Tag Archives: cycle-touring

A Warm shower and a bed

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Martin Zlámal from the Czech Republic
Martin Zlámal from the Czech Republic

I think I can safely say that, if you are here, reading this post, you are a cyclist or at least enjoy the sport. If I am wrong, however, don’t go away… 🙂
I value your time and attention. But have you ever done a long touring trip on a bike? One that lasted several  days and hundreds or perhaps even thousands of miles / kilometres?

That is exactly what Martin Zlámal from the Czech Republic is doing now. He is riding his bike from the village he was living near Manchester in the UK to his family home in the Czech Republic, a trip of over 1,000 miles / 1,600 Km.

Martin at the Frimley4 Business Park on his way to Guildford
Martin at the Frimley4 Business Park on his way to Guildford

I met Martin through Warmshowers.org, a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. I have been a member of Warmshowers.org for 3 years and 3 months and never had any touring cyclist requested to be hosted by me. I guess I am just not in any major touring route. As a guest I was only successful using it once, as well, in Pavia, Italy during my cycling pilgrimage on the Via Francigena to Rome. I sent dozens of requests over the years, but I guess, since the platform acts just as an interface between people, its practical success depends more of the willingness of their members to actually host and be hosted than the technology itself.

It is a great idea though and I wish we could learn to live and share our resources more often. Only those that have traveled long distances by bike fully understand the value of things we normally always take for granted. A nice warm shower to clean all the dirt and the sweat of a long day of cycling and a comfy bed. Of course, what each host can do for their guests vary with the resources they have available for themselves or are willing to share with them (a warm meal, laundry of the dirty clothes, etc).

This is where I said Good bye to Martin, half way between Bracknell and Guildford.
This is where I said Good bye to Martin, half way between Bracknell and Guildford.

The day we can make this idea work every single time, will be for me the day I will become completely certain that our civilization will not only survive, but strive, because that would be the day empathy will be common place and not fear, greed or selfishness.

Regardless of if you are a cyclist or not, I’d like to encourage you to become a member of Warmshowers.org and help those on the road, providing at least the basic comforts that every human being should have.

The link below opens the “Relive” video for the short ride I’ve done with Martin from Bracknell to Frimley Green which is 25 Km from Guildford, the first destination of his trip today. Martin plans to ride all the way down to the Ferry port of New Haven, take the ferry to Dieppe, in France, and then ride to Paris on the Avenue Verte, a disused railway line that was converted into a cycle way and leads right into Paris. The route he will then take to the Czech Republic is still open, so if you have suggestions or can help him further, please feel free to leave a comment, as I am sure he will be checking back on this.

Martin, be safe and enjoy your trip mate!

Relive ‘Short ride with Warmshowers guest’

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Bike ride to and around the Isle of Wight

The week before Easter 2015 I´ve spent 3 days riding to and around the Isle of Wight. These are the posts of my experience:

  1. 30/Mar/2015: Ride to Ryde (from my home to the city of Ryde in the island)
  2. 01/Apr/2015: From Ryde to Ventnor over the Needles Park (Gun batteries)
  3. 02/Apr/2015: From Ventnor back to Ryde and with the Hovercraft back to Portsmouth.

Still learning how to use WordPress. I think this is the best method to collate them together. If anyone has a better solution, I am all hears.

Hope this is useful to someone. Thank you for your visit!


Bike ride from Ventnor to Ryde, Isle of Wight.

(Disponível em Português) (Auf Deutsch verfügbar)

The 3rd and last day of my short Isle of Wight tour started rainy and grey. You can see by the pictures in the time-lapse video below.

I knew the day was going to be like that and was expecting it to be much worse than it actually was. About 1.5 hours into the ride the skies cleared and the rain stopped. Still very cloudy, but at least dry.

I had a non-water proof camera mount on the handlebar and the water proof camera casing was mounted on my helmet. Unfortunately I didn´t notice that somehow the camera was bending to the left as you can see at the beginning of the time-lapse video. Once the rain stopped I moved the camera to the handlebar mount as the open casing also enabled the camera to be charged while recording the trip.

The ride started with a climb straight away. Ventnor is very “hilly” and when I planned my route using Google Maps it suggested a more inland route than I had taken in a previous visit to the island (Sustrans Regional Route 67). So, I didn´t get to see much of the village, but I did ride through it during a nice sunny day in August 2014 and the video below I took during that ride.

The coastal route is nicer, but it has climbs of up to 12% incline in places that were challenging enough for an “empty” bike, let alone a fully loaded one.

Lots of flowers along the way
Lots of flowers along the way (click to enlarge)

The route traced by Google Maps took me along Wroxall, Newchurch and when I got to a place known as the Garlic Farm, which is exactly what the title indicates, a garlic farm, but you can

visit the farm and know everything about garlic (something like a Garlic Museum), I realised Google was taking me to a direct route to Ryde, which is not what I wanted. My intention was to bypass the

Cycle way, National Cycling Route 23
Cycle way, National Cycling Route 23 (click to enlarge)

coastal hills, as I had already done them last year, but to go back to the coast shortly after, so I turned back to Newchurch and entered what is known as the Red Squirrel Trail or Sustrans National Cycle Route 23. I really recommend a ride on this route. It´s a pedestrian shared cycle path, but horses are not allowed and it runs alongside the river Yar. Very peaceful and you´ll find a number of people riding it as well.

