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Cycling Lands End to John o Groats - End to End bike ride

Updated on January 2, 2010

Cycling Land's End to John O'Groats - Why on earth would you want to do that?

What is the appeal of cycling End to End?  Why would you want to ride from Land's End to John o' Groats?

Because it's there?

For many that's enough. The 'End to End' bike ride represents an iconic long distance cycling achievement from Lands End at the South Western tip of the UK to John o'Groats, at the opposite north eastern corner. Depending upon the route you choose, Lands End to John o Groats is a challenge approaching 1000 miles of cycling across the gloriously diverse landscapes of the British Isles.

The UK has some of the best bicycle touring country in Europe, perhaps even in the world. Within realtively short distances you can enjoy hugely varying landscapes - from the harsh openness of the south-western moorland, the summits of the Pennine spine of the country, the glacial legacy of the Lake District and the wild emptiness of the Scottish Highlands. All this can be yours, in the form of the bike ride that is Lands End to John O'Groats - oh, and deserved membership of one of the most exclusive clubs - the End to Enders.

Are you ready to cycle End to End?

Can I really do it?

Yes, if you really want to and are prepared to commit some time and effort to planning and preparation.

If you are a regular leisure or club rider you will need little additional training, assuming you set yourself a manageable schedule to complete the ride. If however you are an armchair cyclist - one of the vast majority of people in the UK who owns a bike, but very rarely gets it out of the garage - then you will need to do some sensible training in order increase your cycling fitness and to give yourself a chance of enjoying the ride.

Land's End to John O'Groats in pictures

Setting off from Land's End, full of hope optimism and clean clothes... Only 1000 miles to go!
Setting off from Land's End, full of hope optimism and clean clothes... Only 1000 miles to go!
Mid way through our Land's End to John O'Groats cycle challenge...Dishevelled, and exhausted - crossing the border.  Who knew Scotland was so big?
Mid way through our Land's End to John O'Groats cycle challenge...Dishevelled, and exhausted - crossing the border. Who knew Scotland was so big?
Made it! John O'Groats, 1000 miles and 11 days later. Make sure you pack a good waterproof!
Made it! John O'Groats, 1000 miles and 11 days later. Make sure you pack a good waterproof!

How long will it take?

How long is a piece of string?

The current record for cycling from Land's End to John o'Groats was set by Gethin Butler in 2001 - a staggering 1 day, 20 hours, 4 minutes, 20 seconds. You can spend longer than that in a traffic jam on the M6.  However, I don't reckon he got to enjoy too much of the scenery, so you might want to choose a more leisurely pace.

The time it will take you will depend upon your route, your level of fitness and your mindset.  If you are looking to do it as a time trial, or to try to achieve your fastest possible time, a fit rider happy to eat on the move and rough it in a bivvy bag could get from one end to the other in 3 or 4 days.

However, if you want to turn a challenge into a holiday, allowing a fortnight is a more humane way to do it. 10-12 days of cycling and a couple of days slack for the unexpected, and to get yourself to and from the start and finish points. Look upon it as a healthy and more interesting version of your usual summer holiday. Believe me, you'll be dining out on your achievement for many years to come - and rightly so!

Can I cycle End to End with the kids?

Depends on your kids! Mine, age 7 and 8 are handy bike riders, well able to do 40+ miles on a one off ride. But would they really want to do that every day for 4 weeks? Or could they double it and do 80 miles a day - probably not, and even if they could, have I got the patience to coax and cajole them through the tougher windy wet and grinding sections when morale dips? Definitely not!

However, not everyone feels the same - to date the youngest known end to end cyclist is Bow Jango Cann aged seven and nine months who on the 21st July 2002 snatched the record from his older brother Capability Jack Cann aged eight who had earned the title on the same trip only ten seconds before! They did the trip in 22 days unaided using their own bikes, riding with their teenage sisters and their parents.

Cycling with kids can be fun...
Cycling with kids can be fun...
But would they really want to do it every day for three weeks?
But would they really want to do it every day for three weeks?

What training should I do?

Let's assume you are a moderately active occasional cyclist who wants to rise to the challenge.

Six months before you go

You need to build up to the longer rides over a period of time. Use this period to test out new equipment. Make sure you find a comfortable saddle, it's the most important part of a bicycle.

Two to Three months before you go:

A very broad ball park minimum training figure for the two or three months before you go, would be to do a ride of at least two-thirds the average daily distance, twice a week. So, if you are planning to ride a route of approximately 1000 miles over 10 days, your average daily ride will be 100miles, and you need to be riding over 66 miles in two separate rides each week.

