Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Retrotec twin road bike.

Seeing as I had this blog just sitting there, I thought I'd start using it for more than just my Pyrenean trip... So let's start things (back) up with a plug for Retrotec bikes... How lovely is this? It's not mine, but I have one on my (long) shopping list...

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Bike on show!

Just a quick note in case anyone's off to the London Cycle Show this weekend, my Fargo should be on show at the Singletrack booth (assuming the boys remember to pack it in the van) with luggage and all. So if you want a look, then come on down.

I'm hoping to get to the show on the Saturday and Sunday, but I may end up sat at work, finishing the next issue. Ah well, at least I got my summer of bike riding to look back on...

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Faithful machine

I think I need to just stop for a moment and say how fantastic, and right for the job, my Salsa Fargo was. Starting at the front, the ride position was great - very upright. With the Carradice bar bag on and bottles, it was a little floppy while stationary, but once riding the steering was super stable - as I realised while scratching my nose at 30mph round a French switchback. The fork-mounted bottle cages work well (though I could see that you could stuff your bottle into the wheel by accident if you're not paying attention.

The Epic Designs bags worked well and I'll detail them in a later blog, but I was able to carry everything I needed and the bags kept everything in place and were reasonably weather resistant (and dry bags helped with the rest). The gears and brakes performed faultlessly and the Conti Top Contact tyres were impressively smooth and grippy, even on the odd broken road.

More of this later.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Just some of the photos...

I've stuck 100 riding shots, plus 30 summit poses up on my Flickr site here

There are 1000 photos, so don't invite me for dinner unless you like slide shows... :-)

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Back in the UK

This post comes to you from Chipps in Bristol. After lounging around in Biarritz last night and this morning, having ice cream and wine last night and a great breakfast this morning, I'm now back in the UK. My bike and bags made it back fine and it's going to be a case of slowly getting back to the normal world where you don't have to climb over that big mountain before you can have lunch...

I have 1000 photos from the trip that I'll edit down and post up on Flickr (though, if you're really naughty, I'll come round and give you a slideshow of the whole lot...) and I also have my daily journal that I kept, which, if anyone's interested, I can transcribe and post up here day-by-day and relive the trip all over again.

Thanks for following. I'm now tanned, fitter and not as scared about doing silly trips on bikes - so expect more to come...

Chipps, Bristol. August 13th

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

We made it!

"We made it sea to sea in 12 days! Now where's the wine and pizza?"


Congratulations Laura and Chipps! i've almost felt like i've been along for the ride, and just had very good legs! - jon

From out of nowhere!

"What a slightly epic day! We planned to get near the coast, but once we'd gone into Spain and then north towards Biarritz, we found nowhere to camp. Got to the coast and spent two hours trying every campsite we saw. All full. Even Kirsten, our French connection, called a dozen places without success. Just as we were about to despair, Laura persuaded a full place to squeeze us in. Yay! So we're now pitched close to the beach with 8km to ride tomorrow!"


"Last full day riding today and we're starting as usual with coffee, croissants and and a ponder of the map. Might nip west into Spain, over pokey 600m pass and then swing north to Saint Pee, no, really!. Then tomorrow is an easy spin to Biarritz to box bike, eat ice cream ans dip toes in Atlantic."

Monday, 10 August 2009

Short day.

"Monday was a short day from Tardets to St Jean Pied de Port. Only 40km but up and over with nearly 1000m of climbing. We're now in a rather urban campsite, compared to our spacious and eccentric one last night. We still deserve a good meal and some Basque beers before our penultimate riding day tomorrow!"

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Camp camping.

"Staying in a funky campsite run by an old lady with red hair and probably lots of cats. Every pitch gets a table with flowers. Ace! Off into town son. Only 2.5 more days of riding left. I'll miss getting up and putting the miles in every day. See y'all soon!"


"Yay! back in France and drinking beer in a cafe in Tardets I was at nearly 3 weeks ago. Rode into France in a cloud. Very chilly... then descended over 1300m in one go! Staying here tonight and retracing some of my route tomorrow coastwards. In Biarritz by Weds lunchtime."

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Adios Espania!

