Land's End to John O'Groats Cycletouring Trip Part 2

Cycletouring Kit

Well, I used most of the same equipment from last year but I made several changes to try and ease the problems I experienced then.

The biggest problems last year were of breaking spokes, strain in my wrists, a high centre of gravity and a frame that I could swear was flexing beneath me.

I carry a lot of weight, so I bought a Bob Yak trailer to tow behind me and carry most of my luggage. This would take some of the weight off the bike itself, and lower the centre of gravity. I had a strong rear wheel made which I hoped would end the spoke snapping experiences.

Reluctantly I decided to use the same Dawes Kalahari bike, which if I had more money I would replace with something much stronger. My ideal choice would be based around a custom made frame because of my height.

I think the modifications paid off, as this years journey was free from broken spokes and wrist strain (I'll tell you about the 6 punctures in a minute).

I started the journey from Carlisle with one set of panniers on the back of the bike, but noticed very quickly that control on downhill sections with the trailer attached was very poor. I transferred the panniers to the front of the bike on day 2 and reduced the weight of the contents. The bike ran like a train in comparison so I kept this configuration for the rest of the journey.

Again this year I sustain damage to the rear derailleur within the first few days. The cause this time was the Bob Yak trailer, and to be honest I had been worried that this might happen but had no solution before leaving home. The damage was caused by the trailer fouling the derailleur under certain conditions, and I shall describe this in a moment. I eventually purchase a Shimano C202 derailleur in Irvine after a chance conversation with a shop owner that I describe on day 8. I decide not to fit it straight away but carry it until the old one was unusable. In the end the existing unit holds out to the end of the trip despite the damage, although adjustment is needed several times. I end up fitting the new unit when I get back to Chesham.

I am pretty pleased with the Bob Yak trailer. It takes a great deal of my stuff and holds it lower to the ground than it would be in panniers. The handling of the bike is different and in my experience you have think about setting it up in advance when you go into corners, otherwise a hairy moment is assured as you get very close to the kerb or verge with dissapearing confidence not following a tangential course off the road. I think its all due to the centre of gravity and when you get used to it, its fine.

Two Dutch lads I met in Carlisle tell me that the Bob Yak trailer was designed for a 26" wheel. My bike has 700C wheels which seem to alter the geometry and you can clearly see the floor pan of the trailer is not level when it is connected to my bike. It slopes upwards towards the rear wheel of the bike, and this seems to prevent the bike and trailer from being parked on their own by turning the bike right round on itself. The larger wheels also slightly reduce the clearance between the bar of the trailer bobbin and the bikes rear derailleur, resulting in an increased risk of damage to the derailleur. This has been more considerably increased by the Shimano Megarange gears on the rear wheel of the Kalahari because of the extremely rearward position of the C050/C101/C202 derailleurs.

Since returning to Chesham I have replaced the C202 derailleur with a standard pull unit, and am still evaluating it. Because of its more standard physical design, there is a larger distance from the trailer bobbin and much less chance of damage occuring. After 4 weeks I am still changing up and down gears in the wrong direction at the moment when I approach junctions.

The bearings in the rear wheel of the trailer are pretty knackered at the end of the trip. After travelling 1000 miles they exhibit alarming play and are running dry and gritty. I leave these bearings in place and eventually replace them in September 2010. The bearings have the marking 6000LU and I purchase replacements from South West Bearings in Melksham in 2007 and eventually get round to replacing them in September 2010 using a punch, a pair of 21mm half inch drive sockets and some careful use of a hammer. On any further trips, I might get a better quality wheel constructed. Here are the rusty blighters that I manage to take out:

Old bearings from the rear wheel of a Bob Yak trailer - 6000LU
Old bearings from the Bob Yak trailer

The trailer has suffered a fair bit of rust, which I have sanded off and repainted back at home.

One of the securing bolts of the trailer mudguard had fallen out even before the start of the journey and I had secured it in place with two cable ties. One of the Dutch lads I met in Carlisle had had exactly the same problem and had chosen exactly the same solution on his trailer.

Despite these problems, and the build quality which I think is far less than impressive for the £240 price tag (the same as the original price of my bike), I have been extremely pleased with the trailer and shall be using it on trips in the future.

Several people had told me that SPD pedals would make a big difference to my cycling. I had one notable conversation with an Irish man on the Isle of Man in July last year who was very surprised that I was not using them. I fitted a pair of single sided Shimano SPD pedals and used a pair of Specialised cycle shoes. I was very impressed. The two advantages are that your feet don't slip off the pedals, and you can pull up on a pedal as well as push down which gives you more power.

One week into the trip, on 4 consecutive days I sustained 1 puncture per day. After replacing the rear and spare inner tubes with new ones while I was in Oban, I had no further punctures for the rest of the journey.

