Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wild Antelope Charges Mountain Biker in South Africa

Evan van dur Spuy of team Team Jeep got a nasty surprise when on a race in South Africa where a wild antelope charged him and took him out. In the video you can see why you wear a helmet.

This definitely ranks up there in extreme things that can happen while riding a bike.

World Record beating 100 year old runner!

100 Year old runner - Fauja Singh
OK, so this has nothing to do with cycling or bike tours in any way but I think it definitely qualifies as extreme so I had to post this. I read an article about Fauja Singh on Sky News

Fauja is a 100 year old (yes you read that right) runner who holds world records in his age category and is looking to gain a new world record in the Toronto marathon. He already holds world records in sprint events.

This guy is an inspiration and should go down in history as a legend. I can only hope that I firstly reach his age and secondly that I am still fit and active at that age.

This reminds me of a mentality I try and use about not giving up and I get the inspiration from Henry Ford - "He who stops learning whether at 20 or 80 is old". That is pretty profound but I think it is also very true and I try and employ that when biking long distances when my body just wants to give up and my mind is also trying to make me do the same.

Read more about Fauja Singh and his records on Sky News.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Carerra Crossfire 1 - Review

Carerra Crossfire 1
This bike got me into bicycle touring in a big way. Before this bike I had a Muddyfox which was just used to get around on.

I highly recommend the Carerra Crossfire 1, it is extremely good value and has some nice features on it. It is versatile and can be used on and off road. It is mainly a hybrid type commuter bike for road and trail riding.

I like the twist grip gear shifters as these are good for long distance. I have noticed that one of the shifters appears to have some play in it after 6,000 or so miles but it still functions well.
Carerra Crossfire 1 - Kitted out ready for a bike tour

The tires that it comes with are decent but are no longer available. I have since fitted Schwalbe marathon plus tires to the bike which are excellent! Punctures are now a thing of the past!

The standard chainset has an extremely high ratio 1st gear for steep hills which is very useful.

The crank, free wheel and both wheel bearings started to show wear after a few thousand miles and needed replacing.

This bike is very comfortable for long distances, the saddle is a large soft padded item with its own suspension. This coupled with the front suspension that takes out jolts from the road make it a very easy bike to go on long distances with. The riding position is also very good with adjustable bar height and position.

In summary, this bike is pretty well built, uses adequate equipment, is extremely good value and is very comfortable. All of this makes it an ideal entry level touring bike.
A Review of the Careera Crossfire 1 from Halfords

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cycling and Wild Camping or Stealth Camping

Many people are put off by the thought of wild camping and not having serviced facilities readily available. But the truth is wild camping opens up a world of possibilities and represents true freedom when travelling, particularly by bike but also when on foot.

Campsite in the Swiss Alps
There are a few things to consider before you go wild camping. Some countries have laws that specifically prohibit wild camping where as other countries such as Scotland have the free to roam act.

The essence of wild camping and in particular stealth camping is to leave no trace that you were ever there and to be hidden from passers by. The aim is to be completely out of sight from civilization and completely self sufficient.

What to look for in a wild / stealth camp site
  • Close to a water source such as a stream or river
  • Away from a road and track
  • Wooded or high over growth area
  • Hillside
Close to a water source

In the woods, close to a stream - what a sunset!
Water is the most important thing you will need while doing any kind of wild travelling. If you can make sure that you take several bottles of water with you. You will need water for drinking. cooking and cleaning. You don't want to have to walk too far to go and fill up a water bottle of wash out your pots and pans.

If you have to use a stream or river for drinking water it is advisable to boil this first to make sure that it is sterilized. You can let the water cool down and then drink it later. When you stop and set up camp it is a good idea to make sure that your drinking water sources are replenished.

Away from a road and track

When locating a wild camp site you need to scan the area for suitable locations. These will usually be away from any road and track. Very often, when cycling you will need to leave your bike and go and explore an area before deciding to take your bike to your chosen spot.

You ultimately develop a good eye for what works but the main aim is to find somewhere where you won't be seen or disturbed.

Wooded or high over growth area

Shelter in a very wet Sctoland
A wooded area is a really good place to find a wild camp site because it is sheltered, usually away from any roads and also obscures vision. A wooded area can also provide aids in setting up a camp or shelter, providing a washing line to dry out clothes etc. 