"Hola! Today we're in Ochagavia having ridden 65km from Hecho on some of the most fun mountain roads ever! Our last night in Spain. Tomorrow we go over a 1500m pass into France. Scarily, I then become the trip linguist! x"

Kit bag.

"You may wonder what all this kit looks like. Well here you go. Left to right: Epic seat bag which takes 2 green bags - 1 spare riding gear, 1 evening wear, flip-flops, silk bag liner, blue bag with Big Agnes sleeping bag, above is sleep mat, then yellow beanie, arm warmers, pack towel, Haglof jacket with bungey washing line, phd down vest, glasses, iPod, Garmin and charger, penknifes, spork. Also washbag, lock and little tool kit on bike. There!"


"Todays lunchtime view comes from Jaca (say 'haka'). We endured our only big main road of the trip so far, plus some back road noodling to get here. Big chicken salads and a bottle of rose. Starting to get the hang of this Spanish thing. We'll head west this afternoon and camp. Then we start out trip north and a big push over the mountains this weekend into France!. Lets hope the big thunderstorms don't follow us."

Thursday, 6 August 2009


"Today's lunchtime view comes from the mountain gateway town of Broto. Right after lunch we'll have a 600m or so haul up to 1400m, but then it's hopefully downhill to our campsite in Biecas. Tomorrow we get to the big town of Jaca. They even have a bike shop, though our bikes are still running well. Cheers!"

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


"This lunchtime finds us in Campo. We stayed in Las Paules at 1400m so had a mostly downhill morning today down a deep, deep river gorge. Down at 700m it's 35 degrees again, but now we're going to climb up to 1000m on our way to camping in Boltano this evening. Cheers!"

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Day 14.

