Monthly Archives: April 2014

Key Sabbatical preparation: The Coffee

So during my Sabbatical next year I’ll be cycling and camping for about 5 weeks. I can’t do that without great coffee so I have been getting prepared. I need excellent coffee but the equipment needs to be light, small and robust.

Anyway, the last piece arrived yesterday in time for a late night test which it passed with flying colours 🙂

Obviously a great cup of coffee starts with the beans! We get ours in bulk from TankCoffee, at the moment we are using their Burundi Ngozi which is one of my favourites. I’ll be carrying beans because they are so transportable, they don’t require a fridge or special treatment. Very easy.

mini-porlexBut beans require a grinder. Enter today’s arrival, a Porlex mini grinder. It is tiny, just 13.5cm tall (the handle is 15cm long). Exceptionally easy to use. Lift off the top. Fill with beans. Put lid on, put handle on, wind handle until all the beans have been ground into the bottom section. Pull off bottom section and use 🙂

The results seemed great straight out of the box. The fineness of the grind is adjustable and it will be fun experimenting.

One of the great things of grinding this way is the freshness, just grind exactly what you need (no waste) seconds before you use it.

aero_press_03Then we need to create the actual drink of coffee. For this I am using an Aeropress. Again very easy to use (plenty of videos on youtube).

The aeropress is very fast, very easy to use, incredibly easy to clean and also very robust and easy to carry.

The result was an excellent mug of coffee, ideal when camping. All I need is to be able to heat water and I am done.



Triathlon Preparation

So a week today I have my first ever triathlon. I’m doing the “Sprint” distance of the Leicester Triathlon ie 400m swim, 20k cycle and 5k run.

Since going public about this on 31st December my “training” has not been what I would like. I’m going to take the easy way out and blame the 8 weeks that it took me to get over a horrible virus that left me with a bad cough.

I know I can swim 400m (16 lengths), I did it last week (and yes that was the first time this year). However, I can’t do it very fast (aiming for just under 12 minutes) and I can’t do much of it front crawl. My “best” strokes are side-stroke and breast-stroke and the big risk is making my knees hurt for the cycle and swim that follow.

Clearly the cycling is my best part of the course. In order to gain as much time as possible over others at the back of the field I have fitted tri-bars. On a test ride today I managed the first 8.5 miles at 19.5mph (then I ran out of fast roads as I was on the way to visit Jane’s building site).

Obviously I need to set a balance so I am able to still crawl around the run. But I’m going to aim for 18mph which “should” be possible with the tri-bars. Last year I did the cycling only element of the Blenheim Relay Triathlon in just under 43 minutes. I’d like to beat that as I am a bit fitter this year and the tri-bars do make quite a difference but I don’t know if that is more than the tiredness from the swim?

The run is just about survival to help this I’ll be slipping on knee bandages during the transition from cycling. My first and only 5k run in the last 35 years which I did last week took me 35 minutes 26 seconds. I guess after the swim and cycle I will be delighted with anything under 40 minutes (well to be honest I’ll be delighted if I am still alive by Tuesday next week).

One of the reasons that Triathlon appeals is the toys you can buy. I haven’t gone all the way with a triathlon specific watch. But the tri-bars are just for this as the easiest possible way to save time pover the course.

I have treated myself to some of the cheapest triathlon specific shorts. They look just like slightly long cycling shorts but the pad is much thinner, supposedly suitable for swimming and running. I used them today and the reduced padding is very noticeable when riding (particularly when on the tri-bars), they are still bearable though.

I also got a triathlon race belt cos you have to do something with your race number (on the back when cycling and front when running).

I have some proper running shoes (and yes I bought them from somewhere that tests your gait). I’ll be using my normal cycling shoes with my normal speedplay frog pedals.

I’m not going to try anything fancy for the transition to bike such as having my shoes clipped onto the pedals and putting them on after you start cycling. For a start I can run reasonable ok in and out of transition with my mountain bike style cycling shoes with the frog pedal clips (in fact last year I was running in and pout of transition at about twice the speed I intend to use for the whole run this year).

