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.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Back To Your Maker.

I've decided to send my first Mercian frame back to its maker. Earlier this year I discovered what looked like a Crack in the top of the down tube so had to disassemble the bike and start using my standby Mercian frame. I put the whole idea of replacement on the back burner thinking that I would sort it out once I had completed my tour of Scandinavia this year. But pondering on cycle related things in a moment of quiet at the bike shop recently I thought I'd get the whole thing in the pipeline before I go. I don't like not having a spare frame. I mean what would I do if for some unexplained reason my Mercian 2 was to spit the dummy early next year while I was planning my TransAm attempt ?

When I get back from Scandi it will be spring here and hopefully I will be concentrating on summer Audax and then training for the ride across the US. My repaired frame will turn up from the UK and all I'll have to worry about is how to pay for it. I'm hoping that I can send it to Mercian in the UK via normal parcel post. It will be no cheaper but it will be a lot less complex than using some freight forwarding company. As tempted as I am to have them repaint it in an exciting new colour,  I think I will replicate the pearl white of Mercian 2 but with different  coloured transfers. The reason being that all the parts will swap across without any nasty clashes and I also won't need to replace my cycling wardrobe either. It would be bad form to be wearing non matching kit.

Before the frame gets sent off I had the low rider lugs brazed onto the front forks by Andy my cycle engineer . (Every serious cyclist needs an Andy Engineer).  My current preferred option of light weight cycle touring, and the way I intend to do the TransAm will be using a pair of fork bags and a large saddle bag. In the next few weeks I will be testing whether I can get everything into this format as I pack for Finland.
It's only a few weeks until I catch the plane to Helsinki and the time will go quickly arranging last minute things around here , attending to jobs that Adi can't do around the house such as clearing gutters , sweeping the chimney and making kindling for the fire. It's time again to go into battle against motorists of another culture. I've annoyed the local car lovers enough around here lately. Just the other day I pulled up at the local supermarket bike racks to be confronted with the usual gaggle of market trolleys discarded by lazy motorists who couldn't face the effort involved in replacing them in the trolley bay.The cycle parking area being a more convenient place for them to dump them. Being a somewhat cycling activist and hater of lazy car drivers I took the opportunity to redistribute the shopping carts to empty car parks around and about the mall. Well ! The fury that this evoked in one fat family sitting in their car was beyond the pale! You would have thought that I had banned them from ever consuming another plate of greasy chips in their lives or made them go out and walk the dog each day. They were too lazy to get out of their car and confront me but the language ! It would have made a sensitive God fairing man blush. I just covered Adi's ears and smiled to myself. You are always sure to get a swift and over the top response in life if you challenge the status of the mighty automobile,  the right to reproduce ones -self multiple times, or apparently the connection between the overly inflated Auckland property market and the Chinese.

Talking of kids , and the need to make less of them. I was minding my own business while cycling along the cycle way between Richmond and Brightwater the other day and having successfully dodged numerous dogs , owners of dogs and toddlers I came up behind a 'Mother' ( careful, sacred) riding with her adolescent daughter who were both riding on the wrong side of the path. I tell a slight lie here. The Mother was cycling on the wrong side but the daughter behind was cycling in front of me on one side and then the other. Clearly confused as to which was preferable because her Mother had never taken the time to instruct her.
When the daughter seemed to have settled on her proffered side I started to overtake on the other from behind. Well, you guessed it . No sooner was I along side the said adolescent did she then choose to change sides again and ride into me. Luckily I was under power and she hit me in the rear part of my bike. By powering on I was confident that she would hit the deck and I would be spared.  My luck however ran out when upon crashing she threw her full not unsubstantial weight onto the rear of my bike. We both went hard left off the cycle way and down a bank towards the creek below. !!!!!!!
I could have been angry about all this if it wasn't for the fact that I only went part way down the bank and was comparatively unscathed. Whereas adolescent dragged her muddy body up from the creek bed and then had to reassemble her bike all the while looking pouty.
Riding away feeling happy that I had done my bit to help educate the young in cycle way etiquette I only had left to negotiate an apologetic Mother and then a minute or two later their wayward dog.

Vespa Chick is back now. But in case you were concerned that she may have got back early and caught me out before my last order could arrive, all's well , it bet her home.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Still Home Alone,

It's early winter now. The temperature has dropped and I'm on my own rattling around the house with a couple of attention seeking cats that require constant pats and pick ups. Thank you Adi for that. I have however managed to re educate them on what they like in the way of cat food from the supermarket.  They now know that they must like anything, as what comes home in the bike trailer is 14 cans of whatever my hand grabs first. They have also found themselves locked in once the clock strikes midnight. When I am in bed I have decided, I will not tolerate cats coming in with mice and or dirty feet, only to then jump up onto the duvet and then unload nature's bounty.