"Well, that's the 1380m Col de Perves done. Clear blue sky day here, stopping at El Pont de Suerte for a big lunch. Another 1400m col after lunch and an early camp I reckon. The bike's doing great and so's all the camp gear. Still takes me an hour to pitch or break camp though! :-)

~~~~~~later that day~~~~~

Camping tonight in Las Paules at 1400m. Got pokey climb first thing tomorrow, then gradual descent west to Jaca before we start heading north west back towards France."

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Si, senor.

"104km today, 1555m climbing and 7 hours riding. A big first full day for Laura B, but she did great and we made it over two 1000m passes. Made it to Berga at 7pmwhere the only campsite was a 'resort' full of caravaners. Our tents are on a gravel pitch and i've only got 2 tent pegs in. Nevermind, it's only for the night. Oh look, it's thundering too! :-) A mellower day becons tomorrow."

Waffer thin.

"Met up with Laura and we're now 35k down the road from Girona. She has me out tented with a tiny Black Diamond thing. Now having pizza and wine and enjoying a Friday night in a Spanish market square. It's 9.30pm and the band havent even come on yet. Tomorrow we go west! Cheers."

Friday, 31 July 2009

"Greetings from Girona! After some hairy main road navigation I made the station and met up with Laura B. Had a big Spanish lunch and now to find our way out of town and back into the countryside."

Thursday, 30 July 2009

It´s actually me!

It´s actual live-me here. I´m at a rather commercial campsite on the north east coast of Spain around 50km north of Girona. Today was supposed to be an easy spin down the coast from Argeles Sur Mer, though as is the way of many coast roads, the road wound up and down and my 75km spin ended up having just shy of 1000m of climbing to it. Off to meet Laura Bontrager in Girona tomorrow and start the slightly more mellow trek west.

I met a couple cycle touring from Zurich down to the south of Spain today. They have a BOB trailer and panniers going on and are doing it far more properly than me, in that they´re on the road by 7am for a few hours, then they stop at 1pm for lunch to miss the heat of the day and start again around 4pm. I, meanwhile started at 1pm after a make-shift lunch of nice cheese and chorizo rolls and the remainder of last night´s wine and then rode flat out for six hours. I imagine that the addition of a touring parter in Mrs B. will help temper the ´must reach the top of the climb as quickly as possible´syndrome...

Thanks to all who´ve been following and commenting and special thanks to my stunt-blogger Dr Jon... I´ve taken 388 photos so far so some of you are in for a really, really dull slide show when I get back.

Did I mention it´s 35 degrees?

Pay off .

"Yesterdays day off must have helped as today was a stonking 150km with 1250m climbing. It helped starting at 1000m and ending at sea level but after 30k of down there was the 1385m Col d'jau from a 400m start. After that though, it was downhill all the way and apart from 10k of rubbish main road, really fun. Got beach fixation so couldn't stop til the Med. Camped up now and pootling south to meet Laura B in Girona on Friday. Cheers!"

I can see the sea from here!

"145k day aided by beach fixation......:-) "

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Phone home.

"Phone battery low today. Made it to Belcaire over Cols de Port and Marmare. Grey day and spitting so booked into a hotel for a day off. 85km and 1787m upness."

Sounds like a well deserved day off.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

The other Tour...

"A 2.5 col day. 2300m up and 70km. Started half way up the Tourmalet, then the Aspin and finally the Peyresourde. Now in Luchon at the AQR hotel. Only slightly red from all the sun today. Not seen any of the tour since Biarritz. Ah well!"

Then earlier on today:

"Ce soir finds me in Massat with 100km and the Col de Mente and the Potrtet d'Aspet done. A warm day but the big climbs were done by lunchtime and the afternoon was spent spinning up the Gorges de Ribaouto to Massat and its 6 Eurocapsite. Now i just need to find some food on a Sunday night...not easy"

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Double header!

"Hi all! Legs are OKish but doing better than I thought. Day 2 was 108km with 2263m of climbing. Once again, enthusiastic map choice sent me up a 100m climb rather than around. Did the Marie Blanc today and only stopped about 10 times. Met a guy doing my route sans tent in 7 days! Now in a cheap campsite with a big Pelforth beer and supermarket sarnies for tea. Doubt i'll make it past 10pm. Aubisque and Soulour tomorrow. Cloudy now, might rain tomorrow. x"

"Yay! phone works again. Did the Aubisque and Soulour yesterday in a cloud finishing half way up the Tourmalet. 76km 2103m climb. Today is cloudless. Off to do the Tourmalet and Aspin and Peyresourde I reckon, ending in Luchon or so. x"

Thats some big climbing in some excellent scenery. Roll on!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

mtb cast?

Deeeeee de, da de dah didah...

(pics courtesy of kristen davis....thankyou! clicky to make biggy.

