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Lands End to John O Groats

The Lands End to John O’Groats Cycle Challenge (What You Need to Know)

The Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) challenge is a traverse of the entire length of Great Britain, between the two extremities of Britain’s southwest and northeast. It’s an epic challenge, one that many people dream of completing.

The challenge traditionally starts at Lands End, the western point of Cornwall at the end of the Penwith peninsula. From here, you’ll cycle ~900 miles to John O’Groats where the challenge ends. Between Lands End and John O’Groats, you’ll pass over the epic cliffs of Devon, through impressive Lake District countryside, and up into the highlands.

At Maximum Adventure we want you to have the experience of your lifetime, which is why we’ve created this article to help you prepare for your LEJOG cycle challenge. After reading this article, you’ll learn about the route’s distances, itinerary, how to train for this challenge (including your nutrition), and basic bike maintenance skills.

  • About the Lands End to John O’Groats cycle
  • How to prepare for your Lands End to John O’Groats cycle challenge

Let’s jump straight to it!

About the Lands End to John O’Groats cycle

The Lands End to John O’Groats cycle challenge started in 1882, when a man named Alfred Nixon decided it would be a good idea to cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End on his tricycle. Many adventurers have since followed, and today it’s a popular challenge.

Lands End to John O’Groats distance

The Lands End to John O’Groats cycle challenge has a distance of 874 miles (1,407 km) following the classic road cycle route, making this an extreme event that requires focused training, the right gear, and preparation.

The actual straight-line distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats is 603 miles (970km), but if you wanted to complete that challenge you’d need a way of crossing a series of water stretches in the Irish Sea.

At Maximum Adventure, we’ve mapped a route that’s 930 miles (1496km) in length with 45,350ft (13,822m) of climbing. This route sticks to quieter, cycle-friendly roads taking you through Cornwall and up to the remote Scottish Highlands.

Lands End to John O’Groats map

To give you more clarity, we’ve detailed the LEJOG cycle route on the map below. This is the route that’s used by us at Maximum Adventure.

Lands End to John O Groats Map

This map details our 10-day route variation, which is one of many you can choose from. We also have a 14-day variation that follows the same route detailed above but with different stop-overs.

If you’re pushed for time, we offer three separate trips that have split the route. The first week starts at Land’s End and finishes in Shrewsbury, the second week starts at Shrewsbury and finishes in Edinburgh, and the third week starts in Edinburgh and finishes at John O’Groats.

How long does it take to cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats?

How much time do you need to set aside to complete the Lands End to John O’Groats cycle? This really depends on how long you want to spend on the route. As we’ve already mentioned, variations range from 14 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, and 3 week-long challenges.

The route’s record belongs to Michael Broadwith, who completed the challenge in 43 hours, 25 minutes, and 13 seconds on the 17th of June 2018. The fastest female record belongs to Christina Mackenzie, who completed the cycle in 51 hours, 5 minutes, and 5 seconds on the 30th of July 2021.

Let’s just pause for a minute to let those times sink in. These professionals were cycling ~800 miles in less than 3 days. Wow!

Don’t worry though, you don’t have to be hitting records to deserve cycling kudos. Completing the LEJOG cycle is in itself a major accomplishment, and one anyone can feel proud of.

 

How to prepare for your Lands End to John O’Groats cycle challenge

 

How do you prepare for your Lands End to John O’Groats cycle challenge?

As soon as you book your adventure with Maximum Adventure, we’ll do most of the trip planning and preparation for you. We’ll book your accommodation and provide you with a pre-planned route, accessible via a GPX file and Guide book (we can even pair you with a professional cycle guide if you wish). It’s our job to keep you safe, which is why you’re given 24-hour emergency cover and telephone support.

Your side of the preparation comes down to having the right kit, nutrition, training, and an understanding of basic bike maintenance. The following section of this article will help you with this.

LEJOG preparation step #1: your kit list

The best time of year to complete the Lands End to John O’Groats cycle is between May and June. This is generally when the British weather is at its best, and it’s before the Scottish midges come out in full swing. But if these dates don’t work for you, not to worry, we run this challenge from April through to September.

To complete this challenge in these months, you’ll need the following kit.

