RAQ would be more appropriate: Rarely as opposed to Frequently Asked Questions. Usually asked once, but it would be rude not to respond!
Where were the photographs on the scrolling headers taken?
The landscape/seascape shots were taken by me in the summer of 2011 in the Small Isles. They’re of the Sgurr of Eigg from Galmisdale, St Edward’s Church on Sanday, Canna, and Ladhar Bheinn and the Knoydart Hills just after dawn from Loch Scresort on Rum. You can work out which is which! The one of me on the bike was taken on Billsmoor in Northumberland by an event photographer on the 2010 Cyclone Challenge; 104 miles in a day. Then there’s a bleak moorland road stretching to infinity; Muggleswick Common in the North Pennines; and a bunch of cyclists that doesn’t include me but does include Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish near our village on the 2012 Tour of Britain. Most of the remaining pictures were taken on the ride in 2012 & 2013 – too numerous to list them all, but you may recognise some places, and some are also used in the body of the text with appropriate captions. Many other shots are on training rides in Northern England, plus one of bike parts in my workshop heralding 2013’s long-awaited upgrade, and a non-biking photo of me approaching the summit of Liathach in Torridon, when the sun finally came out a fortnight after the ride ended. And how! The paintings, above, were spotted during a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice in April 2013.
As the years have passed and many more photographs have been added to the blog, all sorts of connected and loosely connected images have appeared on the header; many more landscapes and skyscapes, including a tilt-shift experiment; random photographs from rides all over the place, even a shot from a Steely Dan gig at the O2 in 2017. The qualifying factor is always that the image will look pleasing when it’s cropped to the shape of a letterbox aperture. The vast majority are still taken from the bike, the few exceptions being there just because they’re something I saw and liked.
Has anyone done this before?
Well, as I say on the home page, yes and no. No-one’s done precisely what I’m doing, but plenty of people have done or are in the process of doing much more ambitious and committing things which make mine look like a stroll; here are a few examples;
And here’s an intriguing project;
In July 2013 cyclists from Galloway Mountain Rescue Team rode to the four corners of Scotland.
In August 2013 a Belgian bloke did this. Not a Scottish jape, but pretty much the same distance as mine. Just a little bit quicker.
And how about this for complete lunacy? Amazing.
And in 2015, an attempt to beat a 76-year-old record. Heroic to the point of near-incomprehensibility; 80,000 miles in a year!
And in September 2016 I came across a superb site. A few similarities to this one, but much more wide-ranging in its outdoor scope. Well written, thoughtful and absorbing; https://wildaboutscotland.com
And for long-distance cycling addicts;
What gear are you using for the ride?
This answer is for geeks only; surprising how many are out there, and yes, I guess I’m becoming one too 🙂
All travelling kit had to fit into a 6-litre capacity seatpost pack. It did, but the following list was tweaked a little as the ride progressed – see below:
- Spare cycling top – long sleeve wicking. Doubles as second layer for cold weather.
- Evening flip-flops; can’t walk far in cleated road shoes
- Shorts (non-cycling)
- Spare undies x1
- Mini toothbrush /small paste tube
- Razor head (no handle!)
- Space blanket
- Headtorch /rear light
- Phone charger
- Spare folding tyre
- Spare inners x 2/Puncture kit/Mini pressure gauge.
- Multi-tool/Swiss Army knife/Tyre lever(s)/LX tape/Spare seat clamp/Spare wheel magnet/Spoke key/Spare spokes/Chain repair link.
- Isotonic drink, vitamin & cod liver oil tablets/Savlon/Sunscreen/Elastoplast/Antihistamine
- Specs /Sunglasses.
- Road shoe cleat covers/ Spare cleat
- Cards, cash , accommodation details & reservations, train tickets
- Spare brake & gear cables
- Spare AAA & CR2032 batteries
- Cable ties/Elastic bands/Small sealable poly bags
- Waterproof cover for seatpack
- Mosquito headnet, for those relaxing evenings…..
Exterior; Waterproof jacket/Mobile phone-camera/Bike lock/Pump/750cl drink bottles x2/Bike computer.
Plus daily kit; Lycra shorts, top, shoes, socks, helmet, gloves, undies; all x 1. Wash out clothes daily.
Pre-ride health check to include; Wheel true/Chainring check/Brake & gear cable checks/Brakeblock replace/Steering check .
Post-ride summary, June 2012; Well, the above is precisely what I did take, minus the minitowel, for which there just wasn’t quite enough room. Added clear cycling glasses at the last minute, which proved a lot more useful than the sunglasses. The sunscreen, of course, remained unopened. Despite the incredulity of detractors, this inventory was perfectly adequate for a lengthy trip, and a whole lot better than being weighed down by cumbersome panniers. The trip photos show the minimal size of the load; it made a small difference to the bike’s stability and to my performance, but was perfectly manageable, and the heavier tyres fitted for the trip did the job – see below.
And for 2013;
Just a few tiny changes; added a spare pair of brake-blocks, a small bag on the downtube for easier access to assorted spectacles (!), a sweatband and a propelling pencil. Replaced the headtorch with a mini front lamp and dispensed with the portable pressure-gauge; my guesswork is pretty accurate, and I’ll probably be able to blag the use of a track pump from time to time, as last year. Pre-ride service included drivetrain replacement as below; nice!
