Homeless World Cup update

While back in Edinburgh last week I managed to catch up with Craig and Zakia from The Homeless World Cup – the charity I decided to hook up with when planning my world cycle. It had been sometime since I last saw them properly it was good to hear that the world cup in Poland had gone well.
As we chatted we discussed some of the challenges they face in getting people on board at times to support their work. On the face of it, who wants to give money to help what seems like a few folk to travel the globe for a game of footy? However, looking beyond the showcase event it’s staggering to hear how many people globally the event has an impact on. It’s estimated that around 77, 000 people are supported.

The world cup event provides the drive and inspiration for homeless football leagues and it is the catalyst, the hope  and focal point for training. It provides a place where those who are isolated and lonely get to meet. It gives a forum to introduce other support agencies in to help those who find them selves struggling amidst a variety of circumstances. Sport is used to drive health, fight addictions, encourage better eating and through team activity build  trust and improve social skills. In individual countries the World Cup spurs many local leagues. Street Soccer, the Scottish league is now going from strength to strength following some initial start up help firm Firstport – the charity I used to lead. It really is more than just a game of footy.

Last week Mel Young, founder of the Big Issue and Homeless World Cup tweeted about supporting them in their bid to build a virtual stadium. It’s an innovative fundraising plan whereby you can secure your seat andin so doing help build a stronger base from which more folk can get health, work in building a home and critically, have hope for the future.

No-one buys a lottery ticket to win a tenner! The main draw is the big prize and while  the World Cup may be the main event but there are many helped along the way.

Please support them if you can.Here is a link to their web site http://www.hwcsc.com/

Or you can visit my fundraising page on www.bikemind.co.uk. 

Finally, here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and all the best for 2014.

On being a girl.

At home I have over 180 pairs of shoes, mostly impractical, mainly high heeled and a number with an accompanying handbag. Clothes for all occasions, lipsticks in almost every shade and too many toiletries to fit in the bathroom. I sleep in a four poster bed, adorned with six pillows and keep blankets behind the sofa for when it gets a bit chilly. All in all, pretty comfy, pretty girly and no doubt way over the top. Well, we all have our vices.

Now, obviously given I enjoy a bike ride and have run a few marathons in my time, I’m not frightened of sweating, looking a bit rubbish momentarily and getting muddy splashing through puddles.Despite taking a hairdryer to Glastonbury festival, I am very much able to leave the house with scruffy hair and no make up.

This trip however has been something else. Yesterday I cut my own hair….with a swiss army knife; I carry just one lippy….yet to be used on this tour and; I have just two pairs of shoes…one pair with cleats for riding and the other, some crocs, lightweight and suitable to wear with socks if needed. However, before you go thinking all is lost, I do have one silk dress for those smarter occasions; still carry a large bottle of conditioner to avoid dreadlocks (already done that!), shave my legs ( like all serious bikers!) and insist on matching underwear.

Consequently, I carry more luggage than my companion and I do always look to explain why. This, is in part then, some of the background to this blog on cycle touring – the female perspective. If this has already been too much for male readers then I strongly suggest you pause……and probably even wait till the next blog update.


Still reading…..ok then. Here goes.

Periods. Quite frankly they are literally a pain. Legs ache, stomach hurts and finding frequent enough toilet stops in some places on our tour has been impossible.

Having made a strong case for conditioner (Asian women tend to use oils), suncream (often not available in high enough factors outside tourist areas) and additional items of clothes I required (bras, sports bras and just extra cus I feel the cold more ) I decided that I could reduce the tampon selection down to a months worth. Unlike Africa, where I took enough to last the trip and beyond, I figured South East Asia would be better. Wrong. Really worryingly wrong. Cycle shorts are already not a girls best friend, they already come with padding and as a Caucasian in such high temperatures with even higher humidity the alternative…well, I didn’t want to find out. And tell me, why is you travel for weeks, staying in rooms with1970s bed linen, until the first days of a period when crisp white sheets suddenly appear to be the new norm! Sometimes you just have to smile.

I’d tried the pill on my first trip but there’s only so many months you can do that continuously. Dealing with unpredictability and then the results of a four month block were even worse. Tampons are the only solution…..if you carry enough or  can find them. In the recent trip through Malaysia I spent three consecutive days in numerous mini-marts, a couple of larger supermarkets and a number of pharmacies -eventually I found some…32 to be precise. I bought all the shop had, parted with the equivalent of eight pounds  sterling and left the store with a huge smile. Eight quid! Ridiculous but I would have paid more if necessary. At least the monthly endurance would not see me hailed up in some cheap hotel room unable to ride simply cus it would be too messy to do so! Rest assured, I will definitely be stocking up in Bangkok despite additional baggage!

