Tag Archives: equipment

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!


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
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
Swiss Army Knife
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

Right Rear Pannier – Ortleib (weighs in at 4.5kg)
Trousers x2 Rohan
Microfleece – Rohan
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.

Bicycle navigation – reinvented…

It was wild, wet and windy (again) today, so I surfed a little instead of riding – don’t be too hard on me, I did get out for a jog. One link after another led me to GizMag and their top ten cycling innovations of 2013. Top of the list is the intriguing Hammerhead for Bike Navigation.  I think it is well worth a look.

Hammerhead - navigation re-invented

Hammerhead – navigation re-invented

The new startup team behind Hammerhead say they are inspired by simplicity – get the essential right then junk the rest is their philosophy: in this they (and their advertising video) reminded my strongly of Apple and that cannot be bad.  Their breakthrough to simplicity ideas include:

  • team the Hammerhead to a smart phone, using all its complicated and expensive electronics;
  • replace spoken or turn instructions with peripheral vision colours as direction indicators
  • a really smart, minimal design and look
  • incorporate a built-in headlight.

I like this idea a lot for several reasons:

  • it’s great to see someone other than Garmin looking at navigation
  • I want to make better use of my iPhone
  • it keeps the iPhone safe and dry without needing a new case
  • it’s refreshing to see a new take on an old problem
  • conventional satnav screens are a nightmare for those of up who need reading glasses
  • it looks like great value for money.

I see Schwinn have an alternative out (see below), so I will wait until some user reviews appear, but I hope I won’t have to wait too long.  This looks like a great device full of promise.

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The Brooks B17 Saddle

When we met with Andy Blance to specify our bikes we had a lot of choices to make. Many were difficult options on technical matters. My choice of saddle was instant, however: I knew I wanted a Brooks model B17.  The B17’s reputation had gone before it!  Here’s a glimpse as to why:



Three years into riding the Thorn I am still convinced I made the right initial choice.  The B17 is just coming into its best, although it was never uncomfortable, it is now a real pleasure to sit on over a long day.


Brooks England saddle. B-17 model.

Brooks England saddle. B-17 model. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Click-Stand – my favourite cycle accessory – ever!

I had been thinking of getting a Click-Stand kickstand for my Thorn for over a year: but niggling doubts over the concept, delivery from the States and the cost put me off.  Finally, I took the plunge. It arrived yesterday. Wow,  am I pleased!

The amazing Click-Stand

The amazing Click-Stand

It was love at first sight – no, first touch. The Click-Stand just oozes quality. First, it is so very light. Mine, for a pretty standard bike size, weighs a paltry 99 grams. Compare that to most bolt on stay-mounted stands. This first positive impression was immediately confirmed as I undid the velcro retaining strap and felt the individual links snap into place to create the Click-Stand.  Like magic! Examining the velcro strap showed it to be cleverly and neatly knotted to retain it on the stand – neat and efficient –  like all other features of the stand.

The neat Brake-Bands

The neat Brake-Bands

How did it perform on my bike? Perfectly! The elasticated straps (brake bands) slipped easily over the bars and extended over the brake levers to hold them on with just the right amount of effort and pressure. The cup of the stand slipped right into place on the frame and produced just the right angle of lean when the point was positioned the suggested 10 inches from the bike.  Then I ‘tested’ the bike’s stability by gently rocking it back and fore. Then I tested it again with less gentle rocking: I could not believe just how rock solid the stand was in use. The Click-Stand inspires complete confidence from the start.

Turning back to the quality of the Click-Stand, I was struck again by how good it felt in the hand. Like a quality camera or an Apple product, it feels and looks perfect. It reeks of simplicity and no feature seems out of place. Even the brake bands are made from the same elasticated material as the stand itself – I suspect from off-cuts, further securing the environmental credentials of the Click-Stand. It may not come from your local bike shop, but everything about it speaks to it being hand-made with precision and care for the design, materials and final quality.

