An open letter to the bike industry – Keep doing what you’re doing

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The bike industry created this. Nuff said!

We probably all have that friend. You know, the one when 29er’s came out had a hissy fit about the bike industry just doing it to make us spend money. Normally they also bang on about how their trusty 26” bike or steel road bike was better in every way. They probably had the same strop when fat bikes, carbon, 650b, 29+, 27+ or new (insert any brand you like) BB or headset standard came out. I agree with them and I think they are right; the bike industry does want our money. However what’s wrong with that? I love my 29er, really want a 29+ and have a myriad of different BB and headset standards on my bike collection. Continue reading

Bikepacking the Camino Portugal – Day 6: Villa du Conde – Ponte de Lima – 47.5mi 2,648ft

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Evil lampposts & Beautiful Bridge

After having a shower in the run down holiday camp showers (pure luxury!) I had to find my way back to the Camino since I had veered off the route to get to the beach. It was easy to find again but me being me I almost instantly went the wrong way and headed down the coastal route instead. Once realising the error it meant a 20k backtrack to the days route. Me getting lost or going the wrong way seemed to be as common as the yellow arrows pointing the right way. Clearly I had developed the skill of not seeing yellow anymore seriously the trail couldn’t be easier to follow so please don’t think its hard, I’m just useless. Continue reading

Bikepacking the Camino Portugal – Day 5: Oliveira de Azemeis – Porto & Villa du Conde – 49.9mi 2,838ft

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Today I was focused as Porto and the beach were so close and all I wanted was swim in the sea and drink beer. Therefore I put my foot down to get there as soon as possible. Stu and Helen prior to the trip had told me about a campsite next to the beach in Villa du Conde that was to be my final destination of the day. However I don’t think I found the right one, unless a crowded rundown holiday camp was the correct place. Continue reading

Bikepacking the Camino Portugal – Day 4: Coimbra to Oliveira de Azemeis – 57.4mi 3,655ft

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Although uneventful, today had a few moments of delight with glorious views, sweeping rivers and cobbled streets. I didn’t take so many pictures although probably should have done.

About halfway today, I came across a beautiful river, amazing bridge and a large pond full of weed. On this pond an old man was piloting a large red weed remover/dredger to clear it out. It of course was a beautiful place to stop and have a break. However just before you reach this lovely spot, you cross over a main road into I guess the car park for here. On the side of the road was a tall, high-heeled lady wearing a very small red leather skirt. Continue reading

Jimbo’s Blog: Tour Divide, the start of it all

The Great Divide Route is the world’s longest off-pavement cycling route, it covers 2745 miles. The route is highlighted by long dirt roads and jeep trails that wend their way through forgotten passes of the Continental Divide. It travels through Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, and the United States of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. By route’s end a thru-rider will climb nearly 200,000 feet of vertical (equivalent to summiting Mount Everest from sea-level 7 times).

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

In June 2016 I will be riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route with my son Tom.

I first heard about this route back in 2008 when Jenn Hill (singletrack magazine), who was then working at my LBS, told me all about it as she had entered the race that is run over the route every year. That year I followed Jenn’s progress on the MTBCast podcast that covers it and I became hooked on it and the idea of doing it myself.

Fast forward to 2011 and I had a life changing RTA, to start with I was uncertain if I would be able to ride properly again. After a couple of operations my leg was sorted out, but I have been left to deal with the after effects of a serious head injury. Something like this does give you a rather unique perspective and the feeling that you should take the chance and go for it!

I started to plan, save and get the gear together the beginning of 2015. Over the course of the year I have tried to do more multi-day trips in an attempt to see just how I can cope riding longer distances. May saw a gaggle of us tackling the Welsh Ride Thing for the first time.

My Genesis loaded up
Say cheese

Then July it was down to Paris and back to watch the Tour de France. Four of the longest days in the saddle and the most miles I have ever ridden, truly hard work, but really rewarding and opened my eyes to what I am truly capable of.

Arc de Triomphe at last!
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Then in September came the biggie, the Coast to Coast, the guide book said eight days, but we only had four at our disposal. Staying in YHA’s meant we had a definite target every day and big mountain trails in the Lake District meant the first two days were brutal. What an amazing trip it turned out to be, but we underestimated just how hard it would be and how long we would spend in the saddle each day. Truly good preparation!

