I have tried to assemble the most common questions people ask when contemplating the E2E ride.
The Cycle : End-to-End Resources contain everything that most people are likely to want or need to know to be able to plan and undertake the ride - if you have suggestions to improve the information, or tips and tricks, do please let me know.
Everyone's aspirations and plans for the ride are different - there is no "right or wrong way" ... it's a just a great ride! The FAQs are not definitve or all-encompassing; answers are the view of the webmaster and/or contributors, without liability.
I have tried to assemble the most common questions people ask when contemplating the E2E ride.
Most people will comment on the prevailing wind being from the SW for most of the year and thus LEJOG being easier with the wind pushing you along.
DO NOT BELIEVE IT! . . . the wind statistics are highly inconsistent and the word "prevailing" is open to mis-interpretation - just accept that on some days it'll be behind you and others it will be head-on.
There are also the wags that suggest JOGLE is easier because it's downhill . . . you can put them right on that: On an absolute net basis LEJOG is downhill - you start on the high cliffs at LE and finish almost at sea level at JOG. Of course, the total climbing, for whichever direction, will be dictated by the route.
Having ridden both ways, on almost the same route:
JOGLE - despite Scotland being seemingly more mountainous it was a much easier start - the hills are long drags rather than the sharp rises in the SW of England. By the time you reach England you are well towards half-way and into the swing of riding good distances day-after-day ... by the time you reach Devon and Cornwall with the real hills your legs are ready.
The logistics of getting to JOG are simpler for most people (see comments about trains)
Cycling south, in theory, will mean that the weather improves and for me, the countryside and a few more people around in the SW made it a more pleasant trip.
LEJOG - the steep hills start straight away, perhaps before your legs are really ready for them. The further north you travel, and into Scotland the wilder the country becomes in terms of scenery - towns and villages are fewer . . and the risk of poor weather increases. The last 100 miles or so are pretty barren, although scenery is stunning in its way - it's likely to be very windy ... and arrival at JOG is a bit of an anti-climax for many. There's not much there!
Summary : If it's your first time I would recommend JOGLE - it was easier to ride than LEJOG (although for LEJOG I was 5 years older, and we took about 4 days fewer!)
The shortest distance that is believed to be possible (cycling) is usually quoted as 874 miles - that's the distance on the signs at Land's End & John O'Groats.
That distance uses a lot of main roads which many riders would prefer not to use, the "usual" distance for a fairly direct End-to-End will be between about 920 and 975 miles. That said, many riders choose to use routes taking in specific places, increasing the distances accordingly.
The webmaster's two End-to-End rides were about 935 miles for JOGLE in 2005, and about 920 for LEJOG in 2010 - following the same core route with a few small changes around the Bristol/River Severn area.
The End-to-End records are listed elsewhere on the website.
Most riders take between 8 and 20 days, with the average somewhere around 14 - of course, daily distances covered are affected by any number of factors and personal preferences : style and speed of riding (racing along, or touring pace); the route taken; un-supported or supported (carrying own luggage, or with a vehicle doing so) ... the options are endless.
Taking two weeks is comfortable and provides a pleasant experience for most riders
Rest days ? - feedback seems to indicate that most people that plan (and take) rest days regret the decision - finding it harder to get started again after a day, or more, off the bike - preferring to keep the legs moving. The compromise that we used on our French trip was to schedule some half/shorter days to take in side-trips. (They were usually wine-related . . . touring a Champagne house, tasting at Nuits St Georges etc.)
The ride records compiled by Cycle : End-to-End (since April 2009) indicate a season that starts at Easter and runs through to mid-September with some extremists at either side of that window.
Peak time is late-May through to mid-July (presumably the riders unaffected by school holidays) and then another blip late-July to mid-August.
The daylight hours in June are very long in Scotland (we were at JOG on 20 June and there was barely any darkness) which allows longer riding times .. and, of course, weather may be better (but don't bank on it!)
The other factor cited for an early season ride is the risk of midges in Scotland - although they seem to have been upset and confused by climate changes and rainfall patterns in the last few years.
Summary : Other than periods of obvious extreme weather, any time is pretty much OK
TIP: For midges, use the Avon Skin So Soft product ... they just hate it [All the ghillies in the Highlands have a bottle in their Barbour jackets]
The exact half-way point will be dictated by your route - and you'll only really know when you finish and know the finite mileage ... however well the route planning is done, with whatever tools, there will be variations.
For the popular "western" route - that's broadly : LE - Bristol - Warrington - Carlisle - Glasgow - Fort William - Loch Ness - Tain - JOG, the half-way point is somewhere around Lancaster/Carnforth. Most people are surprised at how far south that is ... there's a lot of Scotland up there!
TIP : Doubtless you will take photographs along the way - one nice record to keep is a picture of the rider(s) every 100 miles, holding up a progressively increasing number of fingers to represent each hundred ... over 1,000 miles and you'll need another system!
