The Support Crew

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Simon

Cambridge – England

Over the last 18 months, we’ve passed through many countries and landscapes, slogged up mountain passes and rolled effortlessly along flat open plains. We’ve been frozen to the core, soaked in rain, and soaked in sweat. We’ve had aches and strains, been hungry, thirsty, sick and tired. We’ve and had many trials and many tribulations. But without the support of the people on our route, we would not be where we are now, sitting in Cambridge, with only a short stint left to do until we finish in Greystones.

These people have housed us, fed us, shared their stories and shared their culture. They’ve welcomed us into their homes at a moments notice and shared with us whatever they could, from giving us clean water from their well to cooking up gigantic feasts. They’ve given us a dusty floor of their shed, an entire floor of their home, and their own beds in which to sleep. They’ve made us laugh, made us think, told us tales of joy and tales of sadness. They’ve raised our spirits when we were down, buoying us up with their acts of kindness, and humbling us with their overwhelming generosity. These people, these friends, our wonderful worldwide support crew.

Kit Review – iPod

iPod Clasic

Simon

When cycling in remote desert areas, ascending up some never ending climb, or on those inexplicable mornings when you just don’t feel like cycling, I find music to be a brilliant motivator that gets me into the groove. Music can also heighten many experiences to spine tingling levels, if the right song comes on at the right time. I remember one such instance, climbing into an isolated part of the Kyrgyz mountains at sunset, surrounded by the colossal rugged mountains that were cast in a lovely orange glow. I was feeling great and enjoying the moment, when my iPod switched to a beautiful melodic track by the Icelandic band Sigur Ros which was like putting the icing on an already incredibly tasty cake.

Being on the road for 18 months requires a lot of music so you don’t end up listening to the same stuff over and over, so after lots of deliberaton and research, we plumped for the iPod classic 120Gb. This has a brushed metal body with chrome back, small screen and can take weeks worth of continuous music along with lots of videos and photos. It’s brilliant being able to store an entire music collection on one device so there’s always music to fit your mood. On days off or in the tent at night, the video is really appreciated for a little escapism. I love being tucked into my cosy sleeping bag with a load of sweets or cakes, and relaxing into a good film or one of the many Fawlty Towers or Blue Planet episodes I have on my iPod.

The main drawback with the iPod over other mp3 players is that you can’t transfer music from it to someone else’s mp3 which is quite limiting. But for the sheer quantity of stuff you can get on there, ease of use, and lets face it, cool styling, the iPod can’t be beaten.

Kit Review – MSR XGK stove

MSR stove

Simon

For 35 years, MSR’s XGK-EX multi fuel stove has made a name as being THE stove choice for high altitude mountaineering and cycle tourers alike, being lightweight, compact, dependable and tough. It can burn a multitude of liquid fuels including kerosene, petrol and diesel, a necessity when going further afield where gas canisters may be hard to find. I’ve been using petrol in mine most of the time, and it’s been consistent in spite of the cruddy petrol is some countries.

The stove consists of the compact body with it’s 3 stable foldable legs and a short braided metal hose that leads to the separate fuel canister. The canister is pressurised using the small pump which forces the liquid fuel into the stove body. Once set-up, all you do is prime the stove by letting out a little petrol and lighting it causing the large orange flame as in the photo above. Once the flame’s settled down, you just start the petrol again which causes a very hot, powerful and loud blue flame. The standard canister size is 500ml which is enough fuel for about a week’s dinners, and handily fits into a standard water bottle cage, so you can keep the petrol separate from your clothes and food supplies.

The flame is exceptionally fast and powerful, and can bring a pot of water to the boil in minutes (a litre in 2.8 minutes to be precise), though this intense heat sometimes causes thicker stews to stick to the bottom of the pan (if you don’t stir sufficiently, that is). If you fancy a stove with more adjustment, and are willing to sacrifice a little power, the excellent MSR Dragonfly stove is for you. The XGK requires minimal maintainance, in 18 months, all I’ve needed to do is clean the hose and fuel nozzle which is a very easy, tool free process.

