Cycling Lands End to John O’Groats – unplanned, unprepared and unfit.

The 15th November 2018…. was where it all went wrong.

Reminiscing about our travelling days… it hit us… we had become old, unfit and boring.

We needed something to look forward to, an adventure, a challenge…. yet another one of our stupid ideas.

Sitting in the pub after a couple of pints of beer, we started talking about possible ideas… ‘We should do something fun, something out of our comfort zone, something that’s a challenge!

Yet again, we had come up with another one of our ‘never going to happen’, hair brained schemes. 

“We’ve both got bikes… I know…. lets cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats.”, said middle aged unfit fool number 1 (Neil).

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Great idea!!, said middle aged unfit fool number 2 (Jon).

It was something possible, something vaguely achievable…. but luckily there was absolutely no chance of the pair of us actually getting around to doing it. We both agreed that this brilliant idea was something we definitely would have to do at some point in the future. So we celebrated with another round or two of beers.

“How about later this year?”, said out of shape fool number 2 in a ridiculously misguided manner.

At this point we both had now gone way beyond any planning that any of our previous clever pub ideas had progressed to.

Now for the sentence that sealed it.

“Let’s do it for charity”.

The deal was done, we would cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats for charity, more importantly… we would do it for the Hillingdon Hospital’s Charity.

Neil (Fool number 1) currently works as a Physiotherapist at Hillingdon Hospital. Jon (Fool number 2) also happened to have been born at Hillingdon Hospital’s Maternity ward some 45 years earlier.

We will do it for the Hospital!!!

We would both suffer for days and days on a bike, in order to try to raise some much needed money to help the Hospital and all of the patients!!

We would let the Charity know ASAP, so we didn’t have a chance to change our minds, or see sense that this really is a stupid idea!! With Neil working there, once the charity knew….. there really would be no turning back.

So we are actually doing it, we are really doing this!!??

Neither of us worried about cycling the 1,000 mile journey, the hours of training, the planning and preparation that would be needed to complete the ridiculous challenge.

Both of us knew that being family men, both of us with partners, both of us with two young children and both with work responsibilities…. we would literally have no time to train. That’s ok, we will just suffer!

The thing that worried us the most, the hardest part of the whole thing, the part of the of the adventure we both feared but had to face up to, where it all hung in the balance….

“How are we going to tell the other halves?” 

Fool number 2’s words sent a crash of reality to proceedings, this whole thing would be a lot harder than we thought. To be honest, more preparation has gone into the answering of this last question than planning the actual trip itself.

Fool number 1 went with the classic approach that involved months and months of doing extra work around the house, spending more time with the children and generally sucking up. While fool number 2 went for the ‘tried and tested’ write it on the calendar and pretend it was always there method. 

“You won’t make it”, “It’s much too far”, “You have to go to work”, “Who’s going to look after the kids while you’re gone?” “You are too old”, “You are not fit enough”, “You have no sense of direction, do you even know where Scotland is?” 

These were just a few of the words of encouragement we have received from the other halves so far…

Well, we are still doing it. More importantly, we are doing it for the Hillingdon Hospital Charity, for a really worthy cause, one close to both of our hearts.

Both of fool number 1’s (Neil) children were born at Hillingdon Hospital and his son had two operations performed there, with fantastic care provided by the staff each time. Despite working at the Hospital, he still felt like he wanted to do something more to help to say thanks.

Fool number 2 (Jon) was born at Hillingdon Hospital has frequently popped into it’s accident and emergency service to test their repair skills as a child.

We all know how a little extra in way of donations can make a massive difference to patients and the hospital, maybe doing this can help? 

So how can we do this? Can we actually do it? Honestly, we don’t know!

But, we have set a date… the 15th of September 2019… a mere 7 weeks away!!!

Work commitments and busy family lives means we won’t have much time to complete the 1000+ mile trip, we’ve only got 9 days, with maybe a day either side to travel to Lands End then back home from John O’Groats.

We realise that with work and family life we will have no time to train, no time to organise or plan it properly, very little money spare to pay for it (so we are going to have to do it as cheaply as possible), no real clue how to do it…. what could possibly go wrong??

Importantly, we do know where to start and where to finish. We are just slightly vague on the 1,000 miles in between!!

So we’ve come to a decision.

This is going to be ‘Lands End to John O’Groats, Unplanned’.

No proper planning, no ‘paid for’organised tour, no support crew, no flash bikes, no help!!! Just two unfit fools on bikes, making it up as we go along.

20th July 2019

Knowing full well that he had not had his bike serviced since he bought it (second hand), Fool number 1 takes his bike back to Mike Taylor and the team at Bridgetown Cycles, Cannock. There is nothing that Mike doesn’t know about a bike.

‘It’s knackered!!!’ was Mikes appraisal of the state of fool number 1’s bike.

