Tag Archives: Hilleberg Akto

Cycling Europe – bike and kit review

I couldn’t tell you how much all the kit I took with me around Europe for six months weighed, maybe 35 kg, including my bike, I don’t think I ever weighed it. There was certainly quite a lot of ‘gubbins’ involved, making me slightly jealous of the ultralight tourers I encountered with nothing but a sawn-off toothbrush and a credit card for comfort, however not as much as I’ve seen some people take with them.

The following is a review of some of the kit I toured with. It’s worth mentioning that, aside from a few maps, I finished pedalling around Europe with all the kit I started with, apart from one Icebreaker base layer which disintegrated somewhere in Spain.

Travelling Lobster even made it back, although he still needs a wash; a more erstwhile travelling companion I could not have asked for, despite his lack of assistance in the pedalling department, or any department aside from sightseeing and chocolate eating.

Travelling Lobster helping with tour prep

Travelling Lobster helping with tour prep

The Bike
–> Oxford Bike Works – Expedition Bike
Here are a few photos of the bike, christened Smaug, in transit on the way to Nordkapp, then on to Tarifa, followed by Istanbul, before returning back to the UK.

Smaug is based on the Expedition Bike design from Oxford Bike Works, with a few custom tweaks such as the addition of a dynamo hub, as well as a Brooks saddle. I wanted something simple, strong, and reliable, and was not disappointed. Richard from Oxford Bike Works did a great job with the specification, in partnership with Tom Allen of http://tomsbiketrip.com renown.

The steel frame proved resilient, using Reynolds 525 tubing. Some people use aluminium frames when touring, however I prefer the additional strength from steel, even if it is heavier, and the fact you can weld it back together again if it does break; aluminium doesn’t take too kindly to a welding torch. I wouldn’t go near carbon on any part of a touring frame. I also chose the colour red, as everyone knows a red bike goes faster, and that, along with the fact it flew up and down mountains and breathed fire, led to the name Smaug.

I changed the rear cassette and chain twice, once in France on the way to Tarifa, and once upon my return to the UK, so not bad considering that’s over 10,200 miles. I also had to replace the chain set (front rings) once back in the UK. The Schwalbe Marathon plus tyres performed admirably, as you’d expect, although I did suffer from more punctures than on my previous long tour around the coast of Britain. I think the punctures may have been more down to a duff batch of inner tubes, or more likely my impatience whilst mending them. I had to change my tyres once in the South of France, to a set of Malamuts which although larger did the job, and once upon my return to the UK; the rear tyre only just made it back.

The Shimano brakes were great, and simple to change when I needed to. I had to swap the cartridge shoe inserts for brake blocks at one point, as I couldn’t find any replacement inserts, however I was glad of the simple set up, and that I didn’t have to fiddle around with disc brakes. I’ve also heard disc brakes put more strain on your wheels, due to their stopping power which can cause more spoke breakages; I hate spoke breakages so more than happy to forego the extra stopping power and complexity.

Brooks saddle - perhaps the most important part of the bike

Brooks saddle – perhaps the most important part of the bike

Perhaps the most important feature on a touring bike is the saddle. I started with a gel saddle, however soon found this became uncomfortable after long days in the saddle, and caused chafing; gel saddles may be great for a commuting but I would not recommend them for long distance touring. I swapped it for a Brooks B17 in Sweden, which took until Spain to wear in, but proved an excellent choice with no more complaints. I suspect this Brooks saddle will last me a very long time, and will almost certainly move between bikes.

My favourite gadget had to be my SP Dynamo Hub, which did a fantastic job of charging my Garmin GPS and iPhone, as well as powering the fantastically bright Luxos from light. I sometimes wonder if bike lights are getting a little too bright, to the point where they pose a danger to drivers by blinding them, however the Luxos does have a dip and full beam setting, and it was great on the occasions I had cycle at night, especially on the last stretch to Dieppe in the early hours of the morning.

