Cycling UK member Peter Langford completes End to End at age 90
Many Cycling UK members dream of taking on the challenge of the End to End: riding the length of the country, from the southern tip at Land’s End to the northernmost point of John o’ Groats.
But few, if any, have embarked on the 1,100 mile trip at age 90. For Peter Langford, from Beccles in Suffolk, however, it was fourth time lucky as support from family and friends along with kindness from strangers – and the weather – made it his most enjoyable trip yet.
His first LEJOG was at the age of 75, raising funds for Ringsfield Hall Trust, a residential centre for church and school groups which he set up with his wife Sally in 1972. He raised £25,000.
He found that his bike wasn’t quite up to the job, though: “It was quite an old bike with inadequate gears and too wide a saddle that made my backside very sore. It was a relief when I had to get off on steep hills and could give my bottom a rest! As I went along I kept muttering to myself, ‘never again’.”
Five years later, at age 80, he was back, with extra gears and a better saddle This time he raised £10,000 for the public hall in Beccles and an orphanage and school in Uganda.
In 2018 Peter rode LEJOG again, aged 85, unsupported and with heavy panniers but on a new bike with much better gears. After raising £21,000 for Medecins Sans Frontieres, he vowed it would be the last time, although his family didn’t believe him.
He said: “Sure enough, I was tempted as I approached 90 to have one more go! I decided to do it in aid of the homeless.”
Riding almost 3,500 miles in training from the start of 2023 until setting off on 22 August, Peter was well prepared for the road ahead. This time around, his family and friends played a big role as his support team. For him, this was the highlight of the trip.
“Getting to spend time with my family and friends made this trip the most satisfying and fulfilling of all four. They carried my panniers between them almost all the way. I had time with each of my three children, two of whom cycled with me for parts of the route, along with two of my three granddaughters and their husbands.”
At one point between Shropshire and Manchester, four generations of the family were riding together as Peter’s granddaughter Sasha and her husband, who are expecting Peter’s first great-grandchild, joined in.
Support from family helped Peter to keep up his morale when hills and other difficulties occasionally made the going tough. He said: “You don’t achieve these things with your legs. You achieve them with your mind.”
The support of strangers was another highlight of the trip, with many people moved to give Peter a donation after spotting his eye-catching bright yellow T-shirt emblazoned with “Land’s End to John o’ Groats at age 90 in aid of the homeless”. As he says, that T-shirt was “worth its weight in gold!”
From motorists who handed him money through car windows, to a woman in a café who phoned the bike shop to pay for repairs to his brakes without him knowing, to the owner of a bed and breakfast in Perth who provided his accommodation for free and insisted on taking him out for a meal, Peter feels huge gratitude for the kindness he experienced.
He has now raised £38,000 of his £50,000 target for the Salvation Army and Access Community Trust.
Gratitude of a different sort was on display when he arrived at John o’ Groats after 30 days to be met by cheering family members.
“When I got to John o’ Groats I embraced the post and then knelt down on the ground and thanked God. All wonderful, but don’t put any money on my doing it at 95!”
Peter may not have any similar challenges lined up for the immediate future, but he continues to cycle as his usual form of transport, usually covering 50 miles per week.
“I don’t have a car any more so I use the bike to get to the shops and around the town. I can’t walk very well due to arthritis in my knees, but I can cycle – in fact, when I get on the bike I feel 30 years younger!”