Preparation

General Points

Don’t forget to read the off-road and urban areas pages for more details of the route. Please feel free to e-mail me if you need any further advice on the C2C or, alternatively why not post a message on the c2c-guide message board for the benefit of other people’s C2C advice and experiences.

Buy the official route guide from Sustrans and/or the Coast to Coast Cycle Routes book because this website cannot guarantee you won’t get lost! There was a new map published in 2008 which supercedes all previous versions and I recommend that you use this map or the 2005 version. Don’t use any earlier versions as the route has changed quite a bit since pre-2001.

Make sure that you are physically prepared for the C2C by doing some training rides prior to attempting the route. You don’t have to be Superman to complete it, but, you do need to know that you can manage more than 10 miles on a bike before collapsing in a heap!

The C2C is suitable for cyclists of all abilities but should be cut into manageable chunks depending on your ability, fitness and inclination. Most people tackle the route over 3 days but lots of people take 4, 5 or 6 days and find that this gives them more time to enjoy the route and surroundings. Lots of cyclist’s do complete the C2C in under 24 hrs but this is not for the fainthearted, even if you are fit and the strong.

Those of you who are planning to camp along the route should bear in mind that the extra weight of the camping gear will slow you down considerably and this should be taken into account when planning your ride times.

The C2C should ideally be ridden from West to East to take advantage of the prevailing winds (though they are not always in your favour). Also, the uphills are generally short (and often steep) whilst the downhills are long sloping descents.

The route can be ridden on most types of bike as long as they are mechanically sound, but, obviously if you are planning to do the off-road sections then a mountain bike would be preferable. People have ridden the route on many weird and wonderful types of bike (see my links page for a fascinating journal of a trip made by unicycles). But the old adage about horses for courses still rings true.

Advance booking of your accommodation is desirable, often essential.

Some sections of the route involve riding through exposed, isolated, upland areas, so be prepared. Check the weather forecast, take adequate foul weather clothing (i.e. waterproof NOT showerproof and preferably breathable) and emergency rations.

You will need to carry all your personal belongings, clothing, tools etc. either in some panniers or in a rucksack, I prefer panniers,        but it’s really down to personal preference.

If you have friends or family in a support vehicle please ask them to stick to the main roads where possible in order to keep the traffic on the C2C to a minimum.

Some sections require short rides on busy roads so be careful and remember it is not all traffic free.

Although there are 8 year olds who could manage the C2C, and indeed have done, parents should remember that the C2C is demanding both physically and technically and may be too much for most young kids to handle.

Be certain of your level of fitness, or at least be prepared to cut the route into smaller stages as certain sections of the route can be very demanding. Use this guide, browse the Sustrans map, plan ahead and try to set yourself a realistic daily mileage target.

Do not underestimate the amount of liquid you will need to carry. The norm should be two bottles in the morning and two in the afternoon,        but a lot more if it’s hot (not a problem in 2008!) One cyclist who rode the route in the heat of an uncommon British summer (2000) got through 7 bottles in the morning and another 7 in the afternoon!

By all means take a mobile phone with you but for some of the  route the reception will be non-existent or poor at best, especially in the hilly central areas.

If you plan to ride road sections late in the day then take some lights with you because even in summer the mist can come down very quickly in the hills or unforeseen punctures etc. can slow you down. It is still a good idea to carry lights with you regardless.

It is a good idea to take a bike lock with you, whether going into shops or just visiting a site of interest, as it makes it a lot less daunting for you leaving your pride and joy in the reasonable certainty that it will be there on your return.

You will find that your bike handling skills quickly improve during the ride; hills that were near impossible at the start of the ride will seem a lot easier at the end; and you will very quickly learn how to pick the best line between the dog deposits.

Oh yes and don’t forget – enjoy yourself!

The Bike Bit

Bike Bit

You might have got yourself into shape to complete the route but have you thought about your bike and how it will cope with the extra demands you are about to place on it?

Below is a basic (very basic) list of checks you should carry out on your bike before you start and don’t do them the night before you set off! If you are in any doubt as to your competence regarding cycle maintenance then take your bike into the local bike shop to get it serviced.

Brakes – Make sure that the blocks are not rubbing on the tyre when you apply your brakes, also check that the blocks hit the rim squarely and do not slide under the rim. Check that the blocks are not overly worn and that they connect with the rim cleanly.
Cables – Check that neither the gear or brake cables are frayed. If they are, replace them.
Tyres – The tyres should be inflated correctly to manufacturers recommendations and check the amount of tread left. If in doubt, replace them.
Lubrication – Apply lubrication to front and rear mechs, brake holder pivots, all entry and exit points on cable outers, chain, brake lever pivot points and reapply lubrication at the end of each days riding
Spares – Check out the spares list on the right hand side of this page for a basic list of kit to take with you.

Training

I am loathe to offer training schedules to potential C2Cers as each cyclist is different and will invariably start from a different base level of fitness. Remember that the best person to judge your fitness is yourself, and if you get out of breath tying your trainers you will probably need to work on it. One of the best things about the C2C is its versatility. You can take as long or as little time to complete the route as you wish, so if you can only manage 25 miles a day then do it over 5 days,         but if you are comfortable cycling 50 miles a day then you can try for three days. Either way it’s your choice. Pick a trip length that matches your level of fitness (and commitment) and you will enjoy the ride. There is no point in attempting the route in two days if you don’t enjoy a single minute of it and need a week off work to recover.

My old friend Dik took his partner Lou on the route in May 2000 and did it in three days. She had not been on a bike for more than three years so I will not hesitate to offer Lou’s training schedule as a pointer:

She trained over a period of 12 weeks starting off in week one doing 2/3 rides of  no more than 10 miles at a very easy pace. She built this up so that at week 6 she was doing 2 rides of 10 to 15 miles and a longer ride of 25 miles at 10/12 mph. She then incorporated some hills and upped the tempo a little so that by week 10 Lou was comfortably riding 30 miles over an undulating course as well as riding 2 x 14 miles in under an hour. By week 12 Lou was ready and comfortably completed the C2C in three days and even enjoyed it.

Two important points to take into consideration are:

The middle section of the route is very, very hilly and you should do some riding over hilly terrain before attempting the C2C proper to prepare your self.

Your ‘undercarriage’ takes a hell of a pounding so try to ride for 2 or 3 days consecutively to help acclimatize your ‘bits’. Its no good completing the first day only to find it’s far too uncomfortable to get on the bike the next day!

The main thing is to pick a route length that you can manage, don’t get too confident only to find you have bitten off more than you can chew. I did the route in 2001 with zero training and completed it. With a limp, and wishing I had been as wise as Lou.

Mark Porter