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Let’s go all the way – aaaaaaargh! – let’s go all the way

A problem shared is a problem halved, and Tass is hoping it’s the same for her worries about completing the Deloitte Ride Across Britain…

I’ve always wanted to ride from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. It’s a classic cycling challenge, isn’t it? A must-do. One to tick off your bucket list. So I decided, this year, I was going to sign up for the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.

I’ve done some big rides in the past, including a few 100-milers (okay, two), but I’m 51 and I really don’t ride as much as I should. What tempted me to even consider the RAB this year was the fact that, for the first time, you have the option of riding just the England leg, or just the Scottish leg, and completing the other half next year (as reported here). Spread the effort, spread the cost, spread the dog-sitting difficulties…

Except… I began wondering what it would be like on that sixth morning, waving off the group of riders you’ve made friends with over the previous five days; watching them leave without you, working their way towards that achievement of riding from the bottom of the UK to the top without a 12-month break in the middle. And I thought, how hard can it be?

Nine days of 100-plus miles!! Who am I kidding?

I know it’s going to be amazing; I’ve read people’s comments on the RAB website. The food is meant to be delicious, the support top-notch, the facilities first class – the showers are hot and there’s even a pub for goodness’ sake! I know I’m going to get lots of help and advice beforehand with training and nutrition, and people who’ve never cycled before in their lives have completed it… Some have ridden it more than once… It’s life-changing, the best thing they’ve ever done… 

But even though I know I’ll feel the same (fingers, toes, eyes crossed), and the FAQs on the RAB website do address many of my concerns, that doesn’t stop me lying awake in the small hours wondering what we’ll do when the car doesn’t start and we miss the train to Land’s End and even if we do get there our bikes will have gone missing and even if they haven’t I won’t be able to find my tent after getting up in the middle of the night and then I won’t be able to wake up in the morning because I couldn’t get to sleep until 4am and…

Enough! I know that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and if that applies to worries too then by sharing them here they’ll all go away… And I’m hoping some of you might be able to offer advice – for me, and others who might be doing the same four-in-the-morning fretting.

So here goes. Tass’s RAB worries. In no particular order; a bit like how they are in the small hours…

1. Toilets - I’ll start with the basics. Each day will start quite early. Which means getting up early, breakfasting early, and… Please, please, pre-ride not mid-ride…

2. Legs - Yes, there are months to train. And yes, I’ve ridden 100 miles in a day on at least two occasions. But they weren’t consecutive days (they weren’t even consecutive years!). Will my legs/bum/arms/hands/feet be able to cope with nine days?

3. Sleeping/not sleeping - I’m quite a light sleeper. I’ve yet to find earplugs that a) stay in my ears all night, and b) fully drown out my other half’s snoring. I’ve seen how close the tents are laid out – and he’s coming too.

4. Camping - Okay, this is just like 1 and 3 combined. We did camping with the kids when they were little, but I haven’t slept under canvas for eight years. Not since the badger came in the tent. And I’d insisted we have our own Porta Potty in the tent, just as reassurance…

5. Midges - I have a bit of a phobia about bitey flying insects, and I imagine there might be some slow bits in the Highlands where we’ll come under attack. Incentive to ride faster, perhaps, but I have been known to throw things and scream. (Maybe that’s allowed.)

6. Getting left behind - Despite there being a ‘10-12mph’ group, which is (very slightly) slower than my average, I’m just not sure whether my average will last for nine days…

And that just leaves… oh, choosing the wrong clothes, bad weather, unfixable bike mechanicals, injury pre-ride, missing the train, failing to get a dog sitter… 

Any words of reassurance will be gratefully received. In the meantime, I’d better get training… and I’ll let you know how it goes over the coming months.

Tass is our production pedant, who boldly goes hunting for split infinitives, rogue apostrophes and other things up with which she will not put. She joined in 2015 but first began working on bike magazines way back in 1991 as production editor on Mountain Biking UK, then deputy editor of MTB Pro, before changing allegiance to road cycling as senior production editor on Cycling Plus. She's ridden off-road but much prefers on, hasn't done half the touring she'd like to, and loves paper maps.

