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  1. #1
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    Circuiting Britain, Am I Crazy?

    Hi everyone.
    I'm planning to cycle around the UK & Ireland, including most of the major islands, such as the Orkneys, Shetlands, Outer Hebrides etc.

    I've never done touring before, & have probably never ridden more than 30km in a day! However I'm in pretty good shape from work, obviously it will take a while for my muscles to adjust but that's fine.

    My bike will be a recumbent, after being inspired by a book called Off the Rails, about two Aussies who rode 10,000km across asia, from Moscow to Beijing on recumbents. I'm leaning towards the HP Velo Streetmachine but that's a subject for the recumbent forum I guess.

    So I've painstakingly drawn a route around Britain on an AA map & then measured the distance. It comes to approx 11,600kms!! I've avoided the blue & green (major roads) as much as possible but sometimes they are unavoidable if one is trying to ride near the coast.

    Ironically(?) the major roads that are hard to avoid are mostly in sparsley populated Scotland. Has anyone had experience with the A9 between Clashmore & Wick, the A835 Ullapool - Braemor, A87 on Skye, A830 Mallaig - Lochailort, A816 Oban - Lochgilphead, A83 Lochgilphead - Campbeltown, A77 Turnberry - Stanraer, A487 Aberystwyth - Llanarth. Are they cyclable or too risky?

    Or if you feel like offering any tips in general, please go ahead!

    Also I'll be happy to share the journey part or all of the way if there's anyone keen! Oh yeah to give you an idea of time frame, I'll be heading North from London in April.

    happy cycling
    Nathan

  2. #2
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lomuland View Post
    I've never done touring before, & have probably never ridden more than 30km in a day! However I'm in pretty good shape from work, obviously it will take a while for my muscles to adjust but that's fine.
    I haven't done much touring, but when did do a mini-tour a while back, I didn't really do much training for it. I kept thinking that I needed to get used to long rides, but I never got around to it, maxed out at maybe 30 miles (48 KM). But I was in decent shape and was never completely exhausted at the end of my trips, so I figured I could handle it, and I could, so I think you're right about that. You will probably want to start out slowly, and plan to take it easy if you have to. Better to work up to a good distance slowly then have to end your trip early because you've injured yourself. I also made a habit of picking a variety of potential overnight points depending on how far I felt I could go. That way there was never a need to push on beyond what I wanted to do just because that's where the campground was.

    But all in all I found that if I set a comfortable pace and took a break every few hours, I could go pretty much as far as I wanted, just not always as fast as I wanted. Good luck.

  3. #3
    Senior Member kbabin's Avatar
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    Check out these maps. UK made a trail system that is really nice and keeps you off the main roads. We used part of it during our Northern Ireland tour that Tony (www.irondonkey.com) setup for us.

    http://www.sustransshop.co.uk/index.php?f=ukmap.htm

    Cheers
    Kevin
    Last edited by kbabin; 01-24-08 at 09:17 AM. Reason: can't type.... www.irondonkey.com

  4. #4
    nun
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    Its going to take you 4 to 6 months to circumnavigate the UK, so it will be physically challenging, but also mentally difficult. I'd suggest that you do a few tours first to see how you cope with being on the road for an extended period. It will also let you fine tune your gear and some techniques for being comfortable.

    Its a trip that I plan to do one day some I'm envious.

  5. #5
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    Here are some pages from www.biketouringtips.com on the countries you are interested in touring:

    12 links to bike touring in England

    6 links to bike touring in Scotland

    1 entry to bike touring in Wales

    1 entry to bike touring in Ireland

    Also, since you will need lots of information, here are 9 links to bike touring discussion sites, at least 2 are based in the UK and can help a great deal on a ride like this (CTC and bikeradar).

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  6. #6
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    Has anyone had experience with the A9 between Clashmore & Wick, the A835 Ullapool - Braemor, A87 on Skye, A830 Mallaig - Lochailort, A816 Oban - Lochgilphead, A83 Lochgilphead - Campbeltown, A77 Turnberry - Stanraer, A487 Aberystwyth - Llanarth. Are they cyclable or too risky
    I cycled from Stanraer to Oban via Arran, and from Ullapool to Inverness, which seems to be routes you're taking, about 15 years ago and I don't recall any problems with the roads being busy or hazardous.

