Dandy Designer for sale

We are currently on holiday in Cornwall in our Dandy Designer. After this it will be up for sale.

We are switching to a caravan with shower to make visiting grandson & family easier, especially in winter and to make it simpler to take grandchildren on holiday should they want to travel with aged grandparents.

Ours is a beautiful example of a Dandy Designer (ours is the light blue colour scheme). That is a 5 bed, compact folding camper that can be put up and taken down in the rain and which is made of insulated PVC so no mould to worry about.

It also has a lot of extras and upgrades:
– a proper Dandy PVC awning
– bed skirt for the “higher” double bed
– fully factory winterised specification
– fitted blown air gas heater
– roof lining

  • Alko stabiliser hitch (makes it an absolute delight to tow, whatever the load or weather)
  • upgraded suspension units. Factory fitted. 750kg units which also mean the trailer tows level
  • gas struts fitted to both bed units making it much easier to put up and down
  • new LED lighting units fitted for towing. Much brighter and more reliable.
  • roller fresh water bottle
  • trolley waste water
  • portable 3 way fridge
  • two strips of LED lighting (12v or mains) providing excellent light in camper and awning

We have had it just over 4 years with holidays in France and Netherlands as well as all over the UK.

You won’t find a better equipped Dandy anywhere :-)


Bivy explorations

So I have added the crazy idea of doing the Welsh Ride Thing (WRT) to my sabbatical. Also I’m planning to wildcamp during the journey sections to add flexibility (not that many campsites to choose from) and reduce cost.

Both the WRT and the Wildcamping will work best if I don’t have to put my my fairly large tent (Vango Banshee 300) which is well suited to comfortable nights on campsites.

So I am looking at a range of possibilities.

  • Week long camping (eg at Lindisfarne): Vango Banshee Tent with a Tarp as a large porch
  • Nice Campsite (chosen because it has showers): Vango Banshee Tent
  • Wildcamping in the rain: Bivvy bag with Tarp covering kit and my head
  • Wildcamping when discretion is needed: Bivvy bag. Tarp laid over bike and kit
  • Wildcamping when short of time: Bivvy bag for me

It looks like I might wildcamp for 20 nights during the sabbatical. It would also open up options at other times such as I could have wildcamped on my way to Synod last month instead of starting so early in the morning (well if I hadn’t had meetings the evening before). That does mean I could save maybe £200 in campsite fees (not quite sure of the fees for a cyclist with a single tent).

As I looked at Bivvy bags one that is cheap and very popular is the Hunka, the XL version in particular seems a good option.

But (and it is a big but) the Hunka has a simple draw string at the top. That means your head is always exposed. Not a problem with rain as I’d always have a tarp to provide protection (and keeping your head out helps reduce condensation in the Bivvy bag). However, during the months of my sabbatical when camping in the UK midges are going to potentially be a big problem. I have horrible memories of them from when I walked the West Highland Way some 30 years ago.

So I asked for help on the BearBones Bikepacking Forum and have spent ages looking at the suggestions and reviews. This is what I have found so far.

Midge Protection. Seems that “The Stopper” is going to be essential when stopped and not sleeping. I could potentially sleep wearing one using a Hunka Bivvy but it does not appear a very comfortable or attractive option.

So I have been looking at other options, specifically Bivvy bags with mesh protection from midges. My preference is for a Bivvy bag that my sleeping mat (Exped UL 7 MW on order) can fit in (so it does not get dirty or punctured so I can also use it inside my tent afterwards) along with my quilt (Sestrals Quilt on order) and which will allow me to sleep on my side (cos I hate sleeping on my back).

The cheapest is the Highlander Hawk available for about £50. Not a lot of information available about it. In particular regarding how breathable the material is (critical to reducing condensation and being able to sleep with it fully closed in heavy rain). Not yet sure how much space there is in it. It does not look like it will be possible to fully enclose it so it will need a tarp when it rains.

Another option is the RAB Ascent for about £150. I like the look of how you can hold it open with the mesh protection but it looks pretty claustrophobic if you had to close the zip due to rain. The reviews are pretty positive, however, it looks like if I can sleep in it with my mat it will be tight and I might not be able to sleep on my side.

I could go slightly larger with a Terra Nova Jupiter or RAB Ridge Raider. Both get excellent reviews, but are a fair bit heavier (plus more expensive) and almost like carrying an extra tent.

