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Buyers Guide: The Best Cycle Carriers for Cars

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Maybe you’re gearing up for your first biking expedition? Or maybe you have found the most scenic sights a little further afield from your back garden? Or perhaps you just want to bring the family bikes out of the shed for a test ride with the little ones? Whatever your biking adventure, you’ll need a cycle carrier for your car to haul everything to your destination.

So what kind of cycle carrier do I need? Good question, because there are so many different makes of cycle carriers out there to fit thousands of bicycle shapes and vehicles. To ensure you don’t make any on-the-spot decisions, we consulted the leading manufacturer Bosal on what, today, are the best cycle carriers for your next biking holiday.

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London Calling

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So, yesterday I found myself in the middle of nowhere, down a tiny lane with both mirrors of the Bike Adventures mini-bus buried in the hedgerows.  Nothing odd about that, the poor old bus spends much if its life trying to squeeze down such lanes, except it was within 3 miles of the M25!!

New for 2016 is our Circumnavigation of London which tracks the dreaded M25 but might as well be in another galaxy.  The ‘Green Belt’ becomes a tangible thing as we follow idyllic country lanes though picture-postcard villages around England’s Home Counties.  Yesterday I completed the 2nd half of the reccie, starting in Woking and working my way through Surrey and Kent before taking the little-known Tilbury pedestrian ferry across the Thames and into Essex.  It really is quite astonishing that the route encircles a population of more than 10,000,000 people because all I saw was trees!

The trip runs over the first weekend in July and is proving popular so if you would like to join us get in touch soon!

 

Here Comes The Summer

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By the end of a Bike Adventures’ season we tour leaders are usually pretty frazzled.  Running trips is mostly tremendous fun, but still hard work and some of us are on the road for as many as 100 days in a season.  A bit of winter R&R is just what the doctor ordered but it doesn’t usually take too many weeks at home before the legs start to get twitchy again.  Early in the New year we all start to bid for the trips we would like to run and as the orders come in a clear picture of each leader’s timetable starts to emerge.  By March everyone knows what they will be doing and a state of excited anticipation sets in.  

Our 2016 season was ‘launched’ with a leader get-together at global headquarters (aka Dom’s house) in early April, an excuse for plenty of drinking, a nice long ride and the exchange of war stories.  Now the trips start rolling out and my fist kicks off tomorrow (Camino).  The van is clean, serviced and loaded with bikes, spares, tools etc and I am raring to go.  To call it ‘summer’ is stretching things a bit but for me the dark days of winter are over!

Shine A Light

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If you awoke from a 50 year coma there would be quite a few surprises. Many things have changed almost beyond recognition but I’m pretty sure that you would have no trouble recognising a bike!  Almost every aspect of the bike has improved beyond measure but the basics remain the same and there really haven’t been any ‘game changer’ technology developments.  Except, that is, for the lights. 

As a boy my bike’s lights weighed about the same as the bike itself, and cast a beam so feeble that it barely reached to front wheel .  Furthermore, the batteries cost a fortune, lasted about 5 minutes and if you forgot to remove them from the lamp unit they would leak within minutes, ruining the lamp.  The invention of the LED light has completely transformed nocturnal cycling and, depending on your needs, you can now buy something for a few pounds that will run for hundreds of hours and let you be seen, or a monster packing many thousands of lumens and costing about the same as a cheap bike.  These very high intensity lights have brought their own problems with cyclists using lights designed for off-road riding and ‘blinding’ oncoming motorists. 

Whenever I pass a bike shop I always pop in to see if there are any new and exciting gadgets  and on my recent trip to Australia I found a new lighting innovation that I have never seen before – a bicycle brake light!  This fantastic little gizmo clips onto the rear brake cable and casts a bright red light whenever it is operated.  If you have ever cycled into the back of a rider because you hadn’t realised they were slowing down you will immediately see the benefit!

 iLumenox-SS-L329-Nano-Duo-Brake-Light-Bicycle-Brake-LED-Light-Bike-Brake-Rear-Light-Cycling

Je T’Aime

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The best country in the world in which to cycle is France. End of debate. Having just returned from the final reccie for our latest French route (Perpignan to Nice) I am more convinced of this fact than ever.  A ride along the entire French Mediterranean coast sounds as though it has the potential for busy roads and endless resort conurbations but au contraire (I think I may have turned a little bit French!).  This 400 mile journey offers a huge variety of scenery: classic twisting coastal riding, causeways between lagoons full of flamingos, wild Camargue ponies and an occasional glamorous town.  Yes there are some busier stretches but most are mitigated by cycle paths (including superb paths that carry one through the major cities of Toulon, Cannes and Nice).  For a grand finale (oops – a bit more French), and just a few miles from the finish, we cycle through Monaco – something for which the term ‘cool’ was probably invented.  Of course, the thing about cycling in France isn’t just the cycling.  Lazy coffees in roadside cafes, excellent meals in intimate family-run restaurants and the automatic warm welcome that is bestowed on anyone turning up in Lycra all contribute to the ambiance (damn – I’ve got to get back to speaking English) that makes France so special.

Even at this late hour there is time to join the trip, which starts on Saturday April 9th.