Only two problems over the course of six months, the first being several spokes that all broke at once, and the second being the bike stand. The spoke breakages resulted from the gears being knocked out of alignment during the plane flight, meaning the chain slipped off the top rear ring, and slid down in between the cassette and spokes, chewing several of them up; luckily I wasn’t far from a decent bike shop. I should mention that I had no problems with the rims; Rigida Sputnik 26” (559), 36H, Schrader valve. If I had to choose a vital component of a touring bike, aside from the saddle, it would be the wheels. After having numerous problems with my factory built wheels on my Bike around Britain tour (different bike), I’d always go for hand-built wheels where they use decent spokes (factory built often use shoddy spokes). With such a heavy bike, due to all the luggage, wheel strength is massively important if you want to avoid mechanical issues. I was also happy with 26 inch wheels, rather than going for 700cc size. 26 inch might be slower, however that doesn’t particularly matter when you’re touring on a heavy bike, and there are two distinct advantages; increased wheel strength and ease of finding replacements.

Bike stand attachment deformed over time

Bike stand attachment deformed over time

The bike stand itself was great, however the point at which it attached the bike deformed over time, and eventually made it unusable, probably due to the weight. I think you can attach it slightly differently to the bike, by fitting the clamp over the top of the chain stay tubes, which would probably increase durability, however I might go with one of those clip on bike stands next time. I definitely missed having a stand after it broke, however I wouldn’t say it’s a vital component of a touring set up, as you can usually find somewhere to lean your machine.

Other points:

  • Ergon GP1 BioKork lock-on grips were comfortable, spreading the weight across my palms, however I’d think twice about wearing gel cycling gloves with them. After while they caused me significant pain and actually damaged my hands; the combination doesn’t work, and once I removed my gloves the pain and nerve damage went away. I swapped the standard bar ends for longer versions, which I prefer as it gives me more alternatives grip wise, and more to pull on when I’m standing up on the pedals going up hills; probably do that too much.
  • Tubus racks proved excellent, with no breakages to report, unlike the Blackburn racks I used on by Bike around Britain tour.
  • Using Shimano PD-M324, combination SPD/flat pedals gave me a choice between clipping in, or riding unclipped occasionally for a change, or when I changed into trainers for a bit. My Shimano MT71 cycling shoes were an excellent choice, and comfy to walk around in off the bike.
  • Never go without mud-guards on a cycling tour, I really valued mine; they save on laundry bills and a wet behind.
  • I chose to use security skewers for my wheels, to minimise the chance of theft. I think this is a good idea, however remained nervous throughout the tour of losing the security allen key!
  • I added an extra bottle cage for my stove fuel bottle, bringing the total to 3 cages on the bike. This proved a very good idea, as I had to drink vast amounts in the hotter countries, so was glad of two water bottles, and further bottles stuck through the webbing over my rear rack.
  • I liked the little touches such as the brass bell.
Brass bell still ringing clearly after 6 months on the road

Brass bell still ringing clearly after 6 months on the road

You can find the full specification of the Expedition Bike on the Oxford Bike Works website here: http://www.oxfordbikeworks.co.uk/expedition/

Overall I’m extremely happy with my choice of bike for the Cycle Europe tour. It coped with 6 months on the road, covering over 10,200 miles in all sorts of conditions; snow and freezing temperatures in Scandinavia, rain, weeks of hot weather with temperatures exceeding 40′ Celsius, all sorts really. I wanted something that could contend with rough trails and tree root ambushes, for example through woodland or up and down mountains, as well as road riding, and this machine rose to the task. I’m sure it will continue to serve me well on future tours, although I have just noticed a few rust spots on the front handle bars I’ll have to deal with; wear and tear to be expected.

One last point to mention. This bike could be regarded as expensive, although not versus some road bikes, however I chose to pay more because at the time I could afford to, and wanted a quality build. You don’t however have to buy an expensive machine to tour on, a second-hand mountain bike will do. The most important thing is getting out there, giving it a go, and enjoying an adventure on the road. There’s absolutely loads of advice on the Internet on how to achieve this; send me an email or leave a comment if you can’t find it and I’ll do my best point you in the right direction. The hardest bit is setting off, the rest just happens 🙂

–> Ortlieb front and rear classic panniers
No issues with these. They’re the same ones I used on my Bike around Britain tour in 2013, and they’re still going strong. I’ve only ever had to replace one bolt, and although they have a few nicks and small holes in them I think they’ll last for years yet. Ortlieb panniers are fully waterproof, which is a real bonus in wet conditions, however the only downside is stuff sweats in them when it’s hot, meaning things can get a bit smelly, or smellier; still wouldn’t choose anything else though. I also used a 35 litre Ortlieb dry bag, on the top of my rear rack, which I stuck my tent, spare shoes, hammock and other bits and pieces in.

