Polar Circle Marathon Fundraiser

Polar Circle Marathon Fundraiser

Well I can’t believe it’s over and I actually survived.

I’m not going to lie, in the week leading up to the run I was extremely nervous.

My training had not really gone to plan, and even my work mate kept telling me she was concerned for my safety (yes, Cat, I’m referring to you).

In all honesty, I hate the cold. I’m not sure why I keep ending up in these cold situations. First riding in snow in Canada, then the polar run/s, even the boiler in our flat just stopped working.

I guess there is something about the cold I must be drawn to – perhaps the ‘not-knowing-if-I-will-survive’ feeling. I can just imagine my Dad’s response to that last comment – don’t worry Dad, as usual I won’t tell you about it until I’ve survived it.

The Full Polar Marathon Route
The Full Polar Marathon Route

The Polar Challenge

Originally I had signed up to just the full marathon. However, once I met a couple of the other runners, and discovered they were signed up to do the Polar Challenge (running both the half marathon and the full marathon), I decided I had better just sign up too. Screw the lack of training and fear of the cold! The finisher t-shirt was in my colour, so what’s it matter if I lose a couple of toes in the process?

medals polar marathon
With my medals and wearing the Polar Challenge t-shirt (it doesn’t take much to convince me to do something lol).

Due to some hurricane winds and wet weather the race days got moved. This is probably a good thing, seeing as on the original race day, our arctic bus (built like a bloody tank) almost slid off a bridge into some freezing water. Perhaps that story is for another day – my biggest fan (aka. my Dad) can only take so much news at once. Nonetheless, if we had the race day on the original day, there probably would have been far more injuries.

I took it pretty easy in the Half Marathon. We drove an hour to the start in a freezing cold bus. I had about 5 layers on and could not feel my toes at the starting line. At this stage I thought I was going to lose a couple of toes to frost bite, before even starting the race. You don’t really need toes anyway, do you? Just extra weight.

10 minutes into the run, and I was sweating more than running in a Perth summer. I was sweating to the point that I was actually scared of running. I knew that as soon as I hit the Ice Cap I would instantly freeze.

So the first 6km didn’t really go very smoothly. I was dropping things, sweating, tripping over my own feet… I ended up just walking most of it and taking photos.

polar marathon race
On the way to the Ice Cap.

Then I hit the Ice Cap.

Running on the Ice Cap was by far my favourite part of the run. My heavy-duty spikes were awesome! Apart from getting a bit carried away and running the complete wrong direction, it couldn’t have gone much better. I also managed not to freeze – so that was a bit of a bonus.

running on the ice cap
Running on the Ice Cap!

The rest of the run was amazing. The course went past several frozen lakes and glaciers, and over several step gravelly hills. Eventually I finished the half as a PW (personal worst) time, however I really enjoyed it and was much more prepared for the full.

I’m now feeling conscious that I have never wrote about a run before, and this may turn out to be the longest and most boring blog post I’ve ever written… So I’m going to summarise the rest of my time in Greenland in bullet point form.

Greenland: icy, cold winds, lots of meat (unfortunately for me), lots of emptiness, dancing Northern Lights, the smallest cities in the world, bloody expensive beers (though there are two craft breweries – hooray).

Marathons: amazing, cold (though I still managed to sweat buckets), hilly, icy, quiet.

Runners: probably my favourite part of the run and the whole trip was the runners. This was the first run(s) where I never listened to any music, and spent half of the time chatting to other runners. There may have only been 120+ of us, but I felt less alone than the ‘40,000+ runners’ events I’ve done. Such an inspiring bunch that have given me plenty of ideas for future challenges.

Placing (out of the females):

  • Half marathon: 14th
  • Full Marathon: 5th
  • Polar Challenge: 7th
polar marathon finishline nicaragua
At the finish line of the Polar Marathon!

Next Challenge

When an event has constantly been on your mind for what seems like forever, it’s an odd feeling when it’s suddenly over and done with. There is a mixture of relief, happiness… and emptiness.

