Cotter Micro-Adventure

On Friday night I rode out to the Cotter for a night in my bivvy bag, and then rode back through to Canberra the long way. It was an excellent little micro-adventure and well worth the crazy rush trying pack up on Thursday night.

Can’t think of anything else to say really, so enjoy a photo or ten.

2015 – variable with a hint of nuts

What a year… I mean really… What a year!

There hasn’t been anything that has happened this year that I really expected, or planned to happen when I was thinking about what 2015 was going to hold in store. It has been a year of epic changes in life and circumstances. They’ve been almost entirely self instigated, and generally speaking I didn’t really consider the consequences of the decisions and actions I have made in advance which may in hindsight have been a mistake but that is what happens sometimes I guess.

Looking briefly ahead it seems as though 2016 may have to be a more responsible and considered year, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be lots of adventures and good times so I think I will be able to manage this. I certainly hope I will be able to.

So onto the potted summary of 2015…

To make it easier I have added a favourite photo (not the best but my favourite) from each month, and have linked each photo to a blog post I didn’t dislike.

January to March

I pretended to have a normal life, with a job, a house, a girlfriend and very occasionally a social life.

I went for some rides, a few short walks, snorkeled and did quite a few canyons. Oh and I went to Fiji!

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January – a very wet walk on Middle Head

Canyoning can be so much hard work, especially waiting around while people try to repair their lilos.

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March – Fiji and cyclones

 April to May

I stopped pretending to have a normal life, planned to go on an adventure and spent a fair bit of time in Western Australia. Continue reading

The last leg…

So after 4 months on the road it seems that it is now less than four weeks until I go home. I am really not sure how it has passed so quickly -especially given how long some stretches of the trip have seemed. Still it will soon be time to pack up the bike and confront whatever life throws at me when I get back to Sydney and the dreaded “next”.

For the past few days I have been massively bludging in Basel at my friends house which they have super generously let me stay in, so I have been considering two things:
– the rest of my ride to Vienna; and
– how I will feel getting back

The rest of the ride is probably going to be very weather dependent as I had planned on going straight to St Morit by train but there is a cold front coming through this weekend so being up high doesn’t seem like a good plan. So now I am going to revert to Plan A and head east until it looks like there will be a break in the weather and then head to St Moritz and the River Inn.

As far as what I’ll think about getting home that is a completely unknown quantity. For the past month I have been at a point where I knew I could accept going home, but going to the alps challenged that view substantially! I am itching to get riding again so despite my legs still feeling shite after descending too much mountain I am going to get going tomorrow. What I will do when I get home and the solution to everything isn’t just “ride” or “ride later” I am not really sure. That said there are a lot of day rides and weekend tours to be done so perhaps I will maintain some level of activity this time….

I am also a little concerned about post ride depression, of which a similar condition is pretty well documented for hikers (discussed well here). When I cycled around Tasmania for a month I decided to quit my job in Sydney and move to Brisbane and then Alice Springs which possibly wasn’t the expected outcome of a holiday. This time I have already quit a job, moved out of a house and ended a relationship so I am not sure I am creative enough to make other big changes but it does mean getting back to Sydney (or my parents place) with a clean slate and no plan. Some things not to think about right now!

So anyway after a little rant that hasn’t really gone anywhere expect to give an idea of a state of mind it is now onwards for another three and a bit weeks of riding to get to Vienna! There will be mountains, rivers, fields, sunshine, rain and probably snow – so that is enough to think about for now.

Thanks for checking in!

Sankt Martin, the Alsace and into Basel

Well it has been a pretty spectacular week riding up Basel slowly meandering my way between historic cities, vineyards, old villages, great campsites and three countries.

Not long after my last post I arrived in the small wine village of Sankt Martin in Germany which is nestled into a valley surrounded by forests of pine and chestnuts. Every building in the village is heavily involved in producing or consuming wine, typically both, and I was luck enough to meet a new friend Ingrid at the campsite my Garmin choose for me. A native german, but with a mixed accent mostly consisting of Irish and Canadian twangs we spent a few days hanging out and chatting about adventures. As with so many long term travelers (in this case through guiding) Ingrid seemed to be able to recall visits to every place I have been to on this trip which only served to provide inspiration to see some of the many things I have missed!

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From Sankt Martin it was time to head south, and the French Alsace wine region beckoned with its beautifully marked cycle routes twisting through the freshly harvested vines that became more golden and autumnal as I headed further south. These trails and flat roads were to dominate the rest of the week with great little interludes to such beautiful cities as Strasbourg and Colmar. I have a feeling I have been particularly lucky with the sunny weather and enough cloud to stop me getting too sun burnt over the past week.

