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July 2011 Bike Touring Newsletter

Posted August 23rd, 2011

Welcome to July’s bike touring newsletter.

It’s been a bike-filled month for us.

We’ve gone on lots of weekend rides around the beautiful Netherlands, hosted tons of cyclists through the WarmShowers network, raised money to get Pete Gostelow back on the road after a robbery and created a new podcast for you to listen to.

Recent Posts

Here are all the newest posts on the blog:

Tip Of The Month - Too Hot? Get Instant Air Conditioning!

Cooling Off In LaosWant to cool down quickly on a really hot day? Our ‘instant fix’ is to find a water tap and soak our shirts with cold water. If we have a hat, we’ll soak that too.

We find the water everywhere: in cemetaries and church yards, in restaurant bathrooms (we’ll stop for a cold drink and soak our shirts in the sink before we go), in rivers and streams, and from springs that run off by the side of the road (see the photo). We’ve even asked people watering their lawns to turn the hoses on us!

Once you’re wet, the wonders of evaporative cooling will keep you chilled for 20-30 minutes. Combined with the breeze as you pedal, it’s a sort of instant air conditioning!

If you suffer from heat rash, soaking your shirts and washing the salty sweat off your body 2-3 times a day can also help your skin from becoming irritated. That said, sunscreen obviously won’t stick around if you’re splashing yourself with water several times a day, so if you do this it’s all the more important that you wear long, loose clothes that cover your body, plus a hat on your head.

You can also use evaporative cooling to keep your water chilled. Just wet a sock and stick your water bottle inside, before putting it back on the bottle cage.

Macpac CitadelGear We Love - Macpac Citadel Tent

We recently had a chance to admire the Macpac Citadel tent that our friends Trevor & Simone are currently using. They’ve put the tent through its paces during a 2-month trip from Jordan to the Netherlands, and they really like it.

We think it’s neat too. There are 2 entrances to the sleeping area, and 2 porches – a large one for cooking and a smaller one for reading or relaxing. With lots of space, it seems like the perfect tent for couples – and perhaps a rival to our Hilleberg Nallo 3GT.

The photo shows you what the Macpac Citadel looks like when all the doors are closed (there are 2 happy cyclists inside, waiting for the rain to stop!).

The cost of the Macpac Citadel is about €600 in Europe, compared to roughly €800 for the Hillberg. It also compares favourably if you’re tall. Trevor measures up at 190 cm tall (6’3″) and can stretch out fully in the Macpac Citadel, while Andrew is 180 cm tall (5’11″) and sometimes finds his feet brushing against the end of the Nallo 3GT.

On the downside, the Macpac Citadel weighs 3.4kg – a bit more than the Nallo 3GT (2.9kg). That said, if you value the ability to have your own space (and tent entrance), more than counting every gram, it could be just the ticket.

Featured Bike Tourists - Rebecca & Ryan

Ryan & BexRebecca & Ryan left home in September 2010 to cycle 24,000km from England to New Zealand.

We only recently discovered their blog, but we’ve been enjoying their tales from the road. They’re currently in China and, in a recent journal entry, Rebecca describes the joys of touring perfectly:

“You know that feeling: you’re freewheeling down a hill or cycling in the sunshine, and you feel invincible! Well I get that feeling every single day. Sometimes it only lasts a few minutes, sometimes when everything is perfect it can last 9 hours.”

“I’m not crazy – obviously I regularly dread getting back on the saddle, perhaps the night before, when I wake up, as I’m loading up the panniers or sometimes right up until the second I start turning the pedals. But as soon as my legs are spinning, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Rebecca & Ryan are raising money for 2 charities as they pedal, so if you enjoy their blog, why not drop them a small donation to say thanks for the stories and photos.

***
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June 2010 Bike Touring Newsletter

Posted May 20th, 2011

Welcome to the first edition of the new TravellingTwo bike touring newsletter and a big thanks for signing up.

With these short emails, we’re aiming to provide even more bike touring inspiration.

Read on to find links to some of the recent articles on TravellingTwo, plus:

  • A unique bike touring tip
  • A featured bike tourist of the month
  • One piece of gear we really like

Do you have a tip to share? Or perhaps you know of a bike tourist who deserves to be highlighted? Reply to this email and tell us about it. We might feature your contribution in the next newsletter.

