See the section for Great Britain of the Trento Bike Pages

Land's End to John O'Groats by bicycle with 3 others - May 1992 - Odds and Ends

By Peter Seaman (, contributed on Fri, 17 Mar 95 19:39 GMT
This is part 4 of a report consisting of 4 parts. See Part 1 (Preparation), Part 2 (First Week), Part 3 (Second Week), the Index, or the (very big!) one-file version.

At John O'Groats and journey home

On the Friday morning we took it really easy. We again visited the pleasant hotel at John O'Groats for coffee in the lounge, studied the book where end-to-enders enter their names and stories, and added our own. I took my bike off the roof for the final photographs. Although Ian's plan was to take the train home I suggested he should save some money and travel with us in the car. We left John O'Groats around midday and I was grateful for Ron, Sandy and Phillip sharing the driving home and their willingness not to smoke. We took two days for the journey, stopping overnight at Hawick. Arrived in Winchester about 7pm on Saturday.

I did little cycling for a few days after my return and noticed that I seemed to be taking more sleep. Perhaps then there is some truth in the proverb "Five hours sleepth a traveller, seven a scholar, eight a merchant and eleven a knave".

What I learned from this trip

  1. How much training is necessary for a trip like this?. In one of my calls to Andy Maddox - after I had said I intended to train up to 200-240 miles a week for the month immediately preceding the trip - he told me this training schedule was insufficient. This was supported by one of my training partners who said the thought of doing over 100 miles a day for day after day scared him stiff, especially as I should expect and plan for bad weather. I needed to do much more he said. I hardly ever exceeded 70 miles in a single training run, or 100 miles over two days.

    In the following table shows the training mileages per week suggested by Mike Challis, our club coach, and what I and Ron actually achieved.

                 Recommendation   Achieved    Ron's
                 by coach          in 1992    training
       January     100              110         35
       February    125               80        130      Figures are
       March       175              100        186      miles/week including
       April       225              250        210      easy cycling to work
       May         275              210        448      in my case
    Mike himself did the end-end on this training schedule in only 6 days. Our journey time was much longer at 9 days, though we travelled about 1065 miles instead of 847 including some very long and steep hills. I had no real trouble covering the distances planned and keeping up with the rest of the party - two of whom were much younger than myself.

    In retrospect then I can say that these training distances were perfectly adequate for me for the conditions we encountered. The weather was generally warm and dry, but there was a great deal of head wind. In fact, for most of the journey the winds were between East and North the opposite to the prevailing winds hoped for and expected.

    A few weeks after the trip Ron entered the national 24-hour contest and achieved 14th place out of 70 riders with 385 miles. He also did a 50 mile time trial in 2 hour 9 mins. I have since achieved 25 miles in 1-4-12 but have never attempted a longer distance in a competitive situation.

