Bike Frames

Dave & Debbie's End to End ride, August 2000

(or Land's End to John o Groats in 123 hours 40 minutes!)

 

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The Ride

The Audax UK (AUK) End to End permanent brevet, Land's End - John o Groats (or John o Groats - Land's End) is established at three levels depending on time allowed. We chose Randonneur Level which means we had to maintain an average speed of 12 K per hour inclusive of all stops. Our chosen route and distance was 1500 K which meant we had 125 hours in which to complete the ride.

Other AUK levels are Dart which requires that you ride 200 K per day, and Tourist which requires that you ride 100 K per day.

Our philosophy for the ride was to use the full time allowance, minimise night riding and maximise rest. We rode 'unsupported' i.e. we did not have a back up vehicle. To save on weight carried we forwarded packages to our night stops in advance which contained clean cycling gear, food, energy drinks etc and an envelope to post dirty gear home. At our Whitchurch stop Ken Band & Linda Foster kindly delivered our package in person and collected our dirty washing and other unwanted items !

 

The Route 

There is no set route for the End to End, you plan your own route. Controls have to be designated as approx. 80 K intervals. We used 'AutoRoute' to plan our route, and details are given below. You have to submit details of your route, contols and timings at least one month in advance to the AUK organiser.

  

From

To

Dist (K)

Total (K)

       

Lands End

Fraddon

80

80

Fraddon

Okehampton

95

175

Okehampton

Honiton

80

255

Honiton

Shepton Mallet

75

330

Shepton Mallet

Stroud

85

415

Stroud

Kidderminster

90

505

Kidderminster

Whitchurch

85

590

Whitchurch

Wigan

80

670

Wigan

Carnforth

80

750

Carnforth

Penrith

75

825

Penrith

Lockerbie

75

900

Lockerbie

Edinburgh

115

1015

Edinburgh

Perth

80

1095

Perth

Dalwhinnie

95

1190

Dalwhinnie

Inverness

100

1290

Inverness

Helmsdale

120

1410

Helmsdale

John o Groats

85

1495

Our departure from Land's End was 6 am on 4th August. Our night stops were selected as Podimore (4th Aug), Whitchurch (5th Aug), Carlisle (6th Aug), Pitlochry (7th Aug) and Helmsdale (8th Aug). We had until 11 am on 9th Aug to reach John o Groats, and having departed Helmsdale at 5am on the 9th Aug we made it with 1 hour 20 mins to spare (even having time for a bacon and egg sandwich en-route in Wick !!)

 

After over 800 miles of cycling since leaving Land's End, we eventually get confirmation we're heading the right way with the first sign for John o Groats - only 120 miles to go now!!

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Navigation

For navigation we used photocopied Travelmaster 1:250 000 maps, and a cut up 1 inch to 3 mile OS road atlas (a £3.99 bargain from a local garden centre).

We also asked for help !! Before setting off Ian Hennessey provided us with excellent instructions through Exeter, and Allan Forbes supplied us with the same for Edinburgh. Andy and Helen Morgan planned a route for us between Midsomer Norton and Stroud, and we also enjoyed their company (on their tandem) for this section .

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An added benefit of tapping into local knowledge is they know  the best pubs to stop at for lunch !

Dave pictured with Andy & Helen near Stroud.

 

The Bikes

Our bikes were standard Dave Yates Super Randonneur Audax frames with Ultegra groupsets and 700c x 23 Michelin Axial Pro Winter tyres on Mavic Open Pro SUP rims. We both used Topeak rear pannier racks with top bags, and Dave also carried rear panniers. For front lights we both used a Cateye Micro Halogen and a Trek Discotek LED. Our rear lights were a B & M top light and 2 Smart 7 LEDs. Our computers were Cateye Mity II's.

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Dave's Audax bike

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Tools & Spares

The tools & spares we carried were as follows. Items used are in capitals.

  • 1 TYRE
  • SMALL RETRACTABLE KNIFE
  • 2 INNER TUBES (not enough !!)
  • roll of electrical tape
  • patches
  • 'Mitylite' torch
  • Topeak multi tool
  • spoke key
  • gear cable
  • zip ties
  • brake cable
  • spare batteries
  • TYRE LEVERS
  • 5 & 6 mm screws & nuts
  • rh dt gear lever
  • MOBILE PHONE & CHARGER

The mechanical problems we encountered were 3 punctures, 1 shredded rear tyre, 1 lost mudguard bolt and both computers disliking the rain.

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Good nutrition is of utmost importance on a ride like this (as is a comfortable seat !!)

One of our more luxurious meal stops in Kidderminster !!

 

Lessons learned

  • Preparation and planning is VERY important. The more you plan before the ride the less you have to worry about during it (hopefully !!)
  • Think 'what don't I need' - don't take too much, you only have to carry it !!
  • When carrying a load use tyres with a decent amount of tread
  • Be disciplined at stops if you want to keep to schedule
  • Enjoy it !!!

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Crossing the finish line at John o Groats

 

10 things you either need or don't want to know about riding the End to End!!!