Recent Articles

Tip Of The MonthA Homemade KickstandGum Tree From Katiesw1 on Flickr

If you’ve ever tried to park a heavily loaded touring bike, you know how tricky it can be. All that weight makes propping it up against a curb or a pole a difficult balancing act.

Getting a kickstand is one option, but some people don’t want to add the extra weight to an already heavy load.

Another option comes to us from Sats, who runs Quantum Cycles, one of Australia’s best bike builders. He describes the trick he learned from another bike touring couple, while crossing the empty Nullabor desert.

“They had cut from a tree, a short green branch about the thickness of my thumb. It was straight but it had a small fork at one end. You carry it slid into the luggage on back rack, and when you stop you can pull out and prop it under the side of the rear rack. Bingo, a perfect bike stand! I cut one for myself and ever after I could stop and stand the bike anywhere, fully loaded or unloaded in a camp.”

“The important thing is not to use a stick off the ground as the wood would be dry and it would likely break. I cut a branch about 20 mm thick out of a tree. I suppose the type of tree would depend on where you are in the world. Aussie gum trees tend to be hardwood and fairly strong. I never had the bike fall over, even in a strong breeze. Fully loaded: no problem. I carried probably over 35 kilograms at times. I guess one could go to hardware store and buy a 20mm diameter wooden dowel and cut a V shaped notch in one end and use that. It only has to be the length to go under the rack to the ground.”

Thanks for the tip, Sats! If you’re ever in the city of Perth, Western Australia, then drop in and see Quantum Bicycles (64 Farmer St). We had some work done on our bikes there and these guys really know their stuff. And if you have a tip to share for the next newsletter, get in touch.

Gear We LoveCompression StrapsCompression Straps

What’s the best way to strap gear to the back of your bike? During our world cycle tour, we used bungee cords. It wasn’t a well researched choice. They stretched over time, making it increasingly difficult to tie things down tightly. The hooks on either end that hold the cords tight also had a habit of coming loose and flying off the racks at the most unfortunate moments.

Sometimes we narrowly missed getting whipped in the face. Other times, the cord wrapped itself around our rear cogs, making a fine mess to untangle.

The solution? Compression straps! Just like the Riverside Utility Straps ($12.99 from REI, as seen in top right photo).
Kayakers and other outdoor sports people – including most of our fellow bike tourists here in Holland – use them all the time. The straps are solidly woven and the buckle that secures the straps doesn’t come loose during a day of cycling in the same way that bungee cords tend to slide around.

We’ve had our straps for about 3 months now and we have the impression that they’re much less likely than bungee cords to stretch and wear thin over time.

You can also use compression straps to hold your panniers firmly to your racks – a great solution if you’re planning to ride over some bumpy roads and not a bad extra anti-theft device as well (see lower right photo). The straps go behind the panniers and interlace with the racks.

Finally, a compression strap pulled tight around your front wheel and frame, can add stability by keeping your front wheel from swinging wildly to one side when you want to park it somewhere.

Featured Bike Tourist BlogA Journey Of 1000li

Meet Vicky and Kelly. This American couple are cycling the length of Japan. They’re a few weeks into their 2,500 mile journey and we’re loving their updates A Journey Of 1000li website.

They really make us want to pack our panniers and head out to see a few temples, soak in the local bathhouses and wander through the peaceful gardens for ourselves. Like most tours, it hasn’t been all smooth pedalling. They’ve had a lot of rain to deal with, but we enjoyed hearing this story about how one stranger made a wet day better:

“The one highlight of the day was a man that stopped to wait for us in the pouring rain as we crested a long climb out of the Biwa-ko area. As we came up behind his van, he hopped out to hand us his business card and two hot cans of the sports drink “Aquarius”, wished us good luck, and drove off. Cheered by this simple act of goodwill, we were able to carry on through the rain for the next few hours…”

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July 2010 Bike Touring Newsletter

Posted May 20th, 2011

Welcome to July’s TravellingTwo bike touring newsletter. It’s an exciting month because we’re giving away free gear – wonderful merino wool cycling socks from Icebreaker!

Three lucky readers will each win 3 pairs of these socks – our favourites for bike touring. To enter the contest, just read our review of merino wool socks and leave a comment telling us why you deserve to win the socks. Bonus points for humour or a good story!