Also, if you are far enough from any civilization you can collect wood that you use to make a fire with. Usually though when wild camping and making a fire it is best to use a gas burner as they don't make any smoke and give away your whereabouts.

Areas with a lot of over growth mean that not a lot of people go there and also provide a lot of cushioning to lie on. I don't take a ground mat, pillow or any other form of sleeping aid other than a sleeping bag. I just find the softest patch of ground that I can.


A hillside with a lot of overgrowth
Hill sides are a good place to find a wild campsite because they provide shelter from wind and keep you hidden from view. Most roads usually go round hillsides too. If you scout out a good place on a ledge up on a hill side you might find that you can't die your bike to it. This probably means it is a good spot but you will have to carry your bike up or down a ledge and you may need to use rope or bungee cords to lower it or fix it in a suitable place.

I always lock my bike to something just in case but if you have done it right nobody will find you anyway. I usually consider the best way to make a fast get-away not that I have ever needed to (apart from one incident where I left a construction site 15 minutes before work started there). It makes sense to walk around your camp site and know where your exits are, just in case.

Other things to consider

Being away from civilization does not mean it will be quiet, nature comes alive at night! On that note, when you are off the beaten track and in over growth there can be a lot of bugs and insects!

Also, if you can, make sure someone knows the rough area you are going to and the route you plan on taking. This does somewhat take the fun out of it but it is sensible to let people know these things.

Always take any trash with you, I always designate a plastic bag for garbage and then dispose of it in the appropriate place when I come across it later on.

Wild camping can be fun and is way more free than going to an organized camp site whether pre booked or not.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bike Trip Equipment

Here is the list of equipment that I made from the first bike tour that I did. This was equipment taken for a planned 2 week bike trip - an unsupported tour of the alps. This trip would include airports at both ends so not only did we have to have the right gear, we had to be able to pack it and take it on a plane as well.

Bike Trip Equipment

Good Links for touring equipment Suggestions

Link 1 - We’ve pretty much nailed it as far as gears concerned, only other suggestions here are Clothes Pegs, Chapstick, Toilet Paper and sweat bands are very handy.

Link 2 - The Guy (Ken Kifer) who did this web site is a legend - he died (got hit by a drunk driver) but his friend has carried on the web site. They guy did about 60,000 miles bike touring and really knows his stuff.

Travel Insurance
Link 1

Black = Checked Baggage
Blue = Hand Luggage
Red = Buy There
Underline = Use between us

Easy Jet Baggage Rules - Link


  • Puncture Repeair Kit - TS
  • Chain Link Removal Tool - TS
  • First Aid Kit - TS
  • Cooking Pots - PH
  • Mini Stove - TS
  • Gas for Stove - TS (definately not allowed anywhere on the plane)
  • Knife - TS & PH
  • Fire Making Tools and Materials - PH
  • Torches - TS & PH
  • Compass and Maps - TS & PH
  • Pump - TS
  • Axe - TS


  • Inner Tubes (700C - 32-38) - TS
  • Chain - TS
  • Batteries TS
  • Brake Blocks

Camping Gear

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Mat
  • Small Pillow
  • Spare Pegs


  • T-Shirts X3-4
  • Shorts X2-3
  • Socks X4-5
  • Pants X4-5
  • Cycling Shorts X2
  • Running Shorts/Leggings X2-3
  • Wooly Hat X1
  • Cap X1
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Trainers X2
  • Thermal Jacket
  • Bright Cycling Jacket
  • A pair of clothes to wear out, EG Jeans and Shirt


  • Survival Food Packs TS & PH
  • Energy Bars TS & PH
  • Drink Holders X2
  • Suntan Lotion
  • Vaseline
  • Passport TS & PH
  • Travel Docs (Insurance, Flight Details (in separate doc), Photocopy of Passport) TS & PH
  • Camera TS & PH
  • Shampoo
  • Soap (shower gel)
  • Toothbrush/Paste TS & PH
  • IPod TS & PH
  • IPod Base Station TS
  • Solar IPod charger TS (Pico FreeLoader Solar Charger - Link)
  • Survival Guide PH
  • Toilet Paper
  • Wet wipes
  • Chap stick
  • Spare Plastic bags for laundry and to cover the panniers up with in case it rains (also for rubbish bags))
  • Disposable Cutlery
  • Bike Bags - Ive Bought 2 clear bike bags for me and yourself to put the bikes in when we get to the airport
  • Poker Set - TS

