Ron Wheeler created and now runs one of the most successful cycle touring websites, possibly because it’s based on a very simple idea. Here’s part of Ron’s story about The Loaded Touring Bike site:
As a long time bicycle tourer and photographer, I had an early vision of such a site, though little knowledge in how to make it happen. I had no doubts that it would be big, but surprisingly no one I’d talked to gave it much of a chance. In the end, I taught myself how to create a webpage and with 7 images I had the first pages created. To shorten this story; the website took off, going worldwide in short order by word-of-mouth. Very quickly hit counts drove the site to the number 1 result for Touring Bikes on Google.com in any language. Over 10 million hits in just a few years.
Send a message to CycleTouringINF if you succeed in getting your trusty steed added to Ron’s site. The shot below simply isn’t good enough (but I like it anyway). You could even send your loaded bike photos to me too, but include yourself in it – we’re not going into competition. Sort of like the shots you find here, but some background scenery would be an added bonus.
First post since mid-November! Many apologies but until a new CTC touring bod gets going, it’s not going to happen. Until then, the very occasional blog will be published, like this link to a great set of photos. Enjoy!
(I should mention that the photo on the right is not one of the ‘great cycling photos’ – it’s just me having a go at pedalling a rickshaw in Beijing with my mum in the passenger seat. She was a very nervous passenger – the smile is one of sheer terror. It wasn’t totally easy to pedal and the brakes were abominable.)
Here are some reports of a 500 mile bike ride down the Mississippi River from its source to Dubuque, Iowa. It’s nice folksy tale which you should pass on to anyone who thinks that undertaking something of this magnitude is just for the tougher types among us.
If every reader of this blog were to persuade a cycling, but non-touring friend to do a ride along a river, from source to mouth, we might get a lot more people cycletouring. River suggestions: River Test (Whitchurch – Southampton), River Severn (Newtown to Chepstow) , River Trent (Biddulph to Humber Estuary), the River Thames etc – the choices are endless.
Over the course of the next few weeks tour programmes for next year will be released by CTC, not to mention numerous other tour companies. Adventure Cycling already have theirs out; our old friends, the Russian Cycle Touring Club, have just been in touch to advise us of their tours next year. CTC members receive a 10% discount.
Friends Steve and Anni Gregson write:
Mark, some more rally info. I also know that the Germans and Danes have annual rallies but I do not know any web-sites for them.
All over Europe, including the UK with its Birthday Rides, there are excellent weeks of well organised cycle touring organised by experienced club members in many countries. Anni and I took part this summer in 2 rallies and have enjoyed others in the past.
The 67th AIT international rally ( held in the Ardennes ) began on 16 July for 7 days, opening with a ride around the host town followed by snacks and wine plus a parade of old bicycles. Daily rides at 4 distances between 43 and 125km were held in parallel with off-road rides. One day there was a hog roast picnic for everyone. On our return each day, there was a large TV showing the Tour de France, beer and tasty 3-course dinner with wine followed by music, dancing and more beer including the special beers for which Belgium is justly famous. The full programme can be viewed on http://www.cyclo.marche.be/ In other words a very sociable week enjoyed by over 1300 cyclists from 14 countries. Although there was some rain, how lucky we were in that it generally stopped 5 minutes after our return to the H.Q.
The Swedish rally was held in the Central Southern area and followed a similar format. It was not quite as sociable but the very quiet routes certainly made up for the lack of lively evenings. Organised walks around Boras’s town sculptures, visits to old textile mills and free tickets to a first division team’s European match filled our evenings. See more on http://www.ctv2011.se/ A highlight was the first day when 2 hours passed without meeting a vehicle on Sweden`s quiet ways.
If anyone fancies a rally in 2012, here are some ideas:
The 68th AIT International cycle -rally in 2012 ; 1-8 July, Gijon, northern Spain. Details www.gijoncicloturismo2012.es . Accessible by LD Lines, Portsmouth-Le Havre or Newhaven- Dieppe then St Nazaire-Gijon. In 2013 it will be at Yverdon-les-Bains, on Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland,
The Swedish Rally in 2012; 29 July – 4 August, 2012 is in Varberg, south of Gothenburg on the coast and quite accessible from UK. www.cykelframjandet.se/ varberg and www.varberg.se . The Swedish rallies are on very quiet roads/ bridleways but as a rally , are less sociable than the AIT. You make your own entertainment in general.