"Just got to a campsite in St Jean Pied a Port. Left Biarritz at 1.30pm in 28 degrees centigrade. 65 km in 4 hours with 1055m of climbing. Not bad for an afternoons work. Early bed and early start tomorrow i reckon."

Wish i was there...jon

Toe dipped.

"Myself and bike arrived fine. Saw Biarritz in 30 degree sun, had lots of nice food and beers with my friend Kirsten, who came down from Paris to see me off. Putting the Fargo together after breakfast and then off to dip a toe in the sea before heading off after lunch."

Continental riding at its best, by the sounds of things --- jon.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Where am I?

Got the highlighter pen, two different sets of maps (1:100,000 French and 1:150,000 Spanish - probably going with the Spanish ones as there are only three to carry, rather than four, plus they have _some_ campsites marked on.) - my bar bag's not turned up, so I'm just about to hop in the car and drive over the hill to Carradice in Nelson. Lucky they're so local eh? Then pack, wave goodbye to work and drive to Shaggy's in Bristol - then I'll see if I can fit my bike in its box.

Yes I have my passport...

Sunday, 19 July 2009

3...2...1... Off tomorrow!

Well, nearly. I'm off down to Bristol tomorrow to stay with the great Shaggy, then I'm flying to Biarritz first thing Tuesday morning. In between then and now I need to:

a) Have my Carradice bar bag turn up in the post tomorrow, the final piece in the jigsaw
b) Get my bike packed down and into its travel box
c) Make sure I have everything - and that it all fits into my Epic Designs luggage
d) Pack for the wedding (suit and all) that I'm going to the day after I get back on August 13th
e) Remember where I'm staying in Biarritz.

That's about it for now. Now where did I put that packing list?

Thanks in advance to Dr Jon, who'll be updating my blog by remote control while I'm away.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

So , the adventure begins...sort of.

Chipps is in Austria at a the Trek 2010 media launch. Then it will be a hop back over before taking the fargo to the Pyranees.

I'll be updating his progress here...so stay tuned.

First words:

"Hi. Greetings from Austria, where my inadvertant last minute training is involving a lot of gravel road climbing. Good spinning practice at least."

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

It's Epic

My Epic Designs bags have shown up! Excited and relieved.

And now I have to see how much stuff I can stuff into them!

Update shortly with photos. I have a magazine to finish first.

OK, so I couldn't resist (and I've just finished most of my magazine words too...)
First off (seeing as Blogger uploads pics in reverse order and I can't be bothered to resort them...) Here's the correct shifter which, after all that, was a triple shifter after all. It has a Madison M-Parts inline tensioner to take up the difference between granny and big ring so I can have rub-free riding in all gears.

And then we have the seat pack. It's empty at the moment. I'll be trying to stuff it with, er stuff, later on this evening. What do we reckon? Clothes, mat and sleeping bag in here?

Then the frame bag. Perhaps tent in the upper compartment, all my other junk in the lower one? I'm also going to take an old waterbottle on the lower downtube bosses to carry my tool, tube and other tech stuff.

The Gas Tank - ideal for snacks, camera (though it's definitely not waterproof with that big entrance gap) and other junk. Sorry, I won't have space for junk so 'other essential touring gear'. I'm still reserving the right to run a handlebar bag too - it would seem to be a good/better place to carry lighter things like maps, rain jacket, flip flops than trying to crush them in with tents etc.

And here it is in pretend 'ready to go' mode. My first go at bag stuffing happens tonight... Looks quite smart I reckon. And no, those lever hoods aren't level... nor do I have any bar end plugs because they keep falling out...

Monday, 13 July 2009

Extreme Shakedown!

Looks like my first actual shakedown ride is going to be the day I wobble out of Biarritz... I'm reckoning that my Epic bags will arrive later this week when I'm away at the Trek Press Launch in Austria. That means I'm going to land at Stansted on Sunday, drive up north, gather everything in my 'Take to France' box and try to stuff it all in. Then I'm turning round and driving down to Bristol on the Monday, ready to fly on the Tuesday morning.

Ahh, it'll be right, eh?

Final purchases made at Springfield Camping on my way past this morning: some iodine tablets (though there are loads of freshwater springs on the mountainsides in France - in fact, unless it says 'Eau Non Potable' then it's good to drink...), some laundry soap, an MSR Pocket Rocket (I may not be taking a stove this time, but that doesn't mean that I'm not going to be taking one in the future...), a guide to campsites in France (I'll rip out or copy the relevant pages rather than lugging the thing with me...) some superlight and cheap flipflops and, er, that was about it.

I now have some Gore Bikewear arm and legwarmers (and it's heartening to see that the 'Large' size is tight on my mountain bikers' arms - grr!)

