Only Mad Dogs And Englishwomen, Sarah Stinton (2010)

An enjoyable account of a young woman’s solo LEJOG in 1997

Authors OnLine 9780755204991 Paperback 211 pp or 9780755204984 with black and white photographs £7.99

Tail-to-tip rides have been staple of cycling since earliest times. Despite this, accounts of women undertaking the ride alone are few and far between.

The quality of Stinton’s tale is its innocent simplicity. She does not affect to draw her surroundings in vivid colour nor contrive humorous encounters. This is a straightforward account of a 21 year old woman who started in Cornwall and kept riding until, 1,200 miles later, she was overlooking the Pentland Firth.

She gets lost, she gets drunk, she gets propositioned – but her merry conviction that she would make it shines through. She even rattled a can as she went raising money for the Mines Advisory Group.

Here she is grinding up the Kirkstone Pass in Cumbria.

“Going up hill for a whole hour on end brought new and unexpected bodily sensations; and none of them were particularly pleasant. I constantly panted and gasped for breath (although I was proud to discover it never got so bad I had to get off and push.) My heart was a base drum; I could feel a red-hot pulse in my face and my cheeks burned. The one comfort was that there was one car passing me roughly every five minutes, and due to the fact even motors struggled up this gradient, I could always hear their approach in plenty of time. This allowed me to use the entire width of the road to wobble on, and I was able to meander diagonally across at the steepest bits to try and aid my ascent.”

Just occasionally I wished that she had worked a bit harder on her language – of Glastonbury Tor ‘spooky, or what’, and a page later ‘I was thoroughly ashamed of myself (for letting a man she had bumped into pay for their night out)…yeah right’.

Nevertheless, if you are looking to reassure yourself, or someone else, that this journey is enjoyably achievable alone, then this is a book worth seeking out.

PS May 10

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