We are delighted to welcome a guest blog post from Ben Taylor (a See.Sense VIP member, and our Designer Alix's dad). Ben has been kind enough to share his experience of LEJOG 2021 with us, which hasn't come without its challenges....
About 2 years ago I forwarded a link to the Ride Across Britain website to my brother in law with a simple question - "Fancy doing this?" 9 days, 970miles, 55,500ft of climbing as you cycle from one end of Britain to the other.
The answer came back straight away - Yes.
At that moment I knew I was committed too. Entry fees paid and plans made to train - then very early on in 2020 the organisers made the decision to call off the 2020 event and allow everyone to think about and plan for 2021 instead.
I decided that I’d see if I could raise some money for one of the worthwhile causes associated with the event - The Prince’s Trust - a charity that helps disadvantaged young people in the UK. I set my fundraising page up and started to think about training. Pre-Covid, I kept myself at a decent level of fitness by commuting by bike - about 14km each way, with my See.Sense ACE and then See.Sense ICON2’s keeping me safe and providing data to assist in improving the safety of the routes across London.
With Covid though, commuting stopped and I was back in Aberdeen and I found myself having to think differently - the need to find different times to ride - in the evenings and at weekends and an approach to keeping fit for the winter saw me invest in a Wattbike Atom and, for the first time - start indoor training with the help of Zwift and Fulgaz.
Winter became spring and spring became summer. Enabling me to increase ride lengths - spoilt by the quiet roads and great options in the Aberdeen area. A 30km 274m of ascent route provided a regular pre-dinner ride, and options up to 100km explored.
In the summer my brother in law joined me for three days of riding in the area - aiming to do back to back 160km days. In Day 1 I got my fuelling wrong - not eating enough and found the tank empty at about 120km, Day 2 was much better 169km completed with energy left, Day 3 we opted for a shorter 120km route confident that we now knew each other’s riding styles and were fit enough for the event. Two weeks before the start, a final 189km ride by myself .. and then pack up the bike and head to Land’s End.
The RAB set up is fantastic, 950 or so riders, mostly staying in a tent city which moves up the country each day - with food, showers, medical facilities, bars, physios/yoga, laundry and drying tents all accompanying the riders. You don’t go short for anything.
Day 1 is tough - over 170km and according to my Garmin over 3100m of climbing - but the official route estimate was 2550m so I think my Garmin based it on how much my legs felt they had done rather than what the real topography was!
By Day 2 you’re already in the swing of it - early starts (breakfast from 05:30 and setting off around 6:30-7:00 with riders released in waves to ensure both cyclists and drivers enjoy the RAB experience!
The scenery is stunning - cycling through Cheddar Gorge, along the River Wye, through the Forest of Bowland and up Glenshee being some of the highlights. We crossed some famous UK bridges - the Severn Bridge to get to Wales and the Forth Bridge in Scotland, unfortunately early morning fog meant it wasn’t quite as spectacular as it could have been!
On the road, new riding groups and friendships formed - with ‘chaperones’ from the organisers also offering encouragement, advice and leading into headwinds. Pit stops 2 times a day provided the opportunity to stock up on food for on the go and refill water bottles. Generally riding was good - but it was frustrating to see some riders filling the road when single lines would have enabled cars to pass or forming groups larger than the advises maximum of 10 - again making it difficult for car drivers trying to get to work or go about their business.
We hit Scotland feeling strong - and still getting fitter but then we were unlucky. A sickness bug had hit the ride and despite taking all the precautions and sanitising hands at every opportunity (with plenty provided by the organisers) firstly my brother in law, and then I succumbed to it. With two days to go and just 210 miles left of the 970mile trip I had to stop. It was gutting to make that decision - but the only sensible and safe thing to do.
We’re now planning to complete the remaining legs unsupported next year - and see the sights we missed and explore the roads untravelled.
Advice for others thinking of doing the same?
Invest in really good cycling shorts - consecutive 7-9 hour days in the saddle sometimes on roads that have more pothole than road are a test for most.
Be sociable and look to form groups on the road - it makes the experience so much more enjoyable and gives you the opportunity to lift your head and enjoy the scenery.
Ride safely and Enjoy it - and if like me, you have to cut it short, look forward to completing it rather than regret not finishing.
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