Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tour De France BikePacking Gear List


On the 24th of August, Tom and I will set out on our 4500 kilometre ride inspired by the 1955 Tour de France route.

Below is what we'll be taking.

Luggage -

Rich - Alpkit Big Papa, Stingray Frame Bag, Medium Fuel Pod.

Tom - Alpkit Stingray Frame Bag, Koala Seat pack.

Sleeping -

Force Ten Helium 2 tent.

Rich - Enlightened Equipment down quilt, Sea to Summit mat.

Tom - Adult Pied Elephant down bag. Klymit mat.

Clothes - All Rapha - Merino base layers, Lightweight/Aero Tops, Bib shorts, Arm Warmers, Leg Warmers, Gilets. Magic Rock Caps.

Extra clothes - Primaloft jackets, Waterproof tops, Merino beanies, undies, socks.


Tools etc. Pump, 3 tubes, puncture repair kit, tyre lever, multitool, chain breaker, spare links, pliers, cable ties.

Personal care - Factor 30 suncream, Assos chamois cream, toothbrushes and toothpaste, tea tree cream, wipes.

Electrics - Rich - Garmin Oregon GPS, SP PD-8 dynamo. Igaro AC power into 5V USB power convertor. Anker PowerCore 20100 battery, leads. Fujifilm X30 camera, spare lithiums for the SPOT.
Both - USE Exposure Toro front lights with Exposure RedEye Rear Lights

Water - Both 2 bottles. 

Luxury item, a roll on deodorant.

SPOT Tracker - Click for our location.

Oh, and Tom's Stingray frame bag is empty, he'll be carrying our food.

Some close up photos below.







Monday, July 3, 2017

What's next? Summer Plans



"What's next?" A question that we're often asked. It's a question that I've got usually got an answer to, though the answer often changes.

We'd penciled in a European end to end for this summer. It ticked many boxes. Though when I started to research a route it became clear that we'd have to avoid the mountains to make good time over the 5000+km. Not ideal.

Whilst watching Le Tour on the television with my daughter the other day, a seed was sown that changed our plans. Why not ride the "Tour de France" then we can come out and see you?

I looked at this years route and like most modern tour routes there's a lot of transfers between the end of a stage and the start of the next. As we are planning on riding unsupported, we'd need to find a tour route where riders actually rode the whole route. Oh, and can we have some hills including Mont Ventoux?

I spend an afternoon doing some research and settled on using the 1955 tour route as a template for our trip.

Starting at Le Havre, the route heads clockwise dipping into Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, then round France. Climbs include - Aravis, Télégraphe, Galibier, Vars, Cayolle, Vasson, La Turbie, Mont Ventoux, Aspin, Peyresourde, Tourmalet, Aubisque.

As usual the route ends in Paris, some 4476 km later.

We're not going to follow the exact route, preferring quieter roads when possible, so we may do a few km more.

In 1955 (the first year that there were British riders) the Tour was ridden in 22 days with 2 rest days. We'll be aiming for something similar. There will be no broom wagon, and we'll be carrying all our camping kit.

Thanks Skye for the inspiration, and for drawing the map. See you in Paris!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Ride to the Sun....and back.

We first heard about Ride to the Sun in 2016. The ride starts from Carlisle, and heads North to finish on Cramond beach which is a few miles North of Edinburgh. Riders can leave whenever, but the goal is to get to the beach in time for sunrise.



Our plan was to ride to the beach, grab a few hours sleep, then ride back to the start. 200 miles in 24 hours.

Tom and I arrived in Carlisle on Saturday around 6:30pm and after chatting with a few folk at the start, we were away for 7:20 pm. Our last big (100 mile off road) ride had an average speed of under 7 miles an hour. We were a good deal faster than that on the road with skinny tyres!

The miles quickly passed. We paused for a photo and a snack in Ecclefechan. Not long after we caught up with "Pyro" one of the Bear Bones Forumites. We rode along with him for a few miles and chatted.


At Moffat we stopped for tea and more food.


We arrived at Moffat, though didn't hang around long as the midges were about. Though we did have a cup of tea.

As we headed up the only hill of note on the route, the Devil’s Beef Tub, dusk fell and we turned on our lights. Though Tom's rear light had disappeared since leaving the car, so he had to stay alongside or in front of me for the rest of the night.

Dusk fell, but it never really got dark.

Outside the now empty Crook Inn in the Tweed valley a DJ is playing some tunes, we listened to a few beats whilst filling our water bottles.




One more drink stop on the outskirts of Edinburgh.


Then it's heads down for the last few miles to Cramond. We were pleased to have ridden the 100 miles with a moving average of over 15mph.

Shortly after our arrival our friend Alasdair McLean arrives, and we all adjourn for some well earned food.


After eating Alasdair heads off home, and Tom and I find a comfy looking bit of grass near Cramond Kirk and throw our tent up.

After four hours sleep, it is time to get up and head back to Carlisle.

 .
Alasdair had suggested an alternate route back, but my GPS routing insisted on sending us via the Edinburgh ring road which you are not allowed to cycle on. So it took longer than it should have done the first few miles. Nearing Peebles, we decided to retrace our previous route.

The ride back was into the wind, and wow it was hot, but what a pretty part of the world.


By the time we arrived in Moffat for the 2nd time in 24 hours, we were cooked. Cold drinks and ice lollies needed.


A final photo at Gretna Green before the last few miles to Carlisle.


We arrived back in Carlisle almost 24 hours after leaving, having ridden 210 miles.

All that was left for the day was to drive back home in time for sleep, then school and work on Monday.