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stillwater MN to Taylors Falls MN - 65 Mile round trip

Map route Taken

Stillwater MN - Historic Bridge over the St.Croix River

Total Miles: 65
Time: 4 Hours 10 Mins
Average Speed: 15.6 MPH

This was a simple route just out of Stillwater MN on 95 North and then east on county 8 for a brief period. Unfortunately it rained quite heavily on this ride, it was just starting to rain a little when I left and then the heavens opened for the majority of the ride.

Taylors Falls, MN - Campground Route

Arriving at the camp ground route in Taylors Falls MN gave some shelter from the rain. There is an interstate park which has some nice trails leading up to the pot holes which are an interesting geographic feature. This area is very beautiful and picturesque, it was just a shame on this ride it was raining heavily.

To make myself more visible I had tied my yellow high visibility jacket around my rear pannier with the reflector showing at the rear. I also had two separate rear lights on for the rain.

Upon hitting one of the off-road trails around  the interstate park my high visibility jacket and worked lose and one of the arms get wrapped up in the wheel and rear chain set. This smeared oil all over my jacket and slightly ripped the bottom. This is a good reminder to make sure there is nothing hanging that can catch on the wheels.

With nicer weather this would have been a really nice ride, as it was raining it was just a good ride.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My first 100 Mile Ride

I decided on a Thursday afternoon at work in September 2010 that I was going to do a 100 mile ride. I had a beat up old Mountain Bike (A Muddy Fox) with a rack, lights, compass, trip computer and bar ends. The bike also had virtually slick 26 x 1.75" road tires which significantly reduced rolling road resistance, these are highly recommended for doing decent road miles. I had done a 70 mile trip previously with a couple of stops during that trip around Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire UK.

I used a similar bike to this one
I read up a lot that lunch time on what the requirements were. I decided that I needed to be physically and nutritionally prepared as it seemed a really daunting task. I had been doing plenty of riding and was in good shape as I had been increasing the distance of my rides over the previous few months 10, 20, 30, 50 Miles. I dropped 30 Lbs in my first year of riding!

The biggest thing for me that got me ready for it was a nutritional technique called Carb Loading. This is something that professional athletes do before big endurance races. I will discuss Carb Loading in a separate post but suffice to say I highly recommend it. What it boils down to is stuffing your self with high carb pasta meals in the day or two preceding your event.

The Route & The Ride
Route Map Here
Bedford to Oxford, England - 100 Mile Round Trip
I decided to ride from Bedford, England (where I used to live) to Oxford, England and back as this would give me a total of around 100 Miles and was a sensible mile stone location to ride to. After deciding to do this on the Thursday afternoon I started the ride straight after work on the Friday. I was well rested on the Thursday night in preparation for this ride and felt pretty good about it.

I broke the route down into 4 detailed maps and made it as cross country as possible to make sure I stayed as out of the way of traffic as much as possible. I noticed the B51 bike route went on virtually the same route as me. On the way back I thought I might try and pick this up as it would be safer.

The route its self was really good as it took me through lots of different and very picturesque villages and country side. I had 4 large bottles of Lucozade sport isotonic energy drink and two large packs of wine gums which were eaten at very regular intervals to keep glucose and energy levels up.

Lucozade Sport - Energy Drink
Well, my mapping worked and I followed my route really well. I got to Oxford just before dark. I left work at about 4PM and had got to Oxford for about 8PM. I was quite pleased with my self and felt really good at this point. I tried to keep my speed to around 13 - 15 MPH and not over exert myself. I stopped for 5 minutes total and had a chicken and mushroom pie at a gas station and then set off back the way I had just come.

