•   
  •   
  •   
 

You Are Viewing Inspiration

Making Time For Family Adventures

Posted May 3rd, 2015

“It’s not about having time, it’s about making time.”

When people ask us what the hardest part of cycling around the world was, it seems they expect us to tell a story about some great hardship suffered underway. Troubles with people. Getting lost. Poor food. But our answer is simply this: the hardest part was making the decision to go.

Deciding to take the plunge is often the hardest part of any adventure, big or small.

Deciding to take the plunge is often the hardest part of any adventure, big or small.

Once out of the driveway, the rest was, frankly, relatively straightforward. The issues we encountered en route were usually easily solved, or at least seemed to matter a lot less than they did when we were sitting at home and imagining all the worst-case scenarios that could or might happen.

Now, six years on from the end of our world tour, our days of cycling the world for months on end are behind us (at least for now). We focus instead on weekend and summer trips. But the ‘trouble’ with bike touring remains, surprisingly, the same.

Getting out the door — actually making the decision to go cycling for a weekend — is difficult when you’re also trying to balance the demands of kids, full-time jobs, a full social calendar and (in our case) a new house that still needs painting and fixing up. Not to mention Baby #2 due in about 6 weeks…

This weekend however, when stress levels hit the roof, we made a snap decision to go. On Friday afternoon we hastily threw gear into panniers and headed out for our secret getaway — a tranquil forest campground just 1/2 hour by bike from our home. The following 24 hours were glorious.

Bike Overnights

We were away from home for just 18 hours but had enough fun to keep us smiling for days.

Within minutes of pedalling away from our home, we stopped worrying. We didn’t think about the messy house or the pressures of the office or the million and one things that needed to be done (aren’t there always more things on the to-do list than you ever have time for?) — instead, we focused on campfires and marshmallows and the simple joy of sleeping in the tent.

Campfire. Marshmallows. Tent. What more do you need?

Campfire. Marshmallows. Tent. What more do you need?

“It’s so quiet. I love camping!” said Luke, over and over. Why, we asked ourselves, don’t we do this more often?

Our brief getaway wasn’t extravagant or adventurous by most people’s measure. We cycled about 15km in total and spent just €20 including camping fees, coffees and cake. It was, however, rich in more important ways. When we returned home, just 18 hours later, we were full of energy and high spirited. Stress levels had plummeted, from approximately +1,000 at Friday lunchtime to -1,000,000 on Saturday afternoon.

We admit that doing more such trips won’t be easy over the course of the summer, since we’ll soon have to fit a newborn baby into the equation. But this trip was a good reminder that we just need to go. Even when it seems impossible, just go. Once out the door the rest is easy and the return you get on an investment of just a few hours away from it all and together as a family is immeasurable.

Alpa Adria Radweg: One of Europe’s Best Bike Paths

Posted January 11th, 2015

Have a week free this summer? Then you might want to check out the Alpa Adria Radweg, which runs 410km from the Austrian city of Salzburg to Grado in Italy, on the Adriatic coast.

Alpa Adria Bike Path

It’s just been named one of Europe’s top bike paths by the Fietsenwandelbeurs — a major, annual fair held in the Netherlands and focused on cycling and walking adventures.

The route is described as one that mostly leads cyclists over dedicated bike paths, and as one of the easiest routes over the Alps, thanks to an 8km long tunnel under the highest hills. The Austrian portion of is partially made up of the Tauernradweg and the Drau Radweg, while the Italian section follows an old railway line (rail trail).

The Italy Cycling Guide (itself a good resource) also highly praises the trail.

This is one of the very best of Italy’s long-distance cycleways with a high proportion on well-surfaced traffic-free cycleways. Centrepiece of the route is the cycleway on the old rail line between Pontebba and Chiusaforte, as it follows the river, criss-crossing it on a series of restored railway bridges. The cycleway takes you through a series of historic towns including Venzone and Udine, and on to Grado on the Adriatic coast via the World Heritage site at Aquileia.

