New year, new challenges

I hope you enjoyed reading my 2011 challenges which was mainly LeJog in 9 days 1.5 hours unsupported.

For 2012 I have some different challenges which I will be adding to my new blog http://caledoniancanal.wordpress.com/ Kayak Fort William to Inverness, Scotland on the newly created Caledonion Canal Canoe Trail over 3 days.

For 2013 the main challenge will be http://www.purplechopper.co.uk Coast to Coast (C2C) (Whitehaven to Tynemouth) on an original (1974) Raleigh Chopper MKII, possibly dressed in authentic clothing and listening to music of the era :-)

Any other suggestions for any other challenges??

I’ve also added a photography blog to my collection http://nigelbradleyphotography.wordpress.com/

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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A week on – reflections of my LeJog

Thank you for taking the time to read my posts and sending me encouragement.

Well after all the training and organisation before the adventure and actually completing the adventure itself it’s now time to try and reflect on what went well and what didn’t go quite so well.

I rode 943 miles over 9 days and 1.5 hrs. Pedalling for a total of 77hrs and 6 mins with the longest daily distance of 114 miles and longest time in the saddle of 9hrs and 4 mins.

Before the event: My main aim was to do the distance, unsupported apart from using B&B’s/hostels (to charge phone, GPS etc). I read and posted to forums in particular to bikeradar and CTC which were very useful as well as reading loads of blogs where I picked up handy hints. I estimated I should be able to do approx 100 miles per day and aimed my training around the 80 miles mark but always ensuring I put big hills in, which really did pay dividends because I never climbed one hill on the journey which was anywhere near as tough as my training hills :-) I only booked my outward train ticket to Penzance (1st class for £58), pre ride night accommodation at Land’s End and 1st Night accommodation at Okehampton  but had lists of numbers to contact the day before for the following nights accommodation – all this worked perfectly and I was never without suitable accommodation on a night. I got the bike fully serviced 3 weeks before the event. I weighed most of my gear to try and cut down on weight as much as possible – this became an obsession.

For the ride itself: I used one large pannier and a large bar bag. I had bought a Garmin Edge 800 GPS with routes I pre-plotted (which worked a dream, no getting lost in cities like I read in other reports) using bikeroutetoaster. I bought a road atlas which I also highlighted my route on, cut out the pages I needed and laminated (for backup) as well as the daily route profiles laminated. I made the decision to start as early as possible (7-8) each day to ensure I had no problem getting to destinations by the end of the day. I had bought the followmee app for my iphone which plotted on a map on my blog where I was within 10 mins. I took a netbook with me so I could charge appliances from (USB), update my blog, upload camera photos and upload the days stats from my Garmin. I washed my spare set of cycling clothes every night ready for the day after next( I took a net bag as my shorts pad wasn’t always fully dry the next morning so I strapped it to top of rack and it turned it into a good drying day).

Positives: The planning and the general enthusiasm, the blog, the GPS, the pre-ride bike service, the day Dumbarton to Fort William via Loch Lomond – stunning scenery, the people I met along the way, THE FINISH :-) :-) :-) :-)

Negatives: Day 2 when my bottom bracket went until a LBS replaced it for me :-( The day Gretna to Dumbarton – no scenery and conditions of roads meant teeth chattering slow progress for 100 miles, oh and 3 punctures in first 18 miles :-( – in hindsight I should’ve headed to Dumfries then headed north

What didn’t I use: Ibuleve Gel (for knees), headache tablets, Assos chamois creme

What could I not do without: GPS, stacks of hilly training miles, encouragement of friends, Netbook

I’ve updated my accommodation section with reviews.

If you want to sit back and enjoy a video of the photos checkout this Animoto Video

You may well wonder what next years personal challenge will be? I’m thinking…

This will be my last blog posting but if you have any queries about your planned trip or anything specific about mine then please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact me.

Thanks Once Again

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Day 10 – Wick to JOG to finish and being a tourist

The minimum I needed to do today was 16 mile to JOG and return so thought I’d become a tourist to fill in rest of day. It was a lie in until 7-15 for 7-30 breakfast and when I was offered a full scottish I said yes as I had minimal cycling to do after all. After a few cups of tea and chatting to a delightful old Canadian lady I set off heading for JOG, easyish 16 mile. I topped the final hill (325ft) and from there it was a descent to the finish line where there were some Danish motor cyclists taking photos of each other at the post. I offered to take their group photo and they took mine as I lifted my bike above my head (and nearly put my back out forgetting how much it weighed). They asked where I’d come from and I replied Cornwall, they said “but you don’t have a motor”. Then I took a few snaps before heading to the Seaview hotel for a bite for lunch I headed off to have a look at the Castle of Mey (queen mothers house) and onward to Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on UK mainland for some snaps before heading back to Wick. I was shocked to hear a fellow lejogger (Darren)  who I’d cycled with for a few days had been knocked off in a hit and run in Wick. Luckily he and the bike were ok and he also completed today – congratulations Darren Leen. A shower and off out to celebrate with a curry and a pint of Kingfisher :-)

On a day off I still managed to clock up 58 miles.