Gear:

  1. Map and compass: OS Maps are your obvious choice, so learn how to navigate with them (think about booking a navigation course). These will be your emergency backup in case you get lost on route. You can also use your phone for navigation using apps such as the OS map app, Outdoor Active, and Komoot. Yet, don’t rely solely on these in case your phone breaks, the battery dies or you run out of signal!
  2. Well-stocked first-aid kit: You’ll want a first aid kit that’s complete with plasters, bandages, insect repellent, bite cream, antiseptic, etc. Go to an outdoor store and purchase a complete first aid kit.
  3. Non-locking penknife tool: Penknives are extremely useful tools, and always handy to have around. Remember, make sure your penknife is non-locking to meet the UK legal requirements.
  4. A good torch and bike lights: There’s always the chance that you’ll be cycling in the dark, so be sure to bring a head torch and adequate bike lights with you.
  5. Bike tool kit: You’ll no doubt find yourself with a puncture at some point along your route (or other technical problems). Make sure you have the tools needed to resolve these issues. This includes a basic bike pump, tire levers, and a puncture repair kit.
  6. Panniers: You can arrange luggage transportation with us at Maximum Adventure, or you can choose to carry your kit yourself. To carry your own kit you’re going to need bike panniers.
  7. Cycle helmet: Never cycle without a helmet.
  8. Fluorescent tags and bands: Fluorescent tags and bands will ensure you’re visible to traffic keeping you safe.
  9. Vaseline: Yes, for your butt! Being on the saddle for long periods can cause chafing and soreness. Vaseline helps to prevent this.

Clothing:

  1. Waterproofs: Make sure to bring a waterproof jacket and trousers. I recommend purchasing cycle-specific waterproofs.
  2. A fleece and thermal layer: It can get cold even in the warmer months, especially as you enter the highlands. Bring warm clothing layers.
  3. Gloves: Bring an insulating set of gloves and cycle mitts. Cycle mitts prevent your hands from getting sore after clutching your handlebars days on end.
  4. Waterproof footwear: We recommend purchasing cycle-specific footwear, and you can get waterproof versions. Consider purchasing cycle cleats, although be wary as these take some getting used to.
  5. Comfortable clothes and shoes: These can be for the evenings and your rest days (if you’ve planned any in).
  6. Cycle jersey: Cycle jerseys are specifically designed for the sport, and have an extremely useful back pocket to store snacks, meaning you can eat while you ride!
  7. Cycle short and leggings: Purchase cycle-specific shorts and longer leggings. These have extra padding to make sitting on your saddle more comfortable.

LEJOG preparation step #2: nutrition on the bike

You’re going to be using energy – a lot of energy. When cycling over hilly terrain and carrying a load, you can expect to burn around 600-1000 calories per hour (subject to height, weight, age, gender, distance cycled, and elevation gain). Throughout a day’s cycling, that’s ~3000 extra calories (at least) per day.

You must be providing your body with enough energy and nutrition to fuel your muscles. This comes down to eating enough calories, mainly through carbohydrates and protein, during your ride.

On top of this, below are some quick tips for how to fuel your Lands End to John O’Groats cycle:

  • Use isotonic energy gels: Isotonic energy gels are excellent for giving you the right electrolyte/water concentration. They’ll give you energy while also providing optimal hydration.
  • Don’t stuff your face: Imagine your body is a car. If you put too much fuel in, you’ll be overloaded, heavy, and you will not run efficiently. But filling half your tank, and regularly, you’ll get the energy you need to keep going without overloading yourself.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Keeping yourself hydrated is vital. Work from the general rule that the average adult weighing 155-160 pounds should drink 12-16 ounces of fluid per hour of cycling in moderate temperatures. In warmer temperatures, up this amount to 16-ounces of water every day. Use isotonic powder to ensure you’re hydrating. If you sweat a lot, you’ll need to replace the salt loss.

LEJOG preparation step #3: Training

It’s possible to complete the Lands End to John O’Groats cycle with no training. You’ll gain fitness on the route. Yet, this isn’t something we’d recommend.