Thanks to Fraser Maxwell, Gary Cameron and the rest of the people who helped put on such a great event.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Highland Trail 550 - Part 4

Day 7


There comes a time in these trips where you think that there's a good chance that you're going to get to the end, and with 160 miles left to do in two days, we could now visualise the end.

From Kinlochewe we headed into the Coulin Forest.


Towards Coire Lair.


Down then to Strathcarron for ice cream before  a small climb over the hill to Dornie for lunch.

The onwards into Kintail.


We did stop to change our damp socks for dry ones before the big climb.


Just past Glenlicht House, Tom shouts me. He shows me his front wheel. There is sealant leaking from one side and the middle of the rim. The nearest bike shop is 40 miles away, we are surely finished.

The sealant is still not sealing, but a positive is that it is  only escaping slowly. A quick bit of thinking and I have managed not to fix the crack, but have stopped the air escaping, if only temporarily.


The next section is pushing followed by  a fairly smooth descent.

I'm amazed but the wheel holds. We ride on until it's dark.

Day 8

We are up early. We know that this is going to be a long day. A couple of big lumps take us over to Fort Augustus for brunch.


Next comes the Caledonian Canal down to Fort William.

It's a hot day, Tom needs ice cream.


Out of Fort William we follow the West Highland Way over to Kinlochleven.


The walkers had mostly long gone home.


Half a lemon drizzle cake each for us before the descent.


Devil's Staircase, the last big climb of the day.


As we climb up, the sun sets.


 We make it over the other side of Devil's staircase just in daylight. Thereafter we ride with lights on.

It's fair to say that we were both very tired on the last few miles. The temptation to sleep was great, but finishing in under 8 days was more important.

At 2:10 am we arrived back in Tyndrum. A 101 mile day with over 9000' of climbing.

Our total time was 7days 20 hours and 25 minutes.

Strava - https://www.strava.com/activities/1011000628

We were most surprised that Alan and Mark had stayed up to see us in. Thanks, Oh and thanks to Mark Armitage for the pic below. Not looking too shabby after a 20 hour day.


We were in bed somewhere around 3am, then up again early to see of the folks who were setting of that morning.

After Alan had got a selfie with Tom, Tom started the race.

A big thanks to Alpkit for the bikes and luggage. I rode a rigid Frontier, and Tom rode a Carbon Transmitter.


Finally a big thanks to everyone for cheering us on!

Highland Trail 550 2017 Overview.


3rd time lucky, Tom managed to complete the Highland Trail 550, though not without some drama along the way. A great achievement for a 12 year old.

More info on the route can be found at http://www.highlandtrail.net/

A gear list will follow, but here's an index to our ride split into 4 parts.

Days 1-2

Days 3-4

Days 5-6

Days 7-8

Highland Trail 550 - Part 3

Day 5

We're awoken at 4:30 by the alarm, and are away not long after.

Glen Canisp is not quite as slow a trudge as I remembered. In fact with our  +tyres we rode quite a lot of it.



We got to Oykel Bridge for 10am and had bacon sandwiches and coffee.

Then over the mountain road to Ullapool.


A lovely day for it.


In Ullapool, a fish sandwich. Oh and remember those brake pads? We bought a hacksaw to chop down the ones which we had that were too big if needed!


After Ullapool comes the Coffin Road, which can only be described as nasty.


Then down to the Dundonnell valley. It was still relatively early so we continued onward, starting the climb over into Fisherfield. Tom really wanted to get to Shenavall bothy for the night.

Just before the top of the climb Tom started feeling unwell. We decided that heading back down the hill for the night was the best option, then making a decision the next day as to carrying on or not.

A few hours later Tom was feeling better and we were snugly tucked up in a bunkhouse.

Day 6

I thought it important that Tom had a long sleep, so not a particularly early start.

We retraced our route from the previous day and were soon looking into Fisherfield. It was good to see so little water in the river.


With the water barely ankle deep, Tom makes his way across the river.


The next 8 miles took around 4 hours. Tough going with a loaded bike. 


This day didn't stop giving though. After the Fisherfield crossing comes the Postman's path. More bike pushing.


We stopped just short of Kinlochewe for the night. We'd done a grand total of 30 miles for the day.

Highland Trail 550 - Part 2

Day 3.


A good night's sleep followed by the sun greeting us as we put away the tent. A good start to the day.


We were making good time. In the picture below is the place we stopped at the end of day 3 two years ago.


We made it Oykel Bridge in good time for lunch which was excellent.


All we needed to do before heading into the Northern loop was to fit some new brake pads.


Tom removed the old pads, and quickly realised that the pads we had bought were not the right ones. Tom has an excellent handle on bike specs usually, but had made a mistake on this occasion.

His bike had more pads left than mine. Mine were just about down to the metal. The nearest bike shop in our direction of travel was 100s of miles away. It was looking like we were doomed again?

I thought about the descents that we would encounter, and there were lots. We weren't giving up though, the brakes would have to last.

Into the Northern loop we rode.


The odd shower along the way, but otherwise a lovely afternoon.


At Glen Golly we decided to pitch our tent on a windy knoll to avoid the midges.


Day 4

From Glen Golly we go up. Steep up.


We feel fortunate to be here.



Eventually we get to Bealach Horn, the point where we start heading South.


We fly down the descent towards Achfary.

Some food at the bottom, oh and the discovery that my water bottle has ejected itself somewhere on the fast descent.


After a stiff climb out of Achfary we hit a road section.


The road takes us South along the coast road We stop at Drumbeg stores for lots of food, before heading onwards to Lochinver.


We arrive in Lochinver to be greeted by pouring rain. We take shelter in the Lochinver Pie shop, oh and eat more food.

We miss the worst of the rain, and head the few miles to Suileag bothy to rest for the night. We set the alarm for 4:30am