So, periods are a hassle, shopping on a bike tour is out of the question and taking a dip in the cool and inviting pool has also been a no no. I simply don’t carry a full length wet suit to hide every bit of my dry, peeling skin with odd cycle tan tans away from prying eyes! Thankfully, as we have now travelled beyond stricter Muslim areas my swimsuit is now deemed appropriate and I can even enjoy a cold beer at the end of the day. It’s not all bad.

The advantage of course, being the girl is just how impressed folk seem to be. Aside from the extra weight (!) it’s no harder for me but as we ride through places where it is most unusual to see female cyclists there is certainly a greater element of surprise when I rock up. I know more fellow riders cheered me up Alpe d’huez than the boys and people certainly seem go think it takes more guts to do this as a girl. Aside from the flippant rant and lack of tampons it’s pretty much the same. I’m glad I have a guy for company, I do feel safer but my gender makes me no braver than my  companion despite often getting more of the applause.

At some point I plan a blog on kit..a bit like revealing what lives in a womans handbag but for now, just to make you realise some femininity has been retained while taking weight allowance into account…. nailpolish. I’m off to paint my toe nails. Pink.

P.S. NO! I’ve not lost any weight yet!!

The Captain is back!

Those of you who read my blog “bike swap nightmare ” will be aware that for the last section of my trip I had needed to borrow a friends tourer at the last minute in order that I could do the trip as planned. An incorrect sprocket had been fitted to my Rohloff hub gears meaning my belt drive would no longer fit. With this becoming apparent the day before we were booked on Eurostar to meet friends in Epernay there was no way it could be fixed in time. Apparently only one place in the UK had the tools needed to do the work. I was very fortunate to have a friend, Cath, close by who lent me her Specialised Rockhopper for my tour. Following a few adjustments, Bob, as he was named, was soon fit to ride. Despite being very grateful I was very pleased however to know that my custom bike would be ready for my South East Asia tour.

While I had been in France and Italy, The Captain was collected from John Atkins cycles in Leamington Spa to my usual bike store, Edinburgh Bike Co-op. The guys in Leamington had been really helpful but with Edinburgh now taking on the job of getting my bike back in working order I was left with little choice. I’d been very frustrated on finding I could not take my own bike and had been desperate to know how such a mistake had happened. The bike store had only been able to order the one sprocket available; suppliers did not say the system had changed; the next mechanics undertook the sprocket change without raising any questions. It seemed my predicament was due to a chain of human errors. All I could focus on now was getting my bike fixed for the next stage of my tour.

An upgraded belt had now been fitted  (thanks Edinburgh Bike Coop) and the wheel had been returned to Rohloff to check for any damage. Apparently all was now working though I would be in Singapore before I had the chance to test this out. All was good. The new belt was like velvet, revolving in near silence. Gears changed smoothly after a full hub service. The Captain was back.

The only thing to work on now would be the decor and boy, have I seen some ideas for that….



These machines certainly had more flowers than I’d ever seen on a bike before…and at night – well, that’s when they were really bling.



So, inspired by the tri-shaws in Melaka I purchased a set of L.E.D lights, 5 metres long, from one of the bikers there. I’m not sure I’ll fit them just yet but a marker has been set and I do think a rickshaw would make a great addition to my bike collection when I’m done.

The end of the “to do” list.

For the past month or two now I have been busy. Every day the “to do” list got bigger, reduced, got bigger and then finally got delegated and I’m now pleased to announce that lists are now no more. I refuse.

John tried to get us to think about one yesterday?  Yes. We may have a couple of things to accompolish but let’s be clear – I’m done with lists for a while. After much planning we here here and all set to embark on this trip of a lifetime. This is about Now. It’s time to live in the present.

We  arrived in Seattle two days ago and having rebuilt our bikes cycled into the city. We were heading to a frIend of a friends for our first night. This will so be a trip of new friends. To date hospitality has been amazing. Rocky said if we got on his bus we could travel free and our hosts here have been fantastic. Day one and I found a piano and a very warm welcome.

Long may it continue and for now…. It’s time to hit the road.

Ta-ra for now.



Test run – aka the commando tour

“Last Christmas I received 33 pairs of knickers”.  I still remember this being an opening line on a piece of creative writing at school many years ago. I was reminded of it when starting to write this blog regarding a bike weekend I have recently been on… so here goes…

“Last weekend I forgot to pack my knickers”. Heading off at 645am as part of my three day bike weekend in Arran and Kintyre it appears key items of luggage were left behind.  I had only one pair of pants and the sports bra I left the flat in – early mornings are definately not my thing! Having now packed up my flat in Edinburgh ready for the trip most things are packed away or in panniers/suitcases ready for my departure.My usual  routine has been altered and with that came a real packing failure.

The weekend was a test run for cycling with my four panniers.

