“As you get older three things happen. The first is your memory goes and I can’t remember the other two…” Norman Wisdom
I’ve only one more full day to prepare before traveling to Spain. That’s because I’m going over to meet my companion for the drive to Barcelona, Paul Whytock, first thing on Thursday morning. Paul’s been a friend for nearly 30 years and we’ve made trips to continental Europe together. We’re going to take the bike through the Channel Tunnel in my 10 year-old Mercedes estate and drive to Barcelona, hoping to arrive on Saturday morning. All being well, we’ll then meet Paul’s wife and daughter at Barcelona airport because they’re coming over to join him for a weekend in the city before they all drive back. I will be setting out on my own on Sunday morning.
I recently read about super lightweight touring in CTC magazine. Igor Kovse rode the 100 Cols Tour, a 4,000km jaunt, with just 3kg of luggage in a compression bag tied to his saddle and saddle post.
|A 2006 Himalayas photo from Igor Kovse’s web site: he’s a big fan of really lightweight touring|
The idea of lightweight touring really appeals, but the convenience of a clip-on handlebar bag with a map pocket on top and a clip-on seat post bag won the day. One recommendation of Igor’s that I will follow is to make up some typed directions (when I find time), rather than relying upon map reading whilst pedaling. Unlike Igor, I will be taking maps , or at least sections of maps, as a back up. Also unlike Igor, I won’t be wearing Crocks to save weight.
On the subject of cycling apparel, I’ve done the lycra thing but in the past few months have developed a real taste for Rapha clothes (most of them – see below) and Dromarti Storica classic-look leather cycling shoes. Three-quarter length trousers, colourful knee-length socks, and some touring shorts in case it gets a bit warm, will be the order of the day. I’ve got knee warmers for the early mornings and a cap to wear under my helmet in the beating sun. A classic style for a classic bike – even if it does get strange looks from the boy-racer cycling brigade. One word of advice. Don’t buy the Rapha padded merino wool boxers to wear under your cycling trousers. Not only are they very expensive at £40 a pair (and I was dumb enough to order two pairs) but the designer decided that it would be a good idea to have exposed stitching on the inside of the pants where the pad is fixed into place. The rough edge acts as a very effective file on the inside of your thighs and, at least in my case, rubbed them raw after 20 miles!
I’m a great believer in helmets and, after a nasty fall two years ago when a jogger decided that it must be safe to run across the road because he couldn’t hear anything. He heard me using my nose and forehead as brakes on the tarmac a few seconds later, and then a rather loud crunch as the back of my head contacted the kerb on the other side of the road. Fortunately, my very good friend Richard Stanton, another cycling nut and a doctor, was 50 yards behind and witnessed the whole thing. When I say he’s a doctor, he’s actually a consultant psychiatrist so, after checking my physical injuries, helped me manage my anger when I later regained consciousness. Anyway, we are both convinced that without the helmet, even in a 15 mph collision, I would have been very much worse off. If I was still here at all.
Less than five days to go before the real journey begins. The Mercedes failed its MOT last week on brakes. On a test ride two days ago, one of the brake levers fell off the Thanet, there was a regular squeak from the bottom bracket and a loud clunk for each revolution of the cranks. The clunk turned out to be a loose cottered crank.
This is going to be fun, isn’t it?