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    Staying close to the coast can involve some tricky navigation and rough trails. Ive done a fair bit of coast hugging on a std touring bike. AA maps are not good enough for fine route finding. Suggest you get yourself to Stamfords and check out the neccessary maps (eg OS series) and make sure you can use a compass. Get down to some of your local coast on any old bike and see how you fare.

  8. #8
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Circling Britain on a recument? Not all that nuts. These guys are nuts though ---> http://www.tallbiketourbritain.com/

    Definitely do some training and at least a one-week tour before you go.

  9. #9
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    I used the Michelin 1:400000 (orange) maps in most of Europe and found them fairly suitable for cycling. The road line width gives a good idea of the size and importance of the road and elevations of towns and passes and steep climbs are marked.

  10. #10
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    Recumbent is probably going to be a decision you regret. I own a really nice one set up for touring, but it turned out not to be a good choice for me. Of course many are happy with them, but here are the things that wrecked it for me:

    - People constantly trying to run me over. I'm not a fearful cyclist, I fall into the don't wear a helmet because I believe the stats that say it is no more rquired than for walking. But I just couldn't ingnore the attempts on my life. In my case it was a combination of people not seeing me, and people who do see me and do something wacky. I think this can be regional, and you might be fine in the UK.

    - One reason I bought a rec. was it should have been, and was, pretty ideal for a major post accident rehab I was going through. However, even with mossive atrophy in one leg, I never got really strong on the rec. where I easily got back up to speed on a regular bike. I went from 10 years of suburban non-cycling to 80 mile days in about 4 days on the road, even with only one healthy leg. 4 years later I still find the rec. uses muscles I don't have. This is great from a rehab perspective because I can ride one bike one day, and the other the next, and get a great workout for different muscles around the knee. I take from this experience that my first 30 years of cycling laid in a base I wasn't even aware I had.

    - Really wobbly. Hey, they look more stable, but turned out to be very unstable, my choice of bike was possibly part of the problem since I went for a medium low 20" wheel job. But then again some of the higher models aren't all that's promised windage wise either. One quickly gets used to the ride characteristics, except when restarting on uphills (I don't know a good solution for that except to go to a trike) which seems basically impossible and yet highly likely on a tour of th UK. Not good on the offroad for the same reason.

    - Wet and cold. It seems logical that you would be better protected from cold winds because you are streamlined. In practice I found they sweep effortlessly over the length of your body, and it seems colder, not an advantage where it is cold. Obviously, lying on your back in the rain is not the best position for shelter.

    - There are also small practical details like greater difficulty negotiating walkways (often unapproved) over bridges, because the bike doesn't push well, or excessive width of bars (low handlebar models only), poor load carrying, almost requires a trailer on some models.

    I don't say any of this to discourage you, just borrow one before you invest.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by lomuland View Post
    Iro
    nically(?) the major roads that are hard to avoid are mostly in sparsley populated Scotland. Has anyone had experience with the A9 between Clashmore & Wick, the A835 Ullapool - Braemor, A87 on Skye, A830 Mallaig - Lochailort, A816 Oban - Lochgilphead, A83 Lochgilphead - Campbeltown, A77 Turnberry - Stanraer, A487 Aberystwyth - Llanarth. Are they cyclable or too risky?
    They're not so much "major" roads as they are "the only roads". I did a tour a few years back (2004) that included that area, in general traffic is quite light and drivers are quite courteous.