Adi has been riding 200 km days on the TransAm cycle race. That has been an awesome achievement day after day while carrying a load. But it hasn't been without a cost. She has been suffering saddle sores and other physical problems recently and yesterday decided that enough was enough and pulled out of the event. There were only two women game enough to compete this year and both pulled out on the same day. A real shame considering all the effort and expense involved in getting to the start line. I can't help but think that if they had ridden together from the start that they both would have lasted longer. But then I'm a real loner on the bike myself so don't know what makes me think that.
Adi's attempt has however galvanised my feelings on the TransAm.  Initially I wasn't interested in entering it because I'm not that competitively minded and also felt that I had seen enough of the US recently. But once she had left NZ  and was meeting and greeting the other contestants, I realised that I was quite envious of her ,and I also wondered how quickly I could travel across the continent.
So next year I have decided to enter myself. And unusually for me I want to see how quickly I can go.
This decision has also made the dilemma of my Scandinavian trip easier. I was wondering how I was going to get all my gear and bike to Helsinki without paying excess luggage chargers.? Well the answer to me is now clear. I will use my Scandi trip as early training for next year's TransAm and will go as lightly as possible.  I will use my horrible one man tent and leave behind the rear carrier and pannier bags. Everything will have to fit in two low rider bags on the front and a saddle bag behind. Gone is any idea of taking ski pants , balaclava etc.
I'm not totally stupid though. I know that northern Norway will be cold. So I will take thermal gear. But only light compact stuff. And i do want to take a cooker and mug to Scandi because I'll have plenty of time to faff around with it . Prices for everything are high in Norway too so I'll need to cook. I won't however take this stuff on the TransAm.
In a week or two I'll try to get everything in the three bags. I have made a start.

Adi will be back home in a week so I think I might have just enough time for a last on line order. I can't have goodies arriving once she gets back. In the next 4 days I will have to start to get the place ship shape again.  Bike stuff will have to be cleared off the dining room table. Discarded sweetie packets will need to be burnt, recycling will need to go out. My friends tell me a little disorder may be good so that she can say "I see you have had trouble coping without me".

Maybe If I Blow on it It Will Dry Quicker?

While Adi has been gone I have taken the opportunity to acclimatize myself for northern Europe.  Although it has been pretty cold outside in the evenings I haven't bothered lighting the wood burner.  Although a might nippy when I get up in the morning I have found that not only is this good for saving on firewood it has the added advantage of encouraging all the unwanted house insects out of hiding to be sucked up by the vacuum cleaner or to just make a break for the comparative warmth outside.
A cold house does create other problems though. The semi soft butter needs to be pre heated before you can spread it on your bread and I tend to stay longer under a hot shower. And when not in the shower I tend to spend more time outside working on the property , sitting on the deck, or out cycling.
These Things Are Sent to Test You.

While out on one of these so called warm up rides last week I discovered that I had broken my second left hand crank in less than six months. I felt this one coming so managed to sit back down on the saddle and negate any chance of my balls meeting the top tube at warp speed. And since I was only 15 to 20 kms from home I also managed to keep the bike in one piece until I got there by soft pedaling on the left hand side. So now I have no spare left hand campagnolo cranks left. This is an intolerable situation which cannot be left to endure for any great time. So I will have to scour the second hand sites for a spare crank or two,

Vespa Chick has got me a little gift from the US. I reckon it's something from the Adventure Cycling Headquarters in Missoula. ?

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

Monday, 20 April 2015

More Borer!

I feel that I am back on track again concentrating on what I enjoy most. And that would be long distance cycling In new environs. I spent last week chatting to my travel agent Di about changing my flights this year from Paris to Helsinki. I have definitely decided to not ride the Paris-Brest- Paris In favour of my cycle tour of Scandinavia. If I fly Into Helsinki In southern Finland and head north I may just get to North Cape , Norway without getting my arse frozen too much.

I'm still waiting for her to confirm my tickets , but It looks like It will happen. Not doing the PBP also means that the pressure Is off for trying to stay fit through the next 3 to 4 months of winter here In NZ. I'll continue to try to cover 200 to 300 kms on my bike a week but wont get too distressed If Its not achieved. The weekly riding will be more about keeping the winter flab at bay than trying to remain cycle fit. Once I get to Finland and start cycle touring north I'll get fit enough quickly.

I'm finding motivation for cycling this autumn easier with Adi training for the Across America event. She leaves In 6 weeks and If I can mirror her weekly averages until she goes that will keep me fit until winter. Then I'll just grovel through as best as I can until I go.
I took a couple of fine days last week to paint the north facing verandah. It was looking a bit untidy from frequent chicken poops and bicycle grease splatters. Its now looking clean and sparkly white. Future bird poo may be less visible but the grease from cycle cleaning may become more of a problem. I may have to repaint It a shade of brown. Anyway Its done for now and I can  move on to the borer Infested front of the villa.

Clearing vine from the front verandah has helped to show what I'm In for. Lets just say that I'm glad I bought a canoe trailer last summer because I think It will be hauling new weather boards during the winter to replace the bug Infested ones on the house. I'm not quite sure at this stage how to get some of those cover boards off.

O good , a distraction. My new retro cycle gloves have arrived.....