Cycling Britain end-to-end


Girl riding a bike

Traversing the full length of mainland Britain by bicycle is a feat which holds an enduring appeal for many experienced riders and also for adventurous types newcomers looking for a personal challenge. If you're considering a Lejog or a Jogle – or if you're just curious – then read on...

How far is it?
The "traditional" road route from Lands End to John O'Groats (or vice versa) is 874 miles, but many riders opt to increase the distance inn order to ride on more pleasant – and less dangerous - roads.

One of the most-popular organised rides covers 969 miles, while the National Cycle Network-recommended route is about 1,200 miles in length – avoiding A and B roads wherever possible in favour of quiet lanes with less traffic.

How long will it take?
The record for a ride on a conventional upright bike is an astonishing 44 hours, 4 minutes and 20 seconds – and was set by Gethin Butler in 2001. However most riders take between nine and 20 days to complete the journey, clocking up around 100 miles each day, give or take.

Can anyone do it?
That depends entirely how far you want to ride each day. Covering 100 miles in a day is do-able for most relatively fit cyclists – but repeating that day-after-day demands a good level of fitness and experience on a bike. It's definitely one to build up to if you want to do it quickly and attempting it without training would be very silly.

Is there a best way to do it?
Not really, but starting at Lands End means tougher hills from the start. The climbs in Cornwall and Devon are short and sharp – versus more gradual inclines in Scotland. So it might just come down to whether you prefer to get the toughest bit out of the way first or save it for the end.

Is there a best time?
As you'd expect, the warmer months are the most popular – with most end-to-enders riding between Easter and September. Some prefer to avoid the school holidays, while others prefer the Spring in order to avoid the midge season in Scotland.

Are there organised trips?
There certainly are, and many riders are happy to splash out £1,000-plus for the security of being fully supported with food and accommodation laid on and their baggage transported en route. Going as part of an organised group also provides the opportunity to make new friends and share the experience with a larger group.

The biggest organised trip is the Deloitte Ride Across Britain – a supported ride for 700 people which tis at the more testing end of the spectrum, taking in 110 miles per day for nine days. But some riders prefer to go it alone so that they can ride at their own pace, set their own agenda or do things on more of a budget.

How much climbing is there?
This depends on the route chosen, but the aforementioned Deloitte Ride Across Britain quotes 15,000m of vertical ascent for its schedule. That's twice the height of Everest.

How do I get to/from each end?
If you're doing it unsupported, there is a train station about 17 miles from Land End and another a similar distance from John O'Groats. Some groups organise their own support vehicles, which might be driven by friends or relatives.

What sort of bike do I need?
Touring bikes with luggage racks are the classic choice, but many riders prefer to use their race bike or a trusty hybrid machine (road bike wheels with a flat handlebar).
If you've already got a road bike then it's probably fine.

How will I navigate?
Paper maps have been the traditional method of navigation, but GPS computers have become increasingly popular in recent years – offering the opportunity to create your own route and then get turn-by-turn directions similar to a car's sat nav.

Battery life can be an issue, especially if you're putting in long days – so it's sensible to have a backup paper map of some sort. Planning is a key part of the whole undertaking, so be sure to spend plenty of time poring over the maps beforehand as you check out the route.

Can I do it for charity?
Of course you can – there are some organised charity rides with big fundraising requirements which can subsidise the rider's trip – but many riders prefer to organise and pay for their own trip and gain sponsorship independently for the charity of their choice. Whatever you choose to do, people will be more likely to put their hands in their pockets than if you were doing a 10km fun run!

Have you been on a cycling adventure? Leave a comment below...

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