So I’m now in search of the next challenge. I honestly need some ideas, so if you have any let me know 🙂

Fundraising for Ometepe Bilingual School

Since the France to China by bike fundraiser, I hadn’t planned to take part in another event fundraiser (mainly to save my friends and family from the constant spamming of requests for donations).

However, a few months ago I received a newsletter from Ometepe Bilingual School, which read;

“Our small hotel profits are essential to covering the costs of operating Ometepe Bilingual School…

Unfortunately, the riots that started on April 19th have worsened, and are seriously impacting the hotel’s ability to support the school.  Reservations were cancelled including high school and college groups, tour operators, and independent travelers.”

Michael and I visited the hotel and school last year while cycling through the country, so I already had admiration for the project. I was also fortunate enough to witness the positive impact the school had had on the children, the local community and the environment.

I decided the Polar Marathon was a good opportunity to fundraise for the school.

All donations will be going directly to the school (minus the site’s fundraising fees) and you can visit the donation page here. I’ve discovered the site doesn’t work on all browsers (including Explorer), however it does work on Chrome and Safari. If you are having any issues making a donation, please get in touch.

The Polar Marathon fundraising campaign is open until the end of November 2018, however you are still able to donate after this date, if you wish.

The children also sent me this cute video, which I thought I would include in the post. Muchas gracias los ninos! 

About the School and Current Situation

Nicaragua is involved in a difficult political crisis with government corruption resulting in extreme poverty for the hardworking people of Nicaragua.

Countries have issued travel warnings advising people not to visit the country. This is having a drastic impact on a country whose economy relies heavily on tourism.

The hotel, Hacienda Merida has dedicated it´s profits during the past 10 years to educating the children of Nicaragua, conserving our natural environment, and developing effective solutions to decrease poverty and food insecurity.

Unfortunately the hotel is no longer receiving any visitors, income or any profits for the school. The school and the children are at risk are sadly at risk.

An independent National survey publish by the International Foundation for the Global Economic Challenge (FIDEG in Spanish) found that in 2017, 41.2% of the Nicaraguan people are living at the poverty rate of $2.33 U.S. dollars per day, with an additional 7.7% in extreme poverty earning only $1.15 per day.

In addition, because of political mismanagement, many Nicaraguan’s have limited access to food and other goods, services, and health care. As the purchasing power of the average Nicaraguan continues to drop, the number of people in poverty increases. The current projections for 2018 indicate that by the end of this year, 57.3% of Nicaraguans will be in poverty.

The current crisis is taking an especially high toll on the beautiful children of Nicaragua. In rural areas, children have very limited access to education resulting in high rates of illiteracy. 21.8% of Nicaraguan rural children over the age of 10 are illiterate.

Any help is greatly appreciated – We all live in this world together and share the same planet. Political instability, poverty, and food insecurity do not recognize borders and have the potential to harm all of us.

Muchas Gracias! Thank you! Xx

GALEN LEATHER BICYCLE BAGS: Gear Review

Galen Leather Bicycle Bag

GALLEN LEATHER ‘CROSS BAR BAG’ AND ‘LARGE SADDLE BAG’

Galen Leather Bicycle Bags on my sexy Brodie Bike
Galen Leather Bicycle Bags on my sexy Brodie Bike

SPECS:

(Cross bar bag)

Top 9.84” (25cm) Bottom 7.87” (20cm) Height 4.7” (12cm)

(Large saddlebag)

4” x 8” (10cm x 20cm)

Distance between straps 3.54” (9cm)

GALEN LEATHER BICYCLE BAGPROS:

  • Stylish on a city bike or classic touring bike
  • Leather is extremely durable and long lasting
  • Looks great if you have a brooks saddle!
  • Very high quality stitching
  • Simple opening / closure and easy to attach and take off
  • Thick strong material protects contents of bags
  • Can be wiped clean and won’t stain
  • Large enough to fit tools, tubes, plus most importantly…snacks!
  • The saddle bag can also be used as a handle bar bag if preferred and depending on your bikes frame size the cross bar bag could be mounted towards front of bike or as pictured near the seat tube

CONS:

  • Much like Brooks leather saddles probably shouldn’t be left in the rain too long
  • Stylish to the point that they might actually be a target for thieves in a city
  • Possibility that they could swing when loaded with heavy items
  • Maybe not my first choice for a long term round the world type tour, but would be great on multi day trips or commuting

Galen Leather Bicycle Bags on my sexy Brodie BikeOVERVIEW:

I was asked to review the Galen Leather ‘Cross Bar Bag’ and ‘Large saddle bag’ and have spent several weeks putting it to the test commuting and doing some long rides in and around the lovely city of Bristol in England.

