Sunday, 31 January 2010

I have a plan, and it is taking shape.

I am going to ride my Raleigh Chopper from John O'Groats to Land's End. I will be leaving JOG in the afternoon of Thursday the 13th of May and I should be arriving at LE in the afternoon of Sunday the 30th of May.

That is my mission statement, and from now until then, I have many things to arrange, although I have my start and end dates, nothing else is in place. I am flying to Wick from Exeter, and will collect Chopper and Trailer when I arrive. I am packing them onto a pallet a week before and sending them up to arrive well before me, the plan for this is in hand and I have contacted Wick Airport to see if this is possible and they were very helpful and friendly and could see no problem about disposing of the pallet and wrappings.

From Wick, I can cycle to JOG, turn round and cycle back to Wick and stay at a B+B. From there, I can make my way south.

Over the past few months, my Chopper has undergone quite some modification. The basic three-speed Sturmey Archer gears aren't enough to take me up and down the hills and the length of the country pulling and carrying my stuff and luggage, so extra gears had to be fitted. I spent a while thinking about this, and with the help of a friend was able to squeeze a double sprocket system onto the hub. This produced an increase in ratios up to six speeds, but this still wasn't enough. I fitted a double chainset too, and then the six speeds were doubled to twelve! It's not just the amount of ratios that counts, it's the range that I needed, so I ended up with a super-low gear for the hills, and a reasonable high ratio for whizzing along the flat bits - superb!

The old knobbly rear tyre was a bit sluggish, so a modern puncture-proof one was fitted in its place. I also replaced the front tyre. The whole bike, though scruffy, has been completely stripped and serviced and all the bearings re-greased.

This Chopper is an original Mk1 1971 example, and was given to me. It was on its way to the dump, and I stepped in to rescue this wonderful piece of British Engineering. It's an acquired art to ride the thing as at low speeds it's rather unstable, but strangely it seems very stable at high speeds. It also has the propensity to do "wheelies" especially now that I've got such a low gear. I needed to find some way to hold the front down, and so I fitted a set of front panniers. At this moment, they have some old Yellow Pages in the bags as ballast!

I'll return to this blog over the next few weeks to keep everyone informed of my plans and developments, but here's a basic outline of my proposed route. It is subject to change as I get accommodation arranged and booked.

I leave JOG 13th May and aim for Dornoch.
From there it'll be Inverness, then Pitlochry and Edinburgh.
Moffat and Penrith and Leyland and then Wrexham.
Ludlow, Slimbridge and Bridgwater, then Okehampton.
St Columb Major as a last stop before the push onto LE.
I have been told by my lovely wife Hilary, that I have to have some days off, so I'll have to do as I'm told taking a day off in Edinburgh, Wrexham (at my sister's) and at home - Hilary can collect me from Okehampton and bring me home - then she can take me back to Okehampton for the last couple of legs.

Later today, I'll be off on a practice run - perhaps 17 miles - and I'll be towing my Carry Freedom trailer with me.

Thanks for reading, and I'll post again to let you know I get on.

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