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Monday, 27 January 2014

Shall we talk camping?

I love the idea of camping. Sometimes I dislike the reality. Sometimes I bloody hate the reality. I don't do long  rides around the world or long continental trips. So I don't have to camp for very long. I don't go away for more than two weeks at a time.
I like waking up in a tent. Provided that I got to sleep in the first place. That early morning brew outside your tent, watching the world go by is one of life's small joys in my view. Packing the dam thing up, especially when it's wet is a nightmare.
However I do camp.
So let's do tents.
  I use different tents in the ongoing quest to find a waterproof tent that weighs under 1kg and is big enough to dance in. Let's do pictures of tents.
I used this on MY Coast to Coast. Let's say failed Coast to Coast. Weighs 3kg,. 3kg too much. But weatherproof and very spacious. Millets Apollo. Cheap and cheerful. Double skinned. Better used with my motorbike really. However it is spacious and kept me nice and dry in torrential rain and no condensation.
Milletts Apollo
This is a great tent. Not a cheap tent. Discontinued now. North Face Particle 13. Great size for me. Used in France. Rather it was green but hey ho.  It weighs 1.8kg but I've also got the footprint that I've yet to use. For some reason it does suffer from a damp floor. I'ts not a big deal as it gathers under my sleeping mat only. It's a real quality feel to it. The poles are too long to fit in a pannier/saddlebag so they are best strapped to the bike frame to make it all more compact. You could spend a few days in this. High enough that I can get dressed inside, room under the outer to put your gear and room to cook in or brew up. It's also free standing. I like it.
North Face Particle13
last year I took an emergency tent on tour. £17 at Amazon. 800g. Packs really small and it's very basic. It works well and does it's job. Only for summer nights though. It's only an overnight option but well worth it when you are stuck for somewhere to stay or wild camp. You can't really get dressed in it but you can just about sit up in it and you can read in there. Single skin so you will get condensation on damp nights. It is waterproof but in really bad weather I would be under a roof anyway. I can slither my 6'2" 14 stone frame in and there is room for my gear. Recommended.
Amazon. Hi-peak minilite.
I'm always tempted by a tent bargain. I'm in the local supermarket and see a two man tent reduced to £7.50. I think it's worth that to cut it up for a grounsheet so I'm hooked. I get it home and it's easy to put up. Torrential rain that day and night. Next morning, just a tiny drop of water in one corner. It weighs 1.3kg. If I changed the steel pegs and maybe some alloy poles it may be a contender for a good emergency tent. I like the dome shape. Good stealth colour as well. I saw a blog somewhere where somebody toured around northern France using one of these. seemed quite happy with it. Suprising what you can use.
Cheap Asda single skin tent.
But it has a rival. I picked this up for £15 at Lidl. Tested in torrential rain and not a drop inside. Good stealth colour and plenty of space. Weighs 1.5kg but can be lowered with lighter pegs and alloy pole.
£15 Lidl tent.
I need to put some time aside to do some short UK tours to test them out. Just two or three day trips. Thats when I can get two or three days in the Uk with continous good weather. Good luck with that I hear you say.

Great weather recently. So I've been playing about with my tents. Yes I know I'm an old saddo but there you go. My wife looks at me and just shakes her head with that pitiful look that only women are able to do.
However. My Minilite, although performed as designed on my last trip could in my opinion be improved so I had a go. I thought it could do with some permanent stake outs half way down so got out the sewing kit, some old material and [more pitiful looks and the odd tut] sewed these to a seam on the base. I also thought some guys would help tauten the material. If situated right they would give me more shoulder room. I'm pretty broad and can touch the walls if not careful .
So it's not pretty but it does give me more interior space. Need to see how it copes with rain but it does retain a slope which should be ok. You do lose a bit of height but  not a problem.I struggled to work out how to fit guy points and did not want to sew anything onto the wall but I had the old pebble trick pointed out to me and it workd superbly for attaching a guy point.
                      One thing that bothers me still is that centre poll which is a nuisance in getting in and out. So got my thinking hat and tried messing about with the V shaped poles form my Lidl tent. Hey presto! Success! It fits.
The result of all this is I have a tent that is very stable, easy to get in and out of. A three minute job to put up and has a lot more liveable space. yes I know it's not pretty but neither am I but I still function. It still only weighs about 800g for a single skin emergency tent that IMO is a much more pleasant place to spend a night than a bivvy.

OK then. Shoes it is.