Early night as I have a 6-20am train to catch.

I did 943 miles over 9 days and 1.5 hrs. Pedalling for a total of 77hrs and 6 mins of cycling with the longest daily distance of 114 miles and longest time in the saddle of 9hrs and 4 mins

Distance: 57.53 mi
Time: 4:59:31
Avg Speed: 11.5 mph
Elevation Gain: 2,556 ft
Calories: 1,609 C
Avg Temperature: 55.4 °F
Time: 4:59:31
Moving Time: 4:55:54
Elapsed Time: 7:38:30
Avg Speed: 11.5 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 11.7 mph
Max Speed: 27.6 mph
Avg HR: 110 bpm
Max HR: 136 bpm

 Day 10 route

 

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Day 9 – Black Isle to Wick – 93 miles – it was a battering cross/head wind

Well today I was winging it for a number of reasons -I hadn’t booked accommodation in Wick, hadn’t booked return train ticket and could I finish it off today a day earlier than I predicted??

I decided if the weather didn’t interfere too much I might be able to finish it. I thought if I could catch the first ferry (8-30) from Cromarty to Nigg I should make it to Wick in time when the station was managed to buy my return ticket for next day. I had my porridge breakfast then turned myself inside out to get to Cromarty for 8-30 including the climb of fairy glen. I got there to find it may not be sailing at all and if it did it would be late – it hadn’t sailed at all the previous day due to the high winds. My choice was either to wait or retrace my steps meaning 36 miles on my journey.  I decided to wait and used the time to book my accommodation at http://www.careysguesthouse.co.uk/ which had been recommended by several cyclists on CTC forum. The pilot eventually decided to give it a go(£5), late and took just me across to my namesake, Nigg on the other bank so I was off heading into a severe head/cross wind that was to batter me all day :-(  next stop Wick and I wouldn’t have time for lunch. Some of the hills combined with a headwind took me by surprise and were made the most difficult on the whole journey which included the climb out of Helmsdale and Berriedale Braes – at one stage some cyclists were climbing towards me almost as fast as I was having to pedal DOWNHILL :-(  By the time I reached Wick I’d made it in time to buy train ticket only to find I couldn’t get my bike booked on for the following day so booked another night at the Careys. It also negated the need to finish off tonight which would’ve been a 36 mile return trip on top of the 95 i’d already done. I’ll have plenty of time tomorrow for a leisurely jaunt up to the top and probably get conned for an official photo. A walk into town for dinner at Wetherspoons which offers consistently decent meals at reasonable prices and still no alcohol or spicy foods – checkout tomorrows entry :-)

Distance: 93.24 mi
Time: 8:14:45
Avg Speed: 11.3 mph
Elevation Gain: 5,925 ft
Calories: 3,051 C
Avg Temperature: 54.1 °F
Time: 8:14:45
Moving Time: 8:08:21
Elapsed Time: 8:59:27

 

Avg Speed: 11.3 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 11.5 mph
Max Speed: 37.6 mph

Avg HR:45 bpmMax HR:142 bpm

Day 9 route

 

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Day 8 – Fort William to Black Isles – 81 miles – the worst weather but a free lunch

Alarm set for 7 but the wind and rain battering the window made sure I woke up early in the youth Hostel. Down to the Italian restaurant for my porridge breakfast. Just as I was leaving the 2 lejoggers I had raced towards Carlisle came in, we discussed tactics and routes for the day and I headed off. I had time to kill so I detoured to take photos on the way eg Neptunes staircase, Commando Memorial etc. Up through Spean Bridge, along the side of Loch Lochy and Loch Oich before stopping at Lovat Restaurant for lunch of Haggis on jacket potato then I discovered they offered free wifi so it seemed an opportunity to upload yesterdays blog. Just at that the 2 cyclists I’d spoken to at breakfast time came in as they’d spotted my bike parked up and ordered lunch. I spent so much time uploading stuff that they paid up and went. When I requested my bill the girl said she assumed we were together so they’d paid it – happy days :-) – if I see them at the end I’ll buy them a drink. As I set away again towards Loch Ness it got colder and colder and windier and really started to rain – so apologies that there’s no photo of Nessie as everything had to be watertight – I did see her… honest!!

