Category Archives: bike discourse

Tour d’Afrique 2013 by Laura Holms by Laura Holms: Sports & Adventure | Blurb Books

laurabook

Tour d’Afrique 2013 by Laura Holms by Laura Holms: Sports & Adventure | Blurb Books.

On January 11, 2013, exactly 1 year ago today, the 2013 Tour d’Afrique began in Cairo.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister Laura surprised me by giving me a book for Christmas that compiles all of my blogs from the ride plus a collection of photos she gathered from other riders.

It looks great and brings back many good memories.

You can have a look at it and order it you wish by going to:http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/invited/00b0ee2f7acef00d2b7b2e686e5bd9690b8ec534

Yesterday the 2014 Tour d’Afrique riders left from Khartoum. I hope they enjoy their ride as much as the 2013 crew did.

The Magic Mountain

For the past week the riders who will be participating in the 2013 Tour d’Afrique have been gathering at the Cataract Pyramids Resort just outside Cairo. It is a large, rather isolated place. You could live inside its walls and never leave. In a way it reminds me of the Swiss Sanatorium in Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain, with its microcosm of society, and its own culture, relationships and routines.

It seems a fitting place then to gather. The more than 50 riders and a dozen TdA staff will spend the next four months closely bound together. The resort has been our incubator. Over the past week it has seen our society and unique culture begin to develop. And, as in the Magic Mountain, that culture and society are being shaped by a common set of interests and concerns – not TB, but something almost as foreboding. It’s not all massages, fizzy drinks and sweet cakes. We know shit will happen.

The risk is that we use our bubble as insulation. This happens all over Africa in expat communities, which become ingrown and inward looking. We will, in effect, be a mobile expat community. There is no avoiding it. We travel as a group. We all wear neon-coloured lycra. We ride bikes that cost more than the annual income of many people we will meet. We speak different languages.

The challenge will be to use our community as a platform to connect rather than disconnect. We need to break out of the sanatorium.

Three Days to D-Day

2012-12-30 11.51.07The bike is set up and tuned, last minute purchases have been made and my laundry is done. The dominant mood among those I had dinner and a beer with last night was: ‘we’re here, we’re ready, let’s go’.  But we know that impatience is a negative emotion. We know that when you are impatient you cut corners and stop thinking clearly, that you fall back on intuition and prey to irrational emotions. We are a patient lot.

We are mature and experienced. We know that impatience was the real reason for the fall of man. We want too much and we want it now – Just one little apple. We know that impatience makes us ignore the present in anticipation of the future. And we want to enjoy the present. So we are ready to go now but we are a patient lot.

As Oscar Wilde put it in The Importance of Being Ernest: “If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.”

Stationary bike?

stationary bike

The good news is that the hotel I am staying at in Seoul does have a gym. The bad news is that it is closed for renovations.  However, when I got to my room I found a little note in a drawer saying that a temporary gym had been set up on the 6th floor and that I was welcome. Well, sort of. I went there and found out there was an extra charge to use it. OK. There were a few stationary bikes there so why not. I got up on a bike and turned on the computer that ran it and started to pedal. Boy was in uncomfortable. I am not very tall but the seat was too low for me. I tried to raise it but it was as high as it would go. And the seat was about a foot wide. My ass may be big, but not not that big. Next to it was a different type of stationary bike – more of a recumbent. It had a a kind of bucket seat that looked like it been reclaimed from a 1960s Lada. The pedals looked like the rubber blocks you put on a kid’s bike when their legs are too short. I adjusted the seat as best I could, sat down and started to pedal. What a chore. I stuck it for half an hour then gave it up. I didn’t think I would need chamois cream for a stationary bicycle  in a posh hotel. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow. Maybe not.

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Gentlemen of the Road

An interesting bit from Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines:

“. . . migratory species are less ‘aggressive’ than sedentary ones. . . . The journey . . . pre-empts the need for hierarchies and shows of dominance. The ‘dictators’ of the animal kingdom are those who live in an ambience of plenty. The anarchists, as always, are the ‘gentlemen of the road’.”

Certainly on a long journey there is a greater sense of common community and a willingness to engage with on an equal basis and to support others. What is it about being sedentary that turns us into corrupt, class-obsessed, fortress building hoarders who objectify and dehumanize those who do not serve our greed so that we can eliminate them physically, socially or economically without tripping our conscience? Will, as Chatwin suggests, a culture of ‘journeying’ and an acceptance of impermanence change us?

Taking some sort of journey, migration or walkabout has long been part of growing up and maturing, a necessary rite of passage between school and work – the gap year, backpacking around the world. It would be interesting to study the different paths taken by those who have gone walkabout when young as opposed to those who have not. Do they retain a greater sense of common humanity or do they revert to type once they become part of the sedentary masses?

It is also a cliché for those in the throws of a mid-life crisis to quit their job, buy a Harley and hit the road. Does the midlife crisis happen when the conscience kicks in after being sucked into the culture of ‘getting and spending’ and the ambitions and ways of living that that the sedentary culture seems to demand? Is the journey a way to let the conscience breathe? To heal itself?

