The Great LE-JOG Cycling Adventure - May 2010


Darren on Bike

I have always enjoyed cycling, even as a kid I loved the freedom and independence it provided. I still recall getting my first bike when I was about 13 and that was it, I was off going all over the place, but never really travelling more than about 25-30 miles, but as a teenager that seemed like a lot. The next 20 years I continued to cycle but to a far lesser degree. Now in my early forties the novelty has come back and I cycle regularly, mainly for recreation and exercise.

Last year Chris (my wife) and I treated ourselves to a pair of Thorn touring bikes with the intent of doing some unsupported cycling tours. We managed two short breaks, one 4 day 180 mile tour to the Cotswolds (photo left) and a second 4 day 230 mile trip to Bridgewater in Somerset. Both were hard work but thoroughly enjoyable and we want to do more in the future.

The LEJOG has been an ambition for a long time and my inability (due to a ski injury) to be able to do the Isle-of-Wight Barretts charity ride that Claire organised in 2008 gave me the impetus to recover and get fit to undertake the more ambitious LEJOG challenge. Now as I write this in March the training is well under way and I'm psyched to go, just hoping that another niggling knee injury does not force an early retirement (so far under control, so I remain positive).

At this point I'm still uncertain as to whether I should use the heavy duty Thorn Raven Nomad Touring bike or the slightly lighter (by 3kg) training bike. The Nomad has the rather nice 14 speed Rohloff but is better suited to our unsupported touring (as per the photo). Since we're fully supported on the road I am thinking that the rebuilt training bike might be the better option. The reality is I probably won't make up my mind until just before leaving....

For the cycling techno-bores out there (ie others like me), here is the equipment breakdown for the trip:

Thorn Raven Nomad
Gears Rohloff 14 speed hub gear The German engineered hub gear is superb. It makes some interesting noises in the low range but is a delight to use and especially good for when you end up stopping suddenly, since you can change to any gear before pedalling away again. The gear ratios are fixed, so you can only move the range up or down by choice of front/rear chainwheels, I opted for a front 40t chainwheel and rear 16t sprocket to give a lower range suited for the heavy touring loads and it works well. Last trip to Somerset, me + bike + luggage was 130kg, the bike handled it like a dream, more than can be said for the rider!
Wheels Heavy duty Rigida Andra 30 CSS (tungsten carbide coated braking surface) In combination with Shimano XTR M970 V-brakes and blue swiss-stop brakes I think these are just about the best rim stopping solution there is, especially reassuring when the bike is fully loaded.
Tyres Schwalbe Marathon Plus 26"x1.75" I love these tyres; some folks say they're heavy but I don't care. I've had a set on the training bike for 3-4 years, spanning thousands of miles cycled and never yet had a puncture!! They are classified as hybrids, meant to be used mainly on road but they work pretty well on unmade tracks too. If you're puncture averse, then try a set of these.
Pedals Shimano M324 SPD clipless I only went over to clipless in 2009 and I'm glad I made the change. Far better than the old toe clips that I used to use. I like the M324's because they're just single sided, meaning if I want to jump on the bike with ordinary trainers I can do that too. Also means I can unclip and flip the pedal over when traversing some of the pretty muddy/slippery roads around where I live, I do like to be able to get the feet down quickly when needed.
Saddle Rido R2  
Training bike (Thorn Sherpa Frame)
Gears Shimano MTB Triple (F:22/32/42, R: 32-11 over 8 gears - twist shifters) I live in a fairly hilly area and the combination of low gears and dodgy knees makes a MTB chainset a life-saver! This will hopefully come in to its own in Cornwall and Devon.
Wheels Rigida Grizzly CSS (tungsten carbide coated braking surface) These are the lighter siblings of the Andra 30's on the Nomad
Tyres Schwalbe Marathon Plus 26"x1.75" All four of our bikes (my wife's and my own) are now fitted with these.
Pedals Shimano M324 SPD clipless Using the same pedals on both bikes keeps everything simpler!
Saddle Rido R2 I've tried loads and this was the only one I've been comfortable with so put one on the Nomad too. It's a firm but not too hard a saddle with a design that raises the perineum off of the saddle nose, avoiding that 'numbness' that afflicts so many, me included. However you still gain the stabilisation of the saddle nose/beak, unlike the noseless designs. The other great thing is that it does not break the bank and really is a bargain compared to some.
Legs Various summer/winter bib-longs or bib-tights plus a pair of Endura Stealth Lite waterproof tights I'll take a pretty big cycling wardrobe as I don't have to carry it, that way I can hopefully cope with everything that the British weather can throw at me. The Stealth Lites are very good, a little too warm for summer rides (but then you can get wet and dry off without getting cold), these should hopefully be good, especially if it cold and rainy.
Tops A bright mix of winter/summer tops Yes I know with all that bright yellow I look like a wasp on a bike, but I seem to so often get treated like the invisible man by motorists that I figure I need to do what I can to be seen.
Jacket Goretex Rain Jacket Essential for that all day rain situation, unless it's summer, then I just wear the light gilet, get wet but stay warm by working harder!
Other Stuff
Navigation Garmin Edge 705 with routes planned via Being a techno-gadget nut I've been using the Edge 705 for about a year now. It's not only a brilliant bike computer and training aid, the navigation is also excellent. I don't particularly like its own navigation facility so tend to plan routes on-line using, then download them as Courses (tcx files). This has worked well on both day rides and the 4 day tours, so plan to keep to this process for LEJOG.
Assos Chamois Cream A wonderful product with I think an apt manufacturers name! I never ride more than 25 miles without using a good chamois cream and whilst expensive it does make a big difference to comfort and indeed hygiene.
Assorted Bike Tools and Spares Pumps, Innertubes and tools I don't think you can take on a big ride like this and not expect a few mechanical issues along the way, hopefully we'll be prepared for most eventualities.

If you feel that what I am doing is a worthwhile venture and would like to sponsor me please feel free to do so via the Justgiving website. For those in the UK this is a tax efficient manner to give donations.