In January 2001, I started thinking about taking a break from work and spending some time visiting places I had not been before. I like traditional music and dance, and having made some new Manx friends at a festival the previous year, decided I would go to the Isle of Man at the end of July for Yn Craignnaght ('The Gathering') which lasts for one week. I decided I would also take a push bike with me and spend the previous week touring and end the visit at the festival.
I would also have seven weeks leading up to this trip free too, and I wanted to use this time in the same way. If I was going to cycle around the Isle of Man, then I could also cycle elsewhere, and Ireland, England and other places passed through my mind. By this time, the Foot and Mouth epidemic had exploded, and cycle routes within the British Isles had become very restricted. Despite this I settled on trying for Land's End to John O'Groats, known as the 'End to End'. I wanted to see more of the country I have always lived in and there would always be another year for a foreign trip.
I didn't cycle and I didn't own a bike - not the best place to start from, but you have to start from somewhere - there would be a few things I needed to think about. Firstly I needed a bike, and I needed a strategy for accommodation and living. I decided that despite the extra equipment I would need (double), I would take a tent and cooking equipment with me and stay at local campsites along the way. This would give lower ongoing costs than bed and breakfasts', and I expected to be cycling for seven weeks, but there would be a higher initial investment in equipment. It would though mean that I would be more flexible with where I could stay. I could still stay in a B&B or hotel if I wanted, but I would try for a camp site first.
I took information from all kinds of places, friends, websites and shops and used this to work out what to take with me. A number of people had warned against using a mountain bike on the road, and needing to take panniers on both the front and back of the bike, I went for a new gents Dawes Kalahari bike (£250). This was mainly because of price and, I really should have spent more money on a higher quality bike, but having said that it stood up well. I bought a number of cycle maps from Sustrans and started selecting equipment to take with me. The Sustrans national cycle network routes would keep me off main roads which would improve my confidence for making the journey, and there was only a section near Caernarfon and from Liverpool to Carlisle that I did not have routes for, but I would buy maps when I got there and work out a route.
The total distance travelled before I started the trip was 40 miles, which is a tiny amount of training. This was spent with my friend George on two 16 mile round trip rides to Buckfastleigh, and a couple of 4 mile local rides to Dartington, and that was it!
The philosophy of the journey was that it was not a race, and that the purpose was to enjoy the journey. I would not be in a hurry to get to the destination . I would pace myself as I felt on each day, and camp at local campsites on the way, picking one or two sites in the morning that I felt I could get to that day.