Categories
Guest Posts Product Launches

Introducing CyclingTouring.org, A Social Network For Solo Cycle Tourists To Find Partners In Adventure

Today’s Q&A‑style guest post comes from Pete Ashford, founder of CyclingTouring.org, a new (free) social networking website aimed at finding cycle touring partners to join your trip wherever and whenever you happen to be riding.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I have been riding bikes all my life – BMXs, mountain bikes, road bikes, single speed, just about anything with two wheels. I dream about bikes, I scan the internet for them, I read cycling books/magazines, I listen to podcasts… at the moment I’m wondering if I need a fold up bike, just because I think they look cool and great fun to ride!

So I’m pretty obsessed with these two wheeled, pedal powered modes of transport. They make me happy. I think everyone should ride them, especially when it comes to travelling and discovering new places.

What is CyclingTouring.org and why did you start it?

The idea came to me whilst cycling alone one morning. It was early in the morning and shortly after packing up camp, I was looking for a bakery to feed me some great pastries.

Leading up to this tour, I had been chatting to a friend about joining me. It seemed like he wanted to come along on his first tour. I talked about not needing all the gear and his old mountain bike would be fine, making the point that cycle touring can be cheap to get started. Not long after, the excuses started to come and I knew that was the end of that. I didn’t push it and went alone.

Anyway, in a space of half an hour, I came across two separate people riding along on their touring bikes, fully laden with all the kit. They were clearly on an adventure, like me, and were also by themselves, like me.

I’m pretty comfortable in my own company for long periods of time. But not everyone is. I thought that there must be plenty of other people who’d had similar experiences to me – people who wanted to go cycle touring, but couldn’t find anyone to go with them. That’s where the initial idea came from.

What’s the goal of CyclingTouring.org and how does it work?

The simple goal is to bring people together to share their cycle touring adventures. It’s free for anyone to use, and it’s fun and engaging.

I haven’t just created a simple forum where people post about their cycle tour, though. That’s been done before. I wanted a social web site that is simple to use. I also wanted a big map of cycle tours, as well as a well formatted list of available tours to join.

These initial ideas turned into two key functions for the site. The first allows people to upload details of their own planned cycling tour. Complete a simple form with some basic details; it is then approved and added to the list of tours which are neatly displayed on a world map and central list that can be filtered. People can register interest in joining you, and exchange messages to sort out the details before meeting up.

The second is for cyclists already out on a tour. Riders log on and pin their current or future location on a map, including details of what they are up to and where they are heading to. These pins are visible on a world map for people to view. Anyone interested in meeting up clicks a ‘Contact’ button, exchanges messages and meets up.

This is great for people who don’t necessarily want to spend a whole tour with one person and maybe fancy some company for part of the trip, or for people who didn’t manage to find someone to join them from the start.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 16.47.51

How has the project been received so far?

The site went live 8 weeks ago and since then always has around 20 cycle tours available to join at any given time. The positive feedback from people has been awesome and it is great to see people using the services.

Over the past few weeks, I have been fortunate enough to receive help from some experienced cycle tourists. Positive words on social media is an amazing thing that brings the site to the attention of far more people.

My aim is eventually to bring the site to each and every cycle tourist. We need people to spread the word about what we do; to share it with friends, family, local bike clubs and anyone who likes cycling. It isn’t just about experienced cycle tourists either – if we can engage newly converted cycle tourists too, then that would be great.

Who is the site aimed at?

Anyone! Really, anyone can be involved. You don’t have to be die hard lycra-clad cyclist with a garage full bicycles. All you need is a desire to travel, a bicycle and some basic kit.

Multi month/year adventures are not the only kind of cycle touring, so the site is aimed at all kinds of tour. Even a single ride in a new area could count as a cycle tour. It’s about exploring on your bicycle, not how far you travel, and sometimes that can mean a quick night away cycling somewhere new.

Why should people join?

Anyone with a passion for cycle touring should sign up and give it a go. You’ll make new friends, and it is highly likely you will find someone to share in your next great adventure.

Whether you’re going for a 1‑night tour in the local area, stepping out on a year long adventure across a continent, or you have a touring holiday idea that you cannot buy anywhere, being a member of CyclingTouring.org will almost certainly help you connect with like-minded people.

Where is the project going from here?

Promoting what we do is taking much of my time right now. I’m always looking at new areas to encourage people to get into cycle touring – for example, people taking gap years. What a great to spend a year out that would be!

Ultimately, I want the site to become a hub for people to hook up and go cycle touring together, exchange touring photos/videos, talk cycle touring and tell the world about their cycle tours. Cycle touring is cool and I want everyone to share it!

Thanks Pete! Check out his excellent project and join up for free at CyclingTouring.org. You can also connect with the project on Facebook and Twitter.

