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Lands End to John o Groats equipment advice

johnson1985johnson1985 Posts: 38
edited September 2011 in Workshop

I will be cycling from Lands End to John o'Groats over 14 days at the end of august, but do not have much equipment. I've recently bought myself a decent bike, but now need a helmet, a pannier rack and bags and a gel seat cover, to be bought on a VERY tight budget...

Does anyone have any advice on buying these items (i.e. how cheap can I go, and where can I buy them from?). Also, are there any other important items I should also be looking to buy i.e. kevlar tyres, cycling shorts?

any help would be much appreciated...



  • MrChuckMrChuck Posts: 1,663
    You should be looking at bike shorts, and you shouldn't be looking at gel seat covers!
    Puncture resistant tyres are a good idea, what tires does your bike have now?

    A lot of your questions depend on how you'll be doing it. Will you be camping and unsupported, or in a B&B every night?

    I don't want to be patronising or tell you how to suck eggs but I'm inferring from your post that you're not super experienced at this, so with the end of August looming main advice would be to get some miles in and if possible get a trial weekend in first, especially if you're going to be camping. Nothing tells you what you need and don't need like actually going out and doing it, although of course there are some basics!
  • Please be as patronising as you like - I'm not experienced at all, hence why I'm on this forum!

    I am planning on a few long bicycle rides in the run up to the trip, so yes you're right hopefully that will give me some answers.

    We are planning on camping and using b&bs/hostels, depending on how we feel!

    The bike tyres I have now are Kenda nylon tyres - they are on this bike ... nge=1&id=6
  • unixnerdunixnerd Posts: 2,864
    You should be looking at bike shorts, and you shouldn't be looking at gel seat covers!

    +1. Having the right saddle position is more important than a gel cover. You really need to spend time on the bike to get it set up comfortably.
    Puncture resistant tyres are a good idea

    Schwalbe Marathons would be my choice, in 25 or 28mm. I'd run them around 85 psi.

    If it's wet you'll really appreciate mudguards. I'd get some thin gloves with a slightly padded palm.

    If you don't have them already get proper cycling shoes with a solid sole, even in you're not using clip in pedals. Touring / light mountain bike SPD compatible shoes with a rubber tread. Doing this in trainers will be horrid.

    What route are you planning? - Quality Binoculars at a Sensible Price.
    Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert 2012, Cannondale CAAD5,
    Marin Mount Vision (1997), Edinburgh Country tourer, 3 cats!
  • we don't actually have a route planned yet - we'll probably look for a good one online and follow that.

    Do you have any advice on any good places I can buy this equipment from? i.e. pannier racks, mudguards, helmets??
  • pompypompy Posts: 127
    You seem very unorganised for someone who is starting a LONG ride in 4 weeks! Get surfing and read blogs of people who have done this trip. Also, get plenty of saddle time before you start as you will be cycling for 6-8 hrs a ride, every day for 2 weeks.

    Are you taking maps or GPS? Booked B&B's?
  • unixnerdunixnerd Posts: 2,864
    we don't actually have a route planned yet - we'll probably look for a good one online and follow that.

    In Scotland folk either use the A82 or A9. The A82 is a very busy road with limited cycle paths. The A9 has the option of either cycle paths or parallel B roads (the old A9) for most of it's length.

    The Cycle Touring Club website might be worth a visit. - Quality Binoculars at a Sensible Price.
    Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert 2012, Cannondale CAAD5,
    Marin Mount Vision (1997), Edinburgh Country tourer, 3 cats!
  • spinndriftspinndrift Posts: 185
    +1 for shorts or a decent saddle rather than a gel saddle cover as they for fat ugly women in spin classes.

    We went up the A9 and to be honest it was the worst part of the route (even worse than the A30).

    Can't comment about bags and rack as we had support vehicles with doing it in under 80 hours.

