Top Tips for Riding John O’Groats to Land’s End from a Yorkshire Mum who did it

Fat Lass at the Back sponsored rider Gemma shares her story and tips

Riding from the length of the country is a feat that many of us dream of – and it doesn’t have to be out of reach. Yorkshire mum Gemma Towell completed the journey – clocking up 1,534km – to raise money for charity after three of her friends and work colleagues were diagnosed with cancer.

The 37-year-old from Cowling raised £2,500 in total for Beefy’s Charity Foundation who support people with chronic illnesses – but will be completing more adventures by bike over the next year in a bid to raise a total of £10,000.

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The weather wasn’t exactly kind for Gemma, either

The mum-of-one said following the ride, which she completed earlier this summer: “It was such an amazing experience, the weather was typically British and I got lost, of course. Looking back I was a little quiet at the start as I contemplated the journey ahead, and what a beautiful journey it was, full of every emotion you can imagine that all came to a head as I reached Land’s End.”

Gemma was met by her husband, Peter, and daughter Ashleigh when she finally reached Land’s End – she described the moment as ‘a bit like midnight on New Year’s Eve’ – saying: “It was such a big build up and nothing actually happens at the end.”

The idea of covering such a huge distance can seem intimidating at first – but time and time again we’re told that riders find they adapt quicker than expected. Gemma said: “I have to admit, I could have definitely carried on by the end of the ride – I felt physically great. I would encourage anybody to saddle up, especially if it’s for a good cause, as it’s one of my greatest achievements.”

In a bid to reach £10,000 (a target set by her employer, Whitakers Chocolates – yum!) Gemma will continue to take on various excruciating bike rides this next year with the support of FLAB (Fat Lad/Lass at the Back), for whom she has become a brand ambassador.

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Describing her motivations behind the challenge to raise such a large sum of money, she said: “I was heartbroken to see the suffering and pain of all three of my friends and their families. I just felt helpless, all I could do was stand by and watch. I have a lot of anger towards cancer and I wanted to put all of this built up hurt to good use and so decided to use it to fuel my fund-raising efforts.”

Having completed the ride, Gemma is keen to encourage others to give it a go – here are her tips for potential riders of LEJOG, JOLEG – or any other epic journey by bike…

Gemma’s Top Tips for riding from John O’Groats to Land’s End

Plan, plan, plan and double check your plan

Unfortunately, I got lost a couple of times which added lots of unnecessary miles on to my journey. I would advise anybody to not follow in my footsteps and thoroughly plan their journey beforehand to save added headaches on the trip.

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During the journey I obtained a very painful ankle injury. This was due to severe fatigue after I hadn’t eaten enough. Don’t be a fool and finish your food, I would say it’s the number one priority before embarking on long cycling journeys.

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Avoid big city centres

For two reasons; the countryside offers a far more beautiful view than any city centre but it’s so much easier to cycle without the added fear of cars and countless pedestrians.

Take a friend

I wanted to do this journey on my own, however I have to admit I regularly became lonely. It’s far better travelling with a friend, not only does time pass more quickly but you can also spur each other on in those moments of fatigue.

Enjoy the ride and take your time

The most important thing to remember – why do the journey when you can’t admire the beautiful views and enjoy the adrenaline and physical benefits of cycling? Try not to cram everything in all at once. Everybody travels at different speeds and you have to remember, this isn’t a competition.

To sponsor Gemma on her journey visit her site here.  After a more supported ride? Check out these 5 reasons to ride end-to-end with Women v Cancer. 

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