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Cycle Touring Festival 2017

Laura Tim MossLaura and Tim Moss, an intrepid couple who cycled 13,000 miles on their world tour in 2013-14, came back so enthused by their experiences that they set up the first Cycle Touring Festival at Waddow Hall in Clitheroe in 2015. I have just come back from the  3rd edition of the Festival, full of that ‘cycling spiritual refreshment’ that only comes from joining hundreds of other14waddowhall cycling ‘pilgrims’ at the mecca of cycle touring in the UK.

This was no ordinary festival. It steadfastly refused to follow the usual format of being dominated by sponsors and traders. The event was born of enthusiasts, it was run by volunteer enthusiasts, all the workshops, demos and presentations were given by enthusiasts without payment, and the inevitable end product was that, at the end, everyone went away brimming with renewed eagerness to go out and storm the world on their bikes.

IMG_20170526_201643565One of the great ironies of the weekend was that the programme was so crammed with fascinating events on site, that it left no time to actually go out on the bikes and enjoy some of the local lanes.  A bit like going to a pub with no beer, really. Everything was geared for the cyclist (or budding cyclist) who simply wanted to go on adventures on their bikes, whether multi-year round-the-world expeditions, or simple weekend micro-adventures in their own locality. Volunteers gave presentations on their own adventures, experts shared their knowledge of GPS systems, filming on the road, camp cooking and stoves, wheel building and basic mechanics, and much much more. IMG_20170528_111818200

We enjoyed a presentation by a family with two young boys of their 6 month adventure in Japan, and cycling the west coast of Scotland. We had a yoga session specifically for the needs of cyclists, given by a yoga teacher and physiotherapist, who also happened to have cycled mega-miles across the globe. There were films, kit demos, talks on bothies in Scotland, bikepacking demos, discussions on dynamos and lighting systems, bike and light-weight tent demos, and an advice session on coping with cycling-related injuries.

They were the ‘serious’ parts of the programme, but in the gaps and in the evenings there were fun plenary gatherings in the marquee, an open mike session to hear 3 minute travelling stories from anyone who wanted to stand up, and the inevitable beer drinking to keep the bonhomie going late into the night.

Most people camped in the grounds of this splendid estate, within earshot of the river Ribble crashing over a nearby weir, which created a swimming-pool effect that enticed many to go swimming in the breaks. We were contained within a fantasy bubble during the entire weekend, ready to burst back out on the world when the final session was concluded, the final pint drunk, and the spare food doled out for people to take home with them. IMG_20170526_171920553

If any of this inspires you, check out the Festival website, and sign up for a newsletter to be kept informed of the next event in 2018. In the meantime, you may want to tie into another festival taking place this weekend, June 2nd-5th, at Brathay Hall in Ambleside. If you do, I’ll see you there………………..


Now for the detail………..

Like accountants and engineers, cycling nerds like to get their noses into the minutiae of the detail. So for those of you wanting to know exactly what has gone into my 8.5 kilos of luggage, here is the list. Enjoy!

Ultra-lightweight cycletouring

Clothing                                      Other

2 base-layers                                               Spare glasses

2 cycling tops                                              Toiletries

2 pairs socks                                                 Travel towel

1 undershorts                                               Comb

2 lycra shorts                                                First aid

Arm/leg warmers                                        Cash/cards

1 cycling shoes                                              Watch

1 Gilet                                                                YHA card etc.

2 waterproofs                                                 Notebook + pen

Helmet                                                              Books (on smart phone)

Gloves                                                               Passport

Flip flops                                                         Money pouch

Buff                                                                    Sunscreen/lip salve

For the bike                                   Anti-chafing cream

Puncture repair                                          Travel insurance (+ EHIC?)

2 tubes                                                            Smart phone

Mini-lube & grease                                     Sun shades

Rag                                                                   Camera

Multi-tool                                                      Charging leads

Pump                                                               Flight socks

Cycle lock + 2 keys                                    Battery pack re-charger.