There are 3 and 4 day mid-week rallies in Holland from May to September. Details can be found on www.fietsengeniet.nl. Distances approx. 30,40,60 and 100km daily. Inexpensive. Camping and other accommodation possibilities. Info in Dutch but should not be hard to work out . We did a few evening rides when working there. All well organised, informal and jolly. Nice and flat.
Anyone needing more info can contact us via the CTC Information Desk
Steve and Anni Gregson
If I was a plagiarist, I certainly wouldn’t be admitting to it, but one has to get ideas from somewhere, and where better than Adventure Cycling’s Bike Bits which is similar in nature to Cycle Clips. In a recent issue there’s a piece about a good new hostel in Berlin called the 3 Little Pigs, conveniently located near the heart of the city, just a couple of blocks from the Potsdamer Platz. This is where you can start your 160km ride of the Mauerweg or Berlin Wall Cycle Tour. It is by no means all urban either, in case you were thinking that this is a bit of a wacky suggestion for a touring blog!
Winter has all but set in, but the mild weather is still with us so what better time to take yourself off for a week to a new and (by all accounts) fantastic destination, not just to mooch around the museums and tourist sites but to do a spot of cycling too. Google ‘Berlin Wall Cycle Tour’ for everything you need to know. On the first google page alone, there are links to a Bikely route, a Bikeline guide, accompanied tours by bike and a whole lot more.
That word ‘free’ usually succeeds in grabbing the attention. Precious little is free these days but plonking your tent down where it’s not going to upset anyone, and enjoying a peaceful night at no cost, is one of life’s great pleasures. Cicerone’s guide, Lightweight Camping, has been blogged here before, but here are a few succinct words from the author, together with some useful links at the bottom. http://www.freewheelingfrance.com/cycle-camping/wild-camping-in-france.html
If you haven’t considered the train as a means of getting to the start of your next cycle tour abroad, perhaps you should. City Nightline do it very well and it’s a joy to see all those mentions of cycle carriage being permitted. Check out their website: http://www.citynightline.de/citynightline/view/en/index.shtml
This is just a bit of fun, but you never know, it may turn into something useful. And if it doesn’t just be entertained. Check out the individual sections of video. Willie J Machin, the star of the show, is up to video 8 and he’s arriving in Edinburgh. The previous seven videos – I have to admit I’ve not watched them – are to do with the process of getting organised for the ride. From Edinburgh I have no doubt he’ll be heading for John o’Groats – and that’s just to get to the start!!! http://www.youtube.com/user/WillieJMachin#p/u/15/4vl4NaVJHa8
Good luck, Willie. Up the CTC!
Quite one of the best blogs around at the moment is Peter Gostelow’s ‘Big Africa Cycle’. He’s just blogged a long list of do’s and don’t's which are definitely worth a look, even if you’re not planning on a trip there in the immediate future. They’re a bit of an eye opener, that’s for sure. I find it hard to believe but it’s 44 years since I was last in Dar. I do wish I could have all that time back. I arrived by ship, not by bike, so it doesn’t count really.
A friend pointed me towards this website which is all about cycle touring and contains a lot of good stuff, including equipment reviews. Being on the verge of a whole new way of life myself, which will hopefully involve lots more cycletouring, I’m particularly interested in bits of kit which recharge other bits of kit, eg mobile phones, mp3 players etc., and Tim Travis (owner of the site) provides some useful information on his experiences.
Couple that to an earlier blog on the subject, not to mention an update, generously provided by the author himself and you’ll find you’re just beginning to get your head around what’s out there and how it works. Here’s yet more stuff to take a look at.
A friend wrote recently saying, “I’ve just finished the most brilliant book about cycle touring “One Man and his Bike” by Mike Carter. He perfectly captures the essence and joy of cycling.” Available from Amazon for the sum of £7.09, the author describes it as a 5,000 mile, life-changing journey round the coast of Britain. You can also check out his reports to the Guardian.
CTC gets a lot of enquiries about this ride, so if you’re contemplating doing it, as well as finding out about Mike Carter’s experiences, you can check out CTC’s route sheet UK2, which offers an account of the ride; a Google search for ’round the coast of Britain cycle’ should bring up a further cluster of options including:
There are plenty more. Of course there’s a mass of information and advice on the CTC Forum if you search for ‘Round the Coast of Britain’. And if you want a proper book, you can read Josie Dew’s ‘Slow Coast Home’. Phew, after that lot, you may decide you want to do something completely different!
Whether it’s a tour organised for you or one you organise yourself, the States is definitely a place to tour before you die and there’s no time like the present to plan it.