After 125 miles, a few hills and many many midge bites we had a great 3 day trip. I’m so looking forward to my longer tour – fantastic scenery, good food and great chat.

While the panniers are likely to be slightly heavier in a few weeks time here’s hoping the additional underwear won’t make too much difference!


The countdown begins….

So, that’s it. With just 6 weeks left in Edinburgh there’s still a lot to do before boarding the plane to Seattle on 7th July. In fact, the list seems to get longer as the time remaining reduces. While the panniers have been packed for a few weeks now it’s probably now time to start training with my gear and indeed working through what I don’t really need.  With after effects of injections and a trial lariam tablet (not good!) training has suffered in the past week or so…. It needs to pick up again!

Insurance, VISAs, Africa flights (they are not on sale yet), making contacts in places we are going and the critical tasks of renting my flat and completing the sale of my house and associated packing all need to be done. Being ready to leave will be a full time job. In fact, it may now be time to prioritise tasks – while insurance is a must have, I could survive without putting all of my CDs onto i-tunes!

It’s fair to say the reality of the trip has yet to settle in – both in terms of nerves and excitement. At present my fear concerns much more the tasks I need to do before I leave than the trip itself. It is in fact much easier to quantify what I have no concerns about. Firstly, I feel like I have landed on my feet with my travel buddy; I have no major concerns about the biking and as someone who loves travel I am only excited about the prospect of meeting new people, cultures and environments. Of course, the first ride in any new country may always feel a little daunting but not renting my flat or getting a date through for completion will be critical. It’s coming to crunch time……

This adventure has already had its fair share of ups and downs – here’s crossing my fingers for the next week.

It’s happening…. in 10 weeks!

For those of you who’ve been following the story of my trip you’ll know there have been a number of ups and downs… and I haven’t even left yet!

Originally I signed up for a supported world cycle trip – it was cancelled. I found a new cycle partner – John – and some bad news looked like it would mean the trip was hold once again. However, despite this early rollercoaster all is now moving ahead at quite a pace.

In the past two weeks my mother’s latest hospital appointment and a buyer coming forward for my house in Bristol have all meant I have felt confident that we could at last book flights and make the trip we have been planning since January, when WCC was cancelled, a reality! So, it’s happening and on July 7th John and I will fly out to Seattle for the start of our adventure.

Ironically, given all that has transpired since January and a need to now be home at Christmas I now wonder whether I would have had to pull out of the main cycle challenge. Instead, I have already made a new friend, am going to countries of our choosing and am thoroughly enjoying the planning element as opposed to just turning up.

Last weekend, while I was at my ma’s following her appointment, John travelled up to meet the folks. They were both keen to meet him before we head off- I may be 37 but I’m still their little girl! Of course, it’s hard to get a picture of someone in a few hours but having spent much more time chatting and discussing plans I feel more and more at ease about the trip and my cycle buddy. They will just have to trust me on this one though I hope having met the person I will be spending much of the next year or so with they are a little more at ease too.

We followed lunch with the reverse trip – heading to Stokenchurch to meet John’s pals and ma and join the Sunday cycle the following day.

I had already become on-line friends with some of his pals but it was great to put faces to names and I’m looking forward to introducing them, and John, to my Edinburgh pals during Edinburgh marathon weekend.

There is of course still much to but the countdown really is on… 10 weeks to go! Best get on….!!!

The bike part 2 – a full spec

I’m very aware that for some of you quite frankly this post will hold no interest at all. It’s one for the bike geeks…. something I am fast turning into!

As a number of you have been asking about the spec for my bike I have decided to list the components of my new machine. So, it’s not pink, it doesn’t have tassles or spoke decorations. As yet, it has no name but it will. No doubt they’ll be a post looking for suggestions once it arrives at the end of April.

Specifications for your Traveller KS-TR 28

• Signature www.bikemind.co.uk – very exciting about having my web address on my new machine.

• Frame Traveller KS-TR 28: Frame colour Mystic Black, Frame size 50cm – I had wanted a steel frame but this was not compatible with suspension forks which were more of a priority! The forks are Suntour NCX-E RL Lite

• Group set Rohloff/Gates belt drive – this is the plush high spec engineering. Have never had hub gears before and definately like the sound of less maintenance!

• Brakes Shimano V-brake

• Tyres Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 50mm – the toughest you can get to go with rims and spokes KM21 Xstrong / Sapim

• Saddle Brooks B-17 S Standard ladies leather – I hope the most comfortable I can get! Seat post KOGA Shock absorbing – I think I’ll need this in Tibet!

• Handlebar KOGA Multigrip and stem KOGA adjustable, grips KOGA leather

• Pedals Shimano Combi PD-T780 – just in case i need to cycle in my only other pair of shoes – flip flops!!