Through most of the way back I remembered each country road and turn I had used and found my way back OK. I made a couple of wrong turns and had to find areas where there was light to read my map and compass. It is very difficult to read a map and a compass in the pitch black of the countryside so I had to keep stopping and removing my map to hold it in front of my light. Nowadays I use a helmet mounted light (see below) which is much better and makes map reading while riding a breeze.

After a couple of hours riding (around 10PM) it started to get quite cold but there wasn't much I could do about it. At this time I only had a small plastic bag with my drinks and some food in on the rear rack. Now I always carry spare warm and waterproof clothing and have several luggage panniers for storage.

After a while I came back to the out skirts of Milton Keynes at around 11:30 and I had seen some more signs for the B51 route through a couple of villages. I decided it made sense to use the B51 rather than going on main roads. This seemed good for a while but then the B51 stopped being signed and came to a T junction (intersection). There were no signs! I could here the major free way in the distance and new roughly where I was so I guessed thinking I had the right route. Well after a few miles I ended up down a farm road that ran out. Needless to say, cold and tired I was not very happy about this! I had to turn back and find the road again.

I eventually made it back home at 1 AM. It had taken me 9 hours and ended up being 111.3 Miles which gives me an average speed of 12.36 MPH. For my first 100 mile trip that was not too bad and was about what I had expected - 12 MPH was average was my goal.

It took my at least 3 hours to warm up after being wrapped up warm, when I got off the bike I could hardly open my hands from the grips. The last couple of hours shifting gears was quite painful. 

When I got back I had an enormous sense of achievement which far outweighed any of the negatives of this ride. I learned that when doing long distances there really isn't much difference between 100 and 110. What I mean there is, once you have racked up a significant amount of miles, doing an extra 20 miles doesn't seem to be an issue. It really is a case of being prepared and have a determined mind set.

Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned

Map & compass not so easy to see in the dark!
The biggest mistakes I made here were not being prepared properly. I wore only a pair of cycling shorts and a t-shirt as we had just had some decent weather. I didn't check the forecast and the temperature had dropped quite a bit towards the end of the week. As a good portion of this trip was done late at night and in the early hours the temperature dropped down to about 40 F.
Furthermore, because of this I did not perspire as much as expected but I continued to take in a lot of fluids as I thought I needed them. I ended up drinking far too much and having to stop regularly to "deal" with this issue.

Light and solar chargers for MPS, cell phones, Ipods etc
Also, I learned that it is very difficult to read a map and a compass when it is dark and you are in the middle of the country side! I mounted a light to my helmet so I can look down at my map and compass. This is possibly the single biggest and most useful modification I have made - I highly recommend it! I also use Pico Freeloader solar chargers on my helmet (Bell Avanti) now as they can keep cell phones and Ipods etc charged up on long trips without any other power source.

Welcome to my blog - all about biking

Welcome to my blog, I created this for several reasons. It is intended for the following purposes

  • A how to about mike touring
  • A collection of my own tours and rides (always a work in-progress)
  • A training record
  • A guide to bike set ups and gear
  • Information on what you can do with a bike (pretty much anything)
I started really getting into bikes a couple of years ago around the end of 2009 (when I was 27). A always used to be into mountain biking as a kid and was a serious athlete at long distance running until my mid-late teen years.

Test run 2 weeks before my first bike tour
I then let myself get out of shape and didn't really get back into shape again until I started biking everywhere! The biggest misconception many people have about bike touring and extreme cycling is that you have to be super fit - you don't! You will be amazed as the miles fly by and feel an extreme sense of satisfaction after every goal you achieve.

Biking has several positive benefits;

  • You don't spend money on gas
  • You don't need a car (no matter how much you think you do)
  • You don't have any of the associated motoring expenses
  • It is a free fitness work out / gym membership
  • It is great for the environment (this was the initial reason I started biking again)
  • You get to see tons of stuff you otherwise wouldn't
  • A great sense of achievement after every goal
  • The look on people's faces when they say you road how far ???? !!!! - is priceless!
Mountains 10 miles west of Genoa, Italy

In this blog I will cover how to prepare for a bike tour, what bike gear to use and how to set it up,  how to train and what works for different types of riding and just general coverage on my own rides.

In here you will find information on the following things I have done and what I have planned

Bikes at Zurich, Switzerland Airport