Click-Stand by Tom Nostrant

Click-Stand by Tom Nostrant

The ordering process, too was excellent. The web-based form on the Click-Stand.Com site sounds a bit OTT, but it steers you exactly to the detailed information you need to give to get the size and specification just right for your bike. Payment by Paypal (or you can use a credit card) was quick and painless and prompted an individual email response from Tom, the owner and maker. Delivery took a matter of days rather than weeks and the customs form allowed the package to arrive in the UK without attracting any further duties or handling charges.  A very welcome thing. With postage, by Click-Stand purchase came to $52.00. Not cheap, but compared to any other quality bike stand, very competitive – and you get a much better stand when considered by concept and design.

I am looking forward to many successful journeys with my Click-Stand – and an order has been placed for one for Jacqui’s bike of course!

UPDATE October 2013: We used the Click-Stand on our recent trip to Holland and one wee issue arose. If you have a heavy bar bag fitted, as we both did, then you have to turn the handlebars at right angles to the rest of the bike to get things stable.  Otherwise any slope or high winds will result in a failure.  But this was a small matter and easily resolved.

Tom Nostrant’s (Click-Stand inventor and maker) story from the Daily World

New Bikes in Portugal

We picked up our new bikes from Bikeland on the N125 near to Quarteira on the Algarve. Our previous bikes in Portugal were a Trek and a Specialized, both having seen better days and both pinched in the aftermath of Jacqui’s accident a year ago.

We went for a pair of Scott’s – hybrid bikes, suitable as road runabouts and for light touring duties. We bought them sight unseen, on the assurance that they were similar to Trek 7100 models, so it was a relief to find they looked the part when we first set eyes on them.


They are nothing special, but the 35km ride back to Algoz was enough to reassure us that they ride well and are more than up to the light duties we will expect of them on our trips here in the south of Portugal. Just nice relaxed runabouts and all the better for that. I will be interested to see how they hold up over the next few weeks as we micro-tour along the coast to Spain and back.


Re-purposing joys while cycle touring

One of the joys of cycle touring is travelling without the clutter of everyday life.  Knowing that your maximum pannier load is 4.5×2 kilos creates a wonderful discipline.  Knowing that every kilo less than the maximum will feel great on the first climb makes your self discipline all the stronger.

Other joys follow the freedom from clutter: once into the routines of touring you learn the joys of re-purposing and ‘make do and mend’.  Here are some of our favourite discoveries from our last tour.

sflickr0602 - napkins encroach

sflickr0602 – napkins encroach (Photo credit: cygnoir)

Never leave a napkin behind after a meal.  We seem to cycle every kilometre with a drip on the end of our noses and a fresh napkin as a giant tissue is a great treat.  And they make great bike cleaners at the end of their lives.  A fat napkin will clean a set of wheel rims stopping the dreaded wheel/brake scream just a treat.

Petrol Station disposable gloves (the kind issued to stop fuel spills on driver’s fingers) make great hand warmers on a frosty early morning or will help keep gloves dry in an unexpected downpour.

Liberate a few used newspapers when the weather is unsettled and when you are climbing.  Nothing dries out soaked cycle shoes better than crumpled newspapers; tuck one down your shirt at the top of a climb and escape the chill as you descend; a few opened sheets will protect a hotel floor from dripping bike dirt and reassure a dubious if not hostile receptionist.

Wringing soggy socks

Wringing soggy socks

Supermarket polly bags make great overshoes in a thunderstorm or when rain follows in our wheels all day long.  There is nothing more dispiriting than finding your shoes are so totally soaked that you can no longer coordinate your pedal revolutions: polly bags will stave off this moment for hours.  If need be they will also protect your seat.

Hotel reception sweets must never be left behind: it’s amazing how instantly a simple boiling turns into a performance enhancing substance at the bottom of the last steep climb of the day, or a medical miracle when you hit the wall and run out of energy.  Apples and bananas work even better!

Dental floss

Dental floss (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dental floss has more uses than WD40. On our last trip we used it as a navigation range finder aide; instead of thread; instead of cable ties and to reinforce tired bungee grips.

A suitably sized stone chip will serve as a great spacer to hold a front derailler in middle chainring alignment if you have the misfortune to snap a front gear cable as we did on a recent trip in Portugal.

Old paper receipts and hotel notepads make great disposable navigation crib lists when leaving of a morning.  We write out 3 – one for departure, one with en route decision points and one with details of our next hotel.  Each can be thrown away when no longer needed.