Last night I finally arrived in Basel which is a pretty spectacular city full of old buildings, bustling streets all situated on a magnificent cliff lined bend in the Rhine. Switzerland is phenomenally expensive, but Basel is so close to France and Germany that tomorrow morning I’ll ride over the border to do a big grocery shop and then I’ll be catching a train somewhere to go hiking!

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Gear Thoughts – UK and Iceland Touring

I have been avoiding writing this post for a few months because everyone writes one, and I have been super happy with my gear (a few part failures excepted) that it seemed like a redundant activity,however as I leave summer (ish) touring behind it seems like a good time to do this. Beware it will be edited!

Tent: Exped Venus 2 Extreme
I bought this tent for the trip on yhe basis it could be free standing if need be, was four season but still fairly light. So far everything has been great. I broke a tent pole in the first week of touring through laziness by not making sure the new poles were fully home, and both poles are now notably bent thanks to an early autumn storm in the Icelandic Highlands that was ripping almost everyone other tent to shreds (think 6ft star pickets being ripped out of the ground while they attempted to hold down a marque). The ability to take down the inside of the tent while the shell is still standing has been a godsend and has meant i have had a dry tent inner to sleep in every night.

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Sleeping Mat: Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Extra Large.
In summary, I have been sleeping on a plush king single matress for the whole trip. It is comfortable, lighter than my old thermarest was and so so big! An exped schnozzle bag makes it super easy to inflate and hugging the bag is a nice comfort each night in a weird way. It is funny the little routines you get into.

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Sleeping Bag: Mont Brindabella
This bag is super warm, I’ve only zipped it up fully twice. Once because it was genuinely cold,and the second time because all my clothes were damp and I wanted to wear them dry.

Handle Bar Bags: I have a conventional Ortlieb handbar bag hanging off the front of the bike which is great as always, but on this trip I have also been using an Oveja Negra top tube bag and a Bike Bag Dude chaff bag. The tt bag holds my battery cache, and the chaff bag holds a water bottle, snacks or Niew Vine depending on the day. It has really made a difference, particularly on the days with strong wind where reach down into the frame triangle is a little hairy.
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Bike etc is all super normal otherwise. A Surly Bike, Ortleib panniers, Optimus stove etc etc.

Generic Thought: Mould
This trip has been wet, constantly raining or heavy dews or any number of other things and I have noticed a few items going a bit mouldy. My sleeping bag developed a small mould patch near the feet which is the bot of the bag that often has damp dirty feet plus is also stuffed into the sleeping bag first and rest up against the end of the tent so I am not at all surprised.
More surprising is that my rain coast is going mouldy whilst I wear it. It has been on and off every day of the trip, bit has been washed a few times so there you go. A little spotty but all good!

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Lower Rhine (Rhine Part 1)

The Rhine is long. It is roughly divided into three parts, so I’ll blog each section as I ride it and as I am starting from Utrecht which is no where near the end it won’t be complete but I think the bottom 250km that I didn’t ride were probably much like the 400km I have ridden.

First let me get this out of the way. It is boring.

Now let me get onto why. Firstly it is flat. I am going to hate myself for writing this ince I get into the alps I am sure, but it is a ling hard slog riding 80+km a day on flat ground with or without a headwind. Now I am riding a decently heavy bike with silly tyres and although i hold it is the most comfortable tourung rig out there I won’t deny the rolling resistance is noticable. Also flat ground is hard work as you never get a break which is why I am having a half day today 6 days after leaving Utrecht and having covered 420km. The temptation to push on/faster has strained a few muscles I think I need to take care of for the next 7 weeks.

Next, the Rhine is industrialised. Up until Bonn the Rhine ias basically a continuous band of factories and power stations with farming on the opposite bank, then there are the boats and trains. Whilst corn fields, canals and cows are scenic and the indusyrial works make my inner engineer impressed it is a bit wearing. Also the noise is constant so bring your ear plugs, seriously!

Finally campsites on the lower Rhine are few and far between. As soon as you reach Bonn and the middle Rhine they are everywhere but until then theu can be hard to find or are often a long way from the river. This adds distance and means at the end of the day you have to navigate country lanes hoping to find a campsite that accepts tents as a lot don’t. My illusion based on other blogs of millions of options (as long as you accept the odd nudist camp site) has been dashed!

That said I don’t want to deter anyone. As a wise well travelled cyclist explaindd the reason you ride the Rhine from the mouth up is so when you do reach the middle Rhine you really appeeciate it. It is worth it people! I got to the middle Rhine and was gobsmacked and it is getting better as I go.

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Belgium and the Netherlands

A week ago I arrived in continental Europe after my three months in the UK and Iceland to sunny skies and a whole lot of hope about what the next two months had in store for me.

