Bike computer

This is a fairly essential piece of kit if you are following a written route of the ‘turn left after 1 mile’ variety. You might get away without one if you are purely following a map. But even then it’s nice to know how far you have gone.

Personally I find a bike computer essential to help me calculate how far I have been, how far I have to go and how long it will take me to get there. Mine also has a heart rate monitor so I can keep an eye on how hard I am working. I have a tendency to push too hard and need to make sure my heart rate doesn’t creep up too high for too long. It’s not a problem over a short training ride but on day long rides it means I run out of energy before the end of.

For the trip I also purchased a satellite navigation device (‘sat nav’) for the bike. In fact my wife insisted when I said I wasn’t taking any maps because they were too bulky. It would have been a very useful aid if:

  1. I had remembered to load my route onto it before I left! [I managed to download it via the computer at my overnight B&B near John O’Groats].
  2. The built in rechargeable battery lasted longer than 8-9 hours. My average day was 10-12 hours cycling.  I have since bought a Garmin 800 which has an alleged battery life of up to 20 hours.  However this is if used without navigation turned on which for the purposes of touring is pretty pointless.  The length of the battery life is mostly determined by how bright the screen is.  If turned down to minimum I have had 15 hours out of my Garmin 800 whilst navigating.  However, at full brightness the battery will only last about 7 hours.  You can buy cheap (compared to the cost of the sat nav) external batteries that will charge the sat nav a number of times over.  With a bit of ingenuity you can attach this to your bike with a cable feeding to the sat nav for continuous power.  I have successfully cycled for 40 hours using this method with power left in the external battery and the sat nav still on full charge at the end. 
  3. Most importantly, I had worked out how to use it properly before I started the trip.

Since my End to End I have learnt how to set up and use my sat nav properly.  I now find it an invaluable aid.  Gone are the fumblings with paper routes and desperately trying to remember whether it is L or R at the next T.  And if you are riding in the dark it is ideal - just follow the line on the screen.  I have ridden Land's End to John O'Groats twice since my 2009 trip the other way and both times I relied solely on the sat nav for navigation, the last time not even taking a paper route as back up.

If are foolish enough to risk travelling without a map, like me, and you don’t have a sat nav, a more basic bit of equipment that might be useful is a compass. If you do get lost it’s better to know you are at least heading in vaguely the right direction.


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