Then there are a couple of nice options that just don’t seem to be in stock anywhere. That includes the RAB Sierra and the Outdoor Research Helium or Alpine.

I’m told there might be new possibilities in the pipeline that might also be made in the UK.

Meanwhile the most promising seems to be an American product. The Borah Gear Snowyside eVent Bivy. This is larger than the RAB Ascent has more mesh than the RAB Sierra and has at least one excellent review. Generally Event fabric seems to be the highest quality combination of waterproof and breathable. With the side zip option it looks like a great option.

No decision yet. More thinking to do.

More sabbatical plans

I’ve been experimenting with possible Sabbatical plans a little based on the April 2015 dates for St Beunos and the Welsh Ride Thing on 2/3/4 May. I’m still waiting for the Iona Abbey dates to come out and the St Beunos dates for May.

One possibility itinerary is:

  • Stage 1: Syston to St Beuno’s 2 days 136 miles
  • 8 day Individually guided retreat at St Beuno’s
  • Stage 2: St Beunos to Bristol 3 days 175 miles
  • 1 day to visit the Bespoked: The UK Handmade Bicycle Show – arriving on my UK Handmade Bicycle :-)
  • Stage 3: Bristol to Cardiff 2 days a minimum of 50 miles
  • Spend some time with Son, Daughter-in-law and grandson
  • Stage 4: Cardiff to start of the Welsh Ride Thing at Forest Freeride 3 days 100 miles
  • Do the Welsh Ride Thing 3 days and no idea how many miles, I guess I’d be aiming for about 150?
  • Stage 5: Forest Freeride to Iona via Arran 11 days about 430 miles (4 ferrys)
  • Iona Abbey for 7 day course
  • Stage 6: Iona to Lindisfarne 6 days 265 miles (2 ferrys)
  • Quiet camp at Lindisfarne 7 day
  • Stage 7: Lindisfarne to Syston 5 days 290 miles

To give maximum flexibility I now plan to wildcamp where I can on the various stages. Otherwise I’ll use camp site stops (after all wildcamping is not officially allowed in England).

So far this looks like about 1,500 miles of cylcing although once I tweak the routes to be on quieter roads I expect that to increase a bit (which is why I have allowed so much time for the stages).

All this will be on my Bike for Life which will need to undergo a bit of a transformation part way through in order to be used off road for the Welsh Ride Thing. I’ll need to sort out off road tyres and remove the racks & mudguards just for that.

Bikepacking for on road riding and flexibility

My understanding is the Bikepacking is a new(ish) term for Mountain Bike touring without racks. Generally kit is carried in frame bags and in dry bags hung from the saddle and from the handlebar. Some people use a rucksack as well.

In recent months I have been getting a number of British Made Bike packing bags. I used some on the Epworth Pilgrimage and others on my long ride last weekend to and from Synod in Milton Keynes. My full collection of Bikepacking bags is now:

When touring in bikepacking style the expectation is that you will be doing very lightweight camping due to the limited volume of the bags. That means a Bivvy Bag and/or Tarp or a very lightweight tent. It means minimal cooking and accepting being very smelly ;-)

However, I’m using the bags in other ways too.

I have not fitted racks to my Whyte Road Bike (and do not want to) and despite these bags being originally conceived for Mountain Bikes they work really well on my road bike. They make the bike fast and convenient for long rides where I need to carry a change of clothing (such as to Synod) or more food (eg long rides when you won’t pass many open shops). Also they will allow me to use the road bike for lightweight overnight stops, a road bike version of Bikepacking.

I’m also looking at using them for my sabbatical. That is now looking at about 1,500 miles in 7 segments totalling 32 days. Plus 30 days on retreats, visiting etc. Also I’m hoping to add the Welsh Ride Thing. As the ride will include The Welsh Ride Thing I will need this bags for their originally designed purpose. However, the rest of the time they will be useful combined with my panniers as a neat way taking bulky stuff (tent, sleeping bag) leaving more space for the extra clothing I’ll need for the retreats etc. They also make stuff like food easily accessible while riding.

New and crazier sabbatical bike ride idea

Some, who may not know me well, might have thought my existing Sabbatical plans were crazy enough (Leicester to Lindisfarne for a week, then Iona for a week, onward to St Beuno’s in North Wales for an 8 day individually guided retreat and then back to Leicester).

But now I have had an idea that will make it even more crazy.

