Planning The #RoadsFromRome Tour

The Via Francigena is an ancient pilgrim route running from Canterbury to the Vatican, on gravel paths and minor roads. It traverses Europe, and takes in some of the most spectacular landscapes en-route. This historic path is the inspiration for my latest bikepacking adventure… the #RoadsFromRome tour.

The Route Rather than start from Canterbury, I have opted to make this a 'Long Way Home' ride: flying out to Rome, and then riding back across Europe. It makes more sense logistically, and is also an opportunity to see some familiar roads from the #7Countries7Passes, but from the opposite direction.

Starting from Rome, I will ride out on the newly signposted EuroVelo5 route, which traces the Via Francigena. The gravel roads soon turn into Strade Bianche, as the path heads into Tuscany and through the historic cities of Sienna and Luca. This is a region of Italy that I have been longing to explore after riding the Strade Bianche Grand Fondo last year.

From Tuscany, the EV5 con…

Review - GUP Emergency Quick-Fix Bicycle Tyre Sealant Inflator

GULP! That is the usual feeling when mid-race you look at your rear tyre and confirm the squidgy feeling... you've punctured. GUP (actually spelt GÜP) is a quick-fix sealant solution to get you back riding, fast. It is usable for tubes, tubeless, or tubular tyres.

This is one product that you hope you will never need to use in earnest, and luckily to date I haven't had to trial it in a 'race' or 'ride' situation. However, to test its performance I did deploy a can of GÜP to fix a flat on a wheelbarrow, and another to simply inflate a tubeless MTB tyre whose sealant had dried up...

Application is easy...
Rest the bike against a wall or tree, and position the valve of the punctured wheel at the 12 o'clock positionUnscrew the Presta valve about 3/4 of the way out (not the valve core, just the valve closing mechanism). Note: GUP also works with Schrader valvesPlace the can over the valve. DO NOT push can all the way up against the rimWith one hand, push can up …

Review - Pro Bike Tool Pumps and Inflators

A good quality bike pump of CO2 inflator is a lifeline; you carry it with you every ride, but hope that you don't need it. When you do require its deployment though, you had better hope it works; otherwise it is often a long walk home. These options from Pro Bike Tool are some of the best I've used.

The range on review here is the Pro Bike Tool Mini Floor Bike Pump, the Pro Bike Tool Mini Bike Pump, and the Pro Bike Tool CO2 Inflator With Canister Storage.

Pro Bike Tool Mini Floor Bike Pump Pumping up big tyres when you are away travelling can seem like a never-ending workout; the volume of air required means you are looking at hundreds of pumps with a small hand pump. The solution is a mini floor pump, like this example from Pro Bike Tool.

The Mini Floor Pump is made from high quality stainless steel, and features a good sized barrel; flip down foot stand, and good length hose. The larger size and stability of the pump compared to a hand pump makes it a lot easier and quicke…

Recipe - Hazelnut Hot Chocolate (Dairy Free)

Lactose intolerance is common in my family, and there are many cyclists that actively avoid dairy products. Personally I drink a lot of milk, but enjoy experimenting with dairy-free alternatives too. This Hazelnut Hot Chocolate is a warming super-food treat.

Ingredients350 ml Rude Health Hazlenut Drink2 tsp Nature Creative Raw Cacao Powder1 tsp Honey or Agave Syrup(Top with whipped cream if you wish)
MethodGently heat the Hazelnut Drink in a milk pan, being careful not to boilOnce steaming, pour around 50 ml into a tall glass, and add the Raw Cacao Powder and honeyStir the mixture well, until there are no lumpsAdd the rest of the hot Hazlenut Drink, and keep stirringServe immediately, with a squirt of whipped cream and a dusting of cacao powder for decoration

Racing The TorTour Summer Cyclocross Stage Race

Three days. Three stages. Three chances to explore the gravel roads in the beautiful Lucerne region of Switzerland. The TorTour Cyclocross Stage Race provides a lung bursting, leg busting challenge.

The concept of the TorTour Cyclocross event is familiar to me; I rode the winter edition in 2017 in the Schaffhausen region just south of Zürich. That event featured snow, sub-zero temperatures, and a plethora of winter kit. This premiere edition of the Summer Cyclocross is in the foothills of the Alps, and delivers a contrasting mix of dust, grit, 'shark-tooth' climbs, and summertime temperatures.

The Prologue The three-day event starts with a 20-kilometre prologue on the Friday evening. A chance to test the legs, or rather give them their first beating of the weekend.

Short course racing has never been my forte, and my aim for this first stage was simply to stay safe and minimise time loses ahead of the longer stages.

From the moment the start gun sounds it is a blur. Dust flie…

Review - Kask Valegro Cycling Helmet

Kask make some of the best bicycle helmets in the world, for some of the best riders in the world; look no further than Team Sky, Wiggle High5, or Jeremy Powers. The Valegro helmet is their latest release, and pushes boundaries in terms of comfort, performance, and Italian style.

The Valegro was developed with input from Team Sky Pro Cycling, and is designed to provide the best comfort and ventilation when cycling in hot conditions, and particularly when climbing mountains at lower speeds.

The shape of the helmet was crafted in the wind-tunnel, but rather than the sole focus being on aerodynamics there was also a consideration of how the airflow was working to cool the head of the rider; looking at creating effective through-flow that encourages cooling and is aerodynamically efficient.

To facilitate "thermo-cooling" Kask have placed 37 ventilation holes on the Valegro helmet, which is more than on their previous models. These vents whip air through the helmet at speed: red…

Review - Restrap Saddle Pack Bikepacking Saddlebag

When Restrap launched their new Saddle Pack it was to test the possibility of designing and producing a product in the space of 24 hours. The key lay in simplicity, tried and tested fabrics, and a great knowledge of bikepacking and bicycle touring.

The Restrap Saddlepack is larger than most. It is designed to hold a lot more than just a spare tube and tools; but rather to have the capacity to hold clothing and supplies that might be required for an audax or long distance ride. It has a 4-litre volume, which is about four times that of most saddlebags. It places it somewhere in between a seat pack (like the Restrap 14 litre Bikepacking Seat Pack), and a small saddle caddy like the Lezyne Large Caddy Saddlebag.

The size is perfect for gravel adventures. It is big enough for two 29er tubes, tools and spares, and a jacket and emergency food supplies; the kind of things that become essentials on the road less travelled.

The pack mounts up without any tools or fiddly buckles. There is a s…