I rode an Airnimal Chameleon. This is a unique bike in that it combines the characteristics of a fast road bike (or lightweight tourer) with the use of a foldable frame. The Chameleon range consists of five different bikes: I chose the Performance Sport because it had dropped handlebars, which I find essential for riding any distance.
I bought this bike about a year before the ride from Ben Hayward Cycles in Cambridge who fitted a rear rack and quick-release mudguards (which for the duration of this trip I secured with plastic cable ties).
I didn’t make use of the folding capability at any point on the trip, since folding it a rather laborious process requiring the removal of rack, bottle cage and front wheel, and the result is rather big and ungainly. When taking it on the train I stored it, unfolded, in the offical cycle space. Nevertheless it was reassuring to know that I could have folded the bike and taken it on any train if it had been necessary.
A month before the ride I took it back into Ben Hayward Cycles for a consultation on gearing with the very helpful owner Rob Turner, and a few days later he personally replaced the 39/53 teeth cogs on my front chainset with a 28/40/50 triple, as well as putting on a new chain and giving it a general checkup. I kept the existing set of ten gears at the rear; these range from 11 to 25 teeth. According to the gear tables on the CTC website, for my tyre size of 25-520 this reduces my bottom gear from 35” to 25” and my top gear from 108” to 102”.
What this means in plain English is that I converted my bike from one that was only suitable for speeding unloaded along the flat East Anglian countryside to one suitable to carrying a heavy load up Shap.
I bought a pair of Ortlieb Classic rear panniers especially for the trip, mainly because my existing panniers were a bit scruffy and I thought it would be nice to have these elegant, waterproof panniers. Which it was.
I also bought an Altura Handlebar bag. This was invaluable for keeping my valuables together, both when on the bike and off it. However it did foul the gear cables a little which was slightly disconcerting and caused wear on the side of the bag. It also prevented me fitting a front light. On the two occasions I needed to use lights I took the bag off and slung it over my shoulder.
Everything I wore (apart from in bed) was specifically designed for cycling:
- Thin short-sleeved top (for use as base layer)
- Normal cycling jerseys, short sleeved x2
- Thicker cycling jersey, long-sleeved (to wear over base layer or normal jersey or both)
- Lycra cycling shorts x3
- Cycling tights
- Short socks x2
- Waterproof "SealSkins" socks (though they turned out to be of limited use on a long tour because they took ages to dry)
- Shimano cycling shoes with SPD cleats
- Overshoes (I bought the best I could find)
- Waterproof GoreTex jacket (I bought the best one I could find)
- Cycling cap (for sun, rain, bird-poo protection and because I like wearing one)
- Padded, short-finger cycling gloves
- Travel wash for clothes (used daily and replaced along the way)
- Pocket tissues
- Simple first aid kit (plasters, antiseptic wipes, wound dressings) (unused)
- Sunscreen (little used)
- Wet wipes (little used)
- Reading glasses and case
- Lightweight travel towel (unused)
- Wash kit (Hairbrush, floss, toothpaste, toothbrush, lip balm, shower gel, shampoo)
- Nokia N810 hand-held computer (for GPS and on-the-road blogging capability)
- Nokia E65 mobile phone
- Nokia charger for phone and computer
- Spare battery for N810 (a full charge wouldn't last all day)
- CatEye Cycle "Computer" (set to zero at Land's End)
- iPod nano and earphones (used only on the train)
- Five OS 1:250,000 road maps covering the whole route (which I threw away after use)
- Chain lubricant (White Lightning) - Re-applied every 4-5 days
- Tyre levers x3
- Small pump
- Set of allen keys
- 24" inner tubes x2
- Patches x6
- Disposable gloves
- Hand wipes (Muck-off) x5
- My right-hand pedal becoming unscrewed twice during the first two days. Each time I used an allen key to tighten it. It hasn’t been a problem since.
- Front changer a bit clunky but I never found it necessary to adjust it.
- Chain came off front chainwheel twice
I started the trip with new tyres. By the end the rear tyre looked pretty worn, and in fact gave me a puncture a couple of weeks after my return.
- Plastic Water bottle 0.75l, for bottle cage
- Aluminium water bottle 1.0l, stored in pannier (little used: I drank a lot of corner shop orange juice instead)
- Front and rear lights (used twice: to get to the pub at Sennen and to ride home from Cambridge station at the end of the trip)
- Knife, fork and spoon (little used)
- Pen and pencil
What did I take which I could have done without?
I could have probably managed without my heavy U-lock. There was only one night where we had to leave our bikes in a public place overnight. This was in Ludlow, where we left our cycles against some railings in a quiet spot behind the pub and other bikes were locked on top of mine. On every other night we were given a room, garage or private yard to store our bikes and a lighter cable lock would have been fine. And we rarely left our bikes unattended during the day. However we couldn't have known that in advance, and so I never regretted taking the U-lock.
What should I have taken but didn't?
It would have been worth taking my driving licence. Geoff would not have been able to make his dash back home in a hired van on days 1 and 2 if he hadn't had his driving licence with him.