Tag Archives: cycle equipment

Starting 2015 as I mean to continue

January can often be one of the ‘meh’ months after all the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, then having to go back to work whilst it’s still dark for the majority of the day, with the weather not being conducive to wanting to get out of bed. I decided this year I’d make January count, rather than be the month you want to get through as fast as possible. It still seems to have flown by, but at least I appear to have achieved filling it with good memories rather than what can sometimes be a bland month.

It started off well with a great New Year’s party round at friends, after which I decided to sleep out under the stars in my back garden in an effort to begin the year off with a bit of a microadventure. This enterprise was somewhat fuelled by the several shots, some of which were of a dubious nature, consumed at the party, however I wanted to take up the challenge Alastair Humphreys has laid down of a ‘Year of Microadventures’, and sleeping out at least once a month. This won’t be difficult once I start my cycle touring later this year, however it requires a bit of motivation in the colder months. Suffice to say equipped with a sleeping bag encased in a bivvy bag I was pretty snug, but awoke somewhat bleary the next day. I need to decide where to camp out in February; somewhere a bit more adventurous than my back garden perhaps!

If you haven’t checked out Alastair Humphreys’ website definitely worth a browse, and I can recommend watching his ‘Into the Empty Quarter’ DVD which I saw over Christmas, all good motivational stuff: http://www.alastairhumphreys.com

Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long before the next exciting instalment of January fun, as some friends and I had booked a skiing holiday to Slovenia for the second week in. It’s a lot easier going back to work after New Year when you know you have a holiday booked within spitting distance. I hadn’t been to Slovenia before and it didn’t disappoint. Admittedly we were lucky with snow, as it’s been unseasonably warm, however the pistes were open and I hadn’t forgotten how to ski after nearly 6 years of not doing so. It was also cheap at under half the price of an equivalent holiday in France or Austria; the Vopa bar opposite our hotel charged around 2.20 euros a pint, as opposed at least 3 times that in France.

We booked with Crystal Holidays and have no complaints. They were a friendly and helpful team, who organised various events including a pub quiz; we somehow came third, despite the Jagermeister. Kranjska Gora itself is a lovely place, a small town with a bit of an Austrian feel to it which isn’t surprising considering it’s proximity to the border. The locals are very friendly, as were the other ski parties from all over Europe, including a group of Czechs with whom we had an impromptu late night guitar jamming session. Kranjska Gora has some excellent mountain biking trails which are open in the summertime, so might head back that way later this year if my route takes me in that direction. Slovenia is pretty cycle friendly, with lots of cycle trails available, so a good choice for a tourer.

Here’s a video my skiing buddy Chris put together from our night skiing foray; warning – this video contains heavy metal and Chris’ radioative green trousers.

The same Youtube channel also contains the somewhat epic crash Chris and I had on the Podkoren black run; a case of converging skiers with nowhere to go!

The ski holiday over it was back to work and the serious business of earning the pennies to support more fun based activity later this year. With the intended start date of my 2015 tour getting closer I’ve realised I’ve got rather a lot to before I’m ready to go, including a kit refresh, finishing planning, getting my house ready to rent then renting it out, buying plane tickets etc etc etc. At least I’ve made a good start this weekend by picking up my new bike from Oxford Bike Works. As I’ve mentioned before I really love my Ridgeback Panorama, however I wanted to upgrade for this years activities, and selected something a little more solid and simple; a steed that’s unlikely to break, can survive the harsher trails, and which I can fix relatively easily wherever I am.

I read a review on touring bikes a couple of months ago on Tom Allen’s website, http://tomsbiketrip.com/ (look under touring help for loads of really sound advice when planning a trip) , and noticed he’s designed an expedition bike, putting to use his years of experience of cycle touring in to designing something simple, hard to break, and practical. As I was in the market for something new, and didn’t want to go the route of Dawes, or another Ridgeback, I thought I’d take a look and got in touch with Richard from Oxford Bike Works. After a visit in early January, which included a fitting session, test ride, and design finalisation, I headed back there yesterday to pick up my new bike. After riding it around Norfolk today I can confirm I’m very pleased with the resulting machine, and would recommend Richard and Oxford Bike Works to anyone in the market for something that isn’t just off the peg.

Features include an SP Dynamo Hub for keeping devices charged, and for running the Luxos front lamp which will be handy in Norwegian tunnels, some of which can be kilometres long. I’ll carry on using my Lezyne back light, and add to it with a few other small LEDs if the weather is bad. It also has a natty two-legged folding stand, something I really missed on my Bike around Britain tour. I’m somewhat over-excited about the brass bell mounted on the handlebar stem; it just looks cool. The wheels are hand-built with 36 spokes, covered by comprehensive sturdy yet light mudguards, and Tubus Racks on which I can mount my Ortlieb panniers. The bike frame is Reynolds 525 tubing, and I did wonder why higher spec tubing wasn’t used, 725 or even 953, however apparently the 525 won’t dent as easily. I went for standard mountain bike style handlebars, with cow horns so I can change my hand grip; I get pins and needles in my hands if there in the same position for too long whilst riding. The saddle is a Gel Ozone Bioflex model, which is considerably larger and more padded than that on my Ridgeback; I can attest to it being more comfy after today’s ride, didn’t need padded shorts. I considered a Brookes Saddle but couldn’t justify the expense, and some say they take a bit of getting used to anyway. Finally, the most important thing, I chose red for the colour, as red makes things go faster, obviously, and because Travelling Lobster approves of anything that’s red.