Bike lock
–> D-Lock and Kryptonite Kryptoflex cable – effective security but a bit heavy. Some would say a lock is unnecessary with a heavy touring bike, however I wouldn’t go without, especially when travelling solo.

Camping and misc stuff
–> Hilleberg Akto Tent
My Hilleberg Akto Tent is the same one I used on my tour around the coast of Britain in 2013, and several times since then, and is still going strong. I’ve re-waterproofed it once, which also helps with UV resistance, and it didn’t leak all tour. Compared with some tents it can get a bit too hot in sunny conditions, however this is a feature of tents in general, and the warmth is welcome in colder conditions. With a small porch area it has plenty of room to store your panniers in, and even a bit of shelter to cook under should the need arise. After 6 months my Akto definitely became a home from home.

Only a couple of issues to report:

  • Doesn’t react well to attacks by Varmints. Voles had a go at it in Sweden one night, emerging from their dens under snow drifts to menace me. It’s very unnerving feeling a small rodent moving under your tent at night, and very annoying when they naw holes in your ground sheet and bite through the retaining cord underneath the tent!
  • I’ve had trouble with the tent zip a few times, with it breaking/un-threading and needing to be re-threaded using a pair of pliers and a lot of patience. This can get kind of annoying, especially after a long day and if it’s raining. I’m not sure what caused it.

–> Multimat – thermal sleeping mat and Deuter Travel Lite 300 sleeping bag
This combination served me well over six months, despite the thermarest being punctured so not offering a lot of padding; it still provided a layer of insulation and I got used to sleeping on the ground. The sleeping bag was warm enough, especially when used in conjunction with a set of thermals. The trick to being warm when going to sleep is being warm when you get into your sleeping bag, so a quick run about or a few press-ups were sometimes in order.

–> Hammock
My Ticket to the Moon hammock was a late addition to my touring kit, having acquired it in Marseille, however I wish I’d had one before then. They’re great when it’s hot and there are suitable trees around, even if you just use it for sitting in, rather than sleeping overnight. Spent many a lazy hour chilling out in my hammock after a long ride.

Me in hammock, siesta time

Me in hammock, siesta time

–> Misc – never go without cable ties and gaffer tape. Handy for mending all sorts of things, from  holes in the bottom of your tent to temporary bike fixes, or emergency clothing repairs; my shorts were a little threadbare by the time I got home.

One more thing on camping, as it’s a question I’m often asked. I didn’t always know where I was going to stay each night when I set off in the morning, although I could get ideas on campsites via asking people, an app on my phone, or the Internet.  I tended to plan a few days in advance, but remain flexible in case I wanted to divert to see something interesting. If a campsite didn’t materialise, or a ride took longer than expected, I always had the option to find somewhere quiet and wild camp; when you have a tent, bivvy bag or hammock, you’re never without somewhere to sleep.

Cooking – Whisperlite International – MSR
Great for cooking on, using my Tatonka pans, although didn’t use it a lot after Scandinavia as cold meals were fine. Like the fact you can use unleaded petrol to fuel it, which is available everywhere, unlike some gas canisters. I took a few bits of cooking kit with me including a chopping board that I rarely used, although a sharp knife is vital; had my trusty Bison Bushcraft sheath knife. I was also never without a bottle of Tabasco sauce, or equivalent thereof, to spice up a bland meal. Noodles and pasta featured heavily on the cooking front, as did frankfurters at one point. I ate a lot whilst on tour,including lots of biscuits and Haribos to replace burnt calories. It’s kind of difficult cutting down on food intake after consuming 4000 plus calories a day for 6 months, however I need to do so otherwise the kilograms are going to pile on.

Maps versus GPS
My Garmin 810 GPS worked well on this tour, only needing a factory reset once, and helping to guide me through some confusing parts of Europe. I wouldn’t however always trust it, as it did send me through an army base in Albania, and attempt to do so again in a few other countries. Up until Turkey I also used paper maps, which in general I prefer, however they became tricky to source them in Eastern Europe, so for the return leg from Istanbul to the UK I used a combination of my Garmin and the maps app on my iPhone; worked very well. A bit of preparation each night, memorising key towns or villages along the route, goes a long way to easing navigational issues.