The rear gears are no good for climbing up hills, the chain was rusty and stretched, the teeth at the front had been ground down more than 60%, the tyres have got glass in them… and “I don’t think you have cleaned it since you bought it, it’s filthy”.

‘You are gonna have to leave it with me…. it’s too far gone to fix in a day!’

So, 7 weeks before we are due to go…. fool number one no longer has a road bike to practice on. This might be a problem!!

Fool number 1’s knackered bike

25th July 2019

First bit of good news, fool number 1’s dad (David) has very kindly volunteered to drive us from London to Lands End, to help get us on our way.

We have solved the first part of the 1,000 mile jigsaw.

However, this offer of a lift comes with it’s own complications…. as fool number one’s dad will have to drive straight back to London that afternoon, just a mere 600 mile round trip, as he already has another commitment he cannot change the next day!!!

This could go someway to explaining where Neil gets his ‘stupidly volunteering for ridiculous things gene’ from.

28th July 2019

The scale of the challenge is now starting to become clear, with fool number 1 still not having a road bike…. we arranged to meet up for a muddy ride through the woods, on a pair of rarely used mid life crisis mountain bikes.

It started so well, but for a very strange clunking sound coming from the chain of fool number 2’s mountain bike.

“No problem, I’ll bring my tools and we’ll fix it when we get there.”

Two coffees, a little swearing and a couple of YouTube instructional videos later, the problem had been reduced from a clunking sound on 18 gears, to having no working gears at all.

Maybe our cycle maintenance skills will need to be improved.

Still, confidence was further boosted when upon arriving home from a very muddy cycle, fool number 2 was greeted by more words of encouragement from the other half.

“I think you should write a will.”

Maybe everyone else is right, maybe we can’t do this?

7 weeks to go, still no time for any real training, no plan of route, nor where to find accommodation, we don’t have working bikes to train on, no idea how we will carry spare clothes, cycle locks or any equipment we may need.

The only thing we have got is stubbornness and the our mantra that has served us throughout our lives, ‘How hard could it be?’.

30th July 2019

Members of the Hospital Charity and Communications department

Today was a good day!!

Fool number 1 (Neil) met up with members of the Hillingdon Hospital Charity and the Hillingdon Hospital communications department to discuss what we had planned.

Despite everyone agreeing it was ridiculous and that it could so easily go wrong, they would support us 100% in our endevours!!

The Hospital charity would provide charity t-shirts and look for corporate sponsors, whilst the communication team would help us produce a poster and help to communicate it through the trusts social media site.

Perhaps with their help… patients, staff and the public might also support us?

4th August 2019

Another good news day!!

Fool number 1 has his bike back, all cleaned up, gears replaced, serviced and as good as new, even had a new basket put on the front for sandwiches.

Unfortunately the good news was immediately followed by bad, after a long test ride, the realisation that although the bike was now in great shape, fool number 1 still wasn’t.

At least the bike is ready to go.

7th August 2019

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lejogunplanned

Well that’s it, no turning back now, the two idiots have set up a ‘Just Giving’ fundraising page and have already had some very kind donations.

Thank you!!!

However, the suspicion is that people are donating, not through the goodness of their hearts, but so there is absolutely no chance of us backing out…. they just want to see two idiots in pain.

Whatever the reason, please keep the donations coming…

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lejogunplanned

11th August 2019

It seems ridiculous… but with just over one month to go, we finally managed to go out for our first actual ‘proper’ ride together on the road.

We rode 50km in the beautiful suffolk countryside.

However, it dawned on us that we have to do this distance three and a half times per day, everyday for 9-10 days…. but with much, much bigger hills!

15th August 2019

One month to go, still no route planned!!

The only training done together has been two 50km rides whilst on a few days break in Suffolk.

To really put a ‘spanner in the works’, Fool number 2 deciding the best way to prepare for the challenge was to stand on a conveniently placed up turned plug on the stairs and to then kick the wall as he leapt in the air….

Unfortunatley, this resulted in him breaking his 4th toe!

Toe seems to now naturally point towards John O’Groats

16th August 2019

With fool number 2 (Jon) out of action nursing a broken toe, fool number 1 (Neil) was really pleased to be joined by his son (Dylan) for some much needed cycling practice.

Dylan happy and raring to go!!

Dylan chatted the whole way round, worked hard up the hills and managed to cycle 30km, his longest ever ride!

It was lovely for fool number 1 to have the company, but even better to share the experience with his son.

However, Dylan didn’t look quite as eager when we got back.

One very proud, but tired boy!!

22nd August 2019

To help us try and raise as much needed money for the Hospital Charity, Helen from the comms department very kindly made a poster / flier for us.

Apart from the picture of two awkward/camera shy middle aged fools, the poster is great !!

Should really help us raise awareness of what we are about to undertake on behalf of the Hospital Charity.

28th August 2019

Life has been really busy recently, with school holidays, working and fool number 1 having to revise for an upcoming exam for his Msc… so not as much time on the bike as we would like!