My biggest fear is knee pain. It is what generally puts me off running. I’ve been reading about it and I think the biggest thing to try in the next week is cold to reduce inflammation. With that to try I think I may try one more practice run tomorrow –  surely 2 runs does not mean I run the risk of overtraining 😉


Completed my first 3 mile / 5 km run in 35 years!

Wow, so pleased with myself today. I actually managed to get myself out of the door for a run! I had only one goal which was to run 5k as that seems quite important given that I am in the Leicester Sprint Triathlon in two weeks time.

I started at a pace that could be described as:

  • can you really call that running?
  • watch out for overtaking tortoises
  • this is embarrassingly slow

but I managed to just keep going. Clearly a big problem with previous attempts has been to run to fast caused by not wanting to be embarrassed.

Beyond achieving my goal of actually running the 5k distance the other good news was that I was not overtaken by anyone walking or by an canal boats!!!!

I figure the faster club rides with Syston Syclers have really helped my fitness. The other thing that really seems to have helped is running in neoprene knee supports, at least so far my knees are not hurting which is a first.

Also for the first timer I didn’t get any pain in my shins while running. I think the slower pace and not mixing in walking might have helped. Whatever it was a very good thing to not have!


Sabbatical Comfort cooking

So I am enjoying thinking about my sabbatical, still a whole year away. I know that I’ll be riding my gorgeous Bike for Life and I have a fantastic chair sorted.

So time to think about another key priority. Food! I’m not interested in going totally minimal (see Ultralight Cycling) where you either eat dry cold food or at a restaurant. I will be camping for at least 5 weeks and want to eat well, for the most part cooking food from real ingredients rather than packets of instant meals.

We don’t have suitable stoves at the moment. All we have are the very basic sort that sit on a disposable gaz bottle, the key two problems with these are stability (we have knocked them over several times) and lack of a windshield (because they sit on top of the gas bottle they are too high for the stuff you tend to have lying around.

markill_canister_adapterAfter thinking about lots of fuel possibilities (meths, paraffin, petrol) I have decided to stick with gas for simplicity. In particular gas is more widely available in the UK than the liquid fuels (at least in the quantities I want to carry). However there are two main standards: Camping Gaz vs everyone else. Fortunately I have found a gadget to help with this: The Edelrid Valve Canister Adapter.

So I am free to choose any stove that has an EN417 screw gas connection and use either of the two main gas bottle standards (EN417 and Camping Gaz CV Clic system).

I have decided to carry two stoves. One as the main cooking stove while the other is used for boiling water and anything that does not need fine control.

At the moment I am looking at an Optimus Vega Stove as the main cooking stove and a MSR MicroRocket as the extra.

1371320847_98The Optimus can take a wide variety of pan sizes, is very stable and has a windshield. It allows the gas bottle to be turned upside down for cooking at very low temperatures where the gas becomes a liquid. It is still only 178 grams and folds very small.

MSR Micro RocketThe MSR MicroRocket is probably the smallest gas stove and weighs only 75 grams. Yet it is supposed to be very fast and very stable. Seems an ideal stove that will mostly be used for things in water (apparently it creates a local hotspot which without a thick pan is likely to cause food to burn in that spot).

That only leaves a few much less significant issues such as pots/pans to decide 🙂

Hoping to get these sorted for Greenbelt this summer.


Innovative Cargobike by Rob English

English Cycles Electric CargobikeWhile I don’t have the same need to transport a cat, this new cargobike by Rob English is full of innovation.

  • If you are going for an eBike then having the motor replace the Bottom Bracket makes great sense (weight in the right place and you are free to use hub gears).
  • The integrated racks are beautifully done. Details such as supporting the rear mudguard to the rack are very neat.
  • Fully integrated lighting is a oft missed must.

Sabbatical preparation Comfort Camping

As I have demonstrated before I like comfort when camping. So my Sabbatical preparation includes comfort camping issues. I’m going to be camping for about 5 weeks in total so comfort is important. On the other hand for 4 of those weeks I am going to be cycling up to 65 miles each day, so lightweight and small volume are also important.

