New Toys for Old Boys

We have now been using our SENA Bluetooth bike to bike microphones and headsets for about a week on this tour and we are increasingly impressed with them.

SENA is an American company who produce these devices for motorcycle use. However, they adapt easily and very successfully for use with bicycles. The units are feather light and attach securely to bike helmets with small Velcro pads. The battery packs, control units and mikes are easily accommodated. The speakers take a little more ingenuity to fit, but we have found that they stick well enough to cycle helmet straps with their built in hook and loop backs.

We had feared that they might be annoying to wear all day on a ride, but far from it. We simply do not notice the weight. The mike stalks bend to sit just off the face and go totally unnoticed in use.

Their best feature is the sound quality however. Voice communications come over in crisp clear stereo. SENA claim a range of 900 meters. In our experience they work well up to about perhaps 500 meters. From about that point you get a bit of hiss and crackle. Under normal use, say at 20 bike lengths, sound quality is excellent.

Battery life is good. The units will hold out for up to eight hours of constant use at a time. A full charge is needed overnight, each night however.

The units are not cheap, but bought carefully online the dual pack is good value for a device that has transformed our touring together experience. We are big converts and can’t imagine going back to shouting at each other!

SENA

Alicante to Algoz

We are now three days into our planned month-long micro tour that will take us from Alicante to Algoz on Portugal’s Algarve.  Why call it a micro tour?  We hope to take a full month to the experience giving us plenty time to dawdle along and enjoy the countryside and towns we come across.

imageWe used Easyjet from Glasgow to Alicante touching down just before 4.30 in the afternoon as planned. I was of course worried about the bikes travelling with us on the flight in rather oversize cardboard boxes  – 140x80x25cm – but they came off the oversize baggage carousel in good shape.

It took us just over an hour to reassemble the bikes and get underway.  We had chosen a hotel within 20k and reachable by back roads south-west of the airport and this worked well. We arrived in Eleche just as dark fell – but where was the hotel!  Luckily Paco, on his Honda cruiser stopped and escorted us direct to our hotel through 20image minutes of heavy rush hour traffic.  A true knight in shining armour.

The next day we set out for Jumilla. 85k of steady uphill riding in very hot conditions. Unfortunately Jacqui was on a very bad day and we crawled along with frequent stops as she suffered recurring bouts of nausea and cramps.  We tried to find accommodation to stop in, but failed. Luckily a can of coke finally revived her and we romped in over the final 25 km.  We arrived, relieved, but exhausted.

We celebrated with a short day from Jumilla to Hellín and were rewarded with a splendid days riding through valleys and vineyards – at one point with squadrons of swifts proving escorts.

We were so taken with our hotel in Hellín we decided to stay on for a day to fine tune our planning and bike setup.  We have a couple of new bits of kit with us, but I will save telling of them for another post.

Revised Cycle touring kit list – for non-camping softies who like toys and comforts!

We have been revising our essentials only kit list as we prepare for our month in Spain and Portugal later in September and October.  This trip is different as this time we intend to fly with our bikes. So far we plan to take:

Norman (Jacqui much the same in panniers (2@4.5kg) and bar bag (1.7kg), but has no saddlebag)

BarbagOrtlieb Model 4 (weighs in at 3.0 kg)
Wallet with cash and cards
Passport
Travel Tickets (plane)
Next accommodation details
Travel Insurance Card
E111 Euro Health Card
‘Business’ Cards

Pleased to meet you!

Diary/Journal – Moleskine
Camera – Nikon 1 V1 with 2 kit zoom lens and shutter remote
Sat Nav – Garmin Edge 800
Mobile Phone – iphone 4
Pen
Swiss Army Knife
Keys
Sunglasses (off bike)
Reading Glasses
Bag waterproof cover
Helmet waterproof cover
Micro Towel
Fieldglasses 10×25 – 7Dayshop.com
Sunblock F50

SaddlebagCarradice Long Flap (weighs in at 5.0kg)
Large D-Lock and 2 cables – Kryptonite New York 3000
Insulation Tape
Spare Tubes x2
Spare Gear Cables – Rohloff x2
Rohloff hub service kit
Spare Brake cables Jagwire x2
Cleaning Cloths x2
Bungee Ties x2
Waterproof Jackets – Gore x2
Waterproof Trousers – Ultura x2
Multitool – Toepeak
Eccentric Hub Spanner – Thorn
Allan Keys x5
Latex Gloves x4
Cleaning cloth
Puncture Repair Kit
Tyre Levers
Pedal Spanner – long shaft 15mm
Plyers/Cable cuttters
Cable Ties
Chain Lube
Mini Floor Pump – Bontager

Left Rear PannierOrtleib (weighs in at 4.5kg)
Hotel and Travel Documentation
Paper Road Atlas – Michelin Spain and Portugal
Passport and Card Details (Photocopies)
Emergency Contact Numbers
Bike Details
Toilet Bag and Medical Kit
Cycle Shorts x3
Cycle Tops x4
Cycle Socks x5
Cycle Leggings – Gore
iPad

Right Rear Pannier – Ortleib (weighs in at 4.5kg)
Trousers x2 Rohan
Shirt
Microfleece – Rohan
Sandals
Chargers’ Bag
– iPhone
– iPad x2
– Still camera – Nikon
– Still camera – Lumix
– Garmin
– iPad photo cable x2
– Mains Adapters x2
– UK Multibar
Medical Supplies

The Thorn Raven Sport Tour bikes we have are recommended to take no more than 16kg on the rear rack, so we are well inside that at 9kg and 3.5kg for my saddlebag.  The only downside is the massive 2.7kg for the D-Lock and cables.