Pliers/spoke key/spare spokes             Maps

Zip ties                                                       

3 bungees/2 straps

Petzl E Lite headtorch

Cycle computer/GPS

Saddlebag/bar bag

Camping kit                                  

Tent                      Plastic mug + spork

Sleeping bag          Footprint

Army knife             Toilet paper


Inflatable pillow

Total weight (including saddlebag and barbag): 8.5 kilos (18.7lbs).

The boxed bike ready for check-in

The boxed bike ready for check-in

North Island route, hanging in the study, for Jenny to follow

North Island route, hanging in the study, for Jenny to follow

...and the South Island route.

…and the South Island route.


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Minimalism is alive and well!

Being fastidiously conscious about luggage weight leads one to extraordinary solutions.

I know many of you will have heard of some of the little tricks, or may even have practised them yourselves. The Crane cousins, in their bid to cycle across the Gobi desert and reach the remotest point known as the ‘centre of the earth’, christened a ritual that has become anecdotal in the cycling world, and is frequently quoted by long-distance cyclists as a term of reference in identifying each other. The ritual I am referring to is commonly known as the “sawn-off toothbrush”.

Some would say you can’t be a serious long-distance cyclist if you carry a full length toothbrush. Fail to conform and you will be relegated to some lower form of cycling life. Now, if you want to reach the heady heights of being classed as an “ultra-light cycle tourist” (which is precisely my own aspiration), cutting your toothbrush in half is only the start. Cast your eyes over the following and, remember, this will be a 2 month trip:

Toiletries: bodywash,intradental brush,toothbrush,floss,disposable razors, paste (122 grs)

Toiletries: bodywash, intradental brush,toothbrush,floss,disposable razors, paste (122 grs)

Headtorch,cardreader,spork,ear plugs,flash drive,adaptor,water purification tablets,smart phone + case (282 grs)

Headtorch,cardreader,spork, earplugs,flash drive,adaptor,water purification tablets,smart phone + case (282 grs)

Bungee,pliers,army knife,spoke key,spare cable,pen wrapped in tapes, small pots of lube + grease (344 grs)

Bungee,pliers,army knife,spoke key,spare cable,toothbrush to clean chain,tapes, small pots of lube + grease (344 grs)

Plastic cup,battery charger pack,camera battery charger,medical kit,passport,spare glasses (487 grs)

Plastic cup,battery pack charger,camera battery charger,medical kit,passport,spare glasses (487 grs)

2 tubes,lock,zip ties,multi-tool,puncture repair kit (756 grs)

2 tubes,lock,zip ties,multi-tool,puncture repair kit,speedlink (756 grs)

Saddlebag filled with clothes and tools (4kgs) camping equipment (3 kgs). Total: 7 kgs

Saddlebag filled with clothes and tools (4kgs) camping equipment (3 kgs).
Total:  7 kgs

Handlebar Bag: 1.34 kgs (including the camera used for this photo!).

Handlebar Bag: 1.34 kgs (including the camera used for this photo!).

Total (excluding water, food and sundries picked en route): 8.34 kgs.

The bike, primed and loaded

The bike, primed and loaded

Notable absence of: books, cooking equipment, pannier racks and panniers; clothing is general multi-purpose, lycra-based, which means it is all easily washed and dried. Warmth is created by thin layers. My secondary footwear is flip flops. I carry 2 waterproofs (one for the campsite) and a high viz vest; my smart phone carries e-books and guides, GPS, camera and can be used for emailing, texting and blogging….oh yes, and for phoning too!

I hope this post opens the doors to some friendly banter and sharing of opinions. I have friends in the world of cycling who would feel distinctly uncomfortable about travelling this light.  One particular friend confessed to me that he would carry much more than this even on a non-camping weekend! Some have no qualms about loading up their machines with 40-50 kgs of kit. After all, it’s not you carrying it, it’s the bike!

But my humble contribution to the world of ultra-light cycle-touring pales into insignificance when compared to a certain Igor Kovse from Slovenia. He will happily cycle across some of the remotest deserts and landscapes carrying less than 7 kgs (and that includes a tent!). Check out his website for tips here.

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For more cycling-related topics, go to Love Cycling