Tag Archives: Mark Beaumont

Around The World In… Who Cares!

My weekend is visitor free! I make it sound as though I have people staying here all the time; this is not the case and it was great to see Matt, Ross & Pirrko but it did make for a non-stop weekend, my visitors departure and arrival sandwiched around a long day of Olympic (volunteer) training on Sunday. This weekend is in stark contrast to the last (i.e. I have nothing to do) and it allows me the time to catch up with the kind of cyclist that I envy deeply, Chris Gruar.

I mentioned a few posts ago about the round-the-world adventures of Mike Hall. He has just smashed the world record for doing just that but however much I admire and respect his achievement, I wouldn’t want to do it that way myself. Not that I would be capable of such a feat of course. On a higher pedestal in my little tower of cycling admiration are those cyclists who do the whole thing just a little bit more slowly. Chris Gruar certainly falls into this category. He is an Australian and is heading for home on his bike. He set off from Leeds on the 1st April and, two and half months later has made it as far as… Norway!

The first few weeks of Chris’ trip were spent in the UK and although he is not a professional film maker (he’s a teacher), he has some skill when it comes to putting together a quality video clip of his adventures. Here he is travelling across England (in what looks like mostly rain);

The weather since you left hasn’t improved at all Chris. In fact, you escaped before the really bad stuff started.

Arriving on the continent Chris made his way east through France & Belgium (even stopping off in Luxembourg) but rather than heading south as you might expect, he then continued to cycle around the North Sea, through The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden & Norway to where he is currently which is somewhere near the Arctic Circle. He will soon be heading in the ‘right’ direction once more when he cycles south through central Europe, then Turkey, Iran, north of Afghanistan, before aiming for Australia on a journey that will take him through northern India, south-east Asia, Indonesia and then, of course, Australia. He’ll get there in a couple of years after an epic and fascinating trip.

He is supporting the charity AICR, the Association for International Cancer Research and you can make a donation via Chris’ Just Giving site. If you need a celebrity endorsement before you give, when it comes to cycling, you can’t get a better one than this;

And here is a message from Chris himself;

Hey mate,

I’m getting quite a lot of reading done on my kindle in the evenings, and just thought I would let you know I thoroughly enjoyed reading Good Vibrations as I travelled through Germany and Denmark last month. Cracking read, and your tour was the perfect size to order your book through daily chapter observations. I was a little envious as I cycled north into the headwind while I read of your journey south to the mediterranean coast!

I’m still pondering whether to write myself, but at this stage it will be best to start towards the end of my trip rather than get bogged down with the scale of the journey. I hit 5000km this morning, and plenty to go before I think of the end!

All the best,

Chris

You can follow Chris on his website, Facebook or Flickr.

And by the way, he must be a real cyclist as he has given his bike a name; Wilson. Even better, he has joined that elite club of cyclists who have had issues with their spokes. Respect!

My 3,000th Tweet: Rohloff v. Sturmey-Archer!

While I was browsing the Cyclepedia app (see previous post), I came across a reference to the Rohloff Speedhub. It’s a gear-changing mechanism that I have never seen but which has fascinated me since I watched Mark Beaumont’s documentary about cycling the Americas. He used one. It is, apparently, the modern-day equivalent of the Sturmey-Archer system that most of us probably used on those childhood bikes of the 1970s. But hang on, stop! A little search on the Internet tells me that they are still at it. You can pay your money and take your pick. The video here from Rohloff makes fascinating viewing. I think I want one… Now, did that make a suitable 3000th Tweet? I think so.

The Cycling Author Shelf Of Fame?

Dear Mr Sykes – I’m too full of respect to refer to you as Andrew – I’ve just completed reading your “Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie” and thoroughly enjoyed it, well done, not just for completing the journey, but also the book. You are now ranked along with [Dervla] Murphy, [Josie] Dew, [Mark] Beaumont and [Edward] Enfield, etc. on my bookshelf.  I look forward to your next jaunt.

Don

I did reply admonishing Don for his formality (“only the kids at school call me ‘Mr Sykes’ but they often prefer more colourful forms of address…”) and thanking him for his comments. He has plans to cycle from Lincolnshire to Budapest and write a book about his journey for a Hungarian charity so watch out for his tome alongside Murphy, Dew, Beaumont, Enfield… and of course that upstart Sykes.

