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November 2011 Bike Touring Newsletter

Posted January 10th, 2012

Welcome to November’s bike touring newsletter.

As winter closes in, we’ve been making the most of every chance to go cycling, most recently with a weekend tour to the Dutch island of Texel. We’ve also been rebuilding our old steel-framed touring bikes. They have a new coat of paint, and quite a few new parts.

Recent Posts

Gear We Love – Ergon Pedals

Ergon PC2 PedalsWe recently put Ergon’s PC2 pedals on Friedel’s touring bicycle.

They’re a bit expensive but have been well reviewed by other cycling bloggers. The unique contoured surface and sandpaper-like coating helps your feet stick to the pedals, without the need for special shoes.

Why the change to these pedals? Well, we’ve tried a lot of pedals for bike touring over the years, and our recent favourites have had cleats.

The problem with cleats, however, is that they can easily scratch and damage your shoes. It’s not a problem if you’re wearing sneakers or stiff-soled cycling choes but it is an issue if you use your touring bike to commute to work in dress shoes – like Friedel does. We’re hoping that the Ergon PC2 pedals will give good grip, without ruining Friedel’s shoes.

First impressions are positive. There’s a high ‘sticky’ factor, and the pedals are very comfortable, if a bit larger than most other pedals. We’re looking forward to testing them more over the coming winter months, and giving a full review on the blog in 2012.

Tip Of The Month – Homemade Chainstay Protector

Homemade ChainguardIn our Bike Touring Survival Guide, we give instructions for making a chainstay protector out of an old inner tube.

Making your own is free, economical and very effective. In fact, we love this little trick so much, we have one on all our bicycles.

All you have to do is cut a length of inner tube, make a slit on one side, slide it over the frame and use zip ties to hold it in place. In this version, we’ve also used a bit of crazy glue to hold the edges of the inner tube together.

If you’re not sure why you need a chainstay protector, here’s why. Every time you ride over a bump, curb or hole in the road, your chain is likely to jump and hit the frame. This can easily scratch the paint, so it’s better to have a chainstay protector if you want to keep your bike frame in good shape.

Featured Bike Tourist – Antony Watson

Antony WatsonMeet Antony Watson, otherwise known as Bean On A Bike. He’s spent the past 200+ days pedalling his way from the UK to Ethiopia, and we stumbled on his blog thanks to a kind tip from a reader

As the name of his website suggests, Antony has been on a quest to reach the birthplace of coffee. Now that he’s there, he’s sharing some great stories, about coffee ceremoniesdancing goats and tentside surgery.

We really appreciate the fact that Anthony is spending a bit more time in Ethiopia than most cyclists do, and his writing is colourful. Take for example this description of his first wild camping experience :

I tucked into my sleeping bag in anticipation of a deep sleep. No chance. Within minutes, the blood-curdling cries of Hyenas could be heard calling to each other in the far distance; presumably coordinating yet another nightly attempt on a raid of the local livestock.

Read more on Bean On A Bike.


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October 2011 Bike Touring Newsletter

Posted November 19th, 2011

Welcome to October’s bike touring newsletter.

Autumn is here (in the northern hemisphere, at least) and what a gorgeous season for bike touring. These photos from our latest bike touring weekend tell the story…

That adventure might be our last for a while because – in case you missed the announcement – there’s a baby on the way!

Recent Posts

Here are some of the most popular posts on the blog over the past month:

We also released 2 new podcasts this month!

Gear We Love – Radical Design Cyclone Trailer

Radical Design TrailerMany of you will remember our friend Stijn, who talked about lightweight bike touring in a recent podcast.

Last month, Stijn showed us his new bike trailer: the Cyclone III from Dutch manufacturer Radical Design.

The most impressive feature of this trailer is how quickly it turns into an ordinary looking duffle bag. Just take the wheels and hitch off with the push of a button, and store them inside the bag.