The first weekend proved a massive success and I have been riding on a bit of a high ever since thanks to good company, four nights in a row in beds and a swim at the beach. For any non-aussies reading this post it is easy to under estimate just how important salt water and swimming is to the average Australian, and I am certainly no exception so the swim did me a world of good.

Anyway after that great weekend the weather set in and it has been raining ever since. I have been wearing my full rain gear (helmet cover, jacket, pants, overshoes, GTX shoes) the entire time and I am still getting wet occasionally. Yesterday the weather was so bad that on my way to Thomas’ house I had to stop twice to poor the water out of my shoes.

I am now in Utrecht staying with Thomas the slightly crazy dutchman who I met while cycling in Tasmania, and who stayed with me in Sydney and Brisbane as he rode around the country. In the next few days I will finish the replacement of my brake pads, chain and front chain ring and then I am off to finish this little tour of mine with a 1600km slog through to Vienna along the Rhine and Danube (if I don’t change my plans).

For now though here are some stats on my trip so far.

Distance: 3,113.26 km
Time: 216:47:08 h:m:s
Elevation Gain: 30,991 m
Avg Speed: 14.4 km/h

Wales

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Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons, everything in between – it is all hills! Big hills, long hills, steep hills, country hill, urban hills and then you get to the mountains.
For the past week I’ve been riding with Will and Ollie from Gloucester in England, down to the bridge over the Severn and up through every single hill to Bangor (next to Menai) (but not in the shire). To say it has been hilly would be an understatement, to say it has been amazing would be a downright crime against how beautiful this place is. Wales has been the first place in the UK where it has felt remote or like you aren’t just riding between villages. The mountain passes have been high and covered with flowering heather while in the cold valleys on the northern sides of the mountains the trees are showing their autumn leaves.

It has been such a great week I can only relate a few highlights and challenges, so here is an attempt at daily highlights.

Friday – riding along a rough canal path, getting my second puncture of the trip while with two mechanics and then discovering the puncture occured 500m from a pub with a beer deck where there was sunshine!

Saturday – getting to the top of a very large hill and finding ourselves dragged into a local’s birthday party, being fed and watered. Oh and my only 100km day of the trip.

Sunday – group photos in an abandoned priory and cresting our first major pass

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Monday – dropping in on a local agricultural show to see golden sheep, eat local beef and lamb burgers, watch a demonstration of wood chopping and then watch dogs herd ducks.

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Tuesday – finding a spare £4 pedal in a junk shop after mine seized, climbing the steepest pass I’ve seen and then riding at sunset down the rail trail beside the tidal estuary to Aberdovey Bar (location not venue)

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Wednesday – another long day topped off with 20 odd kilometers of rail trail after some massive and brutal climbs that had me wondering if we could make it.

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Scotland and England

So the past week has been a little crazy. I got back from Iceland on Tuesday morning and took a taxi straight to the bike shop to get my back wheel fixed. By that afternoon my wallet was substantially lighter, my bike was even heavier, and I was ready to get going again!

In the morning after a little faffing around to buy a new pump and some chain lube I was off. My initial plan was to ride south west and then east from Glasgow to Ayr to Dumfries, but on arriving in Ayr in the rain at 8:30pm with 90km under my belt I realised two weeks off the bike is a long time and more fitness was required.

Not to worry, Clare had plans for me and through a stupid number of train trips and some beautiful riding (Dumfires to Carlisle) I made it to Penistone in Yorkshire at night with no where to stay and was needless to say a little stressed. Luckily a kind farmer/prospective campsite manager sorted out a patch of ground for the tent.

Saturday morning saw Clare arrive on a train from London and off we set. Now Penistone is in the Peaks District which seems to be appropriately named, we rode up hills, down hills, and up hills again all day. Looking at the stats we rode 1122 vertical metres in 59km which is a fair bit on fully loaded bike last time I checked. The steeped gradient warning we saw was for 25% but luckily we were headed downhill on that. Some of the up hills mamust surely have been approaching the 20% mark as the rain and storms set in.

The highlight of the ride though would have to be the amazing rail trail we rode on for a good 20 miles. Virtually flat and following the cuttings and bridges of the old line it was both spectacular from an engineering and scenic perspective.

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Iceland (pre-riding)

Well well well. I find myself in Iceland. Not find myself in the usual figurative sense of the word but in a somewhat literal sense. I arrived in Iceland on Sunday with no plan, no map, no idea how to get around or even the faintest clue of what I should see think or expect. Luckily two friends from Sydney, Will and Venetia, were in Reykjavik and instead of just offering advice have extended their stay here by two weeks and I now have some riding buddies with bikes even bigger and awesomer than mine.

While we haven’t really done much riding yet, and I have spent a lot of time chilling in the city checking things out it has been pretty spectacular all the same.

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