    Cyclist, Massage Therapist & Ice Cream Genius
    Andrew Creer Massage
  • unixnerdunixnerd Posts: 2,864
    We went up the A9 and to be honest it was the worst part of the route

    The trick is to use the old A9 at the side. But depending on how you plan it north of Inverness that may not be possible. South of Inverness I'd far rather the old A9 and cycle path than the A82. - Quality Binoculars at a Sensible Price.
    Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert 2012, Cannondale CAAD5,
    Marin Mount Vision (1997), Edinburgh Country tourer, 3 cats!
  • TwostageTwostage Posts: 987
    You need to check out the tour and expedition section.
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    You've not left a lot of time to get sorted for this.

    Whats the longest ride you've done - and what distances are you thinking of doing each day ? My pals have just done it and they're both experienced bikers - I think they took something like 10 days and it wasnt easy. Keep the weight to a minimum and you need to plan a lot better than you have done already.

    Route will be crucial - there's some nasty fast roads out there that i wouldn't want to ride on.

    Might be an idea to make sure you have lights on the bikes too.

    As to kit - any LBS will help you out. Comfort of the helmet is more important than saving a few quid. And they'll probably fit the panniers too.

    Gel seat cover - that kind of shows you've not ridden very far ? You need to maximise time in the saddle now.

    As to tyres - what have you got on now ?

    And if you're camping - that's a lot of weight you'll have to carry too. Just to make it extra tricky.
  • No I've not done any major bike rides - probably about 20 mile maximum, but planning on a few trips and lots of time in the gym so I feel I should be OK (at the risk of sounding very naive)....

    the tyres I have on now are Kenda nylon tyres that came with the giant escape 3: ... 846/45465/

    But can anyone recommend a good site that sells equipment?
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    The gym ? No my friend - with such little time you need as much cycling time as you can get. 20 miles is something a granny could manage. I guess you're looking at 80 mile days with kit ?
  • :lol:
    Good luck with the trip buddy. By the sounds of it you're in for a hard time with so little experience and time in the saddle.
    I would definitely advise a trip to your LBS they should be able to hook you up with what you need although camping may prove to be a bit too far with the extra luggage you'll be hauling about.
    You should get as many miles as possible in now and at the very least one ride with your bike fully kitted up with everything you'd be taking so you know how your bike will feel. For tyre choice i'd go with Conti Gatorskins, they're practically bullet-proof and should see you right.
    Cannondale SS Evo Team
    Kona Jake CX
    Cervelo P5
  • Redhog14Redhog14 Posts: 1,377
    This is a pretty serious undertaking, and you'll need big road miles under your belt. Good on you for trying I hope you make it: here are some tips fwiw:

    Kit: try your local bike clubs for second hand kit (Panniers small tents etc) get in touch with the two or three near you and post up in their wanted forum - there is one here too.
    Miles - aim for 80-90 miles one day 40-50 the next any more is a bonus
    Route - make sure you know where you are staying each night - - if camping factor in the time to build/strike camp - Avoid A82 as there is no respite from the road, go via A9 but stay off the main road and follow the NCN route/old A9 road adjacent. I travel the A9 regularily and seeing cyclists wobbling about on scare the Shengis out of me.
    Beware the weather in the highlands, can get cold and wet quickly.
    Eat - you need to consume 4000 cals a day to keep going.
    Shorts - 3 pairs min - you can get nasties in there if you don't keep them and your undercarriage clean including cream for your backside before and after riding.
    Pack plenty of midge repellant those wee shites can ruin a good holiday.
    Smile lots and don't give in to the inevitable self loathing... prob around day 4-5.
  • dwebendweben Posts: 34
    Hrmmmrmmrm not to sound too negative but it's august, and you're riding in august, having only done 20 miles (not day after day?) on probably a lightweight bike. I imagine you could do it but you're going to suffer depending on your pace... you'll ride into fitness on the ride itself but that'll kick in after the 4th or 5th day. You need to look at the route alot too, some days will be hilly so require a shorter mileage (devon/cornwall) and others will be flat so you can rock up the miles (shropshire flats). Plus ending the daily routes at accomodation and making sure there's food stops in the route is handy.