 

  1. If you complete the 1500 kilometres (or 940 miles) between Land's End and John o Groats at Randonneur standard (i.e. in under 125 hours) when you get home you can buy a medallion for £7.50 engraved with your name (can't remember) the date (4th-9th Aug 2000) and time (123 hours 40 mins) of your ride.
  2. For goodness sake make sure you are sponsored to do the ride. You have to stop at 50 mile intervals and get your Brevet Book stamped and signed. This process would be speeded up significantly if in answer to the FAQ "are you doing it for charity" you could just reply "yes" rather than try to explain "no, it's how you have chosen to spend 5 days of your summer holiday". It would also prevent the serious facial reactions people seem to suffer when you try to explain "you just do it for fun".
  3. If there is a strange orange ball in the sky at the start of your ride as your perspire your way over Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor, the Mendips and the Cotswolds do not complain about the heat. If you do, said orange ball will get very upset, disappear and cry for the rest of your ride. It will cry so much that your computer will stop working and you will have to keep stopping in bus shelters to wring out your socks.
  4. If you are going to spend a night at Todhills Travelodge, Carlisle during your ride and you leave a box** there in advance marked with your name and 'TO BE COLLECTED ON 6TH AUG' do not put a s.a.e inside the box to send your dirty cycling gear home because a member of staff at said Travelodge will open the box before the 6th Aug and use the s.a.e to post the entire contents of the box (minus the food which she will throw away) back to you.
** the box contained recovery drinks, food for the evening of 6th Aug, energy bars and drink for the following day, maps for the rest of the ride, clean cycling gear, train tickets and bike reservations home from Wick.
  1. If you decide to ignore 4 above and you do enclose a s.a.e. in the box then put an extra £8 worth of stamps on because the aforementioned member of Travelodge staff won't pay the extra postage the s.a.e needs (because it now contains far more than originally intended). This will prevent you then having the problem of the parcel not being delivered by the Post Office because of the unpaid postage.
  2. If you visit the Tourist Information office in Inverness then speak very clearly. Elderly visitors booking B&B may mishear you and think that you rode from Carlisle to Pitlochry the previous day by motorbike. They will be totally shocked and express sheer amazement at such an achievement, covering such a distance in one day on a motorbike.
  3. If you choose to ignore 6 above then do make sure your cardio-pulmonary resuscitation skills are up to date. When you explain that you didn't really ride from Carlisle to Pitlochry in one day on a motorbike - it was on a 'pushbike' - your CPR skills could be needed, though thankfully on this occasion they weren't (but only just !)
** Bonus tip - for goodness sake do not attempt to make your story more convincing by telling them that you have cycled from Pitlochry to Inverness that morning and are continuing to Helmsdale by 'pushbike' that afternoon, they won't believe you !
  1. If you arrive in Pitlochry in the dark and are using a flashing 'disco' front light, switch it off. If you don't it will attract a local gentleman whose eyes are glazed, speech slurred and who smells strongly of intoxicating liquor. (You may form the opinion he's drunk) He will want a full explanation of how it works, and after he's given your bike a very thorough once over you'll have difficulty releasing it from his grip. Oh, and by the way, don't tell him you've cycled from Carlisle that day because he definitely won't believe you !
  2. As Scot Rail trains between Wick and Inverness now only carry 2 bikes per train, and Scot Rail only accept 2 bike reservations per train, make sure you book early, and make 3 further phone calls to make absolutely sure you get written confirmation of your bike reservations. Do not however secure your bikes too well to the rack provided on the train. This is because it will take far too long to unload them off the train in Wick (yes Wick) when the 2 men arrive complete with a large hired van to take them by road to Inverness. Please, don't ask me why !
  3. And finally, don't do it for the view - you'll only be disappointed. When you leave Helmsdale at 5am to cycle the remaining 50 plus miles to John o Groats and it's foggy you won't be able to see:
  • more than 20 yards ahead at any time
  • the bits that go up between Wick and John o Groats (don't let anyone tell you it's flat)
  • anything at all at John o Groats - except the workmen at the 'closed for refurbishment' John o Groats Hotel where you are supposed to record the end of your journey !!

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In true Audax fashion - signatures of riders at finish and a canny collection of teapots !!

 

Acknowledgements

In addition to the people already mentioned above (Ken Band, Allan Forbes, Linda Foster, Ian Hennessey, Andy & Helen Morgan) we would also like to acknowledge the help given by the following:

Joe Waugh who we woke in the early hours of the morning to try and track down our package which Travelodge staff had returned to Newcastle. Linda Anderson for rescuing our train tickets and ensuring they were waiting for us in Helmsdale. The shop staff at M STEEL CYCLES who also assisted in the rescue of our package. Dr M P Barnes & Dr P Corris, without whose help earlier in the year re exercise induced asthma our ride would not have been possible.

We would also like to acknowledge the extremely warm welcome extended to us at the following night stops:

Old Manor Hotel, Land's End (01736 871280)

Button Boss Lodge B&B, Pitlochry (01796 472065)

Torbuie B&B, Helmsdale (01431 821424)

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and the champagne in Wick wasn't bad either !!