a legend for supporting your Armed Forces, all funds go directly to the Royal Navy Royal Marines Charity. Thank you.
As a treat for all our followers, we will even see if we can capture some man hug action. You're welcome.