Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

The Bush Dance, Family Tree’s and Aggressive Hospitality

After the barren wastes of the Nullarbor Plain, heading east from Adelaide we were richly rewarded with kind hospitality from strangers, a plethora of wildlife and stunning scenery. Though we would still have to perform the ‘Bush Dance’* with infuriating regularity this was probably my favorite leg of Australia.
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Blood on the Gusset: Tehran to Mashhad

Things were on a knife-edge. We had to cover 560 miles of desert to get to Mashhad, arrange our Turkmenistan Visas and then cross the border, in only 8 days. We didn’t have much hope of success. Read the rest of this entry »

My Favorite Blogs/Writers

I was reading Al Humphrey’s blog the other day, he had a post about his favorite blogs which I found very interesting. It got me thinking about the amount of reading and research I have done in preparation for our expedition next year and so I thought it would be good to share some of the most interesting things I have found.

I began my research reading books by people who had cycled round the world and also those who had embarked upon big and challenging expeditions. Here are some of the highlights of those I came across:
Mark Beaumont: The Man Who Cycled The World
Dominic Faulkner: The Longest Climb
Rob Lilwall: Cycling Home From Siberia (coincidental it turns out Rob is friends with Al Humphreys!)
Rosie Swale Pope: Just A Little Run Around The World
James Cracknell & Ben Fogel: Race To The Pole
Al Humphreys: The Moods Of Future Joys and Thunder & Sunshine

Each of the above I found fascinating in their own way, some include political and cultural background to the places they travel through, others gave a deeper insight into their character and motivation but all were tremendous adventures and all were incredibly inspiring.  Although slightly off topic I also love Lance Armstrong: Its Not About The Bike a great example of someone who rose above the odds in the ultimate battle.

As my research has become more serious I have begun to focus more exclusively on people cycling round the world in recent years. This has led me to a number of blogs which I read:
Al Humphreys: Alastair Humphreys Website Al spent 4 years cycling round the world
Rob Lilwall: Rob Lilwall Website Rob spent 3 years cycling round the world
Vin Cox: Vin Cox Website Vin just broke the record for cycling round the world
Stephen Fabes: Stephen Fabes Website Stephen is taking 4 years to cycle across 6 continents
Oli Broom: Oli Broom Website Oli spent 12 months cycling to Australia to see the Ashes promoting cricket on the way
Solar Cyclists: Solar Cycle Diaries Website 3 cyclists circled the world to raise awareness of climate change and solutions to global energy needs
Kei Iwasaki: Kei Iwasaki Website Kei has spent the last 9 years (yes 9) cycling round the world on a Raleigh Shopper climbing Mt Everest on his way (not on the bike though)!

These blogs have provided a lot of info on routes and the challenges faced, kit – what was good and what was bad plus the more general challenges they faced from language to culture to local law enforcement and border crossings – all good info for Andy & I.

All of the above books and blogs are well worth reading whether you intend to go on a big expedition or not. They can be your armchair way of seeing the world or the motivation and inspiration you need to get out there yourself no matter what kind of trip you are planning.

One final site I want to share is called TED: TED this site has a large number of short talks on ‘ideas worth sharing’ on a myriad of different subjects from leading speakers. If you don’t look at anything else I mention check this one out, turn the TV off for 20 minutes find a video that interests you and I promise you wont regret it.

Please let me know what you think of the above and if you have any recommendations of your own, hope you enjoy….


Matt – LEJOG

954 Miles……..
100 Miles a day for almost 10 days…….
Bikes weighing circa 40kg……..
On the plus side we were eating about 6000 calories a day and probably finished heavier than we started (Dan I now know how you feel!)!! Actually almost everything went to plan (no accidents, no punctures just a couple of wrong turns and Andy ditching me in the Lake District!).

I remember being tremendously excited as we set off from the start line at Lands End in a thick mist. By the end of day 1 though my knee was very sore and I was very hungry, tired and seemed to have lost Andy so my excitement had dissapated a little. However I was pleased we hit 100 miles off the bat.

Anyone thinking of cycling end to end would be well advised to stay clear of North Devon. Andy and I cycled through it but this was by far the toughest day we had. We only managed 78 miles (the only day we fell short of 100 miles) and this was due to the constant rolling hills (except for the 10 mile hill that we climbed coming out of Barnstaple!) and also the gradient of them. In truth we were both shattered by the end of day 2 but more significantly moral had taken a battering. We set off at 7am on Day 3 full of determination to make some miles back, we came out the door round the corner and found the steepest hill we had yet seen. This was not what we wanted to see but that morning I learnt a very valuable lesson. After struggling up this monster of a hill (don’t think it was ‘technically’ a mountain but it felt like were going up a cliff face) at the top we found Quantock Common which was absolutely beautiful and we began a decent that lasted a number of miles before giving way to a stretch of about 25 miles of flat. I have never been so happy to be on flat land before in my life. This made me realise that you really dont know what is around the corner, so keep plugging away and keep setting yourself small but achievable targets to keep your motivation up. On reflection as tough as day 2 was it set us up brilliantly for the rest of the cycle as we did not face terrain that difficult again so any hills we faced we much more manageable.

Day 3 we stopped at the White Lion Inn in Bristol for lunch, this was an old haunt of mine from my uni days in Bristol. It is a good pub with an incredible view and we had a great pasta lunch. We passed over into Wales in the afternoon and into the very beautiful Wye Valley. It was incredibly picturesque with a river running though and lots of switch backs.