You may find it helpful to do a few longer rides of the length of your longest planned day. This trains your body and your mind to the endurance aspect of the ride, and will help you psychologically to know that you can do it.

Remember. the idea is not just to build up your general fitness, but also to build up your 'saddle fitness' - that ability to get back on the bike for a sequence of rides. So even if you are very active in other sports and therefore have a good level of aerobic fitness, you need to put 'miles in the legs' to exercise cycle-specific muscle groups and to get used to your equipment and find a comfortable riding position.

What kit do I need?

Assuming you already have a bike, and have set it up comfortably with a suitable saddle - what else do you need?

There is a multitude of cycle specific kit available, some of it very sober, some of it weird and wacky. But as long as your aren't compromising technical properties why not have a Metallica bike jersey, or whatever takes your fancy. Lots of other bits and pieces to tempt you to part with your money - specialist footwear, armwarmers, legwarmers,underlayers, gloves, jerseys and waterproofs. Are they essential - no. Are they useful? Yes. Will they make your cycling experience more enjoyable? Yes. You figure out for yourself what price you want to put on that, and pitch your budget accordingly.The general rule of thumb is that you get what you pay for. Make sure what you buy fits properly and buy where possible from a dealer who will allow you to try before you buy and can offer advice.

Test out your kit during training, as different things work for different people. Here are few tips when choosing some essentials however:

  • Helmet - Some people are still devotees of the little cotton cap worn by vintage road racers. Others love the feel of the wind in their hair. Personally I love the feel of my head attached to my neck. Having clipped my husband's back wheel on our own End to End ride, just outside Inverness, and come round in the ambulance, I am an avid pro-helmet evangelist. i have split enough helmets to know that even a cat would have run out of lives were it to ride a bike like me. Get a good one with lots of venting to keep your head cool, and you will forget you are wearing it. Get it properly fitted, and wear it with the straps done up correctly. Go on. You know you should.
  • Cycling Shorts - Whatever other kit you buy you DO need proper cycling shorts to protect your nether regions. In fact you need several pairs in order to keep yourself clean and fresh. Proper cycling shorts have a padded insert for comfort, and are cut to resist riding up your leg in use, so they keep your thighs warm.
  • Waterproofs - yes, it will rain at some point, and a good waterproof will double as a wind proof even if it stays dry. If you can afford it go for lightweight and breathable. Anything that compromises on breathability will have you sweating buckets and you'll end up just as wet from the inside as you would have done from the rain.
  • Maps - Whilst1:50,000 is the perfect scale for walking and off-road cycling they are too detailed and bulky for a ride like this. Pages torn out of a good quality road atlas (1:200,000 or 1:250,000) may be a less bulky alternative. Maps are useless if they get wet, so think about spraying with Nikwax Map Proof Spray, buying maps ready laminated, or for the cheapskates amongst us (like me) - cover a page of atlas in sticky backed plastic on both sides, so that the plastic extends over the edge of the map and forms a seal.
  • Map Holder- not essential, but sooner or later you are going to want to navigate when on the move, when it is raining. You can buy a commercial map holder, use the transparent pocket on a handlebar bag or you can have a go at making your own. Zip-tying some Correx (corrugted plastic material used for some grocery boxes) to your handlebars is a good start. Attach your waterproofed map with bulldog clips or rubber bands to stop it flapping about.
  • Sunglasses - protect your eyes form the sun, and from the hazards of pollen, insects and airborne dirt.
  • Lights - better safe than sorry. Unless you are carrying all your gear and pitching a tent by the side of the road, you may find yourself running behind schedule and having to push on to your bed for the night after dark. Think light and light - maximum visibility minimum weight.
  • Puncture repair kit - you know it will happen. Make sure you know how to use it!

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Route planning

Traditionally the route is ridden from South to North. This has wags quipping that you are 'doing it all uphill', but it is the way that most frequently has the benefit of the prevailing winds.

Planning your own route is part of the pleasure of the tour. Unless you are trying to set a record, try to take in the most picturesque route, or the most historic, or combine it with friends or family you haven't seen in a while. We took 11 days, and only needed accommodation for three of those nights, thanks to the hospitality of people we knew across the UK. B&B, youth hostel or campsite, it's up to you, but do plan ahead if you are doing your ride during holiday periods. There is nothing more demoralising than aiming for a campsite and being turned away at the end of a long day in the saddle, knowing you have another 10 miles to ride to find the next one.