I had to take clothes with me that were suitable for the cold conditions of Scandinavia, and parts of the return leg through Germany and into France, as well as the hot conditions of Spain and Southern Europe. This meant some clothes, such as my Rab down jacket, weren’t used a lot, but made a good pillow. I also valued my two buffs (like a snood), which provided protection from the cold, rain, and sun, as well as a pollution mask sometimes; a buff is another piece of kit I wouldn’t go without – simple but effective. My BBB Cycling Sportsglasses worked a treat, with different coloured lenses for different conditions, and for once I didn’t lose or break them! You don’t have room for a lot of clothes, however things like merino base layers don’t need washing that often, and there’s always somewhere you can rinse things through, even if it’s stream in the woods. Don’t go without swimming shorts of the equivalent; can’t miss opportunities to swim in gorgeous and cooling rivers and lakes, or crystal clear seas.

I’ve already mentioned my Garmin Edge 810, and my iPhone which doubled as my camera for the tour. The camera on the iPhone is excellent, and saves on space when compared with lugging around a bulky SLR. You can also use it to record good short movies, which I need to do more of in future. I took an Apple MacBook Air for blogging and browsing purposes, which fitted easily in my rear panniers. Finding wifi wasn’t too much of a problem, although I was amazed that wifi in Western Europe, and the richer countries, was in general much worse than in Eastern Europe and the perceived poorer countries. If I couldn’t find wifi I nearly always had 3G or 4G, which bizarrely I don’t always in the UK, so could tether my phone to my laptop if I really needed to do some planning. I had PowerMonkey-eXtreme solar charged battery pack which I used a few times, but didn’t really need as my dynamo hub worked so well; it was a good back-up in any case.


Aside from a hammock, which I bought half way round anyway, there was nothing else I thought I really needed. In retrospect something to scare off dogs wouldn’t have been a bad idea. The best idea I came across for this was from a French couple touring with their 6 year old son; an air horn, which dogs flee from.

You can find a full list of the kit I took with me on the Gubbins page of my blog, however feel free to leave a comment or send me an email if you’ve any questions. I’m sure I’ve missed something out.

Next blog post will be something fun; the animals I encountered whilst on tour, which will feature a lot of dogs, as well as the occasional Llama, and several cats. Here are a few warm up pics.

30 & 31 July 2015 – Benicasim and Sant Carles de la Rapita

I don’t have recorded route/stats for 30 July, as my Garmin crashed and needed a factory reset, however I’ve plotted the route I took and included the link below, along with a link to the 31 July ride:

–> 30 July – to Benicasim (Azahar camping)
I probably cycled about 130km today, partly due to a wrong turning which nearly took me on to an auto-pista, because I wasn’t concentrating. Lets call it 120km to be on the safe side; I don’t know for sure – as mentioned my Garmin crashed. At the moment I’m using a large-scale map which doesn’t show all the roads I pedal down, and misses out quite a lot of the smaller towns and villages. Having my Garmin break caused a slight issue on the navigation front, however I can’t go too wrong as long as I keep following the coast North East; just gets tricky where lots of roads converge or diverge.

I packed up after a relatively good night’s kip, with no storms having made an appearance quite yet. Piers supplied a cuppa before I rode off towards Valencia; much appreciated, thank you. It was a nice ride along the coast, with the landscape getting a lot greener, and the appearance trees in abundance. A bit of cloud cover helped keep things cooler; the ‘cover’ steadily built all morning. There were a lot of road cyclists out, mostly ‘senior’ clubs by the looks of it; guess a lot of retired folks as the younger generation would be working. The density of fellow cyclists led to a high wave/ola/allez-allez density as I approached Valencia, at one point having to dodge around a Mini with a bent axle; the wheels were at a very odd angle.

On route to Valencia; lots of trees!

On route to Valencia; lots of trees!

Just outside Valencia I diverted away from the coast to visit a Decathalon, continuing my search for a hammock; sadly they were out-of-stock, again. I think I’m going to give up until France, unless I pass another one directly on my route. The diversion set me up nicely to cross the city in pretty much a straight line. I opted out of a site-seeing circuit, having been advised there wasn’t an awful lot to see, at least not compared with the likes of Salamanca or Leon. Valencia was busy but easy to cycle through, however it did start raining as I pedalled along; whilst very refreshing I had to seek shelter when it turned torrential, to avoid getting completely drenched. The rain was brilliant as it dropped the temperature to about 23 degrees Celsius, which was sheer bliss after riding in the mid to high thirties for so long.

