Showing posts from March, 2018

Solo Adventuring — The Black Forest 400 #BlackForest400

I am frequently asked what inspires me to ride a bike. My answer is curiosity. Curiosity to see how far you can ride; how fast you can travel; how many new places, people and cultures you can see along the journey. Endurance cycling is an adventurous challenge, to both body and mind. At numerous points one will be shouting at the other to stop; but they rarely agree. It is a perpetual cycle of disagreement. The idea of the Black Forest 400 ride arose from curiosity. At Christmas, I drove for nine hours to reach this beautiful part of Germany. On the drive back, I got wondering… could I ride that? Non-stop? Self-supported? A challenge was born… 400 miles, with over 8,000 metres of elevation gain. My longest ride to date. Beginnings The ride starts from the historic town of Arras, in northern France. Arras was an important stronghold in both World Wars, and the scene of great battles (including the Battle of Arras in 1917). The long straight road out of town is lined wit

Review - Juice Lubes 'Scrub and Buff' Bike Cleaner, Frame Polish and Lubricant Bundle

The 'Scrub and Buff' Bundle from Juice Lubes contains their signature Dirt Juice Bike Cleaner, a concentrated Bike Cleaner refill, Juice Lubes Frame Juice polish, Juice Lubes Viking Chain Lube, and a Dirty Little Scrubber chain cleaner. I have been putting it all to the test... It's that time of year again, when the weather is doing its best to remove as much lubricant and grease from your bike as possible; replacing it with grit, road salt and mud. Bike cleaning is a weekly, if not daily task, but it is one task that becomes a lot more manageable with the right kit. The 'Scrub and Buff' kit from UK brand Juice Lubes contains the essentials for a quick clean and re-lube. The Dirt Juice Bike Cleaner will help to clean the frame and wheels, and the concentrated version works well for chain cleaning in the highly effective Dirty Little Scrubber - one of the better chain cleaner designs I have seen to date. After you have washed and dried the bike, the Juice L

Review - Vel Cycling Accessories Bundle

There are a few cycling accessories that I would classify as essentials: a pump, a saddlebag to house your spare tube, a water bottle and cage, and a mudguard (especially in winter). The Vel Accessories Bundle delivers all of those, in a high quality and colour-coordinated package. I took a Vel water bottle with me on my #7Countries7Passes tour last year, because it was a stylish large volume bottle, without any offensive branding (perfect for those 'Bike Against A Wall' shots). The bottle included in this accessories pack is similarly subtle, well made, and easy to clean thanks to its large opening. The bottle mounts up in a sturdy and smart composite bottle cage. This gloss black cage is lightweight, easy to use, and will securely hold most brands of bike bottle. Under the bottle cage you can mount the mini-pump. This is the highlight of this cycling accessories pack, in my opinion. The black anodised finish of the metal barrel of the pump signals the high build qual

Planning The Black Forest 400 - #BlackForest400

My previous distance record for a non-stop ride stands at 485 kilometres (300 miles): the distance of the Trafalgar Way ride from Falmouth to London, in 2014. The #BlackForest400 will be a new personal distance record, in new riding territory. The Route The route starts from the city of Arras in northern France, before heading east and south into Belgium, the Ardennes, Luxembourg, and through Strasbourg; before ramping up significantly to the finish in the Black Forest. A total of 644 kilometres (400 miles), with over 8,000 metres of elevation gain. You can watch the ride unfold on social media, with the hashtag #BlackForest400 The Bike The #BlackForest400 will be adventure into a new territory, but I have opted to do it aboard a familiar bike - the Neil Pryde Bura SL. The Neil Pryde was my bike of choice for many great adventures on the road last year, including the #5MaratonasChallenge and the St. Boniface Down Everesting . I have made a few modifications to th

Review - Cinq Smart Power Pack II

For long distance endurance cycling, battery power often becomes a concern. Not just your personal energy 'batteries', but also power supply for your GPS unit, phone, and other devices. The Cinq Smart Power Pack II is a cycling specific power bank solution. What makes this more suitable to cycling than other power banks on the market? Charging The Cinq Smart Power Pack has three adjustable charging stages: you can charge it at a very low input level, such as from a dynamo hub (using a USB adaptor like The Plug ) or solar panel; but you can also rapidly charge it with a standard USB charger through the micro-USB input. In addition to acting as a battery store, the unit can also act as a 'buffer' between a dynamo hub and a device. This means that it avoids the device you are charging constantly flicking in and out of charging mode at low dynamo speeds. This is particularly useful for power hungry devices, and Android devices that don't charge well at low po

Review - Thule Shield Saddlebag (Large)