Loch Ness is huge (23 miles long) but before I knew it I was out the end and heading towards Inverness, across the Kessock Bridge and onto the A9, briefly (which was hairy) before heading onto the Black Isle and my resting place at Avoch (pronounced ‘Och’ as with something stuck in the back of your throat). I was cold and wet so took the unusual decision to eat before I checked in. I had originally intended doing some dolphin spotting at Chanonry Point but as I was so cold and wet, dolphins were the last thing on my mind. The Station Hotel didn’t look much from the outside but once inside it’s a different story, the décor is good, staff friendly (even though I looked like a drowned rat) and the food was just what I wanted and not overpriced :-) then it was up a very steep hill to my B&B (http://www.go-bedandbreakfast.co.uk/ardvreckan/_) for a shower and coffee before using more free wifi to update this blog entry.

Distance: 81.81 mi
Time: 7:54:13
Avg Speed: 10.5 mph
Elevation Gain: 3,870 ft
Calories: 2,606 C
Avg Temperature: 50.4 °F
Time: 7:54:13
Moving Time: 6:42:55
Elapsed Time: 9:01:21

 

Avg Speed: 10.5 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 12.1 mph
Max Speed: 31.6 mph
Avg HR: 50 bpm
Max HR: 102 bpm

Day 8a route

Day 8b route

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Day 7 – Dumbarton to Fort William – 91 miles – I couldn’t have got this one more wrong!!

After yesterdays ‘off” day I was slightly concerned about today as it may only be 90 miles but includes the biggest climbs by far of the whole journey and it would be back to doing it on my own so no words of encouragement from anyone. Also the A82 is notoriously dangerous (although it turns out I didn’t find it that way). Jed indulged in a full English (or should that be Scottish??) whilst I opted for the breakfast of champions, porridge after learning from my mistake earlier in the trip. It was overcast, nippy but dry. Jed set off on his merry way to cycle the 18 miles into Glasgow to catch his train home whilst I was heading for Fort William with only ‘some climbs’ past ski resorts in my way.

First photo stop (of many) was the south end of Loch Lomond looking straight up the loch, then it was on to Luss (famous as the location for Tak the high road – apparently a ‘quality’ bit of TV. It was swarming with Japanese tourists who take photos of anything eg Sunflowers, a man in a kilt and me (because I was talking with man in kilt) – I also got a photo with him ;-) Leaving Luss it started to rain but even that couldn’t put me off – the road is very narrow and rough at the head of the loch but once past there it opens up and it climbs and climbs (I don’t recall this from when I drove it previously). I climbed up through Tyndrum. The higher I climbed the colder it got but again that didn’t put me off. Destination for lunch was the Bridge of Orchy hotel which doesn’t look very good from outside but is transformed inside with ambient music, nice décor and expensive food but well worth it – I was so tired I almost fell asleep sitting up so thought I’d best make a move. Off I went, next milepost Glencoe ski resort followed closely by the Kings House hotel with many photo stops in between. The headwind on the top was really strong but again it wouldn’t spoil my day. Eventually I reached the long fast descent down to Glencoe Village and Ballachulish stopping to take a photo of the waterfall which was in spate the last time I visited but this time was a trickle. I got talking to a couple of keen amateur photographers who took a photo of me in front of the fall. It was the down to Glencoe Village and around Loch Leven and onward to Fort William to find the youth hostel right in the middle of town. A quick shower and wash my cycling clothes before heading to Stables Restaurant (below digs) for a very nice Italian meal of carbs.

I so misjudged this day – I’ve driven the route many times and it is good but to cycle it you really get to see how stunning it really is and you can stop anywhere you like to take photos. If you think you could ride 90 miles, you need to get the train to Dumbarton then cycle it and get the train back from Fort William – you won’t be disappointed!!!

Distance: 90.86 mi
Time: 7:33:25
Avg Speed: 12.0 mph
Elevation Gain: 3,747 ft
Calories: 2,425 C
Avg Temperature: 57.6 °F
Time: 7:33:25
Moving Time: 7:29:30
Elapsed Time: 9:45:02
Avg Speed: 12.0 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 12.1 mph
Max Speed: 29.9 mph
Avg HR: 113 bpm
Max HR: 165 bpm

Route Day 7

 

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