In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Fretting About Facebook

There’s three and a half weeks to go until Adi and I fly off to Hanoi with our bikes! It’s a good thing too that I’m going because I’d not be a happy chappy if I wasn’t.
Winter training under challenging conditions.

I think if I wasn’t off on another bike adventure I’d instead be wandering around the house in a depressed state looking for that next piece of chocolate or black jelly bean that would lift my mood temporarily. I place most of the blame for these feelings on Facebook. I generally feel pretty good about myself and semi motivated until I log into Facebook and catch up with what everyone else is doing. I can’t boast hundreds of friends yet but those friends I do have on-line are invariably cyclists and to be more specific, cycle tourers or cycle adventurers. This has come about by friending anyone with any reference to cycle travel whether it be to work regularly or the other side of the world. I have never been such a sad case as to go looking for people. I simply accept or deny the suggested friendship of people that contact me. If they have a picture of a touring bike on their profile they’re a friend of mine. So when I log in I am bombarded with stories and pictures of people cycling in faraway places or having fun times on their bicycles.

Shit that can make you depressed. Especially if you have nothing currently planned on your cycling social calendar. I’ve now learnt to write and post my own blog before I hit the Facebook site. Otherwise by the time I’ve read about everyone else’s trips, whether it be across Russia, or climbs in the Dolomites followed by an espresso’s with friends, I simply don’t feel like relaying my own days adventures any more.
Facebook Browsing May be Depressing. Solo Cycle Touring was Sheer Loneliness. 

Compounding the problem is the fact that whereas once I had a modicum of normal people as friends I have over the last year unfriended a number of them for posting either too many pictures of their babies, making positive comments relating to automobiles, or making religious statements that I don’t understand. I’d like to say at this point that I realise now that I was wrong and that I need some balance among my Facebook friends. So of the religious nutters that I have left you can feel safe as I see now that you are at least passionate about something. (Misguided as it may be).

Following on from my last post when I thought my bike was too cluttered I have removed my now outdated light set and have replaced it with the latest offering from Cateye in normal self-contained H/Bar lights. At the moment most of my night riding is on road and all I need is a good LED light. It’s also portable enough to use all year around as well as cycle touring. I got wind that the latest Cateye HL530’s were 30% brighter than the one I currently had in the shed so I gave that one to Adi and bought the new one for myself. After staring at Adi’s and my new one constantly trying to decide if the stats were correct I can now tell you that they both cause temporary blindness. But I think my sight came back marginally quicker after staring at Adi’s for a minute or two. If I am ever doing an all-nighter I can mount Adi’s and my own light side by side on the H/Bars for extra lumens.

In a couple of days I’m off to the medical centre for my final rabies shoot.  I never got around to getting this in South America earlier in the year. Adi was talking to the doctor about my trip and he said that I was irresponsible not getting all my shoots and that I could be bitten by a monkey and die an agonising death. That’s patient confidentiality for you. The nurse actually told me after my second shot that I was 90% protected. But Adi says that she doesn’t want me foaming at the mouth in Malaysia after arguing with a bidon stealing baboon. I think personally that I’m more likely to be knocked off my bike, run over and killed by a multi-tasking mother while I ride to the airport, but there you go I’ll just have to fork out the money for the final vaccination.
Potential members of the new Tasman Cycle Touring Club will be carefully vetted. I'm not sure whether this one will make the grade.

On a totally different subject, I'm pondering on whether I should start up a cycle touring club in Nelson / Tasman area when I get back from Asia?
The 'Niel the Wheel Cycle Touring Club For Gentlemen'. Or maybe  'Tasman Cycle Touring Club' for short.
Initially because I would be the only member, we could go on 150km rides with at least one coffee stop along the way. Rides would always start at my place , end at my place and would never begin earlier than 10am.
Essential Kit

O' and once membership climbs to two I get to ride at the back in the slipstream.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Fancy Bikes and Earthquakes.

