A Rookies Guide to the End to End
By Jeremy at Eversure,
13 September 2022
Those of you are who are veteran bike tourers have more than likely ridden the End to End (Lands End to John O Groats or visa versa) on several occasions and have probably forgotten what I am still learning. For those that are considering riding the Holy Grail of UK bike tours, read on and learn from my mistakes.
Mistake # 1
Don’t do the ride on an impulse with little preparation and less training, especially if you plan to do the ride unsupported. Whilst I carried every conceivable item to cater for 14 days on the road, I definitely overpacked and could easily have shed four or five kilograms of the 40 kilograms that I ended up hauling to Scotland. The test is: am I really likely to need this and can it be easily be sourced en-route – if the answers are no and yes respectively then, leave it behind. Furthermore, most of my training was done sans my heavy equipment which in hindsight was extremely poor judgement. Ensure that your training emulates the conditions under which you plan to ride.
Mistake # 2
Plan your route thoroughly. I was spoilt for choice when it came to selecting a downloadable route, but I did discover to my chagrin that it was a rather outdated map as several roads had since been closed / redirected necessitating hours of aimless peddling. By conducting a Google maps search, you can ascertain the validity of your map route. An inordinately large part of my riding was done along canal towpaths and footpaths which for the most part were extremely muddy. Fortunately I was prescient enough to select a gravel bike upon which to accomplish my journey which was a prudent decision given the weight of my panniers and the relative comfort afforded by virtue of its configuration. For the sake of safety, select a route that avoids busy main roads. It will add miles onto your journey but as the saying goes, “Choose the road less travelled.”
Mistake # 3
Make sure you conclude each day as close as possible to your campsite / accommodation. My plan was to select a campsite just before I completed my days cycling since I had no idea how long or far I was planning to ride on a given day. The problem was that I was riding the End to End whilst the UK was just emerging from lockdown which meant that several campsites en-route were still closed. This necessitated having to ride several miles off-course to the only available campsites in the area and thereafter a return to the start of the course the following morning.
Mistake # 4
Expect the unexpected and budget accordingly: On a couple of occasions, I was forced to book into hotels for various reasons, not least of which was the dearth of available campsites. Furthermore, I had to supplement my food supplies on an almost daily basis due to cold induced calorie consumption. My budget for the trip was thus hopelessly inadequate. I was lucky enough to have my wife meet me at the conclusion of the trip, but don’t forget to factor the cost return journey into your budget.
Mistake # 5
In my haste to complete the trip, I forgot to enjoy myself (weather notwithstanding). The ride was meant to be a celebration of life and an appreciation of our country’s understated beauty and yet for me it turned into a fight for survival that literally pitted me against the journey.
Looking back, I wish that I had separated the emotional from the rational and in spite of some physical discomfort, it should still have been a welcome respite from life’s generally banal routines.
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