Oh, and on that note - pack some bike lights. LEDS are light and bright and won't take up much space, but they might just keep you safe and get you out of a tricky spot if something goes awry.

Good luck, and happy riding!


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    • profile image

      Pato 4 years ago

      I remember very fodlny the last time I was barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen..... I was in the kitchen of the place we were staying in Mauritius. :) But even though I keep scoring higher on the granola mum quiz that went round during my first pregnancy, I don't think you'll ever catch me mixing my own. I don't eat the stuff, you see. And thanks for a post that has at last had me use a dictionary to find out exactly what granola is, apart from the crunchy-mama meaning: baked muesli as far as I can tell, right? It's a North American term, I guess.

    • profile image

      miked1919@ 4 years ago

      Sounds like a terrific ride. I've cycled 130 miles in one day. I'd have to take off from work to do a ride like that. It would be worth it. It's my way to travel.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 7 years ago from USA

      I'm not a cyclist, but was intrigued by your trip and found the article fascinating! One thing I wondered is if there are separate bike trails on this route or if you share the road with motorists? In the U.S. we see so many cyclists on the roads, and as a motorist, I REALLY appreciate it when they wear reflective clothing and put lots of reflective tape on the little baby trailers. Some cyclists don't realize how hard it is to see them in dark clothing. It terrifies me to think of hitting somebody!

      Loved your hub! It makes me wish I had done this when I was younger.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 7 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Great article. Loving the old Saeco kit in your pics!

    • AndrewGee profile image

      AndrewGee 7 years ago

      Fantastic! just a couple of thoughts. There's a great free tracking program for blackberries and a load of other phones at (I am no affiliate - I just love the program!) to track your distances. i just started using it. I really agree about the helmet point - I haven't come off in years but to not have a helmet on feels as odd as not wearing a seatbelt these days. And here's something you didn't put in your hub which i only discovered a few months don't wear underwear with your cycling shorts: they are your underwear...otherwise the pad doesn't drag the sweat away to keep you fresh! Thanks loads for such a thorough hub.

    • toneyahuja profile image

      toneyahuja 7 years ago from India

      Thanks for a good article. Indoor training has become a key feature of my fitness programs but I must say I initially found it hard work to stay motivated and last a 30 min session without becoming bored. I love turbo trainer. But after upgrading to a Tacx Flow and using their training programmers which are on the Tacx web page I no longer battle with boredom.

    • profile image

      Tim Clay 7 years ago

      I am doing it next year but from JOG to LE. There appears to be some good guide books for LE to JOG but not the other way round. ANybody know of any?

    • ILoveCycling profile image

      ILoveCycling 7 years ago from Australia

      Love this hub - this is my type of thing!

    • profile image

      Kate James 7 years ago

      Well done on completing the ride. I am a 17 year old girl considering doing this in the summer of 2011 as it is my break between finishing school and starting university. At the moment I am unsure of who to get to go with me as the thought of doing it on my own is a bit daunting and also i would need to find a way of raising money both to fund the expedition and to raise money for charity (I also still have a list of 3 charities I would like to help but will wait for my still-to-be-found partners opinion on this). Does anyone have any suggestions on how to raise money/ get a sponsorship of some kind to cover our own cost so that any money we do raise can all go to charity??

    • duncanlauder profile image

      duncanlauder 7 years ago from South Eastern PA


      Congratulations on that achievement!

      I'm a first generation American (Brit family) and have been to John O' Groats as well as Lands End (via car!).

      I'm also an avid cyclist and former racer. I think you have given me a new goal to add to the list.

      Well done by you on this hub and the ride.

    • profile image

      Stuart 8 years ago

      I rode the other way, i.e. a JOGLE a couple of years ago and like you I am still proud of it. It might not be the longest bike ride in the world but for us Brits its the one ride that every cyclist plans to do.

      Thank you for a great article. Even though there is lots of information out there nowadays, when you decide to ride from Lands End to John o Groats or the other way it feels like an adventure and I remember from my time trying to find out as much as possible before I left.


    • Marie Dwivkidz profile image

      Marie Dwivkidz 8 years ago from UK

      Leon, So sorry to hear of your loss - what a motivation that must be and what fantastic causes to be riding for. Very best of luck with the ride - I am sure it will be a very memorable journey.

    • profile image

      Leon Upton 8 years ago

      i will be ridding the journey end to end in april 2010 for help for heros and the Army benevolent fund and what motivates me is the loss of my brother Paul in Afghanistan in Feb 2009 when we were both out there together. There will be 8 riders with 3 of us completeing the full journey and the rest will relay. I am so looking forward to it and thankyou for the tips keep them coming.