Bowness plantation
Burnmoor Tarn
Four fools

So I’ve truly had a great year and some great adventures which have given me the opportunity to try my gear and decide what I wanted out of my bike. My Genesis Longitude truly turned out to be an amazing machine, but I wanted the comfort of a titanium frame like my Kinesis Sync. However the low standover of the Sync meant there was no room for a decent size frame bag and after doing a bit of searching Travers Bikes appeared on the horizon.

Thanks @alpkit, awesome custom frame bag, the @traversbikes Rusty is looking sweet - #bikepacking #gdmbr #TourDivide #2016 #herewecome

A blend of the Sync and the Genesis and I think I’ve got the perfect tool for the job. I was able to get some customisations to the frame too, so I’m really happy with the end results.

Back in April Jenn was doing an article for Singletrack about a South Downs route and I went along as an ‘extra body’ for the photos. I had a good chat to Jenn about whether I should enter the Tour Divide race or just ride the route and her take on it was that it would be a lot more fun to ride it and not be a competitor. Her advice was to go for it! As luck would have it my son Tom is due to finish college at the end of June 2016 and so he will be free to come along with me on this amazing adventure.

As you may know Jenn sadly passed away in October, she was the one who inspired me in the first place and we’ll be doing this ride in her memory and raising money for Cancer Research as we go. Any donation you could make to my Just Giving page will help us along our way on what will undoubtedly be a tough, but amazing adventure.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

So keep your eyes on the web site, I’ll be posting updates on our countdown to the trip, tales of trips we take, reviews of gear that has proved itself, as well as updates as and when I have an internet connection when we finally hit the road.

Jimbo

China on two wheels and through a lens. Part Two. LKLM fun.

First of all I would like to say thanks for the positive feedback on my first post and now that I’ve introduced myself to the OTB viewers I promise that the future posts will not be so heavy on the reading!
Having spent around two weeks living in the LKLM dormitory I thought it was about time I made another entry to OTB, I really didn’t plan to stay in Shenzhen city anywhere near as long as I have but due to the riding scene and the good friends I have here the time has flown by! Since my last post me and the LKLM crew have been on two major rides out to the mountains that surround Shenzhen and one road trip to Feng shun which is about a four hour drive to enter in a 168km enduro event.

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A short afternoon ride to Ji Gong mountain in Longgang district surrounding Shenzhen.
Photo captions.
1. LKLM crew after a big feast and 5 bottles of rice wine.
2 to 5. Testing some new bikes and other LKLM toys! A summit view and a brief stop at the mountain spring.The bike in the final photo is a prototype for next years range, lugged frame and forks is a new look for LKLM and the attention to detail going in to next years range is looking good.

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An 86km lap around Longgang district.
Photo captions.
1. Annie is a friend and local rider in Shenzhen who I have known for a little while, as I was in Shenzhen we met up for a cruise around some of the parks in central Shenzhen. Annie is full of life and loves almost any sporting activity! She is a strong and independent young girl who is a perfect example of “The modern Chinese girl!” Nice to see you Annie and hope you have a fantastic time in America!
2 + 3. Leaving LKLM HQ at 06:30 and heading for the mountains.
4. The meeting point at the foot of the mountains, quick breakfast and on with the climb.
5. Looking back down from about 3/4s of the way up, sadly as you reached the summit of this climb the road became hidden behind the trees.
6. A few games of Mah zhong whilst waiting for lunch to be cooked.
7. The descent was an enjoyable one with plenty of switchbacks.
8. The South China Sea! Having lived in Mainland China now for a while its been almost three years since I last saw the coast! I hadn’t noticed just how much I missed this part of my upbringing until I saw it again!

