How important is it that I choose a definite route?

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tbessie
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How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby tbessie » 14 Mar 2016, 5:37am

Hi again...

So, reading through some of the postings here, I see many warnings about "don't go this way, they're doing construction" and "don't go that way, it's too dangerous" and "don't go this other way, it's too out-of-the-way" etc.

In my earlier thread ( viewtopic.php?f=22&t=104242 ), I asked some questions about shipping, bikes and equipment.

Here, I'd like to ask about my confusion with the above.

When I did a tour on the Pacific Coast Highway, from the top of Oregon back home to San Francisco, I generally stayed on that highway, as it's the main route down, and not always too dangerous or crowded. There's a good book on it, as well as a great website on the subject:

https://www.adventurecycling.org/routes ... fic-coast/

... where you can find alternate parallel routes. Given you're following the coast, there's not so much varying of the route you can do.

When I toured in France, I was able to pick a destination for the day (along a general direction I had planned), find a main route that went there, and then sort of hop from small country road to small country road (with occasional segments on main roads to avoid hills or difficult or unknown terrain), but I didn't have to do much avoiding of anything... I just pointed myself in the right direction, and got where I was going eventually. There were usually 3 or 4 different roads going generally the same direction I wanted to go, with varying degrees of difficulty and directness (I basically hopped from roundabout to roundabout to correct course as I went along).

I had kind of *hoped* that doing the LEJOG, I could do the same thing... you know, say "I feel like riding 30 miles today - where is the nearest town in my direction within 25-35 miles?"... or even "I want to get to such-and-such a town today" - and just head in that direction. I'd get there eventually, and without much in the way of detours or danger.

Reading some of the threads here, it seems like one can't do that as easily in the UK, or at least on the LEJOG. Is this the case? If so, why is that? Are there a good several general rules that I, as someone who hasn't done touring in the UK before, can stick to, that are just as easy to remember as in France? Something that will keep me from needing to read this forum all the time along my way, or make plans to avoid major construction (since there are simple ways around it, for example), or do lots of research for every segment, etc?

One of the few times I hit construction in France, it was a simple thing to find a tiny country road that went around it - it only added a few miles to my journey. I was hoping it would be as simple as that on the LEJOG.

- Tim

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Mick F
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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby Mick F » 14 Mar 2016, 7:31am

For my own part, I would always book (and pay for) my accommodation ahead. I like the certainty of knowing where I'm headed and knowing what I'm going to get. Between the overnight stops, you can take any route or diversion you think fit.

I'd hate to be worn out and knackered after a long haul in the pouring rain, and not be able to find somewhere to stay.

A few years ago, I was heading south on a JOGLE and stayed at Penrith. I had booked ahead, but whilst trying to find a place in the town by phone a few weeks previous, I found out that just about all the available accommodation had been taken. I reckon I got the last room. The problem was, there were hundreds of contractors staying whilst building a huge new Morrisons supermarket.
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tbessie
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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby tbessie » 14 Mar 2016, 7:57am

Mick F wrote:For my own part, I would always book (and pay for) my accommodation ahead. I like the certainty of knowing where I'm headed and knowing what I'm going to get. Between the overnight stops, you can take any route or diversion you think fit.


I did that in my trips in France, but those were only 1 week long. Since I plan to take 2-3 weeks for this ride, I don't want to spend as much on accommodation. I was hoping that there would be lots of campsites along the way; on the Pacific Coast Highway, Oregon and California have state and national parks spread out at a day or less's ride from each other, with hiker/biker campgrounds set aside that you are guaranteed to be able to camp in, no matter how crowded, which makes travel on that route very easy as far as accommodation is concerned (tho', of course, I *did* end up staying in a hotel for a night here and there, so I could feel human again :-) ).

Is there enough established camping along the route that I could do something along those lines, do you think?

If not, I'll start making arrangements right away, and hope there's still lots available.