Here are a few more photo’s from today’s ride around Norfolk; the snow drops have been out for a few week’s now and look lovely.

With the new bike acquired, I need to get on and tick some more stuff off my list with regards to tour prep, especially as I want to start in May which isn’t that far away now. I’m thinking of starting the tour with a visit to the first UK-based cycle touring festival, up near Manchester, before flying out to Nordkapp, the Northern-most point of Norway. It would be great to meet lots of like-minded individuals and make some new contacts, learn lots, and get motivated for the months ahead. The festival is the first of its kind in the UK, as far as I know, and I hope it gets enough interest for it to continue next year, cycle touring being something of a niche, although growing, past-time. Would be great to go back next year and talk about my 2015 adventures; here’s a link to the website, tickets go on sale pretty soon: https://cycletouringfestival.wordpress.com/

That was meant to be a short post, but turned into something of a ramble, so well done if you made it all the way through. Stay tuned for more news shortly on tour planning, working out how to get my bike on a plane, renaming my blog (suggestions welcome), thoughts on dealing with dangerous dogs whilst touring, and refining my kit list. 2015 is shaping up to be a winner, providing I get my arse in gear and get cracking on the to-do list.

10 days and counting

With 10 days to go until I start my tour this weekend mostly consisted of training, planning, shopping, mild panic, and eating. I still managed to fit in a few beers though – got to maintain a balanced diet after all.

After a hectic week at work it was really nice to go out Friday evening. A group of us went to the appropriately named Bicycle Shop, a restaurant on St Benedict’s Street (Norwich) that also has a funky bar downstairs; the Bicycle Bar. Several ales were duly consumed whilst commiserating over the English house buying process – you can go all the way through the process, paying for searches, solicitors etc, but before you exchange it means nothing and the seller can just pull out, potentially losing you a lot of money. Happened to a couple of friends and doesn’t seem at all right, I believe the Scottish system is probably a lot fairer. Anyway I’d recommend the Bicycle Shop, and St Benedict’s Street in general for going out; The X Bells serves excellent cocktails!

Also met up with Tom who’s planning on taking his show to the Edinburgh festival this year, and has set up a Kickstarter project to raise funding – well worth a look at their Faileontology trailer. I know the guys would welcome any support so feel free to share the link!


As a consequence of Friday evening’s activity Saturday was a little slower starting than anticipated, however I duly loaded up my bike, which seems to be getting heavier with each outing, and headed out into the glorious sunshine. Still a little cold but fine once you get going, and there were plenty of warming hills to struggle up; please refer to a previous post concerning Norfolk really not being that flat, not when you have a fully loaded touring bike anyway.

A 72 mile training ride through the countryside down into Suffolk ensued, for once without a headwind to speak of, passing through Caistor St Edmunds and the old Roman town there, then on to Saxlingham, Halesworth, and through several more picturesque and decidedly sleepy English villages before reaching Beccles.

I’m not sure what it is about moderately sized Suffolk towns but they seem to make my GPS device (Garmin Edge) go a little senile. As with Bungay it proceeded to send me around in a few circles, attempt to cross a fairly large river where there wasn’t a handy bridge, and send me down a one way street the wrong way. I eventually did make it out of Beccles, but was quite thankful to cross over back into Norfolk where electronic devices seem less prone to randomness.

Nelson's County

Saturday evening consisted of eating pasta, a lot of pasta, and watching the Bourne Legacy which was quite entertaining, however I think they might be stretching out the Bourne thing a little too much now; rarely do sequels impress me more than the first film, with a few notable exceptions – Expendables 2 rocked 😉

Also managed to buy some of the last things I need, aside from food, including the all important Chamois cream and a new outfit – bib and cycling jersey from Northwave which I’m sure will look very ‘fetching’, if you’re into lycra that is. Must update my kit-list page.

Sunday was again good weather so I headed North to Blickling Hall, on a 45 miles route which I’ve done several times now. It takes me up to Reepham, on to Blickling Hall, then back to Norwich via Coltishall and Wroxham, all for the most part on pleasant country roads; aside from the potholes, ruts, debris from tractors, horses, cows etc, and the ‘interesting’ smells associated with pig farms. Can’t complain though, bacon has to come from somewhere and is a vital part of my balanced diet.

Few pictures below, quite a few of churches as Norfolk has a lot of them. I believe all the landowners used to build churches for their tenants. It must have been some kind of competitive status symbol, and obviously to demonstrate ones devotion. They dot the landscape coming in various shapes, sizes, and degrees of embellishment – hence competitiveness. They’re almost as common as pubs, although sadly the latter are prone to closure these days, which is sad considering the fine quality of real ale being produced in the county.

