Nordkapp – Preparing to Leave…

Things are getting near now to the start. Lancet (my bike) left KMB Towers on Thursday and was expected to take 4 business days to arrive in northern Norway. With Norway not being fully in the EU (it has its own odd arrangement), it means anything that I send over has to have a pile of paperwork attached as a customs declaration even though it is my own kit, bought and paid for, and for me to use. A whole lot of rigmarole that frankly, I could have done without!

When your pride and joy is being handled by strange courier fellows I must admit I do tend to hover over the tracking info to see where it is and any estimates or problems it is having…it has an ETA of Friday 3rd May! So much for 4-day delivery, that’s 6 business days! 8 proper days! Am I worried, a little! They do have until the end of Friday to deliver everything which would be a huge problem as I need to re-assemble everything and that would make for a huge fight to make it to the ferry to get up to Nordapp. It’s not impossible though, worst off I guess I could run down the street with it and assemble it on the ship (if I was allowed) but that’s something I really don’t want to occur. But this is a courier company, surely they will want to make business deliveries as soon as possible?! Fingers crossed anyhow so I get plenty of time to assemble everything and get a test ride in first. I have to admit, this is making me rather nervous but I do think everything will work out from all the information I’ve seen so far, so deep breaths and see what happens.

Communications have been part of the issue to arrange while I’m away. How much data am I going to need? 5GB? 10GB? Less? More? All my maps have been downloaded to my Bontrager Edge 1030 and a backup copy on my phone, and a printed copy just in case! So that’s not going to use anything. In the end, I went for a nice round 30GB so that I have a bit over 1GB a day. I can’t see me using anything close to that, but to upload pictures and keep the blog current it was probably a safe bet. I dropped into Carlisle EE shop this week and sorted out a data only international SIM which will go into the secondary SIM slot on my phone (it has two) which will give me a month of use for £32. Best to be safe on this!

To make things even more “interesting”, the airline I’m using to get from Manchester to Oslo, and then to Tromsø is having a pilots strike this weekend with few flights going anywhere! According to the news sites, this should all be sorted and things returned to normal for Monday-Tuesday. Fingers crossed this possible problem sorts itself out as well.

The roads around the start, which has by far the highest chance of snow and harsh conditions seem to be clearing now. Although there is a cold snap sending temperatures down to -5C a few days before I set off which could make the road conditions change. Tyre choice is already made so that can’t be changed now. It’s solely an issue of riding it no matter and making sure the clothing is right for the conditions.

I’m leaving my final clothing choice packing to the last moment of the final day. I have it set out though, all set depending on how the weather looks to be turning. Do I need to serious cold weather kit? the reasonably cold weather kit? the lightweight kit? So many choices and such limited space to take it all. That will be my final task on Wednesday before I fly out on Thursday as I’m taking this one pannier as my hand luggage…

Nordkapp – A 4000+km Ride Home

Starting on Saturday 4th May, Allan is going on his latest adventure. Setting off from Nordkapp, the North Cape, the furthest point north on mainland Europe he’ll be riding home back to Keswick, Cumbria via Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and returning home via Newcastle and the coast to coast route. I route totalling over 4000km he has until the end of May to do this (as he better be back at work for June!).

This ride is completely solo, not an event, not a race, just one lone rider with a bike and whatever kit he’s taking. No backup whatsoever! Just a lunatic on a bike taking in the sights and seeing what the world throws at him.

You might be wondering what bike he’s using for this escapade? He’s using the home-made, lugged Columbus steel classic tourer he made himself with the tutoring of classic frame maker Geoff Roberts (of Roberts Cycles, the makers of the Dogs Bolx classic mountain bike)…named Lancet of course! (it’s steel, you only use one, it lasts forever!) But as ever with Allan, this itself has a few tweaks including fully integrated Di2 cabling and hydraulics giving it a very modern twist. A good sprinkling of Hope bling including the ever popular Hope 20five wheels, along with a Raspberry Pi integrated inside the stem!

Medical Supplies

As you can see, forgot about lightweight touring here, Allan is going for every back and gadget under the sun and it all running off the sun via the solar panels attached to the racks. Again you are probably wondering why so much kit? Surely going nice and light with a few inframe bags would be easier?! Yes and no. To throw another spanner in the works Allan is also a type-one diabetic and has been for the last 40 years which brings with it a few medical issues which need to be dealt with, and thus a fair bit of extra supplies of equipment and also plenty of backup food supplies in case he can’t find any for the days out in the wilds. This also all ties into the Raspberry Pi mentioned above which he uses to communicate his blood sugar, insulin levels, carbohydrate intake to his phone and to the bikes Bontrager Garmin 1030 computer.

Allan will be using this trip to raise awareness of type-one diabetes and raising funds for a collection of charities which mean something to him. The JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) which aims to develop a cure and better technology to make life easier to manage, the Team Type-One Foundation which is a type-one diabetes advocacy through sports organisation, and T1 International which aims for a world where everyone with type-one diabetes has everything they need to survive and achieve their dreams. The links to each of these go to their donations pages, so it would be great if you could please support them, thank you.