It starts with a growing interest in Bikepacking (more later) and lightweight, wild camping (in a Bivvy Bag). Initially that was about new ways of carrying stuff and alternatives to luxury (and expensive) campsites that are widely spaced.

Then I discovered The Welsh Ride Thing (WRT)

Next year The Welsh Ride Thing is 2/3/4 May. So now I am wondering whether to do my Sabbatical route in reverse order fitting in the WRT after St Beuno’s. It would mean finding a place close to the start of the WRT to stash my full touring kit (including mudguards, front and rear racks) and switch to off-road tyres. Sounds like fun though. I love the non elitist, non competitive nature of it which after all is particularly suited to slow and overweight 50 year olds like I’ll be :-)

Saturday will be my longest ride

So on Saturday I have my longest ride ever at just over 125 miles in total. That is 62.6 miles from home to the Northampton Methodist District Synod in Milton Keynes and then the same home again after.

The route is on Strava if you want a look.

As I need to be at Synod by 10am it will mean a pretty early start!!! :-(

While it promises to be a lovely ride I do have to admit it will not reduce my carbon footprint as I could have easily got a lift in a car that is going anyway.

I think my previous longest ride was a smidgeon under 120 miles so this is not a lot longer, although it will include about 5 hours of Synod as a long lunch break.

I’ll be riding my Whyte RD7 Suffolk with various Bike Packing style luggage:

It shows how much has changed over the last few years that 125 miles with 6,000 ft of climbing does not seem particularly daunting or anything to worry about :-)

I don’t know why cycling to day meetings does not get more coverage, it makes them so much more fun and healthier!

A new venture

Well I know I have been quiet on here for a long time, it does not mean that nothing has been happening!

Anyway the latest thing is that I have decided to publish an eBook, “A Bike for Life“, it will use a lot of the material written here plus a lot more.

All the proceeds from the Book will go towards the Syston Methodist Church Youth Cafe.

Bikes ready for the Pilgrimage

So the Bikes ready for the Pilgrimage, pity about the riders :-)

Here is mine loaded and ready to go

I’ve taken the rear rack off Jane’s and added a handlebar extension so that her front light clears her handlebar bag (underneath).


Preparing for a Pilgrimage

So as I have mentioned (once or twice) this weekend is a Methodist Pilgrimage. The Methodists of Syston are heading to Epworth Old Rectory, home of the Wesleys. Five of us are planning to cycle the whole way (165 miles over 3 days) and another two are cutting out Leicestershire’s hills by starting and finishing at Newark-on-Trent (about 100 miles over 3 days). And yes you can still sponsor me! :-)

I thought I had done a lot of the preparation but as the ride leader there has seemed to be a lot to do this week.

A friend is driving our car as a mobile support/rescue vehicle, so I have been sorting out tools and spares to cover lots of eventualities.

We are camping for Saturday and Sunday night, with cyclists, families and support team there are 17 of us at Trentfield Campsite, I volunteered to cook bacon rolls for everyone on Sunday and Monday and that plus our tent etc is going up in a caravan with more of the support team.

Meanwhile, I have been sorting out my own bike. While my Shand Stoater Bike for Life, was my first choice my knees have been so bad that I am using my road bike as the lighter weight should help save my knees. Following the Leicester Triathlon I have now taken off the tri bars, added three bags:

This will be my first ride with this combination of bags on this bike. So far they look great, I am very interested to see how well they work in practice.

I have also added my new and very bright See Sense rear light although I’ll swap it onto whoever is bringing up the rear of our group. Now I just have to put the mudguards back on (have you seen the weather forecast!).

It will also be my first ride with my Mio Link heart wristband so I’m very interested to see how well that works, sadly at the moment the heart rate is only picked up by my Garmin Edge and not by my Android phone or tablet.

For the first time too I am trying out live tracking of the ride, you will be able to follow us at http://42bikes.warnock.me.uk/tracking/ I can run the app on both my phone and my tablet so I’m hoping to get enough battery life even with the GPS on continually.

One thing I have not yet fully sorted out it getting data off my Garmin without my laptop. I’ll have one more try today, if it works I can get the rides onto Strava and Garmin Connect each day without having to take my laptop computer.

By the time of my sabbatical in 12 months time I hope that I’ll have a newer Garmin and they will have updated their website enough for live tracking to be possible with the Garmin picking up the heart rate and using my phone to upload both live tracking and daily rides. That will make a big difference, especially as on my Bike for Life I can charge USB devices while I ride using the dynamo.

