Godless Brother In Love.

kit packing
If you click on the picture, you’ll get a version that tells you what everything is…

It doesn’t look a lot to last two weeks, across four countries and about 1300km does it? It’ll feel a whole lot more when I’m dragging it across Europe though.
So I’m almost ready to go. A nice meal tomorrow night and then a steady start on Saturday. A few of the boys from the club are joining us for some of the ride to Cambridge which will be great.

My parents came round tonight to wish me well. I could tell as they left that they were worried about me. It got me thinking about whether or not what I was doing was irresponsible in some way. Was it unfair on the people who care about me? Was it just a really selfish thing to do?
I need to think more about this, but I guess they should be happy that I’m doing something that I will get an awful lot from. I never really consider the dangers of cycling but when I do, I usually conclude that as a cyclist I am best placed to judge how safe or otherwise it is.

As a reminder, if you want to track our progress between Leicester and Poland, please take a look at my map on Track My Tour.

Well, t’ra then. Write to you next from on the road somewhere…

Arriving Slowly.

return of the pro elbows

Well, that’s it. The ‘training’ is done (training that consisted of just riding a lot really). I’ve bought the last few bits and pieces I needed and it’s just 3 more days at work before we leave for Poland.
I spent Saturday afternoon in the sunshine, studying the guidebooks that cover the route from the Danish/German border down to Berlin. It’s about 700km of riding that will take 6 days to cover.

The guidebooks, like all maps, are invitations to future adventures. To some people they would just be colourful lines on the page. For me they are the scenery I’ll see next week. Those simple orange lines on the page will be the hard miles of pedaling. The clusters of grey squares are the houses in town whose character I will get to understand as I pass through.

What I really look forward to is the idea of arriving in places SLOWLY. These days it is too easy to jump on a plane and leave home and two hours later be somewhere that is completely culturally and geographically different. The most striking examples I have experienced of this are travels to Morocco and Iceland.
Flying to Poland is similar. The contrast is stark enough traveling from familiar England, with all the things I love and because of the familiarity, so many things I hate to a country interesting in so many ways but so different. But what lies in between, in that gap between the two?

Our trip will mean that the change won’t be so instant. The landscapes, the people, their lifestyles will evolve steadily over the days as we travel east.

Anyway, as a reminder, if you want to follow our progress across the continent, please take a look at our map.

Trial Run.

The weekend before last, Rob and I rode to Ely for an overnight mini-tour to ‘shakedown’ before we set off on our ride to Poland.
En route, I used the excellent Track My Tour app. Every so often, you compose a brief update of your progress and update it to the site. These show as waypoints. You can see the result of our Ely trip here.
When we leave for Poland, I’ll be updating this map, so maybe you’d like to add it to your favourites now…


The ride was hard work. We ended up doing 162km on Saturday and 155 on Sunday, all towing a large amount of kit. Most of Saturday’s was done into a brute of a head wind. We don’t intend to ride these sorts of distance on tour, but needed a test to gauge our limits.

The long, flat, straight Fenland roads, heading due east, directly into the teeth of the gale were soul-destroying, particularly the 5 mile straight after a place called Ramsey Forty Foot:

Not quite as bad as the wind in this video, but hard work when carrying such a load.
Cambridgeshire roads:

Cambridgeshire roads

On the way back I decided that I could do without riding through the middle of the city and so opted to head home via some Leicestershire hills. Stupid, STUPID idea. 
Leicestershire roads:

Leicestershire roads


I was proper tired after the trip and had worryingly painful knees, but we learned a few lessons. We have a better idea of the sort of distances we can travel in a day and that kit needs to be kept to an absolute minimum.
My list is below. I never usually make lists. My packing tecknique is to get a big bag and walk around the house putting things into it. If I don’t happen to see something then it won’t come. A list seems to be a good idea for an adventure such as ours…


So, what do you think? Too much? Did I forget something?

