- New Zealand
- The Queen Charlotte TrackMountain biking the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds
- History on the Heaphy
- Suppressing the Competitive UrgeMountain biking in Malborough
- Northern ExposureMountian biking the Coromandel
- Hurunui Hot SpringsWinter mountain biking to Hurunui Hut in the Lake Sumner Forest Park.
- Craigieburn Conservation ParkMountain Biking Craigieburn
- The Brevet ClubGuy and Laurence recount the suffering and intrigue of the inaugural Kiwi Brevet... a 1100km mountain bike race around the top half of the South Island over six days. Informal with self-enforced rules, no entry fee, unsupported, and... well, hard.
- Wharfedale TrackThis is arguably the best and longest stretch of single track in Canterbury
- Double FencelineThis classic trip snakes along the summit ridge of Banks Peninsula.
- One Night StandsOvernight mountain biking trips in the South Island
- Fool's GoldMountain biking in Central Otago
- All that Glistens... the Croesus and Moonlight Gold TrailsMountain biking on the South Island's West Coast
- Otago GoldMountain biking - Bannockburn, Central Otago
- Loop de LoopGreat mountain biking can be found in most corners of this flat earth and New Zealand boasts its fair share of classics.
- Magnetic WestMulti-day mountain biking, Kaikoura to the Tasman sea
- Romping Round the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough
- Rambling Around the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough, Arapawa and D'Urville Islands
- Off the Beaten Track An off road traverse of the South Island on mountain bikes
- At Peace with PureoraMountain biking around the Pureora Forest in the Central North Island
- Taranaki for NeophytesMountain biking in Taranaki
- South Pacific
- West meets EastAfter riding all morning through the tail of a typhoon, we didn't want to slosh into a Japanese restaurant in that state. I tried drying out by standing under the vent outside the kitchen. I got no drier, but now I smelled of noodles...
- Tien Shan TraverseWhat do you do in the middle of the mountains when two large, thuggish Chinese men get out of a car and stride purposefully towards you? You smile and say thank you for the stale bread and peaches they are offering you!
- One Gear, One Continent, One Hero.Hero Cycles is the world's largest manufacturer of bikes, spitting out a whopping six million a year. You're unlikely to find one at your local bike shop but as any seasoned traveller can attest, they are the 'people's car' of India.
- Laid-back LaosMountain bike touring in Laos
- The Road to MandalayCycle touring in Myanmar
- Vietnam on Thirty Dollars a DayCycle touring in Vietnam
- A Short Ride in the Hindu Kush Cycle touring in Pakistan
- On a Wheel and a Prayer FlagCycle touring in Tibet
- Shanti Shanti - Across the Himalaya by BikeCycling across the Himalayas
- Biking the Hidden HimalayaCycle touring in North West India
- Pedalling Patagonia"Wow! Amazing! You're cycling to the bottom of South America. Is it all downhill?" Alan and I looked at each other in amusement and suggested that we expected a few uphill sections.
- Cycling Cuba with Fidel and Ché
- Dirt Roading in Colombia'The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay', promises Colombia's latest tourist advertising slogan, printed over glossy photos of idyllic Caribbean coastlines, perfectly preserved colonial towns, rolling, lush coffee plantations and a Latin couple dancing hot cumbia.
- Famous Potato Recipes from Idaho
- My Private Idaho
- Donde Estan Los Pollos
- Alaska - the Last Frontier The Alaskan Iditasport Human Powered Ultramarathon
- In Search of Maple Syrup and a Decent National Anthem Mountain biking in Canada
- All You Can EatMountain Biking in Northern California
- Caffeine and Singletrack in the USA Mountain biking in South West Colorado
- Bici Dolomiti Cycle touring around Italy and the Dolomites
- A Slice of Swiss CheeseMountain biking in Switzerland
- London Calling The London Cycle Show
- Stairway to Heaven - biking Spain's Camino de SantiagoCycle touring in Spain
- Albania for BeginnersIn the summer of 2009, our route from Greece to Germany crossed the small country of Albania...
- Fat Tyre Touring in ItalyCycle touring through Italy.
- Corsica- touring the scented isleCycling in the Mediterranean
- A Scottish Coast to CoastCycle touring in Scotland
- Crouching Tiger - Cycling Ireland's South West Coast Cycling Ireland's South West Coast
- The Italian Job Mountain biking around Lake Garda
- Double DutchA cycle tour of the Netherlands.
- A Rather Big Swedish RaceMountain bike racing in Sweden
- French ConnectionCircumnavigating Mont Blanc on the "Sentier Pedestre" hiking trail.
- A Month in Provence Cycle touring in the South of France
- A French PilgrimageTouring with the Tour de France
- End to End, the Long WayCycle touring in Great Britain
- Steve's SabbaticalCycle touring in France
End to End, the Long Way
Kevin Hague, UnderGround Issue 40 August 2004
Updated 29 June 2011John O'Groats is a miserable place - relentlessly punished by cruel Arctic winds. It's literally miles from anywhere and it has taken us a full day to ride here through undulating, featureless agricultural land. Its claim to fame is being mainland Great Britain's northern-most point, although technically that honour belongs to a little bay a mile to the east. Our original intention was to ride the extra smidgen and cap off our trip with a skinny dip in the North Atlantic. We cop out and instead persuade a passer-by to take a snap of us in front of the obvious sign. Tacky 'End to End' souvenirs abound, trumpeting the distance from Land's End to John O'Groats as 874 miles. The problem is we've just ridden more than twice that distance and none of these bagpipe fridge magnets will do.