That’s important, because often bike trailers are banned from public transport. Duffle bags, on the other hand… well, they’re just luggage!

The Cyclone III also converts easily to a walking trailer, weighs under 6kg and can be ordered in sizes for folding bikes (16-20″ wheels) or touring bikes. It’s rated to carry up to 40kg or 100 liters of stuff.

Tip Of The Month – Water Bottles On Your Handlebars

Water Bottle On HandlebarsWondering where to put your water bottle? It can go on your bicycle handlebar, if space is tight on the rest of your bike.

We first saw this on the bicycles of Vicki & Malcolm, two Aussies who visited us over the summer.

Having the bottle on the handlebar frees up space on the frame, and makes the bottle easier to reach.

It’s also a good solution if you don’t have many mounting points on your bike frame, or simply need to carry a bit of extra water for a dry stretch.

There are a few options on the market. We haven’t tried them first-hand, so do your own research, but we think the Klickfix Bottle Fix looks to be one of the best. Topeak also make what looks to be a reasonably robust Cage Mount.


UPDATE ON KICKSTANDS: Last month, we featured a homemade kickstand for your bike. Now, reader Naomi emails us to recommend the Click Stand. She says: “I always have lots of people stop me and ask me about it. I love it. Light and fits in my handlebar bag!”

Featured Bike Tourist – Roff Martin Smith

Roff Martin Smith: National Geographic 1997Normally we feature bike tourists from relatively recent times. They’re the kind of people who tend to have blogs, and a regular stream of updates on Facebook and Twitter.

This time, we’re going back 15 years to Roff Martin Smith’s ride around Australia, in 1997.

We stumbled on his story in a back issue of National Geographic.

Why leave the life I knew in Sydney for 10,000 miles of unknowns? I was hungry for a change—which is what drove me to Australia in the first place. When I was 22 and working in Wyoming, I dreamed of living overseas. My foreign language skills were nil, so it had to be an English-speaking country. I wanted to go far away, and Australia was the farthest out there. Yet after 15 years of living there, I realized I didn’t really know the place. That too would change.

Roff’s story is well told, and the photos aren’t half bad either, so next time you’re at a garage sale or your grandpa’s house, dig through that stack of old National Geographic magazines. You’re looking for the 3-part series Australia By Bike in the December 1997, February 1998 and April 1998 issues.

You can also go hunting for Roff’s book about his journey: Cold Beer & Crocodiles.

*Update: Roff recently emailed us to let us know that he does in fact have a blog: My Bicycle & I


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September 2011 Bike Touring Newsletter

Posted October 19th, 2011

Welcome to September’s bike touring newsletter.

Here are some of the most popular posts on the blog over the past month:

Gear We Love – Wheel Locks

Wheel LocksA good touring bike needs a good lock, and in Europe the wheel lock is a seen on nearly every bicycle.

It attaches to your bike frame, above the rear wheel, and it functions like this: put the key in and push down on a lever so that a metal ring slides between the spokes of your back tire, locking the bike.

We have the Abus Amparo 4850 LH NKR locks on our touring bikes and we love them for brief stops along the way. They take only seconds to engage, and are always ready to go – no more rummaging around in your bags for a lock, or unwrapping a lock from your bike frame.

Of course, this isn’t a total bike security solution. For longer stops, overnight security or high-risk areas like cities, you’ll want another lock so you can secure your bike to a fixed object. For brief pitstops, however, the wheel lock is ideal. We use ours all the time.

When we started writing about wheel locks, we realized just how much we had to say, so we created a whole page full of pros and cons on these locks:

Wheel Locks: A Good Lock For Bike Touring?

Tip Of The Month – Do It Yourself Kickstand

Bikes With Sticks for KickstandsWay back in the first edition of our newsletter, we talked about how to make a bicycle kickstand out of a stick. Yes, a stick. That might sound silly, but if you don’t have a kickstand on your bike or if yours breaks en route, it’s a nifty thing to be able to do.