I was very keen for these bags to arrive as I had just swapped out my Schwalbe marathon tyres after 1500km + for some new funky looking Brown Schwalbe delta cruisers and thought the colours would match and look pretty sweet especially with my brooks saddle. Yes I am a bit of a sad case and like colour coordinating my bike!

Galen Leather Bicycle Bags on my sexy Brodie Bike

The Gallen Leather Bicycle Bags are hand stitched in Turkey, which is also a bonus to me being one of my favourite countries and a definite contender for my favourite country to cycle tour in!

I was not disappointed; the bags look fantastic and completely gave my bike a cool makeover, plus the quality is superb and adds some easy to access storage space for trips around the city.

DESIGN AND FUNCTIONALITY:

Both bags have been designed very well with the straps being long enough to wrap around a variety of tube sizes without being too long that they get in the way or rub against your legs when pedaling.

The size is also ample on both the bags and can easily accommodate a spare tube, multi tool and snacks. The Cross Bar bag is also designed with one straight end and one angled end that gives it an interesting quirky look. Two straps secure the bag to the top tube with a third on the side to attach around the downtube to stop it swinging side to side too much.

There’s definitely no danger of the bags opening on a ride as the straps are secured through a leather loop and a belt like button closure to keep all your goodies safe.

I was very happy to discover the Saddle Bag straps lined up perfectly with the loops on my brooks saddle so attached neatly and sat just right. I can see that possibly the bag could bounce around a little if loaded with heavy items, but as it’s only a small bag and will likely be holding light items like a tube and multitool it probably wouldn’t be an issue.

Galen Leather Bicycle Bags on my sexy Brodie BikeDURABILITY:

The most impressive part of the Galen Leather bags is definitely the quality and solid feel of them. The hand stitching is impeccable and looks like it would last a lifetime if cared for properly. The Galen Leather Bicycle bags are also treated with natural oils and beeswax to add an extra layer of protection against the elements.

Obviously only having rode with them for a couple of weeks I can’t really comment on how durable they are long term, but the leather is thick enough that I feel it would be very hard to damage these bags and they will most probably take quite a beating and come out fine.

Galen Leather Bicycle BagsThe straps are made from leather the same thickness as the bag and are wide enough that I doubt they will ever tear or the holes stretch too badly which could be a worry on a thinner strip of leather.

SUMMARY:

So Far I have been very happy with the Galen bags and love the touch of class they bring to my slightly beat up touring bike. They definitely turn a few heads commuting around town, but more than just being pretty they do their job perfectly, stashing extra stuff for when I’m out and about around town but don’t necessarily want to take a pannier along for the ride.

Galen Leather Bicycle Bags I can quite easily fit enough snacks for a solid days riding in the Galen Cross Bar bag while stuffing patches, inner tube, a multitool and my brooks seat cover in the Large saddle bag.

I’ve been happy enough with the bags and am confident enough in the quality of them that I’m planning on trying them out on Kelly’s mountain bike on our next bikepacking trip as the cross bar bag should just squeeze into her small bike frame and give her some quick easy access to essentials.

Beautifully crafted, eye catching and gets the job done!

Enjoyed this gear review? Check out a few other gear reviews.

3 Bike-Friendly Cities to Visit

Bicycle friendly cities to visit

Many of you know all about our long distance bike trip (how has it been a year since we finished?) and you’ve probably guessed from the blog name that we’re all about the two wheels. So, we think we’re pretty knowledgeable when it comes to what makes a city bike-friendly!