My bike’s in the kitchen again. And you can usually be sure that when my bike is doing kitchen duty Adi is not home. Adi doesn’t like sharing the kitchen with my treadle she tells me that it gets in the way. I can’t see that myself. Adi’s on her final trip to Christchurch concerning her knee and foot operations and I’m home alone. She is doing useful things preparing for the cycle tour of Asia such as getting vaccinations, easing her post op legs into cycling and putting together boring things like the first aid kit. I on the other hand am trying to get my head around how matronly my Mercian looks in the middle of winter when she is fully optioned with accessories. It does pain me to see my bike with all the gear on it and I do feel a little envious when I bump into a friend on the cycleway cuddling up to their stripped down Pinarello. Not that it takes much to strip down a Pinarello. You basically just have to take off the pump and spare tube and you’re there.
My Bike in the Way? I Don't Think So.

But I have to keep telling myself  that people with bikes like that either have a bike for every occasion ( which I have found in the past can get a little confusing, not to mention spending half your life cleaning them) or are more likely weekend warriors. So while Adi does things in the real world I am critically examining my bike and once again come to the same decision. And that is that during the winter I need all those accessories!

I cycled to work yesterday and it was pouring with rain (first rain for a while actually). For the 30km trip I had to endure headwinds and driving rain. Most people I presume would use car support in these situations but I’d rather shoot myself in the foot than use a mode of transport that I think only disabled people should be given a licence to drive (I know it is debateable  whether most car drivers are indeed disabled as a result of their habit). Because of the weather I not only needed my full mudguards but I also had to take my work clothes and lunch in a bag that would keep them dry. On top of all this since starting back at the bike shop I now take a thermos with coffee in it.

The reason I take coffee requires a separate paragraph.

 The reason being that this must be the only bike shop in the world where the staff seem to never drink coffee!! I don’t mind instant coffee . I’m not a coffee snob. I’ll take it anyway it comes as long as it’s coffee and has some sugar in it. And Mike and Yvonne have done their best to keep the sugar and coffee jar topped up for me. But I can never be sure the ingredients will be there when I turn up once or twice a week. I’m not a happy chappy without my morning and afternoon coffee break. When the shops busy and you have to dash upstairs for a quick one it also helps if the brew is already mixed and ready to go. So now I have to fit a thermos in my saddlebag. So if I had a stripped down bike I would need a courier bag on my back and would arrive at work covered in mucky road spray and complete with a wet crotch. And then on leaving work after a hard days graft what would I use for lights? Those little light weight pidley things you say. And I’d have to explain to you that once I leave the city limits and have to negotiate the 10kms I do into the countryside I would not be able to see where I was going. So there you go, a full time cyclist needs a bike that means business. I will continue to run a critical eye over my Mercian but it’s hard to improve on perfection. 

Perhaps the compass could come off? No I remember needing that in Santa Cruz earlier in the year.

Like most cyclists I have always got things in my head that I want but don’t need. My latest purchase was a Carradice saddle bag support and it’s awesome. Its awesomeness is off the charts and you hardly know it’s there. I really don’t know how Brooks can live with themselves by continuing to make saddlebags with no supports to offer to  their customers. The latest Brooks book for cyclists 2012 shows a lovely Mercian on page 77 ruined by an ill-fitting saddle bag. Come on Brooks tidy it up!

 So that’s something that I bought but did need. What I would like but don’t need is a set of Campag cyclocross canti brakes. I don’t need them because I have a set of XTR V brakes on my bike that I think are the best brakes ever made for simplicity versus stopping power. But I love Campag stuff and the canti brakes would fit right on so easily. What’s more I could fund this purchase by convincing Adi that her brakes are crap thereby graciously giving her my now no longer made XTR V brakes if she would let me order the little Italian babies.

However the chips were down the other day when Adi was complaining about her crappy brakes and I couldn’t part with my XTR’s. I thought those brakes have slowed me as I have careered off some of the highest mountains on earth. So I put sexy Italian stuff out of my head and took Adi’s bike down to the bike shed where I fixed her crappy brakes so that they will live to fight another day.

That’s about it for this week.

I could mention though the earthquake we had last week, since it’s the biggest we’ve had in the 20yrs Adi and I have lived here. Adi was in bed, the Mercian was hanging in the back room and I was dreaming while staring at the flames generated by our log burner. After the first jolt that had the old villa creaking I made a mental note should things get worse to save Adi first because I’ve got a spare Mercian frame in the bike shed and enough spare parts to recreate my M.U.M (Mercian Urban Machine).
The 'Ken Brown' Earthquake Monitor. Bolted to the Coal Range.