Post-ride summary, May 2013; Perfect! Anticipating almost no darkness for Part 3 over the solstice in June, I’ll be adding one of those sleeping masks they give you on long-haul flights. 🙂
And the rest;
Frame; 66.5cm (I’m 6’5″) Columbus aluminium; teardrop, triangular & round section, custom built for me in late 2001 by Richard Kent at Arthur Caygill in Richmond, North Yorkshire. TIG welded. Still going strong after over eleven years’ hard use. http://www.arthurcaygillcycles.co.uk/
Forks; Straight CrMo steel.
Drivetrain; Campagnolo; Mirage Triple 32-42-52 to Daytona long cage/Veloce 9-speed 13-28. Look Keo pedals/Mavic Avenir shoes. Brakes Veloce.
Drivetrain (2013); My original Campagnolo Veloce shifters, now nearly 12 years old, finally gave up in February. Astonishing longevity; they certainly don’t owe me anything. Found some compatible Campagnolo Xenon on the internet, and ace technician Rich Bickley at Arragon’s (see below) fitted them and, unbidden, installed a new threaded headset when he saw the state of the old one. Wise move! That, too, was an original fitting, and despite my having dismantled, serviced and re-assembled it last year, it was knackered. Again, astonishing longevity. Needless to say, it feels like I’m riding a different bike.
Some time ago I found two Mirage triples 30-42-52 in an online bargain bin, and have a new chain and Veloce 9-speed 13-26 cassette in the workshop, to be fitted a couple of weeks before the ride recommences. Will continue to wear down the existing drivetrain for now.
And I continue to use my original Veloce brake calipers from 2001. I think they’ll last forever.
Wheels (2012); 36H Mavic Open Pro on Miche Primato hubs*; Hope skewers. Custom built by Arragons of Penrith, Cumbria, in 2011. Helpful, friendly & knowledgeable folk. Recommended. http://arragons.com/
Wheels (2013); Exactly as above, built by the same fine team, but with Hope Pro 3 hubs back and front, and an identical spare set rebuilt from the original Mavic rims. See below.
* Post-ride, the hub was removed and returned to the distributor by the wheelbuilder as a warranty issue (see Blog page, above). I stress that there’s absolutely no fault on the builders’ part – they’ve been really helpful and share my annoyance. I’m awaiting – and expecting – a free replacement, and will make a fuss if I don’t get one. Will think twice about using Miche again, despite their reputation for reasonable quality and value for money (not entirely warranted, obviously). Giving serious consideration to switching to UK-manufactured Hope components or, if I can find the right deal, possibly refitting Campagnolo; both options more expensive, but you get what you pay for. Hope manufactures in NW England, not too far from where I live, and spares are easy to come by – not always the case with high-end Italian stuff, in my experience. Ideally I’d fit Chris King Classic hubs from Portland, Oregon, but you could buy a half-decent bike for what they would cost!
**Post-post-ride the hub was replaced, and the new one failed within a fortnight (see Blog). The distributors have now agreed to a complete refund, and I’m riding Hope hubs. Hope they fare better! Ironically, I’ve been in Portland since all this happened, but even at the source King hubs are prohibitively expensive.
July 2013: Hubs performed faultlessly throughout. Big thanks to the folks in Barnoldswick, Lancashire – Hope HQ. I can certainly recommend your products over those of at least one of your rivals!
Saddle; New for 2013, a Brooks Swift – a lovely piece of craftsmanship. Never ridden a Brooks before, but so far so good. Need to give it the customary 500 miles to break in the leather, indent the sit-bones, master tensioning the frame etc, then I’ll know if it really will last me a lifetime, which is what it’s supposed to do.
Postscript, early April 2013. Well past the 500 mile mark now, and it’s looking good. I’ll reserve judgement ’til I’m past 1000, but what seems to have happened is that the saddle has moulded well, as the literature said it would; on long rides it feels pretty much the same at the end as it did at the beginning.
Post-postscript, July 2013: Just about the best cycling investment I’ve ever made. 705 miles on the third and final stage of the circuit, not the slightest bit of discomfort, chafing or soreness, and no need to apply any sort of unguent to the nether regions. I’m a total Brooks convert. Very interesting to look at the shape of the saddle now; I’ve kept it proofed and tensioned, but it’s definitely true what they say – no point nicking a used Brooks saddle; it’ll never fit you 🙂
Tyres; Schwalbe Ultremo ZX 700×23. May change; had a few snakebite punctures of late, and my bike guru told me I may need to swap to 700×25. Running tyres at 105psi, and I’m definitely not putting on weight, so these flats may just be anomalies. Update, May 2012: No more mystery snakebites, but prudence prevails; continuing to train on the Schwalbes, but will be doing the ride on Continental Grand Prix 4000S 700×25 tyres. (And I did, and they were great; no punctures and minimal day-to-day loss of pressure running at 110psi). July 2013 postscript; 1775 miles and no punctures. Brilliant. Schwalbe inners up to the job, too.
Tyres (2013); Back on with Continental 25mm. If it ain’t broke.
Total weight; (bike less luggage). Around 11kg/24lbs.