Saturday, 21 May 2011

France / Belgium 2011

So the trip through France to Belgium and the 2011 SSEC went really well. There are other write ups of the event and loads of photos so I will not add to the surplus here. Instead I will let you in on the small lessons I heave learnt on this trip.

Things I didn't need:
Cool-Neck - nice idea but no better than a buff soaked in water
MP3 Player+charger+AA's - on a group trip music is not needed
Casual shorts - light trousers were fine
Being woken by fighting/f**king wild boar at 2am :)

Things I did need:
Warm jacket - Finnistare synthetic jacket now ready to rock
Longjohns - i was sleeping cold so some merino longjohns are a must
Handwarmers - single use hand warmers for putting in the foot of the sleeping bag at night
FoilFoam mat - to go under my feet - 3/4 mats don't work for 6'2" people on wet grass. Cardboard will work in a pinch!
Ti Mug / spork - we used the stove much more than cafes (8:1 ratio)
Head band and lantern cover - for Fenix AA light
Lightweight backpack - for filling up at the supermarket

Things I would change:
Casual shirt should not be white - not with dust and suncream giving a nasty tide mark
Way I pitched the tarp - make more of a tent with a little more head room
Have more patience with others

Revised weight is 7.9Kg dry, 0.61Kg for extra cycling clothes and 0.77Kg for cooking kit and 7days of fuel :) Max load out of 9.28Kg for a real comfortable tour of indeterminate length :)

Now I need another tour to try all this out and refine it again :)

Alex

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Less blogging and only a little more riding....

Less blogging is a good thing, less riding, well, less so! I did manage two proper rides in the last two weekends: first with Matt up in Leam Spa - a nice cruise along roads and trails to get a big fry up, the second in the FoD with Ayatollah of Niche and Co. along the Dungeons+Dragons trail.

Both were really nice as they were laid back and despite the lack of riding and addition of a small wok on the front of me I was able to keep up and not blow up on the hills. Techinical skill is still up there as I was held up by a 5" full susser on The Skull trail while on my Surly CrossCheck SS and 1.75" tyres :) I do need to loose some lbs as on the bumpy stuff I could feel my bacon jacket wobble. Having been on the slim side for the previous 33years I am not happy with this development.

Next up, and rapidly approaching is the road trip to France and Belgium. Still a few minor details to sort out (like getting to Portsmouth, and back from London although I will probably ride that over night) it is all falling into place. Minimal kit, enough food for 2 days (Easter Sunday / Monday may mean many places are closed) and possibly a change of cycling and casual clothes waiting at the race. I am still going stove-less as I can eat cold food or get something hot from supermache / cafe / bar.

SSWC in Ireland is looking tentative as the cost of camping and the ferry is starting to ramp up....I would rather a week in the sun backroad touring and filling up on local food as the sun sets over the Med :)

June brings a long over due Solstice ride in Warwickshire - 100miles in the 16hrs and change of daylight on the 19th. The ride sounds great, the 0430hrs start less so! I will throw the 38c Halo TwinRails and 36:17 Dingle (thanks to Charlie The Bike Monger - buy his stuff now!) will take me the distance.

So a summer of riding is on the cusp of starting, lets hope the weather gets it's self sorted in the next couple of weeks and lets roll.

Alex

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Cullmination and realisation

Today I saw the first pics from the 2011 National Handbuilt Bicycle Show and the lovingly crafted bike and accessories, all finished in immaculate paint and detail that builders have made to show off their skills.

And it left me cold.

Those of you with long memories will remember that Solitude Cycles was a no-frills (mostly!) business I ran with focus on fit and function. Yes I built a bike with polished stainless lugs because the Frame Builder Mafia would have taken me out otherwise (and Matt wanted it!) Yes there was the odd fancy paint job and nice touches but at the end of the day the frames were more like a nicely refurbished 90series Landy than a Porche Cayenne from pimp-my-ride.

This ties in with my love for the Surly CrossCheck which seems to do pretty much everything I have asked of it although the high-rise stem may have to go back on as the 15deg Thomson could be a little low....I need more miles to check! It is a versatile frame made in a wide range of sizes and even a choice of colours for not too much money. Sure a Rivendell would be nice, or maybe a custom IF or Seven but for the extra cash you would want a real improvement in function and then you would be scared to lock it up incase it a) got stolen or b) scratched.

