Category Archives: Cycling

“Engaging, Light-Hearted, Informative, Inspiring…” 5*

It’s good to know that ‘Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie‘ is still finding new fans. Here’s a review just posted by Daniel Cox on Amazon.co.uk (where you can currently download the eBook for just £1.55 – bargain!):

cover“Given I thoroughly enjoy cycling and European travel, I had high hopes of liking this book… and it hasn’t disappointed whatsoever. The pace of the storytelling is ideal; no item is dwelled upon too long, yet items of real interest are never skipped over/ignored. I also found it a struggle to put the book down… eager to know how the next part of Andrew’s journey unfolded. The book also provides plenty of evidence of the warmth of human nature, with many tales told of a number of people of different age, gender and nationality helping Andrew along the journey.

If you like cycling, and are perhaps looking for some inspiration to turn over a few pedals, this book is ideal. After all, Andrew is a just a normal* bloke who packed a few panniers (with obligatory uncomfortable camping mat!), bought some maps and went for it… with unforgettable and memorable results. I shall be purchasing Andrew’s ‘Along the Med‘ book and will be following his 2015 journey from Spain to Norway closely.”

[*There I was thinking that I was a superhero…]

Cycling In Norway

When I cycled from Greece to Portugal in 2013, I spent most of my time pre-trip thinking about Greece, Albania and, to a certain extent, Croatia. I didn’t spend too much time considering the western European countries through which I would be cycling. In France, a country I know very well, this wasn’t an issue, but I do wish I had spent a little more time pondering over what it would be like to cycle through Spain and Portugal. It was only a chance conversation with my Warm Showers’ host in the Pyrenees that brought the Vias Verdes to my attention and in Portugal although time was short, it would have been nice to have know more about the Algarve cycle route (rather than simply that it existed). So, for 2015’s cycle from Tarifa in Spain to Nordkapp in Norway, I shall focus my thoughts on Norway first leaving Spain (ironically) to think about last.

Another novelty for 2015 (apart from my priorities in planning) is that I have ditched the paper guide books and I have gone digital! Yesterday I downloaded the Rough Guide To Norway on iBooks and went down to the pub to read it! Why did I stick to dead trees for so long? Not only is the guidebook identical to the paper version (I had a sneaking suspicion that it might not be so I downloaded the sample and wandered off to Waterstone’s to compare the two – they were indeed exactly the same…) but it has lots of useful hyperlinks not just between places in the book but also to the wider Internet. My only remaining concern with the iBook version of the Rough Guide is that I run out of power for my iPad but as it’s also on my iPhone and that I will be carrying my solar powered Power Monkey, even in the midst of nowhere in Norway (that would make a good book title, no?), I should be OK. Especially with the midnight sun… Back to the planning.

The Rough Guide tells me the following (I’ve summarised): ” Despite the difficulty of the terrain, cycling is popular in Norway… cycle lanes are few and far between… but there’s little traffic on the roads anyway… check your itinerary throughly, especially in the more mountainous areas… cyclists aren’t allowed through longer tunnels… your first port of call should be VisitNorway.com…” That site – run by the Norwegian Tourist Board – has a dedicated cycling section which is very reminiscent of the fabulous Swiss cycling website.

The cycling contacts that are listed are Syklistenes Landsforening (which doesn’t seem to have an English version although it is worth pointing out that the CTC website – its British equivalent – doesn’t have a Norwegian version…) and Syklist Velkommen which is actually an off shoot of the tourist board website. So there’s no shortage of information available about cycling in Norway. Or should I say ‘sykling‘. It has not escaped my attention that the Norwegian words for cycling, cyclist (syklist) and bicycle (sykkel) are all pretty close to my own surname ‘Sykes’. Some wit on Twitter did point out that the Norwegians spent an extended period of time in northern England following their arrival in the 8th century. Is there a connection? The ‘sykkel‘ wasn’t invented until 1817 so it seems unlikely. It is, however, rather fitting that I should be completing my third and final European crossing by bicycle in a country where some might consider that I am descended from the inventor of the machine. I digress…

My route in Norway will be from the border with Sweden near to a town called Halden to Nordkapp via Oslo, Lillehammer, Trondheim (where the Eurovelo 3 finishes and I pick up once again the Eurovelo 1), Bodo, Tromso before finally arriving at my destination. It’s a long way. Trondheim to Nordkapp alone is over 1600km.

