Category Archives: bike discourse

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

 

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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.

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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.

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When a man lets things go so far

I was recently reminded of this quote from Flan O’Brien’s The Third Policeman.

“The gross and net result of it is that people who spent most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles…when a man lets things go so far that he is more than half a bicycle, you will not see him so much because he spends a lot of his time leaning with one elbow on walls or standing propped by one foot at kerbstones.”

Duchamp clearly went well beyond half way.

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Bike discourse: Or why I like lists

I like lists because they are, in a way, the starting point for our discourse, for our stories. Finding the discourse or story is just giving shape, structure and possibly meaning to the bits of narrative found in the gaps between and underneath the items on a list.

It doesn’t matter whether you are writing fiction or an audit report (although in many cases these days they are the same thing).  You still start with a list – or the evidence and data (fiction simply means you invent the evidence – you make up the list). Years a go when I was writing some technical report somebody said: ’Just start with the data and tell the story in the data’. Good advice.

But don’t worry. I won’t bore you with the bits of narrative in the gaps between the multi tool and the tire levers on my ‘tools and bike bits’ list, or the ‘2 packs of baby wipes and nail clippers’ on my hygiene list. Some stories just aren’t worth telling.

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Technology in the quiet zone

One of the things I need to figure out is what technology I will use to communicate while I am cycling across Africa. Don’t get me wrong. It is not as if I want to stay as wired as we have all become in the last couple of decades. I don’t. It is more a question of ‘what do I need to stay minimally connected’ so that when I need to communicate it is there and when I don’t it leaves me alone.

When I was 20, in the early 70s, I did a year at the University of Nice in the South of France. During that year, I had absolutely no expectation that I would talk to anybody I couldn’t see or touch. We wrote letters. Put them in envelopes. Put stamps on them. And put them in letter boxes. Odd. Phones were expensive, not something 8 year olds get for their birthday. In fact, the only time I phoned home during that year was when we were cycling in the hills behind Nice and found a phone box with a broken phone it. I think the coin mechanism was jammed. You could phone anywhere in the world for nothing. (You may well ask what we were doing testing phones in the hills behind Nice. Nothing drug induced or paranormal I’m afraid. We had simply received a tip that it existed so had rushed off to see if it still worked – or was still broken.) Unfortunately when we tried it again the next week it had been fixed.

But traveling through Africa is a different challenge. There is that tension between voluntarily entering the ‘quiet zone’ and the need to stay connected. Some times the quiet zone will be enforced, but not always. So I need to figure out what will be best. Do I take laptop? Or just a smart phone? Or neither? Do I just take a ‘bog standard, doesn’t matter if I lose it’ phone. Do I buy local SIM cards or get a ‘covers all’ data and roaming package? Or do I just take a pencil and a notebook and use Internet cafes when and where I find them? Any type of phone, laptop or netbook will need to be charged. That means more technology and more time babysitting it.

Back in the 70s I would not be asking myself any of these questions. At the end of the 70s I lived in Northern Nigeria for two years. I didn’t talk to my parents – or anybody else outside of Nigeria – for those two years. I didn’t feel deprived or lost. I was in the quiet zone and that was fine.

I thought this was just about riding a bike.

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More and more bikes (3)

Here is a good example of the way in which bikes are becoming symbols of exclusivity instead of inclusivity. This is from an ad on Craigs List from ‘a dude in SAN LUIS OBISPO’ trying to sell a ‘fixie’ (The language itself is a sign of exclusion. What’s a ‘fixie’? A ‘fixie’ is a fixed wheel bike. That is, it cannot coast because the back wheel is fixed. As long as the bike is moving the pedals keep going round and round. It has only one gear and no brakes. You stop by pushing back on the pedals and skidding. Most bikes when I was skid were a type of ‘fixie’ but they had a coaster brake, that is a brake in the rear hub activated by pedaling backwards.)

Anyway, here is the ad:

I tried so hard. I dated a girl from Portland. I criticized cheese. I applied the term artisanal to every inanimate object that went in or on my body. I burned and singed my forearms just to make it look like I was going to culinary school. I grew Carol Brady hair. I got itchy from the finest flannel and I cut off circulation from the waist down with jeans that made my ass look like an elevator button.

… And I rode a fixie.

No more. It’s all gotta go. The hair, the macrame, the texting overages, the Netflix and Hulu Plus. The record collection (have you ever tried to box up and move an effin stack of LPs?!) … and the bike.

This guy seems to have had no interest at all in cycling. He only seems to have been interested in the ‘exclusivity’ it lent him and what it supposedly said about him – or should I say his ‘brand’.

But he’s changing, so I guess it’s back to basics for this ‘dude’ (does he need to meet Grant Petersen?). Or is it just brand repositioning?

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