And in the end…
I hope it’s obvious that I had a great time on our LEJOG trip, and I am hugely grateful to the motley crew of cyclists you see below for helping make it such fun. One of the pleasures of the trip was that I was taken out of my biomedical bubble, and the motley nature of this band of brothers and sisters was a big part of what made it a success.
(Motley is not to be interpreted here, as it sometimes is, in any pejorative sense! Here is what Wikipedia says of its etymology; it’s an interesting word.
Motley from 13th-century Middle English means composed of elements of diverse or varied character. In the 15–16th centuries came the “motley”, the official dress of the court jester. The jester was an important person in court circles, who could speak the truth without punishment even when it was contrary to the king’s or senior officials’ opinion. Their uniforms were generally lively and multi-coloured.)
I have covered our trip in some detail in my daily blogs, but one of the things that struck me quite forcibly, and James Briscoe said the same thing this afternoon, is how long we spent in Scotland.
We got into Scotland on day 9 of our 15-day trip, having covered 588 miles out of a total of 1051. Thus, 44% of our time and of the distance we covered was north of the border. This is a lot, especially when you bear in mind that we were going north-east, rather than north, at the beginning of the ride. So the message is that Scotland is big! The map below, from the Bike Adventures web site, kind of makes this point, but it is still a little hard to credit.
There is a web site that discusses the size of Scotland and how it is depicted on maps. In agreement with my statement that Scotland is big, it makes the point that the land area of Scotland is 30,414 square miles, while that of England is 50,346. Along similar lines, it points out that Scotland is almost exactly a third of the area of the entire UK.
The site says that a few years ago the BBC weather map used to depict the UK as if from a wide-angle lens floating above northern France, and that this vantage point emphasised south-east England and diminished Scotland, both because of perspective and because of the curvature of the earth. This misrepresentation has now been fixed by the BBC, but it provides an example of the potential geopolitical effects of cartography. At the time, this was relevant to the referendum on Scottish independence. How could such an apparently small country make its own way in the world?
I had wondered in a previous blog whether the nature of the map projection—Mercator versus Gall-Peters—might influence the apparent sizes of Scotland and England. It doesn’t, significantly, but the use of the Mercator projection does exaggerate the size of the United States and countries in Europe and it under-sizes Africa, and this led to an earlier controversy about the political implications of map design.
Having got through Scotland, I’m back in one piece. We all love giving advice, so what advice would I give someone taking a supported tour of the kind Bike Adventures do?
- Do get some bike riding in before you go. This is partially for fitness, of course, and in my wisdom I would say you should, at the very least, be comfortable doing two 50-milers on consecutive days. But it is also to hone your bike-handling skills. Most of the accidents we had were from mistakes rather than outside agencies.
- Service your bike (or have it serviced) before you go. A bike in good condition should be able to handle a thousand miles easily enough.
- Stick to Shimano. You may love your Speedplay or Crank Brothers pedals, or your Campagnolo Chorus groupset, but if anything breaks you’ll find it much harder to find replacements or spare parts in provincial bicycle shops. All you’ll be able to do is get Wiggle to express something to your next hotel!
- If you insist on using something weird, take spares. I took spare spokes for my Hunt wheels, so naturally it turned out that I didn’t need them. And of course, take some spare inner tubes, a pump (or CO2 cartridges), tyre levers and a multi-tool.
- Don’t take too much in the way of clothes, but make sure that what you do take is of good quality. Bike Adventures said I didn’t need more than two cycle jerseys, two pairs of shorts and two pairs of socks. They were right. But they do need to be good. My Rapha shorts, I have to say, were terrific. The same advice with respect to quality goes for arm-warmers, leg-warmers, shoes, over-shoes, gloves and a waterproof jacket. And a ‘base layer’ (vest).
- You don’t need much for the evenings. I wore a light T shirt, Ron Hill Tracksters and running shoes. In colder weather a sweatshirt would be useful. I am very fastidious, but even I felt the need to wash these only once every three days.
- Eat well. Breakfast is the important meal. I found that as long as I had a good breakfast I could keep going with a light lunch and an energy bar or two and then really chow down again in the evenings.
- That said, do make sure you have some extra food with you in case you’re stuck in the back of beyond in the pouring rain for a few hours
- Make sure you have plenty of water, too. I added electrolyte tablets to my bidons, but more for the taste rather than for any concerns about hyponatremia.
- Keep a record. I persuaded myself to do so by writing this blog. I took a decent camera as well as an iPhone, so the photos are of high technical, if not aesthetic, quality. But the camera (a Sony RX100M6) doesn’t have GPS, so I don’t know exactly where I took the pictures, which is a pain. To overcome this I could have linked the camera to my iPhone, apparently, but this would have drained the iPhone battery. The alternatives are to use a notebook, get a camera with GPS, or just take photos with your phone. Or (complicated, this) I could have used the time at which the photo was taken in conjunction with my Garmin/Wahoo data to see how far along my course I was when I took the picture. First world problems…
In my end is my beginning
A crew less motley at the end of the trip…
I have caught the bug, and next on my list, if I can persuade Ian and Oli to join me in the Spring, is Mizen to Malim, the end-to-end of Ireland. It’s about half the length of LEJOG, but looks like great fun.
And then, in the Summer, to Europe. I quite fancy the Alps, and there is an interesting tour that takes in some of the classic cols, including Semnoz, Forclaz, Tamie, Madeline, Glandon, Croix de Fer, Mollard, Telegraph, Galibier and Alpe d’Huez. That’ll be a challenge!
Thanks to my fellow cyclists and to everyone who read and commented on this blog!