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West to EAST

The where, the when , the why, the what ....not in that order

In September of this year I am doing a 750 km unsupported ride that starts and finishes in the Spanish city of Granada. I have been coaxed into doing so by a good friend called Nick W-W.

In order to prepare ourselves for the ride we have conducted a series of long distance rides to check out our gear and our ability to endure long periods on our bikes.

One of those rides was the North-South Downs Escapade done mid June where we smashed ourselves and our bikes in horrendous conditions. (See previous blog entry)

Unfortunately given previous commitments Nick W-W can't join me on the next ride which has been constructed to primarily check out how my body reacts to multiple days of cycling long distances.

The plan is to ride from the Western most point of the Great Britain mainland to its eastern most point. A distance totalling approximately 985 km. Throw in my occasional misinterpretation of the map, detours for cafe's and accommodation and the ride will probably end up being over 1,000 km.

Below are two maps. The first is the route from Fort William to the start line and then our initial foray south across Mull, through Oban and down to Arran.

The second map is of the general route from the moment we make landfall at Ardrossan in Scotland having already cycled over 200 km from Fort William to the start point and from there via Isle of Mull, Isle of Arran and having taken a train to Scotland and 5 ferries up to this point.

Why West to East ? Everyone but everyone in this country who does a trans country ride does Lands End (south) to John-O-Groats in Scotland. (north) Why ? Because prevailing wind conditions in this country make cycling in that direction a little more sensible.

When it comes to cycling, or any physical endurance event, sensible and me don't often get used in the same sentence.

So I did some research and figured I'd take the route less travelled (travelled nonetheless) of West to East.

Ask anyone where they think the western most point of GB is and more often than not you get somewhere in Cornwall or Wales as your answer. What many fail to understand is that GB actually tilts to the left (west) when viewing it on a traditional map. The western most point is in fact in western Scotland on a promontory just north of the Isle of Mull.

Marked by the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse.

The eastern most point is Lowestoft in Norfolk, some 145 miles north east of London.

There is a multitude of routes one could take in getting from west to east but mine is ostensibly a straight line between the two points.

I plan to start cycling eastward on Thursday June 15 from Ardnamurchan. After just 10 km I will take the ferry from Kilchoan to Tobermory which is on the isle of Mull. Cycle 30 km to Craignure and catch the ferry to Oban. From Oban its directly south to Claonaig and a ferry to the Isle of Arran. Cycle 12 km to Brodick and then another ferry to the mainland port of Ardrossan. From there south to Ayr, inland to Lockerbie, cross into England at Gretna and then slightly east of Carlisle and Penrith, head south east across the Penines towards York and emerge slightly west of Hull. Then head south-east to Kings Lynn before smashing my way across the flats of Norfolk to the finish at Lowestoft .

How long will it take? The aim is to cycle approximately 150 km each day . This in preparation for Spain in September when we will probably be doing more than that over any given 24 hour period and with minimal sleep. Which theoretically means approximately 6 days of cycling. Whether 150 km a day is achievable is unquestionable. Especially given that on my trip from Spain to Norway I averaged 100 km a day cycling a heavy steel framed bike laden with panniers . Whether the body and will power will survive 6 consecutive days at 150 km a day is a moot point. Only way to find out is to try .

I'll be riding my latest toy. A titanium framed road bike. On the bike with me will be a saddle bag, a frame bag, and a small tube bag.

Here is a shot of it in off road mode with gravel tyres. Change those thick knobby tyres for thinner road slicks and you get the idea of the set up. And yes, that's a Papua New Guinea Air Force sticker on my helmet.

For company I have a local neighbour who I mentioned my bike ride to in passing over a coffee recently. Brent H . He jumped all over the idea with the eagerness of a small child at Toys R Us . Brent has done Lands End to John-O-Groats so I guess for him its about crossing off all four points on the compass. Having said that the ride he did was an organised one, his gear was waiting him at the end of each day having been transported there by the organisers and meals and even masseuses were provided.

This promises to be a slightly different experience for him . 2-3 Star accommodation each night, carrying his own load, and certainly no massages at days end.

Oh. He's also Sth African .

Picking the time of the year was easy. Given it will undoubtedly be wet at some stage do it in the warmest possible months. Everyone but everyone who has heard of the ride commencing in July has warned me of the midges that Scotland is famous for in July and August. I'd rather fight off a billion midges each day than ride in cold and wet and wind. Somehow I have a feeling I might be doing all four.

Getting to Ardnamurchan will be the first task. I've booked us onto the overnight train from Euston in London to Fort William in Scotland. Known as the Caledonian Sleeper we will travel through the evening and 12 hours after leaving London arrive at Fort William. From there its a 15 km ride south along the Eastern Side of Loch Eil to Corran, then a 15 min small ferry ride to its western shores followed by 80-90 km to the start point.

I haven't been on an overnight sleeper train (complete with bunk beds and a private cabin) since I took a trans European trip with my mother from London to Stockholm in 1977. I have to admit I am quite looking forward to it.

So let's see how all this goes. I mean really, what could possibly go wrong?


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