Middle East & Africa 2009

My Conscience-Free Kebab in Aleppo

A while back I posted on the merits of vegetarianism. While not becoming a strict veggie, I decided that drastically cutting down my meat intake was probably a good thing, having the bonus effect of making occasional meaty treats more enjoyable. I said I was looking forward to eating a kebab for 50 pence without feeling guilty afterwards. And I’ve just had that kebab in Aleppo, a historical city in the north of Syria.

Middle East & Africa 2009

Hitching from England to Istanbul

Facebook has managed to almost entirely replace email as a form of electronic communication amongst friends. While I dislike the immense waste of human energy that is poured into it, I decided to use it to conduct a small experiment. I would allow my Facebook friends one chance to directly affect my life in the midst of this enormous virtual shouting match.

Should I: a) Wait 6 days for a guaranteed lift aboard an articulated lorry heading across Europe from Kettering to Istanbul, or b) get up, shoulder my bag, walk out of the door, stick out my thumb, and repeat until Turkey?

Personal Updates

Ride Earth 2009 Charity Calendar

It’s a couple of weeks into January, so it’s likely you’re thinking about getting round buying yourself a calendar for 2009.

If you like your calendars to be visually appealing, you could do far worse than stumping up £12.95 for our Ride Earth charity calendar. Produced and delivered by Red Bubble, all of the profit we make on the sales of these calendars will go to our supported charity The Wilderness Foundation UK.

The calendar features 12 of the most evocative photos we’ve taken on the road over the last 18 months. It’s a celebration of the beauty of wild nature and of human culture. In A3 format and printed on glossy art-grade paper, we’re sure you’ll enjoy these images throughout the next 12 months.

The Wilderness Foundation UK is a small British charity. Andy and I know very well the positive effect that immersion in the natural world has on the mind and body. WFUK’s TurnAround project takes vulnerable young people from disadvantaged backgrounds out of the urban environment and into the Scottish Highland wildnerness. Andy and I travelled to Scotland in 2006 and spent 9 days mountain-biking across the stunning natural beauty of the Highlands.

The programme is aimed at helping these youngsters to rehabilitate through learning how to take responsibility for their lives and the society they live in, and rediscover their connection with nature.

Mankind and nature have long been separated in the eye of society, but the natural world underpins all life on the planet, human or otherwise. When we talk of the destruction of the environment, we are really talking about the destruction of our home.

As we continue to consume the limited resources of the Earth at an increasing rate, it has never been more important for people to understand their place in the natural world, and how insignificant our personal gripes become in the bigger picture of responsible stewardship of the planet. It’s a positive discovery which leads to a happier and more fulfilled existence here and now.

It’s for these reasons that we support The Wilderness Foundation UK, and ask for your support, either by buying the calendar, or by making a donation. Even if it’s only a fiver, it is the combined strength of small donations that make the work of a small charity possible.

Gear Reviews

Magura Louise Hydraulic Disc Brake Review

Disc-brake technology for mountain-bikes has progressed at lightning speed in the last few years. Based on long-standing concepts originating from motorbike technology, disc-brakes have traditionally suffered from complex set-up and maintenance procedures, and reliability issues. It’s just not as simple as a piece of wire attached to a caliper. It’s messy and expensive. People get scared of touching them — it’s new and unfamiliar territory.

Looking past all this neurosis, you do get an incomparable level of braking power from a properly-installed set of disc brakes. The difference cannot be understated. On my way down a mountain road, I can go from top speed to a standstill in a couple of seconds. With a single finger on each brake lever. On a fully-loaded touring bike with a trailer in tow. This would have been practically impossible before the advent of disc-brakes.

Riding cross-country

Gear Reviews

Magura Odur 100mm Front Suspension Touring Fork Review

Choosing suspension forks for cycle touring usually involves a preliminary question — should I use forks at all?

The answer, as usual, depends on where you want to go on your fully-loaded bike. A tour on good quality asphalt doesn’t call for the control, comfort and arm/hand protection offered by a good pair of suspension forks. But if you know you’ll be spending weeks on end following gravel roads, dirt tracks or crumbling tarmac, front suspension suddenly starts to sound rather attractive.