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Published: April 27th 2010
What's He Doing in that Feral Cave?
Camper A:"I think he's taking a pee in his upturned footstool."
Camper B:"You're kidding me?"
Camper A: "No listen, I'm sure that's the sound of someone taking a pee."
Camper B: "Well, I hope he doesn't pee all over his sleeping bag."
Camper A: "Gross!"
As I mentioned once before, the first question I get when I meet someone new is usually the one that goes, “what’s that box thing on the back of your bike?” At first I was quizzed so often about my plastic footstool it used to irritate me. Now, perhaps because I’m more relaxed after months on the road, I find the question more amusing than annoying. The pictures explain its uses - including its “secret” purpose, at last revealed!
Touring Tips For Novices
This blog is aimed at novice bike tourers. Those others with a few thousand kilometres behind them will have already worked out much of what follows.
It’s All About The Bike
The first, crucial decision to make is what kind of bike? The roads to all of New Zealand’s major visitor attractions are sealed, but the satisfaction for some cyclists comes in visiting more remote places and riding on quieter, gravel roads and 4WD tracks.
Mountain Bike V Road Bike
If you expect your trip to be more tourist holiday than back country experience, a road bike with its skinny tyres and light weight will be fine. But if,
Just don't tell the guests about the other uses for the footstool.
like me, you are tempted by names such as Molesworth, Rainbow, the Old Dunstan Road, the Whanganui River Road and the sand of 90 Mile Beach then give serious thought to a mountain bike with its fatter tyres, solid construction, disc brakes and front suspension.
I chose a standard Avanti Montari, with 27 gears, front suspension and hydraulic disc brakes. The range of gears was particularly useful with the load I was carrying, and the disc brakes were wonderfully sensitive on steep gravel descents. Being an Avanti, I knew there would be plenty of dealers around NZ where I could have it repaired.
Stuff that went Wrong
Just for the record, here's a list of things that went wrong. The gears needed tuning every 1000k or so. I'm embarrased to say I still haven't learnt to do the job myself, so the bike went in to a workshop on each occasion. The bracket holding the handlebar bag (Phillips Dry Bag) broke twice. I bought a replacement the first time, the second time I gave up and added the bag to the luggage on my rear carrier. In my view, the bracket just isn't tough enough to
How Not to Empty a Pee Bucket
There is every chance here that the pee bucket will catch on the unzipped entrance, and the the contents will spill over the tent. Also, anyone around will see what's going on. Much better to carefully tip the contents on the ground inside the tent's vestibule, and hope it drains straight into the ground - rather than flowing under the tent.
withstand the bumps it gets on corrugated roads. The pads on my rear disc brakes ground themselves down to the metal after 5,500k, the day after I finished my tour. The chain and cassette are due for replacement but have lasted the distance.
Traps for the Unwary
Fitting panniers on a bike with front suspension can be trickier than on a road bike. On mine, u-bolts hold the front rack in place along with sturdy plastic cable ties (which have broken a couple of times). At the rear, make sure there is enough clearance between the panniers and your cycle shoes, otherwise your heels will clip the panniers with every rotation of the pedals.
There’s a bewildering choice, but my bike shop recommended Schwalbe Marathon tyres and after 5,500k and only one puncture I feel they got it right. The Marathons have a tread that gives them reasonable grip in gravel and on cambered roads, but they still roll easily on the seal. Incidentally, there’s still plenty of tread left on mine and I heard one story about a guy who claimed his Marathons lasted 10,000k in Asia, without a puncture.
I went with Vaude, but wasn’t entirely happy. The panniers themselves came adrift from their plastic backing frames, and I had to secure the two together with nuts and bolts. They were surprisingly waterproof although I always used plastic bags for my clothes and sleeping bag, just in case. Almost all the long distance tourers I met were using Ortlieb panniers and they had few complaints.
Again, there is a bewildering variety out there. I just used the standard seat that came with the bike and it was never comfortable. Some people swear by the (old fashioned) Brooks B17 saddle, but I suspect there are lots of other, more modern alternatives. I suggest you ask around and do your research on the internet, but don’t settle for the basic saddle that comes with the bike.
Another big decision to make is to decide what kind of approach you will take to weight. How concerned will you be about an extra kilo (or five), if the extra load provides additional comfort?
For example, if traveling solo will you be content with the lightest one-person tent you can buy, or will you want the
luxury of a bigger tent that lets you spread out your gear?
I went for the “luxury” option, and while I was happy enough to lug around 45 kilos of bike and luggage, I’m not sure I would do it again.
I listed an inventory on a previous blog:
Looking back on it, the list remains almost unchanged. The spray can of oil was replaced by a small bottle, I added a pair of undies and got rid of my herbs and spices for the last, hard ride over the Old Dunstan Road.
The one big addition is a netbook - small enough to stow away in a pannier but big enough to write these blogs without going blind. And by adding a Vodafone USB stick, I can be online in my tent for NZ$30 a month. I have found it invaluable for four reasons: it’s been much easier than scribbling a journal, it keeps friends and family informed, it‘s company and now the trip is over, I can print off my blogs in the form of a book to provide a perrmanent record. My netbook (an Acer)
stood up to the thumps, bangs and crashes of some very rough roads, although I did take the advice of a sales assistant who suggested I remove the battery before packing it away on the bike.
If there is to be a next time, I would seriously consider the “lightweight” option. That might mean ditching my clip-on cycle shoes so I could get by with one pair of shoes. Do I really need a pillow? And what about cooking gear? Maybe it would be an excuse to spend extra money on the lightest stove and cook set I could find.
I always carried at least one book, along with guides and maps. But even the lightest paperback adds to the load.
Incidentally, I relied on two main guides: “Pedallers’ Paradise” by Nigel Rushton (there are North Island and South Islands editions and both are small, light and excellent). The other is the Kennett Brothers bible, “Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides“. As its name suggests, it’s aimed at mountain bikers but does include some excellent longer rides on back country roads. It’s so heavy, I finally ripped out
the pages I wanted and ditched the rest.
Verdict on the Footstool
As for the plastic footstool? I bought it for less than $20, and found it incredibly useful - especially as a seat and as a “pee” bucket. But did I really need it? The answer is no.
Tot: 0.125s; Tpl: 0.024s; cc: 11; qc: 44; dbt: 0.0152s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb