Tuesday, 8 July 2008

What I took

So, what did I take with me on the ride?

The bike

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
  • Nightwear
I washed my top, shorts and socks in the washbasin each night and hung them up in the room to dry. It would take two nights for them to become completely dry.

Personal stuff
  • 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)
  • Camera
  • 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
  • Rags
  • 24" inner tubes x2
  • Patches x6
  • Tie-wraps
  • Disposable gloves
  • Hand wipes (Muck-off) x5
The only mechnical problems I had on the trip were:
  • 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
Otherwise I had no problems - and no punctures!

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)
  • U-lock
  • 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)
  • Notebook
  • 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment