Team Lee John O’Groats to Land’s End (JOGLE) 2022
20th to 27th May 2022
Report – Kim Lee
1,406km (874 miles)
12,800m (42,000ft) elevation gain
Sometimes the stars align and you just have to jump at the opportunity that appears in front of you.
Joe was asked to be support driver for a World Record Attempt for a 7-seater conference bike from John O’Groats to Land’s End (Team Magnificent Seven). All to raise money for Cyclists Fighting Cancer.
Most people have not heard of such a contraption, so for more information check out the CFC website: https://www.cyclistsfc.org.uk/magnificent7.php
Joe cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats back in 2018, with our eldest son and I as support crew. I was heavily pregnant with our middle son at the time. Despite this cycle challenge being on my bucket list for many years, I remember thinking “wow, this challenge is relentless, there is just no way I could ever do this!”.
So fast-forward to 2022 and I realise this was my opportunity to give this ridiculous challenge a crack for myself. I could grab a lift to the start at John O’Groats. Then set off a day ahead of them, cycling solo and unsupported to Land’s End. Worst case scenario was that if I had any issues, I just had to stay put for 24hrs until they reach me. Plus I’d be heading South, so it’s downhill, right?!
I shared my plans with Joe and he gave me that look of “you’re an absolute nutter”, but never actually said that. Instead, he helped me to make sure I gave this opportunity my best shot.
His look stuck with me as the reality check I needed, plus a motivational tool. After all, anything he can do, I’m pretty sure I can do better. I checked how long it took him in 2018 – 9 days- and started working on my plan to finish in 8!
When checking if I could get time off from work, it turned out that I’d accidentally booked time off for that week already. It was meant to be!
With childcare logistics sorted, thanks to Joe’s parents stepping in to look after our 3 boys, it was time to set the wheels in motion.
I mentioned it to very few people until closer to departure, mainly due to fear of failure.
I’ve done back-to-back days of cycle training in the lead up but could not predict how this adventure would pan out. I needed to average in excess of 110 miles a day to pull this off. I hadn’t even cycled that far in one go before.
Vicky Sharpe immediately leapt at the opportunity for a cycling adventure in Scotland, joining me from John O’Groats to Edinburgh. The one and only time we have cycled together before this was completing the CFC Bakers Dozen, a 13-hill cycle challenge, so I knew she could handle the hills and the distance.
We set off together for 2 hours of riding from John O’Groats on Friday 20th May. Overcast, cold, drizzly and windy. Turns out that was pretty much the weather for the whole time, with a slight variation of being windier and wetter from time to time.
The first evening involved a sheep rescue, after I spotted a cast sheep in the field, stuck on her side with two young lambs. The rest of the time we were admiring the highland cattle and stunning Scottish scenery.
After about 40k of cycling, Joe and his friend and co-driver, James Pecksen, delivered us our fish and chip dinner as they picked us up in the van and we headed to our first night’s accommodation. So far so good.
The next morning we were up and out early, with Joe and James dropping us back to the same point. They then headed off to the meet the guys they would be supporting for the 7-seater World Record attempt.
All laden up with our bags, we set off for 2 back-to-back 120-mile cycling days. The next time I would see Joe would be at the far end of Cornwall.
Vicky and I had an absolute blast. Mostly laughing at the ridiculous situations we found ourselves in:
- finding it harder to cycle downhill than uphill due to the headwind,
- Arriving at hostel accommodation in Aviemore to find no electric sockets working,
- Sneaking our bikes into said accommodation, only to realise they needed to be carried up the stairs to the second floor,
- Arriving at the pub next door to be told they wouldn’t serve us food because they were fully booked, even though we had found a free table,
- Cycling along the Cairngorms cycle path in breathtaking headwind and heavy rain, freezing cold, but still loving every minute
- Ending up in very swanky lunch and dinner stops, despite aiming for a cheap weekend. We ended up eating and drinking very well, but looked completely out of place in our sweaty cycle gear and with our windswept look.
- Sneaking our bikes into the Holiday Inn in Edinburgh, only to discover the lift was designed for 6 people max, so the logistics for getting 2 bikes in was like the Krypton Factor but we managed it,
- Debating who was buying the round of drinks at the Holiday Inn (we both wanted to treat each other as a thank you) only to be told we could have them for free . . . They didn’t know how to put 2 glasses of milk through the till.
As Vicky headed back home on the train from Edinburgh on Monday morning, I set off across Scotland towards England. I discovered that the wind farms either side of the route were perfectly positioned. That headwind was relentless and stuck with me throughout my adventure.