    Camping adds alot of weight onto the bike, and takes up a pannier bag in itself. If you're going to lug the kit all that way then lugging for (say) 4 nights out of 14 doesn't make sense. Plotting B&Bs every 3/4 days is handy to use a real washing machine though. You'll be hand washing your kit every night almost at the camp site -- I was anyway!

    I did it in 12 days unsupported with 5 mates, camping all the way except 3 nights, so we could mix in a washing machine and decent bed. One pannier was full of tent/sleeping bag/inflatable pillow/silk liner/cooking kit/off bike shoes while the other was all clothes, off bike/on bike, lock, solar panel... and then a small bar bag with food/valuables/electrical kit. Whole package weighed a fair bit!!! We were knocking in between 70 and 95 miles depending on terrain. I did it on a mountain bike (spare parts bike!), but each to their own huh. ;)

    As people say, the contact points with the bike are important. Decent shoes, shorts (oh your censored will hurt) and gloves. Move about on the bike as much as you can to spread the load or you'll suffer from things like ulnar nerve compression (I did, lost the use of 3 fingers for 3 months).

    Best of luck dude, sounds like you're in for a grindfest. It's well worth the major tick in the box though. :)

    I did start a website but didn't quite finish it. Has my kit list on it though so feel free to browse.
  • wheelygoodwheelygood Posts: 101
    Don't cycle the A82 you will probably die! If youmanage to get thro Cornwall, given your experience and probable fitness levels, you will likely finish it all. Cornwall is sooo hilly! If I were you I'd ditch the camping option and travel light. But if you are really considering it then take the advice and load up your bike and give it a try - the difference with a load on can be enormous both from handling and gearing point of view! Hope you have some good low gears. The gym will not so any good at this stage you need loads and loads of miles in the saddle - even if it is just for the sake of your nethers!!! Eating and drinking on the ride is very important - can make the difference between keeping going or not so do read up on the subject. Hygiene is really important - wash shorts and self every night.
    However, you'd be better undertaking a much shorter tour this year and then aim to do LEJOG next year once you know what you have let yourself in for and have time to train fully and get some experience. Good luck!!
  • marcusjbmarcusjb Posts: 2,412
    Brave undertaking with so little preperation. Determination will get you a long way mind.

    As others have said - ignore the gym - it's not going to do anything for you at this point. The key is to get comfortable on the bike - and that can take some trial and error doing some miles.

    You need to do some back to back days fully loaded - you've a couple of weekends before the big ride - use them wisely!

    Keep everything very clean downstairs or there will be trouble. Eat and drink well - little and often. Get on the road as early as possible each day - 50-60 miles a day loaded touring can be done at quite a leisurely pace if you get on the road nice and early, have some elevenses, ride an hour or two more, some lunch and then plod on for the afternoon.

    I've heard of people doing crazier feats with less prep - but it wouldn't be for me!
  • awesome. Cheers for all the help and advice people! Really useful. I think the main thing I've is how big a thing this really is (which I have underestimated until now)....
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    It's a big ride but you'll have a great time.
  • brianonyxbrianonyx Posts: 170
    I hate to be a bit negative about this but your either taking the piss or imho misguided.

    I this is a serious post I don't believe that you can do sufficient training now for your body to acclimatise to doing 80 - 100 miles per day for 2 weeks. It is not a question of fitness, it is a question of your body being able to do this without overuse injuries such as tendonitis.

    I would have thought you would want 3 months minimum adding the miles on and preferably 6 to 12 months preparation time.

    I have just come back with 50 others from cycling from Bristol to Bordeaux, a much smaller undertaking than yours. Despite everyone having prepared pretty well there were a few who weren't able to finish through knee/achilles etc injuries. I would suggest you plan to delay to next early summer and spend from now to then training.
  • It's probably not possible to overestimate what you're going to do however don't let all the naysayers put you off.

