Categories
News Rio Santa Cruz 2014

Tom’s Horse Trip (And Other Adventures)

It was a good few years ago that I named this blog Tom’s Bike Trip. At the time, it represented all I desired to do and write about, as well as remaining relevant to everything I’d written on this blog’s predecessor over the previous few years.

I still feel, of course, that there is incredible scope to explore the world by bicycle. But for a while now I’ve also been looking for a way to rediscover a particular feeling I had when I first started out — a feeling of rapid growth in my learning from the need for new skills to handle new experiences. I felt the same when I took on language learning as a serious endeavour, and again when I began to make films and write books.

And so I’ve come to the realisation that I’m not destined to be a one-trick pony; that being known only as ‘the bike guy’ is going to hinder my future experiments with adventure and with life in general.

In short, I’ve run into a bit of a branding problem!

It is entirely unclear how or when this might be resolved. It is certainly a privilege to have accumulated this breadth of knowledge on the topic of bicycle travel. But things are bound to evolve, and evolve they will.

In real terms, of course, it has already begun. It is over two years now since I undertook a really significant cycle tour (not counting #freeLEJOG or the limited amount of riding I did in Iran). In the meantime, I’ve been working hard on plans and projects that have little or no connection with cycling, and much more to do with adventure and learning and sharing in general.

Karun is all about combining a river descent with a language-learning project as a conduit to cultural exploration, for example. And the most recent project took shape very recently indeed.

It all started when Leon emailed me out of the blue and asked if I’d like to ride a horse across Patagonia. I found myself agreeing without a second thought (a textbook implementation of the ‘f**k yeah!’ decision-making algorithm, a.k.a. the ‘hell yeah!’ test, in which you decide whether or not to do things based on whether or not they elicit a immediate and uncontrollable reaction of “f**k yeah!”).

This was a mere few weeks ago. Things happened fast. And so I write this today from the dining room of a cheap hostel in El Calafate. We meet the horses on Sunday. (There’s nothing quite like a ridiculous deadline to galvanize action — plus, overplanning sucks anyway.)

The plan is pretty simple: Leon, José (a local horseman) and I will traverse the length of the Santa Cruz river, from the Atlantic coast to the river’s source at Lake Argentina, home of the iconic Perito Moreno Glacier. Leon was initially drawn by the prospect of following in the footsteps of legendary historical explorers who made forays along this valley, including Captain Fitzroy and Charles Darwin, as well as Moreno himself. Since that initial spark, the plot has thickened significantly — but it would be a shame to give it all away!

I’m joining this expedition as the filmmaker, carrying the cameras and exploring the story of man’s fascination with the Patagonian wilderness — though the fact that I’ve only ever ridden a horse once in my life will doubtless result in a cameo or two. There’s a potentially rich and intriguing story here, and though the challenges will no doubt be numerous, I’m looking forward to helping Leon and José to tell it.

We leave for the Atlantic on Monday. There being no phone signal, and with no satellite phone, this blog will remain quiet throughout the month of December, but all being well I’ll check in early in the New Year, as well as bringing you more news on the Karun film project — not to mention next year’s Festival of Cycle Touring (save the date!).

Have a great festive season, and wish us luck!

Categories
Films Iran 2014 News

Karun: A Source To Sea Journey Along Iran’s Longest River

Today I’m very pleased to be able to share with you the first of a couple of teaser videos of Karun, the film I’ve recently been working on.

For those who missed it, Leon and I travelled to Iran in the spring of 2014 in order to follow the longest river in Iran. This film, which we’ve named after the river, was originally intended to be a cultural exploration with the river itself as a mere conduit to our experiences, but things didn’t quite go to plan — as is so often the case with adventures in general, but particularly — it seems — with adventures in Iran.

There’ll be more news on the film (and plenty of how-to content on DIY adventure filmmaking) over the next few months as we work on the film and prepare to release it. Stay tuned…

Karun has its own website at karunfilm.com, complete with social media sharing buttons, in case you’d like to help us spread the word about the project.

Categories
Product Launches

Adventure DVD Gift-Pack Sale Launches Today

Just a quick heads-up to let you know that I’m participating in a ‘flash sale’ this week, in which you can get an exclusive bundle containing 3 well-known indie adventure films for a ridiculously discounted price.

You can check out the films included and watch all 3 trailers at adventuretravelfilms.co.uk, a special website we’ve set up to host the offer.