Charging USB devices is getting to be a significant issue. For Jane and I this weekend we have the following USB devices:

  • 2 x Android Phones (Samsung S3 mini)
  • 2 x Exposure front lights (actually shouldn’t need to be recharged)
  • 2 x Garmin GPS
  • 1 x Android Tablet (Nexus 7)
  • 1 x Tecknet USB Battery
  • 1 x Camera (small Olympus)
  • 1 x Bluetooth keyboard for my Nexus 7
  • 1 x See Sense rear light (our other rear lights use rechargeable AA or AAA batteries and won’t need charging for just a weekend).

So 11 devices. They include 4 different connectors and two different charger outputs.

Fortunately by the time I take my sabbatical things should have got easier in terms of USB. On my Bike for Life both bike lights run straight off the dynamo. I am hoping the dynamo will be able to fully charge the Tecknet battery each day and maybe also put some charge into my phone and tablet. Hopefully then the Tecknet battery will be able to recharge/top up the tablet, garmin, camera, phone, bluetooth keyboard, bluetooth speaker and a tent light each night. Also that I’ll cut out at least one non standard USB connector (for the exposure lights).

I am taking my sabbatical coffee kit to try in real world conditions, I’m be happy to make anyone a coffee but they will have to grind the beans themselves (all those winds of the grinder handle for each one of 17 people sounds tiring) :-)

What’s been up Doc?

So I have been pretty quiet here for a while. The main reason is a combination of Triathlon recovery and a busy time at work.

Earlier I wrote about my preparations for the Leicester Triathlon, in the end I did 2 training runs, both 5k. The 2nd was on Tuesday 29th April with the race on Monday 5th May. In hindsight this was a mistake – although not as big a mistake as leaving running training so late :-)

The first two parts of the race went well but when I came to start the run my knees were hopeless and I had to walk/hobble nearly the whole 5k. My overall result was still better than I expected at 1hour 38minutes 51seconds but the breakdown shows how biased the speed was against the run.

The problem is that my knees have still not recovered. A couple of things have taken me backwards. First a weekend after the race I had to do a fair bit of driving (3hrs on both Saturday and Sunday). Both the position and the weight of the clutch made my left knee considerably work. Then last week I had to do more walking and step climbing than normal while delivering and collecting Christian Aid envelopes (on one road every house has about 6 steps).

I have been able to get around by bike but have avoided long rides and have been slower than normal. Even when almost unable to walk it is quite possible to ride slowly without pain.

In the last day or so they do seem to have improved quite a bit. That is good news because this weekend is a big ride, the Methodist Pilgrimage to Epworth. We have 5 riders doing 165 miles over 3 days and 2 riders doing a slightly shorter ride of about 100 miles. The Pilgrimage includes a fundraising element 50% for Epworth Old Rectory (the family home of John and Charles Wesley) and the other 50% to Syston Methodist Church towards our project to create a Youth Cafe and Community Hub (sadly Syston has nowhere for young people to go in the evening and our current 1960’s facilities need a new separate entrance, refurbished toilets etc).

Please sponsor me at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DaveWarnock cos these are both excellent causes.

Because of the knee problems I have changed my plans for the ride a little. A friend is driving our car as a support vehicle so I have decided that instead of using my Shand Stoater bike for life I am going to carry far fewer tools etc and ride my Whyte Suffolk hoping that a lighter faster bike will allow me to ride in a much more knee friendly way.

While my Whyte Suffolk does not have a rack (there are mounting points but the whole point is to keep it a lightweight road bike – albeit one with excellent disk brakes and comfortable 28mm tyres) I can carry quite a lot of stuff now. I can have three bags on the bike (all British made):

So with the smaller bag on the handlebars I should still have 20 litres capacity with the frame bag ideally suited to relatively heavy tools while the others are going to be great for people’s immediate clothing and food needs.

I am looking forward to the ride which is with good friends. Jane is coming and it will include her longest day ride (twice) and more long days in a row that she has done before.

Anyway your sponsorship will be much appreciated at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DaveWarnock NB if you give on a Wednesday between 5pm and 6pm (UK time) then Paypal should match your donation (but it is likely to be used up very quickly each Wednesday so it looks liek you need to get in at 5:01pm


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