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peted76 | 7 years ago

Best of luck Tass, it'll be fantastic! 


psling | 7 years ago

Good advice above, especially this:

" Use copious amounts of chamois cream each day and apply to your body and the shorts - if you don't feel uncomfortable walking afterwards - you haven't put on enough. After showering at the end of the ride, put on Sudocrem and then again when you go to bed."

A lot of people advise Sudocreme or similar while actually riding but it forms a barrier which can inhibit sweating; use a chamois cream riding, sudocreme after.

As well as building up mileage to some long rides before the event as advised above, put together some multi-day (2 day or 3 day) rides too - doesn't have to be mega mileage initially, just familiarising yourself to getting on the bike on consecutive days.


Good luck with it all.

Tass Whitby | 7 years ago

Thank you for the amazingly comprehensive advice everyone! I know it might be tame in comparison to some adventures (like VecchioJo doing the Transcontinental maybe -, but it's pretty daunting to me, so your encouraging words are very much appreciated.

davidw07 | 7 years ago

Having done Deloitte RAB five times (a record with one other in 2015), hopefully my comments will help.

Firstly, let me say you won't regret it - an amazing event, amazingly well organised. And don't worry about age, I did my first when I was 58 and didn't have a road bike when I entered, and 63 when I did the last (the oldest person to finish so far was 72 I beleive)

So - in order ...

1) Toilets - yes, if your body clock is set to first thing in the morning, there are often queues.  However, the number of toilets is good and being female puts you at an advantage. There are always toilets at each pit stop, although they maybe of the portaloo chemical kind and again,  there is often a queue. On the road, being female puts you at a disadvantage undoubtably, but  look out for good public toilets in town centres or visitor attractions.

2)Legs etc - stating the bleeding obvious, you will need to train, train and train. When you entered you should have received training plans for different abilities. They are difficult to stick to to the letter, but if you are able to follow 75 - 80% you will be fine. Get used to hills, there are some nasty ones. If you don't train on hills because of where you live  - find some. Bums generally are the most fragile bits of the anatomy , followed by knees. With regard the former, my advice is as follows. Train in all of the shorts you will be wearing on the ride and for at least three months beforehand. Find a saddle you like and stick to it for all your training. Never buy a new saddle or shorts for the ride. Use copious amounts of chamois cream each day and apply to your body and the shorts - if you don't feel uncomfortable walking afterwards - you haven't put on enough. After showering at the end of the ride, put on Sudocrem and then again when you go to bed.

3&4) Camping and Sleeping There now is the option of sleeping in hotels, but is expensive and although it has its attraction, I think the logisitcs and faffing about getting to them and back, outweigh the benefits. However, do not underestimate the  amout of noise transference there is between tents - it is incredible and considerable. If you are a light sleeper, I suggest you spend time, effort and  money on finding earplugs that work for you. With regard to nightime ablutions, you will really not want to go wandering about in the middle of the night. I found a solution in something called a Travel John. Basically a bag of chemicals you pee into. They say they are suitable for women, but you might need to practice! Although I believe there are female equivalents

5) Midges You are most at risk from midges at the Base Camp Day8/9 (Kyle of Sutherland) and the Day 9 ride. The Avon moisturiser is always thrown up, it might work, although it might also be a rural myth. I have used a good deet based repellant and a small battery powered repellant thingy for the tent and have never been bitten.

6)Getting Left Behind You have the choice of riding with a chaperone led group to suit your average speed. If you do that they will never abandon you. I always tended to ride alone - it suited me. Even so, there are unattached chaperones who will keep an eye on anybody who might be suffering. And of course there is the dreaded broom waggon which picks up the real stragglers - but of course you will never need that.

Hope this helps - always happy to answer any other questions you may have.

PS If you want to read a novel based upon the ride please see my book, It's all Down Hill, on Amazon

The plot is far from reality, but the setting and background are not.



tritecommentbot | 7 years ago

Good luck, rooting for you!

(funnily enough in Australian slang rooting means something quite naughty. You can share that at the pub on the RAB)

d_jp | 7 years ago

Sounds like it will be amazing! laugh

You've got good advice already on the riding side, my tip for sharing with someone who snores (I used this when I was skiing with a group & somone else in the group was really loud...) is to use some "in ear" type headphones & sleep in those (I got a fairly cheap pair that I use, they were about £15, but you can get even cheaper) as they're designed to stay in when you're moving around so hopefully that will work for you - get some with alternative "outers" so that you get the right size/fitting for you.