That people from all walks of life, abilities and disabilities have ridden the E2E implies it's "easy" - that's an over-simplification of the answer.
When I was asked the question after my first ride in 2005 my reply was: "It's not easy, but it's not as hard as I thought it would be"
For most people 1,000 miles on a bike is a long way - it is! - but with some training, a bike that suits you, common-sense, planning, realistic time aspirations and a willingness to "get on and do it" it's achievable for lots of people.
Very much personal preference . . - lots of solo riders, probably more ride as a group of 2 ... - some bigger groups but accommodation etc becomes an issue - the ride itself is, relatively, easy ... but could be seen as lonely by a lot of people, pedalling along for miles and miles.
Obviously route, accommodation etc play a part in the decision.
My first E2E was to have been with one of my "Boys' Outings" pals ... being the BIG ONE as the culmination of a few longish, multi-day rides - however he was unable to commit and my first reaction was to go it alone. After some reflection I decided that approach was high risk (I'm tenacious, but 2 weeks on your own doing something quite challenging was a potential issue) - so I rode (on both trips) with 1 other person. We paced each other, we joked, we chatted ... we enjoyed the ride.
[Those that have seen the Wine-Ding Down Through France journal (here on the website) with Jon (also LEJOG 2010) will perhaps question my mental state at the end of each trip!!]
An impossible question to answer - depending on so many factors. I have ridden the E2E twice and do not know what it cost for either trip! - we did get good rates for advance purchase train tickets and researched reasonably priced B&B accommodation - and ate and drank at a level that made the trip enjoyable*
Organised holiday packages appear to cost between about £1,100 and £1,900, depending on accommodation, duration, support etc.
It's obvious, but a simple budget will reduce the risk of any nasty financial surpises:
Fares to get to/from the start/finish : £n
Accommodation (B&B, Hotel, Hostel, Camping?) : £n x n nights
Coffee stops, morning & afternoon : £n x 2 x n days
Lunch : £n x n days
(On our trip to France we stopped mid-morning for coffee and bought quiche, cakes, fruit etc for a roadside stop - for LEJOG in 2010 we stopped at a cafe or pub every day)
Dinner : £n x n days
These are the obvious costs - the usual general costs of living (toiletries, laundry etc) are not included nor are any costs related to the bike, parts, equipment, maps etc.
* If you really pushed me on cost I would guess at around £1,050 for our 12.5 days on the bike LEJOG in 2010 (that included overnight stops at Bristol on the way to the start and Edinburgh on the way home . . and I do recollect buying an ice-cream somewhere near Preston!)
Yes - see the Links and Holiday package tabs
Presuming the ride is unsupported, even for getting to/from the start/finish. The extreme points of the End-to-End are both about 17 miles from the nearest station.
Land's End - nearest station is Penzance where long-distance mainline trains terminate. It's an undulating but easy ride with the A30 being the most direct : there will be some traffic but in the webmaster's experience (4 rides) it was not over-fast.
John O'Groats - nearest stations are Wick or Thurso (on the same line) with an infrequent local service from Inverness. Both stations are an easy 17 miles or so from JOG - although the wind may be a challenge.
Long-distance mainline trains, together with medium distance trains from Glasgow & Edinburgh, terminate at Inverness. The Scotrail Sleeper from London and some other locations is an excellent, time-saving, way to get to/from Inverness. The local service north from Inverness is notorious for bike transit problems - you are advised to OBTAIN A PHYSICAL CYCLE RESERVATION TICKET when you book the passenger ticket.
Bikes on trains are problematic and booking is always recommended - even if you turn up at the train and there is bike space it's possible that another rider has a cycle reservation from another station on the route and will take preference - it is not unknown for bikes and cyclists to be ejected from the train for lack of a cycle ticket.
Flying to/from Inverness is possible from a few places in the UK - it is also (sometimes) possible to fly to/from Wick but bike transport is variable and subject to passenger numbers (bikes are dealt with on a "standby" basis, without guarantee) The planes are very small, bikes replace passengers! [We did enquire about booking extra passenger tickets but this was not permitted]
As suggested in the How do I get my bike to/from the start/finish? question the leg of the journey between Inverness and John O'Groats is problematic. There are trains that run to/from Wick & Thurso (it's actually the same train) but spaces for bikes are very limited, and there aren't many trains each day. There is also a 17 mile ride between either station and JOG.