Courtesy of Don, a few additions to the bookshop;

Dervla Murphy
Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle
Wheels Within Wheels: The Makings of a Traveller
Silverland: A Winter Journey beyond the Urals
Josie Dew
Long Cloud Ride: A cycling adventure across New Zealand
Saddled at Sea: A 15,000-mile journey to New Zealand by Russian freighter
Slow Coast Home: A 5000 mile cycle journey around the shores of England and Wales
The Sun in My Eyes: Two-Wheeling East
A Ride in the Neon Sun: A Gaijin in Japan
Travels in a Strange State: Cycling across the USA
The Wind in My Wheels: Travel Tales from the Saddle
Mark Beaumont
The Man Who Cycled The Americas
The Man Who Cycled The World
Edward Enfield
Dawdling By The Danube
Freewheeling through Ireland
Greece on my wheels
Downhill all the way
…and of course…
Andrew Sykes
Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie

Freewheeling France

A couple of months ago, the editor of the Freewheeling France website approached me with a view to me contributing an article about the Eurovelo network specifically in France. I did, and the article has now appeared! In fact, it has been split into two articles; one about the Eurovelos which pass through France, and a second which gives a brief summary of all 14 of the Eurovelos. The site is well worth investigating beyond my articles, especially the interviews that have been published with some familar faces to those of you who have been reading CyclingEurope.org for some time, notably Mark Beaumont & Alastair Humphreys.

French / Spanish Lessons In Venezuela

Great video. Makes me feel very jealous as I sit here in dreary Reading in the south of England. What an adventure! Here’s their website. It’s a good work out for your French (and Spanish). Might show the kids at school next week… Interestingly, their route does what the Eurovelo 8 does, although from Greece to Spain is a little less coastal. Through the Americas, they are doing in reverse what Mark Beaumont did. The south to north slog across Australia will be relentless. Epic journey. Wow.

Good Vibrations: New Entry At Number 15!

I love this! Mark Beaumont, cycling hero & inspiration to all is next to me in the Kindle ‘Cycling’ list; he is just one place above Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie with his book The Man Who Cycled The World. He has a few more sales than me I suspect but I’ll get there!

Matters On My Mind

By the man who is currently rowing the Canadian Arctic

As mentioned yesterday I have started reading Mark Beaumont’s new book about how he cycled from Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina in 2009/10 while at the same time scaling the highest mountains in North & South America. Well, not quite at the same time but I’m sure you know what I mean. I’ve only got to the end of chapter two but – he is about to summit Mount McKinley – and I already want to set off on my next small-time adventure. There are reasons I have to wait until 2013 to cycle from Athens to Cadiz along the Eurovelo 8 (the Olympics, saving the money, becoming very fit, working out how to get two and a half months off work etc…), but if I could, I would set off tomorrow!

By the man who is currently looking for a better title for his book

Reading someone else’s book also makes me eager to finish my own. The chances are it won’t make it to the physical shelves of a bookshop but at least we now have the electronic world into which I can launch my little tome (if that is not a contradiction in terms) and it should find its place someday on the virtual shelves of Kindle. If the first week of my summer holidays was spent renovating the flat and the second entertaining (they may not use that word) my parents, the third must be dedicated to knocking my first draft into shape. That would be something to celebrate!

Morecambe and Wise present Des O'Connor with a golden disc to mark sales of 100,000 for his album 'Just For You'

As will my 100,000 visitor since this blog arrived on WordPress in January 2010. Each week approximately 1,500 of you pass this way (although I admit some of you may come more than just the once; if we lived in a just world, you would all receive medals for your diligence), so as things stand, with the visitor count currently standing at 98,945, barring a sudden upsurge in activity (which I am not against!), the 100,000 barrier should be breached on Thursday or Friday. Perhaps I should offer a prize to the person who can email me a screen shot of the counter standing at 100,000. It could be you!

The Exclusively Cycling News

This blog has become a little more generalist of late with me discussing a varied range of topics from trips to France with groups of school children to how the re-decoration of my flat over the last couple of weeks has been progressing. I need to get things back to cycling (although in fairness, my going ‘off topic’ doesn’t seem to have done any harm whatsoever to my cycling blog ranking; up to number 11 in the UK in August compared to number 16 in July!). So here goes. Guaranteed, exclusively cycling content coming up.