    • china ccycle profile image

      china ccycle 8 years ago from beijing

      Cyclist or individuals regardless of race in the team competition, the correct line to use with Juji technology, is to strive for victory in a major factor. This is because the players riding with the others behind, they can break through the help of players in front of the vortex generated by air resistance, push the car forward, and thus to reduce their own physical consumption. Ju Ji-line technology with the essentials:

      The first is to shorten the distance with the car in front in order to not affect the line of sight, easy to observe the road ahead is better. Road cycling, following distance is usually in the 15 - 30 centimeters long. At the same time pay attention to wind direction and speed. Wind from the front ushered in, one person should receive ride, others line up single file behind, followed by the first car on the left side or right side 15 - 30 centimeters. Wind from the left to be with the first vehicle on the right rear; the wind from the right to be left behind with the previous car. If the crosswind greater distance should be close to follow the vehicle in front; if crosswind is small, to follow the vehicle in front can be a little farther the distance. In the downhill ride to the next to open more, turning a corner slightly backwards in order to avoid accidents.

      Juji row with the head slightly raised, eyes, face up to the front, peripheral vision can see the vehicle in front of the rear wheel. If it is to bow their heads to see his front wheel, once appeared in front of obstacles, there is the risk of falls. Of course, in team events, the traffic stop, the road flat, bow momentarily riding, so that the neck muscles to relax is also permitted.

      Juji line is easy with the two vehicles collided, most of them behind the front car hit the vehicle in front of the rear wheel to lose balance and fall. There are two vehicles collided, the mind should be calm, in front of the athletes to continue to steadily move forward behind the athletes not to brake, as long as you can slow down a little. If the left hit the vehicle in front should be distorted to the right body and the car together at the same time will turn to the right, so that you can gradually separate the two vehicles. If the right side collision can be to the left side to do the same action.

      To master skillful techniques with the vehicle in addition to specialized training, but also through the training in each lesson. To start training with the car, following distance can be a little farther away from 30 - 50 cm, with the increase in cycling technology, and continuously shortening the distance with the car until the 15 - 30 cm. From the two exercises with a gradual transition to three, four with the practice. At the same time, we should get rid of specialized training after the technology crash before they occur.

      Strengthen the athletes parade car skills training in a variety of complex situations to improve the resilience, is a positive way to prevent falls. Because the characteristics of cycling, in the intense training and competition collisions occur at any time, fall and so on. Athletes face falls, we should calm, cool, do not be afraid, do not let go too early, it can not close our eyes and wait passively fall. In the body about to touch the ground, the feet should be withdrawn rapidly from Socks, we need to protect the head, shoulders and back with a sense of the way for roll movements, reducing the degree falls.

      welcome to my blog:

    • Marie Dwivkidz profile image

      Marie Dwivkidz 8 years ago from UK

      Cycling is a great activity ccycle. Hope you carry on enjoying it! Thanks for stopping by.

    • ccycle profile image

      ccycle 8 years ago from beijing

      Feel good, I also like cycling, you have the opportunity to share, please contact me, thank you.

    • Marie Dwivkidz profile image

      Marie Dwivkidz 8 years ago from UK

      Thanks culinary caveman! Riding Lands End to John O Groats is a fantastic adventure, and one of the things I am most proud of!

    • culinarycaveman profile image

      culinarycaveman 8 years ago from Dem Woods, Sussex, England

      Great read. One of the things I would love to do, good on you.

    • profile image

      Sports bikes 8 years ago

      I love sports bikes

    • Marie Dwivkidz profile image

      Marie Dwivkidz 8 years ago from UK

      Thanks Nick-Martin. Hope it inspires you to great things! I'm sure you could do it if you set your mind to it and set out to do it at your own pace stuart747. the nice thing about a self-organised ride like this is that you can go at your own pace and do it as anything between a race and a holiday!

    • stuart747 profile image

      stuart747 8 years ago from Colchester, Essex, UK

      a good hub but i doubt i would be fit enough for such a ride

    • Nick-Martin profile image

      Nick-Martin 8 years ago from Guildford


    • Marie Dwivkidz profile image

      Marie Dwivkidz 9 years ago from UK

      Thanks badcompany99. One of those things that is perhaps more enjoyable in the retelling than it was at times during the doing - but overall a fantastic experience. I hope others give it a go!


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