    I couldn't find Braemor on my Michelin map, but the A835 north of Ullapool is very lightly traveled. Lots of German tourists towing trailers and not much else. I took a ferry from Lewis & Harris to Uig on Skye, then cycled to Ardvasar and caught a ferry to Mallaig. The A87 became more heavily traveled as I approached Kyle of Lochalsh, I never found it dangerous but it was nice to get off that road and head to Ardvasar on a smaller road. I would expect the bridge from Skye to the mainland to be rather unpleasant on a bicycle. There is supposedly a turntable ferry from Kylerhea to Galltair, either that or the Ardvasar-Mallaig ferry would be a better choice than the Skye bridge. The A830 from Mallaig to Lochailort and the A816 from Oban to Lochgilphead are very pleasant cycling. You can avoid part of the A83 from Lochgilphead to Tarbert by taking the B8024, which is a single lane road with turnouts. It's a long detour (30 miles instead of 8) but a very pleasant ride.

    In general, I found Scotland north and west of Pitlochry to be excellent cycling, I don't think you'll have any trouble up there.

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    cheers guys for the responses.
    yes I think I'll do a short tour first, maybe a couple of days to get used to things. But I'm keen to just set off really. I've heard of people just jumping on their 30 yr old bike & cycling off to some far flung land!

    Re: Visibility, it does concern me a little - I'm planning to attach a flag. Hopefully this will improve things a lot. & hi-vis stuff on the rear panniers etc.

    Yes I wandered into stanfords the other day by chance, having never been there before it was like a dream come true.
    Last edited by lomuland; 01-29-08 at 04:02 AM. Reason: correction

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    Staying close to the coast can involve some tricky navigation and rough trails. Ive done a fair bit of coast hugging on a std touring bike. AA maps are not good enough for fine route finding. Suggest you get yourself to Stamfords and check out the neccessary maps (eg OS series) and make sure you can use a compass. Get down to some of your local coast on any old bike and see how you fare.
    Yes I want to try & find a balance between staying near the coast & keeping up a reasonable pace.

    I've done a bit of hiking with a compass, including a day trip to bodmin moor in thick fog, managed to come out exactly where I thought I would.

    What series of OS do you think is best? I kind of like the look of the Tour series. 1:100,000. Focused on camp sites & attractions ... I'm quite keen on checking out a few castles etc on my way. Seems to show a decent amount of roads.
    Plus I wouldn't have to carry around too many maps, as I would with Explorer/Landranger series.

    I have toyed with the idea of a GPS, but the idea of it only lasting 2-3 full days without recharging/replacing batteries is disappointing. Bring on next-gen batteries.

  14. #14
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    1:100,000 is about right for cycle touring. I can ride across a 1:50,000 in a couple of hours, use it for local exploration.
    1:250,000 is OK for general route-planning but lacks detail.
    I have never found a use for GPS, there are always enough landmarks to find your way.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    1:100,000 is about right for cycle touring. I can ride across a 1:50,000 in a couple of hours, use it for local exploration.
    1:250,000 is OK for general route-planning but lacks detail.
    I have never found a use for GPS, there are always enough landmarks to find your way.
    I suppose it depends on the person. I found the 1:200,000 (French Michelin maps) just right. Large enough to provide a view of where you were going and enough detail to see switchbacks on a climb.

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    Scotland is probably fine for your tour. IMHO I would be cautious about travel in England. Traffic is very heavy on almost all roads. Country lanes can be hazardous due to many blind bends and half blind 4X4 drivers. I find drivers over here to be agressive and uncaring towards cyclists and have problems with space awareness on our narrow conjested roads. Although there are quite a lot of recumbrents over here I would not entertain using one in England. I think they are far too dangerous with our current traffic system. I have close shaves on a regular basis and suffer abuse every week off motoring idiots and I am 6'2" in a bright yellow jacket. Not easy to miss but they still manage not to see me or deliberately target me for fun. This is not intended to put you off seeing some wonderful countryside and generally very friendly people but we seem to have more than our fair share of idiots in vehicles. Probably lovely people once they step outside their tank. Just be cautious and get a mirror.

    Jim

  17. #17
    Senior Member mustang1's Avatar
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    Do France instead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    1:100,000 is about right for cycle touring. I can ride across a 1:50,000 in a couple of hours, use it for local exploration.
    1:250,000 is OK for general route-planning but lacks detail.
    I have never found a use for GPS, there are always enough landmarks to find your way.
    My 1:400,000 Michelin map was plenty for northern Scotland, further south it would have been nice to have 1:200,000 or less. Riding around England and Wales a few years ago I needed 1:100,000 maps to find small enough roads to avoid heavy traffic.