Oh, and I recabled the Fargo last week with full Gore RideOn cables. Fully sealed systems should give me some decent service in the mountains. The brake outers are white, just to annoy Jenn Hopkins, who was complaining about some of my colour choices on the bike. I mean, what's wrong with my purple Cane Creek headset and Sage-coloured frame? Really, some people...

Sticking the Fi:zi'k Arione saddle on tonight. Much as it would be fun to take my Brooks Swallow saddle with me, it's not at all broken in yet and it may be me that breaks first... The Arione has proven itself in the Alps last year, so it's coming.

Saturday, 11 July 2009


The French half of my coast to coast is cribbed heavily from the tour that the guys from Pyractif run (they come highly recommended by the way...). They choose to do it in eight days of up to 140km. I'm aiming to do it in around ten days.

This'll be fun...

Here's a link to their route: www.pyractif.com

Friday, 10 July 2009

How about stoveless? Oh and here's my jacket.

I know it's a little late in the day to be thinking about gear changes, but - as suggested by Chris Marquis (and Emily too) - what about NOT taking a stove at all? I'd save hassle in getting fuel, save space and can probably make do with cereal, cheese and ham sandwiches and plat du jour eating out at night.

On another tack, my PHD gilet turned up today. Tiny isn't it? :-)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Last minute stove?

I've got a Pocket Rocket ordered, but evil Dave A has just shown me this

It'll take a meths burner like my Trangia one (easy to get in Europe) but mainly burns twigs... Is it too late to suddenly decide to get one? Hmm...

The Packing List...

OK... This is a bit like showing you a story that I've not finished writing yet, or a musician letting you hear a song demo before it's ready to play. Be gentle...

On or near my person:
Giro Splitter sunglasses (pink mirror tint with spare yellow lenses), eyeglasses in Giro shades box.
Endura thin wool short sleeve jersey
Thin cycling socks
Assos shorts (probably) - washing every evening and putting on damp in the morning...
Arm Warmers (Lycra probably, maybe wool)
Knee warmers (if I can find them)
Haglofs Paclite Jacket
Shoes - (edit) Specialized S-Works BG Shoes with wedges in for my wonky knees. Rubbish to walk in, but good for riding.

Bike stuff:
Lezyne Multitool with chaintool
Swiss Army knife and/or Leatherman Juice
Small bottle of lube
Disc pads x 2pr
Electrical tape round pump.
Slim cable lock and padlock.

Camping gear:
Tent - probably carrying poles separately for squashability
Big Agnes Pitchpine sleeping bag
Silk liner for very cold, or very warm nights.
Big Agnes Airbed thing
Small LED headtorch
Stove - MSR Pocket Rocket (still to buy)
Pierceable gas adaptor
Lighter AND sparky flint
Cooking pot and lid/handle
Sharp knife for chorizo and cheese :-)
Tiny washing up cloth
Tiny chopping board
Cup (?)
I'm going to rely on cafes for coffee I reckon. Should be OK in France and Spain.
Washbag - Toothbrush/paste, travel soap (for clothes too), 24 pairs of disposable contacts (a pain, but the best way of doing it), sunscreen F30, headache pills, shaving razor, midge cream(?), multivitamins

Evening wear:
Warm top - pHD down gilet
Long sleeve Finisterre merino base layer
Possibly a short sleeve merino shirt
Howies thin canvas baggy shorts
Pants that'll double as Speedos for French swimming pools.
No shoes, going to wear cycling shoes (unless I have room for very light/cheap flipflops)
Warm hat
Bungee drying line

Garmin Edge 705 GPS
Nokia phone
Either iPod Nano, or I'll buy an iTouch for music and potential internet connectivity. Nano then.
Freeloader solar charger for all of the above
Canon Ixus camera and charger - 16gig card
Tiny tripod for self portraits.
Wallet with bank card and credit card. €500 cash kept elsewhere.
Passport and E111 card
Maps - four for France. Collecting Spanish ones when I get to the coast and turn back.

Comments welcome!


Added a couple more bits and pieces for the trip today. A couple of roll-top Exped drybags, travel detergent, a fire-flint thing for when the matches run out - hang on, I don't have any matches yet! Must stick them on the list. And a couple of Wayfarer meals-in-a-bag just for the hell of it. No Epic Designs bags yet so I still haven't worked out if I'll be able to carry everything. It's looking like a long list - perhaps I should write it out for you all and see how silly it looks. 

I may have to get the gram-scales out and see if taking a charger for my GPS, phone and iPod is going to be heavier than a solar charger. Stuff like that...

One of the most exciting things today has been composing my 'Out of Office' autoreply for when I'm away. Not long now - in fact, two weeks tonight should be my first night out on the road after leaving my Biarritz base. Woo and eek!

Monday, 6 July 2009

Taking shape...

The old Fargo has been through a few different looks in the last few days. It's worn some big 2.1 knobblies and a super-light Specialized saddle, I've (unsuccessfully) tried sticking a rear rack on it and the frame bag its wearing is temporary until my Epic Designs bags turn up.