Adventure Cycling has just announced their 2012 tours. From three month ‘trans-am’ trips to week-long family tours, there’s something here for everyone, so it’s definitely worth a look. If the dates of the tour are a significant factor (and they usually are), then click on the ‘Compare All Tours’ tab so you don’t have to click on each tour individually to find out the dates.
It’s only another five or six weeks before CTC’s own programme of Tours is announced and hopefully it isn’t going to land me in too much trouble if I tell you in advance that there are a couple of big tours heading over the Pond next year. Remember, there’s no CTC Holidays & Tours brochure this year, so you’ll need to look at the website for full information < http://www.cyclingholidays.org/tours/index.php >. You can also look out for brief descriptions of all next year’s tours in the December / January issue of Cycle, where there will be three pages given over to these.
If it’s simple inspiration you’re after, there’s plenty of it around and you can do no better than take a peek at Cass Gilbert’s superlative photo blog. Here’s a link to his current trip through Colorado. When you get to the bottom of the blog, you’ll find links to loads of other destinations. I would urge you to check out the Utah page and see the photos of the White Rim Trail, something that’s very definitely on my hit list sometime quite soon. More on Utah in a later blog. One cheeky question Cass: what’s the secret to somehow always managing to get some pretty girl to come on your trips?
Mark, I just wanted to update you on how MyBikeGuide is progressing after you were kind enough to mention us in your blog some 6 months ago. The key principles of the site remain to identify
- Flat (ish) self-guided European touring routes which ensure that the whole family (or those with weaker knees) can holiday together
- Routes which are close to railway stations, again to ensure that non-riding participants can stay in touch
- All the information needed to source services directly from the supplier (the most cost effective method), hence plenty of links to bike hire shops, local tourist information sites (with their hotel/campsite links), good maps and travel guides
- Enough information on food and drink (with translation) to ensure that after a day’s riding, an excellent meal can be obtained which will make a fine end to a great day’s riding
- How to get to and from the ride location (including information on the use of the CTC giant plastic bag)
The site continues to expand and now covers a selection of suggested rides spanning the breadth of western Europe. We have even identified and ridden a nice little circular route that takes in Cambridge and Ipswich with access at Stansed, aimed at visitors coming into the UK.
As the nights close in we will be developing more routes covering the River Elbe in Germany , a route across Switzerland, a tour in Portugal and a lovely ride on the Murg plateau in Puglia, southern Italy and possibly a tour of Eastern Hungary ending in the world heritage wine town of Tokaj.
Every so often something to do with cycle touring is featured in Cycle Clips, CTC’s weekly email newsletter and this week it’s a great online magazine called Bicycle Traveler magazine. Good on ya, Cycle Clips!
And if you’re looking for even more good reading this winter, look no further than the following links to the amazing adventures of Willie Weir. There’s enough here to keep the most avid reader happy for months. What a stunning cyclist! Here are the links: one and two.
I suppose you’d describe this blog as going beyond cycle touring. Interesting nevertheless, not to mention awesome! http://www.adventure-journal.com/2011/09/in-panjshir-tour-a-woman-and-her-bike-are-changing-the-world/
Photo courtesy of http://hameed.me/wordpress/
Everything in the UK is small in comparison to those vast countries where epic journeys are made. Nevertheless, the old adage that the best things come in small packages applies very much to the UK, particularly when it comes to its landscape. A crowded little island we might be, but there’s still much that is unspoiled and utterly beautiful.
The recent – current even – patch of unbelievably clement autumn weather coincided with a Pennine Cycleway tour reunion which was held in the Cotswold Hills, these being close to where our volunteer reunion co-ordinator lives. The Cotswolds, for the geographically uncertain, is a small area of high country situated between Oxford, Gloucester and Worcester, to name three towns that many will be familiar with. Whilst disappointing as hills – it’s more of a plateau, hence my term ‘high country’ – there are, nevertheless, hills to be reckoned with in a cycling sense, so the area is not without its challenges. The climbs come about from having to ascend to the Cotswold plateau from the surrounding countryside and are also created because of the deep river valleys which dissect the region. These valleys are attractively wooded, but what makes the Cotswolds so special are the villages, built almost exclusively from the local stone. As a well-known picturesque area, it does heave with visitors at weekends, the worst place perhaps being Bourton-on-the-Water, but as cyclists we can simply stop briefly to enjoy tea and cake and be on our way before the average tourist has found somewhere to park!