At the time, we didn’t have a good photo of this trick in action. Now, Emma & Justin have sent us a picture and a little description of how two sticks found by the roadside prop their bikes up, and perform many other tasks:

We broke the sticks off at a suitable height so they could be propped up against the bicycle frame. Good sticks usually have a bit of flex in them and are a little green – drier older sticks often aren’t strong enough. Benefits including being able to park your bike in the middle of fields, forests or on sand easily and we’ve even used them as part of sun shelters in the desert. They’re much cheaper than a stand but there’s an art to parking your bike using a stick and ensuring that it doesn’t fall over. They can be used as dog deterrents but I wouldn’t want to suggest anyone go out and hit animals with them. Waving around and shouting should do the trick.

Emma & Justin are currently in China, and heading for the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Check out their great blog, Rolling Tales.

Featured Bike Tourists – Finding Sachi

Finding SachiFinding Sachi is the blog of Sachiko Takao and her bicycle tour around Japan, in search of wonderful Japanese food. She’s biking the country from south to north, from Okinawa to Hokkaido.

The first blog entry explains her reasons for the tour, and how she was a relatively inexperienced cyclist before starting the trip.

Just to give you an idea of what a challenge this is going to be for me, the longest cycling I have ever done in my life was up to two hours at a time, and that was just strolling along the beaches in Los Angeles, followed by a glass of beer and French fries.

And the most recent entry describes her ride along railway lines, lakes and through forests in the north of Japan.

Follow along on http://findingsachi.com.


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June 2011 Bike Touring Newsletter

Posted August 27th, 2011

The bike touring season is in full swing here in Holland.

In the last few weeks, we’ve hosted several cyclists, including Rik & Paula and Jim & Sandra – both Australian couples who are taking a year off to see the world by bicycle.

Our summer bike tour is still a few weeks away but in the meantime we’re working on an exciting project: refurbishing our Robin Mather steel touring bikes.

The first step is to get them painted. Then we’ll decide on which accessories to add. Maybe some shiny metal fenders and drop handlebars (although we’re not sure if drops will look silly with Friedel’s step-through frame). It’s fun to dream, and as soon as the bikes get a fresh paint job, we’ll start adding the little extras to make them beautiful.

Recent Posts

Here are all the newest posts on the blog:

Tip Of The Month – Pipe Insulation To Protect Bike Frames

Bike InsulationWhen packing your bike for a trip on a plane, train or bus, of course you want to protect the frame from scratches and dings.

One very easy way to do this is to buy some foam heating pipe insulation at your local hardware store. It has a slit down one side, so it’s easy to fit over the frame and secure with tape.

It’s cheap too. Each strip of insulation (about 1 meter long) only costs a buck or two. With 2 pieces you can easily cover your entire bike frame.

Just make sure you check the diameter of the pipe insulation, and get a size that will fit around your bike frame. If it’s too small, part of the frame will still be exposed.

This technique works well, whether you’re packing your bicycle in a cardboard box or a plastic bag.

Gear We Love – Camelbak Unbottle 70

Camelbak Unbottle 70We just returned from a trip home to Canada, where we were able to retrieve some of the things that have been in storage since we finished our world bike tour. Our Camelbak Unbottle 70 water reservoirs were among the things we brought home to Holland.

These are incredibly sturdy water carriers. They’ve survived 3 years of daily use on our world bike tour and they’re still in really good shape. The protective insulating cover around the plastic water holder helps to keep water cool and protects the plastic from suffering any UV damage.

We have never had a leak with the Camelbak Unbottle 70 water carriers, unlike other water holders which have cracked and become unusable after just a few months.

The wide-mouth opening is also good. It makes filling the reservoir really easy. We didn’t often drink out of the attached tube but we did use the tube to create a makeshift shower when wild camping. Just hang the Camelbak from a tree branch and squeeze the tube to release some water over your head and body.