The European Cyclists Federation say the following about the Eurovelo 3 portion of the route:

imageMap (1)“Eurovelo 3 in Norway connects to Eurovelo 1 and runs from Svinesund [near Halden] through Oslo to Trondheim. The Pilgrims’ Way from Oslo to Nidaros is 640 km long. After his death at the battle at Stiklestad (1030), Olav Haraldsson was made patron saint of Norway. Soon after his death one experienced signs and miracles linked to Olav’s remains. He became a figure of reverence, and pilgrims from all over Europe travelled to Nidaros (Trondheim), the main destination in Scandinavia for pilgrims. The pilgrimage goes through built-up areas, stunning cultural landscape, narrow valleys, peaceful forests and open mountain terrain. Along the Way you will experience historical places and cultural heritage sites of national importance. The section is not fully realised so it’s a good idea to contact local tourist office or Cycling Norway for more information.”

As for the section from Trondheim north along the Eurovelo 1 it has the following:

“The route takes you along Norway’s beautiful long coastline with fjords, the view of high mountains and many islands that is often accessible by ferries. The section is not fully realised so it’s a good idea to contact local tourist office or Cycling Norway for more information.”imageMap

The ‘not fully realised‘ theme is a common one of the Eurovelo network.

As far as accommodation goes, many options are available but bearing in mind that in 2015 I would like to stick to campsites and hostels (as I will be unemployed!), membership of the YHA here in the UK before I leave will be a good idea giving me slightly reduced rates in the Hostelling International network. It’s good to know that you don’t have to be a ‘youth’ on an international level…

My final point is regarding bears. I laughingly mentioned this to a colleague at work this week but was a little horrified to discover that actually, yes, Norway does have bears albeit only 148 of them and mainly towards the border with Sweden. Top tip: stay away from the border with Sweden.

I will leave you with thoughts of the Juvet Landscape Hotel. It’s not that far from the route of the Eurovelo 3 although I do fear it may be a little out of my budget…Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 20.56.27

The Stanforth Kibo By Simon Stanforth

A few weeks ago I put out an open invite to anyone who would like to contribute a piece to CyclingEurope.org. Simon Stanforth from Stanforth Bikes was the first to respond and he has written an article about the inspiration behind the touring bike that he manufactures, the beautiful Stanforth Kibo:

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 15.22.46“As a young child the feats of Antarctic explorers and Everest climbers captured my imagination. It was the idea of going to places where no one else had been. In 1985, soon after my father and uncle had taken over Saracen Cycles, the Crane cousins were doing talks about their cycle up Kilimanjaro.  The fantastic images of the icy peaks against the blue sky, hearing how they overcame the struggles along the way, and the photos of them flying down the Kibo summit on their bikes all had the same affect on me as the tales of Scott and Hillary. But foremost, it showed what was truly possible on a bike. They took bike touring to a new level, to true expedition cycling.

BlackOnGold v2The higher end mountain bikes of the mid 80s, or ATBs as they were better known as at the time, were great bikes. They were well made, used tough steel and quality components. Although not recognised at the time, the geometry was ahead of its time. The geometry changed on the MTBs of the late 80s and 90s to a shorter wheelbase, narrower bars, a longer stem and steeper headtube angle. But mountain bikes have moved back to their routes with a longer wheel base, shorter stems, wider bars and a slacker head angle. Not only does this geometry work well for mountain biking, but the stability it provides is great for expedition cycling under a heavy load.

STANFORTH-002The Kibo, named after and inspired by the Cranes’ Kilimanjaro feat (Kibo is the name of the summit), has been designed primarily as an expedition bike. As it’s been designed for long distance touring it has bosses for three bottle cages and front and rear racks, but it also performs as an urban or commuter bike – the riser Nitto stem can be easily raised for a more upright seating position for city riding, it has bosses for mudguards, and the Continental RetroRides work well on city roads.

Since the ’80s the quality of steel has massively advanced. The Kibo uses the strongest gauge of Reynolds 631 air hardened steel, stronger and lighter than its 531 predecessor. The lugged frame and forks are hand built by one of the UK’s most experienced frame builders, Lee Cooper.

STANFORTH-019LRAll the parts have been selected with precision and attention to detail. When choosing the components I spoke to a few around the world cyclists; one of the main issues that Alastair Humphreys faced in his RTW cycle was broken spokes, so the Kibo comes with 36 hole Sputnik rims (hand laced in Brighton) – one of the toughest out there for all terrain touring. It also comes with Sturmey Archer thumb shifters, Shimano Deore/XT transmission, Velo Orange grips and a Brooks B17 (it had to be!).

The Kibo is a bike for exploring, whatever the terrain. It’s a bike inspired by the Cranes’ pioneering spirit, and is ready for a day of urban discovery but eager for a cross continent expedition.”

