Breaking Chains and Not Burning Rubber

BREAKING CHAINS - Freedom: Cycle touring is the greatest way I have found to experience freedom. Whilst I celebrate mine I hope to help others gain and realise theirs, and protect ours, by fundraising for Amnesty International

NOT BURNING RUBBER - Environmental Awareness: Cycling is one of the most efficient and sustainable modes of transport. It's slow speed allows you to become more aware and connected with our surroundings, and therefore the pressures that they may be under. I intent to have a minimal negative impact on the environment whilst I travel, and will share my observations and experiences about my journey, environmental issues, and sustainable living here:

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

If you really really want it, stamp your feet!

Throw out the apathy that infests (most) people in NZ and Britain, take a leaf out of the Chileans book. If you want to protect OUR environment YOU need to start shouting about it.
This one seems to have worked (for now anyway). Well done to all the Chilean protesters!!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Nice Racks!

Gearing up the bike and me has been progressing nicely over the last week.
With the fitting of:
Tubus (German made) racks: a Logo Rear to the back, and a Tara Lowrider Front to the..err... front ;)
I had to use a Tubus adaptor for my front forks, as she has no eyelets mid way down the forks.
But they were both easy to fit and feel very sturdy.
There is a bit of debate over whether low
-rider or high-rider front racks are better for cycle trekking, and after seeing the advantages of a friends high-rider (you can mount additional gear on top of the rack, plus support the weight
of your inevitably overloaded bar bag) I was keen to jump camps from my low-rider experience. But you can't always get what you want... Tubus don't make a high-rider, and they are recommended by every cycle-trekking site I have read; they are steel, so like the bike frame steel/alloy issue, can be repaired by low-skilled welders and are much less likely to fail than alloy. The alloy low-rider on my Ridgeback flexed an uncomfortable amount when touring around Britain, and was by no means overloaded.
Low-rider people say they are the best-choice due to lowering the centre-of-gravity of your packed-out-bike, and aiding steering. I'm not too convinced about that, but it is the best option available...
So a lowrider I remain...

I also fitted a pretty cheap (proudly German Engineered!) wired speedo, which I can't see lasting till my August departure date never mind through the Amazon. "You get what you pay for" rang through my head whilst fitting it ;)

Can your nationality get you into trouble...?

I'm hoping having two nationalities might help when travelling. Especially in Argentina after recent comments...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13807108

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Foreign Office (UK) Travel advice for Venezuela.... Columbia's is worse!

  • We advise against all travel to within 80km (50 miles) of the Colombian border in the states of Zulia, Tachira and Apure. We advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Tachira state. Drug traffickers and illegal armed groups are active in these states and there is a risk of kidnapping. In addition, travellers should take particular care if attempting to cross in to Colombia from any state since border crossings can attract criminal activity. Travellers should only use official crossing points.
  • In late 2010, Venezuela suffered exceptionally heavy rains which affected wide areas of the country. Travel was affected in many areas, and road conditions remain poor.

  • Large scale protest marches take place across Venezuela. Large scale demonstrations may turn violent, with little or no warning. You are advised to take particular care to avoid demonstrations and to monitor this travel advice and local media regularly for updates.
  • The incidence of street crime in Venezuela is high. Armed muggings and ‘express kidnappings’ are a regular occurrence. You should exercise caution at all times, especially when arriving in, and travelling around, Venezuela. See Safety and Security - Crime.

  • Where possible you should avoid travelling on the road to and from Caracas International Airport (Maiquetia) during hours of darkness when there are few vehicles on the road. See Local Travel.

  • Around 13,000 British nationals visit Venezuela every year. 25 British nationals required consular assistance in Venezuela in the period 01 April 2009 – 31 March 2010. See General - Consular Assistance Statistics.

  • Do not handle illicit drugs; penalties are among the most severe in the Americas, and the prisons among the most dangerous. See Local Laws and Customs.

  • There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See General - Insurance.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Maps get me excited!

I have added my possible, intended at the moment, highly likely to change several times, route to the blog.

It comes out at well over 10,000km even with the Amazon boat, which sounds to good to miss out on, and gives me the chance to cycle for about two weeks north through the Amazon Rainforest around the Equator (must be mad!).
The actual distance will be way higher, maybe a third more but possibly even double, as all the turns in the road are not counted, and the many detours.
I will add the alternative route that is in my head which avoids the Amazon boat journey soon.

Caracas is the end point at the moment, mainly do to it been the most Northern capital. I hope to continue on through Central and North America, but this is to far in the distance to start planning routes. There maybe a boat option to North Africa too, which would link onto South Europe well.......