I cycled the whole of this part of the journey with the same cable ties holding together the fractured seams on both the front and rear luggage racks from part one of the journey in 2001. After completing the journey, I had the aluminium front rack re-welded for £10 at a metal fabrication company near home, and the rear rack fixed for £5. Ideally I would like racks made from solid steel rods which would be stronger (and heavier) but could be repaired almost anywhere. These may have to be custom made as I cannot find any for sale in Britain.

Once again, my Cateye Cordless2 CC-CL200 cycle computer was misrepresenting speed and distance, so I sent this home in an early jiffy bag. As a result, many of the mileages that I quote have been calculated using maps. In the future I will use a wired unit for reliability.

The Ortleib panniers, North Face tent, Vango sleeping bag and Thermarest mattress all continue to please me greatly and have lasted well. The tent only needed a little further seam sealant to stop water leaking through the top during rainstorms. Due to my overzealous moving of the tent one day I bent one section of pole which I have had replaced since returning home.

The gas conversion kit for my Trangia causes me some concern still. I find that some cartridges need to be tightened a little more than I would consider hand tight in order for the gas to flow freely. This is particularly evident in the morning when I have to tighten the cartridge even further after leaving it connected overnight. One cartridge manufacturer I find much better than the others is OxyTurbo, and they are also cheaper too.

Over the 2 months of this journey I have taken just under 1200 photographs with my Minolta APS camera. I have once again been disappointed with the quality of the images which I feel is a failure of the autofocussing rather than the operator (or is a bad craftsman blaming his tools here?). My plan for the future is to replace this with a 35mm SLR camera and use slide film exclusively.

I started out using the 'Big Sites Book' published by the camping and caravanning club to locate campsites along the journey. This is a comprehensive although heavy and bulky book, and I found that the Ordnance Survey 'Road Map' series had all of the information I needed in Scotland.


  • Dawes Kalahari Bike
  • Rear wheel with Shimano Diore hub, Mavic rim, strong spokes and Shimano Megarange cassette
  • Shimano combination SPD/Open cage pedals
  • Front rack for panniers
  • Bob Yak Trailer + Waterproof bag
  • Raleigh RMJ003 Tyre Pump
  • Standard D Lock
  • Reflective cycle clips
  • Water resistant map case
  • High visibility waist jacket
  • Bell Paradox Pro helmet
  • 6ft security cable
  • 2 Medium sized padlocks
  • 2 ft security cable with lock


  • Halfords dynamo and front light
  • D Toplight Plus rear light



  • The North Face Roadrunner2 tent
  • Vango Ultralite 900M R sleeping bag
  • Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner (Mummy)
  • Thermarest Standard Lite air mattress (850g)
  • Trangia27-8 camping stove and cook set (1060g)
  • Primus gas conversion kit for trangia
  • Gas cartridges
  • Silva Ranger 3 Compass
  • Lifesystems Expedition+ insect repellent (DEET based)
  • Slioch midge head net
  • Mosquito coils + stand
  • Matches
  • Lighter
  • Washing up liquid and small sponge
  • Lightweight domestic can opener
  • Potato Peeler
  • Domestic knife + fork + spoon + teaspoon


Tools and Spares

  • 4/6/8mm Allen Keys
  • 8/9/10mm Socket Wrench
  • 11/13/14mm Socket Wrench
  • Small adjustable Spanner
  • Flat/Cross blade Screwdriver
  • 3 tyre levers
  • Spoke tension adjustment tool
  • 15mm Combination Spanner
  • Puncture Repair Kit
  • Small bottle of cycle oil
  • Chain link tool
  • Small reel of PVC tape
  • 2 spare inner tubes (1 for bike, 1 for trailer)
  • 5 spare spokes (700)
  • Bunch of assorted cable ties
  • Spare Shimano Megarange derailleur (see notes)


  • 1 breathable waterproof jacket (Gore Bikewear)
  • 1 Polartec Fleece (Barbour)
  • 1 long sleeve thick thermal top (Helly Hansen)
  • 2 long sleeve standard thermal tops (HH & Duofold)
  • 1 short sleeve standard thermal top (Helly Hansen)
  • 1 pair of cycle shorts (Nalini)
  • 1 short sleeve cycle top (Ronhill)
  • 2 pairs Ronhill tracksters
  • Sleeveless windstopper jacket
  • 6 sets of underwear
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 T-shirts
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 medium sized standard domestic towel
  • 1 pair Specialised cycle shoes with SPD cleats
  • 1 pair walking boots

Personal Care

  • Wash Bag: Anti persperant, Soap, Shampoo, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Deodorant, Shaving Foam + razors, Nail clippers
  • Washing powder for laundry - in second water bottle on bike


  • Vitamin Tablets
  • Fresh food bought every day - always carrying one days complete supplies
  • 2.5 litres of fresh drinking water


  • Passport
  • Driving License
  • Cheque Book
  • Diary
  • List of friends addresses and numbers

© Copyright  Piers Pettman - This page last updated 15 September 2010
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