Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cycling Kit, Dog walking

Hiya, I have had a few comments back from readers of the blog - thank you. If you have any questions, suggestions or areas that you would like me to cover then either leave a comment or drop me an email

The time has come around to think about the kit I will need for the B2S cycle ride. With three and a bit weeks to go and the weather getting colder and windier here in England I am getting excited about cycling in warmer places whilst at the same time I do need to ensure I have what I need for the trip. I just been out for dinner with some friends - one of whom recently cycled the Irish End to End - having just checked out her pictures I can't wait for my cycle ride to start, well done Lynne.

I didn't take any photographs on today's cycle ride - the usual run around Wicken Fen. The weather was pleasant but nothing caught my eye. I did see something, that I find slightly odd, but happens around these parts. It is not unusual to see people "walking" their dogs along country lanes by driving down the lane and letting the dog follow on behind or in front. My first concern is how can I squeeze past when the car is blocking the way, the second concern is whether the dog is properly under control. I have had one or two moments where a dog has started chasing my bicycle. Today I passed a very well behaved dog "trotting" along side its owners who were on bicycles, not a bad way of ensuring that everyone gets some good exercise.

The key bit of kit for a bike ride is the bike. I agonised for some time over whether to take my bike or rent one from the organisers (or buy another bike). They recommend a bike with front suspension as the roads can be quite bumpy apparently. The advantage of taking my own custom-built bike is that I know I am used to it, it fits me and I can cycle for hours without problems. As it is a touring bike it is robust and although it does not have suspension forks would be quite comfortable when used with larger tyres . The downside of taking my bike is that it has done a fair number of kilometers/miles, roughly 56,000Km/35,000miles which creates a bit of uncertainty about its reliability. I know that the steering needs some attention and the wheels have also seen a bit of distance. All of these things are surmountable problems though - and will shortly be getting sorted at Chris' Bikes.

The factor that swung my decision in the end was that I did not want to risk have my bike damaged in transit. I will be taking five flights in all during the trip and each transfer represents a risk. I could have packed my bike into a special "suitcase", but that would have been extra cost and getting the special "suitcase" around whilst cycling would have required me to arrange a courier. So all in all it seemed easier to hire a bike in Thailand. Hiring a bike from the organisers also means that I do not have to worry about taking any spares as they will arrange them. They indicate that they hire mid-range Trek or Cannondale bikes with front suspension.

As I have mentioned before I will be taking my own saddle, now moulding nicely and my own pedals and cycling shoes. The shoes clip into the pedals and make it easier to pedal efficiently and reduce the risk of foot slippage. My pedals have a clipped side and a normal side so I will revert to using them without clipping in when the road starts gets too bumpy.

Where we will be cycling the weather is at its coolest from November to January - where cool means 30C and can be up to 40C with the chance of short heavy bursts of rain. It will be sunny and parts of the route will be very dusty. With that in mind the organisers recommend clothes that are modern, long sleeves and easy to wash. The trouble is that the gear I want is for summer cycling but shops in the UK are set for winter gear. Fortunately I did a little planning ahead and bought some clothes over the summer. Including cycling gloves with no fingers, baggy shorts and Lycras shorts to wear inside the baggy shorts. I have also got some slightly baggy long sleeved tops. Personally I do not like clothes that are too tight fitting. I have also, on the organisers' recommendation, bought a nose and mouth mask as day 6 is a very dusty day.

Other important gear includes my cameras. As you can see from my previous posts I do take quite a few pictures. Most are taken with a small pocket DSC (Digital Still Camera) in my case a Sony W200 with 12.1 million pixies (sic) recording those colours. However when I can, I also take an SLR camera. I have bought a bar bag for my SLR so that I can have it (Canon EOS 5D) to hand, but have not yet decided on which lens to take, the smaller lens are more practical for carrying, the telephoto lens are great for some more interesting pictures though.

My supplies of medications seems to be growing all the time, anti-malaria tablets, antibiotics (urine/bowel infections), Imodium (diarrhoea), eye drops (dusty roads), paracetamol ( headaches), Sudocrem (most people use it for babies' nappy rash - cyclists use it for undercarriage problems!) . Not to mention; mosquito sprays for clothing, lip balm, sun cream, plasters, anti-septic hand wash and anti-septic wipes. I hope that I do not have problems crossing borders with all this stuff.

One item I must buy before I leave is a decent pair of sunglasses. I have an old pair bought around 10 years ago that are great for everyday cycling. They are light. comfortable with the right level of darkness. unfortunately they are quite scratched and so need replacing. The challenge is getting a comfortable pair for cycling pair rather than falling victim to fashion.

I can't finish without a picture at all though - here is a recent one of one of the paths through Wicken Fen. The blue sign with a No.11 indicates that this is a Sustrans Route - number 11. It is gated because semi-wild ponies and cattle roam the fields they sometimes block the path, then I normally either cycle along the grass track by the side or walk though the middle.

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