- Tim

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Mick F
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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby Mick F » 14 Mar 2016, 8:18am

tbessie wrote:Is there enough established camping along the route that I could do something along those lines, do you think?
Hi Tim,
You're asking the wrong chap about the camping idea.
I like my home comforts these days. I used to use YHAs and SYHAs, but these days I prefer B+Bs.

Someone will come along shortly, I have no doubt. They'll have some up-to-date info for you.
Mick F. Cornwall

tbessie
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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby tbessie » 14 Mar 2016, 8:48am

Mick F wrote:
tbessie wrote:Is there enough established camping along the route that I could do something along those lines, do you think?
Hi Tim,
You're asking the wrong chap about the camping idea.
I like my home comforts these days. I used to use YHAs and SYHAs, but these days I prefer B+Bs.

Someone will come along shortly, I have no doubt. They'll have some up-to-date info for you.


Ah yes, I think you may have said that in the other thread? Or was that someone else? :-)

If I could afford it, I'd stay in B&B's the whole way - luxury! (and less to carry). I actually prefer camping to hostels, because I get my own "room" (in my tent), and that's better than sharing with 3-7 snoring and partying folks. :-)

I'll await some campers' recommendations.

- Tim

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Tigerbiten
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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby Tigerbiten » 14 Mar 2016, 9:10am

tbessie wrote:Is there enough established camping along the route that I could do something along those lines, do you think?

If not, I'll start making arrangements right away, and hope there's still lots available.

- Tim

When on tour, I count JoGLE a tour, I camp.
My aim is roughly 50 miles per day.
Every 3-5 days I go online and try and find where the next 3-5 campsite on my rough route are.
This means that my exact route is not set but can wander a bit as I feel like it.
There are some areas of the country where the campsites are a bit thin on the ground, but I always found somewhere to camp. Be it behind a hedge or a silly expensive holiday park.

I try and use the Caravan & Camping Club main sites, as when you are bikepacking you don't end up paying a silly price. http://campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/ukcampsites/
But if you get stuck looking for campsites then http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/ is very good for finding sites.

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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby Norman H » 14 Mar 2016, 9:15am

I see no reason why you could not do as you suggest. You will soon discover what roads suit you best. The OS 250K Road Atlas is very useful for planning. Also available as a free download here. In general minor roads will be quieter, more scenic, more hilly, more miles and, in my view, more enjoyable. Once you get to Scotland you will discover that there are fewer roads to chose from and your route options are more limited.

I like to have a broad plan when I tour based on accommodation and places I want to visit. I don't think you will have too much trouble with accommodation in late May but it might be wise to pre book the first couple of days and you will find everywhere gets more busy at weekends. I often use hostels when touring but find that carrying a tent and sleeping bag is a wise precaution. There are plenty of campsites along the route, as I posted in an earlier reply. You may find some are not open in May and temperatures can get close to freezing at night at that time of year.

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Tigerbiten
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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby Tigerbiten » 14 Mar 2016, 9:26am

I've found the only campsites not open in may are the ones you don't want to stop at as they are going to be silly expensive. Most sites which close for the winter open at Easter.

In five years touring (4000-6000 miles per tour) I've only been turned away once when camping, but the next site was only 10 miles away down a main road and actually worked out better because the weather the next morning was misty rain.

Ps:- I never book ahead.

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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby rualexander » 14 Mar 2016, 9:31am

Norman H wrote:The OS 250K Road Atlas is very useful for planning. Also available as a free download here. In


That atlas you linked to is not the OS 1:250,000 road atlas, which is no longer available in print but is as a download as in your second link.