I’m sure that every regular reader who’s ever going to watch Janapar has already done so (and Al, Leon and Austin are probably all writing the same thing on their blogs), but that’s not really the point. This offer is mainly designed as an affordable gift idea for people in your life who could do with a kick up the adventuring backside.

It’s running this week only — first come, first served.

(Did I mention it’s a really good deal?)

Check it out at adventuretravelfilms.co.uk.

Categories
Craft & DIY Personal Updates

What Name Would You Give A Heavy-Duty World Touring Bike?

After last week’s rather vocal debate on the ethics of commercialism in adventure, I figured it was time to get firmly back to what we all love: travelling the world on two wheels. (Less talk, more action, and all that.)

Now, as long-term readers will know, I’ve never had any particular fascination with touring bikes themselves. Though I’ve written the odd blog post on the topic, this has mainly been in order to get people here via search engines so that I can talk to them about how getting on a bike and going somewhere is a far better use of their time than endlessly googling touring bikes. (This works pretty well.)

But in the years since I started this blog, I’ve inevitably accumulating a certain amount of wisdom — both from first hand experience on the road in 40+ countries and from literally hundreds of other equally experienced riders — on what it is that distinguishes the ‘ideal’ world travel bicycle from… not just other bikes in general, but other touring bikes too. For not all touring bikes are created equal. Not by a long shot.

(Ironically, my lack of interest in equipment led me to write an entire handbook on choosing gear for cycle touring — the theory being, of course, that by doing so I would never have to answer another question on cycle touring equipment ever again. This has largely worked.)

Since relocating to Bristol earlier this year, I’ve also discovered something else, which is that I actually really enjoy working on bicycles. I enjoy getting my hands dirty. I enjoy the process of taking something that’s falling to pieces and — with just my hands and a selection of basic tools and parts — intuit and experiment with how to bring it back to that state of mechanical equilibrium in which everything just works.

It’s also slightly reminiscent of long-term touring. Everyone who’s done such a tour will know of the evolving mental to-do list of bicycle maintenance jobs. The rear derailleur could do with a tweak on the second sprocket down. There’s too much slack in that barrel adjuster. What’s that tick on the drive-side downstroke — pedal bearing, chainring bolt, bottom bracket or loose shoelace? Without wanting to get too Pirsig, there’s a certain zen to the art of bicycle maintenance.

I’ve rediscovered the simple yet therapeutic nature of bicycle rebuilding by volunteering at the Bristol Bike Project, spending one afternoon a week taking donated rust-heaps that’ve been sitting in people’s garden sheds for god knows how long and making them roadworthy again. These bicycles are often museum pieces. Not a day goes by at the Bike Project when I don’t learn something new about some long-forgotten piece of bicycle engineering technology.

Anyway. It got me thinking: if I were to build another bicycle from the ground up for the specific intention of travelling the planet, ultra long term, wanting insane levels of durability, maximum versatility in where I could take it, ultimate ease of maintenance, the greatest possible chance of finding compatible parts, and with comfort under load as a top priority… what would such a bike look like? What parts would I choose? What would my priorities be for the build, with all that experience to draw from? And how would it be put together?

It would certainly differ greatly from my first attempt at building an expedition bike. While certainly unique, that bike only really came into its own in Outer Mongolia and the most challenging parts of Africa. It was massively overbuilt for long-distance touring, slowed me down immeasurably, and in retrospect was a bit like taking a sledgehammer to a picturehook. It got me where I was going, of course. But there’s a lot I’d want to change.

Well, I’m excited to announce that I have now designed and built such a bike.

toms-expedition-bike-2

While the chances of me attempting to cycle round the world in one go (again) are slim, being happily married and having otherwise got it out of my system, this bike is the one I’d like to think I’ll spend the remainder of my touring days riding, wherever in the world I choose to go.

Vast amounts of thought and research have gone into its design, and I’ll be sharing the complete build process on this blog in the next couple of weeks.

But for now, I could use some help. Because the bike still doesn’t have a name.

So here’s the point of today’s post:

If you were building the ultimate heavy-duty world touring bicycle, what name would you give it?

(Ideally, something other than ‘Tom’s Expedition Bike’ — though that is a fairly accurate description!)

Answers in the comments. Whoever comes up with the name I choose gets a mystery prize. Just for fun 🙂

To get your creative juices flowing, here are some of the suggestions that have come through on Twitter and Facebook so far:

https://twitter.com/MossyST620/status/529392759631654913

https://twitter.com/dave_steepmedia/status/529348744303869952

Go nuts! No name too silly.

Though it would also be good if someone came up with one I’d actually want to plaster across the top tube of the bicycle…