The last post from Joe about his lost Surly LHT also brought this in to sharp focus: What would happen if your bike was stolen / lost / written off in a freak accident with a Buffalo? For an off the peg frame a quick call to your LBS or 10mins on line should have a new frame and fork on its way. Parts would be easy to pick up in this cross-boarder bike parts purchasing world we now live in. I would wager that with in a couple of weeks and for not that much £ / $ you would have a replacement bike, probably with a few tweeks to make it better from the previous one. A custom frame builder can take 2 weeks to reply to an initial email....

The bike is a tool for enabling travel and adventure. Yes it needs to be suitably fitted and correctly specced (stem length and rise, not brand!) but any bike will do. Fancy paint, beautiful integrated racks, gem stones (yes YOU Sheldon!) don't mean much when you are actually riding it.

I realise that this will come off as arogant and that I am having a dig at the builders and customers of these works of art. I'm not, I just prefer to focus on the practicalities of the machine first and then save some money and heart ache along the way.

Nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect.

Alex

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Thinkering kit...

I am really looking forward to the SSEC and the road trip across France to Belgium. I think I have everything sorted except escaping London, but as I have Tuesday and Wednesday off I may just ride back...a short 100miles that will be easy over 2 days. Guess I'll see how fit I am feeling after 7days riding!

I have been thinkering with bike packing kit. While I normally go with 2 dry bags (8L and 13L) on the rack and bars but thanks to Igor I fancied keeping it all in one place and even more minimal. The only possible addition are 2 bottle cages on the fork legs (low rider rack bolt and hose clamp) for food or sleeping mat. Total weight is 7Kg / 15.5lbs. None to shabby.

One change of clothes and a spare pair of lycra shorts. Should be enough for the 4-5days to Belgium. I may well ask a friend to take a smal bag of clothes over with them in the car so I can have a change at the SSEC.



















Handlebars: Sigma LED flasher, Fenix L2D front light.















Tool Bottle + Big bottle cage: Tool bottle has, well, all the tools in and chain rag and bottle of oil. Held in with vintage leather toe strap. Super big BBB bottle cage, will take 1.5L water bottle or 1L of Glenmorangie Port Wood finish :)



















Rear Rack Bag: Aquapac Noatak 25L bag containing clothes, bivvi, tarp, wash kit, 1st aid kit, sleeping pad, sleeping bag and liner, spare shorts. Not shown is bungee net and 4L superlight drybag for extra food (Our first days in France are Easter Sunday / Monday...nothing will be open!) Bivvi pole is now strapped under toptube. Spare tube taped to the top of the seatstays.




















Waxed cotton musette: packed with kit. under 2lbs.




















Whats in it: Camera+3xbatteries, sunglasses, keys+whistle, buff, cap, 2x small ditty bags, suncream, chapstick, hand wash, bug spray. Not shown is wallet and maps.

Charlie is talking about taking cooking kit and making some tasty food each night. As much as that appeals I think that my cold menu will have to do but I will grab some hot food from a cafe or restaurant if possible.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Clear out....

Lots of 29er tyres to move and one odd, non bike related item :)

3x WTB ExiWolf 29x2.3 tyres - all used but in great condition. Fast rolling dry/moist tyre with plenty of cush. £10 each

2x Schwalbe Racing Ralph 29x2.4 - large volume, fast rolling and light weight! Great but everything my WTB Weirwolf's are :) £15 each

2x Conti Twister 700x42c - great monster cross tyres for Surly Crosscheck or the like. £7 each

Surly rear brake hanger

Dia-Compe non-aero levers

Monopoly boardgame - Thai edition from 1970's! Unopened!

For the tyres please email singlespeedpunk AT gmail DOT com, postage at cost or collect from Cheltenham / FoD.

Over and out

Alex

Friday, 11 February 2011

Old new ride...

So I have had this for a while but being slack I have not blogged about it or bored people with photos...time to make amends.

Surly Crosscheck set up singlespeed with 46cm Salsa Woodchippers, A119 rims and now Schwalbe Smart Sam 700x47 These look great all round monstercross tyres as the centre tread will roll fast but the outer tread should give some grip in soft conditions or if the tyre has some pressure let out.

The crosscheck will be my ride for the France/Belgium trip as it will cope with all I (and those crazy euros) can throw at it. Adding a rear rack doubles the utility of any bike...apparently. I won't disagree.

Talking of rear racks and touring I have word of some new drybag bike touring kit, no other details at the moment but I hope to add some feedback to make it close to perfect as possible ;)

Right, some photos:



























































Saturday, 5 February 2011

Essential kit for France > Belgium trip

Who cares what it weighs...I have to get one :)












Bring on the Fromage and vin rouge!