    You don't need to be a superfit lycra-clad cycling machine to do this, undoubtedly it would help, but not as much as the determination to finish.

    Cover off the contact points and make sure the bike is mechanically sound.

    GOOD LUCK and don't forget to post and let us all know how you're getting on.

    2010 Allez Comp & 2011 Langster complete with child seat

    Sponsor me please
  • HoopdriverHoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    I think you can probably do it - riding into fitness along the road, that is, but you want to be really careful. There certainly is something to what the above poster says with regards to tendonitis etc. If you are going to try to ride your way into fitness, on the road, you are going to have to factor in some rest days and fairly early on in the piece.

    LEJOG is no small matter and if you've not ridden more than twenty miles before, and are giving yourself so little time to train, you really are going to need to re-think your timeline a bit. Riding 80 miles a day - day after day - with a full load on a tourer is a bit more challenging than you seem to realize. I'm not saying it can't be done, but I have my doubts that fourteen days will be enough time for you to do it. You really will need to plan on giving your joints and tendons some well-earned rest along the way. Failure to do so will be painful at the very least and possibly damaging. Once knees and achilles tendons start getting creaky, and you keep on going, that can well be the end of your ride.

    Do you have to go at the end of August? Can you postpone another month? If not, what about doing C2C this year - an admirable ride and accomplishment - get the experience under you belt, put a few miles in your legs over the winter and tackle LEJOG come spring?
  • amaferangaamaferanga Posts: 6,789
    I think you're going to find it a pretty miserable experience given your level of fitness. I'd recommend you pull out and get a year's riding in your legs and do it next year. Then you might really enjoy it as opposed to it being an ordeal.
    More problems but still living....
  • Hoopdriver wrote:
    Do you have to go at the end of August? Can you postpone another month? If not, what about doing C2C this year - an admirable ride and accomplishment - get the experience under you belt, put a few miles in your legs over the winter and tackle LEJOG come spring?

    Well said...

    Rather than potentially ruin your chance to do LEJOG, why not give a CTC ride a chance - say 3/4 days?

    Building up fitness is vital, whilst doing this you will also get used to the bike (and will not need a "gel" seat, as long as you have decent saddle/shorts), it will also iron out pontetial bike issues, a new bike will need to worn in.

    Added to that is camping gear, you can buy light weight stuff, but it all adds to the weight (and cost!). A good to time to get this stuff cheap is at the end of the season (Sept).

    Get used to all these first, I reckon you would complete the LEJOG if you tried it straight away, but would it be an enjoyable experience hitting it head on? There are so many other great rides/tours... I can recommend The Way of the Roses.
  • simon_esimon_e Posts: 1,697
    Yes LEJOG is a big deal, but my perspective on this changed recently. A colleague of mine, a well-built 6' rugby lad who doesn't ride normally, bought a Giant Defy. He swapped the saddle for a Specialized Indie XC I lent him. He did 3 or 4 middling rides with his mates before the big challenge (the wrong way BTW, this was the planned route). The first few days were really tough, with cold rain and really strong headwinds through Scotland. But 6 of the 7 lads completed the ride, one dropped out with knee trouble. I was sceptical about his lack of preparation but they did it. They had support from a following car, so no panniers etc.

    Whatever you do make sure your bike fits you properly.
    Tyres: those Kendas are rubbish. Bontrager Hardcase are tough but much lighter than the Marathons -
    You'll need spare tubes and tools, of course.
    You may need more than one pair of shorts, I would recommend starting in a clean pair every day. If you're strapped for cash I find Lusso 6-panel shorts quite comfortable, though more expensive shorts have better padding. Take some Sudocrem for saddle sores.
    Clip-in SPD pedals and shoes make a big difference to pedalling efficiency.