Categories
Bikes Product Launches

Just Announced – Kona’s Updated 2016 Sutra Touring Bike + New Sutra LTD

I’ve been a fan of Kona’s bikes and their corporate ethos for donkey’s years. Today they’re announcing their new season bike line-up, which includes not just an updated 2016 Kona Sutra (their mid-range disc-equipped 700C tourer) but also a brand new variant, the 2016 Kona Sutra LTD, aimed even more squarely at short-haul adventures on mixed terrain.

Both the 2016 Kona Sutra and the Sutra LTD share an updated frameset, similar to last season’s frame (which was shared with the gravel-racing Rove), but this year with heavier-gauge tubing, acknowledging the benefits of a burlier build for luggage-carrying applications.

sutra

Other improvements to the 2016 Sutra’s frameset include better tyre clearance, a replaceable gear hanger, and more options for lowrider mounting, including the ability to mount bottle cages on the forks, which will undoubtedly please bikepackers no end.

The basic Kona Sutra 2016 specifications remain broadly the same as 2015’s model; just a couple of minor differences of little consequence. The switch from an 11–32t cassette to an 11–34t, however, will be a welcome one – as we all know, tourers can never have a low enough bottom gear.

Here’s Kona chief designer Ian Schmitt’s personal take on the updates:

“From the outset we sought to develop a new touring bike that checked all the boxes we felt necessary for touring in a variety of conditions: wider tire clearance, better handling when loaded, improved ride feel and improved carrier compatibility. The frame’s geometry uses a lower bottom bracket (72mm drop all sizes), consistent head tube angle (71° all sizes) and 50mm offset fork to improve carrying with a front load as well as improving tire clearance on smaller frame sizes.

“We based the sizing of the Sutra off of our new cyclocross geometry. The Sutra features higher stack and longer reach and is designed to pair with a slightly wider bar and slightly shorter stem compared to our cyclocross offering, which helps with stability and ride feel. The new Sutra frame also uses a specific tube set (thicker than Rove) to maintain stiffness when loaded.”

sutra_ltd

The new Sutra LTD, on the other hand, looks to have diverged considerably from your standard tourer, with hydraulic disc brakes and no racks supplied, though given that the frameset is shared with the Sutra, it wouldn’t take much to kit it out for light touring.

The drivetrain choice is the most interesting feature, doing away with a front derailleur entirely in favour of a ludicrously wide-ranged 10–42t cassette, with a single 36t chainring up front. Doing the maths reveals that you’ll get a surprisingly wide range of useful gears out of this setup.

sutraltd5

sutraltd6

While it won’t be much good for winning road races or lugging tons of luggage around the planet, that clearly isn’t the point of the Sutra LTD. I can certainly imagine fitting it out with some minimal frame luggage and taking it off for a long weekend of fun and fast-paced trail riding with a wild-camp or two thrown in.

Here’s Ian again on the new Kona Sutra LTD:

“The Sutra LTD represents the nexus of mountain bike and road bike drivetrains. I had personally been playing around with 1x drivetrains on my touring bike for several months before SRAM had told us they were developing a derailleur to work with their XD driver and 10–42t cassette. I had spent an appreciable amount of time toying with various gear ranges and had found that for my personal use a bike with an 11–40t cassette and a 38t chainring afforded me pretty much all of the gearing options I required. The addition of 10t and 42t cogs plus an additional gear in the middle was enough to push the concept into production.

“The LTD is aimed at a variety of riders. It is a bike that can be used for week long tours, month long tours, gravel rides, single track, commuting etc. We wanted to highlight the fun of big tires, simple gearing and hydraulic brakes and feel that this bike has done it on all fronts. I’m not joking when I say that this is the most fun drop bar bike I’ve had the pleasure of riding.”

Expect the 2016 Kona Sutra and Sutra LTD to hit stores in a few weeks’ time.

Categories
Bikes Product Launches

New Ebook Released Today: The Complete Expedition Touring Bike Buyer’s Guide

Today I’m publishing my second ebook – a follow-up to last year’s cycle touring equipment guide.

[Link: Get the new ebook here.]

This new ebook, The Complete Expedition Touring Bike Buyer’s Guide, aims to tackle one very big and very specific question:

“Exactly what kind of bicycle should I take on a huge worldwide cycling adventure?”

In doing so, it also aims to answer the two underlying questions most newcomers have:

“I don’t know anything about bikes – how the heck am I supposed to know what I’m looking for?”

And:

“Even if I do figure out what bike I need, where and how am I supposed to get one?”

You see, the most common type of person I hear from who is considering such an adventure is not a cyclist.

He or she (or you?) is someone who, for one reason or another, has realised that travelling by bicycle will give them what they’re looking for from the travelling experience – access to the great outdoors, enviable independence, exercise, cultural immersion, thinking time, the ability to travel on a super low budget – whatever it may be.

The point is that – for most of us – the touring bicycle is a tool to do a job, not an object of desire per se.