Cycling is safe!

Yesterday (13/06/11) in Christchurch we had a pretty decent earthquake - 6.2. Well my heart beat remained steady and I had no feeling of imminent death (even with my erratic wandering), unlike the majority of Chch folk.
What was I doing.....riding a bicycle!!! :)

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Moon Saddle

One of the first items I have been researching, and a pretty important one considering how much it can effect your physical and mental happiness, is the saddle!
Most cycle touring / trekking blogs and websites recommend the tried and tested Brooks saddle which would normally be my first choice - low tech, solid, and best of all "Made in England"!! But and it is a big but(t).... As one website mentioned: the evidence, no matter how controversial, relating to men's "health problems" is not worth ignoring especially when you are going to be in the "hot-seat" day in day out for months possibly years.
So after a quick bit of research I stumbled up-on the Moonsaddle (click on the name for more details). They definitely look different, not one for sticking to normality (I like old stuff but new tech has its place) I read on...and on...then e-mailed Mark, Moonsaddle's Australian (plus NZ/Japan) connection for more details. After a few e-mails back and forth they kindly send me a saddle over to try out.
So for the last month I have been racing around the quake hit streets and hills of Christchurch, NZ, on what I believe is the only Moonsaddle in NZ. Getting a fair few strange looks and positive comments along the way.
A bit strange to start off with the new perch soon lets you feel the benefit of an adjusted posture. I normally suffer lower back pain after medium length cycles, but I was relieved to have a pretty much ache free back to my surprise after my 20k ride out to college. Happy days!
This was then backed up by my Chiropractor - Paul, who after telling me "you're mad!" for planning such a trip, was very impressed by the saddle and explained to me with the use of a spinal model how it would help and how ridiculous standard saddles are for the back. His biking colleague agreed with quite a bit of excitement.
Mark at Moonsaddle.com.au and Moonsaddle.com are happy to support me using their saddle, so in return they have offered to donate money to the charities of my choice (Amnesty International and local environmental charities along the way) for every saddle purchased mentioning my trip or name. Cheers guys!
NOTE: I would like to mention however that I am only using this saddle because it is the best option for my trip and would never consider using something just because it had been donated. I am happy to use the moonsaddle because s0 far it has shown its benefits, and am therefore more than happy to support a company that has come up with an innovative design rather than follow the crowd or re-invent standard designs. Men's health problems also often take a humours bag seat to other issues so it is nice to see that some people are doing something about them.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Chile Dam

Chile: check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13445300 similar environmental issue to Canterbury, NZ. Slightly more passionate protests though....

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Getting the bike and gear


This will be my third cycle tour and all have been on a different bike.

My first was on a brand-new Ridgeback Voyager touring bike which I brought especially for touring around Britain last year (2010). I had hoped to fly her over for the tour, but after reading god knows how many blogs and websites on cycle touring, or rather cycle trekking, I have excepted that I need what is called an "expedition" bike - which includes having 26" inch mountainbike wheels. "Heidi" (got to give them a name, and female ones are more fitting) has 700c road bike wheels. Bugger!

The second was on my brothers left behind mountainbike, a Jamis. Pretty basic mountainbike with alloy frame, V-brakes, and front suspension. Did the tour around the top of the South Island of NZ no problem. But the alloy frame and front suspension means she will be staying in NZ.

Soooo...that has meant a long and head scratching search for a new bike.

What is needed is:
- Steel frame: strong and flexible, and can possibly be welded in remote countries (alloy is hard to weld)
- 26inch wheels: stronger than 700c (28"), wider (for absorbing bumps),
and most importantly can get spares and replacement tyres easier in South America
- No disc brakes: far to fancy for my liking, plus requires more spares. So ideally V brakes but cantileavers will do fine.

There aren't really many new options. The Surly long haul trucker is the only one I have found, but at 400 pounds just for the frame it will remain a back up option.
Right so I have been looking for a good condition old (mid 90's) mountainbike with a steel frame.

Finally I found this Diamond Back on the internet. Great condition, kept in the garage so no rust, steel frame - yep, 26" wheels - ye, basic brakes - yee! was hoping for a slightly larger frame, but after a few discussions with my mate Kai, a fair few test rides, and a wee bit of seat adjusting, she should do nicely. Feels and looks strong as! So should be well up to the job of carrying me and 40kg of gear over the Andes a few times!

So for the last few weeks I have been taking her into some bike shops for advice on what to change and how. It turns out I will be pretty much stripping her down to the frame and replacing everything, including the handlebars.

Just got to come up with a name now!