The app is a gem

Before we left I went looking for a mapping app for my iPhone that would work without Internet access and so incurring data charges. looked to fill the bill and so I decided to give it a try.  I downloaded the maps for free and went with the free version of the app for a start.  Now I can’t imagine being without it.

I haven’t tried the routing tool as yet – no bike version exists so far.  But on the road it proves invaluable at points.  The GPS works really quickly, locating your position and can be orientated by the compass points.  The maps appear and can be changed in size and details in moments – instantly really.  No reason to be lost ever again.

Better still, the app is a great way to explore and make sense of the options around you at moments of indecision.  Say you are at an unmarked and unsigned fork on the road.  Left or right? allows you to explore what’s ahead on each choice – without wasting a wheel turn.  It is also great in showing what sort of consequences will follow such choices.

In short it’s a very useful tool and far more useful than my Garmin Edge that cost a fortune a few years ago.  I’d never buy another now.

Anyone else had the same experience – or perhaps not?

New Toys for Old Boys

We have now been using our SENA Bluetooth bike to bike microphones and headsets for about a week on this tour and we are increasingly impressed with them.


SENA is an American company who produce these devices for motorcycle use. However, they adapt easily and very successfully for use with bicycles. The units are feather light and attach securely to bike helmets with small Velcro pads. The battery packs, control units and mikes are easily accommodated. The speakers take a little more ingenuity to fit, but we have found that they stick well enough to cycle helmet straps with their built in hook and loop backs.


We had feared that they might be annoying to wear all day on a ride, but far from it. We simply do not notice the weight. The mike stalks bend to sit just off the face and go totally unnoticed in use.


Their best feature is the sound quality however. Voice communications come over in crisp clear stereo. SENA claim a range of 900 meters. In our experience they work well up to about perhaps 500 meters. From about that point you get a bit of hiss and crackle. Under normal use, say at 20 bike lengths, sound quality is excellent.

Battery life is good. The units will hold out for up to eight hours of constant use at a time. A full charge is needed overnight, each night however.

The units are not cheap, but bought carefully online the dual pack is good value for a device that has transformed our touring together experience. We are big converts and can’t imagine going back to shouting at each other!


Revised Cycle touring kit list – for non-camping softies who like toys and comforts!

We have been revising our essentials only kit list as we prepare for our month in Spain and Portugal later in September and October.  This trip is different as this time we intend to fly with our bikes. (Update October 2016: we are not taking our Thorns this time, but the list is the same save for Rohloff and Thorn specific items.)

Update: This is the revised/revised list for our Alicante to Algoz trip Spring 2016.

So far we plan to take:

Norman (Jacqui much the same in panniers (2@4.5kg) and bar bag (1.7kg), but has no saddlebag)

BarbagOrtlieb Model 4 (weighs in at 3.0 kg) [Still going strong – excellent bit f kit]
Wallet with cash and cards
Travel Tickets (plane)
Next accommodation details
Travel Insurance Details
E111 Euro Health Card
‘Business’ Cards

Pleased to meet you!

Diary/Journal – Moleskine
Camera – Nikon 1 V1 withkit zoom lens and shutter remote [tele lens never gets used]
Sat Nav – Garmin Edge 800 [Still going strong]
Mobile Phone – iphone 6
Swiss Army Knife – a cheap clone after losing the original in Auz.
Sunglasses (off bike)
Reading Glasses
Bag waterproof cover
Helmet waterproof cover
Micro Towel
Fieldglasses 10×25 – [Left at home: too little used]
Sunblock F50

SaddlebagCarradice Long Flap (weighs in at 5.0kg)
Large D-Lock and 2 cables – Kryptonite Silver rated to save a kilo.
Insulation & Velcro Tape
Spare Tubes x2
Spare Gear Cables – Rohloff x2
Rohloff hub service kit x2
Spare Brake cables Jagwire x2
Cleaning Cloths x2
Bungee Ties x2
Waterproof Jackets – Ultura x2 (NC and JM)
Waterproof Trousers – Ultura x2 (NC and JM)
Multitool – Toepeak
Eccentric Hub Spanner – Thorn
Allan Keys x5
Latex Gloves x2
Puncture Repair Kit
Tyre Levers
Pedal Spanner – Slim line
Pliers/Cable cuttters
Cable Ties
Chain Lube
Mini Floor Pump – Bontager

