Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Maintaining the blog on tour

I'd like to write this blog as I travel. This is convenient and adds freshness to the quality of the writing. I see from the Hostelling International site that most hostels have internet connectivity. I'm not sure whether that means that they provide wireless access or whether they have desktops for use by visitors (as the refuges along the Camino di Santiago do). I could bring along a netbook and write up the blog as I go and upload photos taken with my camera. However, taking another (expensive) item takes up space in the backpack and needs special attention to its security. I'm not sure I can be troubled with it. Perhaps it would be best to keep a paper journal and update the blog when I can, e.g. at internet cafes. There's also something to be said for limiting access to the internet - not least because work can sneak up on you when you are least expecting it and eat into your so-called holiday. No - best to forget regular internet connection and call on it it only when the blog needs to be updated.

Paper journal
After some reflection, I've elected after all to keep a paper journal. This low-tech approach is comfortable and requires next to no maintenance. I'll buy myself a nice Pilot pen (with wet ink) and, together with a slim digital camera, that should be sufficient for the trip. When writing up the blog I can refer to the paper journal to remind me of events I want to post.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Selecting a minimal kit list

Bought myself a touring helmet - a hi-vis Nolan N43 Air. This has good reviews and appears to be well suited to touring in warmer climates.It can be reconfigured from full-face to open-face, so I'm hoping it will give me the flexibility to cope with riding the cool air of the Alps on the one hand and the hot plains of Sardinia on the other. However, the pale yellow of the helmet does clash with the deeper one of the bike! I'm hoping this will make me even more visible.

The backpack
I'm loathe to add a top-box to the bike since it can affect the handling. For this reason I explored the potential of a motorcycle backpack. But I wanted one that could carry my helmet; I certainly didn't want to be strolling around with a helmet in my hand all the time. It turned out to be easy to locate a rucksack to hold a helmet - but these helmets left almost no space for other luggage. I wanted one that would allow me to attach a helmet to the exterior of the luggage. Finally, I tracked down the Knox-6-Pack. This 25 litre pack enables a helmet to be attached by means of stretchy strings. Sorted!

Attaching straps
I've bought a cargo net to hold down the backpack to the rear saddle and rack. But it may take a couple of bungee cords also to hold the luggage sufficiently stable for the journey. This arrangement will need to be tested. I'll take run down to Bristol in April and fill the rucksack with tour stuff just to see how it performs.

To make the baggage even more secure I've also invested in a couple of cheap tie-down straps from Wilkinsons. These can be attached to the bike to provide a stronger grip than the cargo net. In fact, I fancy these will be the mainstay means of securing my backpack.

Map holder
Tank bags have a built-in transparent plastic map holders but I shall need to look for a 'stand-alone' holder since I'm travelling with a rucksack. I've invested in a slim-sized Cargo Basics tank bag

This poses an interesting problem for the tour - how to carry as little as possible and yet still remain comfortable. Northern Europe, i.e. England, Belgium & northern France/Italy, can be quite cool and wet in June. Riding distances in a T-shirt is unlikely to be very sensible. Based on experience from previous walking holidays this is my (draft) list:
- Tops - two cycle tops (one long-sleeved);
- Trousers - one lightweight (long) & one pair of shorts;
- Lightweight one-piece m/cycle rain suit;
- Socks - three pairs;
- Handkerchiefs - three;
- Underpants - three
- Hat,  bandanna & a pair of trainers;
- Sleeping bag liner.
    These include:
    - Passport, E-medical card & hostelling card;
    - Bike log book, insurance cert. & breakdown recovery cert;

    - Michelin regional maps (Italy) & various large scale maps - Google Maps printouts
    - Italy - guide book
    - Book of Psalms
    - Journal (& pen)

    - Set of spare bulbs / head torch / first aid kit
    - Mobile phone / digital camera / MP3 player
    - Swiss army knife (mini), water bottle
    - Eating stuff: glass / knife / fork / olive oil /salt /
    - Hygiene: toothbrush/paste, razor/cream, comb, camping towel
    - Medical: pills & puffers

    To be continued . . .