For example, a place with accessible public transport is a bonus, so it pays to do your research before booking somewhere. A lot of places will be able to tell you if they have anything in place for those in wheelchairs, so this should give you some idea of how easy it will be to wheel your bike around.

Seeing the world or a new city via bike is such a great option, as it keeps you active and reduces your carbon footprint. Here are three of the best cities to do this in.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Often considered the most bike-friendly city in the world, there are around 242 miles of bike lanes around the city, as well as a Cycle Super Highway which runs from Copenhagen to Albertslund. Just like a car highway, has amenities on the route such as air pumps, as well as specialised traffic lights that are geared up to the average cycling speed.

There is so much to see and do in Copenhagen, from The Little Mermaid sculpture to Tivoli Gardens theme park, and Amalienborg, the Queen’s winter residence. You will want to bike between them all to make the most of this fantastic city.

I’ll be in Copenhagen in a couple of weeks, before heading off to Greenland to run the Polar Marathon. I’ll be sure to pop on a bike while I’m there, and explore the city.

cycling in cities
Amsterdam: Source

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

One of the iconic things about Amsterdam is the number of bikes that are whizzing around the city at any one time. Almost 60% of the population cycle every single day, and cyclists have a free-for-all in this city, in that they are able to ride almost anywhere.

There aren’t any special infrastructures for cycling as there are in Copenhagen, so things are a little rougher and harder to keep up with if you are a novice tourist rider. However, Vondelpark is a beautiful place to cycle around and get your bearings until you feel a bit braver and want to cycle across the city.

It’s true what they say, bikes in Amsterdam will stop for no one, so it’s important to be really aware of others around you, whether you’re a cyclist or a pedestrian.

Top Gadgets a Cyclist needs, brodie green bicycle circuit
My sexy green bike!

Utrecht, The Netherlands

Another win for The Netherlands. Utrecht has been working particularly hard over the past few years as part of a project called “Utrecht Attractive and Accessible”. This flagship project boasts an incredible 12,500 bike parking facility which is the largest in the world, and by 2020 the government hopes to have doubled the capacity.

Again, they are placing infrastructure specific to cyclists across the city in a bid to encourage more locals to choose a bike as their preferred form of transportation, but it’s clearly working as the numbers are soaring!

There are so many cities that are good for bike-riders, but these are three of the best, worked out by the Copenhagenize Design Company index. Each city is judged on 14 different categories and they can earn between 0-4 points in each of them, as well as a bonus of up to 12 points if there is anything a city has done that is particularly impressive.

The index is updated every year which is interesting as it allows cities to see whether they have moved up or down — for example, this year Utrecht has overtaken Amsterdam for the number two spot, so Copenhagen should keep working hard to stay at the top!

Have you been to any of these cities? What do you think about their bike-friendliness? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket: Gear Review

Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket

SPECS:

Material: 20D Ripstop Nylon with DWR water resistant coating

Filling: 3D Hollow Fibre Synthetic Insulation

Temperature Rating: 40°+ Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius)

Colour: Slate with Red Trim

Size When Spread Out: 54” x 80” (137cm x 203cm)

Size in Carry Bag: 9” x 17” (23cm x 43cm)

Weight: 3.3lbs (1.4kg)

Compact: Yes

Tear Resistant: Yes

Water Resistant: Yes

PROS:

  • Super soft comfy feeling material, not shiny and slippery despite being water resistant
  • Very spacious even for me at 6 foot 1
  • Very wide when unfolded so perfect for two people to sit on for a picnic
  • Can pack down quite small in a compression bag
  • Very warm as a blanket and big enough that it can wrapped around you like a sleeping bag when temperature really drops
  • Much easier to get in and out of in a tent than a sleeping bag
  • Can be thrown over two people comfortably

CONS:

  • Not quite as warm as a sleeping bag
  • Can’t be zipped up
  • Maybe a bit too bulky for long term cycle touring

OVERVIEW:

We were asked if we’d Review the Montem Sneaky Snuggler Camping blanket before we did a car camping trip around Iceland and I decided to take it along on a bikepacking trip as well around the Cairngorms national park in Scotland to really put it to the test!