Left Rear PannierOrtleib (weighs in at 4.5kg)
Hotel and Travel Documentation in Travel Admin File
Paper Road Atlas – Michelin Spain and Portugal
Passport and Card Details (Photocopies)
Emergency Contact Numbers
Bike Details
Toilet Bag and Medical Kit
Cycle Shorts x2
Base Layer
Cycle Tops short sleeved x2
Cycle Top long sleeved
Cycle Socks x5
Cycle Leggings – Gore

Right Rear Pannier – Ortleib (weighs in at 4.5kg)
Trousers x2
Microfleece – Craghoppers
Chargers’ Bag
– iPhone x2
– iPad x2
– Still camera – Nikon
– Still camera – Lumix
– Garmin & Sena headset/mike
– iPad photo transfer gizmo
– Mains Adapters x2
– UK Multibar
Medical Supplies

The Thorn Raven Sport Tour bikes we have are recommended to take no more than 16kg on the rear rack, so we are well inside that at 9kg and 5kg for my saddlebag.  T

Bicycle navigation – reinvented…

It was wild, wet and windy (again) today, so I surfed a little instead of riding – don’t be too hard on me, I did get out for a jog. One link after another led me to GizMag and their top ten cycling innovations of 2013. Top of the list is the intriguing Hammerhead for Bike Navigation.  I think it is well worth a look.

Hammerhead - navigation re-invented
Hammerhead – navigation re-invented

The new startup team behind Hammerhead say they are inspired by simplicity – get the essential right then junk the rest is their philosophy: in this they (and their advertising video) reminded my strongly of Apple and that cannot be bad.  Their breakthrough to simplicity ideas include:

  • team the Hammerhead to a smart phone, using all its complicated and expensive electronics;
  • replace spoken or turn instructions with peripheral vision colours as direction indicators
  • a really smart, minimal design and look
  • incorporate a built-in headlight.

I like this idea a lot for several reasons:

  • it’s great to see someone other than Garmin looking at navigation
  • I want to make better use of my iPhone
  • it keeps the iPhone safe and dry without needing a new case
  • it’s refreshing to see a new take on an old problem
  • conventional satnav screens are a nightmare for those of up who need reading glasses
  • it looks like great value for money.

I see Schwinn have an alternative out (see below), so I will wait until some user reviews appear, but I hope I won’t have to wait too long.  This looks like a great device full of promise.

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The Brooks B17 Saddle

When we met with Andy Blance to specify our bikes we had a lot of choices to make. Many were difficult options on technical matters. My choice of saddle was instant, however: I knew I wanted a Brooks model B17.  The B17’s reputation had gone before it!  Here’s a glimpse as to why:



Three years into riding the Thorn I am still convinced I made the right initial choice.  The B17 is just coming into its best, although it was never uncomfortable, it is now a real pleasure to sit on over a long day.


Brooks England saddle. B-17 model.
Brooks England saddle. B-17 model. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Click-Stand – my favourite cycle accessory – ever!

I had been thinking of getting a Click-Stand kickstand for my Thorn for over a year: but niggling doubts over the concept, delivery from the States and the cost put me off.  Finally, I took the plunge. It arrived yesterday. Wow,  am I pleased!

The amazing Click-Stand
The amazing Click-Stand

It was love at first sight – no, first touch. The Click-Stand just oozes quality. First, it is so very light. Mine, for a pretty standard bike size, weighs a paltry 99 grams. Compare that to most bolt on stay-mounted stands. This first positive impression was immediately confirmed as I undid the velcro retaining strap and felt the individual links snap into place to create the Click-Stand.  Like magic! Examining the velcro strap showed it to be cleverly and neatly knotted to retain it on the stand – neat and efficient –  like all other features of the stand.

The neat Brake-Bands
The neat Brake-Bands

How did it perform on my bike? Perfectly! The elasticated straps (brake bands) slipped easily over the bars and extended over the brake levers to hold them on with just the right amount of effort and pressure. The cup of the stand slipped right into place on the frame and produced just the right angle of lean when the point was positioned the suggested 10 inches from the bike.  Then I ‘tested’ the bike’s stability by gently rocking it back and fore. Then I tested it again with less gentle rocking: I could not believe just how rock solid the stand was in use. The Click-Stand inspires complete confidence from the start.