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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby Vorpal » 14 Mar 2016, 9:45am

You will be absolutely fine doing that in the UK. I have done most of my touring like that. I will say that in touristy places in season, it can be hard to find accomodation on the spur of the moment. The UK is definitely worse that way than either the USA or France. Camping, most people can find a place to squeeze in a tent & bike, even if they are technically full. You can wild camp in Scotland. In England, wild camping is a grey area of the law, but I think most people would say it's okay in pinch, and completely within the law, if you ask permission, first. A good way to get permission is to stop at a farm, and ask where there is a good place to camp. Even if you limit yourself to official campsites, you are unlikely to get completely stuck.

Navigating in the UK does take some getting used to. Signposting is poor, especially on the little country lanes. It's possible to come to a junction that has a sign with several different destinations, and not be able to find any of them on a map. Or a junction that has no sign at all. Or a junction that has a road name (that may or may not be labelled the same way on a map), but not a direction / destination sign. In many places, the signposts have the name of the next little village or town, and one must just naviagte by identifying on the map, which road that is likely to mean, and following it. If you stop and ask for directions, people will usually give them by landmarks (pubs are common). If they don't, ask for them, because local names for things can differ from what on a map. The hardest part about navigating in the UK, is that signposts are designed for car drivers. So, if you follow signs from one main town to another, you will end up on main routes that are not nice to cycle on, or where bikes may be banned. So, navigating from one village to another tends to work pretty well, but you will probably want to plan a route into and out of, or around most cities. That can be done upon approach with a little forethought.

It can be quite a fun adventure to follow some of the little roads and navigate village to village. But not necessarily useful, if you plan to be in a particular place at a particular time.

So, leave extra time for the possibility of navigation difficulties, think of it as an adventure, and enjoy yourself. :D
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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby Richard Fairhurst » 14 Mar 2016, 10:06am

tbessie wrote:One of the few times I hit construction in France, it was a simple thing to find a tiny country road that went around it - it only added a few miles to my journey. I was hoping it would be as simple as that on the LEJOG.


It can be - it depends where you are. Broadly speaking, that'll be the case in much of rural England and the Welsh Marches, and gently wandering along these lanes can be a delight.

But bear in mind that where there's a valley, usually the busy A road has first claim to it. If you want to stick to quiet lanes, then you'll often end up going up a steep hill. Similarly, where there's a major river, crossings can be few and far between, and if you don't plan you may end up on an unpleasant one - the Mersey is probably the most relevant example of this for LEJOG.

In the hillier regions (Cornwall/Devon and Scotland), the challenge of finding a route that avoids both heavy traffic and steep hills will be particularly acute. That's why Rob's Passage is so feted on this board - it's the "secret passage" that does both those things. If you're just meandering around from day to day, you're less likely to find it - it depends how good your map-reading chops are. Fortunately, British maps are arguably the best in the world.

You're probably aware, but bear in mind that UK roads don't have shoulders (except motorways, which are forbidden to bikes). So if you end up on a major road, you're mixing it with the traffic, and that can be an unpleasant experience if it's narrow, twisty and busy with HGVs.

By all means just take it as it comes, but be prepared to do a little bit of research for certain sections - even if that's just the occasional half-hour with a map or route-planner.
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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby DaveP » 14 Mar 2016, 10:13am

Richard got in first, but I'll let my wording stand - not enough time to rephrase!
There is another reason for planning your route which doesn't seem to have been mentioned so far and that is the desirability of avoiding certain roads, which may well look like an obvious choice on a road map. The principal reason for doing so is traffic levels, both speed and volume. Even if it appears reasonably safe to cycle along a stretch of main road (eg. separated cycle lane visible on Google Earth) the traffic noise and wind can remove all pleasure from the ride.
Sometimes it can be tricky to find an alternative. Quite little lanes that see no traffic tend to wander about so much that it can be difficult to make progress to a specific destination, but that is exactly what you an get help with here. If you propose a route, taking in whatever catches your interest, the suggestions will start to flow. There is no reason why you cant explore alternatives in the process and leave a decision until the last minute apart from the above accommodation issues
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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby Bicycler » 14 Mar 2016, 4:50pm

The other thing is that people's tolerances of traffic vary to a huge degree and this is true for even quite experienced cycle tourists. Some like Mick avoid only a few motorway-like roads, others try to maximise their time on country lanes. The less willing you are to take the chance of finding yourself cycling along a very busy road, the more care you will need to give to route planning. You don't need to take all the fun out of it by overthinking about it if you don't want to though. I'm sure there are people who just set off with a road map. Perhaps the kind of people who contribute to internet discussions on routes tend also to be quite meticulous planners.

