Darlington, 10th October, 2018. Last Blog on LEJoG

The Bike

My Ribble Sportive 365 performed very well, with minimal attention. Didn’t pump the tyres (Schwalbe marathon extras) up once in the 18 days. Put some oil on the chain every few days. Didn’t wash it once! The mountain bike gearing (see the website) was just right for me and most changes were impeccable. Shipped the chain going on to the small ring a couple of times but that was my incompetence, I think.

The Bum

No problems until the last two or three days, when a painful spot developed near a pelvic bone. Luckily, it was kept under control with nappy rash treatment, lots of lubrication and standing up frequently. This is a show-stopper, of course, if a bad pressure sore develops. I guess these things are the same as “bed-sores”, which sometimes hit hospital patients. I thought the Spain week (which followed on with a three-day break) would be a beach holiday but in fact the lubrication treatment and Castelli shorts saved the day. All ok now.

The Body

This ancient frame managed 60 and 70 mile days remarkably well. Cardio-vascular capacity was equal to all the demands made of it. Walked twice on steep hills, surprisingly in Derbyshire, not Scotland. Hips, knees and ankles were no problem. Careful attention to lip-salve kept that area in good condition, despite wind, sun and rain. No skin problems of any kind, whether in shorts and short sleeves or full bad weather gear.

The Route

Chris Ellison has spent a long time honing the route details, to keep main roads to a minimum and pass along lovely, leafy lanes, through wonderful scenery. I enoyed the route very much. The gpx files and Garmin navigation worked well – didn’t get lost once, which is a record for me. The Garmin Edge 800 I used runs out of battery on long days, so I had a top-up battery in the cross-bar bag to keep it going. I am told the 1000 and later models have bigger capacity batteries; must buy one.

The Accommodation

Chris had arranged the hotels so that we all stayed at the same place each night. This contributes to the cohesion of the group and the enjoyment of the whole thing. For me, the comfort of a hot shower, good meals and a comfortable bed are essential ingredients. How the hard men and women do it camping or sleeping rough, I will never know – because I’m not going to try it!

The Weather

Detailed memories of the weather tend to fade away, I find. My recollection is of good weather in the first week and then cold and wet in the second. The big event was Storm Ali, of course. We were in Abington on that Thursday, which should have been a ride to Stirling, then a rest day. I opted to take the rest day on the extreme-weather Thursday, staying with my son in Kirkpatrick Durham. He then took me back to Abington and supported me and my grandson, Jamie, on the route to Stirling. From then the memory is of cold weather with full bad weather gear deployed on most days. The winds were largely from the south-west, with some periods of north, ie head-on, winds. Anyhow, the bad weather gear worked very well.

The Challenge of 60+ miles per day

There were seventeen days in the saddle and one rest day. The average mileage on riding days was 63. We covered 1060 miles, I’m told – I haven’t totted it up yet – and 10,000 metres of climb. I thought before the trip that this would be hard to maintain but not so. With coffee and lunch stops and plenty of time to reach the hotel before shower and dinner, it all worked out well. Leaving at 0900ish in the morning and arriving at 1700ish in the evening was a comfortable 10mph average, overall.

The Clothes

As alluded to above, the bad weather gear proved to be adequate for the conditions. I had vest, short-sleeved shirt, long-sleeved shirt, cycling shorts, windproof, good waterproof, arm warmers, leg warmers, over-trousers and overshoes. One spare set of cycling gear, clothes for the evening and toilet bag and creams and stuff were in the suitcase in the van. There was also a lap-top, chargers for all the electronics, log books, witness books, uncle tom cobley and all. All proved to be adequate and not too much in the weather conditions which prevailed.

The Companions

Most of the time there were seven of us on the road and at the hotels. This made for a very compact group, who were able to get to know one another. Bigger groups make it difficult to become familiar with everyone and remember all the names. Dinner conversation was very inclusive and entertaining. I felt I knew everyone by the middle of the trip. As usual on these tours, one meets like-minded, and very likeable, people. My room-mate, John, and I got on very well. Sometimes we stayed together on the road and sometimes we were strung out or within sight of one another.

The Leader

I can’t praise Chris Ellison’s planning and support enough. On the road the van was always in the right place to help with tricky turns or café stops. His pep-talks in the evening gave us full confidence we could do the next day. The support when the mechanicals and bike problems arose were essential and tour-saving. How the tragic accident could have been dealt with, without his experience, I don’t know.

The Aftermath

When I reached home, I had two days turnaround to prepare for a cycling holiday in Calpe, on the Costa Blanca, Spain. That all went well and we had a great time in perfect weather. The ancient body performed well and kept going. I have lost 2.5 kgm in body weight. Having reached home, I now feel very tired. I guess that, once one stops doing these things, the body goes “flop” and shouts for attention. Early nights and late lies are the order of the day for a little while. Then there’s gardening to do and bike maintenance and so on. Grandson Robbie has all the evidence I collected and he recorded and stored on the website for Guinness World Records and the application will go in soon. Then we wait . . . . . . . .