Turning back to the quality of the Click-Stand, I was struck again by how good it felt in the hand. Like a quality camera or an Apple product, it feels and looks perfect. It reeks of simplicity and no feature seems out of place. Even the brake bands are made from the same elasticated material as the stand itself – I suspect from off-cuts, further securing the environmental credentials of the Click-Stand. It may not come from your local bike shop, but everything about it speaks to it being hand-made with precision and care for the design, materials and final quality.

Click-Stand by Tom Nostrant
Click-Stand by Tom Nostrant

The ordering process, too was excellent. The web-based form on the Click-Stand.Com site sounds a bit OTT, but it steers you exactly to the detailed information you need to give to get the size and specification just right for your bike. Payment by Paypal (or you can use a credit card) was quick and painless and prompted an individual email response from Tom, the owner and maker. Delivery took a matter of days rather than weeks and the customs form allowed the package to arrive in the UK without attracting any further duties or handling charges.  A very welcome thing. With postage, by Click-Stand purchase came to $52.00. Not cheap, but compared to any other quality bike stand, very competitive – and you get a much better stand when considered by concept and design.

I am looking forward to many successful journeys with my Click-Stand – and an order has been placed for one for Jacqui’s bike of course!

UPDATE October 2013: We used the Click-Stand on our recent trip to Holland and one wee issue arose. If you have a heavy bar bag fitted, as we both did, then you have to turn the handlebars at right angles to the rest of the bike to get things stable.  Otherwise any slope or high winds will result in a failure.  But this was a small matter and easily resolved.

Tom Nostrant’s (Click-Stand inventor and maker) story from the Daily World

Re-purposing joys while cycle touring

One of the joys of cycle touring is travelling without the clutter of everyday life.  Knowing that your maximum pannier load is 4.5×2 kilos creates a wonderful discipline.  Knowing that every kilo less than the maximum will feel great on the first climb makes your self discipline all the stronger.

Other joys follow the freedom from clutter: once into the routines of touring you learn the joys of re-purposing and ‘make do and mend’.  Here are some of our favourite discoveries from our last tour.

sflickr0602 - napkins encroach
sflickr0602 – napkins encroach (Photo credit: cygnoir)

Never leave a napkin behind after a meal.  We seem to cycle every kilometre with a drip on the end of our noses and a fresh napkin as a giant tissue is a great treat.  And they make great bike cleaners at the end of their lives.  A fat napkin will clean a set of wheel rims stopping the dreaded wheel/brake scream just a treat.

Petrol Station disposable gloves (the kind issued to stop fuel spills on driver’s fingers) make great hand warmers on a frosty early morning or will help keep gloves dry in an unexpected downpour.

Liberate a few used newspapers when the weather is unsettled and when you are climbing.  Nothing dries out soaked cycle shoes better than crumpled newspapers; tuck one down your shirt at the top of a climb and escape the chill as you descend; a few opened sheets will protect a hotel floor from dripping bike dirt and reassure a dubious if not hostile receptionist.

Wringing soggy socks
Wringing soggy socks

Supermarket polly bags make great overshoes in a thunderstorm or when rain follows in our wheels all day long.  There is nothing more dispiriting than finding your shoes are so totally soaked that you can no longer coordinate your pedal revolutions: polly bags will stave off this moment for hours.  If need be they will also protect your seat.

Hotel reception sweets must never be left behind: it’s amazing how instantly a simple boiling turns into a performance enhancing substance at the bottom of the last steep climb of the day, or a medical miracle when you hit the wall and run out of energy.  Apples and bananas work even better!

Dental floss
Dental floss (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dental floss has more uses than WD40. On our last trip we used it as a navigation range finder aide; instead of thread; instead of cable ties and to reinforce tired bungee grips.

A suitably sized stone chip will serve as a great spacer to hold a front derailler in middle chainring alignment if you have the misfortune to snap a front gear cable as we did on a recent trip in Portugal.