  2. Gears. My lowest gear was 42-21 (54-inch) and it was quite unsuitable for some of the hills encountered, such as the 30% climbs in North Devon. Although there was only one hill which beat me, many of them put tremendous strain on both myself and the bike. 42-24 would probably have enabled me to make all the hills, but really much lower gears than this would have been justified.
  3. My time estimates and hoped for average speeds were badly out, mainly because I had taken insufficient account of the hills. The downhill sections never compensate for the time lost going uphill, even if you descend at the speed of light. For hiking I was taught to allow an extra hour for each 1000 feet of ascent but on bikes it is the steepness rather than the absolute height gained that is the important consideration. Compared with a flat run of 20 miles, a steady rise of 1000 feet over this distance will only make about 7 minutes difference, but a climb of 1000 feet in one mile will make about 14 minutes difference. If half the journey distance is uphill, simple arithmentic shows that average speed overall is necessarily less than twice the average speed on the uphill sections.
  4. The episode in Kilmarnock leading to Lindsay's decision to leave the journey taught me the importance of setting appropriate expectations and the need to allow adequate time for discussion and review. I really did not expect the journey to go smoothly and I should have communicated this expectation at the start more clearly. We should all probably have listened to Lindsay's ideas more closely.
  5. I under-estimated the difficulty they would have in the car in keeping in contact, and should have set up a back-up plan based on our making calls from phone boxes to a central message centre. Sandy and Phillip did their best but we should probably have asked them to track us more closely since the phone was so unreliable. With panniers you can make the journey without the support of a car, and several of the party would consider this preferable, but I myself wanted to make the cycling as easy and efficient as possible. I think in retrospect that I was excessively concerned about keeping in contact with the car and that the journey for all of us would have been more pleasureable if I had not been so obsessed with this aspect.
  6. I learned that a good way to navigate is with a single folded sheet of 3 inch to mile map in back pocket. I tried to remember the next 2 or 3 turnings ahead and this generally worked well and involved few stops or delays. So long as I concentrated mistakes were recognised before we had gone very far.
  7. I really regret not carrying in my pocket a small dictating machine for keeping a diary. This would have enabled fast note taking on the move regarding incidents, times, distances, feedback on the use of the equipment and recording of voices of locals.
  8. I should probably have had wheels with looser spokes, and should have carried spare spokes.
  9. I am glad we took the scenic route and avoided most towns and main roads. And I am glad I travelled light.
  10. It is important for all riders to have the same size wheels so that spare tyres tubes and spokes can be interchanged. (Ian was the only rider using 27 inch wheels)
  11. It is important to many people to eat at a regular time each day in order to maintain strength. I should have spotted the significance of this factor to the other riders and given it more importance. "Meat and matins hinder no mans journey".
  12. In May there was no problem in finding superb accommodation which was very good value for money, especially in Scotland. There was little need to book in advance.
Having learned a few things I am keen to try again a similar journey. Use of a streamlined 3-wheel recumbent appeals because these can be faster than normal racing bikes.

Appendix 1 - bikes we used

                Bike             Wheels      Chainwheel   Sprockets
Ian    Raleigh Classic          27 x 1.25   48-38-28       24....13
Ron    Rossin hand built         700 mm       52-42    24-21-19-17-15-13
Peter  Raleigh Dynatech 600      700 mm       52-42   21-19-17-16-15-14-13

Appendix 2 - spares brought by Ron kept in trailer

Back wheel                4 cone spanners                 Handlebarend stops
Front wheel               stilsons                        Nuts, bolts, washers
Lock                      assorted adjustable spanners    Puncture repair kit
Cassette block            Mafac tool kit                  patches made 
                                                          from old tubulars
Racing rear mech          Screwdrivers                    tubular tyres
Touring rear mech         2 sorts of medical cream        metal tyre levers
8 assorted spokes         Towel                           saddle
7 inner tubes             Rags                            chainwheel & cranks
2 folding tyres           3 sets of Look shoe plates      Bottom bracket set
2 touring tyres           including washers and screws    All sizes ball
6 block extractors        Spare computer                        
Fixed cup remover         Spare computer sensor           3-in-1 oil
3 crank extractors        3 kinds of spoke keys           grease
Pedal spanners            2 rim tapes                     GT AT
Head spanners             4 sets handlebar tape           Swarfega
assorted gear cables      Look pedals                     Set Allen keys
assorted brake cables     Ordinary pedals                 Padlock & cable
assorted brake blocks     Toeclips and straps             Track pump
Ordinary block 13-24      Assorted nuts, bolts, washers
Spares carried by Ron in sack always with him
First aid kit             Road map book                   Rain jacket
Pencil and paper          Light woolen sweater            Socks
Large padlock & cable     Tools                           Inner tubes
Food                      Outer tyre case                 Tyre levers
Spoke key                 Inner tubes
Spares brought by myself

Primarily 1 spare bike


Charles Inge
Alexander Pope

Peter Seaman
This is part 4 of a report consisting of 4 parts. See Part 1 (Preparation), Part 2 (First Week), Part 3 (Second Week), the Index, or the (very big!) one-file version.