So the intention behind the guide is similar to that of my previous guide: to cut through the endless arguments and conflicting advice surrounding the topic of expedition touring bike choice, specifically for the benefit of non-gear nerds.

The reader of The Complete Expedition Touring Bike Buyer’s Guide will be able to bypass the endless debates on internet forums over whether one might be best off with derailleur gears or a Rohloff hub, disc brakes or rim brakes, 26-inch or 700C wheels, or steel or aluminium frames.

The truth is that these questions have all been answered a hundred times already – plus, there are far more important things to think about when choosing an expedition touring bike anyway. (If you had no idea these debates existed, by the way, trust me: you don’t want to go there.)

The guide does cover many of the technicalities (with illustrations), simply because I do believe that it’s important to know how the bike you’re riding has been put together – chances are you’ll need to get your hands dirty with maintenance and repairs sooner or later.

The guide wraps up with a nice big listing of expedition-grade touring bike manufacturers whose bikes are available around the world, either direct, through dealerships, as frames for building a bike upon, or as custom-built offerings.

Making the best choice is more about the bikes you have actual, physical access to as about which bike looks ‘best’ on paper, so this listing is likely to come in very useful. (A constantly-updated version of this listing is also freely available here on the blog.)

The 72-page, fully-illustrated PDF guide is released today at the ultra-affordable price of £9 (about $15) – an infinitesimally tiny fraction of the average budget for actually buying such a bicycle.

Head over here to check it out.

And if the idea takes you, why not buy yourself a copy? As well as having the contents of the touring-bike portion of my brain at your fingertips, you’ll be helping keep this blog alive into its 9th year, and for that I shall thank you greatly.

Categories
Books & Reading Planning & Logistics Product Launches

How To Cycle Around The World: A New eBook by Tim Moss

Amid all the buzz of the recent Kickstarter campaign (which ended in success – woohoo!), there’s every chance you might have missed the release of Tim Moss’s new ebook How To Cycle Around The World.

Link: check it out and download it here.

Cycling-3D-cover-500

Tim’s website TheNextChallenge.org is one of the UK adventure blogging scene’s long-runners. The sheer volume of practical resources for expedition planning he’s made available online is staggering and frankly puts my own efforts to shame.

He’s also just returned from actually cycling around the world himself with his wife Laura, co-founded the Cycle Touring Festivaland set up the largest database of long-distance cycle journey statistics in existence. So let there be no doubt about his credentials both as a writer and as an authority on the topic at hand.

The book itself is a short-ish primer, rather than an encyclopaedic manual on the topic, and because of this it’s as much about providing inspiration and motivation that this thing is possible as telling you how to do it.

And while the title of the book implies a circumnavigation, the advice inside is relevant to the planning of any long-distance ride, regardless of whether it involves actually circling the globe.

Tim has thoughtfully included Q&As with and tips from a wide spread of other world cyclists, including Mark Beaumont, Alastair Humphreys, Julian Sayarer, and many others, which results in a diverse spread of advice, rather than a dogmatic approach based on one person’s experience.

If you’re keen to get to grips quickly with exactly what it takes to pull off such a trip, and don’t want to get bogged down in the details, I’d highly recommend giving How To Cycle Around The World a read.

Nice one, Tim! Find out more about his book and download your copy over at TheNextChallenge.org.

Categories
Films Iran 2014 Product Launches

Just released: Watch my latest adventure film, KARUN, for free!

At the end of last year, Leon and I sat down with our editor and spent the best part of a month producing a short film of our adventure in Iran, during which we followed the river Karun from source to sea (or tried to, at least!).

Today I’m happy to be able to share the full 15-minute film with you – for free.

We’ve had a fantastic response from film festivals so far, even managing to win the People’s Choice award at Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival – the best kind of award we could have won, in my opinion, because it represents how we connected to our audience, as opposed to the critics and judges.

Watch Karun right now over here →

This is all part of our gearing up to make the full, feature-length version of the story – because, as you might imagine, when you compress 6 weeks into 15 minutes, there’s a lot that gets left out.

But it’s going to take more time, people and resources than just us and a laptop. So in a few days’ time we’ll be launching a crowdfunding campaign to make not one but two new adventure films based on our journeys last year in Iran and Patagonia.

This is going to be a huge project – and you’ll be able to contribute directly towards making it a success! With that in mind, we’re asking you to take one of two simple actions in return for watching Karun:

  1. Enter your email address at karunfilm.com so we can let you know when the crowdfunding campaign is launched (and explain how you can help), OR
  2. ‘Pay’ with a Tweet or Facebook status about the release of this short film – a simple, automated process we’ve set up on karunfilm.com which will take a few seconds at most.

Watch Karun right now over here →

Enjoy – and do let us know what you think in the comments below. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about the journey or the filmmaking process, so don’t be shy…