I'm still debating the footwear (yes I know it's a bit late for all that). One option was for super-race shoes, like my Specialized S-Works MTB shoes, but then I'd also need to take evening/walking around-wear like flip flops (or Crocs as they're lighter, but bulkier). I reckon that, if I can, I'll just take one pair that does it all - so I'm testing out these stiff-ish Shimano shoes. So far they're fine for wearing around the office all day, but I'll be out for a medium ride in the next day or two to try them on the bike.

Here's my temporary frame bag, borrowed from the great Dr Jon - it has three vertical compartments, which are proving surprisingly small... We'll see if the Epic Designs bags offer any more room. You can also see the first of two bottle cages that I'm going to fork-mount. Easy to reach and shouldn't affect handling at all.

I finally got my matching Salsa Pro Moto Stem. I like the fact that I have a matching stem for the Fargo frame. It's how Salsa bikes should always be.

Smart looking wheel/tyre combo - Shimano 29er wheels with XT hubs and Continental Top Contact tyres. Chunky, but with super deep tread and a punctureproof layer too.

I'm not sure about the Brooks saddle, but I took the Spesh Phenom saddle off after advice from Sir Phil of Horseness who has seen too many bent or broken ones for it to be top of the list for a long tour. I'll either put one of my Brooks Saddles on (neither of which are very broken in yet...) or go for the Fizik Aliante that's been great on my road bike so far.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Not weight, volume...

I've started assembling things that I'm going to be taking - one step up from the lists I've made. What's immediately obvious is not the weight of the stuff, but the sheer volume of it. Even squashed down, my sleeping bag is the size of a small loaf (which, I'll admit is pretty tiny) and my Terra Nova tent is the lightest tent in the world, but still 18in long. My seat pack is probably going to be the length of the entire tent...

I've got my 'ghetto' main triangle frame bag set up on the Fargo at the moment, awaiting the one from Epic Designs, and I'll have that, plus the seat pack in which to fit everything. Currently, my frame bag is holding:

Cookpot (which will also house the stove and gas), minimal first aid kit, waterproof jacket, sleeping mat, er and that's about it at the moment.

Just how/where I'm going to stash my tent, I'm not sure. I reckon that if I pull the poles from the tent bag, it'll crush down pretty small and I can run the poles in the frame bag, or strapped to the frame. I reckon I'm just on the cusp of needing to go back to plan A and run rear panniers and a rack, but if I can get everything in the frame and seat bag, that'll be a Good Thing, even if it means I'll have absolutely no room for luxuries (like a second pair of socks...)

Bike weight, with frame bag and gubbins (and big 29er WTB knobblies) is 31.4lb

Oh, and what's just turned up? Some tyres from Conti. Let's have a look...

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Lists, Lists, Lists

Having had a couple of trans-Atlantic flights in the last week (a total of seven takeoffs - eight if you count the unscheduled stop in Denver for a medical emergency on board) I've had plenty of time to sit down and write detailed lists of what I'm going to be taking with me.

I've written the lists. Then I've subdivided them and detailed each subdivision (riding clothes, camping clothes, toolkit, wash kit, rain gear, tent and assorted...) All very organised, though what's worrying me is that at no time have I actually crossed anything out. I'm on a mission to take far too much stuff and I'll only know what I'm taking when I try to cram it all into my Epic Designs frame and seat packs.

On a gear note again, on my return I found a couple of parcels of goodies that I've bought (yes, bought), like the Big Agnes Pitchpine sleeping bag and the Exped sleeping mat. It's all slowly coming together. Looks like I'll have to have my dress-rehearsal the night before I leave...

Pictures tomorrow. Though talking of that. What camera to take, eh? And how to charge it. I'm debating whether to take my Palm Pilot and folding keyboard with me to write stuff, but I may just go old school. And as for updating my blog, I reckon I might just text stuff home and get someone in the UK to post it here for the six or so people watching closely. :-)

Thursday, 25 June 2009

More shopping...

It's been fun shopping for stuff for the trip because I don't really have any lightweight touring stuff. It's either car-camping gear, or very out of date... 

So, I've been shopping a bit and getting my gear up to date. The most exciting thing today is ordering a PHD Designs (they're made in Stalybridge, Manchester, don't you know) Ultra Vest. It's a silly 150g... yet good enough to minus 5... Combined with some arm warmers and a waterproof jacket (Haglofs Paclite shell) and I reckon I'll be set for any mountain storm.

I've also ordered a Big Agnes Pitchpine SL sleeping bag - 481g and super small. It has all the insulation on top and is designed so that you get all your lower insulation from your groundmat...

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Time, time, time...