The “plan” is he’ll be posting daily blogs on here, although with communication issues we can but see how that all pans out. We can but hope to get a running blog throughout the trip for you all to read and also have a live tracking map operational in the next few days so you can track his progress real-time through this site.

Lancet Loaded

The Beast from the East? 

 So, we are “suffering” a snow storm which the press has named the “Beast from the East”. I woke up this morning and looked out to see everything white and couldn’t even see across the street with how thick of the falling snow was. It looked great but the news was full about how it was causing schools to be closed and trains weren’t running….The country as at a standstill due to the weather, yet again! 

 Ready for anything!I have a opticians appointment though and me being me, my optician is a minor 52km away. For those of you who haven’t followed I don’t drive, at all. I once had a provisional license way back when but due to my wondrous twenties and my three times a week scrap ups by paramedics, I wasn’t ever going to be allowed behind a wheel. No loss though as while I’m more stable these days those days taught me that I don’t need a car, I have a far better form of transportation… A bike! 

 Bontrager MittsSoon suited up in my thermal layers, thermal snow boots and lobster mitts, along with a thermal balaclava. I’ve come to really like Bontrager kit for this stuff, I’ve used a lot of brands but the Bontrager kit is simply amazing. The balaclava for example just fits perfectly, no ridges under the helmet like I’ve found with Gore and Endura thermal caps and no bunching up like with Buffs with helmet straps, it just works and works very well. The boots, totally waterproof, incredibly warm and comfy. I can bang in 52km, walk around a city and ride home again and my tootsies were still nice and warm. The same with the mitts, brilliant if looking rather odd. Even on my phones touchscreen, they work brilliantly, far better than many thin gloves on touchscreens which are a huge surprise. Anyhow, this is sounding more like a product review which it isn’t intended to be. 

Bontrager Old Man Winter BootsThe ride was best described as “interesting”. It was like an old school turbo session with the resistance cranked up. Lancet got so much snow and ice caught under the mudguards that it was squeezing out like toothpaste from a broken tube. The resistance it gave though made for some slow and pressured progress. Lancet’s 37c rubber proved very adequate for the conditions and only slipped a little a couple of times (leaving cycle paths and once on a steep slope) but nothing a bit of repositioning of my weight couldn’t adjust for. She gripped as well on snow and icy tarmac as she flew on Ride London. I’m starting to think I won’t bother with narrow rubber ever again! 

Lancet enjoying the snowWith so much resistance with the ice and snow lodging into my mudguards and on the road. A headwind seemingly in both directions it made for a hard ride and my blood glucose showed as much. Even keeping my meter warm in my jackets chest pocket wasn’t helping it much as it kept having temperature warnings a couple of times. Throwing more and more fuel at me wasn’t helping either. 10km in I was down to 3.2 and keeping the fuel coming it just fluctuated from 2.8 to 3.4 for the entire ride out. The return trip started out at 7.4 but soon was down into the 2’s where it stayed. It was one of those where power output dropped massively and was more a spin my way home and keep the fuel going in.  

 Now four hours later, BG’s are hovering around normal levels and all that extra fuel simply went into the void caused by the “beast”. A touch day basically, but one of those random ones where weather and external conditions throw a spanner into the well-orchestrated mechanics you normally work from. Tomorrows another day! 

The Monday “Plan”

So Monday. I had a plan, a good lie in. Did that. A good breakfast did that. A bit of maintenance Monday to keep everything bike related nice and happy, done that. All nice and good… Well right up to I told the Garmin to take me to Brighton, it was spinning and spinning and eventually found Brighton Hill, ah close enough, so off I went. Slight snag, Brighton Hill isn’t anywhere near

Slight snag, Brighton Hill isn’t anywhere near Brighton and 18 miles in the wrong direction. By mid afternoon I was a tad ticked off with myself. The Garmin had a route to the ferry at 86 miles, Google had it at 48 miles. Like, come on, what’s going on?! Here began a massive learning experience if the differences. The Garmin didn’t really bother about cycle paths or bridleways, Google threw in any way possible. So this was 48 miles off road verses 86 on. With this load out I’m slow enough on the road so why not! Time to see if any of Lancet’s cyclocross design make up actually worked.
Today we did something resembling the Monster Miles, we had deep mud, gravel, flint, roots, slabs, steps, broken paths, but even fully loaded it actually became great fun throwing through corners and climbs. The background mountain bike elements came to the fore with the Hope Technology Ltd RX4’s and the incredible 20 Fives, with the razor saw sound effect of the Pro 4 hubs cutting up the trails. The XTR rear end and the awesome 10-42 cassette made easy work of everything. Makes me really want to see how she handles off road without these bags on and some proper CX tyres. Can’t wait to try some Sammy Slicks on and a bit of ragging it around Whinlatter. Anyhow, I was panicking, I’m seriously late, can’t stop, no more

Anyhow, I was panicking, I’m seriously late, can’t stop, no more sightseeing, need to get to a ferry… The good news is I did. Now sitting past security waiting to board. Next stop Dieppe then onto Paris!

Hills, Horses, and Garmin Gremlins.