The idea of a blanket for camping really appeals to me as I enjoy the comfort and ease of just throwing a blanket over me instead of zipping myself in and feeling slightly trapped. The blanket performed excellently for the car camping in very cold conditions in Iceland and even held up well to the slightly rougher and more rigorous conditions of a bikepacking trip in warmer weather.

DESIGN AND FUNCTIONALITY:

The Montem Sneaky Snuggler Camping Blanket is designed very well and feels lovely against your skin providing a bit of home comfort while camping. The stuff sack it comes with is very generously sized so it is a breeze packing it away and pulling it out once you’ve set up camp or decide on a suitable picnic spot!

Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket
Car Camping in Iceland! Sneaky Snuggler kept me toasty warm even when it got chilly in iceland!

Before our trip around Iceland I was slightly sceptical about the Montem Sneaky Snuggler Blanket’s ability to keep me warm if the temperature dropped close to zero, as I had never taken just a blanket camping before. It proved itself worthy on the first night of camping with temperatures dropping close to freezing, but I remained toasty warm simply by wrapping myself up in it tightly and tucking my feet in so my body heat couldn’t escape.

I loved the ease of just pulling it over the top of me when I was chilly without having to mess about with zips or zips jamming and particularly appreciated this when I needed to get up to go to the toilet in the night; much easier to get out of!

We also used it picnicking in parks across Iceland throwing it on the grass to sit on without worrying about getting too damp or dirty because of the water resistant coating, this is definitely a great feature and it makes it much more versatile than I first expected.

Montem Sneaky Snuggler Puffy Camping Blanket bikepacking
Montem Sneaky Snuggler blanket fit perfectly on my handlebars bikepacking the Cairngorms in Scotland.

Because of the generously sized stuff sack it is quite bulky when packed up, but for the bikepacking trip in Scotland I put the Montem Sneaky Snuggler Camping Blanket in a compression sack and was very pleased with how small it could be compressed down. It was easily small enough to be strapped to my handlebars without being to long and interfering with brakes, perfect!

It was extremely warm for Scotland when we were riding with temperatures reaching over 30 degrees Celsius, so I was very glad of having a blanket that I could easily vent myself with and kick my legs out when it was getting too warm without having to battle getting my feet out of like in a mummy style sleeping bag.

After 5 nights of bikepacking and wild camping I expected the blanket to be a bit dirty, but again the coating kept it stain free!

DURABILITY:

I found the Montem Sneaky Snuggler Camping Blanket to be very well made with quality stitching and the heavy-duty ripstop material feels like it will withstand any rough treatment you can throw at it, plus because it has no zips there’s not really much that can go wrong with it!

The DWR water repellent coating is definitely a very good feature for this blanket to make it more versatile so it can double up as a comfy picnic blanket without having to worry too much about it getting wet or any food spills staining it as easily as other materials.

SUMMARY:

Overall I have been very pleased with the Montem Sneaky snuggler camping blanket and it will now be my go to sleeping system for car camping and picnicking! For a round the world cycle trip I’m not sure it would be my first choice simply because blankets cannot compete with sleeping bags when it comes to warmth if the conditions get seriously cold as there is no way to trap the warm air in completely without zipping it around you so it wouldn’t be ideal for a trip where you could potentially run into some extreme weather. If it were a weekend away bike trip or a short journey locally then I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to bring this baby along for the ride!

It was lovely being able to snuggle up in the Montem Sneaky Snuggler at night as it really does feel like having a little slice of home with you in the tent. I also love that it is so multipurpose and can be folded out and sat on for a picnic or at a concert, thrown over yours and your partners shoulders or brought along on car camping trips as an extra layer either on the floor of the tent or over the top of two people if it is a particularly cold night.

I would definitely recommend the Montem Sneaky Snuggler if you’re not a fan of feeling trapped in a sleeping bag while camping or your looking for something a little more versatile! (Amazon)

You can find more of my gear reviews here!