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Fengshun 168km Enduro Event.
A four hour drive East from Shenzhen takes you to a place called Meizhou, surrounding Meizhou there are lots of small towns nestled amongst some beautiful mountain scenery! Arriving at our destination we took a quick tour around the park to find the start line and then drove around town until we found a suitable camping spot! A half built house was perfect for us, unpack the car, rebuild the bikes and get the hotpot blazing! A dinner of lotus root, ribs and pigs feet stew before a few shots of rice wine and off to bed for an early night. Not the best camping spot due to heavy trucks rumbling past throughout the night but slept through until 6am then cruised our way down to the start line before sunrise. A fantastic day with lots of pedalling, eating and laughter! Being one of the few foreigners on the course I even got interviewed for the local news broadcast, quite an experience! Too funny!
Thanks to LKLM for hooking us up with this trip, it will not be forgotten!
Photo captions
1. Fully loaded car, 5 bikes, 5 dudes and a shit load of pigs feet.
2. Arriving at our destination, checking out the start line.
3. Hot pot of pigs feet and ribs.
4. Old wolf stoked on his camping location.
5. Early morning mountains as the sun burns through the clouds, first climb of the day.
6. Cruising through some mountain towns.
7. A cheesy photo for the local TV broadcasters.
8. Starting the second climb of the day.
9. About 80km in a young Chinese girl still has enough energy for a casual pose.
10. Lunch stop, xiao long bao, minced pork and soup inside a bread ball with soya been milk.
11. Granny is not impressed.
12. Stocking up on Redbull.
13. A group of girls wearing the traditional minority clothing wait at the summit of the third climb to cheer you on!
14. Back in the river basin.
15. The final descent with about 25km left to go.

Today is Monday 9th of November, I plan to get back on the road on Wednesday after my long rest with LKLM. There will be a few weeks to wait for the next update so stay posted!
Thanks again guys,
Nathan.
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China on two wheels and through a lens. Part One.

Hello my name is Nathan, I’m 27 years old, born and raised in and around Brighton, South England! I’m a general bike lover and have a history of around ten years riding both BMX and Mountain bike. In July 2012 after completing The Trans-Mongolian railway I was inspired to move to China to teach English. After travelling for a couple of months throughout the vastness that is China I decided to settle in a city called Nanning in Guangxi Province which is located in Southern region, bordering Vietnam.

 

The city was vibrant, the food was eye-opening and my job was great! My new life was fantastic and I haven’t really looked back since but there was one underlying problem, other than my motorbike there was a serious lack of two-wheeled activity. To solve this problem I asked my friend James who was at the time working for BrightonBMXco to pack up my BMX and pass it on to my parents who would kindly send it out to me! For the best part of a year I would routinely go out to the local spot in Nanning and ride with the locals on the very basic ramps which they had set up themselves but to be honest I never felt truly satisfied. As time passed my BMX started to form a layer of dust but that yearning for two-wheeled activity was still present. I spent a long a time trying to put my finger on what it was that I truly missed and why riding BMX in China just wasn’t cutting it.

 

In the UK I spent many winter days digging trails in a spot about 20km from my house. Riding out there in the rain with a grave digger spade gaffa taped to the top tube of my road bike and 4 sausages in my back pack, I was happy. Being alone in the woods, having a fire and digging until you can’t close your hands for blisters was what I really missed and I came to realise that this side of BMX actually meant a lot more to me than the “trick chasing” or “progression” that you naturally seem to strive for.
The next thing was to ask myself why I enjoyed the woods so much?
Freedom, exploration, knowledge of an area, camping and having a place to escape to were words that came to mind immediately.

 

Riding BMX in China as a foreigner definitely wasn’t giving me freedom, in actual fact it was causing me a lot of attention which really put me off riding a BMX at all. If I’m riding I want to put my headphones in and escape in my own thoughts and not be asked a million questions which was what seemed to be happening here. Maybe it sounds unsociable or selfish but really I began to realise that riding bikes for me needs to have this sense of freedom or escape otherwise it just doesn’t appeal to me.

 

As a result I decided to buy a road bike, panniers and some basic camping equipment. I set off on a short two week tour around Guangxi province and I immediately realised that bicycle touring really was the perfect balance. Riding, camping, travelling, learning, exploration, knowledge of an area and hundreds of photo opportunities all wrapped up into four bags that strap to the side of your bike. Since completing that tour my mind was made up, save money, quit your job and explore China.

