LEJOG Equipment
 
     

The Bike

In order to make the trip, I had to acquire a touring bike. A tourer would stand up to the rigours of the British roads and weather and be able to carry luggage. Unfortunately my road bike would not and because I was self-funding the trip, I had to sell it on ebay.

 

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I had read many reviews of different bikes and knew what I wanted, but I also knew what I could afford! The Dawes Horizon came out tops for best value and features. It has a rear carrier as standard, strong wheels and a steel cro-moloy frame & forks. Also included are Shimano STI levers which are a real must for a long trip and make riding safer in my opinion. The only changes I made were to put some Schwalbe Marathon tyres on along with self sealing inner tubes to try and stop punctures. Also I changed the pedals to SPD cleat type, and put some bottle cages on. For extra safety, I bought some Scotchlite strips and stuck them onto the bike at suitable places. A trip computer, mini-pump, spare spokes and tool wedge completed the set-up.

Travelling Light

The (crazy) idea was to make the journey in less than 10 days, self supported, staying in Hostels and Bed & Breakfast accommodation. I read a lot about other peoples’ experiences and one chap’s article caught my eye. He stressed that he had struggled against many obstacles in his attempt and had to call a halt to his ride half way through. Happily, he picked up where he left off at a later date, but with half the quantity of luggage packed into a Carradice Saddlebag and no panniers. This had made a huge difference to his progress. I remembered those touring days of my youth with a single bag and decided that travelling light was again, the right thing to do!

The Right Luggage

Selecting my luggage was the next task. I wanted to use a bar bag and some kind of rear bag, but not panniers. Now there are a lot of bags to choose from out there and it wasn’t an easy job. I needed something that wasn’t too bulky, 100% waterproof, would fit on my Dawes Horizon rear rack and have the capacity to take all the gear for a 10 day trip. Finally, I had narrowed it down to the Carradice Super C Range. I have known Carradice products for years and their reputation is renowned. Also, they remain a great British company, so great that they kindly donated the luggage I needed for the trip!

The Super C Bar Bag picked itself. There are numerous independent reviews of this excellent piece of luggage. The rear bag was a little more difficult. The Super C Longflap Saddlebag is a fantastic bag with oodles of capacity for gear. However, I had decided to take just a single pair of shoes for cycling and walking in, so I could get away with something even smaller! The final choice was the Carradice Super C Rack Pack. Using this bag meant I had to cram everything into its 13 litre capacity but it was compact and easy to take on and off the bike and was streamlined for getting through those tight spaces in traffic queues!


Packing It In

Now you wouldn’t believe what you can fit into such a small space, yet using new technology fabrics and careful packing, miracles can be achieved! The following photo shows the entire contents contained within my Super C Rack Pack.

Into the bag went the following items:

 
Seal Skinz Socks Cycling Socks Cycle Shorts Cycle Jersey
Base layer Long sleeve jersey Map pages x 15 Trousers
Dri-Fit T Shirt Shorts Underpants x 2 Camera Charger
Phone Charger Washing Powder Trekking Towel Swimmers
Gloves Helmet Rain Cover    
Wash bag (containing: Anti-Perspirant, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Soap, Razor & Shave Oil)
 

Obviously, this meant washing and drying some clothes each night, but would you rather drag a bag full of your dirty laundry up and over some lone mountain pass? Using one pair of shoes and resorting to lightweight trousers, technical fabric shirts and bath towel meant all of the above would pack down nicely into the Rack Pack


The Bar Bag was less of a challenge. Its contents were:

Camera, Phone, Notepad & pen, First Aid Kit, Sun cream, sunglasses, Plastic Bags, Map pages,
Sponsor Form, Log Sheet, Passport, Wallet, Travel Documents, Hands free cable, Tickets, Keys

Much of this list includes paper so really it all fitted in nicely and still left room for some sandwiches. The side mesh pockets were handy for stashing a couple of energy bars to eat along the way or for tucking your wrappers in until the next dustbin stop!


Putting in the Miles

This is what the bike, luggage and intrepid explorer looked like at the end of the ride:

You can see that the bike doesn’t look loaded down with excess baggage. The blue strap around the Rack Pack is used to secure a string bag that contained my waterproofs when they weren’t needed. Under the saddle is a small tool wedge in case of emergencies.

When travelling to Land’s End and back from John O’Groats by air, everything went into 3 bags. The sharp tools and pedals were packed into the Rack Pack for check-in baggage and everything else from the bike went into the string bag. This and the Bar Bag were carried on as hand baggage – neat!

So, how did the Carradice Super C luggage stand up to the rigours of British weather and 1025 miles of non-stop cycling? The answer, quite simply is very well indeed! The Rack Pack survived the stresses of airport baggage handlers two times without a hitch. The Bar Bag with its Klick Fix system was a dream just to whip off quickly when going into a shop and using the shoulder strap, it transforms into a well balanced shoulder bag. A hand crafted foam insert kept my digital camera protected and the mobile phone fitted neatly into the zippered pocket. My wallet was kept in one of the internal side pockets. I felt assured of being seen with the bright Scotchlite reflective strips on both bags clearly visible in dull conditions. My front lights fit neatly under the bag on the removable bracket.

The first six days of the ride were in bright sunshine say for the smallest of showers in Cornwall. After a day of riding in Scotland came the rain. During the last three days it rained all day for one day and from lunchtime for the last two. The very last day included a hailstorm! I was nervous about my phone, camera and papers so had wrapped them in plastic bags for added protection against the wet. However there was no need because despite three days of rain, not a drop had penetrated the Cotton Duck exterior of either bag! The Super C Range is supposed to be waterproof and I can tell you from experience that it really is. This is not just down to the fabrics used, but also due to the excellent design. The Bar Bag has an elasticated top cover with a thick seam preventing water “creeping” under the lid. The Rack Pack has a large top flap which closes down over the sides of the bag. The main compartment inner has an integral drawstring bag which helps pull everything together when packing and provides added security against ingress of water.


In Conclusion

Looking back it is clear that the choice of luggage is key to any journey, whether across a town, a country or an entire continent. It has to be tough and durable, yet lightweight and practical and protect your precious gear from the elements. Travelling light worked for me and like many other cyclists before me, choosing Carradice products proved to be best choice for success.

     
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