Alpa Adria Bike PathThere’s a free information folder you can download, though at the moment it’s only in Italian and German.

German speakers can also buy a Bikeline guide to the path, and the official website offers a free download of the GPS track.

If you’re interested in more great bike paths through Europe, see last year’s list of nominees for Europe’s best bike path.

Loading Up A Brompton Bike For Touring

Posted November 1st, 2013

We recently received an email from Peter, who wanted to tell us about his 3 week trip around Europe on a Brompton folding bike.

Peter especially wanted to share his touring set up on the Brompton. He pointed out that it’s possible to carry a lot of luggage on this little bike, with no modifications.

Brompton Folding BikePhoto by Peter Provaznik

I carried around 40 pounds (20kg) on it: half of that was in my waterproof front bag (including heavy camera gear) and the other 20 pounds was on my rear carrier (tent, sleeping bag, Exped Synmat) in a drybag. It travelled very well!

The front bag on Peter’s bike is sitting in a standard Brompton folding basket and the dry bag on the back is held tight with straps.

This touring setup may not be for everyone, but it’s great if you want to combine bike riding with public transport. It gives you all the freedom of bike touring and all the flexibility of being able to easily hop on a train, bus or boat if you want to skip ahead a few kilometers.

As Peter’s experience shows, you can even take your bike to the dining car of the train for a nice meal!

brompton in train dining carPhoto by Peter Provaznik

Nine Tips For Cycling The Cabot Trail

Posted August 30th, 2013

The Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia must be one of the most scenic bicycle rides in all of Canada, if not the world.

For a taste of the experiences that await you on this 300 kilometer road, set your mind on breathtaking sea vistas, framed by dramatic cliffs; curvy roads through timeless fishing villages; old-growth forests in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and some truly epic climbs.

DSC_7317

On a recent trip around the Cabot Trail, we picked up a few tips that may be helpful to anyone planning to ride this classic route.

#1. Prepare For Wind

We camped for a week in mid-August and experienced stiff winds every day, blowing clockwise around the trail. It’s true that the views are better if you travel anti-clockwise (with the sea on your right) but on balance we would recommend going with the wind. This was also the choice of most cyclists we saw during our visit.

The strong winds also meant that our camp stove quickly burnt through fuel, even though we used firewood and stones to build a wind break around our stove. Keep your fuel bottles topped up, and preferably take a stove that uses either white gas or fuel from gas stations. We could not find gas canisters anywhere on the trail.

DSC_7341

Our stove surrounded by a make-shift windbreak.

#2. Pack Lightly

It almost goes without saying that when the hills are steep, it pays to travel as lightly as possible. We wouldn’t normally recommend dehydrated campers meals as they’re fairly expensive but it might be worth carrying a few on the Cabot Trail to save weight. Remember, sustained climbs at grades above 10% are common. Some grades even reach 15%. Ideally, you’ll get a bike with thin tires and a couple back bags. The exception is Meat Cove (see tip #7). In that case, you’ll want more robust tires for the dirt roads.

Rest Stop on French Mountain Climb

Rest stop on French Mountain. Photo by Bobcatnorth (flickr).

#3. Not All Campsites Have Water

There are campsites dotted regularly around the trail, including several in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Of the six main campsites in the national park, however, only those at Cheticamp, Broad Cove and Ingonish have water. The private campsites around the trail have all the services you’d expect (eg. wi-fi, water, showers). Expect to pay $25-30 Canadian a night for camping. Firewood and ice is usually available at campsites, for an extra charge.

#4. Reserve If You Plan To Stay In Hotels

Nearly every B&B, hotel and hostel we passed had a ‘no vacancy’ sign outside. If you don’t plan to bring a tent, you’d better reserve a room.

#5. There’s A Bike Shop In Cheticamp

We saw one good bike shop along the trail: Velo Max in Cheticamp. The owner does plenty of work preparing bikes for tour groups and should be able to help with any mechanical problems.