    Search these forums for LEJOG or check CTC's dedicated forum at and

    Hope you have a great time.
    Aspire not to have more, but to be more.
  • Dan_KDan_K Posts: 19
    I think you've got a hell of a challenge ahead of you.
    I'd think again about camping and i'm a huge camping fan!
    It seems pointless lugging all the gear for the sake of a few nights. You'd be better off just opting solely for B&Bs as you'd save on buying the gear (decent lightweight camping gear is very expensive and far outweighs the cost of 4 nights in a B&B) and then the added weight of carrying it which will make your trip even harder.
    With your relative lack of riding, i'd concentrate on making it as easy as possible. So the idea would be to travel as light as you can. Get some SPD pedals at least to make the riding easier. You'll fall off whilst clipped in for the first few days but then it will be second nature after the first few hundred miles.
    Pre book hotels and B&Bs in advance so you have a destination that you "need" to get to each day as this may help spur you on each day.
    I'd recommend travelling with essentials in a saddlebag such as a Carradice Nelson and even post items such as a change of clothing ahead to your B&Bs.
    If you've got the budget to suit, all you really need is a bike, saddlebag and a few changes of clothing down the line.
  • ThebigbeeThebigbee Posts: 570
    No I've not done any major bike rides - probably about 20 mile maximum, but planning on a few trips and lots of time in the gym so I feel I should be OK (at the risk of sounding very naive)....

    the tyres I have on now are Kenda nylon tyres that came with the giant escape 3: ... 846/45465/

    But can anyone recommend a good site that sells equipment?

    Bloody hell man - 20 mile maximum and you are planning an end to end! In 14 days!! Good luck with that - you do realise you will be having to do around triple that EVERY day, don't you?!!

    Anyway for best places and value to buy bits I would say CRC then Wiggle and then Ebay - in that order.

    I do fancy an end to end - I wouldn't fancy it on that bike with only 21 gears or even my hybrid with 27 - although it would be doable.

    Gel seat covers - complete waste of money. As others have said - get your riding position spot on and buy some padded shorts - you WILL need them..

    Possibly - no, definitely some kind of saddle sore cream - Sudocream works for me you could use Vaseline or some specific expensive bike product. You WILL get sore censored /balls/ legs.

    If I was in your postion I wouldn't even contemplate lugging the extra weight to camp. Join the Youth Hostelling Association and stay at them. Search for YHA and book it up. You will appreciate being able to have a cuppa and shower when you arrive and not worry about pi55ing about setting up a tent.

    Dunno about the tyres you have but I would definitely suggest some puncture protected - I have used these on a hybrid ... elID=26232 and found them pretty darn good.especially for the money.

    I would also advise on mudguards but seeing that it is warm may not be a problem if you have some waterproofs. Although they will help protect your drivechain.

    When you know what you want I suggest going to those sites - especially CRC - brilliant service and pricing - and then searching the items from low to high.

    BTW I am not affiliated with any site - just based on my experience - best of luck - it is a BIG step up from an occasional 20 miler to an end to end in a fortnight!!
  • BigTreeBigTree Posts: 22
    Bloody good on you, mate.

    You've got to want it. If you do, then get out there and nut it out.
  • Redhog14Redhog14 Posts: 1,377
    So my GF is doing this at the moment, today I met up with them and rode part of the way with them a group of 34 of mixed abilities fully supported by mechanic and physio but to man/woman they had experience of days in the saddle. They still found it tough, I agree with the other posts here that admire your sense of adventure, but fitness and lack of preperation may be your undoing. The C2C is a better entry challenge for you to get your head round it than LEJOG and wait till later in the year or next.
  • ThebigbeeThebigbee Posts: 570
    One upgrade that will definitely help you is getting some SPD pedals and shoes.

    I have these - and they are the standard entry level pedals ... delID=3759

    I use them with these shoes - because I found proper road shoes completely impractical to walk in ... elID=46594

    I paid £19.50 for the pedals and £35 for the shoes.

    It really will help your ride because you are still rotating the crank on the upstroke.

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