For sheer reliability and power, the XGK is the stove for you, I love to hear the loud roar of mine as it get’s going, it means dinner is on the way!! 

The Great Outdoors

MSR

Bike Porn

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For those of you who, like us, REALLY like our bikes, you may find the above slideshow of the beautiful 2010 KTM bikes as erotic as any top shelf mag, and leave you foaming at the mouth with a burning fire in your loins! If you fancy buying yourself one of these beauties, or any other from the KTM range, get in touch with Damian at freewheel, or Mike at the excellent Cycle Inn bike shop.

Easy Street

Chilling out in Czech Republic

Simon

Salzburg – Austria

The last weeks cycling from Prague has been some of the lovliest cycling I’ve done on this entire trip. With a factory visit to KTM’s factory near Salzburg already arranged, and 7 days to do the 500km or so between the two, I could chill out and relax, which was the complete antithesis of the previous weeks cycling to Prague.

I would normally get up late and take an easy trundle through the beautiful rolling Czech countryside, where flowers were tentatively beginning to peep out of the cold ground and surrounded by the glorious sound of birdsong. Spring was in the air, and for the first time since Uzbekistan, it was hot enough to let my white legs out from under my winter leggings. I would bumble along contentedly until I found a small pub or restaurant to stop and drink some chilled beer and perhaps eat some of the hearty stews and soups that were available. Camping was idyllic and I usually had time enough to stop before sunset, set up my tent in some old leafy forest or river bank, and watch the sun descend over the horizon as I drank Czech beer accompanied by crunchy mixed pickles.

It occured to me that many people probably think that this is what cycle touring is, and is what we’ve been doing since November, but unfortunately, such easy weeks have been few and far between. With 30,000km to cycle, we have to maintain a certain pace and thus have to be relatively regimented, thinking twice about stopping for a beer, to take off a layer, or get the camera out of the handle bar bag. I admit though, that I find it difficult to maintain motivation on such short, easy days, and with too much time to spare, I lose focus, and end up like a ship without a rudder, without direction.

But now we’re in Salzburg at the foot of the Alpes, where we’ll cross into Italy, and I look forward to being back in the mountains, though with a few thousand meters of climbing ahead, it’s definately the end of Easy Street.

Tech Tip – Fixing a Puncture

Week 4 - The First Puncture

Simon

Fixing a puncture is one of the most basic repairs you may need to do your bike and there are many ways to do it, though some methods are definite no, no’s. For example when fixing a puncture in front of a hotel in China, the consierge took my inner tube and started bashing it with a hammer. I just stood there perplexed and waited until he was done, and I wasn’t surprised when his dodgy repair method resulted with the air leaking out as soon as the tube was pumped up.

To fix a puncture you first need to get to the inner tube by taking off the tyre. Opposite the valve, insert a tyre lever between the rim and tyre, then lever off part of the tyre and clip the lever onto the spokes. Do the same with a second lever, an inch or so from the first, and if required, use a third lever. It should now be easy enough to pry the tyre away from the rim and dig out the inner tube.

To find the puncture, pump up the tube and listen out for hissing sounds, or run your hand or face over the tube to feel for the spurting air. If the hole seems to be hiding, submerge the inner tube in a basin of water and keep an eye out for a stream of bubbles, be sure to dry off the tyre after though or the glue won’t stick.

Fixing the actual puncture is where the methods vary, but here’s my preferred method that – like Uncle Ben’s – works every time. Smear a thin layer of glue the inner tube making sure to cover an area bigger than the patch, and also put glue on the patch itself. Leave both aside for about 3 – 5 minutes (depending on air temperature) until the glue is very nearly dry (I’ve left it for 10 minutes before and they still stuck). Now apply the patch to the tube and bobs your uncle, no need to bash it with a hammer or anything. Put the tube back in the tyre, then by using your fingers, push the tyre sidewall over the rim and if necessary, use the levers to get the last stubborn bit of the sidewall over. Pump up the tyre and remark at how much easier it is to pedal with a hard tyre.