Mark WatersFeatured Bike Tourists – Mark Waters

Mark works for the Cyclists Touring Club in the UK and runs the very helpful CycleTouring INFormation blog. It’s regularly updated with short snippets of helpful information.

Among the good links and tips on his website in recent months, we’ve discovered new GPS mapping sites‘nature houses’ that offer accomodation in Europe and links to other cyclists on the road.

“The main object of this site is so that I can tell you about stuff almost as soon as I find out about it myself,” says Mark. He encourages you to email your tips to [email protected] (put Ref:Touring Blog in the subject line).

In addition to reading the blog, you can also follow Mark’s updates on Twitter.


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August 2011 Bike Touring Newsletter

Posted August 27th, 2011

This summer has just flown by.

We’ve been on a beer-tasting bike tour around Belgium, we tried out recumbent bikes for the first time, and we made our Bike Touring Survival Guide available in a printed form!

What’s coming up next?

We want to rebuild the bicycles that we took around the world. So far, we’ve stripped the frames of all the parts, and in September we’ll take them to be painted. Then we can build them back up again! We’re going to do some more weekend bike tours, and we’re going to try out more recumbent bikes. They’ve really piqued our interest!

Recent Posts

Here are some of the most popular posts on the blog over the past month:

Tip Of The Month – Earplugs, Foreign Languages and Asking Directions

Short Wave RadioThis month we have several tips to share with you. They’re from followers of the Adventure Cycling Association, who have been leaving tips on a review of our Bike Touring Survival Guide and on the Adventure Cycling Facebook Group in hopes of winning a free copy.

“One of my favorite tips I picked up from my tour of Europe is that when you don’t speak the language enough to read the menu, just ask what the best is. I always had the best food and never had to fret about what to order because they would just point, I would order, and it was always fantastic. It went from being a desperate move in language-confusion to the best way to get the best food they offered!” –David Sassaman

“Pack a small AM/FM/weather radio for evening listening to immerse yourself in local culture and stay abreast of weather conditions.” – Michael Rosenstein

“When asking directions, ask at least three different people, and try to find at least two who give you the same direction. Car-culture people don’t understand that if they give you imprecise directions it could send you miles out of your way!” –Stephen Smith

“When bike-camping in noisy areas (wind, trains, cities, etc) bring and use earplugs – cheap, light. You will sleep a lot better.” –Gary Senula

Do you have a bike touring tip to share? Email us (just hit reply to this email) and we’ll publish the best ones in future newsletters.

Gear We Love – Victorinox Knives

Knives For Bicycle TouringYou might be on a bicycle trip, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cook great food, and part of making meal preparation easy is having the right knife.

For us, a Swiss Army knife has never quite been enough, and so about 5 years ago we invested in two cheap, yet sturdy knives from Victorinox: an 8cm Paring Knife and aSerrated Tomato Knife.

The best thing about these knives is how durable they’ve been. They’ve not only been carried round the world. We use them at home too. Despite this daily use, the only thing we have to do is sharpen the paring knife once every few months.

At home, we do this with a sharpening steel. On the road, we can always find someone to sharpen our knives for us – usually in a hardware store, or sometimes an old-fashioned travelling knife sharpener.

And did we mention that these knives are cheap? We’re talking about $5 U.S. for each knife. That’s all of $1 a year for the time we’ve been using them, and they’ve still got lots of life in them yet.

Featured Bike Tourists – Mike & Karen

2 Wheeled WanderersIt’s always fun to follow a bike tour right from its very beginning, and Mike & Karen are just a few days away from starting out on a 5-year world bicycle tour!

The plan is to start in their hometown of Edmonton, Canada and just keep going, as long as they’re having fun and still have money in the bank.

Their website – Two Wheeled Wanderers – is fairly new, but already there’s some good stuff on it.

Check out their article on how they chose a tentthe cost of building a touring bicycle, and a wilderness first-aid course that they took.

We’re looking forward to following Mike & Karen as they pedal around the world. Good luck guys!


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