When the second shake hit I shouted to Adi to get out of bed and save herself and I headed for the back room. On passing the coal range our earthquake monitor shouted out loud and clear that it was a magnitude 1 KB. The first ball bearing had come out of its cradle and only 9 where left! The earthquake monitor designed and built by my late Dad had never worked before and was the joke of the Coventry-Brown household. I thought as I passed it on the way to save my bike” who’s joking now aye?” Luckily for Potters-end that was the end of it. No. 2 bearing didn’t shift and we were left with a couple of gently swaying lamp shades. Adi and Bob had gone back to sleep but I don’t think I’d want to be in the house when no. 3 bearing popped off the block. What were you thinking when you designed that Dad! Armageddon no doubt.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Early Preparations For Southeast Asia.

Just lately the vegetable garden has taken a back seat to roof painting. The winter weather also has not been encouraging. I know, these are just excuses for a pretty poor show at growing spuds and salad type things for the dinner table and I’m going to do better come spring. But that’s no reason for the neighbour to rub my nose in it and show off by bringing in the heavy artillery. I woke up the other day to the sound of sods being turned and there was the neighbour beginning a vegetable garden I’m sure is  designed to put mine to shame. I’m glad he took the Kiwi Fruit out because I was getting a bit sick of it but I hope he doesn’t plant the same veggies as I’ve got. What then would be the point of all my hard work when I can just eat his ones? I suppose my token vegetable garden will help me to plead innocence when he mysteriously loses the odd cabbage or broccoli. I might suggest he plants carrots because I seem to have a lot of trouble getting those to grow properly. Some of my more law abiding friends may have wondered at the logic of me putting a gate in the picket fence between the neighbour and I  but once those little fellas are growing up lush and sweet next door I’ll have easy access to one of the biggest veggie patches in my street.
Hey, thats not Playing Fair.

While the neighbour was busy ploughing the garden I took myself off to the opening of the new Brightwater cycle suspension bridge. The blessing was today and since I had never attended a real blessing before and since it seemed likely that I would bump into fellow cycling types I was keen to attend. The Maori blessing seemed to go without a hitch and there was a good turnout. I couldn’t help but notice a few technical hiccups with the cycle bridge though. One hiccup being that it is currently un ride able. This could be a problem in the longer term if left un addressed. Overall I think that the cycleway and bridge is an immense achievement for all concerned. As soon as we find out who the infiltrator is within the cycleway organisation who hates cyclists having a good time and riding their bikes, and run them over with their car we’ll be right. I wonder how those engineers would fare if they designed and built a vehicle over bridge that motorists couldn’t get across without getting out of their cars and pushing them across! Never mind though because it’s nothing that a late night working party can’t put right if the council don’t see the error of their ways and put it right beforehand. I will still however have to install a tree climbing gear to the Mercian to get up the ramps once the batons have been removed.

Talking about fine tuning the Mercian. I have removed my touring forks and have had low rider rack mounts fitted. Andy the bike engineer did this for me once I had explained to him what a low rider rack was. This was the only modification I wanted to perform on the bike after my last jaunt across South America. I’m sold on low riders now and want to be able to fit them quickly and with minimal paint damage once I arrive on foreign shores. In six weeks’ time the foreign shores will be Hanoi Vietnam! Adi and I have bought our tickets and one of us is ready to go. The other one of us still has to not only get her Visa but also get fit after her foot and knee operations. I have jokingly asked Adi who I should take if her Visa is denied. Apparently that is not a joking matter.
Kitchen Bike Work. Best completed When Your Home Alone.

 Nor is my choice of ovens for baking the enamel on my forks once the new mounts had been tig welded on. I feel quite justified in using any household appliance for the benefit of my cycling pleasure as Adi knew I was a cyclist before I married her and still went ahead with it. She should have realised at that stage that there would be bike tracks on the carpet, grease on the wash hand basin , light switches  and that I would be unable to produce an heir after spending too many hours in the saddle. (Actually I realised that a child would never be able to keep up on Sunday group rides so have never  bothered with one. The old roadie motto holds true. Those that fall behind should be left behind. Since its illegal to leave kids behind its best to not have them in the first place.)