A couple of purchases first of all to push me back into cycling thinking; the August copy of Cycling Plus which I never quite manage to read from cover to cover on the occasions that I buy it but I will try my best over the next couple of weeks. I notice that at the bottom of the front page under the ‘Essential Riding Advice‘ banner it promises an article entitled ‘Drink Booze, Ride Better‘. I wonder if they have lifted one of the online chapters to my forthcoming book where I managed to cycle along the Eurovelo 5 with far too regular pauses for beer and wine. Incidentally, I am still at the editing stage; I haven’t touched the original manuscript for about two weeks but I aim to have this done over the course of the coming week. Still not convinced by the title (see the top of the column to your left). Rick Stein interviewed Chris Stewart, author of Driving Over Lemons, an account of his life in Andalucia, during his trip around Spain this week on the TV (well worth a watch) and Chris said that by far the most important thing in selling a book is the title and the cover because although we all like to think that we don’t, we really do judge a book by its cover. His title is fantastic and immediately conjures up a hot corner of Europe. As it stands, mine says nothing about the contents of the book although at least the cover speaks volumes.

On the subject of books, my second purchase is Mark Beaumont’s new book; The Man Who Cycled The Americas. After his previous book called The Man Who Cycled The World, he really could go on for a long time writing books about ‘the man who cycled…’. That said, his current expedition is rowing in the Canadian Arctic so I suppose his next volume would have to be The Man Who Rowed The Canadian Arctic. Anyway, back to his previous cycling trip; the Americas book details his cycling journey from Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina taking in North & South America’s highest peaks en route; Mounts McKinley & Aconcagua which happen to be at each end of the respective continents. I shall no doubt blog some comments as I read over the next few weeks.

My own past and future adventures harvested a few interesting contacts in the past week or so. I have already mentioned Kate Belcheva in a previous post. She is planning on cycling from her home in Bulgaria to London in time for the Olympics next summer and will use the Eurovelo 5 from Switzerland north. Someone else who is ‘musing about something similar‘ in his words is @TheJT on Twitter (no name). He describes himself as a ‘City-hopping wordsmith; pen for hire and brain to let‘ but more than just that, is an ex-pupil of the school where I teach – Gillotts in Henley-on-Thames. From his picture, I suspect his attendance at the place was well before my time but it is good to know that I am enthusing students of Gillotts School,  albeit ones of long ago, to do something cycling wise. I’ve asked for more details of what his musings might lead him to do, whether it be the Eurovelo 5 or some other cycling adventure and I’ll let you know when he reports back.  And the future? Well, that is hopefully going to be the Eurovelo 8 in 2013, but Rachel Golden from the USA will have beaten me to it. She commented the following; ‘I’m hoping to bike-camp the Eurovelo8 route in 2012. I have 4 months off work. When do you recommend is best? April-July? I’m an avid bike-tourer, but have never done it outside of the U.S. Any advice would be great!‘. I advised April – June to avoid the heat of the summer and the crowds but I think by the time she has completed the route next year, the advice will be coming in the opposite direction. She has subscribed to the blog (you can too – just click here) so may become a familiar name that you recognise on here over the months to come. I hope so.

And finally (as they say in all the best news bulletins), the Trek was indeed sold. For £100 he was pedaled down the road next to the flats where I live rather unsteadily by his new owner earlier this week. I wish both of them happy cycling. Reggie now has the hall to himself!