It’s fascinating how your body gets into a rhythm and the hours and miles soon tick by. After covering c120 miles each day with Vicky, I figured I’d try to maintain that for the rest of the time.
Vicky would stay in touch and messaged each morning with “what’s the target for today?”. I definitely appreciated that focus, and stayed committed to my response. By early afternoon each day, I’d do a little research and book my accommodation for that night.
I stayed in Penrith, Whitchurch, Gloucester and Okehampton, mostly through Bookings.com or AirBnB. I realised that remote places were much better for a great night sleep.
I’d done a lot of the route planning beforehand, but each evening I spent about an hour checking and tweaking the following days route. Such as working out where I could get to, checking the roads. Some roads were too remote, some were too busy, so it was about finding the right balance for speed and safety.
Any lows were always linked to fuelling. I tried to support local cafes and shops, but frequently ended up in a Costa or chain store due to the opening times or convenience. If I left it too long between snacks or proper meals, then it definitely took its toll.
I also got to repair my first puncture. Previously, when I’ve had a puncture I would just give Joe a call and ask him to bring a spare wheel for a quick change. This time there was no such easy option. I’d turned down Joe’s offer of puncture-repair training before the trip – how hard could it be?! I surprised myself with my decent repair in a fairly quick time. However, then headed straight to the nearest bike shop, Evans Cycles in Preston, so they could check my handiwork and give my bike a good clean after the bad weather through Scotland. Like everyone I had encountered so far, they were incredibly helpful and went above and beyond to get me on my way again as quickly as possible.
On my last day, I’d set off from a remote dairy farm near Okehampton in glorious sunshine, which was a first.
My absolute highlight was reaching St Michael’s Mount at 7.30pm on Friday 27th May. Not only a stunning view out over to the end of Cornwall but also the realisation that I had time to get to Land’s End for sunset. I had no snacks left, very little water and about 5% phone battery, but I was determined to get there.
I powered up the last couple of hills – I’d already done 8 big climbs that day, what’s another couple!
I reached Land’s End at 8.34pm, perfectly timed for a sunset photoshoot . . . after I had composed myself of course.
I was very emotional cycling into Land’s End – proud of what I achieved, amazed that I had cycled that distance, and chuffed to bits that I had finally beaten Joe at something!
I’d averaged over 120 miles a day of cycling for 7 days.
At that point, I realised I’d been so focused on the finish line, I had not factored in the logistics afterwards. I jumped into the Land’s End Hotel to grab a hot drink and charge my phone, then discovered Joe was not due to reach Land’s End until the following morning.
Panic booking the nearest accommodation, I stumbled across a room available through AirBnB and met the loveliest couple. Let’s just say that I must have turned up looking quite a state (in the pitch black by that point) – they couldn’t do enough for me and even made me dinner.
I then got to do the emotional finish all over again with Joe and The Magnificent Seven the following morning.
Joe’s week had panned out just as challenging as mine, if not more so. To break the World record for the 7-seater conference bike, there were two teams of seven that rotated on 8 hour shifts. The idea was to keep the bike moving non-stop 24/7, subject to mechanical breakdowns (there were plenty), being stopped by the police (helpful encounters to make sure they were safe), team change-overs, and the odd leg stretch, comfort break, and in town centres for fundraising. Joe and James were taking shifts driving the CFC van behind the bike to alert other road users. They gave directions to the team on the bike, risk-assessed different scenarios, organised repairs, helped keep the teams fed and hydrated, and did what they could to keep the team upbeat.
An intense week, with very little sleep and challenging weather to compete with throughout. Joe also jumped on the bike to pedal for the last hour or so of a shift, or whenever the teams look like the fatigue was setting in.
On the morning of Saturday 28th May at sunrise, I cycled out to find Joe and the team. I met the team for the first time and rode alongside them, chatting to them for the last 5k of their journey.
As they flew down into Land’s End and over the finish, everyone was in tears. It was incredibly emotional to see what it meant to them and their supporters.
With an unofficial time of 5 days, 21 hours and 11 minutes Team Magnificent Seven absolutely obliterated the current John O’Groats to Land’s End on a seven seat conference bike record!!
That’s 860 miles at an average of just over 6 miles per hour (for 24 hours a day) with a top speed just shy of 40mph.
They raised over £20,000 for Cyclists Fighting Cancer, which all goes to providing adapted bikes and trikes for kids living with cancer.
I also set up a fundraising page for CFC, so appreciate your support if you are able to donate: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kim-leejogle