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.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Single Guy and his Bike.

Tomorrow evening I'll be living as a Bachelor. Today I am the critic as 'Vespa chick ' packs her bike into the bike box I got for her upcoming trip to Portland in the morning. After a bit of argy bargy about where to put the padding and how best to dismantle various bits, the bike is finally in the box and she just has to add her panniers before taping it closed. I have given her the assorted male lectures on how to reassemble it. The do's and don'ts of cycle assembly have been gone over too frequently but now I can sit back and say that it left here in perfect running order ,and with a full service, the rest is up to her. The whole package I have to admit is very light compared to the weight of our stuff when we cycle tour together.

And  I am envious of the minimal gear she is taking compared to what I will be packing for my trip to Scandinavia in 8 weeks. I really don't want to be overloaded as it's a right pain trying to deceive check in staff as they weigh the package ,and then be wearing as many of your clothes on the plane as possible. You struggle aboard with hand luggage also over the 7kg allowed and a man bag that you then argue is the equivalent of a woman's purse. Then there's the in flight reading material that you are also allowed as an extra, but isn't in flight reading material at all but all your trip type literature and electronic tablet. Just when you think you have made it ,you find that the pannier that you have stuffed as on -flight luggage won't go in the above seat locker due to the bike helmet and cycle shoes that you have tied to its exterior.  So while everyone cues up behind you you remove it all and stuff it in. Then you can't sit down because your legs won't bend as your wearing cycle tights , cycle shorts and a pair of casual trousers over it all. If you're really unlucky some fat person will be not only taking up his seat but half of yours and there will be family with babies within spitting distance.
I'd love to go light like 'Vespa Chick' but I just don't know how cold it will get in Northern Norway so will have to err on the side of caution and take really warm cycle clothing and heavier sleeping gear. In addition to the thermal gear ,because I know how to fully service my bike ,I like to take a full range of tools. I'm also going to take my beloved primus and cooking gear. It's expensive apparently in Scandinavia so I want to cook my own dinners and coffees etc. 'Vespa Chick ' although camping is not intending to cook anything.  Instead she will eat salads from supermarkets and junk food as she cycles across the US.
I just know that I'll be once again on the weight limit. Anyway I'll start getting my stuff together in a few weeks time.
The Mercian. Ready to take Adi's Place in the Lounge.

I Think I'll Do a Bit of this for the Next 6 weeks. 

For the next 6 to 8 weeks I'll enjoy my bachelor ness. Life won't be hugely different except for the meat and three vegy meals, my bicycle being permanently in the lounge, long  conversations on dating apps trying to convince girls that I really am single, and equally long periods sunning myself on the deck with nothing on my to -do list except the occasional 150km circuit ride. Both those last things will be weather dependant but I'm hoping that Nelson will turn on a mild winter as I'm not expecting a hot summer holiday in northern Europe.
O that's right , I also have to keep an eye on the TransAm site to make sure that 'Vespa Chick's 'marker regularly moves, although I'm not sure what I can do if it doesn't?

Hiding Behind a Pile of Palings

If I get bored while she's gone there's always home maintenance. The picket fence palings have been quietly rotting for the last 15 years. It's timely that the neighbour's have decided recently to throw away all there's. I asked if I could have a few and they dumped enough to fix my rotten ones and then about 70 more. There will be plenty to keep my fence repaired for the next 150yrs and possibly build another fence just for the sake of it.

It's been a week of receiving out our way. The nice City Council boys dropped off the new recycle bin as well. Now I have a purpose recycle area in the garden. A compost receptacle where the rodents live, a glass bucket for all my mayonnaise and Nutella bottles and the new everything else wheelie bin. Down the back of the garden I have the ultimate recycler, an incinerator that will burn almost anything and turn it into toxic fumes. I like the principle of the incinerator the best because it forces this generation to deal with this generations rubbish. No stockpiling it for future generations with this baby. Burning the rubbish until we can't breath any more is the idea. It's a self limiting solution.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Extreme Thermal Tights

The first signs of winter have arrived in NZ. This week snow feel in the Highlands and even some southern coastal towns had a dump of the white stuff. I went out on my bike as normal in Nelson but the cold made me wonder what sort of leg protection I might need in northern Norway when I cycle through next September. I've hunted for blogs that might give me some idea but to date have only found travel accounts of people who have done the trip in June or mid summer. Even these writings suggest that tights may not be sufficient and that over trousers could be needed if the weather in Lapland turns nasty. I really don't want to buy over trousers because for one thing I've never cycled anywhere where I have needed them before and secondly I can see that after the trip I'm unlikely to ever use them again. Before our cold snap here I was prepared to go with a new set of tights and leg warmers for less cold times.
Ski Pants Trial...Take  One.