So, reading through some of the postings here, I see many warnings about "don't go this way, they're doing construction" and "don't go that way, it's too dangerous" and "don't go this other way, it's too out-of-the-way" etc.

There's a stereotype of British males that one of their few topics of conversation (once the weather has been thoroughly covered) is arguing over the best way to get from A to B :lol:
In truth, a lot of the requests we get on here are from people doing LEJOG as a challenge ride in a rather short time period. Such people often want the quickest, shortest and flattest route. To such people all unnecessary detours and hill climbing need to be avoided. As their rides will inevitably generally follow the main roads they will also want to know which are okay and which are too dangerous. With the amount of time that you have allocated to enjoy this tour these things are less of a consideration for you. Taking the backroads is generally a nicer way to see the country than travelling down the main highways.

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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby Ron » 14 Mar 2016, 7:12pm

tbessie wrote:One of the few times I hit construction in France, it was a simple thing to find a tiny country road that went around it - it only added a few miles to my journey. I was hoping it would be as simple as that on the LEJOG.

It's just the same in the UK, with the bonus that we Brits don't show our objection to government policy by lighting bonfires in the middle of our roads and causing delays for travellers.
More seriously, I think most of the questions on here regarding the minutae of the route, accommodation and availability of public transport are from people wishing to pack the whole trip, from leaving home to returning home, into 14 days which is perhaps their summer leave allowance. This does not allow much spare time for those of average fitness should there be any delays due to navigational errors or mechanical breakdown.
There is no reason why you shouldn't take every day as it comes, making up your route as you go, it worked for me!
Cycle tourists, like people in general are a varied lot, some can only relax and enjoy their tour when they know where and when they will lay their head that night, whilst others find the demands of having to arrive at a certain location by evening time introduces stress that takes away from the enjoyment of the tour :) .

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Re: How important is it that I choose a definite route?

Postby DaveP » 15 Mar 2016, 12:36am

Ron wrote:More seriously, I think most of the questions on here regarding the minutiae of the route, accommodation and availability of public transport are from people wishing to pack the whole trip, from leaving home to returning home, into 14 days which is perhaps their summer leave allowance...
...There is no reason why you shouldn't take every day as it comes, making up your route as you go

I think you are absolutely correct - on both points.
I did it in ten days, mainly because my companions wanted to make a challenge of it. As a result I turned in a physical performance which was satisfyingly beyond anything I had previously thought I could do. I felt good about this for a week or so, then I started to feel that I had bypassed the island rather than experiencing it. I'd like to do it again, but if I do I will be taking at least 20 days - trouble is I only get 26 per annum... so I'll probably end up doing it over a few years, just to make sure I enjoy it to the full.
I would love to have the sort of holiday that the Oxbridge lot occasionally wrote about between the wars - stuff a book, a clean shirt and a loaf into a bag, amble about till teatime and then strike a deal with the next farmer for a meal and the use of the barn. Sadly I do think that sort of farmer is a thing of the past.
If the OP really wants to travel in this fashion, and is prepared to wild camp when needs must, I would say Go for it! but maybe forget about the lejog aspect. There's nothing magic about it, its just a bit of a ritual really. Just start at one end and be satisfied with however far you can get in your available time. Alternatively, come up with a list of places you would like to spend time and see how many you can manage... :)
Either way, this is still probably the best place to get advice about really nice roads and roads to avoid if possible!
Trying to retain enough fitness to grow old disgracefully...