I met a nice couple and had a quick chat with them. The man was a native of the Isle, but they both lived in California and were there to visit his family.

View of Sandown Pier
View of Sandown Pier (click to enlarge)

The destination was Sandown and I got a bit lost after the cycle path ended, so you see in the GPS data a bit a back and forth until I found my way.

Sandown Beach on a nice day in August 2014
Sandown Beach on a nice day in August 2014 (click to enlarge)

Sandown is a nice part of the Island with great sandy beaches and a fun pier with all sorts of entertainments (game machines, bump cars, etc). If you have children they will love it (it reminds Brighton pier).

Sandown Pier
Closer look at Sandown Pier (Aug 2014) (click to enlarge)

Riding along the promenade at Sandown beach is fun, but on sunny days you’ll find it full of people and need to be careful.

After Sandown I made my way to

Bembridge Lifeboat Station
Bembridge Lifeboat Station at the end of the bridge. (click to enlarge)

Bembridge where the new Lifeboat Station is located. At a cost of £7

million it’s a state of the art facility where they can launch sea worthy rescue boats over a ramp in a matter of minutes.

Priory Bay Hotel and Gold Course
Priory Bay Hotel and Gold Course (click to enlarge)

After Bembridge I crossed Saint Helens and the grounds of the Priory Bay Hotel and Golf camp (very nice to stay if you have the money) in the direction to the village of Seaview. In Seaview you have a clear view of Portsmouth on the other side of the channel.

View of Portsmouth from Seaview.
10x Zoom view of Portsmouth from Seaview. (click to enlarge)

From Seaview it´s a short trip to Ryde alongside the beach. Having done the trip in this direction (counter clockwise), if you ever go to the Isle of Wight to ride I would recommend that you go the other direction (clockwise). From Ryde to Seaview, Bembridge, Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor and so on. I think it would be a more scenic route.

This post now concludes the series of posts about my 3 days trip to and around the Isle of Wight. If you have any questions, don´t hesitate to ask. Thank you for your visit!

I´ve added a few more pictures and videos below.

Appley Beach and Appley Tower
Appley Beach with the Appley Tower on the background (between Seaview and Ryde) (click to enlarge)
An interesting picture in every village I rode through.
An interesting picture in every village I rode through. (click to enlarge)
Along the Cycling Route 23
Along the Cycling Route 23 (click to enlarge)
Bicycle tunnel
Bicycle tunnel (click to enlarge)

The video below was taken as I was about the leave the Isle of Wight after a 3 days cycling tour to and around the Island.
Bicycles and Hovercrafts… two very interesting vehicles.

Bicycles are carried free of charge in the Hovercraft and you don’t need to disassemble anything, just remove your bags/luggage from the bike (and item lose item, although I left the water bootles in places and they arrived fine). On the way back my bike´s rear view mirror got broken though. Keep in mind the cargo can only carry 2 bikes at once, but during summer the service runs every 15 minutes.

The next video was shot inside the Hovercraft while “flying” over water to Portsmouth.

<< Previous day

Ryde to Ventnor via Needles Park

(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)

This was my 2nd time in the Isle of Wight. I have been here last year with my family and we drove to the Needles Park on the last day of our visit. We could not, however, drive to the Batteries where the big guns used to be. My younger son was already tired and I knew if we walked all the way up hill (it is a considerable walk) I would likely have to carry him.

So in this visit to the Isle of Wight one of my goals was to go the the Needles Battery and see the sea from there.

Full English Breakfast
Full English Breakfast at Kasbah

I left Ryde at about 11 in the morning after a nice full English Breakfast in the B&B I was staying, which I do recommend, by the way. It´s called Kasbah and they are very friendly and welcoming. Rather than a traditional B&B it is more like a small hotel, with nice on-suite rooms, TV and comfortable beds.

During Breakfast I phoned a number of B&Bs and Guesthouses in the Village of Freshwater, which is near the Needles Park. No rooms available. Camping was also not an option as it was too cold, windy and rainy at night and even if I wanted to, most camping grounds where not yet open for the season.

River Medina Marina in Newport, Isle of Wight
River Medina Marina in Newport.

So I decided to call B&Bs in my next destination, which was Ventnor, a village about 20 miles or 32 Km away – Success, but at a 40% higher price. With accommodation reserved for the night I started my ride letting Google guide me all the way. The first part of the ride, is the route from Ryde to Newport, the island´s biggest town.

I was already familiar with this route because last year I did a 62 Km ride in one day (1/2 way around the Island) which included this ride from Ryde to Newport. Most of the ride is done on roads, but there are stretches of shared cycle ways. The ride follows the National Cycle Route 22.