Rummaging through the cupboard at home I came across a pair of ski pants that I hadn't used for twenty years.  They were tight I remembered ,when I bought them from a second hand ski sale back then,so I wasn't surprised when they were even tighter when I tried them on this time around. I considered that if I cut off an inch or two of hip bone I may be able to have them on the recommended setting but since that's not an option I made do with the last adjustment point. I recall that I got them very cheap all those years ago because they were a kids sizing. I thought if I could make them work on the bike, they may be an answer to my problem. I've never heard anyone suggest using ski pants for cycling but then most people are followers and not try ers. They would certainly be warm and waterproof where required. And unlike over trousers they are tight, no arguments there.
Take Two.
So out in the cold I went yesterday to cover my 150km circuit. The temperature was about 12C when I left and about 5C when I finally got home. The ski pants flare at the bottom clearly designed to go over ski boots. This was no problem as I had cycling over booties on. The trousers tucked into them. Being made of a sort of neoprene material they matched my Campagnolo training jacket and had extra material over the knees. Normally for the first 100kms of my ride energy wise I need no more than a bowl of cornflakes and a couple of spoonfuls of sugar  washed down with a bit of cream. But 15kms before my lunch stop I had completely hit the wall.  I put this state of grovel down to the increased resistance in my pants.

 Downing an extra chocolate bar or punnet of fries should, I hope ,take care of that. During the final part of the ride when temps were low I was amazed to find that ca rearing down Rae ' s Saddle with the cold wind finding it's way through my winter training jacket and vest , I felt no cool air at all on my legs!
So, for piece of mind ,I think regardless of the extra weight involved I will take those ski pants to Scandinavia.
What's that Hamish?

Last week a few friends came over for a bit of a get together. During the evening Hamish asked me if I wanted what looked on first inspection to be a lead sinker for a fishing line. I haven't fished since I was a kid ,with my father. And I have to say that even back then I found the whole experience rather awkward, doubly so in fact as Dad decided to use the time together as an opportunity to instill in me the facts of life. I mean I didn't need any education in that area as me and my mates had learnt all we needed too on frequent trips with our bikes to the local industrial dump. The place was littered with that sort of educational material. I was initially slightly bewildered , but Hamish quickly explained what the little cycle doodacky was for. Although I had heard back in the 1970's that something like this existed I'd never seen one in real life. Friends would tell me  back in the 70's that girls would kiss you behind the bike sheds but I didn't believe that either.
Anyway here's a picture of it. Any guesses as to what it's for?

I was just thinking cycling home from the supermarket today ,having filled the cycle trailer to bursting ,how much fun normal people miss out on. It's not normally in my nature to feel sorry for MrJoe Public ,as he has made his own choices, but cycling along and feeling self righteous on a beautiful day I just happen to spy a feigoa hedge. And you wouldn't guess it, it was heavy with another man's fruit. On closer inspection that man appeared to not be about. And that man if ever about was clearly also not interested in bending down to harvest his bounty. So while 'Vespa Chick 'stood watch 'Niel the Wheel' filled a couple of empty bread bags and then the two 'happy go luckys 'made their escape.
Old School Freewheel Remover for an Old school Sort of a Guy.

As Mr Retro-Man I like Hamish' s little doodacky so much that if I don't use a set of wheels with a screw on cluster for the Scandi trip I most  certainly will for my trip next year. The idea if you haven't guessed it is,( once bolted as in the picture ), to  lock the prongs into a Crack,  crevice or some body's picket fence and then turn your cluster off so that you can replace the broken spoke you've acquired or service the bearing that's playing up. I could have used something like this on my 2013 tour across Canada when my rear hub gave up the ghost. It wouldn't have saved the day ,as my hub was toast ,but it would have been fun impressing the locals.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Pre TransAm Service.

Two and a half weeks now until Adi the 'Vespa Chic ' heads across the Pacific to Portland for the start of her big ride across the  US.  She doesn't appear nervous at all. In fact while I was out last week on one of my cycle rides I spent some time contemplating this and actually started feeling nervous for her!
I think she's actually really looking forward to ditching me for an extended period.

There was a bit of a panic this week when hunting travel insurance for her. I tried the crowd we usually use and the quote came out at $500. Not content with this I tried again only to get a figure of $1400 ! Admittedly this was insurance designed for full on competition.  Since the TransAm is not regarded by the organisers as a race and since the 'Vespa Chick ' is not signing up for a race , we settled on normal travel insurance suitable for an unassisted solo ride across the States.
The final on-line order of cycle bits turned up at the gate yesterday so I spent today doing the full workshop service on Vespa chick's bike. Her bike is only a year old but in that time she has done a fair number of long day rides and more than a few mini tours over the last summer. So I am replacing all consumable items on the bike. New tyres, tubes,  cables , transmission bits , brake blocks, you name it . In addition to that I have greased and adjusted all bearings and checked that everything else is tight. I won't be there to help her with maintenance so hope this will suffice to get her across America. She is under strict instructions to not let any bike shop touch her bike unless it is unavoidable.