Old paper receipts and hotel notepads make great disposable navigation crib lists when leaving of a morning.  We write out 3 – one for departure, one with en route decision points and one with details of our next hotel.  Each can be thrown away when no longer needed.

Cycle touring kit list – for non-camping softies who like toys and comforts!

We have been revising our essentials only kit list  we prepare for our month in Spain in October.  So far we plan to take:

Norman (Jacqui much the same in panniers (2@4.5kg) and bar bag(1.7kg), but no saddlebag)

BarbagOrtlieb Model 4 (weighs in at 2.7kg)
Wallet with cash and cards
Travel Tickets (train and ferry)
Next accommodation details
Travel Insurance Card
E111 Euro Health Card
‘Business’ Cards

Pleased to meet you!

Diary/Journal – Moleskine
Camera – Panasonic Lumix TZ30 (stills and video)
Camera – Flip Ultra (video)
Sat Nav – Garmin Edge 800
Mobile Phone – iphone 3S
Cycle Computer – Cateye Wireless
Torch – micro model
Swiss Army Knife
Sunglasses (off bike)
Reading Glasses
Waterproof cover
Micro Towel
Fieldglasses 10×25 –

SaddlebagCarradice Long Flap (weighs in at 5.0kg)
Large D-Lock and 2 cables – Kryptonite New York 3000
Insulation Tape
Spare Tubes x2
Spare Cables – Rohloff x2
Cleaning Cloths x2
Bungee Ties x2
Paper Road Atlas – Michelin Spain and Portugal
Waterproof Jackets – Gore x2
Multitool – Toepeak
Eccentric Hub Spanner – Thorn
Latex Gloves x4
Cleaning cloth
Puncture Repair Kit
Tyre Levers
Cable Ties
Chain Lube
Mini Floor Pump – Revolution

Left Rear PannierOrtleib (weighs in at 4.5kg)
Hotel and Travel Documentation
Passport and Card Details (Photocopies)
Emergency Contact Numbers
Bike Details
Toilet Bag
Cycle Shorts x3
Cycle tops x4
Cycle Socks x3

Right Rear Pannier – Ortleib (weighs in at 4.5kg)
Trousers x2 Rohan
Microfleece – Rohan
Chargers’ Bag
– iPhone
– Nokia
– iPad
– Still camera – Ixus
– Still camera – Lumix
– Garmin
– iPad photo cable
– Mains Adapters x2
– Cateye Batteries x2
Medical Supplies
Reading Book

The Thorn Raven Sport Tour bikes we have are recommended to take no more than 16kg on the rear rack, so we are well inside that at 9kg.  The only downside is the massive 2.7kg for the D-Lock and cables.  I am tempted to take the lighter model and just make sure of the bikes physical safety wherever we can.  Good idea?

Cycle Touring Kit List by Emily Chappell. Wow!

Emily Chappell is clearly quite a cyclist, by profession and inclination. Here is how she put it herself on her blog:

“Not all people cycle round the world for the same reason. Most of the other cyclists I’ve met consider travel their main priority, or have some other overriding project, like photography or education, and cycling is just the means they’ve chosen of doing this as cheaply or as thoroughly as possible. But in my case the urge to cycle was there long before the urge to travel. And, even though there are many sides to this journey, and many aspects of it – the people I’ve met, the mountains I’ve seen, the food I’ve eaten – have exceeded my expectations, at the core of it, I am a cyclist. I happily and obsessively cycled round London before I started to cycle round the world and, no matter what I end up doing when this is over, I am pretty sure the bicycle will be at the centre of it.”

Emily Chappell, from Fear and Inspiration on the Silk Road

Here is her kit list – to prove her point that having the right kit is the key to success.  I am hoping that lighter European touring might cut down on the necessities quite a bit.

“Having the right kit can be the difference between failure and success.


As a cycle courier, I had to work outside, five days a week, all year round, in all weathers. I very quickly learned that there are certain corners you don’t cut. Waterproof gloves aren’t just a luxury – they’re the difference between going home at lunchtime because you can’t stand the pain any more, and riding around in the freezing sleet till 7pm with a smile on your face. Decent pedals and the right saddle are the solution to painful feet, aching knees and agonizing saddlesore. A couple of layers of New Zealand merino and you’ll forget the abject shivering misery of your first winter, when all you had was a t-shirt and a hoodie.