However, happily fool number 2’s toe is feeling much better and he is able to start riding again. Hooray!!!

We somehow managed to co-ordinate our diaries and finally find some time to meet up for our 3rd ride together. We even managed to get our friend Mike to come with us.

Stopped along the way at a local bike shop, NorthwoodCycles, fool number 2’s saddle kept moving under his new found holiday weight and he was complaining that his handlebars didn’t seem to be where he had left them. Guys in the shop only too happy to help, adjusted both saddle and bars, offered us advice on our trip and wouldn’t accept any payment for their time. A great bike shop with plenty of old classic bikes hanging from the walls. Thought they deserved a mention, thanks again.

Dissapointingly, we can’t seem to break the 50km barrier – without our legs feeling tired, or running out of energy.

It’s going to be a long 9 1/2 days!!!

If you want to help make our suffering worthwhile, please consider donating via our ‘just giving page’ https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lejogunplanned

31st August 2019

First bit of cycling kit arrives….. the next part of the 1,000 mile jigsaw

Thanks to Mike from Bridgetown cycles, fool number 1 now has some kit that will actually be suitable for the long rides ahead….

He also advised, sourced and supplied some under seat storage for the bike. As we have no backup, nor any support crew, we are going to have to carry everything we need for the next 10 days…….

4th September 2019

Two hapy fools…. finally managed 66.73km

Today was a great day!!

We finally managed to get enough time together to have a longer ride… we rode 66.73km after work today. It could have been further, but we still have not planned a route, accomodation, getting home etc….

…. so we went to the pub to discuss it over a well deserved pint of beer!!

Feeling slightly more optomnistic about the long days of cycling ahead.

10th September 2019

The two fools spent lunchtime cycling in the reception area of Hillingdon Hospital….
supported so well by the guys from the Hillingdon Hospital Charity

Today we spend lunchtime cycling in the reception area of Hillingdon Hospital.

We handed out fliers to patients and staff, informing them of what we were about to do.

Even though everyone thought we were either joking, or mad… we were blow away by peoples kindness and generosity.

We raised another £130 for the charity…. thank you so much for all the support / kindness!!

12th September 2019

Vince came to meet us and offer us words of experience… he has done LEJOG and JOGEL!!!

Another day, another cycle at Hillingdon Hospital.. this time in the canteen.

We were lucky enough to be introduced to Vince, who has done the length of the country not once, but twice!!! He has done LEJOG, like we are just about to, but also JOGLE.. where he cycled from John O’Groats to Lands End.

And we thought we were mad!!!!

It was so lovely to meet him and hear his stories about his adventures. He also so very kindly donated £50 to our cause.

Thank you so much!!!

14th September 2019

Packed and ready to go…..

After what seems like a blink of an eye…. It is the night before LEJOG begins…

What started as a drunken conversation in the pub, has somehow turned into something so very, very real… !!

With more luck than judgement and meeting the right people to help us, we have kit, a way to strap it to the bike, a lift to cornwall (thanks dad) and the determination to see the adventure through to the end (in Scotland in 10 days time).

More importantly, through the kindness of NHS staff, bookmakers, friends, family and patient’s… we have raised almost £2,000 toward the charity (so far).

Thank you to everyone that has supported us… it really means a lot to two unfit, middle aged old fools… and even more to NHS patients at Hillingdon Hospital!

15th September 2019

Wagon loaded

We’re off! The adventure begins, Lands End here we come, 2 miles into the journey and we’re already arguing over which way to get there, fool number ones on driving duties so he sticks to his usual system of ignoring fool number two, pretending he can’t hear him. This could be a long 10 days.

Fool number 1 in ‘I can’t hear you mode’.
Coincidence with the sign post.

Started for real now, we were off, everything was going excellently till about 1km in when fool number one and two realised they didn’t actually know which way to go, no gps signal meant the map we’d been sent that morning didn’t work. Anyway, lots of hills, circles and 52 miles later we made it to our first nights accommodation, a caravan on someone’s front drive.

16th September

Not such a good idea?

Grampound Road caravan to Bampton

Started off the morning all smiles, our first full day, laughing and joking, in high spirits, looking forward to the challenge. Then came the hills, more hills, then some more hills. Immense pain to get up but fun to come down, that is until fool number one decided to finish the fastest one of the descents by laying down and skidding across the tarmac, leaving some skin and a lot of confidence behind. Hours and hours of struggle later the two fools make it over 100 miles to just north of Tiverton. Tired, very weary but closer.

Getting overtaken by sheep.

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1 Comment

  1. your both mad, its a recipe for disaster , there’s everything to go wrong – so much i cant even start to type it all, casually (dis)organised and totally irresponsible. Whats there to stop you? NOTHING !! GO FOR IT. what a memory you will have forever 🙂 David D (patient you put in LOTS OF PAIN to mend me 🙂 )

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