Cycling To The (Arctic) Circle II

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Hi Andrew,
Thanks again for your kind words and add on your blog. Your trip to the south of Italy sounded awesome, there are so many good trips to do out there! Yeh, I was a bit hesitant telling the kids at first but I have had a really good response from them, looks like I will have to get them to apply to join us on the first leg as so many want to come! All good!
What bike did you use? It looks like our attempt to get three bamboo bikes might be a bit unrealistic now so I will probably get a new hybrid/tourer but not really sure where to start, My budget will be around £800, any ideas thoughts would be appreciated.
Anyway, thanks again
Lisa
Y
Hi Lisa
Apologies for the delay in replying – I don’t function on a non-teaching level until I wake up on a Saturday morning. I’m sure you know what I mean. I bought a Ridgeback Panorama which cost about £1,200. I get good use out of it however as I use it every day to cycle to and from work. I always try to think of the costs involved with the bike in comparison to what I would be spending if I had not given up on a car a few years ago, so £1,200 seemed reasonable, especially for the long trip I was planning last summer. It did, however, take me quite a while to decide what I would buy – see the page on my website where I listed some of the alternatives – but once I had decided, I was happy with the choice. The Ridgeback is a strong but light bike with both back and front pannier racks (some just had the rear ones) which had good reviews when I read up in magazines and online. If I had the money, I would have loved to buy a Koga Miyata – the bike that Mark Beaumont (and others) used to cycle around the World and from North to South America, but to get a good one, you are talking thousands… I did make one main modification to the bike and that was to replace the drop handlebars with butterfly bars. I can’t recommend enough these bars. They are extremely comfortable; I would have come back from southern Italy bent double if I had kept the drops. Unfortunately they don’t tend to come as standard with “cheaper” (!!) bikes, only with the likes of the Koga Miyata. One last thing to note; I bought my bike via my employers (Oxfordshire County Council) and was able to reduce the cost by about 35% as it was deductible from tax. Most large employers run the scheme and it’s worth looking into. I suppose I ended up buying my £1,200 Ridgeback Panorama for about £800 which actually brings in into your price range…
Anyway, best of luck with the trip. I’ll be following you every step (or
turn of the wheel).
Cheers
Andrew
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Lisa’s website is here and you can follow her Twiiter feed @cycle2thecircle .

Kevin Koga? Perhaps Not…

Darren from ??? (his Facebook page only gives a few clues – Australia? Camden town? Somewhere where it has been snowing recently from his picture so anywhere in the UK?) has messaged me on said social network…

Hello Andrew, I am a complete novice cyclist and am considering attempting the Eurovelo 5 route in summer 2011 as I see from your blog you have done. Could you please help me with the type of bicycle I will need and possibly some suggestions where I can purchase one? I assume an ordinary bike wouldn’t work as I will need some way of carrying my bags, etc. Cheers Darren

Now bikes have been on my mind slightly over the course of the past couple of weeks since making the decision to (probably) cycle along the Eurovelo 8 in summer 2013. Reggie Ridgeback – my “pimped” Ridgeback Panorama that I bought to cycle along the Eurovelo 5 (“pimped” by the addition of the flat, butterfly handlebars) – will, by then, have commuted his way back and forth along the back roads from Reading to Henley for three full winters as well as the 3,200 km from Reading to Brindisi. He may be looking forward to retiring. And, let’s face it, I’d love another bike! It would be hard to resist the allure of a machine from Koga Miyata (or Koga as I think they have recently renamed themselves), the Dutch company that has supplied so many of the serious long-distance cyclists, including, of course, Mark Beaumont. The one shown here is the Koga Randonneur – what a beauty! The problem is that they are bloody expensive. But they are presumably robust and reliable. Reggie’s back wheel spokes were his Achilles heel en route to southern Italy (remember the fun I had south of the St. Gotthard Pass? See “I spoke too soon“). Another Darren, Darren Whittle actually bought himself a Koga Miyata prior to cycling along the Pennine Cycleway earlier this year. I was very jealous at the time but I seem to remember it costing him…. take a deep breath…. £2,500. Ouch! But it did come with ready-fitted butterfly bars. So perhaps I am dreaming but it will give me reason to save up.

So back to Darren’s question; what type of bicycle should he buy? Well you are correct that you would need a bike with some pannier racks (although I assume these could be fitted to an ordinary bike). I went for the Ridgeback Panorama after much thought and research; it had pre-fitted racks front and back and recieved some good write-ups in the magazines. And it’s still going strong. When everything is working (which it usually is), it cycles like a dream. Would you be able to manage with a “normal” bike? Probably. Chris Hammersley (see his own blog here) didn’t invest a fortune in his bike and he made it as far as Greece (albeit with a few train journeys). You may want to get in touch with him to find out what make and model it was.

As for where to buy one, I’m going to assume you are in the UK. I bought my Ridgeback Panorama at a local specialised bike shop – AW Cycles in Caversham, Reading (although they weren’t happy about me changing to the flat handlebars; I had to go to the chain shop Evans to get that done without a battle). Most bike shops have people who can give you better advice than me with the exception of Halfords which tends to employ wide-boys who are more interested in blinging their cars (they are the ones always parked nearest to the entrance of Halfords shops with their unemployed mates sitting on the bonnet all day) than acquiring a good knowledge of touring bikes. And then there is the Internet although I would imagine most bike shops would match an online price if you quoted it to them…

Good luck with your efforts to cycle along the Eurovelo 5. Why not start a blog?!