• Rear carrier Tubus Logo with spring clamp and on the front low-rider Tubus Ergo including kickstand. This will be the first time I have used additional front panniers when touring and I DON’T plan to to take lots of extra weight as a consequence though there are a number of luxury items I can’t decide between at the moment! Nail polish is def in though!

Other accessories include saddle bag KOGA Classic, kickstand Pletscher Comp, ring lock AXA Defender RL, pump Topeak Road Morph, bottle & bottle holder Topeak Modula Cage XL, mudguards SKS Chromoplastics, bell Widek Decibel II Kompas

• Weight 18.2 kg

A big thank you to the guys at Edinburgh Bike-coop for their patience regarding my order. I was due to finalise my order just before I received bad news and the order was on hold as a consequence. Can’t wait to collect my new baby now.

My new friend John

Following an unexpected family visit two weeks ago I went on to Bristol to meet up with my cycle buddy John. Like me, he too had signed up for the original supported trip and when that was cancelled he put out a call to see if anyone was still interested in a cycle adventure. As many of my pals would say when I get an idea in my head that’s it and so for me the fact that someone else still wanted to go this was really positive. And that’s where it started…..

Since January John and I have been in regular contact – sharing ideas, discussing options and finding out more about each other. However, with almost 400 miles between us we had not been able to meet. A number of friends thought I was crazy (some still do I think!) for planning a year out with a guy I had never met but as John and I chatted we both agreed that our honesty, shared goals and general chit chat felt so comfortable it was like planning a journey with a old friend. Weird, but true. It just felt right. In fact, such was our confidence that we paid deposits for parts of out trip  – something that originally we had said we would only do after we met.

So, that day came on Friday. John had made the journey to Bristol and we had a weekend of biking, socialising and hanging out.  I acted as tour guide around the city and we finished with pizza and a pint before we went out on a 52 mile ride the following day.

The route was a favourite ride of mine heading south out of the city, over Bristol’s biggest hill (Dundry) and over to Cheddar Gorge. While there were tough hills these bring great views of Bristol, Chew Valley Lake and cycling down into Cheddar itself. It was a beautiful ride though as we were 12 miles from home the weather turned, we were in an exposed area, the sky went very dark and the hail was painful as it hit. Fortunately the airport was close and we headed in for shelter and a hot drink. This was the worst weather I had experienced on the bike this year. While the hail stopped it continued to pour with rain and we set off for home. It’s never great to get caught out in bad weather but it is part of the course and in a funny way it was good to see how we both deal with imperfect conditions…. This won’t be the only time!

I’m pleased to say that while smiles may have decreased momentarily a hot bath, curry and a beer aided recovery and the following day we were out again. It was a fantastic weekend and while it felt comfortable before we met I am now happy to describe John as a friend as well as a cycle buddy. We’re going to be just fine.

Hitting the brakes

In my last post I spoke about the bike I was about to order. I considered the spec emailed through and had arranged to make the order last Tuesday – 6th March.  Sadly a phone call received the evening before changed that and as a result will have a significant effect on the trip. My mother was confirmed with secondary breast cancer. It is not curable and the initial prognosis was devastating. I rushed immediately to the Midlands to join her. While disappointed that it looked like my planning had been in vain that was nothing in comparison with a much greater sense of loss the call initially indicated.

While to date all is not certain the meeting with the consultant last week brought hope and optimism.  The initial news it seems was an absolute worst case and given the next appointment falls after this time you can imagine the massive sense of relief. It really was the toughest week I’ve ever faced but with it has come a number of positives and the chance to look at moving forwards for us both and with wider relationships impacted as a result of conversations prompted by such awful news.

A number of people have often commented on my resilience. I guess that’s part of the attitude required to sign up for a cycle trip like this in the first place. It comes from my mother. Following her consultant appointment on Friday the next day we went on an 8.5 mile walk which she then followed with a traditional barn dance later than evening.

She too had felt upset that my trip may be cancelled and of course depending on appointments in three months time it may still be severely delayed. There simply would be no other option. However, as she strives to continue in a positive mindset I too am continuing to plan. It will change the original route and proposed  time away. I do want to ensure I will quickly be able to get home should I need to.  Missing a Christmas may now be something I really don’t want to do. I am now thinking of doing the trip in two or three stages so I’m not away for 11 months solid. I won’t finalise flights until after the next appointment. You have to be positive. You have to live life. You have to ensure you also spend time to appreciate and value the people you love.

Later this week I’ll be meeting my trip companion. While of course I have much to thank family and friends for their amazing support in the past week (I hope they know this outside from this bike blog!)  I also need to say thank you to a man I have yet to meet for his support and understanding at this difficult time. I always knew this trip would be a emotional journey as well as a physical one but this was beyond the unexpected. I now feel even more confident that I have a travelling partner with the mental ability for such an adventure. This trip will be more than helping each other cover the bike miles.