Simon doesn’t just make bikes, he rides them too and here is a picture of the Stanforth Kibo in Sweden, one of my destinations for 2015. If I weren’t so wedded to Reggie Ridgeback, I might be tempted…

If you would like to contribute to CyclingEurope.org, please get in touch! andrew@cyclingeurope.org is my email.

kibo sweden11

Cycling Insurance Matters

Like all insurance, I suppose it only matters if you make a claim but as you never know when that will be… OK, you know how insurance works. Only a few years ago insuring your bike was out of the ordinary to say the least and if you did, the high premiums made you wonder whether it was just worth taking the hit if and when your loved one got stolen, broken or met its demise under a truck. However, when I cycled along the Mediterranean in 2013 I did take out insurance. It was the first time I had done so and involved a not inconsiderable amount of research. I eventually paid out a three figure premium for a specific time-limited insurance to cover myself for the two months it would take me to travel from Greece to Portugal. If only there was a company out there that made the whole cycling insurance thing simple… Then, a few weeks ago, I was emailed by a chap called David George from Bikmo Plus. Over to you Dave!

Bikmo Plus : Straight Talking Cycle Insurance from Bikmo on Vimeo.

Now I’ve got to be careful here. I’m not a financial advisor and please don’t choose your insurance based upon anything you might read here but I have to say, Bikmo Plus does seem to offer the kind of insurance that I’m looking for and I have signed up to be covered throughout next year, a year that will see me cycle once again (hopefully) across Europe. Bikmo Plus is one of the insurance options that have been reviewed on the London Cyclist website so the only advice I’ll pass on here is to have a read of that article.

“Beautifully Written…” / “Like A Good Conversation With A Friend”

A couple of new reviews. The first from Paul Dennis at Amazon.co.uk for Along The Med on a Bike Called Reggie:

Along the Med on a Bike called Reggie“Once again Andrew Sykes (and Reggie) lead you on an adventure, exploring new places and making you feel like you are actually there with them. Beautifully written with natural wit and a view on life that anyone, not just cyclists, can associate with. Andrew strikes a perfect balance between informing you of what he has witnessed, enjoyed and endured each day without smothering you in details that could smack of self indulgence. After reading both “Crossing Europe” and “Along the Med” I have been left with the desire to do something beyond my usual cycle jaunts and that is solely down to the way Andrew makes you feel that everything he has written about can be achieved by the next man (or woman). An inspiring read from an inspiring author. Hurry up and make plans for the next adventure Andrew, I am raring to go!!!!”

Fear not Paul, I’m on the case.

The second review is from Susan Rauen on Amazon.com for the first book, Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie:

“Well written – better than most travel stories: Author conveys the reality of this type of cycling, both ups and downs. Like a good conversation with a friend. Enjoyed it very much as well as the sequel.”

Thanks to both Paul and Susan for their feedback. It is very much appreciated and I’m delighted that you both enjoyed the books.

My Cycling Commute… Meets The GoPro Hero 4

OK, it’s not the greatest adventure, but my daily commute from Reading to Henley-on-Thames by bike (Reggie the bike no less) does give me the opportunity of testing out my newly acquired Go Pro Hero 4 (silver) camera. And it worked a treat! I videoed the entire half hour commute in both directions today but you’ll be relieved to know that I have edited the round trip down to just under two and a half  minutes. GRH30_main1I’ll leave you to critique my film making skills but it terms of the quality of the camera, it is phenomenal. The videos were recorded in widescreen 1080 HD (I could have opted for 4K but it would have probably resulted in my computer melting down during the edit – the size of the files created today amounted to 24GB!) and the Go Pro was attached to the bike via a purpose designed handlebar mount. The only issues I encountered while cycling were on the way to work. The camera occasionally fell forward (although this did inadvertently produce some interesting shots of the wheel) and due to the rain, the image was at times obscured by a large blob of water on the waterproof casing. The latter issue was only temporary and the former was solved by hanging the camera from the handlebar rather than positioning it above the bar (a simple solution pointed out by various people on Twitter combined with a setting that flips the screen 180 degrees) which I did on the way home. So, sit back and enjoy my at times very damp cycle to work from the comfort of your living rooms. Lights, camera… action!

The set up for the cycle to work… and the ‘hanging’ set up for the return journey.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 20.34.21Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 20.34.08

Calling All Literary Agents And Publishers!

What do I need to do to get a literary agent and a publishing contract???? Positions number 1 and 4 in the iTunes ‘Travel Writing‘ chart. Number 1 in the iTunes ‘Travel and Adventure‘ category and a third book out in 2016. It’s enough to make you leave the country! (Oh yes, I’m doing that in January…)Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 19.20.05