New Challenges: Running the Polar Circle Marathon for the kids… and fun (I guess)

polar circle marathon fundraiser

A handful of people know that I’m running the Polar Circle Marathon in Greenland this Autumn. I haven’t told too many people about it – why Because, frankly, I have no idea whether I’m actually going to make it to the end. It’s going to be up there with one of the most extreme ‘whatthefuckwasIthinking’ challenges of my life.

Ometepe Bilingual School Fundraiser

I hadn’t planned on making this event a charity fundraiser, however when I recently received an email from the Ometepe Bilingual School in Nicaragua, explaining how the recent riots have had such a negative impact on their school and the children, I thought it was an opportunity to help out. Hey, if I’m risking losing an ear or nose to frost bite, I may as well do it for a good cause!

For those that don’t know, I visited the school last year while Michael and I were cycling through Nicaragua. We had the pleasure of staying at Hacienda Merida – an eco-friendly hotel on the stunning Ometepe Island. The hotel is the main source of funding for the school.

What makes Ometepe Bilingual school so special? The school is made out of rubbish – literally. Thousands of plastic bottles filled with rubbish can be found within the walls of the school. The school has a strong focus on sustainable practices, ecotourism (not greenwashing), reducing, reusing and recycling. If you want to read more about the sustainability of the school – I wrote an article on it last year.

eco brick table ecotourism in nicaragua
Eco-bricks being used to make some tables and chairs for the school

It is also one of the few (if not only) schools in Nicaragua that teaches the importance of sustainability, as well as teaching both English and Spanish. The school recognises that becoming bilingual, and having an understanding of the importance of sustainability and environmentalism is a stepping-stone for the children on the island to empower themselves, and have a positive impact on their community. I should also mention that the school provides the education to children for free. The children that attend the school, predominately come from poor families. The school has been providing a great opportunity for these children.

school eco bricks
You can still see the eco-bricks in the wall of the school.

Nicaraguan Riots

These riots have impacted on the school in a number of ways. The riots have decreased tourism to the area. The school runs of profits from the hotel. The riots have resulted in many cancellations of bookings, and very few people visiting the island or the hotel. The riots have also resulted in roadblocks, resources not reaching where they are most needed and the government withdrawing funding to schools to cover the cost of lunches, which were previously provided.

I haven’t found that the riots have been covered that much in the media in the UK, but to give you an idea of what has been happening in the country, I have included a couple of news articles worth checking out.

Hundreds of people have already died in these protests, which started in April, and sadly they don’t seem to be ending anytime soon. To think the riots started in response to a peaceful protest against pension reforms.

Sadly, if the riots don’t cease soon, and/or the school doesn’t find another source of income, then it’s likely it will close.

Please sponsor me in my Arctic run, and help keep the school open!

Being the eco-minded person I am, I fell in love with the school, as well as the hotel. As well as writing an article about the school, I even included it in our Nicaragua Cycle Video.

This may not be a challenge by bicycle, but it’s a human-powered, challenge nonetheless, and one, which I hope, will raise some funds for this amazing school, as well as raise some awareness about the issues currently taking place in Nicaragua.

If you have any questions about the marathon, the school, the hotel, Nicaragua or anything at all – please drop me a line.

Thank you for taking the time for reading. If you are in the position to sponsor me – thank you! If you are not in the position, please spend a minute and share this page with your friends and family.

Muchas gracias mi amigos!

marathon run
I felt like I needed to include a photo of me running, and this is the only photo I could find!

We are still alive! A year since we ended the long distance bike trip.

gower bikepacking

It’s been over a year since we ended the long distance bike trip… yes, I know I haven’t blogged in ages – sorry! We are still alive, still cycling (though slightly shorter distances) and still running Cycletrekkers.

Though Michael and I are no longer cycle touring and have embarked on a somewhat normal-ish life, we have started experimenting with the exciting world of bikepacking.

So far, it’s been fab! We spent a few days bikepacking in the stunning Gower Pennisula in Wales, and almost a week cycling in the very challenging (for me) Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. Only a few cuts and bruises, and I definitely need to build on my riding skill, that said we already have been chatting about heading off on a few more trips.