Read on to find links to some of the recent articles on TravellingTwo, plus:

  • A unique bike touring tip
  • A featured bike tourist
  • One piece of gear we really like

And don’t forget to drop in and say hi to us. You can reply to this email with your bike touring questions and comments, join our Facebook group or follow@travellingtwo on Twitter.

Recent Articles

  • Adventure Cycling In Mongolia - Mountain biker and adventurer Tom Allen has just returned from an off-road bike tour across Mongolia. He gives the highlights of the trip and practical advice if you’d like to bike across Mongolia.Bike Touring In Denmark
  • Mini Cards For Bike Touring – They’re just the right size to stick a bunch in your handlebar bag, and they’re personalised with your own photos. We love them!
  • Bike Touring In Denmark – It’s one of the world’s most bike friendly countries. Patrick & Sandra tell us about their bike tours in Denmark and why it’s so great.
  • QStarz GPS Tracker review – We’ve been testing a GPS tracker. Do you really need one on tour? Read our verdict.
  • Panniers vs Trailers – This is one of the biggest debates in bike touring. Here’s our take, but you might not agree.
  • Planet Superflash Bike Light – An amazingly bright light and the best we’ve found for night riding or those dark tunnels you sometimes come across.

Tip Of The MonthBroken Bike Frames and Group Photos
Ever worry about what you’d do if your bike frame or a rack cracked on tour, and you couldn’t get it repaired immediately?

Just go to a hardware shop, boat supply store or auto shop and ask for a Fibreglass Repair Kit. These kits cost about $10-20 U.S. and can be used to repair steel or aluminium frames.

The materials in the kits vary slightly. You want one with fibreglass cloth or woven tape, which can be wrapped more easily than fibreglass mat, and an epoxy adhesive, not weaker polyester resin.  The idea is to sand down the broken area, then use the fibreglass and glue to create a cast around the broken part. It’s similar to how broken arms and legs are treated! The job is a messy one but creates a strong bond. Whole bicycles can be built with these materials.

On another topic, the bike touring tip below comes from a reader, who replied to the last newsletter with an idea to share.
“A little tip for groups of tourers: Synchronize the clocks in everyone’s digital cameras. That way you can rename all images by date, copy all images into a single folder and have them in chronological order. Better yet, if someone has a gps, synchronize to that and later geotag your images.” – Chris, who created TrackMyTour.
If you have a tip to share for the next newsletter, get in touch.

Petzl TikkaGear We LovePetzl Tikka 2 Headlamps
We’ve had the same Petzl Tikka 2 Headlamps since we started touring in 2006. They’ve seen repeated daily use, including several hours of reading in the tent at night during winter bike tours. They’re well past their 3-year warranty period, but these torches are still going strong.

We’ve dropped them, thrown them in our panniers with no special care and lugged them all around the world and they haven’t developed a fault yet. It’s quite a contrast with 2 cheaper headlamps we’d owned before, which broke within a few months.
At up to 120 hours of burn time on just 3 AAA batteries, the Petzl Tikka 2 headlamps are economical too. That’s a good 2 months of constant camping and evening entertainment in your tent!

They’re also very light, weighing in at just 85g, including the batteries.
At just $29.95 U.S., we also think they represent good value. The PetzlTikka headlamps are stocked by CycloCamping.com and REI.
Scott Mullin
Featured Bike Tourist Blog - Powercycle
A chance Google search led us to Scott’s Powercycle website, and he drew us in with this:

“No mortgage… no wife… no kids… and now no job… what’s a guy living in South Florida to do? Jump on a bike and ride to Alaska of course. When I make it up there the plan is to head down to South America and then over to New Zealand and then Australia. After that wherever the road (or a boat) takes me.”

Sounds logical to us! Scott has now made it all the way to Guatemala and he’s heading south, but not without encountering a challenge – the hallmark of any long cycling trip. He’s broken his front rack, and now he has to figure out how to get a replacement. It’s not proving easy.

“Bicycle touring is so easy until something goes wrong. Not speaking the native language and being in an undeveloped country doesn’t help either,” Scott writes in his journal.

He’s keeping an optimistic attitude though and trying to line up places to get a replacement rack sent to. Check out his website to find out how Scott’s broken rack saga turns out.

***
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August 2010 Bike Touring Newsletter

Posted May 20th, 2011

Welcome to the August edition of the TravellingTwo bike touring newsletter.

This month, we’re bike touring in Denmark for 2 weeks. It’s known as one of the most bike friendly countries in the world so we can’t wait to check it out. We’ll be going up to the tip of Jutland, the northernmost point in Denmark.