I have one new toy since I went cargobike camping. A fantastic lightweight chair. The Helinox Chair One which we bought in Cotswold Outdoor. At 960 grams it is tiny and yet also very comfortable. Ideal for the comfort loving cycle tourer seeking a refreshing sabbatical 🙂

helinox-chair-one-bag helinox-chair-one


Epworth Pilgrimage tyre upgrade for Jane

Our Epworth Pilgrimage at the end of May includes a number of gravel sections and some huge potholes. Jane’s bike still has the original 23mm tyres on it so I have just ordered her an upgrade to 25mm Schwalbe Durano Plus Rigid tyres. I used the 28mm version on my Lands End to John o’Groats ride and didn’t get a single puncture.

I am hoping that the mudguards she has will still fit!

For the actual ride I am going to suggest I remove her rear rack and instead lend her one of my Bridge Street saddlebags (I’m very pleased with these!) that will save a bit of weight to make up for the heavier tyres. 😉


I need more sponsors or I’ll be embarrassed. Please help

At the moment I am doing better at recruiting extra riders for our Epworth pilgrimage than I am at getting sponsors for me! We are up to 8 riders, 1 walker and 1 runner so far.

Now I want some more sponsors! We are raising money for two great causes:

Youth Cafe in Syston. We want to convert part of the Methodist Church Centre into a self contained, youth friendly venue. The first target is to get the work completed (new entrance created by reconfiguring the toilets) so that we can open as many evenings each week as possible. Later we want to be able to open during the day too as a Community Hub. Syston is really lacking places for young people to go.

The Development Work at Epworth Old Rectory. This great museum has been having lots of work done to make restore it and making it a better place to visit. The place where John and Charles Wesley grew up is an important piece of heritage, not just for Methodists but for us all as the Wesleys had a profound impact on the whole country, indeed the much of the world.

The total I raise will get split 50% to each of these causes.

You can sponsor me here.

Please do so because it is starting to get embarrassing as all the others leave me behind 😉


Bike for Life tweaks

So I have actually done some Bike for Life tweaks!

One bit was some maintenance and I got a Bike Shop to do it for me! The back brake seemed to have gradually lost hydraulic fluid so that the lever was pulling all the way to the handlebar. As I had it bled just after Christmas this seemed to indicate a leak. So I got the Leisure Lakes Bike shop at Long Eaton to have a look. They found the ends of the hose were damaged so have cleaned them up. Hoping that fixes it for a long time.

I have also done a couple of things myself.

VO Rando Integ Dec-1I have this neat little front rack. The horizontal bar is fixed to my bag and lifts off. So to fit the bag you just drop the two rods into the rack uprights. However, the uprights were a bit long so a) the bag didn’t rest on the rack itself and b) it was tricky to get the bag on due to the lack of clearance under the stem.

So I took it all off (fiddly because the wheel and mudguard have to come off) and cut the rack uprights down by just over 1cm. All fits much better now.

When putting everything together I decided to move my front light to this rack instead of the top of the low rider. To be honest I can’t think why I didn’t do this from the beginning. It means the light is about 20cm higher which is good for visibility.

As an aside I am getting an extra one of these horizontal attachment bars for the rack (they are called Decaleurs). The UK supplier is FreshTripe. My cunning plan is to see whether it might be a way to quickly attach my tent or other camping equipment to the rack which might be more useful than the randonneuring bag when on my sabbatical trip.


Sabbatical Routes Stage 1

Stage 1 of my 2015 Sabbatical is from Syston to Lindisfarne.

I am looking at taking 5 days for this first stretch. As this will be the longest fully loaded ride that I have done I am being very cautious with the daily distances. After all to rush would defeat the point of a sabbatical!

Day 1: Syston to north of Lincoln (56.5 miles)

Camp at Kellaway Park Campsite

Day 2: North of Lincoln to Scholes (63.5 miles)

Stay with Family

Day 3: Scholes to Barnard Castle (63 miles)

Bowfield Farm Campsite

Day 4: Barnard Castle to north of Morpeth (64.5 miles)

Camp at Forget-Me-Not Country Park Campsite

Day 5: North of Morpeth to Lindisfarne (41.5 miles)

Camp at West Kyloe Farm


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