Looking back in wonder…

I was prompted the other day to choose a photo and use it to revisit the event shown. In cycling terms the choice was a pretty easy one to make.

Algoz arrivals

Algoz Arrivals

This shows myself and my wife, Jacqui, arriving at my sister’s home in Algoz, on Portugal’s Algarve. Were we just back from a day’s run to the coast? Albufeira perhaps? No, were arriving hot-foot from Paris.

The photo was taken in October 2012. We had been cycling for 29 days with 3 rest days since arriving in Paris by Eurostar on September 24. In our early sixties, it was the first time we had cycled for more than a two-week tour and we had covered a total of 2246 kilometres.

Did we feel elated? Perhaps a little, but mostly we felt different: we knew the journey had changed something in us. Physically, we were fitter and lighter than we had been for many years. Emotionally, we were closer, having matched each other, pedal stroke for pedal stroke over many days as we marvelled quietly together about what we were doing. But it was spiritually that we were most changed: somehow we knew we had shared an adventure that would stay with us and be revisited for years into our future together – and so it has proved to be.

Thanks to writing101 for the prompt to revisit this happy memory.

France en Velo – my kind of cycle guide

I saw this on the CTC CycleClips magazine and it took my fancy. I bought it on impulse, despite having no plans to cycle in France again any time soon. However, that is up for grabs as I have really taken to this guide to the St. Malo-Nice route by John Walsh and Hannah Reynolds.  The French Tourist Board ought to be employing these two: perhaps they are!

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I found so much to like:

  1. The size of the book is about the most you would want for touring and it comes with a nice, practical cover flap to keep your place.
  2. The format and style look like an attractive magazine, with masses of illustrations, colours and maps.
  3. The maps are specially drawn and very stylised to provide not only the simplicity to make them easy to follow, but also the detail you need to keep on track.
  4. The text is lively and makes for an enjoyable read.
  5. Inserts of cultural and historical interest are colour coded, meaning you can read or ignore them as you choose.
  6. All the practical stuff about eating places, hotels etc. is nicely covered and an attempt is made to cater for all budgets.
  7. The text is pretty convincing and clearly written by cyclists, for cyclists.
  8. Best of all is the overview of the guides set out to support six different approaches/timescales to the journey. This is a brilliant idea that introduces lots of flexibility and will make sure the book satisfies all sorts of cyclists.

I could really fancy trying this out for a month!

I bought my copy via the CTC on the Publisher’s Website and snagged a 20% discount, but it is also available through this page on Amazon.

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Cycle Safety: separation or segregation?

Three cycle safety stories caught my eye this last week and they did not make for comfortable reading. It seems that the route to more popular and safe cycling may be more long and winding than we thought.

 

Firstly, in The Herald came the story that the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured in Scotland is now running at its highest level for over five years: Provisional stats for 1012 suggest that cyclists make up 1 in every 14 seriously hurt or killed on our roads. Almost 900 cyclists were involved in serious incidents across the year.

 

English: Beware pedestrians Cyclists be warned...

English: Beware pedestrians Cyclists be warned! I wonder why there is no safety barrier? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Secondly, it appears that we cyclists are a growing risk to another vulnerable road user group – pedestrians. According to a piece in, “The Conversation” British government data over a period of 9 years to 2012 show cyclists killed 23 pedestrians and seriously injured a further 585.

 

I find this latter figure extraordinary, but both cycle and pedestrian casualties point to the same problem. In Britain, in contrast to, say The Netherlands, pedestrians, cyclists, cars and heavy vehicles have to use the same congested and contested routes.  Too often this contest and congestion  pits them against each other.

 

However, a third story suggests separation itself may be a mixed blessing. An evaluation of the proposed London SkyCycle Route begs the question: will separate but not equal  prove again to be a mask for apartheid, segregation and institutional disadvantage for cyclists?  Is the point to put us out of harm’s way, or out of the car drivers’ way?

 

I suggest that against the car, we cyclists and pedestrians ought to make common cause.

 

 

 

 

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4000 miles takes more than inspiration…

We were away mid-week visiting Edinburgh, combining work with pleasure. It’s a great city at any time of year. We came back to find this letter waiting for us: it put a big smile on my face:

An inspirational journey

An inspirational journey

Michelle is a young American I got to hear of via WordPress. As a supporter of the Bike and Build Charity she will be riding across the United States to help create social housing in the states she passes through. I had not heard of Bike and Build and I think it is just the greatest of causes – truly inspiring on many levels.  You can visit Michelle’s blog and read more of her story in her own words.  I am sure you will leave impressed – as did I. You might even consider leaving a wee donation to help her in her fund-raising.  We oldies need to cherish the enthusiasms and idealism of the young: sooner or later the world is going to need them.