When you book your adventure with Maximum Adventure, we’ll send you a training plan to guide you through the training process. But for now, let’s cover the basics:

  1. When do I start training? Aim to start training at least 12 weeks before (but more if you’re not generally active).
  2. How many miles should I cycle during training? Think about your daily average miles on your LEJOG challenge, and plan to complete cycles of that length at least once a week. For instance, if you book on our 10-day challenge, your daily average is ~93 miles per day.
  3. Can I do other sports to train for my cycle challenge? You can build your fitness through other aerobic sports in preparation for your trip. But you also need to think about the time spent on your bike (aka saddle time), not just your fitness. That is, you must get out on some long rides, and preferably at least two consecutive long rides before your trip. This will get you used to sitting in your saddle for long periods.
  4. How often should I cycle train per week? Do some smaller cycles during the week. If you think you’ll have a hard time fitting these in, think about commuting to work or the shops on your bike to rack up your weekly mileage. Aim for at least three one-hour-long cycle rides per week, with one or two longer rides planned on the weekend.
  5. How many miles per week should I aim for during the training period? Increase your mileage slowly while thinking about the weekly total mileage you’d be hitting during your challenge. You don’t have to be hitting this when training but you’d want to be aiming close. For instance, if you booked the 10-day LEJOG challenge with Maximum Adventure, your weekly average mileage is 630 miles. Plan your training around this in a pyramidal structure, to hit ~500 miles by say week 7 in your 12-week training cycle. Then bring the weekly mileage down from here, giving yourself at least one week’s rest before the big event.

LEJOG preparation step #4: Bike maintenance

You don’t have to be an expert on bikes, but understanding the basics could save you a lot of hassle on your trip. We cover these bike basics below, like how to fix a puncture, how to perform basic bike checks, and how to clean your bike after a day’s use.

Bike maintenance tip #1: How to fix a puncture

We’ll leave the explanation for this to the Global Cycling Network. They’ve created a fantastic and informative video, which you can watch below, detailing how you can fix a puncture on the road.

Bike maintenance tip #2: How to perform basic bike checks

Listed below are essential pre-bike ride checks:

  1. Tyre pressure: The recommended air pressure will be written on the side of your tyres in embossed lettering. Make sure your tyre pressure is correct before each cycling day.
  2. Brake wear and alignment: Cycling with a failed brake system can be terrifying. If your bike uses rubber pads, make sure these aren’t worn down to the metal (or close to). For disc brakes, the pads should be replaced when they get down to 1mm of friction material left. Make sure your brakes are aligned correctly to your wheel and aren’t rubbing against it.
  3. Chain: Keep your chain clean and lubricated and it will last longer and run smoother. For wet weather, you’d want to use a wet lube, for dry-to-mixed conditions you’d want to use a dry or wax lube.
  4. Gears: To avoid sticky and slow gear changes, put a couple of drops of dry chain lube into the outer sleeve of the gear cable. If your chain keeps jumping, then refer to this article to find out how to fix this issue.
  5. Wheels: Make sure your wheels are secure and the quick-release is pressed down. Don’t push the quick-release down too tight as you won’t be able to get your wheel back off. You do want it just tight enough to hold your wheel in place.
  6. Saddle: You’ll want your saddle to be in the correct position. When you sit on your saddle, your legs should be straight with a slight bend at the knee. Your handlebars should be elbow-width apart from your saddle’s position.

If you’re unsure about any of the bike maintenance tips mentioned, head to your local bike store. They’d be more than happy to help you out and give your bike a thorough check before your ride.

Bike maintenance tip #3: How to clean your bike

A build-up of dirt will wear through the moving parts of your bike, so it’s important to keep it clean. Again, we’ll refer back to the Global Cycling Network which show you how to clean your bike after a days ride in the video below.

Book your Lands End to John O’Groats Adventure with Maximum Adventure

At Maximum Adventure, we want to help you create memories and have an adventure of a lifetime. Once you book your Lands End to John O’Groats challenge with us, we’ll take care of the logistics, meaning all you have to do is get out and enjoy spending time on your bike.

What are you waiting for?

Click here to book your Lands End to John O’Groats challenge with Maximum Adventure and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Have you booked your Lands End to John O’Groats adventure? Do you have any questions that we haven’t covered in this article? If so, please get in touch as we’d love to hear from you and answer your queries!