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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5 reasons to ride a bike

I google’d ‘why do we ride bikes’ in a brain dead moment after finishing and sending off a long report. According to David Fiedler there are 5 reasons:

1. For Your Body

There are health benefits for people of all ages

  • increased cardiovascular fitness
  • increased strength
  • increased balance and flexibility
  • increased endurance and stamina
  • increased calories burned

Can’t really argue with that. Although I don’t really think too many car drivers get cyclist’s palsy in their hands (that tingly feeling) or have to slather on chamois cream before a hundred mile ride.

2. For Your State of Mind

It is a proven stress releaser. After a ride you feel relaxed, energized and happier about the world and yourself. And it is fun so it keeps you from taking yourself too seriously.

So no more Prozac for Mr. Fieldler. That’s good. I like that. I’m happy now. No stress.

But is a sixty-year-old man cycling through a sub Saharan desert in canary yellow or bright pink spandex taking himself too seriously or not seriously enough? Your call. Depends on what kind of fun you are having in your canary yellow spandex I guess.

3. For Your Community

It’s good for the people around you – one less car on the road. No noise. You are able to interact with people. It does not harm the environment: no polluting exhaust, no oil or gas consumed, small material inputs.

I like this. Makes me sound virtuous, which of course I am, if a bit dull. Are the material inputs for 8 bikes less than the energy and material inputs to make 1 small car? Possibly.

But not so sure about the people interaction bit. The roads can be mean. Kind of hard to toss off a friendly ‘Hi, how’s your day been?’ when somebody’s just pulled out in front of you and sent your over the bars.

4. For Convenience

There is an undeniable convenience factor: parking spaces are guaranteed, traffic jams are irrelevant.

Absolutely. And so easy to throw into the back of a pickup. Did you get the license plate #?

5. For Your Pocketbook

When you start multiplying cost per mile to operate a car by the distance you ride, you can easily calculate how much money you save by riding a bike.

daily round trip commute = 10 miles.

operating cost of car per mile = 30 pence

Cycle to work 150 days in a year

Savings = 10 * 150 *.3 =  £450

Makes sense?

Cycling shoes =  £120

Cycling shorts * 4 = £240

Cycling jerseys * 4 = £240

Rain jacket = £80

10 inner tubes = £50

2 pairs of cycling gloves = £30

1 new chain = £30

Yes, perfect sense!

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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The Ethiopian Solution

I may have found the solution to all those Ethiopian kids throwing rocks at passing cyclists.  See this story.  http://dvice.com/archives/2012/10/ethiopian-kids.php

As the story says:

“What happens if you give a thousand … tablet PCs to Ethiopian kids who have never even seen a printed word? Within five months, they’ll start teaching themselves English while circumventing the security on your OS to customize settings and activate disabled hardware. Whoa.”

So we just need to drop tablets in every village we pass through a few weeks before we get there and all the kids will be so busy geeking it they won’t even see us.

Gotta work.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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62 Countries

people from 62 countries have visited this blog. Amazing! Thanks.

Canada

United Kingdom

United States

United Republic of Tanzania

Netherlands

New Zealand

Australia

Germany

Hong Kong

Belgium

Switzerland

Ireland

Norway

India

Malaysia

Zambia

South Africa

Italy

Ghana

Mozambique

Spain

Egypt

France

Hungary

Brazil

Republic of Korea

Sweden

Philippines

Finland

Kenya

Denmark

Japan

Greece

Ecuador

Puerto Rico

Russian Federation

Pakistan

Austria

Poland

Croatia

Turkey

Thailand

United Arab Emirates

Tunisia

Slovenia

Morocco

Guernsey

Czech Republic

Saudi Arabia

Honduras

Senegal

Portugal

Syrian Arab Republic

Romania

Costa Rica

Haiti

Sudan

Israel

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Taiwan

Singapore

China

 

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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Two months to go

About five months ago I signed up to do the full Tour d’Afrique in 2013. http://www.tourdafrique.com/   The music starts in just over two months.  To recap: the Tour d’Afrique is a 12,000km bicycle race/expedition from Cairo to Cape Town. It travels through 10 African countries between January 11 and May 11 2013, averaging 125km a day. I expect there will be 50 riders.  We will be supported by a couple of overland vehicles, a tour director, a cook, a mechanic, a nurse – and who knows who else. We camp along the way. So after cycling 130 or 150km we will have to set up tents and make ourselves at home. Water is for drinking not cleaning. We get a couple of rest days for every 10 or 12 cycling days. Approximately 75% of the route is paved, the rest is not – and could be pretty bad.

I have spent the last five months getting ready. It’s been like having a second job. Fundraising (still lots to do), tour admin, training, buying stuff (everything from a new bike to a solar charger), organizing my work life so that I can manage four months off, organizing family life for such a long absence, learning how to set up a blog . . . the list has been long. But as the list shortens the serious work becomes more pressing – training, preparing the head, testing, adjusting and finalizing the bike.