So the kit lists that follow aren’t based on anyone’s advice or sales pitch – they’re the result of long experience, trial and error, and real-life pain and suffering. I know exactly what I need.

Bar Bag (Carradice Super C)


camera (Sony CyberShot)

Leatherman multitool (Blast)

Park multitool

mobile phone (still sans SIM)

head torch (Silva)



pump (Morph Mini Master Blaster)

puncture repair kit

tyre levers (Pedro’s)


business cards

toilet paper

hip flask

MP3 player (Phillips)

rear light (something cheap and old)

batteries (AA and AAA)


spare inner tube

lighter + spare

emergency energy gel

alarm clock


spare cash

spare memory card for camera


lip balm

moxa stick

spare key for lock

pocket mirror

Yunnan bai yao powder


nail clippers


spare pen


address book

Kindle + case

picture dictionary


Front Right Pannier (Ortlieb)

stove (MSR Whisperlite Internationale)

spare MSR fuel bottle (887ml/30 fl. oz)

Smart Lunar front light + bracket

spare pump (Blackburn mini)

miscellaneous food

Pac tool pouch, containing:

Park master link pliers

Park chain tool

Park spoke key

Shimano lockring remover

3 x Tacx tyre levers

small adjustable spanner

2 x V-brake blocks

5 x spare V-brake inserts

spare derailleur hanger

Rohloff chain wear indicator

doubled-up spoke (to remove dust caps from pedals)

4mm allen key

miscellaneous spacers

Green plastic bag, containing:

WD40 (100ml)

large roll of gaffer tape

spare inner tubes (Specialized presta; 26 x 1.2/1.5)

spare chain (SRAM 8-speed)

7 x puncture kits

spare spokes (Sapin; 256mm, 257mm)

Green Oil Ecological chain lube

spare gear cables and outers

spare brake cables

spare Time cleats

spare clip for Klikfix bracket

patches for tent

tent pole splint

tyre boot

many cable ties

velcro strips

bits of string

paperclips, for some reason

whole collection of spare screws, nuts, bolts, spacers, nipples, noodles, pins, clips, valves, powerlinks, barrel adjusters and those little screwy bits that fall out of your chain breaker and get lost just when you least want them to

Front Left Pannier (Ortlieb)

MSR fuel bottle (591ml/20 fl. oz)

Thermos flask (500ml)

moisturiser (400ml)

insect repellent spray (125ml)

Steripen water purifier + batteries

Evernew titanium cooking pot (1300ml), containing:

SeaToSummit collapsible silicone bowl

SeaToSummit collapsible silicone mug


100ml pot cao bang bitter tea

small cotton drawstring bag, containing:

small bottles shampoo and conditioner

mending kit

washing line

factor 30 sunblock

spare soap, toilet paper and wet wipes

small cotton drawstring bag, containing:

electrical adaptor

phone charger

camera charger

kindle charger

USB camera cable

USB stick

Medical kit:

antihistamine pills

hydrocortisone acetate cream

ibuprofen tablets

Canestan cream

sterilizing fluid

elastic bandage

sterile dressings


verucca removal gel

laxative tablets (senna)

immodium tablets

flucloxacilin tablets

ciprofloxacin tablets

avloclor tablets

oral rehydration sachets

dental floss

Rear Right Pannier (Ortlieb)

North Face waterproof trousers

Assos winter jacket

Swrve Milwaukee hoodie (S)

Salewa down jacket

spare bungee

file of paperwork, documents, photos, etc.


SeaToSummit 20l waterproof stuff sack, containing:

Assos 3/4-length cycling shorts (L)

Gore gilet (L)

Sugoi Wallaroo merino hooded jersey (M)

Decathlon silk glove liners (L)

Icebreaker merino glove liners (L)

Bontrager leather mitts

merino Buff (grey)

Swrve Blk merino winter cap

Sealskinz waterproof winter hat (XL)

Sealskinz mid length waterproof socks (L)

black kameez

green cotton scarf/sarong

swimming costume and goggles

2 x boxers

Brixton Cycles DeFeet socks

hand-knitted woollen socks

Rear Left Pannier (Ortlieb)

sleeping bag (North Face Blue Kazoo)

Rab sleeping bag liner (silk)

Thermarest Prolite small sleeping mat

Swrve winter softshell trousers (32)

Sealskinz Thermal Performance road cycling gloves (XL)

spare notebooks (in waterproof bag)



On the rack

tent (Terra Nova Superlite Voyager)

carrier bag full of food

On me (subject to weather, season, etc.)

