It’s starting to feel a little more real!

29 04 2012

So we are going on a bike ride and up until now we have had no bikes!

After many hours of Jimi searching far and wide for the perfect machine, he found me a ‘Ferrari’ as he called it! (Well it was black and red)

Only a small problem, it was in London and we are in Manchester. Thanks to a helpful auntie, problem solved, we borrowed a car and drove to get it. I was assured by Jimi it would be worth the early start, long drive, expensive petrol and heavy traffic jams along the way!

So we set off and hoped it would fit me and feel right to ride. (I secretly think Jimi was hoping it wouldn’t fit me so he could have it.)

After the Sat Nav nearly taking us the wrong way up one way streets, down industrial estates and crazy drivers beeping for nothing, we reached our destination.

Duuuuum duuuum duuuuuuuuuuuum… it was perfect! We were greeted by a friendly face, freshly brewed coffee and a nearly brand new Thorn Sherpa bike, perfect size, mint condition, and dare I say it, beautiful (Yes Jimi I think its beautiful, and not just a bike with two wheels.)

So I have my bike now and it feels as though everything is coming together for our trip, only a few more things to get and we can be on our way.

Jimi had a few days of intense jealousy and looking longingly at my bike until he found a bike which he will go and pick up tommorow… from Edinburgh.

From opposite ends of the country but he has the same bike as me, only a black one (and not as good.)

So now I have THE bike, I need to get practicing on it now and await the big day to arrive. (86 days to go, not that I’m counting!)

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The bike is dead, long live the bike…

12 03 2012

… but on the plus side I’m still here!

Sad news on the bike front though. Potentially “the bike” was fatally wounded in a collision with a car door last week. You will be pleased to know that the car door did not make it either, the Horizon gave as good as she got.

I was on the way home from work last Friday in the bike lane when with no time to react the passenger door was swung into my chest. Now although this still sounds bad when I write it a week later I must point out that I was very lucky. If the impact of the corner of the door was any higher then it would have been throat, teeth, eyes and it would have been much more serious. Also there was a conveniently placed wall that I landed on, as opposed to the floor which likely would have meant wrists or collarbones. As it happened I escaped with a dent in my chest, whiplash and the usual cuts and bruises.

I was well pleased with the emergency services response. Within 10 minutes there was 3 paramedics (2 vehicles), a passing doctor, 3 fireman and later in A&E another doctor and a policeman; all of whom were very good with me. To be fair to the people in the car responsible they seemed really nice and were of course incredibly apologetic. They also made sure I got their details, something I was incapable of thinking about and then they reported it to the police too.

All this has of course given me the excuse to take up one of my favorite hobbies legitimately- surfing the net for “bike porn” as Rose calls it. I’m thinking (dreaming) of a Surly Long Haul Trucker.





From South Korea to the Dales (full version)

15 11 2011

I never thought I’d be a member of a website called Warmshowers and I certainly never thought I’d be telling people! However, its kinky sounding name belies it’s more innocent function: it’s couch-surfing for cycle-tourists.

I joined for a ride to Holland last year and stayed with some lovely students in the Hague who set the hosting bar very high. Six months later I received an email entitled “Could I Stay Your Place?”. After reassuring my girlfriend to let two South Korean strangers into our home I was given the go-ahead to welcome them in.

They were quite a sight: tanned, sweaty, weathered and laden but most striking of all was their attitude – they were “full of beans” as we say up north. We spent a great weekend in Manchester cooking for each other, them: traditional Korean food and me: less than traditional “Spancunian”. We saw the sights (Old Trafford), soaked up the culture (down my local) and had a game of kickabout in the park.

They learnt that I had just become unemployed and therefore saw no reason why I shouldn’t go with them to Edinburgh. Unable to provide them with any valid excuses, I got my permission slip and bought myself a pannier rack. Thanks to the hard-work and diligence of Manchester’s bike thief community I had recently been relieved of 1.6 bikes. So with a mixture of trepidation and padded lycra I set off with Joo and Soo on my (less-than-suitable) single-speed bike.

We spent an amazing week cycling through the breathtaking countryside of the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland National Park. We wild -camped, cooked big meals, played cards and stayed up talking every night, becoming firm friends along the way. We had a few hairy moments too: I’ll never forget settling down in my tent to go to sleep by a stream in Yorkshire and beginning to dream about gunfire. I then realised I wasn’t asleep. “Strange”, I thought, too tired to put the pieces together. “Jimi, sounds like gunfire”, says Joo’s tent. I agreed with him. “It is gunfire”, confirmed Soo’s tent, who’d just finished his military service. All of our tents agreed that we were too tired to move the camp so there we slept for eight hours to the soothing sounds of the British Army out on night time manoeuvres.

My recomendation to readers is that cycle touring is something anyone can do; it’s not a race and you just go at whatever pace feels right for you, it’s a holiday. I used opencyclemap.org to find cycle routes including the Route 68, known as the Pennine Cycleway. I learnt some important things that week; that traveling the world by bike is my dream and South Koreans have an unhealthy appetite for pork scratchings. I also know I’ve got some where to stay in Busan if I ever find myself cycling through South Korea, or at least somewhere for a warm shower.