I think my body is ready for it. I was feeling fairly fit by the end of October. But with all of my work travel in November and December (Zimbabwe, DRC, Ghana, London, South Korea) I am feeling a little less sure of myself. I will have to try to get in some good miles in the last couple of weeks of December and then cycle back into fitness in Egypt. I also have a bad habit of not hydrating enough so I have been working on drinking whether I feel I need it or not. Believe it or not that’s tough.

The bike also seems set. I got it at the end of September and put some good miles on it in October, including a hilly, 160km ride in 33OC heat. I think I have enough spares, although I have had far too many pinch punctures. Need to get some advice on this. Perhaps I am not inflating my tires enough – or perhaps too much. Maybe I am not taking the touch road conditions properly. Maybe I need tougher tires, although I have good continental cyclo-cross tires on the new bike and have ordered some Schwab marathons.

And where is the mind? Can I speak of it in the third person? At the moment it is positive, enthusiastic, excited and cautious, which feels like a weird, tight rope kind of mix. It is a long haul, not a sprint. Energy and excitement have to be managed and not just released from the blocks.  I am confident I will feel good at the start. I am curious to see how I will feel one week in, one month in, one month to go. I think perhaps you need to be more like Ivan Lendl than John McEnroe.  But then McEnroe always looks like he’s having more fun. And it’s got to be about the fun.

This is what the ride looks like.

SECTION DESTINATION DISTANCE START END
Full Tour Cairo to Capetown 11693km Jan 11 May 11
Pharaohs Delight Cairo to Khartoum 1955km Jan 11 Jan. 30
The Gorge Khartoum toAddis Ababa 1604km Feb. 1 Feb. 18
Meltdown Madness Addis Ababa to Nairobi 1689km Feb. 20 Mar. 09
Masai Steppe Nairobi to Mbeya 1211km Mar. 11 Mar. 23
Malawi Gin Mbeya to Lilongwe 750km Mar. 25 Mar. 31
Zambezi Zone Lilongwe to Victoria Falls 1213km Apr. 03 Apr. 11
Eleplant Highway Vic Falls to Windhoek 1541km Apr. 14 Apr. 24
Diamond Coast Windhoek to Cape Town 1732km Apr. 26 May 11

 

This is what the other riders look like.  (I picked up this data from Philip Howard’s blog http://www.onyerbikeinafrica.com/blog.html He is a 30 year old Irishman who is also doing the full tour and looks far too fit for his own good. Thanks Philip.)

50 full tour riders

33 men/17 women

15 countries: Canada (10), Britain (7), USA (4), Germany (4), Holland (4), Australia (4), New Zealand (4), Switzerland (3), Ireland (3), Italy (2), Denmark (1),  Brazil (1), Belgium (1), Norway (1),  South Africa (1)

Ages range from 18-70

teens – 1
20’s – 15
30’s – 8
40’s – 10
50’s – 10
60’s – 5
70’s – 1

I am not exactly sure where I fit in these stats since I travel on both Canadian and UK passports and since I will be 59 at the start but 60 at the end. But it looks like a good mix of nationalities and ages. And it looks like I’ll have lots of company at the geriatric end of the scale.

Two months to go.  Got to get a haircut.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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5 flights, 15 lions, 2 more flats

Time to catch up. Been away for a while again. It started a week ago last Wednesday when I got up at 3am to catch a 5:10 flight to Zimbabwe – well actually a flight to Nairobi, followed by a flight to Gaborone, followed by a flight to Harare.  A direct flight from Dar to Harare, if there were one, would take 2 ½ – 3 hours. Thanks to Kenya airways and their bizarre routing, it took me 12 hours. I did my schtick in Harare and then flew back to Dar on Friday – this time only two flights, one to Nairobi, then one to Dar.

Up at 5am on Saturday to get ready to leave at 6 for the Selous game reserve.  It is mid-term break for the kids and we were off on Safari. I cycled to Kibiti, about 160km and very hilly, where I met up with the family and a vehicle. We stayed in a local guesthouse across from the police station in Kibiti that night. Nice little place with about ten rooms around an inner courtyard, showers and loos in a block at the end. We got two rooms for 16,000 shillings, about US$10. Next morning we did about 100km on bad dirt and sand roads into the game reserve, where we spent 4 days. It is very dry in the park this time of year. No real rains yet, so lots of game near the water. We saw 15 different lions, lots of crocs, buffalo, elephants, giraffe, hippos, kudu, wart hogs and impala. No leopard this time though.

After arriving in Kibiti the Saturday before I had sent my bike back to Dar in another vehicle with Georgina, who had cycled down with me but had to get back to Dar that evening. When I got back to Dar on Wednesday night I found that both tires on the croix de fer were flat again. X!c@##! What is it with me and slow-leak, pinch punctures? There were a lot of corrugated speed bumps on the road, at the front and back ends of every village we cycled through. I can only think that I went over some of these too fast and hard and pinched the tubes. But this is ridiculous. I can’t get off and carry my bike over every speed bump.  Haven’t had the new bike for a month yet and I have already had 4 flats. I feel like I am single handedly keeping a rubber plantation in business.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

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