 

The first leg. Nanning, Guangxi to Shenzhen, Guangdong.
Nanning, Bingyang and Guigang, Guangxi.
Leaving Nanning on the 1st of October I started my journey heading North East to the city of Guigang to meet an old friend for dinner at her parents house. The morning after arriving in Guigang I received numerous “Weather alerts” on my phone warning me of Typhoon Mujigae, I decided to stay put for a few days as the whole of Guangxi Province was expecting to be hit hard. Thanks to Sylvia and her family for such fantastic hospitality throughout these days off!

Leaving Nanning, Guangxi. 01.10.15 Binyang, Guangxi. Binyang, Guangxi.   9 In and around Guigang, Guangxi.
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In and around Guigang, Guangxi.Dinner at Sylvia's!

 

 

Guigang to Guiping, Guangxi Province.
Back on the road after three days of good food!
Typhoon Mujigae caused a lot of damage throughout Guangxi Province, more than 130,000 people had to be evactuated and it was estimated to have destroyed more than 80,000 homes. Sitting that one out in my hotel was definitely a good decision.

The typhoon has passed! Guigang in the early morning. Trees down on the roadside. Guiping, Guangxi. Flooding. Dinner with this dude. Roadside campsite.

 

 

Guiping to Wuzhou.
From Guiping I will follow The Xi river for around 800km, before arriving in Wuzhou I will cross my first Provincial border from Guangxi into Guangdong Province.

Guiping to Wuzhou. Guiping to Wuzhou. Guiping to Wuzhou. The Xi River.  The Xi River, Guangdong. A long day in the saddle.

 

 

Wuzhou to Xinxing, Guangdong.

A road side soldier. A road side soldier. Road side lunch break. Taking candy from a stranger. Taking candy from a stranger.

 

 

Xinxing to Kaiping, Guangdong.

7am Roads. Breakfast stop.  Kaiping Diaolou, Guangdong. Kaiping Diaolou, Guangdong. Kaiping Diaolou, Guangdong. Kaiping, Guangdong.

Kaiping is an area of South East China that has a very interesting history, still to this day it has more than 1,800 diao lou scattered throughout the region. Diao lou are fortified watch towers which were built through the area from the early Qing Dynasty. The watchtowers served both as housing and protection against forays by bandits.This area of China has traditionally been a region of major emigration abroad, as a result several of the watchtowers incorporate architectural features from the West.

 

Kaiping to Zhuhai to Shenzhen, Guangdong.
A long ride and pretty boring ride to be honest. Guangdong Province is a lot more urbanised than Guangxi, due to this it has become increasingly harder to find a suitable camping spot. I searched for a cheap hotel and rode an extra 25km to save 3 quid, sadly when I got to the destination the hotel didn’t exist!
Bamboo forest roads. A lizard at lunchtime. Xiangzhou, Guangdong. Ferry from Zhuhai to Shenzhen. Shenzhen, Guangdong. Shenzhen, Guangdong.

 

 

Shenzhen, Guangdong. Birthday celebrations and meeting LKLM.
Thanks a lot to LKLM and Emily for my birthday celebrations! Being on the road this year I really expected to be alone for my birthday but thanks to the good friends I have around me I had a really nice day!
Luohu, Shenzhen, Guangdong. 19.10.2015. 27th Birthday! LKLM 开朗。 Birthday dinner! LKLM's Free Cyclist Dorm.Nanning to Shenzhen.

 

 

First leg completed.
Thank you if you have made it this far, apologies for this first post being a bit wordy but I felt I needed to give myself an introduction to OTB! From here I plan to stay with LKLM for a week or so as they have planned some riding/camping trips around Guangdong province. After my time at LKLM I plan to ride through Hunan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai and Xinjiang province over the next 9 months. Please stay posted as this really is just a teaser for what is to come! If you have any requests on products used, roads chosen or what food I have been eating please feel free to leave me a comment! I will be posting on OTB about once a month due to the lack of WiFi connection. If you are interested in less words and more photos please find me on Instagram @selftravelvehicle
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Thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way so far, and thanks again to OTB for hosting this!

Speak soon, keep spinning,

Nathan.