Early morning ride to make up for yesterday. In the Keswick Bikes green jersey this morning, not quite the sprinters jersey but hoping that it will help make up plenty of time!

With the disastrous start yesterday I needed to make up some ground so set off at early hours on the back roads of Cheshire which felt very much like home which was a huge bonus. Even paid a quick visit to Jodrell Bank which is HUUUGE! I would say WOW but might get that’s probably really playing with words 😛 Sadly I couldn’t stay long to get a proper nose around as it was early hours, and I needed to get some miles in.

Eventually reached the town I was meant to stay in last night, Mow Cap. I’m pretty glad I didn’t get here last night as it would have killed me. A real swine of a climb right from home with a heart and lungs busting killer 25% summit. As some of the mHealth folks know I tend to have two modes with climbs, the grind and mutter, or the full on Jensie mode calling the hill every insult in the book! Will let you guess which this one was 😛 Total agony but at the top was an amazing tower ruin. On a clear day, the view is fantastic.

The descent gave my brakes a good workout with the load but still feel they could easily do far more. Starting zapping through towns and also taking a few pics of the various churches and old buildings. Reached Stoke in no time and a silly 6 lane A-road in the middle of town really wound up. So, in the end, thought sod it and took off down a cycle path which upset the Garmin no end. The path was great, right through the centre and I just kept on it. The Garmin kept attempting to correct me and go back to weaving though no end of back roads and traffic jams! Pfft to that!

Soon after the Garmin decides the route we are on is incorrect, so it attempts to divert me to Derby! OK, it might be fine to drop in and see my Aunt but not by adding an 80-mile diversion! So after losing a few miles to it besides figuring it out it was very annoying. Seems good old turning it off and on again fixed it though. Solution to all tech problems!

Passed the JCB factory, exactly at 12.30 as lines of cars, bikes, and everything exited the place filling the road. They had a huge toy sandpit, as in 6+ football pitch sized filled with people playing with all of JCB’s toy collection. Very impressive!

The day progressed along nicely. Found a nice lil Pinarello shop for a quick nosey. Later on, a group from it went flying past which I couldn’t stick with at all with me at my pedestrian pace. I did meet up with them down the road, and they have a shop ride out in middle of a Friday afternoon and the company van comes out to a pub they’ve ridden to and gives them the lift back to the shop. An interesting concept it seems.

Soon after met another group out, felt sorry for the poor guys at the back getting passed by someone with panniers on though. Was a bit of a shame the rest turned off as I was really looking forward to introducing them to the 10 cog on the next descent 😀

Eventually neared Nuneaton. Uttoxeter was great, very bike friendly to get through so was expecting similar. But sheesh no. Not even a handy pavement to hop on when trying to navigate the A5. The road has a 50 cap, not like anyone used it! Scared me witless and I had to get off the road almost instantly. Daft thing was I needed to get preferably 5 miles down it, but couldn’t see that happening without getting killed! Jam packed with traffic all going 70+. Terrifying! In the end though I had no option, it was the only way. Considered sitting or out till like 10pm and hope it got quiet. In the end found by dayglo’s, fitted my amazing Bontrager Flare RT to the rear, charged the radar, and dived into the maelstrom. Dove down the first exit road I could much too the annoyance of the Garmin but I didn’t care, I was off that road! Tomorrow wise I’m looking for another early start to get well away from the traffic chaos of Nuneaton and to give me plenty of time to deal with Milton Keynes and hopefully get a chance to visit Bletchley Park.

Tomorrow wise I’m looking for another early start to get well away from the traffic chaos of Nuneaton and to give me plenty of time to deal with Milton Keynes and hopefully get a chance to visit Bletchley Park.

A hard first day!

First off it took forever to escape the hospital. Yes, I had a “normal” checkup before leaving before the good ol’ handshakes and best wishes as this lunatic setoff. Think I wasted a good 90mins in the Hospital before getting going *sigh*.

Green Lane Garage, Garstang

Ten miles down the road in Garstang, my front rack failed… Not a happy bunny! But also all my own fault for not being thorough enough on checking every last nut and bolt. Thankfully not far off though was Green Lane Garage, and Chris there was an utter star and helped me out to get something together. Without him, I would of probably just got a taxi back to Lancaster and thought sod it all! I was really getting pretty downbeat by this time, and even more so when looking at the clock and I was two and half hours in and I had only done ten miles.

Eventually, I did get going and heading south and was soon in Preston and having no end of hassles both navigating the city and so many of places around it. It felt like being trapped in the backend of West Cumbria and unable to escape, but without the scenic areas to escape into. Scary! Also found it to be one of those places filled with bike hating jackasses who had no time for any other road user other than themselves in their metal boxes.

Escaping Preston and getting moving I was finding time slipping away badly and I was making very slow progress. In the end, I simply thought I had had enough for the day and needed to find a place to hide for the night and get rid of this day as soon as possible. I was about 13 miles away from my destination for the day from my initial plans but that could have been much worse. Tomorrow I hope to get an early start and if the roads keep like the ones here in Cheshire it should be pretty easy to get some decent miles in. Better luck tomorrow I hope!