Monthly Archives: August 2012

Travelling light

There was a time when going on holiday – or even on a day trip – meant packing my photo rucksack full of as many lenses, filters and other bits and bobs as I could carry.

Times have changed. I now have one saddle bag for all my clothes, and another that needs to accommodate my sleeping bag, cooking equipment and camera stuff. This ist smallest camera bag, and it fits inside a cycling helmet with room to spare (I’m just showing you this for scale – it’s not how I’m planning to transport it!).

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Yes, I could get a teeny tiny camera or just use the one on my phone, but I do want to be flexible and (maybe) experimental in the pictures I take, so a DSLR it is. It’s my old, smaller one (Canon 300D), simply because it’s light, not worth much now and a little battered as it is. I’ve got my two smallest, lightest lenses (though one has some zoom), one polarizing filter, two batteries, three memory cards. It’ll be enough, I think.

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My trusty bike

Here it is, my trusty Shanks’ pony, wire donkey or whatever you want to call it. I’ve had this bike almost 14 years now, and I think it’s benefited a lot from having always been kept inside. It’s also been excellently maintained in recent years (though I have to give the credit for that largely to someone else…).

Today I did my first longish tour on it since it received a new saddle and various other bits, plus a general overhaul. I’m a bit saddle sore, as I think the saddle needs to be tipped forward a bit more than it is, plus the chain came off when I had to do some radical gear-changing going up a steep hill.

Still, I have now reported back to the Chief Mechanic and he’ll have it sorted by Tuesday, at which time we hope to try it out again…

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Getting set for France

This summer’s bike holiday is going to be another French one, but rather closer to home. We’re planning to tour around Alsace, as it’s practically on our doorstep but an area I know woefully little of, apart from the stretches between Neuf-Brisach and Colmar that we’ve cycled numerous times. I don’t know the exact route yet – M is busy planning that and we still need to get one more item of map material – but it’ll be a combination of nature sightseeing, some city stops (Colmar, Strasbourg), a bit of hill climbing (eek!) and exploring some of the picturesque villages and wine-growing areas (yum! No drinking of wine until we’ve finished cycling for the day, though ;)).

This is our third such summer tour and by now we’ve got almost all the equipment we need, but there are a few things I musn’t forget to check, do or get…

  • Some basic food supplies: We’ll be camping, which means there’s quite a lot of clobber we need to take as it is, so clearly we’re not going to be lugging a ton of heavy foodstuffs all the way from here to there. Even so, we’ve found a couple of things to be excellent in terms of light-weight provisions. One is sweetened condensed milk in a tube, which M can put in his coffee, meaning we don’t need to carry milk and sugar separately. Another is that thick, sticky balsamic dressing you get in a squeezy bottle – it’s great for whipping up a quick salad dressing and also goes well with cheese, ham, bread etc.
  • Bike bits: my bike’s in good working order and has recently had a new saddle, brake pads and chain, and it’s been taken to bits and fully cleaned. I definitely need to get new tyres, though, as certainly one of mine is looking quite worn. I always procrastinate this step for some reason, but good tyres are an absolute must. The Schwalbe Durano range is really good (though I need to remind myself exactly which model it is I’ve had previously) and – touch wood – I’ve rarely had a puncture since having them. Which reminds me: check the puncture repair kit in case anything is missing. We encountered a forlorn looking cyclist somewhere in the middle of nowhere recently – he’d suffered a puncture, DID have a full repair kit with him, but the glue had dried up.
  • Suitable clothing: The hardest bit is deciding which clothes to take, because again, we have to travel really light. The main thing, I think, is to have enough comfortable cycling gear. I’ve just bought a new pair of (3/4 length) cycling shorts as a duplicate to my favourite pair, so I think I’m pretty well covered here. We’ve encountered a range of different weather – everything from hot and sunny to hailstorms – on previous tours, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what it’ll be like this time round. The least rain, the better, in my mind.
  • Stocktake the other equipment, bits and pieces: It’s all tidily boxed on shelves in the cellar, so there shouldn’t be any problems finding things. Nevertheless, having heard tales of other people’s equipment having rotted, gone mouldy or rusted, it all needs to be checked carefully.
  • Re-stock the medicines bag: We’re extremely fortunate that neither of us has to take prescription medicines, so the medicines’ bag is pretty light. Obviously the basics must be there, though, so I need to check what has run out / expired or gone funny. We’ve been told that anti-mosquito stuff should be VERY high on our list of priorities this year…

Now that I’ve written all that down, it seems a bit less daunting. But although we still have time before we’re actually due to leave, I need to be organized in advance, as we have a visitor from Paris coming this week and I also have another very full work schedule…

We’re also still collecting information and tips on where in Alsace to go, so do please leave a comment if you know the area and have some suggestions.

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