  19. #19
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    I found the 1:400000 maps useful as well (e.g. Michelin European country maps). I'll take the ability to have an overview, seeing a few days or weeks cycling on one map, over the detail that comes with a smaller map.

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    Do France instead.
    I agree, or the cyclists mecca of Mallorca. Just back after a fantastic sunny ten days on virtually deserted roads bordered by trees in blossom. Passed by the odd courteous driver and nodded to by pro cycling teams using the place as a winter training camp. Cannot believe it's January. I was able to cycle silently along good tarmac with the sound of birds for company, then stop for a lazy pre-packed lunch sat on a sun kissed 2 hundred year old stone wall or pull up at a welcoming restaurant in a village for a spendid 3 course meal with wine for 12 euros. I think I'm in love.

    Jim

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by lomuland View Post
    Hi everyone.
    I'm planning to cycle around the UK & Ireland, including most of the major islands, such as the Orkneys, Shetlands, Outer Hebrides etc.

    I've never done touring before, & have probably never ridden more than 30km in a day! However I'm in pretty good shape from work, obviously it will take a while for my muscles to adjust but that's fine.

    My bike will be a recumbent, after being inspired by a book called Off the Rails, about two Aussies who rode 10,000km across asia, from Moscow to Beijing on recumbents. I'm leaning towards the HP Velo Streetmachine but that's a subject for the recumbent forum I guess.

    So I've painstakingly drawn a route around Britain on an AA map & then measured the distance. It comes to approx 11,600kms!! I've avoided the blue & green (major roads) as much as possible but sometimes they are unavoidable if one is trying to ride near the coast.

    Ironically(?) the major roads that are hard to avoid are mostly in sparsley populated Scotland. Has anyone had experience with the A9 between Clashmore & Wick, the A835 Ullapool - Braemor, A87 on Skye, A830 Mallaig - Lochailort, A816 Oban - Lochgilphead, A83 Lochgilphead - Campbeltown, A77 Turnberry - Stanraer, A487 Aberystwyth - Llanarth. Are they cyclable or too risky?

    Or if you feel like offering any tips in general, please go ahead!

    Also I'll be happy to share the journey part or all of the way if there's anyone keen! Oh yeah to give you an idea of time frame, I'll be heading North from London in April.

    happy cycling
    Nathan

    I read a book recently about a guy who rode around the perimeter of Australia, about 10,000 MILES. It had "bicycling" "beer" and "Australia" in the title, I think. Great book! He dealt with mountains, monsoons, heat, you-name-it. So...you can do it. But read the book just for fun!
    Suzy Creamcheese, what's got into you?

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by mustang1 View Post
    Do France instead.
    I'll do that next

    regarding safety - I guess when riding a bent a hi-vis vest wont be much good because the seat would obscure most of it when viewed from behind.
    I suppose getting fluoro rear panniers or reflectors on them is the way to go. I'm going to see if I can get a hi vis flag as well.

  23. #23
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Recumbents can be a great choice for touring - lot's of people have done challenging tours on bents so that part is not a problem, but do follow Petrerpan1's advice and get a good test ride in to make sure you enjoy the particular bent you are looking at. There are lot's of different varieties of bents and everyone seems to favour different models.
    safe riding - Vik
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  24. #24
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    For sure, you want to do a little shake-down ride to get your equipment sorted out. If you are a healthy person, you needn't worry about getting into extra special shape to go. Of course you do need to have a strong and serious desire to go touring. That will make the difficulties, dangers and discomforts seem not so important when you are in the thick of things. My main point, though, involves the specific, solidified in advance, distance and destination goals. My approach would be to say, "Well, I'll head off from this airport in this direction." And then make up the trip as I go along. Anyway, good luck and have a good time. I loved the British Isles and, as far as Scotland goes, when I finally left ( after making at least one big circle twice, it was so wonderful), I got off my bike and kissed the Scottish ground. I wished I had been born with even a little Scottish blood in me so I could be a raving nationalist.

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