A long ride to Castellon de la Plana followed, which was mostly quite boring, passing lots of fields of orange and lime trees, as well as plenty of olive groves. As already mentioned my Garmin crashed and wouldn’t restart, and I took a wrong turning which nearly had me pedalling down a motorway (River would have been proud). Luckily there was an exit just before the auto-pista properly started and I was able to loop back around and on to the correct road.

There was one dramatic bit, I think in Port de Sagunt, where I initially thought the thunderstorms had returned. It turned out to someone setting off a load of fireworks from on top of one of the tower blocks, with plenty of artillery barrage type affects going on. I don’t think many of the locals would have been very impressed, but it entertained me for a bit; it was probably kids, due to it being broad daylight.

I made it to Azahar camping for about 16.00. Azahar is just next door to Benicasim, another coastal town with beaches and lots of hotels. I set up in a nice shaded spot, which wasn’t so vital today due to the cloud cover, then visited the local supermarket for supplies.  I spent a relaxing evening doing some planning and updating my blog. I think I’ll reach Barcelona either on Sunday or Monday; will probably stretch the ride out until Monday, then spend a couple of nights in a hostel to visit the city properly – hostels cheaper during the week. As always any plan is subject to change; could just end up cycling straight through and on to France if it becomes too much hassle.

Azahar camping

Azahar camping

A big storm hit later on in the evening, complete with thunder and lightning, which gave my tent a good wash, as well as Smaug; good to get rid of some of the accumulated dust. The water ran down the hill in torrents, and I was slightly concerned the small patch I was camped in might get washed away, however thankfully the water mostly ran around my tent. Rumblings of thunder and flashes of lightning continued into the night, along with heavy downpours, keeping things cool, although not mosquito free. I happy to report my the Hilleberg Akto remained dry throughout, despite the best efforts of Thor and his cohorts.

–> 31 July 2015 – to Sant Carles de la Rapita
A factory reset on my Garmin Edge 810 seemed to do the job, meaning that was up and running  ready for the day ahead, even if it did wipe all data on the device; thankfully I’d recently backed everything up to my laptop and online at Garmin Connect.

I discovered a bit of water had leaked in through the ‘varmint’ holes in the bottom of my tent; see previous blog post from Sweden (Vittangi), where my tent was attacked by a vole. Thankfully it was only a small amount and dried pretty quickly. Waiting for the tent to dry out and a slow pack up led to a late start, not leaving Benicasim until 09.30; positively decadent!

A Via Verde took me down the coast from to Orpesa, meaning I avoided a big climb and spent several kilometres off-road, enjoying a decent track alongside the sea. The Via Verdes run on old train tracks and are used by walkers, runners and cyclists. It was really nice riding along without any traffic, enjoying the scenery and cooler weather, and saying hello to all and sundry. There was even a longish tunnel to cycle through, although someone doing circuit training was blowing a whistle in it which was a little shrill. It would be great if there were more Via Verdes on my route, however sadly they seem few and far between; nice to take advantage when they do appear though.

Unfortunately the Via Verde ended and it was back to the N340, which was full of heavy traffic; I’m not sure why more of it doesn’t use the motorway which runs roughly parallel, perhaps it’s a toll road. Thankfully I left the busy road at Alcocebre, opting for a bit of an adventure along the coast which confused my Garmin due to riding on ‘unpaved roads’.

The coastal route ran for about 16km to Peniscola, through the Parque Naturel Sierra de Irta. The bumpy track, from which you can access lots of mountain bike trails, is mostly used by 4×4,’s or other cyclists. I was fine on my Oxford Bike Works Expedition Bike, but it was slow going, taking care to avoid the bigger rocks and pot holes to minimise the chance of spoke breaks or worse. I decided I didn’t care about speed today, especially after positively ambling along the Via Verde earlier, so just took it easy, enjoying the trail. It felt very peaceful and remote, being away from the main road with just the sound of the sea for company, and the occasional light rain shower keeping it cool. I said hello to the odd cyclist, and only saw about 4 cars, moving very cautiously, on the whole trail. Some great views, and it smelt wonderful; sea, seaweed, pines and just generally fresh. On one bit I turned a corner to see a father and young son dash naked into the sea, splashing around laughing, and being watched bemusedly from the shore by their mother; I pedalled past unnoticed.