Train : if you choose this option, with the ride, ensure that you book and have a physical reservation/ticket for your bike (the webmaster's experience, which is not unique, is chronicled in Rob & Joe's JOGLE - No 176 in the Journals)
In the past Scotrail has run a bike van service (riders go on the train, bikes are taken by van to Wick) in the summer - it's worth checking if this is still the case
Taxi/van hire : there are several businesses offering van or car and trailer services between Inverness and JOG [see the Transport section on this website] - it's a long way and quite costly, but if there are a few people it's not too bad .... or post a message on one of the cycling newsgroups to see if anyone else is travelling the same day (the webmaster found a another group that used the return half of the journey with a car/trailer af the end of the 2010 LEJOG - that halved the cost)
Courier : It should be possible to pack a bike in a box (a used carton from a cycle shop) and send it to Wick or Thurso, perhaps to a cycle shop, hotel or B&B address. This is not without risk as the bike would have to be partially dis-assembled to fit in the box, and may suffer transit damage en route.
Of course, budget and preferences apply here - as well as the pre-booked vs. find-somewhere-on-the-day question.
There are numerous websites, of varying degrees of usefulness, that provide accommodation details and that is an obvious first option - another useful source, usually with a modest fee, is the local Tourist Information Centre (often run by the local authority) that often offers accommodation finding and booking.
Cycle : End-to-End is endeavouring to creat The Directory - listings of accommodation, cafes, cycle shops etc that riders have used - when you do your ride please make a note of places and send details using the input form on the website. We'll contact the establishment and ask if it wants to be listed.
AND, a cautionary note : Make sure you know EXACTLY where any accommodation you book is located relative to your route .... actual locations, especially in Scotland (and on some unscrupulous "information websites") may be some distance from the quoted town or village .... somewhere 30 miles off your route might be OK in a car, but not on a bike.
What suits you?
"Cycling" the E2E has covered every sort of machine imaginable from unicycles and upwards! - just on our 2010 LEJOG we saw full-on carbon machines, Dawes and Thorn tourers, Trek hybrids, a couple of "bottom-of-the range BOGOF newspaper ad" machines, a tandem or two, two recumbents and a Brompton folder - they all seemed to be going OK.
Obviously the type of ride, as considered elsewhere in the FAQs, has an impact on the bike - the key issue being that you can ride it with some comfort for the miles you plan to cover, day-after-day.
The Journals suggest that the most popular machines are "touring" or "hybrid" bikes - one person's definition here may differ from another ... Clearly - if you are riding, fully-supported, in 6 days you'll be going for something a bit more sporty ... the 4 week camping tour via the Hebrides will call for a heavy-duty machine.
It's horses bikes for courses.
My own rides were on a Dawes Galaxy - originally built in 1975 but, other than the frame and stem, upgraded to current standard components.
The list below is simply extracted from the Appendix in our book, Wine-Ding Down Through France - it's parts, tools and some essentials kept in the bar-bag.
It's all very well carrying this stuff . . . but you need some basic knowledge to be able to repair punctures and make minor adjustments. Bike shops are few and far between, although those that we did stop at were invariably very helpful . . . the usual request was to use the track pump to keep tyres up to pressure.
Tubes x 3
Pump & CO2 Pump + 3 cartridges
Puncture kit & Tyre levers
Cables (1 each brake & gear, rear)
Cable ties and wire
Chain links + 3 magic links
Silicone lube spray
Tyre boot (an 8" section of an old tyre with the wire bead removed)
9 + 10mm spanners
Lock + wire loop for locking helmet to the bike when parked
Spare spokes are a good idea, but not easy for most people to fix - a useful item I've come across (but yet to use in anger) is the Emergency Spoke - a Kevlar cord and clamp
Map book (this was a home-printed A5 page complete route map created from Memory Map)
Accom bookings & tickets
Swiss Army knife
Wet wipes & Hand sanitiser
First Aid kit
Mars bars + tube of condensed milk (instant energy boosters!)
Nylon shopping bag (for lunch carriage!)
Mobile phone & charger
The answer to this question is available over in the Resources section! Lots of books and map related suggestions.
Navigation methods reported in the website's journals range from a pound-shop road atlas with the requisite pages torn out - through to turn-by-turn GPS routes.
Equally varied are the approaches to the ride . . . from the "set-off and stop when I feel like it" brigade to the "everything booked" rider.
My recommendation (and I'm in the "book it all" camp) is to have the route pretty much planned out - with options for some side-tracking if you want.
Using a GPS nowadays is a great way to do it with the vast range of PC and online mapping (see Resources here on the website) BUT it's not infallible - batteries will go flat, satellite signals may fluctuate, you can lose it/have it stolen ... and if you do get lost it may be a little difficult to see how to get back on course. More and people are using smart phones for navigation - again issues of signal and battery apply, as well as weatherproofing.
It's for all those reasons that I would recommend you have at least a rudimentary old-technology map on paper.
Our 2008 French tour and 2010 LEJOG were both navigated with a GPS and detailed printed maps : Jon had the plotted route on the GPS, I had the printed map in the case on my barbag . . . it all worked
Summary : Use both!