On day 4 we met Andys mum who took us though the country lanes in Shropshire. It was great to get off the main A roads which we had been on since the afternoon of day 1 and into the countyside proper without the cars wizzing past. Andys mum provided a great deal of help on our trip and special mention must go to her for this, she is incredibly kind and generous. We left her in the late afternoon and put in a good couple of hours (with a nice tail wind) and got up as far as Warrington – a good day.

Day 5 was all about the A49 and Andy and I losing each other. We decided to take a short cut in the morning so Andy darted on ahead with the map and after I got caught at the lights, as I was unable to find him I took the original route and met him about 15 miles up the road. No harm done. Later that day we got to the Lake District, this is the first time either of us had been and we had decided to go this route even though it was tougher due to the climbs because we didnt want to miss seeing it. So late in the day tired and slightly under fed (only 4000 calories that day) we were on a long climb when Andy went ahead. This was fine as we knew our end of day target and expected to be able to find somewhere to stay. I was genuinely shattered but just managed to get up this hill when I spotted a sign saying 20% down hill for 2 miles! This instantly picked me up and this decent really was one of the highlights of the trip. A beautiful, winding 2 mile down hill, I am grinning now just thinking about it! It was starting to get dark when I reached the place we had targeted to stop but to my dismay there was nowhere to stay and no sign of Andy. After pushing on for a few miles I decided I had to find somewhere as the light was fading and the midges setting about me. I spotted a sign for a camp site and after an (inevitable) half mile steep climb I found the place and began putting my tent up in the dark. I fell asleep swiftly. In the morning I set off early and made some good miles, it was a beautiful dawn with the mist clearing over the horizon.

I got hold of Andy a couple of hours later on the phone and we met just north of Preston. Turns out Andy had not had any signal the night before so couldnt get hold of me but had stopped in at one of the B&Bs. If I smelt so bad he had to get away from me he should have just told me!

Day 6 saw us reach Scotland which mertited a beer for lunch! It was a big psychological boost to reach Scotland but I hadnt absorbed just how far we still had to go and I think this hit me over the next couple of days. We cycled 100 miles this day and about 90% of it was spent on the same road (B7074) which was very dull and directly next to the motorway – not a great days ride. At the end of the day we wild camped for the first time as it turned out it was also the last. You feel fairly grubby going to sleep in the same clothes you have just cycled 100 miles in and even worse the next day when you get up and carry on in the same gear. Neither of us enjoyed this experience and decided against doing it again on the trip however we will do this on a regular basis next year so have to get used to it.

The next 3 days in the highlands are a bit of a blur. I remember the headwinds more regualrly being against us, midges everywhere, having my clothes cleaned and this seeming to be the best thing that had ever happened to me (will never take clean clother for granted again!) and the people (if not the cars) being very friendly. Soon enough it was the final day and we both set off at a fast pace with the end in sight. We met Andy’s mum and dad that morning who had extremely kindly come to meet us and cheer us over the line. Andy’s mum has already cycled end to end although she did over 1,100 miles (I sometimes think Andy just wants to cycle to Oz to have one over on his mum!). So with the lure of a beer at the finish and the encouragement of Andy’s parents we made light work of the remaining 70 miles. It was a great feeling at the finish and we were lucky enough to have a great day.

I think I was most excited about giving my back side a rest from the saddle. We went out to celebrate that night and had a great meal and some drinks but we were too tired to make a big night of it but it felt good that night knowing the alarm was not going to go the next morning and I would not spend another 12 hours in the saddle!

Looking back it was a great experience a tough challenge and mostly great fun, I found it really enjoyable being out on the road and pushing towards our goal everyday. What did I learn? That I am really looking forawrd to the size of the challenge next year, that Andy and I can get along in a high pressure/stressful environment and that we should be up to the task physically next year.

Getting the Knowledge!

Given that neither Andy nor I were heavily into cycling prior to our decision to embark on this trip we have both tried to immerse ourselves in the world of biking for the last couple of months.

This quest for knowledge has involved reading books about long cycle tours (including two awesome books: The Longest Climb by Dominic Faulkner and The Man Who Cycled the World by Mark Beaumont– both highly recommended). Going to see the incredible Mark Beaumont talk about his round the world trip as well as his tour down the spine of the Americas. Taking any opportunity to cycle that we can: mountain biking, long road cycles and commuting into work! Also talking to people who have completed long bike tours themselves and reading about bikes and touring equipment.

Although there is a lot still to decide and plan we both feel as though we are building a good base of knowledge. More of this to follow as we make firm decisions on our equipment.


Choosing a bike

Keiichi Iwasaki and his bikeKeiichi Iwasaki is a name that springs to mind, although not without some effort, when I ask myself this question. Keiichi is a Japanese citizen who has spent the last 9 years cycling around the world. He completed much of his adventure on a Raleigh Shopper bicycle!

Now, this demonstrates to me that what really matters when undertaking such a massive challenge is your will to succeed and not the means Personally I’d cycle the world on a penny-farthing. However for the sake of comfort, speed, reliability I have decided to purchase a new bike.

I really like the look of the Thorn touring bikes as they have some really great reviews in the cycling press and seem to be the most reliable. Their steel frame and 26″ wheels make them easier to repair on the road than some other bikes. As an added bonus Robin and Andy (who manage Thorn) use the bikes themselves on their own cycle expeditions.

At this point in time I’m confused and any advice would be gratefully received!