               When I was about 15 [along time ago] I saved up and bought a pair of cycling shoes that I had been drooling over for ages. I don’t know how many hours I’d been just staring at a pair of black leather racing shoes with thick rigid leather sole.
               I loved those shoes and thought I looked quite the professional when matched with bright white cycling socks [the naivety of youth]. Had to save for the socks as well.
Fast forward to modern times and I was soon kitted out with a pair of Shimano MTB shoes equipped to take SPD cleats. This after years of riding with toe clips.
         I did the falling off thing a few times before becoming confident with them and rode happily for a few years until I started to get quite severe knee pain. I Googled everything and decided that the cleats were causing the problem. Changing position of everything including the cleats did not cure anything.
          So. The cleats and shoes were dumped. A pair of large aluminium platform pedals from Clas Ohlson In Manchester were fitted. These cost me a staggering £2.50 at the time. 
On went a pair of running trainers and off I went. I also took the advice of my very keen and knowledgeable weightlifting son who showed me an exercise to use in the gym to strengthen the inner thigh muscle to pull the patella back into line.
          Flat pedals, trainers and exercises and the knee pain disappeared. Why? I have no idea but it had gone. Using the flat pedals was strange after the cleat system, especially whilst stopped, as I had to remember to flip the pedal up with my foot before I could set off. I don’t think I lost any speed with the using the flat pedals and thought I was able to put a great deal of force down while climbing.
          I did all day club rides with this new arrangement and my local circuit without any knee problems. However I was staring to get quite a bit of tendon pain on one foot. Back to the drawing board.
          Googling the problem I came across an article suggesting that my shoes were not rigid enough and therefore allowing my foot to drop at the heel where it was not supported by the pedal. Therefore stretching the tendon abnormally. Makes sense to me. Especially with a very flexible running shoe. Off I go to Sports Direct and find a pair of Lonsdale sports shoes with a very stiff sole and heel for £15. So worth a go and they also look good enough to wear off the bike.

           The new shoes worked fine and I lost the tendon pain. I used these shoes but they did not have the grip afforded by trainers [smooth soles] so I fitted a pair of cheap black plastic pedals with a more pronounced grip. This new combination worked fine and I used this system for two tours with no problems except the pedals split on one tour. No big deal as I purchased a new pair of pedals for a couple of euros at Decathlon in France.
            I once made the very big mistake of touring with a pair of steel rat-trap pedals and a soft soled shoe. Well those pedals tore my feet up. They came straight through the shoe and had the soles of my feet bleeding. Ended up buying new soft pedals and repairing the shoes with plastic and cardboard. Be warned. Always extensively try a new system out before going on tour.
            I’ve now tried the cleat system once again and just completed another tour using them and am just back from a week in Mallorca all cleated up. It seems my knee issues have been resolved for now. I do prefer the cleats and the way they make me feel a part of the bike. However on tour that means I need to take another pair of shoes with me. Something not needed with the flat pedals. Well I don't have to but I do like to give my feet a change of scenery. Last couple of tours I took a cheap pair of flip flops which worked out fine.
I’m not convinced there is any discernable difference in performance with or without cleats. Well not at my pathetic level anyway.


I like my food. I'm a big guy so eat quite a bit.
                My lovely long suffering wife is the default cook in our house. But I do a bit, although I'm not keen. On tour I'm even less keen. It all to me seems so much faff. I do admire these guys who have all the Triangia gear and can knock up superb meals at will.
             I admit I don't have the interest, but I do have a lot of interest in eating and drinking. I don't like spending a fortune on eating out though. If camping it's usually Porridge for breakfast, hopefully come across a supermarket for the makings of a lunch and splash out on an evening meal at a small restaurant or Pizza place etc.  I'm also quite happy to have a cold evening meal in camp. If the weather is warm. Ham, cheeze baguette,onion, etc. Oh and a pastry to finish. Some red wine is nice as well. I'll also do this in a hotel room. keeps costs down especially in a hotel. I've found I can't drink a full bottle of red. Well I can but then I can't speak or walk very well. So handy to have a small plastic bottle to save half for the next night.
            My youngest son bought me one of the Triangia copys from Clas Holsen. It works very well and I've also got a meths stove and stand from e-bay. I find them awkward to get going and you can't always see the flame. I can get round all that though. What I can't get round is the fumes. I really don't like the smell and I find that it taints the drink. Plus the soot I find is a nightmare. It gets everywhere. I know there are supposed to be solutions to the soot problem, but I've not found one. I've never used it in the field so to speak. Just the back garden and that was enough to put me off.
          On my trip down the west Coast of France I took a Pocket Rocket gas stove and adapter for those long cheap gas cyclinders. This worked very well. Cheap, efficient and fast. I'd advocate this over any other system for speed and cooking a variety of meals.
My Pocket Rocket and adapter thing.

            My last trip fro Tours to Beziers, I took an Esbit stove and some tabs. It weighed next to nothing and took up little space. Worked very well with one small pot, a home made aluminium windbreak and lid. Boiled water for a drink in about 3 minutes. Not good enough to cook on but then I don't cook if I can help it. I suppose you could warm a can of soup or gruel on it though but I'd prefer gas for that.
            I'm also very fond of one of those electric elements that you pop into a cup and plug it in. Boils water in a couple of minutes. Vey handy. I suppose you could put it into a can of soup. Must try that. I take it everywhere, camping or not. It's amazing where you find plug outlets. camp sites, airports, stations. If you are discreet you can boil water in all sorts of places. Somebody told me that they can blow fuses in campsite bathrooms. Well I once spent a whole week in different campsites shaver sockets using this and never had a problem. Good, also for boiling water and adding to a bowl of porridge as it cooled.
           If you are always in hotels or campsites, for somebody like me it is worth having. You don't need a stove. It's all I carried on my two week Paris South trip and used it every day.

1 comment:

fredredman said...

yes great stuff from a real touring cyclist. could do with some advice on
cycle touring shoes and pedals .