Horse riders on the B3401
Horse riders on the B3401

To my surprise I even found people riding horses on that road, which must have really pissed the drivers behind them 🙂

Had I found accommodation in Freshwater, I intended to take National Cycle Route 23 and ride to Cowes and Yarmouth and then to the Needles (if not too late in the evening) or stay in Freshwater. Given I had to ride south to Ventnor, I decided for a more direct route to the Needles.

Narrow stretch of the B3401 (Calbourne Road) with intense traffic
Narrow stretch on a climb of the B3401 (Calbourne Road) with intense traffic.

There are portions of this ride with high traffic of vehicles, mostly cars, vans, buses and small trucks. One particular point on the B3401 is a considerable climb in a very narrow part of the road.

I think that was the only moment in the 2 days of ride in the Isle of Wight that I was concerned for my safety, but that was a very small distance, of perhaps less than a kilometre. The problem is to climb with a heavy bike, slows you down too much, with cars passing inches from you at times.

The rest of the ride was reasonably uneventful with fields and farms often on both sides of the road.

ZigZag climb to the top of the cliff
ZigZag climb to the top of the cliff

When I arrived at the Needles Park was already past 3pm in the afternoon, so I went straight up the cliff in the direction of the batteries. I did have to push the bike a part of the way up as the wind, together with the climb was making it very difficult to pedal on a loaded bike.

Bus coming down from the top of the cliff
That would have been an easier way to get up there.

You can walk around the new batteries, but there isn´t much to see, apart from the wonderful sea views.

The Needles Rock formation
The Needles Rock formation.

To enter the old batteries, which is maintained by English Heritage you need to pay a fee of £6.00, which, given the time I thought wasn´t worth it. So once I had a look around I rode the way down to the park and had a cup of coffee.

The Needles Rock formation on the background
Selfie with the Needles Rock formation on the background

There I realized I was without mobile phone signal, so I had to guess the way to Ventnor for a mile until signal was restored and I realized I was going slightly off course.

I wanted to ride to Ventnor on the A3055, also known as Military Road, as this is a coastal road that offer excellent sea views along the way.

(I was told there used to be missile silos in the island during the cold war, but could not find any evidence of that... well, they would have probably hidden the silos anyway, right?)
House being transported by a truck
Mobile phones, mobile houses, mobile everything…

About half way there, Google directed me to take a detour, which I knew was to avoid the A3055 because from that point onwards the traffic increases substantially, but also, probably, to spare me from the climbs I knew I had to do, because I had already ridden this part last year (on an “empty” bike though).

Freshwater Bay Beach
Freshwater Bay Beach

Turns out, when I arrived in the B&B in Ventnor my hosts told me there had been a land slide and the road was blocked from a certain point onwards. Had I continued on the A3055 I would have had to turn back and take the detour anyway, so thank you Google.

Riding through little villages and farm houses, using small country lanes was indeed better and although there were a few climbs, they were much less difficult than those on the A3055.

Yellow flowers on both sides and the sea in front.
Particularly nice stretch on the A3055. Yellow flowers on both sides and the sea in front.

As I arrived in Ventnor, the time was 6:30pm, the sun had gone completely bringing the temperature down to a chili 5C.

Were the weather friendlier, I would have probably done a much different ride today, but when you are touring one of the things you do is to improvise.

It rained all night that night and weather was predicting heavy rain the next day (which thankfully didn´t actually happen), so I decided to cut my “Tour de Isle of Wight” short and head home the next day.

The video below is more than 8h of riding compressed in less than 8 minutes (5 seconds time-lapse).

<< Previous day                                                                                         Next day >>

Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Panniers

Ortlieb Back Roller Clasic Panniers
Ortlieb Back Roller Clasic Panniers

If you go to work on a bike or if you do long distance bike touring, bike panniers are a must. You only start paying more attention to the quality of bike panniers when you are unfortunate to have to ride under rain and you get to your destination with the contents of your panniers all wet.

That is what happened to me. I´ve have several cheap panniers over the years. The panniers I did my Bracknell to Paris ride were purchased in Aldi for, I think, £15 or less. I still have them, but after that ride they took a beating and I would not use them again for such a long ride.

Ortlieb Panniers are among the best money can buy. It may look like they are very simple as they are basically just one big compartment with a little side compartment on the back inside the pannier.

What is so good about them is, of course, the quality of the material they are made off, the easy rack attachment system and the fact they are extremely water proof.

During my last tour in the Isle of Wight I had to endure quite a bit of rain and even a hail storm along the way. I had not only clothes in them, but also sensitive electronic equipment that didn´t like water very much. Not a single drop got through them and I have even heard experiences from people that actually left them in a flooded field with a laptop computer inside and everything was fine and dry.

There are many reviews on the internet and YouTube, so I´ll just borrow one…

If you can afford them, I highly recommend.


Bracknell to Paris, Day 1 (Bracknell to Newhaven)