Categories
Middle East & Africa 2009

Perception Versus Reality In Travel

It was late April and the Ethiopian highlands had been rolling beneath my wheels for several days. Inching towards Djibouti, I consulted detailed road-engineers’ maps of the country to plan my route, and found an enticing-looking dirt track through the Afar region of the infamous Danakil Depression.

I’d developed something of a romantic fascination with this remote bruise in the planet’s surface, a few hundred kilometres inland from the Horn of Africa. For it was here that it is widely thought that, hundreds of thousands of years ago, before farming, before writing, before metallurgy, the ancestors of you, me, Ghenghis Khan, Michael Jackson — and every other human who ever lived — descended from the trees, stood upright and first struck flint against stone.

The thought was mind-boggling — that if could trace my family tree back past my father, past my grandfather who I never knew, past his father who riveted leather covers to the seats of train carriages, past his father after whom a small lane in a Derbyshire village is named, and on and on through the generations, eventually — astoundingly — one of the infants in that epic chain of births would likely have arrived screaming into the world right here, in a vast scrubland plain in East Africa. I was coming to visit my family’s historical home.

Categories
Gear Reviews

First-Impressions Review Of The Extrawheel Voyager

During 2007 and 2008, Andy and I road-tested some prototype trailers for the Polish company Extrawheel who have been helping to support Ride Earth. Today we took the final production version of the Extrawheel Voyager for a spin to see how it compared to those early models.

Extrawheel Voyager try-out

Categories
Craft & DIY Equipment

How To: Build A Bicycle Wheel In Ten Easy Steps

People fear wheel-building. None more so than touring cyclists. Nobody, apart from a tiny elite of skilled craftsmen in scattered bike shops across the world, should dare impinge on this secretive world of mechanical artistry.

But we all have a capacity for art, don’t we? Could it really be all that difficult? I had a new rim to fit to Tenny’s bike, which would involve taking apart the rear wheel in its entirety and rebuilding it from scratch. So I decided to find out what this wheel-building malarkey was all about. After four and a half hours of careful labour, I held in my hands what appeared to be a nice straight new wheel.

Categories
Personal Updates

Why Cycle-Touring Is Good For Your Legs

Since I got back from a spontaneous hitching trip from Armenia to England and back, my mind has been on the problem of keeping fit. Like an awful lot of us, I’m destined to spend my time (for the next few months, at least) in a city. More than half of the world’s human population now live in urban environments. With this comes the threat of the sedentary lifestyle, and the declining levels of fitness and health with which we’re now becoming increasingly familiar.