To the edge and back

Thanks to the weather, my inherent laziness and many other weak excuses, I’m yet to do any multi-day light weight tours and I figure the coming bank holiday presents my final opportunity to do so before the Transcon.

I’ve decided, somewhat loosely, on heading down to Land’s End and back. Why Land’s End? Why not… From my base in Epsom, it’s the furthest point in England I can realistically reach and get back from over the space of the three days.Perhaps cycling up to John O’Groats and taking a plane/train back would be more impressive, but I like the poetry of circular routes more than point to point. Either way, I quite like the idea of riding to the edge of England.

A mini tour is the perfect opportunity to test my TCR kit (minus the parts yet to arrive…) in field conditions and get some insight on what might need tweaking ahead of July the 30th. But how realistic to make this trip? I’m hoping to nail around 400km per day in the main event, but want some flexibility over the coming weekend… while at the same time, knowing a part of me will want to try to keep riding until I fall off the bike too exhausted to pedal. I’ve settled on about 1,000km as a compromise – it’s a manageable daily distance if I keep myself in check, but equally not an insurmountable challenge to get home if I go off the rails and ride straight to Land’s End without breaks and need some time to recover.

There’s also the question of climbing… in my somewhat anal quest to quantify the race, I’ve worked out the climbing ratios of each segment of my route. Switzerland/Italy and Bosnia/Montenegro/Kosovo are going to hurt, with absurd amounts of climbing over very short distances. How much climbing should I throw into my tour to test my conditioning… do the South West’s bumps really compare to Alpine climbing? There are enough lumps en-route to Land’s End that I hardly have to try to bulk up the climbing, but there are options to lay it on really thick. My draft route out is absurdly lumpy, with an easier return… this might change as the date gets closer and nerves outweigh optimism.

route profile

Next – to bivy or not to bivy? On the one hand, it’s finally warming up and a couple of nights under the stars will be good practice (and based on my last experience I’ve invested in an emergency foil blanket). On the other hand, Travelodges (other discount chains are available) offer an opportunity to get properly cleaned up and a better night’s rest… and there’s no point suffering for the sake of suffering. I’m pretty keen to head down the bivy route, but think I’ll need to make a point of having my route regularly pass near as many budget chains as possible so the option is there.

There’s also the question of missing kit – so far my dynamo wheel is yet to arrive and my gearing is limited to 11-28 (I’ve just put a new chain on, so my inner miser won’t let me switch it out for the weekend and I was hoping not to have to pick up the medium cage derailleur until July). I’m not too worried about the gearing to be honest – train hard, race easy – but not being able to set up my dynamo system means no testing the lighting or charging. This is the area that seems to go wrong for most people and I can see myself careening down a similar path. That said, I do have the brick-like battery of endless power and long-lasting lights, so perhaps it’s just as well that they’re being tested ahead of potentially being called into service at the last minute.

I guess the most important part is to make sure it’s fun. My training keeps going off the boil when I reduce the fun in the name of training, so I’ve thrown in some of the best sights I could sensibly stitch together and plenty of coast lines. My TCR route will be endlessly dull in the name of speed and efficiency, so there’s plenty of time to be bored this summer (I jest… I think).

I’ll finish planning during the week, but I wanted a commitment in writing before I talk myself out of it. I’ve already found myself looking into Everesting and other fun, but ultimately not beneficial ways to spend the long weekend, so this seems the only way to force some self-control. I may even see if I can rope in anyone else to join me for the out or return leg as a little extra incentive… preferably someone taller, wider and significantly faster than me who doesn’t mind sitting on the front for hours on end…

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