Just after Blickling I had to mend a puncture, which thankfully I haven’t had to do in a while, and hopefully won’t have to do again for a bit. I’m down to one spare inner tube now so best get some more before setting off, although I will try and repair inner tubes where practical. Ended up with very grotty hands for the rest of the ride which reminded me I need to clean my bike before setting off on 01 May.


Met quite a few really nice people whilst out cycling this weekend, mostly other cyclists, but also people who were in general interested in what I was up to and how far I’d cycled. Really encouraging to have a good chat when you stop for a break.

Last full week of work next week and lots to do, both on the work front and final planning activities before setting off the week after. Best make a list, I have lots of lists, thankfully most of them have lots of ticks on them, hence only mild panic at present.

On a parting note I’m now almost completely addicted to Haribo Tangfastics. Sadly I can’t claim they’re really part of my ‘balanced’ diet, but they really do help when your legs are close to giving up as I’m sure some of those who ran the Virgin London Marathon today would agree – congrats to everyone who took part and great to see it go ahead successfully after the sad events in Boston last weekend.

P.S. Thanks to Norman and Sheila for the Roast Chicken dinner this evening, and the flapjack, and the rejuvenating pint!


Pedalling and Packing

I was pretty determined to get out this weekend despite the snow, freezing temperatures, and Easterly winds gusting up to 40 mph making it feel colder. Still, at least it was sunny for the majority of the ride, and I had a good run out to North Walsham even if I had to lean into the wind at times. It was a little precarious on some of the open stretches lacking in hedgerows. I’ve come to love a good solid hedge when it’s windy, there need to be more of them for many reasons; wind break, commuting channel/habitat for wildlife, stops soil erosion, reduces noise pollution from traffic etc.

Record of ride here.

Aside from the odd commuter wending their way back from the shops, in a buffeted fashion, I didn’t see any other cyclists out today. All the ‘Mamils’ must have decided discretion was the better part of valour and stayed in, can’t say I blame them. Did see many pigs on my way through the countryside, happily wallowing in the mud and turning my thoughts to bacon (only felt slightly guilty). Good to see the pig farming trade must still be going well in Norfolk though.

On the way back my knee flared up again which is irritating, and something I’m going to have to keep an eye on with only just over a month to go before I set off. I’m applying Ibuprofen gel, Emu oil, and might try some Glucosamine supplements to sort it. It’s not an uncommon problem for cyclists and should be fixable. I’ll work on a physio routine for it too, but if anyone has any tips for frontal knee pain let me know.

I think I’ve acquired everything I need for the tour now after picking up a new stove (Whisperlite), and charging device (PowerMonkey eXtreme); Cotswold’s have done fairly well out of me in the last few months but at least I get a discount, and they’re generally pretty knowledgeable and helpful.  I was in a quandary over the PowerMonkey however after reading several reviews, and cogitating for a bit, I think it was the right  way to go. I can recharge it from the mains or via the solar panels that come with it, which I can set up on my back rack when I’m cycling along, and it’ll definitely charge all my devices including iPad.


The alternative was a dynamo which I’m still not sure wasn’t the better idea, however this won’t charge things when I’m not on the move (day off), and I won’t always be at a campsite where I can plug stuff in. The PowerMonkey also doesn’t need full sunshine which is a blessing given British weather.

Also bought a dry bag to put my tent and sleeping bag in; I’ll attach this via bungee cords to my back rack. Having laid out the majority of my kit on the kitchen floor earlier I’m not entirely sure how it’s all going to fit on my bike – see below.


I’ll need to add more food, a few more clothes, a foraging guide book and puri-tabs (in case I run out of water, although I’ll still boil it) and perhaps a bottle of something medicinal to the above. Next weekend I’ll have a practice run with everything on the bike – might venture down to Cambridge again depending on knee status. It’ll be interesting to see if I can still move under a full load, and how much I need to rationalise my kit list.

A few other random musings to wrap up:

    • Wondering if I should give ‘Fregansim‘ a go on the tour, which will basically involve checking out supermarket skips for any recently past it’s sell by date food. It is after all stupid how much food is wasted and would save on cash. Will have to look into the legality of it. Be great if I could take a fishing rod but there isn’t really room.
    • Like the idea of sub-quests, such as stopping to complete any pirate crazy golf courses I pass, or seeking out local speciality food stuffs in different counties. Extra challenges could mean raising extra money for charity, and add another dimension/fun to the tour. I have a number of objectives I want to complete but feel free to suggest further quests and I’ll duly consider them; realise this is a but risky knowing some of my friends.
    • Next week I’ll be planning out my route and stops more. Whilst this will remain flexible and dates will likely shift about it should make it easier to meet up with people en-route, whether it be for a pint, meal, or to join me for a leg or two.

A few photos on me on my bike, courtesy of my brother from last weekend:

DSC_0222 DSC_0228 DSC_0231 DSC_0234