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 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:

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...