Assos cycling shorts (L)

Swrve softshell shorts (34)

leather belt

Aldi merino baselayer

Shock Absorber sports bra

Sugoi cycling socks

Bontrager cycling mitts

Shimano MT43 shoes (42)

Wiley X sunglasses

Bontrager Circuit helmet

Abus chain lock (round waist)

key (round wrist)”

via her blog That Emily Chappell, in the section headed  Kit.

Review of Pro Storage Bottle/toolbox

I have just ordered myself one of these.  They look like a neat way of carrying a decent amount of tools and spares for the bike and as our Thorns have lugs for 3 bottle carriers they will provide a convenient way of moving some weight forward on the bikes and onto the main frame rather than the stays.  As the reviews below suggest, buying the bigger version (750ml) is the better idea.

Neat tools/spares container

Here are some reviews from the Chain Reaction Cycles site:

Tim  from United Kingdom Owner 08 April 2010 20:48
I bought this well over a year ago. It’s a fantastic way to carry your emergency tool kit. Mine takes a spare inner tube (road-700c), a few patches, 3 tyre levers, two CO2 cartridges with the adapter, a mini-tool, spoke key and a couple of extra allan keys plus a bit of rag to stop it all rattling. It is completely watertight and has been out in some pretty bad weather to confirm it. The only down side, and it has nothing to with its design, is that it takes up a bottle cage so on longer rides you’re limited to one bottle…….having said that, I’ve always managed.

Chris from United Kingdom Owner 12 April 2010 07:15
Highly recommended.

Bryn Dodson from Australia Owner 21 April 2011 06:28
I love this item and it is great value. I store heaps in this container. Although if you’re buying I recommend the 750ml – Protein Bar – C02 Cartridge – Spare Tube – Electrolyte powder – Repair Kit

The Don from Ireland Owner 04 September 2011 19:38
Excellent storage solution with tardis like properties. In mine (a large one) I keep…a spare tube, tyre levers, mini tool, some clueless patches and some lightweight rain overtrousers. Bought this to replace a topeak saddle bag which was nothing but hassle (basically fell apart with light usage, bad mounting and would’nt carry half the stuff). This and a bottle cage cost much less and works great for me. Only suggestion would be an opening on both ends so you could push your gear out but its no big deal. Buy it, you’ll be happy.

Ti Yam from Malaysia Owner 13 December 2011 07:07
Good quality for the price. 500ml height is only 12.5cm as oppose to the 14cm advertised. Anyhow is just the right size to fit my Endura Pakajak rain jacket. Will get the bigger one soon.

Gilbert5050 from United Kingdom Owner 06 March 2012 17:00
Great little tool bottle, keeps everything dry, would buy this product again!

Update: January 2013

I am sorry to say I abandoned this item before our last long tour.  In use I found it a little frustrating for a number of reasons:

  1. Because it’s a fixed shape I found it could not hold all of the items I hoped.  For example, spare tubes had to be carried somewhere else.
  2. Small items carried always seemed to find there way to the bottom and so all the contents had to be tipped out to get to the item I wanted.
  3. I was worried that the threaded lid was not as secure as it might be and so might get lost or allow rainwater to seep into the container.
  4. As it’s in full view on the bike and easily detached I was worried it might get stolen if left on the bike and it was a footer to remove and carry each time.

So, while it seemed like a good idea, I fear that in use it proved to be a disappointment.  I think it would be better suited to a road bike than a tourer. I have reverted to carrying my tools and spares in a canvas roll-up tool bag: much more flexible and serves as a work area when rolled out on the ground next to the bike on the road.  It fits nicely and securely into my trusty Carradice Long-flap Saddlebag

via Review Pro Storage Bottle | Chain Reaction Cycles Reviews.