The green Galaxy. Oldbat’s steed for Lands End to John O’ Groats.
My Dawes Galaxy which had been fully serviced by Pedals and Paddles before the ride stood up to the daily rigours without any problems at all. Ongoing maintenance was as little as bringing tyre pressures back to 100 psi every couple of days using Steve’s small track pump and cleaning the muck off the chain every couple of days with a dry rag and re oiling. My brake blocks wore a bit but this was simple to adjust.
The blown tyre
The tyre disintegration on day 3 after riding on gravel we believe was a faulty tyre (Schwalbe Marathon) and just bad luck. It happened 500 metres from a bike shop in Bristol so it was easily sorted. If it had happened in North West Scotland it would have been a big problem. After Bristol on day 3 I had no further problems. I replaced the 25mm back tyre that disintegrated with a 28mm tyre. Steve had one puncture after riding over a patch of broken glass on the Severn Bridge cycle track.
We checked the tyres several times a day for anything visual and frequently removed debris. We always stopped immediately if we heard any debris ‘clicking’ in a tyre. The ride out to Cape Wrath on a very rough track for 22 miles resulted in no punctures or damage which confirmed our view that the failure of the tyre in Bristol was due to a fault as the Cape Wrath road was rougher and for a much longer distance than the section of track I rode on in Bristol.
We carried inner tubes, puncture repair kit, spare cables, spare brake blocks, spare spokes, chain sections, multi tools and a pocket knife.
I bought the bike on eBay for £150 to see if I like cycle touring. The only fault is that it is very heavy and the frame is a fraction too big. I liked the straight bars and the drive train and gearing were perfect. I will be looking for a different bike a fraction smaller and a lot lighter but in other respects the same.
I bought Ortlieb Back Roller panniers and they were excellent. The Ortlieb Handlebar box worked extremely well (apart from the inner divider which does not stay in place.) It was very useful to keep all the valuables in and was easy to take on and off the bike, when we left the bikes for any reason.
My saddle was Bontrager Inform R which I bought (in desperation) with a week to go having tried many others with no success. I took my racing saddle which is comfy over shorter harder rides as a back up. I carried it the whole distance but the Bontrager was comfortable enough and I had no saddle sore issues. I used Assos Chamois Cream liberally.
SPD pedals and shoes. SPD pedals have a flat side giving the option to pedal unclipped. The shoes are easy to walk about in.
I spent many, many hours planning the route using paper maps, Google Earth and Ride With GPS. Once the basic route was finalised I planned it in detail using ridewithgps and loaded it onto my Garmin Edge 800 using the a microSD card. I had an identical microSD card with me as a back up but this was not used. Steve had the route on paper maps cut out from a road atlas. The combination worked very well and both were of equal value.
Clothes to cycle in
Altura long fleecelined winter trousers with women specific chamois were worn most of the time with some Craft shorts being worn twice. I wore knee length winter weight trekking socks and over boots most of the time. Sports bra, wicking vest, and one or two Helly Hansen thermal tops, Craft long sleeved cycling jersey. I had 2 jackets one very light weight and the other a more substantial jacket which I wore when it was raining. I wore long fingered winter gloves most of the time. On two occasions I wore fingerless mitts. On rainy days I wore my preferred winter combination of thin fleece inner gloves with a heavy mountain bike gloves on top. I had with me the amount of layers I had worn on the coldest, wettest training days so I was confident I would stay warm. It worked.
I had a Gore beanie and a buff with me.
Sunglasses and helmets were worn at all times.
Another Helly with a hooded Rohan micro fleece. Rab Down gilet. This stuff is all very lightweight and packable and could, if necessary, be worn for cycling as well. North Face trekking trousers which are very lightweight, packable and dry quickly.
I am a fan of Crocs and they covered all my ‘off-bike’ needs.
We booked all our accommodation 3 months ahead. My annual travel insurance covered any cancellations should it have been necessary. We stayed mainly in Youth Hostels with 2 Travelodges, 2 nights with friends and 1 hotel. In the Hostels we were usually able to have a private room. The nights where we were in shared dorms were unsatisfactory and something I will avoid on future trips. Travelodges at Tiverton and Preston were a very good inexpensive option. We booked a family room which turned out to be huge and we took the bikes into the room overnight. Hostels are very good. They have a cycle store, often a washing machine and dryer and excellent self catering kitchens. Staff in Hostels were generally very helpful and supportive. Outstanding hostels in order of excellence were: Durness SYHA, Inchnadamph Independent Hostel, Torridon SYHA, Wayfarers Independent Hostel at Penrith and Tintagel YHA.
As previously mentioned, we stayed in Hostels mainly, with a couple of Travelodges, 2 nights with friends and 1 hotel. All had excellent showers. I had a small trekking towel. I started off with a large bag of my favourite toiletries but ditched them early in the ride to cut down on weight and just kept a small amount of conditioner for my hair. I just used whatever soap or detergent that was available at the accommodation. We washed all our cycling kit in a washing machine on nights 3, 5, 10, 13 and 16. Other nights we washed the ‘next to skin’ layers by hand and managed to get them dry by morning.
We were usually up at 6am and riding before 8am. Breakfast was muesli or porridge with toasted crumpets or bread.
After 2 – 3 hours riding we usually found somewhere for second breakfast which was often cooked and quite substantial. This would sometimes see us through the rest of the day but we would stop for cake if we saw somewhere nice. In the absence of a cafe for second breakfast we would buy packs of sandwiches, crisps, cake, fruit, plain Bountys and anything else we fancied at a shop.
We did carry some stuff all the time and this included nuts, dried fruit and some energy bars. I often had a couple of bananas on top of my panniers. I carried a variety of different tea bags and we usually had some cheese, a plastic jar of peanut butter and a block of butter with us. We had some plastic boxes, Sporks, a bag clip and some zip seal poly bags.
We made a point of having a pint of milk and a banana within 30 minutes of stopping. All I can say is we had no recovery issues no niggles let alone pain or injuries and we were raring to go every morning. We usually had at least one packet of crisps a day – we like them and the salt is good for replacement
We usually managed to find a shop as we were closing on our destination and carried the food for our evening meal and breakfast in the panniers for the last few miles. Cooking in the self-catering kitchens in hostels is easy and we could eat the quantity required. I am vegetarian and therefore choice in a restaurant is more limited. We also didn’t want to be bothered going out as we just wanted to relax in the evenings.
My drink of choice on the bike is Powerade Berry and Tropical flavour. A 500ml bottle diluted with 250ml of water. 2 bottles of 750ml to start the day.
This stuff is widely available. Alternatively I diluted orange juice to the same ratio. In the evenings we drank milk, water and tea.
We did not usually drink alcohol.
First Aid and Meds
We had a small first aid kit with plasters and stuff. I carried analgesics and various antiseptic creams and ointments. Sun cream and lip protection was used every day.
Ear plugs and eye mask were used in shared dorms.
My iPhone was used for writing the blog. I had a rollup waterproof keyboard to make writing the blog easier but the switch on this broke after a week so I had to type it on the iPhone. I emailed the blog to ‘Mission Control’ (husband). Images for the blog were taken on the iPhone and sent to Mission Control using WhatsApp.
I also had a compact waterproof camera kept in a pocket which I could use when riding and have over 1000 images on that.
Where we had wifi or 3G I used XC Weather which we found to be very accurate.
Stuff I should have had
- A 3 way 13 amp adapter for multiple device charging.
- A soap box or similar for transporting butter.
- A Titanium Spork as my plastic one broke.
- An overall small scale map of the UK just to have a bigger picture of where we were.