Information for visitors to the Cotswolds is abundant – just Google for it. If you would like to tour it on a bike, here is the ‘ultimate Cotswold Tour’. Starting and finishing in Winchcombe the route makes for Charlbury in a clockwise direction, via the Slaughters, Bourton, Stow, Enstone and Dean. After spending the night there, it returns to Winchcombe by a more southerly route via Burford, Northleach and Andoversford. Approx 140kms and surprisingly few big hills. An added bonus is that you can pick up several British Cycle Quest checkpoints on your way round. CTC members can view the route and download the information from http://www.ctc-maps.org.uk/. A map of the route can be seen below, together with links to the very satisfactory accommodation we used. Finally, to view some photographs from the weekend, follow this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/markw48/sets/72157627746086051/show/ (With the usual thanks to my two best models, Carol and Karen!)
It’s time to review your touring year, carry out repairs to your kit and perhaps even do some thinking about next year ~ it’s never too early.
I discovered this http://www.woollypigs.com/2009/09/what-i-have-learned/ which is basically a list of really useful stuff to take with you when cycle touring with a tent. I’d agree with just about every one of those items.
Woollypigs is a good site and having taken a closer look around it, I’m impressed with both the style and the content. As always, I had a quick look at the ‘links’ page and found one or two out of date – inevitable I suppose – but also found this ~ http://www.bicycletouring101.com/ ~ which I’d not seen before. Plenty of stuff here, but very American and a bit cheesy in parts.
I liked Woollypigs’ article about washing a sleeping bag – one of those end-of-season chores that one is reluctant to do because sleeping bags don’t actually like being cleaned. It’s really all down to whether you can stand another year of sleeping in your bag knowing how many times it got really sweaty over this summer (and the last and the one before!). I decided it needed to be done. Cotswold Outdoor provided the Nikwax special down sleeping bag cleaner and all I needed was the time to tackle this really quite serious job. If it all went terribly wrong, then my beautifully warm, extremely lightweight and small-packing Vaude Polar 200 (I think) bag would be ruined. My experiences were similar to Woollypigs‘ in most aspects, however I chose my moment to wash the bag,believing I could air dry it if the weather was OK. So when the Indian summer arrived last week, I got straight down to business. After two days in the sun, there was no doubt that it was drying, but it was doing so extraordinarily slowly and, oh crikey, it was starting to smell very much like something evil was growing inside it. Anyway, I kept on working on the lumps of down which were gradually spreading out but there was no way my bag was going to dry naturally unless I thought of a cunning plan – which I did. I had no time to seek out a launderette tumble dryer so decided to use my car’s automatic drying facilities – only available in warm / hot weather. I was going away and my car would be left standing outside the Middleburn Cycle Components factory in sunny Hampshire for two days after being outside CTC’s offices in Guildford for one. Checking the bag after the Guildford day, I felt optimistic. It had been as hot as I’d hoped in the car and the bag was beginning to feel like a sleeping bag again, instead of some damp, manky bit of synthetic fabric with lumps in it. What’s more, the smell was beginning to go. To cut to the chase, two days later, on returning from a most wonderful tour of the Cotswolds, the bag was 99% dry, nicely puffed up and completely non-smelly. A few more days lying around in a warmish house and it would be ready to put away for the winter. Job done! And all for under a fiver – the cost of the soap – and I’ve still got enough left to wash another bag. I dread to think how many 20ps it would have taken in a tumble dryer.
Remember, if nothing else, make a list of the jobs that need doing! You know you won’t regret it when next spring arrives.
ECF (the European Cyclists’ Federation), in a recent newsletter, are jubilant that a further 10,000 kilometres of cycle track were added to the network yesterday when the European parliament officially inaugurated two new cycle routes. These are the Iron Curtain Trail (EV13) which is over 9000 kilometres and crosses 20 countries (see here for a past blog entry about this route) and the Rhine Route (EV15) which, not unsurprisingly, follows aforenamed river through the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. Don’t expect EV routes to be fully signposted, but do expect some bits to be.
Further news on the EV front is an announcement from the Hungarian government that they’re going to undertake a major upgrade on their stretch of the Danube Cycle Path (Eurovelo Route 6). Here’s an interesting blog about it ~ http://cyclingsolution.blogspot.com/2011/09/major-upgrade-for-budapest-vienna-trail.html ~ and an interesting story about the Hungarian government who are thinking about spending a shedload of cash upgrading the cycle route on their side of the river Danube, from the Austrian border to Budapest. A further useful website about Eurovelo routes generally is http://cyclingeurope.org/
As a relatively soft introduction to long distance touring, these routes have to be hard to beat.