I stopped for a break in Peniscola, sniggering slightly at the name (I know, infantile, but even the smallest thing can be amusing after a long time solo cycling…). It’s a picturesque town, with the older bit built on a peninsula that juts out into the sea; a walled town with castle sitting at the top. As usual there were tourists in abundance, eating ice-creams, enjoying the beach, or just generally bimbling about. I got into a slight fracas with a few kids with water-pistols, and had to use my water bottle as ammunition; luckily I was rescued by parents as was severely outnumbered with no chance of reinforcements or evac – they had me cornered on the sea front, and Lobster was hiding, damn that cowardly crustacean.

After cycling along the promenade for a bit and splashing through several flooded areas (good fun), I had to rejoin the main roads for a while. The N340 proved to be busy still, however I turned off it to the Alfacs campsite down by the sea, just west of St Carles de la Rapita; I kept wanting to say de la Raptor, sounds much more impressive.

I was in for a bit of a shock at the campsite; it had grass, something I haven’t been able to pitch my tent on for a long time! I could push my tent pegs in without the aid of a rock, and the ground had a vague spring to it, especially after the rain, bliss. I should mention that the weather today had been excellent, with the occasional rain shower again keeping things fresh, and clouds keeping the sun at bay. A drop in temperature and a bit of fresh air does wonders for one’s energy levels and alertness.

The campsite is right next to the sea, and has its own small beach area. Despite the pebbles I wasn’t deterred from a quick dip in the Mediterranean, my first of the tour amazingly. It was really refreshing, and the salt water helped stop irritating mosquito bites from itching. Then I decided it would be a good idea to wash my cycling gear again, which may have been an error given a massive thunderstorm hit shortly afterwards, complete with heavy rain. I watched for a short while then retreated to my tent whilst my washing got re-washed; it wasn’t very dry by the morning.

Evening spent doing some reading and surfing, from the comfort of the on site bar, over a couple of cevezas. On towards Tarragona tomorrow, Barcelona not far away, and more adventures to come.

01 June 2015 – København, Koge, and things that pop and ping

To say it rained a bit last night would perhaps be regarded as an understatement. I awoke in the early hours of the morning to the thunderous roar of rain hitting my tent, and was somewhat alarmed I’d spring a leak, or get washed into the Oresund, however I’m happy to report I remained dry; another win for the Hilleberg Akto, now 3 years old but still going strong.

Smaug looks damp after torrential rain overnight

Smaug looks damp after torrential rain overnight

After the overnight rain at least there was sunshine in morning to dry off everything off, including a rather despondent looking Smaug. And for a change I didn’t have to pack my tent up  wet! Today was also a new map day, always exciting; time to explore Denmark. I’m still wondering if I can get to Tarifa by 05 July, my birthday. It seems a bit of a stretch and might mean rushing things too much, but would be nice to celebrate my fortieth at the Southernmost point of Europe, or thereabouts.

New map day, always exciting

New map day, always exciting

Got on the road about 09.30, pedalling out of the campsite past the small tent of the cycle tourer I met last night; no sign of life, I hope she didn’t drown. The tiredness I first felt wore off quickly as I rode towards Copenhagen (Kobenhavn – havn means port, but can see where the word haven comes from) in the sunshine. Even the wind seemed to die down a bit as I approached Denmark’s capital, on the island of Zealand.

Road to Copenhagen - sun's out

Road to Copenhagen – sun’s out

I made it into the city centre after riding along lovely quiet cycle paths, to suddenly find myself immersed in masses of traffic and pedestrians, a bit of a shock to the system. Copenhagen also turned out to be somewhat of a building site, with development going on all over the place, including a new subway station right in the centre.

Copenhagen centre, flash hotel

Copenhagen centre, flash hotel

I overheard a tour guide talking about the hotel in the above pic; I think she said One Direction stayed there recently, woohoo. Of more interest was the story about a Danish hero who attempted to assassinate Himmler when he was travelling back from Norway to Berlin during the Second World War; Denmark was occupied at the time. Unfortunately Himmler bypassed Copenhagen in the end, otherwise certain historical events might have turned out quite differently. I think tagging on to, or drifting between guided tours, might become a new hobby.

