Reflections on cycling RoundtheEdge of Britain

Reflections on Cycling RoundtheEdge of Britain from 13 August 2012 to 17 October 2012

My Dad has taken time since cycling the coast of Britain to make some reflections on his journey – take the time to have a read through…

Practical Things

– Throughout the ride a Motorhome, managed by my wife and daughter’s future father in law, supported us. We have a lot to thank them for in achieving a circumnavigation of Britain.

– 4000 miles cycled, approaching 200,000 ft of climbing. We were riding for 66 days, with a lot of days where 3,500 calories were expended and 6,000 ft of climbing carried out. We averaged about 70 miles per day, with a 100 miler when moving through Edinburgh and the Forth Bridge.

– My bike was a Planet X Nanolight carbon fibre frame, fitted with Shimano Dura-Ace wheels, covered with Continental Gatorskins. A compact group set up front and a 28T on the back.

– Two punctures, one in the front, via a thorn near Berwick. The worn front Michelin Lithion was ditched at Bristol, after I received a second puncture in the Continental Gatorskin, via a bit of glass, on The Severn Bridge crossing.

– No  mechanical issues, a testament to the Planet X bike and Cowleys of Northallerton, who serviced it before I left. It now needs another service after 4000 miles!

– The Continental Gatorskins did well, suffering only one puncture. Rolling resistance is average, grip is better than average. Wear, the front one probably has another thorn in it after 2400 miles on back and 1600 on the front.

– After suffering a spoke break on LEJOG last year, with the Shimano Dura Aces, I was a bit apprehensive. But I had no problems and I find them a great rolling wheel.

– We carried a spare bike and a front & back spare wheel. None of which was used.

– In certain parts of the country several days of 5000 ft+ of climbing can exact a toll on the cyclist. This is exacerbated if there is a headwind and heavy rain

– Nutrition and Hydration were generally successful, with no events of the ‘bonk’, or heat exhaustion, etc. We split the day in to two parts, both sections we carried a banana and piece of flapjack.

– West Scotland was tough, as was Cornwall, Devon & Dorset.

– East Anglia went well, as did Lincolnshire.

 

Safety

– A large percentage of vehicle drivers are courteous and treat cyclists with respect.

– There are still a lot of drivers who do not apply the Highway Code requirement of giving a cycle a car’s width of space, whilst overtaking. If this were 100% applied it would be a huge boost for the safety of cyclists.

– Still far too much ‘head on’ passing, when there is another approaching vehicle on the opposing carriageway. This inevitably means the cyclist gets squeezed. They would not do it with a car!

– There are now 5 major traffic peak periods, too and from work, too and from school, a general lunchtime rush. The one that now causes the major safety issue is the afternoon school pick up.

– Central Traffic islands have become very common in certain parts of the country and present a particular risk to cyclists, as some drivers try to get through the gap with a cyclist squeezed against the kerb.

– There were a number of occasions when a vehicle overtook a cyclist, then abruptly turned left.

– Elderly drivers, of both sexes, carried out most of these dangerous manoeuvres. i.e. In their 70’s and beyond.

– Maybe something to focus on if these people are retested?

– We came across a lot of post delivery vans, for a number of them their driving behaviour is interesting, to say the least. There is always a risk of complacency in their driving.

– There should be gaps in speed humps / sleeping policemen, for cyclists to be able to proceed.

– The roads with the poorest surfaces were in South West Scotland, particularly Ayrshire.

– There are a lot of major junctions on a hill; if you are already riding ‘on the rivet’ it makes negotiating them even more difficult.

– In many parts of the country farmers are leaving mud on the roads, with what appears to be impunity.

– I am sure that I am not alone feeling much more confident on A roads, whilst travelling at speed, rather than trying to negotiate a steep hill at slow speed. A wobble, a close vehicle and you are in trouble…

– The motorhome gave us options when to ride and potentially avoid the worst of the weather.

– Even so we did go out in conditions, which I would not do, on day rides, given a choice.

 

National Cycle Routes and Cycleways

– A relatively small percentage of the National Cycling Route network is fit for purpose. It brings into question the cycleway strategy.

– The Tarka trail had a good surface, as did a few others.

– But too much is off road, a lot is either poorly, or not maintained. The signage is not standardised and too often not helpful.

– We found a lot of signage had been vandalised, or suffered collisions from vehicles and farm equipment.

– Too often it is meandering and not focused on getting a cyclist from A to B effectively and safely.

– A lot of pedestrians now use cycleways, with a high percentage of uncontrolled dogs. Another hazard to be aware of…

– Entrance onto cycleways should be to your immediate left, whilst proceeding along a straight piece of road. Any other form of access has greater hazards.

– Cycleways that have multiple vehicle accesses & priority from behind, at the same time as allowing vehicle access from your left are a nightmare. You may well be safer proceeding on the main road at a good pace.

-The cycleway with the highest percentage of broken glass was the one alongside the trunk road between Redcar and Grangetown. Over to Redcar and Cleveland Council…

– Compared with the near Continent we have a long, long way to go…

 

Cyclecraft

– In endurance cycling cyclecraft is very important and heavily experiential.

– What weather conditions are appropriate to ride in to reduce risk to the cyclists

– What to wear, to manage the impact of the elements

– What roads are safe to ride on and when

– What nutrition to carry and how much liquid

– What ongoing bike maintenance is key for continued cycling

– What back up spares to have at hand i.e. wheels, tyres, etc

– You find that taking the most effective line on a road becomes intuitive

– I found my cadence and cycling rhythm improved, probably through necessity.

– Having a motorhome in support meant there were options in the points raised above

– Being self-supporting would also provide options

– Having fixed accommodation would reduce flexibility and the options

– Climbing a steep hill whilst there is a strong head wind and heavy rain in your face does not get any easier.

– An old guy like me can bike 66 days on the trot, without adverse physical impact.

– It is pleasing that with our teams support we got a lot of the weather and what to wear decisions right

– Finally, if you get the chance to take part in such a cycle endurance ride, take it up…

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