Now that I'm off in five weeks... (eek) I'm starting to wonder when I'm going to have time to procure, pack and check all of the (not very much) kit that I'm going to be taking. I have an order in with Epic Designs for bags, I have an order in with Craig at Fastandlight and I have a bike that works. The trouble is, I'm off to Mayhem in a day, then I'm immediately off to Idaho for a week for a press launch - which is great, but isn't going to help me work out how much of my toothbrush to saw off :-)

I return to the Singletrack Weekender race and then deadline week. And then I'm in Austria for four days at a Trek launch. I get back to Stanstead on the Sunday, have to head to Tod to pack that night, then on the Monday I need to be near Bristol Airport for my Tuesday flight.

Ahh well. This kind of bustle is the reason that I'm getting away... It'll all work out. 

The first step...

The hot tip from Mr Bontrager is to check into a nice hotel on the first and last nights. That way, I can put my bike together in peace, rather than in the airport foyer, and also, I can leave my bike bag at the hotel (with my 'flying' clothes in it) and pick it up when I stay there again on the way back.

It's a very funky hotel...

So, that's my first and last nights sorted. Staying at the Hotel Mirano, Biarritz. I can see that wallpaper getting quite stressful after a few martinis...

And talking of Bontragers, I have my first confirmed riding companion for the Spanish side, return leg of the adventure. Laura Bontrager, KB's wife is going to be joining me from Perpignan to Biarritz (or thereabouts). She thought it sounded a great trip and she's always wanted to see that bit of Spain. And being a Bontrager, she's mainly wanted to just eat lots of the local food. She speaks some Spanish too, which will help as I speak none!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Must pack small...

A quick Sunday-morning trip to the supermarket to load up on the essentials (milk, bread, cheese coffee and stuff) and I thought I'd take the Fargo with its current, borrowed frame bag (thanks Dr Jon!)

Trying to fit in four pints of milk (why do Morrisons sell milk in multiples of pints, yet our milkman delivers in litres?) a malt loaf, shampoo and some goats cheese showed just how little volume there is in one of these frame bags. I'm going to have to consider things very carefully when I pack - for both weight and volume...

(Oh, and I'm not suggesting that I'll actually be trying to pack milk and malt load with me, that was just for an idea of size...) :-)

I'm shopping with Craig at www.fastandlight.co.uk tomorrow for a Big Agnes sleeping bag, an Exped sleeping mat and a few cool cooking things (Optimus Crux stove and stuff...) - Should be fun.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

It's a small world

It's funny how the world of the obsessive traveller is so small. I guess that there really aren't that many people who take off on their pushbikes to ride for 1000 miles. Sure, we might think that there are loads, but it's dozens, rather than thousands. The number of end-to-end (UK this is, not the Great Divide) riders must only be in the hundreds a year - less than a single Yeovil Town FC footy match crowd...

Anyway, I've been speaking to Eric of Epic Designs www.epicdesignsalaska.com in Alaska. He is held in reverence by anyone who is anyone in the extreme mountain biking world. He lives in Alaska and practices what he preaches - namely riding bikes for a long time as tools of exploration and properly getting out there. He's also very handy with a sewing machine.

In the same way that Brennan Mulligan and Rob Thingy gained kudos in bike messenger circles when they created Timbuk2 bags, based on their own, and their friends' experiences of being SFO messengers, so Eric - and his go-to list of ultra-endurance hotshots has taken conventional bike touring and turned it on its head. He makes bags that fit inside the main frame of the bike (a wasted space usually taken up by a half-empty waterbottle) and using it for luggage instead. In addition, he makes bags the size of small tree trunks that strap to your seatpost and store as much stuff as you actually need...

So that's the frame bag... Now, how much stuff can I fit into a seat bag too? Take one pair of socks and pants? Or luxuriate with two? I don't reckon I'll be luring many ladies back to my one man tent anyway... :-)

You may think that you need more gear for your trip - and that's the problem that I'm going to find - but actually, if you can't fit it into one of Eric's bags, then you probably don't need it... And anyway, it's not like I'm off to Alaska. I only have to get over some mountains in July... I'm unlikely to get frostbite.

Now how much gear can I get into that?

Planning starts here...

OK, so I have a departure date (July 21st) and I have a bike (Salsa Fargo)... I have four maps of France with some highlighter pen on them and I have a plan.

The plan is to ride from Biarritz on the Atlantic, heading east, over as many classic Tour De France climbs as possible until I get to the Mediterranean. Then I'm going to turn round and ride back again. All in around three weeks...