Copenhagen- canals

Copenhagen- canals

It was tricky to do much sightseeing with all the crowds and traffic, whilst laden with a heavy bike, so I didn’t end up delaying long in the city, instead pedalling slowly South West and stopping occasionally. I could have detoured to see the Little Mermaid statue, and Tivoli Gardens, however it would have been awkward and I wasn’t really in a sightseeing mood.

Copenhagen - bikes in abundance, bit of a building site though

Copenhagen – bikes in abundance, bit of a building site though

True to what I’d read Copenhagen really is full of bicycles, they’re everywhere. It will be interesting to see how Amsterdam compares if I go that way (still not decided).

Copenhagen - cool cafe

Copenhagen – cool cafe

Before I knew it I was out of Copenhagen, which I guess isn’t that large in comparison to other European capitals, and pedalling through suburbia. There’s not a lot to report from the ride down to Koge, it was fairly flat, straight, and boring. I did keep having to stop for traffic lights which was a bit tedious, and interrupts your rhythm. The cycle paths are good but I’m really noticing the increase in cars compared with Sweden.

I arrived in Koge after having to stop to pump up my rear tyre several times. After recording in my last blog post a puncture total of zero, I fear the tables have turned, and perhaps I have attracted the attention of Loki again. Luckily it was only a slow puncture so I was able to get to Koge campsite, book in, and get set up before addressing the issue.

Bike repairs - 1st puncture of tour

Bike repairs – 1st puncture of tour

I mended the puncture successful, thankful of the dry weather, but noticed a more nefarious problem during my endeavours.

Found a bigger problem - broken spoke

Found a bigger problem – broken spoke

Unfortunately a spoke had broken somewhere along the way; I thought I’d heard a distinctive ping earlier. It was on the rear drive side too, which I can’t fix as I don’t have a cassette removal device; maybe I should have bought a hyper cracker . Thankfully there are loads of bike shops in Koge, and the guy at reception recommended a couple for me to try in the morning, so I’d be able to get it sorted. There was no point in just suring up the surrounding spokes and carrying on, as it’d just get worse, more spokes would break, and I’d find myself really in the lurch.

Koge - nice house

Koge – nice house

One good thing; as I was fixing a puncture I changed my front and back tyres around, thus prolonging their lives with any luck. I felt quite chuffed to be following sage cycle touring advice successfully, however those Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres aren’t half stiff to get on and off.

Koge central square

Koge central square

Bike maintenance partially completed I paused to chat to a couple of German cycle tourers who turned up towing trailers, on their way to Finland. They don’t like their trailers, and recounted how unstable they make the bike, meaning you can’t really stand up on the pedals or go fast down hills. I’ve often wondered about one myself but am quite glad now I didn’t go that direction, and will stick with my panniers.

After a shower, but still with slightly blackened hands (impossible to get them completely clean after maintenance session) I headed into town to grab some food, and ended up succumbing to temptation and eating out at the Cafe Vivaldi, in the town square.

Dinner at Cafe Vivaldi - Burrito boost

Dinner at Cafe Vivaldi – Burrito boost

It was truly awesome burrito, with a nice beer on the side; portion size worthy of any cycle tourer, and with a salad too, so health bit covered. Post dinner and after a quick walk about I headed back to the campsite.

Cafe Vivaldi, Koge

Cafe Vivaldi, Koge

Koge square - pretty flowers

Koge square – pretty flowers

Nice house again

Nice house again

Streets of Koge

Streets of Koge

On the way back I noticed my front tyre going flat, so I’d either pinched the inner tube when changing the tyres round earlier, or picked up new puncture somewhere; it turned out to be a small metal staple, but I didn’t fix it until the morning.

Here’s a link to today’s ride – route and stats, a slow 75km, taking 5 hours, best speed up soon;


Not sure on route for next few days. Could go direct to Germany by ferry from Rodby, or round the islands; will depend on the weather and if I want to get serious on challenge of getting to Tarifia for my birthday. I think I’d prefer the island route, as it’ll be nice to see a bit more of Denmark. I did try to work out the number of miles to Tarifa; think I’ve got about 2,000 left, or 4,500 to get to Istanbul, or 6,500 to get all the way round and back home. Should be doable in the 5 months I’ve got left, considering I’m already over 1,700 miles in under 1 month. I guess it also depends on any problems I have with the bike, which as I’d discover tomorrow should never be underestimated.