It's not that I don't trust the work of other mechanics , it's just that I don't want them working on a bike that needs to run faultlessly for extended periods. I'm sure they are more than capable of fixing a weekend warriors bike. A bike like that falls under the category of sports equipment, such as a tennis racket.
Serious bikes fall under the class ' transport' and need to run in all weather conditions and are depended on to get the operator to the next destination without assistance. There's no room for 'quacks' to be working on these machines. It's no fun to be 30kms from the nearest habitation on a wet cold evening and finding that some idiot mechanic didn't tighten your cranks sufficiently.
Anyway to try to avert any unscheduled stops in the middle of nowhere ( and there's a lot of nowhere when cycling across America) for the Vespa Chick I spent the day today servicing her cyclocross bike. It all went swimmingly I might say. In fact when I pulled the rear hub apart I discovered that the Chinese man or woman who assembled it a year ago lost count of the number of bearings that should have gone in the drive side and somehow misplaced one. Only a small error you might say and certainly not a sack able offence but one that could have had the Chick walking through Kansas instead of cycling. Some of those States are mundane enough even at cycling speeds, you don't want to be reduced to walking through them.

I'm very pleased with the tyre choice. We could have used Continental Gator skins or such like , but that would have necessitated a tyre change and service halfway across. As previously mentioned I wanted to try to get the cycle all the way with no pit stops so opted for Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres. But narrow ones at 25cm. These tyres are heavier but I really wanted to minimise  the chance of the chick having to fix flats. We will see, but I know these tyres will do the distance. They may be heavier but she won't need to take a spare tyre and will need fewer spare tubes. ( Famous last words).
Tomorrow I'll put the final touches to it and then it has a couple of weeks to settle down before a final cable tighten and nut check. Then we'll have to partially disassemble it for the plane flight. I know that Vespa Chick can reassemble it as I've watched in awe as the disassembled bike has been slowly reassembled by her in the lounge with only the odd piece on backwards or not at all  :#

Thursday, 7 May 2015


The earth shock here a couple of days ago. Initially I stood frozen to the kitchen floor my chocolate spread sandwich clutched in my hand. A sharp creak from the ceiling beam had me heading for the door however and once outside I once again stood motionless waiting for the next shake , the one that would render all the recent work I'd done on the house pointless. It didn't come however so I headed back in to rescue my chocolate buttys from the house flies. Bolted to the coal range is the house earthquake monitor. Every home should have one and mine was reading force 1. Number one ball bearing had come out of its rocker indicating that I hadn't imagined the shake. I'd hate to be here if no. 3 , or more came adrift.

My tickets have arrived in the mail so come mid August I will be standing in Helsinki with just my Mercian for company and my trusty compass pointing me north towards the Arctic. I've checked Helsinki on Google maps and there looks to be a reasonable campground in town. I will be very jet lagged when I get there as the flight from New Zealand goes all over the place. I arrive at about 4 pm so will then have to assemble my bike and stagger towards the campsite. I'll stay a couple days in the capital until I feel human enough to head into the northern environs.

The east side of the old house is now under my scrutiny. A quick check revealed more wood borer Infested timber. About the only part of the front facia not infected seems to be the verandah.  So I removed the climbing vine from it and have repainted and attached a proper gutter to it. Getting enough gutter and spouting home to span the 11 Metre length could have been problematic had I not bought a bicycle canoe trailer last summer. The 3 Metre lengths proved no problem with this trailer and I'm guessing that when I start ripping out Infested weather boards I'll be able to bring them home from the timber yard in this way as well.

 After a full mornings work installing the gutter I was pretty pleased with the finished product. I thought I deserved a break so went off to tinker with my bike in the garage for the rest of the day. Just as dusk was falling I returned to the house to perform a working test on the new drainage now that the glue had all dried. After all an expert spouting installer like myself knows better than to pour water into a system that is still dying. Rain was forecast for later in the week so a test was deemed sensible. It was just a matter of pouring a bucket of water in the far end and watch it happily discharge down the downpipe. I poured it in and nothing happened..? So I poured another bucket in and still nothing. A third bucket showed me where the problem lied. Clearly back in 1879 the builders had constructed the house on an angle. There was only one thing for it. I had to reposition the outlet to the other end of the verandah... problem solved and the water poured out to perfection. Nineteenth century workmanship clearly not up to 'Niel the Wheel's' standard.

Autumn weather has been kind to us in Nelson. Just today we had fine weather and a temperature of 21C. Yesterday it was raining but at 95% humidity and 19C it was hardly cold. Winter will turn up sooner rather than later though so it was just as well that Murray the firewood man finally delivered the wood today. Stacking a truckload of wood into the shed takes the best part of a day but when it's done you  get a satisfied feeling knowing that you can sit next to a crackling fire when it's frosty outside.
 The gum takes so long to dry out though that it will probably be spring before it's ready. I could start burning the borer Infested weather boards until it's ready I suppose. Perhapes I should attempt to go through the winter without heating to prepare myself for a Scandinavia Autumn. N