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Willie J Machin’s End to End

Willie Machin 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!

Top Tips for Travelling in Africa

 Beach at Dar es SalaamQuite 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.

“Down the Road” website and Solar Rechargers

Gadget imageA 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.

Cycling The Coast of Britain

 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!

Cycle Tours in the US of A

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 tours imageAdventure 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.

Cass Gilbert ~ girlIf 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?

Wise Cycling Wisdom and Advice from a Hobbit (perhaps)

Germany imageMark, 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

  1. Flat (ish) self-guided European touring routes which ensure that the whole family (or those with weaker knees) can holiday together
  2. Routes which are close to railway stations, again to ensure that non-riding participants can stay in touch
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5.  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.

Good riding

Bilbo

Winter Reading Material #01

Python on bicycleEvery 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

Willie Weir

Women cannot ride bicycles in Afghanistan

Afghanistan imageI 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/

 

An Ultimate Cotswold Tour

Cotswold village imageEverything 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!)

 

 

Ultimate Cotswold Tour Map

Cotswolds3

http://www.bandbatoaklands.co.uk/  http://www.bellhotel-charlbury.com/

Now that summer’s over….

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.

Middleburn CranksI 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.