Next on the cards, we have potentially Slovenia, potentially Spain and potentially Georgia. If you have any recommendations on great places to bikepack – let us know!

Apart from bikepacking, we have spent time settling into our new home in Bristol, England – absolutely awesome city!! We had a few false starts when we first moved to England, but we are finally a bit more settled now.

As we are living just off the Bath to Bristol bike path, it hopefully will be ideal for hosting and meeting some other Warmshowers cyclists – so let us know if you do happen to be in the area.

Readjusting to… normality

Like most people that have just finished a cycle trip – readjusting took sometime. I was more prepared for it this time around – after the France to China by trip, the feelings of being disconnected from society and the overall cultural shock took me by surprise. This time, though I was more prepared, there were still the emotional challenges.

It was hard readjusting my mindset to a life where people (ie. me) didn’t have to worry about whether I had enough water to get through the next 24 hours, or where I was going to sleep tonight or tomorrow night, or whether my tent was going to leak, or a tornado was going to randomly pass through during the night. It is an odd feeling – going from worrying about life essentials/ survival, to worrying about, well things that don’t really matter.

Michael and I are still appreciating the little things in life, like having access to an oven, running water, hot showers, a good range of food, not living on an extreme budget, owning more than 5 pairs of clothes (I could go on and on). Though, still at times I feel very disconnected from society, especially when discussing anything about celebs, pop culture, or what’s on TV (I haven’t even bothered to buy a TV). These things didn’t matter in my life for 5 years – and though it’s common knowledge to some, for me, it’s not. It has lead to a few awkward conversations, including one where I wasn’t even sure whether Cher was still alive.

At times I miss the simplicity of life on the bike, but I am still happy with our decision – I think it was the right one; and I am are enjoying where we are right now.

Next on the agenda…

Other than readjusting, I’ve been training for an icy run I’m taking part in this Autumn – more about that in my next post. And, though I feel like I have rarely had a free minute, I cannot think of what else Michael and I have been up to this past year. Riding, working, eating, running, sleeping, cooking, hiking…

I DO plan to clear out, update and post more on our website over the next few months. So watch this space!

Five Things to Consider Before Your Bike Trip

Five Things to Consider Before Your Bike Trip

Whether you would like to spend a few relaxing or challenging days at a new destination, it is important that you plan your trip in advance. You need to make sure that you are ready for the trip, and you have everything covered, from accommodation to protein bars and transport. The following tips will help you get your priorities right and book the perfect getaway that will make you feel satisfied and accomplished.

The Weather

Rain or shine, you’ll be outside biking in it, so the weather will have a huge impact on your trip, and is something you need to plan for. Just keep in mind that old saying, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing!” It is important that you check out the weather forecast and get plenty of waterproof items in your backpack. If you are planning a tropical trip, ensure that you have adequate sun protection, and have the ability to carry sufficient water. You may even want to plan your day accordingly, resting during the hottest part of the day, so to avoid the heat and potential dehydration, or even sunstroke. A perfect excuse for a siesta!

The Accommodation Options

You might want to find a hotel or guesthouse that is conveniently located close to all the routes you would like to complete. Or, you might prefer pitching a tent, under the stars, in an unplanned location. Whatever you preference, you need to consider this before the start of your trip. If you are heading to a big beautiful city, such as Panama, you might want to splurge on a hotel like the Marriott Executive Apartments Panama City. However, if you are budget conscious you could always try finding a host through the amazingly useful Warmshowers website; a website dedicated to cycle touring, and finding hosts for travelling cyclists.

Rentals and Repair Availability

Before your trip, you may need to check whether there are recommended and affordable bike rental places. Sometimes renting a bicycle locally is more economical, as well as efficient, compare to bringing your own bicycle with you. If cycling in the summer month in Europe, and considering local bicycle rental, it is recommended booking your bicycle in advance, to ensure you secure the best bike at the best price. Arguable even more important to this, is researching bike repair stores along your route.