Land's End. It's important to know that it costs a small fortune (well $20ish) to get your photo taken by the sign. But if you're on a bike you can always get in before they officially open at around 7.30am. Commandeer a passing tourist, as we did and say 'cheese'.
When we planned this ride, the challenge was always what to leave out. Britain claims a diverse array of history, architecture, scenery and culture. We wanted to see and do everything. Some things were fixed - like location of hospitable relatives and our end points - but other than that we just picked the most interesting route that we could pack into the six weeks. As gentlemen tourists we've previously settled on a formula to average about 70km a day, with every third or fourth day being one of rest. Thus our six weeks translated into 33 days of pedalling.
We rode up through Cornwall and Devon, diagonally through Wales to the Isle of Anglesey, back across to Chester, then drifted south east before turning north again and tackling the Peak District, Pennines and Yorkshire Dales - crossing the border into Scotland near Carlisle. From there we hit Edinburgh, headed across to Glasgow, north into the Highlands, west to Fort William and up the Great Glen (Loch Ness and all that) to Inverness before the final push to the North Coast. On several occasions during the journey we noted (our surprise was itself surprising) that our route was quite probably the hilliest possible between our two end points. Cycling companions sometimes tire of the optimism I bring to ride planning. My contention that "Britain is part of an old continent and therefore worn flat" proved to be both unhelpful and inaccurate. Certainly there's nothing we would mistake for a mountain, but the hills are numerous and steep. Coastal Cornwall and Devon have many hills with a gradient in excess of 25%.
People were puzzled that, unlike most on this trail, we were doing this for fun rather than attempting to raise cash for a worthy charity. Although the attraction of the 'charity ride program' soon became evident when we met our first fellow cyclists and were dazzled by their spanky sponsored kit. The basic 'End to End' ride is an icon of British cycling. You can easily dig up suggested routes and accounts of others' journeys. The Cyclists' Touring Club has been around since 1878 (current President is Phil Liggett, voice of Le Tour) and has three suggested routes based on the type of accommodation you're after. Membership of the club is quite expensive but does entitle you to some discounts along the way. We didn't end up using their routes much, instead stitching together some rides from Lonely Planet Cycling Britain (highly recommended) and the Sustrans network.
Sustrans was formed in 1978 with the aim of developing a network of bike paths and safe cycling roads throughout Britain. Steady progress received a quantum boost in 2000, when they received a massive £43.5 million grant from Britain's Millennium Commission to develop the National Cycle Network. The network now criss-crosses Britain and comprises many thousands of miles of very quiet, low traffic roads, larger roads with bike paths, paths with separate lanes for bikes and pedestrians, canal towpaths and decommissioned rail corridors. Simply put, it's brilliant and unsurprisingly is gigantically popular. For much of the network there are no specific maps so you need to watch out for the small and sometimes ambiguous road signs. Sustrans does however produce superbly detailed and clear maps for some of the iconic sections - such as Lon Las Cymru which we followed through Wales. The maps were expensive and only useful for some sections but well worth the investment.
One drawback of the Sustrans routes, and in fact cycling outside of the large population centres generally, is that the towns and villages en route inevitably have only limited accommodation options. We had expected to combine camping with backpackers' hostels, but found virtually nowhere to camp and only one or two of the more tourist-oriented places to provide backpacker type lodging. Youth hostels were of the type now long vanished in New Zealand-hostel closed on Tuesday; hostel booked out by school party on nature study; hostel closed during the day to 'encourage' you to explore the area. Pub accommodation was the alternative and had obvious benefits that we took full advantage of at the end of a tough day's toil. We also hit a few Bed 'n' Breakfast joints. All very comfortable but it blew out the food and lodging budget.
The British people were constantly telling us how unfriendly the British are. We found the opposite to be true and were humbled by the overwhelming kindness dished out to us. With only a few exceptions British drivers were patient and considerate- so different from what we encounter at home. We found Britain to be charming, interesting (church where King Arthur's head is buried, anyone?) and a huge amount of fun. Kiwis stuck with the picture of a country buried in urban decay are in for a pleasant shock- outside of the cities it really is stunningly beautiful and the Sustrans network makes it a cycle tourists' dream.
The Nitty Gritty> Good maps are essential. We used Ordnance Survey Travel Maps (1:250,000), augmented by the Sustrans maps and more detailed maps of areas like the Yorkshire Dales.
> www.sustrans.org.uk lets you suss out routes and order maps.
> The closest railway station to Land's End is Penzance and for John O'Groats hop off at Thurso.
> With Ken Livingstone's traffic congestion charge, central London is actually quite pleasant to ride a bike around.
> Wales is compulsory.
> Highland midges are voracious and painful - it's probably best not to buy a kilt and roam the hillsides yelling "Freedom".
> Britain still hasn't learnt coffee. There are signs of improvement but barista skills are in precariously short supply- epitomised by the café where the espresso machine was fuelled with instant coffee granules.