As we bike, we’ll be testing the Primus Omnifuel stove (see it for sale at CycloCamping and REI). We’re also going to make pizza while camping, and photograph the steps so you can do it too.

The blog won’t fall silent over the coming weeks. Watch for posts on free bike touring books you can download, and a new podcast interview with Sonya & Aaldrik – a couple who have been cycling around the globe since 2006.

Read on to find links to some of the recent articles on TravellingTwo, plus:

  • A unique bike touring tip
  • A featured bike tourist
  • One piece of gear we really like

And don’t forget to drop in and say hi to us. You can reply to this email with your bike touring questions and comments, join our Facebook group or follow@travellingtwo on Twitter.

Tailwinds and happy touring,

Friedel & Andrew

Recent Articles

  • Our Tarp: An Important Extra – This might just be the most versatile piece of kit we carry while cycling.
  • Staying Cool On Summer Bike Tours – Wet your shirt, and carry a tarp and thermos: these are a few of our tips for cycling in hot weather.
  • Making The Perfect Cup Of Coffee – Learn how to make a great cup of coffee, using only a pot and a campstove.
  • Cycling In France – Richard & Kevin tell us about their 40-day tour around France, and what they learned.
  • Tips For Staying Organised – Our tips for keeping your panniers from becoming a black hole of disorganization that drives you crazy.
  • Our Homemade Bike Trailer – For just a few dollars, we turned a trailer that was for carrying kids into one that’s perfect for cargo.
  • Tip Of The MonthEmergency Tire Repairs

    Ripped TireTires wear out. Sometimes they do so at the most inconvenient moments, when you are nowhere near a bike store to find a replacement. What then? Happily, there are some easy emergency repairs you can do that will enable you to get to the nearest town.

    Steve Langston emailed us this tip for fixing a troublesome tire: “Take the tire off, remove the tube and cover the hole with something. A thin piece of hard plastic works best but so will a credit card or playing card. Then tape it into place with duct tape and re-inflate the tire. The tubes pressure will make it rock solid so you can get back on the bike.”

    Dollar bills, granola bar wrappers or even an old inner tube can also be enough to patch up the tire and get you on your way. And sometimes, as blog reader Andy Witty recently told us, even dental floss can do the trick.

    “We had a tyre burst on a Sunday in Switzerland. We sewed it up with dental floss and it got us 180 miles and over the Furkapass (2436m) to the next bike shop!”

    Sometimes your tire doesn’t wear out entirely, but the cord that forms the tire starts to break down. As the wires that make up the cord become exposed, they can puncture your inner tube. The solution is very simple. Just put a flat tire patch over the area with the worn cord, then replace the tire at the earliest opportunity. Normally it will be good for a few hundred kilometers, after you first notice the fraying cord.

    If you have a tip to share for the next newsletter, get in touch.

    Gear We LoveTopeak Pump

    Topeak PumpBuying a bad pump might have been the biggest mistake we made as bike touring beginners. The bicycle tire pump that we grabbed off the shelf of a supermarket turned out to be completely useless. Our faces turned red and our muscles grew sore, as we spent up to half an hour trying – and ultimately failing – to get our newly patched tires up to pressure.

    When we finally smartened up and bought a Topeak pump, the payoff was immediate. The next day we had a flat tire, and we were able to pump up the tire easily and within just a couple minutes. Two years later, and the Mountain Morph pump is still going strong. It weighs just 250g and can pump up to 160 psi.

    If we were buying a pump today, we’d happily get the same one, or perhaps Topeak’s smaller Mini G Pump. It weighs a mere 150g, and the Mini G offers nearly the same pumping strength as the Mountain Morph. It is also very compact if space on your frame is an issue, and good value at just $13.90 from CycloCamping.com.

    Featured Bike TouristBiciClown

    As far as epic bike tours go, it’s hard to find many people who have committed to a bigger tour than Alvaro Neil, also known as BiciClown.

    He currently heading for Mongolia, with nearly 6 years on the road and over 80,000km under his wheels. But what we really love about this tour – more than the distances covered – is how BiciClown gives free performances in the towns and villages that he passes through.