Take a look at Esther and Warren’s round-the-world blog: http://estherwarren.wordpress.com/ aka The Sportswool Diaries. Their plan is just to cycle the best bits. Nice idea and hope they achieve it. Are they going to take a train through the bad bits? Warren comments:
The USA in particular gets rather overlooked when it comes to touring. Wisconsin – where we are on The Great Lakes Route is wonderful – it would make an excellent introduction to touring here – already the Autumn colours are starting to show – amazing!
The October / November issue of Cycle will have just / or is just about to hit your doormat. At National Office we always look forward to its arrival. It is, after all, the one means of communication we have with ALL (full) members of the club. We know that a lot of people read it from cover to cover but, nevertheless, it’s still easy enough to miss things.
As usual there’s lots to read and, as usual, it’s intended that there’s something in it to interest everyone, whatever their particular specialization, although I note that there’s nothing of particular interest for utility riders or campaigners in this issue.
I was pleased that I clicked on the advert on page 30 for the Bike Ride Shop (http://www.bikerideshop.co.uk/), an organisation I’d not heard of before. Focusing on cycle touring and Sustrans routes, how could one not like this site and I was pleased to find they had a blog (http://bikerideblog.blog.com/) where I found a good link (http://www.steephill.tv/). I’m sure there’s more to be found. Now to persuade them to link me into them….
We met Fran at the campsite in Arnhem. She’s pedalling down from the UK to Venice to visit an art exhibition, the Biennale, which I’m sure I should have heard of – I’m not a complete pagan – but I haven’t. Take a look at her blog to read about her trip. Go Fran – enjoy!
The Netherlands was experiencing its worst summer since records began (in 1906). Would our arrival miraculously initiate a return to summer conditions? It all seemed lovely when we arrived; the sun was burning down on us as we set up camp for the first time at Monster, on the coast between the Hook and the Hague. In the middle of the night, we were woken by a humdinger of a storm: wind, rain, thunder and lightning – the works! It was all credit to our tent erecting skills that we and our tents were still standing in the morning. Yet, despite it seeming so at the time, and despite being clothed in waterproofs for most of every day, when you think hard about it, we only got really wet on one day and we never had to de-camp in the rain, which is perhaps the most unpleasant of things to have to do. Yes we got very soggy and sometimes finding hard ground at the campsite proved a bit challenging, but it was still a great tour and the smiling faces in the photographs prove the point. See the photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/markw48/sets/72157627611476013/
This is a bit of a long winded way of contacting you but having enjoyed the Semaine Federale earlier this month I’m wondering if you know of a website or similar listing European events for 2012. Clearly we have the S-F at Niort, but there’s also an event in Northern Spain in July. Are there others?
I’ve just returned from the CTC’s own Birthday Rides, which are a smaller version of the Sem Fed, and very good they were too.
The one in Spain next year is the Semaine Europeene de Cyclotourisme. and has been adopted by the AIT (Alliance Internationale de Tourisme) so it’s now called by both names. (There’s been an AIT rally for many years but it petered out a few years back when they changed their constitution and became less cycle friendly, resulting in CTC and others leaving the organization. However it now seems to be back and partnered with the Sem Euro.)
There is one in Italy but I know nothing about it, ditto Sweden, ditto Germany and I daresay there are similar events in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Well, here we go with a bit of research… It’s simply a question of googling and searching out links. Time consuming, but in the absence of a dedicated website….
European Cycle Touring Rally / AIT Rally (Location changes annually throughout Europe)
Main site for the Semaine Fédérale is http://sf2012.ffct.org/
Can’t find anything akin to the Sem Fed, although there are all kinds of cycling events which take place.
As Germany really.
This is the events page of the website belonging to the Belgian Federation of Cycle Touring: http://www.cyclo.be/SiteFBC-BBR/FR/Calendrier/PERSOCalendrier.php Nothing relevant found.
http://fiab-onlus.it/italycyclingholidays/ and follow the links.(eg http://www.fiab-onlus.it/gite/gite2.php for a list of events). Can’t find anything which has the flavour of a Semaine Federale. The following looks vaguely promising: http://www.fiab-onlus.it/staffett/index.htm
CTC Birthday Rides: http://www.cyclingholidays.org/brides/index.php
Then, of course, there are other cycling rallies: the UK Tandem Club run several each year and then there’s the international one. This moves around between countries.
I hope this helps a bit. I’ll put your question and my answer up on my blog so others can see the results of my research. I’m sure there are other rallies but don’t have the time to search them out. Knowledge of foreign languages would certainly help.
By the way, look out for a couple of CTC Holidays next year which will be taking groups to the Sem Fed and the Sem Euro. Details of next season’s tours should go up on their website in late November.