Travel Insurance

When going on a cycle trip, no matter the length or location, you will need to get adequate insurance. If you suffer an accident or fall ill, you might not be covered for medical treatment. If your bicycle is stolen or damaged, you also might not be covered. Compare the prices online before your trip, and make sure you ask the relevant questions. Some insurance companies consider cycling a dangerous sport, and will not cover you for long distance cycling. When it comes to travel insurance for cycle trips, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Local Guides and Groups

bike trip
Planning a bike and hike trip! Image via Matt Heaton

There are two main options when going on a bicycle tour;

1) Independently, arranging your own transport, accommodation and route. This option suits those who love the adventure and freedom of making their choices and not having to follow a set plan.

2) Joining an organised hiking and biking trip, with a tour company. This option is great for those first time cycle tourists, or those that love touring in groups. Leave the planning and stress to someone else, and just enjoy the ride!

Whether you are looking to cycle across Europe, or bike and hike across the Scottish highlands, and cycle trip will involve a level of preparation and planning. Treat this planning as part of the journey, and use it as a way to build up the excitement for your up and coming trip. Safe bike trails!

Is it possible to cycle across Nevada?

cycle across Nevada

You’d be forgiven for thinking that one of America’s desert states would be off limits when it comes to exploring by road bike. However, cycle tours across Nevada are some of the most spectacular you’ll find. With stunning open valleys and breathtaking small mountain ranges to the north of the state, there are numerous scenic rides available with comfortable summer temperatures. However, you might be surprised, but Las Vegas is an excellent starting point.

You can fly into Sin City and explore the Mojave Desert by road bike, taking in everything from the Hoover Dam and the Valley of Fire to Redrock Canyon and Cottonwood Valley. The River Mountains Loop Trail is another notorious cycle trip. This 35-mile ride loops around the River Mountains, overlooking Sin City and nearby Henderson. The trail is paved throughout, making it suitable for first-time tourers and veteran cyclists alike. The route is also connected to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

As with most cycle tours, you’ll often be seeing the world on a tight budget. Fortunately, your Las Vegas experience can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. When you’re enjoying some downtime, most restaurants and buffets situated within Las Vegas Boulevard and Downtown will have special off-peak offers to allow you sample a cut-price rib-eye steak, which is fine if you’re prepared to enjoy a sit-down meal mid-afternoon.

Once you’ve had your fill of the bright lights of Vegas, the next best area to start exploring is to the northwest in Reno. In fact, a very popular Nevada cycle route begins in Reno and meanders slowly into Utah and Salt Lake City. It’s not a tour for the feint-of-heart, given that it spans 650 miles and requires 30,000 feet of climbing along the way. The journey takes you along US 50, which is regarded as ‘The Loneliest Road’ in the state. Although you might be concerned about the lack of shelter from the sun or services en route, the longest you have to go without a stopover is 85 miles. The most challenging stretch is the 110-mile journey between Fallon and Austin, which also features a 4,700ft climb.

There are plenty of opportunities to sample life in Utah as you make your way across the border. You will encounter small communities, such as Delta and Payson, on the southern side of Utah Lake. The final leg of the journey to Salt Lake City is a gentle 60-mile ride along the urban highway, although the climb towards the city’s basin is the last grueling physical test you’ll encounter.

What’s great about cycling in Nevada is that you can pitch a tent or spend the night in a yurt in any of the state’s 23 parks, if you prefer not to use motels and hotels along the way. Nevada State Parks lists its restrictions and limitations within its FAQs. In terms of what to carry with you en route, personal identification is essential if you need to verify your age to play games, drink or enter watering holes, as well as when paying using credit cards. English is the most commonly-spoken language in the state, although Spanish is also spoken in some Hispanic communities. In areas where Filipino communities live, Tagalog is also spoken. So, if you’re fluent in either Spanish or Tagalog (unlikely, we know!), that is a bonus on your travels.

What’s truly fascinating about cycling in Nevada is its diverse landscape, which can be explored at a pace that allows it to be truly appreciated. From flat, pastoral views to expansive climbs beyond small mountains and eerie rock formations that resemble something from a Western movie, Nevada is not the one-dimensional gaming state that some would have you believe.

Photo credit: Dip in road at Valley of Fire State Park by A Train / CC BY-ND