    On his website, Alvaro writes a little about the inspiration behind his massive journey:

    “I am here because one day I understood that the cemetery is full of dreamers and I did not want to join them. I want death to get to me with an empty wallet and the heart full of landscapes and smiles. I have no pension scheme and I am not concerned about the 67 year pension scheme. Someone has said that you do not fly because you have wings but rather wings grow because you have flown. Let me add, YOU HAVE TO FLY WITH OR WITHOUT WINGS.”

    On the BiciClown website, you will find Alvaro’s journals, photos and also the books he sells to help fund his trip.

    ***

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    September 2010 Bike Touring Newsletter

    Posted May 19th, 2011

    Welcome to the September edition of the TravellingTwo bike touring newsletter.

    Our 2-week tour of Denmark was fantastic. You can read all about the superb scenery, food and wild camping spots we experienced. We can highly recommend this under-rated country as a top bike touring destination.

    Bike Touring In DenmarkNow, we’re settling into autumn with a few goals in mind. The biggest one is to build some new touring bikes, and this project starts with our upcoming trip to the north of the Netherlands, where we’ll learn to build a wheel with Marten Gerritsen. These new wheels will have dynamos, making it possible for us to generate our own electricity to charge cameras and other gadgets on the road.

    We’ll keep you posted on how our bike building goes!

    In the meantime, enjoy our most recent post on TravellingTwo, as well as our tip of the month and a featured bike tourist… all in this newsletter. Tailwinds and happy touring!

    Recent Posts

    • Making A Tarp For Just $5 – See how we made a tarp for just $5, to help keep us dry on our latest bike tour
    • Cycling Into Istanbul- Many people take the main highway into Turkey’s biggest city, but that’s not necessary. There’s a much quieter and more enjoyable way.
    • Bike Touring In Patagonia – Two cyclists tell us about a 3,000km bike tour in Patagonia, South America.
    • Lightening The Load – Steve dropped 20kg of weight from his panniers. See what he threw out, to ease the burden on his bike and his body.

    Tip Of The MonthLightweight Spice Kit

    Make A Spice Kit Out Of StrawsOn a short bike tour, you only need small quantities of spices for cooking. What’s the best way to carry a few spoonfuls of various spices?

    The simple drinking straw is one cost-effective option.

    Just use a lighter or a bit of scotch tape to close up one end, and fill with your selected spice (you can make a cone funnel by rolling a piece of paper to make this easier).

    Close the top end of the straw in the same way as you sealed the bottom of the straw. Presto! The perfect amount of spice for a few meals.

    This YouTube video shows how to make your own lightweight spice kit with straws, and this Instructables article gives another variation on the same idea.

    Gear We LoveWaterproof Socks

    Friedel's Waterproof SocksThere’s nothing worse than soggy feet when you’re riding your bike on a rainy day. That’s why we love our Sealskinz Socks so much.

    We might go several months without wearing them, and they’re a bit expensive for socks, but when the heavens open and the rain pours down, it feels incredibly comfortable to put a pair of these socks on our feet.

    You can cycle happily in the rain for hours with waterproof socks. Even if your shoes get soaked, your feet stay dry and warm. When we pull these socks on in the tent at night after a long, damp day it feels like putting on a pair of slippers.

    We have relatively thick waterproof socks – ideal for riding in cooler weather. If you do a lot of wet summer riding, however, you may prefer to get a thinner version.

    See the Sealskinz socks we bought at Wiggle, and a similar version sold by REI.

    Featured Bike Tourist Blog – Around The World With Luca

    Linda, Phil and LucaLinda, Phil and their 2 year old son Luca have just set off on a world bike trip. Currently cycling along the Danube, this young family will go all the way to Istanbul by bike. From there, South East Asia, Australia and both North and South America are on the agenda.

    Quite the journey! They’ve only just started, but already we’re enjoying their blog. It’s especially interesting if you hope to tour with kids. In one entry, Linda and Phil talk about how they’ve adjusted their routine to make sure Luca is having a good time.

    “We’ve averaged around 250km each week, usually managing to fit one rest day in per week. Luca has really settled into the cycling routine and loves it. He has become an expert tractor and farm animal spotter! But we try to give him as much play time off the bikes as possible, so we tend to set off late enough in the morning…. any other cyclists in the campsite are well gone by the time we’re ready to go. But this gives Luca time to play in the playground or to have a swim. We also set up camp by early evening if possible, to allow him another chance to play and run around.”

    Check out Around The World With Luca for more on their journey.

    ***

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