Get some where the main body is fairly small as you won't want them to dig in to you or push in too hard when you lay your head down (should be OK if your pillow isn't too hard)... I did this & not only did they stay in but as I managed to have them plugged into my phone I heard the alarm through them in the morning.

tomsener | 7 years ago

I did London to Edinburgh earlier this year which was 5 days of 100 miles. My thoughts...


Try to get some really long days on the bike ahead of the event. This isn't with the intention of training but for finding out how your body copes with 6 or 7 hours plus in the saddle. Arms hurt, neck hurts, hands hurt. You are tired from concentrating for so long, not just from riding. Also you find out how well your bike fits you. Previously, I'd been fine with 4 hour rides but once I got beyond that my saddle really started to hurt. Not in a saddle sore way but that the pressure of me through my sit bones on the saddle was painful. By day 5 I was nearly in tears. Different saddle solved the problem.

The great thing about bike riding is that going along below your performance level is quite easy, much more so than running. Therefore I wouldn't worry too much about being able to have the legs for it. Loads of beginner cyclists managed to complete my ride, the only ones to pull out were due to injury or a crash.

crazy-legs | 7 years ago

Ride your bike. Doesn't matter if you're "training" or you just ride, so long as you are actually riding. Every mile you can do between now and the event will make the event itself easier (although it is very useful to ride at least a couple of centuries beforehand, if only to find out which bits of you start to ache / hurt after that length of time!)

Keep half an eye on the RAB Facebook page, there's some useful info in there mixed in with a whole load of riders panicking about not having gears low enough.

The riding is the glue that holds the whole event together. The rest of it is logistics - knowing what to pack, what to wear, what food to eat & when, getting into a campsite routine, meeting new people, making new friends, enjoying the atmosphere, taking in the views.

Don't get hung up on details like "what's the worst hill?" or "how much climbing is in Day 2?" cos none of that matters - you're going for some long bike rides, make sure you can do long bike rides. That's basically it. It's really simple, all you'll do for 9 days is eat, sleep, ride and think RAB. Work, family, pets, bills - none of that matters and you don't think about it, you live in what RAB affectionately refer to as The Bubble, where the only thing that exists is RAB.

Rod Marton | 7 years ago

1. There will be petrol stations, pubs, etc, on the route, don't be afraid to use them. If none are about, there are hedges. It's worth carrying a bit of toilet paper just in case, but in the absence of toilet paper any vegetation will do. Moss, by the way, is excellent.

2. If you haven't trained hard enough, the first day will be fine, the second will hurt, the third will really hurt, and after that your legs will be fine. The other thing to worry about is contact points: keep them clean and apply Sudocrem at every opportunity.

3. You shouldn't have any trouble sleeping after 100 miles. If you do, you aren't riding hard enough!

4. I always sleep better under canvas (perhaps it's the fresh air). To avoid animals getting in the tent, leave any food in the porch.

5. Midges are only a problem when you stop (though if they find you particularly attractive you may find them slipstreaming you).

6. It's bad form to leave anyone behind. I'm sure you won't be the weakest in the group anyway.

tomascjenkins | 7 years ago

Good luck - will keep an eye out for your next installment on how the trainings going!

Chuck | 7 years ago

1: This is more preparation rather than prevention but if you're likely to be using lots of powders/bars make sure they agree with you first! 

5:  Midges try Smidge, best I've found by a long way.


Dnnnnnn | 7 years ago

Avon's 'Skin so Soft' can help with the midges, and they tend only to be an issue when you're stationary  in a windless, damp location (choose a camping spot with some breeze).

And on #1 (which should be #2?!), a big bowl of porridge and a strong coffee always brings things on quicker! Avoid dehydration too.

#2 - nappy cream or similar (including much more expensive cycling-branded stuff) can be useful for avoiding chafing if you're not used to consecutive long days in the saddle.

#3, #4 - perhaps try a few nights camping in the garden (if you have one) to see how you find it? Might be that you can make some adjustments to improve things.

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