The basic ideas were sorted out. There were two cyclists – Steve and the oldbat. We had known each other for a year or so and had cycled a few thousand miles together. We were pretty sure we are compatible on and off the bike.
My bike is an old Dawes Galaxy with the standard Deore group set. A few weeks before the start date I have it refurbished by my friend Toby Willcocks. www.facebook.com/PedalsPaddles. Toby replaces the tyres, bottom bracket, cassette, chain, some cables and brake blocks. Everything else has been checked and deemed fit for purpose. The new tyres are Schwalbe Durano 25mm. My bike has mud guards, a rear pannier rack and a front box. It has lights, 2 bottle cages, a small pump, and a mount for my Garmin Edge 800. It has straight handlebars with Ergon grips. I quite like it but it is rather heavy. I will be keeping the weight in the panniers down to a minimum.
We are going on Friday 27th April. Bottom to top so hopefully we will have the prevailing south-westerly wind behind us. Post snow – pre midge. The accommodation is already booked. This is quite easily done online. We are staying in Hostels, a Travelodge in Tiverton and Preston, and with friends. The train reservation from Wick to Inverness for ourselves and the bikes was made on the day the bookings opened on 22nd February. The Easy jet flight from Inverness to Bristol is booked for Tuesday 14th May.
The outline of the route was quite straightforward. We had broad agreement of the way we wanted to go and then found our overnight stops and booked them first We want to ride about 70 miles most days and avoid main roads most of the time. In Scotland we are taking the scenic route up the West Coast. We do not intend to ride off road at all.
The detailed planning has taken much longer and has mainly been done by using Garmin Connect and RidewithGPS, together with Google Earth. The more urban areas are the tricky bits. Each day’s route will be on the Garmin Edge 800 and I will have the device mounted on my handlebars. Everywhere we stay will have charging facilities and the device will run for about 10 hours so that should be all I need. However, we are also carrying maps cut out of a road atlas covering the whole route.
The times of the ferries in Scotland were noted and hopefully we will catch them OK.
I joined the SYHA as a Family and Friends member for an annual cost of £14. This membership gives myself and up to 9 friends and family the membership discount of about £3 per person per night at any affiliated Youth Hostel. The YHA does not have this category of membership and an individual adult membership costs £15.35. So our Membership discount applies to both of us at Tintagel, Kington, Lochranza, Oban, Tobermory, Torridon, Durness and Inverness. We are using the Travelodge at Tiverton Parkway and Preston. Booked early this is a very cheap option at £21 for a family room. We struggled to find accommodation between Penrith and Ardrossan and are staying at the Criandarroch Arms at Moniaive. This was booked through Hotels.com. Bristol and Whitchurch are with friends. The other 5 nights are at independent Hostels at Penrith, Armadale, Dundonnell, Inchnadamph and Thurso.
We think we have kept the daily mileages to a level where we can achieve them easily. From Lands End to Oban the first 10 days are around 70 miles each day. From Oban onwards the other 7 days are a little shorter so we have more time to enjoy the scenery and maybe take some side trips. We particularly would like to cycle around Mull and also cycle out to Cape Wrath from Durness. We are used to steep hills, as West Dorset where we live is very hilly. I struggle in headwinds so that will be hard for me. I don’t like heights much so I will be pleased when we are across the Severn Bridge. Hopefully the weather will be kind. Days without headwinds and rain will be very welcome.