Thule bags are always superbly made in my experience: from the Thule Crossover Carry-On Bag , to the Thule Shield Panniers . With that reputation of quality and durability in mind, I selected the new Thule Shield Saddlebag as my 'adventure bike saddlebag' of choice. The aero wedge shaped waterproof saddlebag is not an overly complicated or intricate design from Thule, but it is faultlessly made, and built to last. The bag attaches to the saddle rails and seat-post using strong Velcro straps, with reflective trims for added safety. The opening and closing mechanism on the bag is a simple roll-top design, which coupled with the strong welded waterproof nylon gives the bag an impressive IP54 waterproof rating. Unlike with many larger saddlebags, I have experience no swaying or thigh rub from the Thule Shield Saddlebag. It seems to attach firmly to the saddle rails, and keeps its contents safe and secure. The quick release buckles are strong and very good quality; and the

Recipe - Rude Health Super Seed Muesli Bread

Muesli bread... a convenient way of getting your oat boost! This bread-maker recipe is one of my favourites, and super easy to follow. Slow release carbs at their best. The seeds and coconut in the Rude Health Super Seed Muesli give the bread a great crunch, while the oats and spelt flour provide a lovely taste and soft fluffy texture. Enjoy straight from the machine, with some nut butter and honey. Ingredients 1 tsp Yeast 1 tsp Salt 2 tsp Sugar 25 grams Butter 75 grams Rude Health Super Seed Museli 150 grams Strong White Bread Flour 150 grams Rude Health Sprouted Spelt Flour 200 grams Wholemeal Flour 360ml Water Method Place all ingredients in the bread-maker tub, in the order listed above Place on the programme for a large size normal wholemeal loaf (not rapid cook) Wait (normally 5 hours). Smell the beautiful fresh bread cooking. Enjoy.

Review - Velopac RidePac Cycling Wallet

I have got a bit of a thing for wallets. The RidePac and RidePac Lite from UK brand Velopac are two of my favourite new additions to my 'Every Ride Carry' . Those who know me will know that my Bellroy Phone Pocket is in my hand for a significant portion of the day. It houses my phone, cash, and cards; essentials for my every day life. The only downfall of the Bellroy, is that over time the leather begins to suffer with constant subjection to sweat and rear wheel spray, when it is housed in your jersey pocket. It is also an expensive piece of kit to watch deteriorate. The RidePac from Velopac provides an alternative, at a very competitive price. For £20 for the RidePac Lite, or £32 for the RidePac original, this is a relatively low cost investment for the protection it provides to your phone and valuables. Yes, you could use a plastic freezer bag, and it would also protect your phone from your sweaty lower back; but, it won't last very long, and it will look distinc

Recipe - High Protein Banana Bread

This low-fat, high-protein banana bread recipe is an adapted version of a childhood favourite. It has all the sweetness and flavour of your traditional banana bread; but also delivers added vitamins, fibre, and protein, to help kick-start your recovery. Ingredients 6 scoops - MultiPower 100% Pure Whey Protein powder 3 ripe bananas 3 free-range eggs 1 ½ cup water 1 cup ground almonds 1 cup plump sultanas and/or chopped dates ½ cup milled flaxseed ½ cup  Rude Health  Smoothie Oats ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional) 4 tsp runny honey 2 tsp coconut oil - melted   1 tsp ground ginger 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp baking powder Method Pre-heat the oven to 160°C Line a loaf tin with baking parchment Mash the bananas and whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the water, honey and melted coconut oil, and ensure the mixture is well combined Add the protein powder, almonds, sultanas, flaxseed, oats, ginger, cinnamon and baking powder Stir the mixture together with a s

Weekend Watch - Cicerone

In September 2016, Walter Beckers and Kendal Noctor travelled to mainland Europe to ride up mountains. Armed with routes and spiritual guidance from Phil Deeker, founder of Rapha's Cent Cols Challenge, they set off on a ten day journey to amass thousands of metres of elevation, testing their bodies and minds to breaking point. I have ridden with Kendal on several occasions on the Isle of Wight. He grew up in a nearby village, and has the same passion and love for challenging riding as I do. This short film captures that passion perfectly.

Review - Arkel Rollpacker Bikepacking Seat Pack

New bikepacking seat packs are hitting the market place every minute, but the Arkel Rollpacker 15 seat pack takes design and function to the next level. This could well be the best designed bikepacking seat pack to date. Last year, I reviewed the Arkel Seatpacker 9 bikepacking seat pack , and praised it for its compact frame that adds significant stability to the design, making it perfect for off-road riding and rough-stuff touring. The Arkel Rollpacker 15 adopts a similar lightweight metal frame design, but it has a fundamentally different luggage set-up. Bucking the trend of having the seat pack dry bag pointing inline with the bike, the Rollpacker sits it perpendicular to the bike's centreline. This has a number of advantages: first, it moves the weight closer to the bottom bracket, rather than having it sticking out over the rear wheel; second, it almost eliminates the annoying swaying of most seat packs; third, it allows for a larger load to be carried, because there is