Kit
bob yak trailer
yak sak
bar bag – topeak tourguide
cycle computer
Personal Kit
2 prs cycling shorts
2 cycling tops – Shutt Velo Rapide merino sportwool = many days with no stink
2 prs cycling socks.
cycling shoes.
1 pr comfort socks – big, thick woolen bridgedale ones.
cycling helmet
cycling cap.
2 base layers – short (Icebreaker)/long sleeved howies merino again
Swrve WWR shorts
Altura Waterproof jacket
Berghaus Deluge waterproof overtrousers.
1 Windproof (montane)
Cycling gloves. 
Cycling glasses.
zip off trousers. 
1 short sleeve T-shirt.
buff
Merrel trainers
Underwear.
Swimming shorts 
Wash kit (toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, soap etc.)
Lifeventure light weight towel.
montane smock (windproof and thermal)
Watch.
Bike Repair + Maintenance Kit
Spare inner tubes
trailer tube
Puncture repair kit.
Multi tool
tyre levers
frame pump.
Small plastic bottle of general lube.
1 spare folding tyre.
shifter cables
spare spokes
chain links
Other Gear
2 large drinks bottles.
guide books, maps
camera
powermonkey + ADAPTOR
tripod
pen
Passport, E111, ATM card.
Waterproof stuff sacks.
Earplugs (for noisy camp sites)
lock and cable
First aid kit (plasters, anti-inflamatories, etc.).
Sunbloc 
Insect repellant
chamois crème
washing powder for laundry and twisted elastic drying line.
Mobile Phone
notebook and pencil
Camping Equipment
Vango Banshee tent
sleeping bag probably Vango ultralite 1100 but might be Ajungilak Winter if I can fit it in)
spork
thermarest
pillow
stove
fuel bottle
pan
spatula
emergency food (breakfast bars, clif bars etc)
pepper
handwash
bowl
Washing up liquid and sponge.
Headtorch
Leatherman
fire steel and zippo lighter.  

Meet Ze Monsta…

A weekend of beautiful weather and I’ve managed to ride a grand total of NO miles.
I did get to spend time with my daughters Ella

ellomo

and Martha

martha

and my Niece Mae

maemaef

We had a walk in the sunshine yesterday

pile on

While today I finished building the bike for our trip.

poland rig

I know the forks don’t match (it’s a prototype) and I hate that the front mudguard stays on the disc brake side are half the length of the other side.
I’m riding to Ely next weekend as a trial run for the first day of our ride to Poland. My bike, kit and legs are ready for it, but I have a feeling there’s something I’ve forgotten…

Ghetto Man Skank.

home from home

In just 30 days time, Rob and I leave on a bicycle tour that will take us 1250km from Leicester to Sycow in Poland, home of my in-laws. Gosia will fly out and meet us there. We’ll stay for a few days, ride the Wroclaw Critical Mass before flying back. I’ll bring the bike back in the summer when I drive out there.
It’ll be the first long-distance bike tour I’ve done. I have plenty of experience of lightweight camping, bivvying and have been known to ride a bike from time to time.

I’ve borrowed a trailer and have been carting that around as I’ve been racking up mileage in preparation. 2680km so far this year have got me to the point that I now feel ready to go. Fit enough for whatever the elements and the East German roads may have to throw at us.

The last few bits and pieces I needed have now arrived. A Topeak Tourguide barbag and a new, non-knobbly (so less draggy) tyre for the trailer, spare tubes etc. The next couple of weeks will be about stripping the kit list down to the bare minimum and a couple of overnight trips to get used to the whole idea.

I’ll be using the TrackMyTour app and you’ll be able to follow our progress as we make our way east. I’ll post a link to our map before we leave.

I’m getting really excited now about the trip and seeing the family again…
fire

Independent Intavenshan

golden brown

February miles:
Total mileage = 1201km (746miles)
Bike commutes = 19 (632km – 393miles)
Car commutes = 0
Days ridden = 27 of 28

My second biggest monthly total ever and some great preparation for the trip to Poland. What puts it into context though is that I’ll do 100km more than I did in February on that trip, and that is planned to take only 12 days.

GULP!

Blanket Hog

yak

A bit more training for my trip to Poland in April.
Yesterday I dragged the Yak trailer 156.5km around Leicestershire on a route that was pretty much the same as the one we took on our attempt to walk the Leicestershire Round long-distance footpath in 3 days.

It was pretty tough and my decision to save the hills of Rutland until 100km into the ride was especially dumb.
The route is here if you’re at all interested…