Book A Cycling Tour
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Google Plus Share on LinkedIn Share on Email
Nick Mitchell: the man who wrote the book on Land’s End – John O’Groats

Cycling Blog

Nick Mitchell: the man who wrote the book on Land’s End – John O’Groats

Tweet This
Share This

June 5th, 2015

After speaking to Bill Phelps in part 2 of our Cycling Champions series, our spotlights turned homeward. We wanted to speak to someone who has real experience with the best routes the UK has to offer cyclists, so who better than Nick Mitchell – author of the book on the Land’s End to John O’Groats ride.

kayugee/Flickr CC BY-ND 2

kayugee/Flickr CC BY-ND 2

Nick’s introduction to cycling was a by-product of a desire avoid work during the summer holidays, after having enrolled in university as a mature student: an advert in a local paper was offering riding notes for people wanting to ride Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) on a budget, and it piqued his interest.

En route he saw a tour company leading a group of riders (presumably paid), triggering the realisation that people pay money to go on led rides! He put the idea it to bed, focussed on studies, then moved to Germany a few years later and took up touring as a way of seeing the country.

Some lovely forests in Germany

Germany offers some lovely cycle touring!
Kitty Terwolbeck/Flickr CC BY 2.0

On returning to the UK to enrol in a Masters the time finally came for Nick to get a job: the touring revelation resurfaced in his mind and he sought out a tour company to get involved. After telling them his experience they signed him up and recruited him to do a recce for an upcoming tour they had planned. He was responsible for planning the route, figuring out where to stay (prioritising Youth Hostels), and provide general information for the riders.

The opportunity to combine the research skills from his studies with his experience planning and riding tours turned into an impulse to write a chapter of a tour book, and to see whether any publishing houses might be interested. The chapter piqued Cicerone’s interest, and they invited him down for a chat.


A chapter turned into a book, and was published the following October. Nick’s approach when writing is to pick out bits on the route that you could easily discuss in the pub on a day after a tour, and to focus on those. This seems like a great way to do it as it keeps the rides interesting and, when combined with his preferred approach of planning routes that prioritise back lanes and smaller roads, gives riders the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere.

He does say that it is also the hardest bit of writing a route book though, as you essentially have to learn about something you have no prior knowledge of. “You have to get the dates right and the kings’ names right”, he jokes, “because your name is on the front cover!”

Nick mentioned the new trend of cycle groups to finish the Land’s End to John O’Groats trip as quickly as possible – usually in 8-10 days, stating that this is faster than he would choose. He also mentioned enjoying seeing all the different tribes that continue to develop in the cycling world, noting that Ride25 taps perfectly into the Lycra roadie crowd (and then explaining his tendency to bring mountain bike shorts and maybe a bobble hat on tours, instead of Lycra!).

Other projects

When I spoke to Nick he was waiting for a ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland, where he’d be undertaking a recce for an upcoming ride along the Rhine into Bavaria, then along the Danube into Vienna. This return to the continent, Nick’s cycling stomping ground, marks the research phase of another ride and potentially another book.

Gateway to The Netherlands

He’s also documented the Trans-Pennine Trail and the Coast-to-Coast ride, and a guide to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site in Germany is selling well in America. He has loose plans to write more in the future.

Closing thoughts

I had a few other questions for Nick, mainly about his wider touring habits:

What is your best touring experience?

I think cycling back from Munich to Sheffield, best bit was Munich to The Hook of Holland: along the River Alba and up through Bavaria, going along the former divide of East and West germany. They had tanks overlooking river at the time, and now the big tank roads are now unspoiled nature reserves that you can cycle through with amazing wildlife.

When you go on a cycling holiday in Europe, you really get spoiled by the infrastructure!

You recently attempted a coastal loop of the UK – how did that go?

I attempted the coastal ride of the UK – cycle camping on 26” wheel orbit, and in retrospect I must have been mad with all my kit on that. One morning after a 108 mile day, absolutely loaded down, I couldn’t get out of my tent. Then I tweaked my back in Edinburgh and could only manage a few more days after that. I put my bike in a guy’s garage, giving him £20 and telling him I’d be back in a couple of weeks.

Do you plan on finishing that ride?

I might do. I haven’t explored Wales or the north-west of Scotland yet so there’s definitely the possibility, although I did a LEJOG one September and nearly got hypothermia and vowed never to ride a bike in Scotland again! So maybe I’ll re-evaluate in a few years’ time.

Can you summarise cycling in 20 words or less?

“A chance to earn a living in the fresh air and sunshine doing something I enjoy ”

Nick’s answer to the final question summarises it perfectly, doesn’t it? His LEJOG book, The End to End Cycle Route, is available from Cicerone.

Leave a Reply

Sign Up For Updates

* indicates required