#6. Take Hiking Boots 

Most cyclists breeze around the Cabot Trail in 3-4 days but there are so many world-class hiking tracks on the Cabot Trail it almost seems criminal to pass them by. If you can, lengthen your stay by a few days and stop to explore on foot. You’ll see a side of Cape Breton that isn’t revealed until you walk away from the road. You could easily spend 10-14 days doing a mixture of cycling and hiking on the trail.

We do realize that hiking boots are a heavy addition to your panniers. If the weather isn’t too hot, you might consider using your boots both for cycling and walking. We personally find hiking boots very comfortable for both activities.

DSC_7396Ready to walk the trails of Cape Breton.

#7. Meat Cove Makes An Amazing Side Trip

The most northerly community in Cape Breton is Meat Cove. It’s literally perched on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a sheltered bay.

Meat Cove
Meat Cove view. Photo by Kaymoshusband (flickr).

Don’t kid yourself: this is a tough side trip. You’ll travel 30km off the Cabot Trail. The hills in the 15km leading up to Meat Cove are steep and relentless and the final 8km are on a rough dirt road. Still, your hard work will be rewarded by the stunning views and you can treat yourself to a bowl of chowder and a cold beer at the campground restaurant. There are also several hiking trails that lead up the hills and to hidden bays.

DSC_7323Chowder at Meat Cove

For an easier option, cycle the relatively easy (and entirely paved) 18km to the picturesque fishing community of Bay St. Lawrence. There you’ll find a campground, grocery store and delicious fish ‘n’ chips at the harbour.

#8. Be Aware of Bears And Coyotes

This is wild country, particularly in the national park. Bears and coyotes call the forests home, so if you are hiking or plan to wild camp, take appropriate precautions. Don’t eat near your tent or keep any food inside. More information is available on the national park website.

DSC_7397Lobster Supper with all the trimmings in Baddeck.

#9. Celebrate With An All-You-Can-Eat Lobster Supper

When you’ve completed the Cabot Trail, you deserve a treat! We very much enjoyed our meal at the Baddeck Lobster Suppers. With unlimited chowder, mussels, salads and desserts it’s the perfect place to fill up your hungry cyclist’s belly. If you don’t fancy lobster, they also roast salmon on a maple plank. Delicious!

These articles provide further tips and advice:

 

 

12 Great Bike Touring Photos

Posted March 6th, 2013

Our recent photo contest to find a cover shot for the upcoming 2nd edition of the Bike Touring Survival Guide received an outstanding response: over 700 photos were entered!

With so many great photographs, it was very difficult to shortlist just 10 photos. We ended up picking 12 favourites. There were many superb photos beyond those shortlisted but, for various reasons, they weren’t quite suitable as cover shots.

The shortlisted photos will now be judged by two bike-touring photographers, Paul Jeurissen and Amaya Williams. The winning entry will be announced on Friday, March 15th.

Without further delay, here are the 12 shortlisted photos (in no particular order). Clicking on the photos will take you to the image on Flickr.

#1. Early Winter In China by Cyclingthe360.com
Early Winter in China

#2. On Tour In Chile by Garths On Tour
DSC_2668

#3. Iceland by Mattaos
Matts photos

#4.  Land of volcanoes, sandy paths and salty salars by Gerard Castellà
BTSG2013

#5. Back On The Road by Solidream
Back on the road

#6. Laguna Tuyaito, Paso Sico, Argentina by Piciclisti
Laguna Tuyaito, Paso Sico, Argentina,

#7. Cañon inesperado by Alvaro & Alicia
Cañon inesperado

#8. On the way to Uspallata, Mendoza, Argentina by Ana Carolina Vivian
Somewhere on the way to Uspallata, Mendoza, Argentina.

#9. Kluane lake, Yukon (on the Alaska Highway) by Lorelyruss
throughthestreetsofanywhere.wordpress.com

#10. Near Passu by Sloths On Wheels
Near Passu

#11. Descending From The Atlas Mountains by Leave Only Treadmarks
Descending From The Atlas Mountains - Morocco

#12. Magical road near Skuru by Vellowallah
P1000347