Breakdown

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The bicycle is an astonishingly reliable bit of kit; I ride up to 10,000 miles each year and seldom experience anything worse than a puncture. Furthermore, when something does go wrong, it is almost always fixable at the roadside provided you carry a small but well chosen set of bits and bobs. 

There is an old saying that you can fix everything using just gaffer tape and WD40 – basically if it moves and shouldn’t you use gaffer tape and if it doesn’t move but should you use WD40.  In reality it is a bit more complex.  For what it’s worth, here is what I carry when I am touring (or riding sweep on a cycling holiday):

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Perfect

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I’m sometimes asked for advice about what sort of bike to bring on one of our trips. I am always happy to offer an opinion…..though it is usually ignored.  Perhaps my advice is useless (a distinct possibility!!) or perhaps they get to the bike shop and are beguiled by something shiny and feather light.  Of course, half the problem is that MY advice relates to what is needed on the trip and THEIR choice is probably influenced by other factors.  Probably they are selecting a bike that must serve multiple purposes and this will inevitably entail many compromises.

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Go The Distance

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There is nowhere better than the saddle of a bike to do some serious thinking.  On my recent trip down under I got to thinking about the fact that good old fashioned ‘miles’ is a pretty inaccurate way of describing how tough a day’s riding will be.   Some factors, such as headwinds, are very hard to take into account but the most obvious other variable is the amount of climb. Surely, I thought, it would be possible to come up with a fairly simple equation that combines distance ridden with climb to give a unit of measure that allows comparison of rides in all terrains.

Ladies and Gentlemen (drum roll), I give you…… the Terrain Adjusted Mile (or TAM).

To calculate TAMs you start with the distance to be ridden and add (or subtract) miles according to the actual climb against a ‘normal’ value.  This ‘normal’ value, and how you convert any shortfall/excess into miles is bound to be contentious but I reckon the following works for me:

‘Normal’ climb is 50 feet per mile.  The adjustment is 1 mile per 150 feet (either plus or minus).  Here is how a 100 mile ride looks, based on 6 different amounts of climb:

Miles ridden

100

100

100

100

100

100

Feet climbed

1000

2000

3000

4000

5000

6000

Standard climb

4000

4000

4000

4000

4000

4000

Difference

-3000

-2000

-1000

0

1000

2000

Mileage adjustment

-20

-13

-7

0

7

13

             

TAMs

80

87

93

100

107

113

Or, to put it another way:  A 100 mile ride with 3000 feet of climb is the same as a 50 mile ride with 9500 feet of climb. 

I’m going to try this out on the next trip (Camino and Portugal) – I’ll work out each day in TAMs and see how this compares with a subjective ‘how hard was that ride?’ test.

2000 Miles

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So, our exploration of Australia‘s bottom right corner is complete.  It had been my intention to provide an update once we got to Melbourne but, to be quite honest, we were just too busy having a good time!

It has been a challenging trip but this was largely a problem of our own making:  We set ourselves an 80 miles/day target and ended up doing several considerably longer days and we were hauling all our own gear.  Despite this we had the time of our lives!  The coastal route offers a great variety of scenery, ranging from ‘pleasant’ to stunning, the roads are mostly cycle-friendly, Sydney and Melbourne are world-class cities and the Australians are friendly and welcoming.  Oh yes, and the weather is brilliant.  Accommodation along the route was plentiful, available and inexpensive and we ate like kings.  There can be little better than a double lamb shank after a hard day’s ride.

We ended up with 2100 miles on the clock, which was done over 25 riding days.  Our longest day was an eye-watering 117 miles and our shortest was about 60.  Our hottest day reached 40 degrees and the coolest started at about 12.  The task now is to package some (or maybe even all) of the route for a magical Bike Adventures trip in 2017.  See you there.

PS

If you would like to see our tan lines, Chris and I will be leading the Camino and Portugal trips in late April/Early May – it isn’t too late to join us!

Two Out of Three Aint Bad

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We have a great many customers from the antipodes, a number of whom are repeat offenders and have become friends over the years.  Several of these live on our route and have offered us support in various forms.  Last night we arrived in Sydney, one third of the way through our trip and a nice round 1000km from the start, where we are staying in the lovely home of Lynn and Graham for a rest day.  As if this wasn’t enough, we have been lucky enough to spend a rest day on the yacht of another customer,seeing the sights from the waters of the harbour.  
 
When I think of Australia I automatically think of three iconic images: Ayers rock,  Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and today we ticked off two of them.
 
So what of the ride so far?  Fan-bloody-tastic.  The scenery is far more varied (and greener) than I expected, the people are incredibly welcoming, the roads vary between good and outstanding, and the provisions for cyclists are excellent.  My only dilemma in  considering adding a part of the ride to our commercial programme is deciding exactly which part.  
 
A potential concern was the heat but even this is not such an obstacle.  Temperatures are steadily falling as we head south and as the calendar advances.  On the hotter days we start and finish early and we make sure we take plenty of stops in the shade and drink copiously.  
 
We have seen a variety of fauna including kangaroos, bandicoots, large lizards and  kookaburras but sadly no koalas.  It seems that most Australians have never seen one in the wild either!
 
Our next leg, on to Melbourne, starts tomorrow.
 
Ps our ‘leader perma-tans’ are coming along nicely