Meet the inspirational 87-year-old who rode from Land's End to John O'Groats… on his Brompton!
Donald Wells rode his trusty 18-year-old folder the length of Great Britain this year, and accidentally became a record-breaker along the way. Here he tells us about his incredible journey…
"I have been a keen lifelong cyclist and would spend my weekends as a young man riding from my home near Heathrow to the coast of Kent and Sussex. I really took up the long-distance bike trips by myself after my wife Edna passed away 23 years ago. Prior to LEJOG my longest ride has been from southern France along the Camino de Santiago when I was 82. Last year I rode through the Loire Valley, I’ve also taken my old Brompton along the Rhine, the Danube, through parts of Italy and along the Romantic Road in Bavaria.
"I usually follow the Cicerone cycling guides but for LEJOG I did veer off their course a bit. It took me five weeks and two days. I wanted to go at a leisurely pace and I’ve had the bike adapted by my local bike shop in Emsworth with smaller gears and a smaller BMX gear cog. I didn’t set out to break the record (Tony Rathbone holds the current Guinness World Record for completing the journey in 2014, aged 81), though I’m awaiting official clarification that I am the oldest man to cycle it. I kept all my receipts and took 700 photos along the way as evidence too. People I met would offer to sponsor me but I tell them there’s no need – it’s just my annual holiday!
"I didn’t allow for the Hay-on-Wye festival taking place and found that everywhere between Monmouth and Hereford was booked up, so I spent the night on a bench outside Asda! The next day a couple who’d heard about me stopped me on the road, took me in for dinner and put me up for the night. They were popcorn importers – you do meet the most interesting people. I really enjoyed the long climb up the Trough of Bowland, when I looked it up afterwards I found out how it’s a tough training course. I tell people I have four gears, three on the bike and one for hills - walking! Scotland was very pleasant indeed. I enjoyed staying at Crask Inn, riding through Glencoe, Lockerbie and along the River Clyde cycle way. I felt fine after I finished the ride – no aches and pains. I don’t rush and tear around, I take it easy."
For The Record
"I always keep a daily diary. It helps jog the memory when looking back on my rides, where I stayed and the people
I met on route."
"I don’t book places to stay in advance, I just try to find a place when I stop. When I tell them I’m riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats some hoteliers are very generous."
"At one hostel I slept in what looked like an over-sized dustbin cut in half and laid on its side. It cost £50 for the night and wasn’t very comfortable."
Donald is a member of Cycling UK, the national cycling charity promoting cycling and bicycle use.