Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Book Review by Thomas Ivor - 'Land's End to John o'Groats - The ride that started it all' by Sean Conway

Sean Conway is an adventurer. He used to be a photographer in London. He has cycled around the world and done the longest triathlon around Britain amongst many more big adventures. I was lucky enough to meet Sean at Yestival so that’s why I have read his book. He has written many books but I have just read his first, ”Land’s End to John o’Groats - the ride that started it all”. It was great. 

Sean used to fly to hot beaches in other countries for his holidays. He was then forced to go to places closer to home because he remembered that he wasn’t related to Richard Branson and didn’t have enough money. He was looking for something adventurous, fun and challenging. He looked at doing an adventure somewhere far away, dangerous and big but it’s expensive to do those kinds of adventures, so and he looked if he could do one in the UK. He made a list of all the places he had been to in the UK and most of them he hadn’t been to.Sean decided that he would do something in Britain, so he decided to try cycling from Land’s End to John o’Groats. For his trip he raised money for charity to save hedgehogs that were ill. 

Sean started his epic voyage in 2008, he had given himself 4 weeks to do around 1300 miles. I liked his idea of adding on extra adventures to make an even bigger adventure, like when he climbed Ben Nevis and added the Orkney Isles on to the trip. 

 Sean’s journey took him through Cornwall and Devon, which was tough, going down small country lanes and sleeping in a hostel in Exeter where lots of people snored and talked in the night. The Lake District he battled hills in, the Lake District, where he is living in his dream home for the winter this year. 

On the way, he received kind offers of food, money (a guy in a pub even gave him £84 for charity) and free things; Sean also stayed with family and friends. 

Sean took his mascot ‘little flying cow’ for company. He was quite funny. He called Sean an idiot and Sean said “Shut up or I will leave you in that ditch”! At other times Sean just liked the sound of nothing. 

On my #CycloClimbGB adventure I will be cycling some of the route that Sean cycled, like around Windermere, the road to Fort William and climbing Ben Nevis. 

I think that this book is suitable for adventurers that are just getting started and need to come up with an idea, or other children that want to find adventure by reading about it so that they are ready to have their own ideas for the future. 

I have now started Sean’s other book "World cycling stripped bare", because I loved the first book and I want to cycle around the world one day, too. 

"Land’s End to John O’Groats - the ride that started it all" by Sean Conway is published by Mortimer Lion Publishing. 

Kindle price: £5.99 
Paperback: £7.99

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Awards and Rewards

It was a great pleasure a week or so ago to attend the Kettering Cycling Club dinner, where just for once, I was the recipient of a cycling award (rather than the children!) in recognition of services to the 'Cyclones', our junior section, which Thomas Ivor joined back at the start of the year.

Thomas Ivor joined me for what turned out to be his first Indian meal! It was great to be recognised, along with others from the Cyclones, amongst the club as a whole, and alongside some seriously talented riders receiving their pots for the season.

I first took Thomas Ivor along back in February, anticipating that he might benefit from some bike handling practice and fresh eyes on his technique, and wow, what a journey! He's raced cyclo-cross in muddy Northamptonshire fields, lapped race circuits at Mallory Park and Rockingham, and all manner of things in between, including winning his race on the finish line at the Women's Tour stage finish in the summer, and standing atop the podium. He's made friends, something he doesn't always find easy amongst his peers, thanks to a shared interest. 

Even Ruth has had the opportunity to pull on the orange and black colours, even if taking part in her first race caused Daddy to have to run the entire course alongside her!

It's been a most enjoyable year, even though we haven't been able to get involved to the fullest extent we might have wished. The Cyclones are a wonderful group of kids, from all backgrounds, and they are fortunate to benefit from the endeavours of skilled, dedicated and enthusiastic coaches. To have contributed my photographic skills, and some encouragement from the sidelines, has been a great pleasure, and we look forward to further opportunities for all three children in the years ahead, to enjoy their cycling as part of a team, as well as part of a family. Who knows, we may yet introduce some of the families to the joys of touring...

Cycling clubs across the country are joining British Cycling's 'Go Ride' programme. Find out about events near you on the British Cycling Go-Ride website and click here to read about my experience of Thomas Ivor's first 'Go-Ride' race!

Friday, 4 November 2016

Review: The New Alpkit Wombat / Small Koala (by Thomas Ivor Jones, Aged 8)

The new Alpkit 'Wombat'
Panniers - old school!
I do long distance cycling trips and I’ve been trying to find a way of carrying my luggage without a rack and panniers on my Islabikes Luath 24. I used to use panniers on my Beinn 20 Large, but now I am riding a road bike I wanted to do something a bit different and have a setup like Mark Beaumont used on his ‘Africa Solo’ trip. That's how I ended up buying the new Alpkit 'Wombat'.

Before I had been told about these new Wombats, I was using an Alpkit Airlock Xtra 5 litre dry bag with dual straps and a custom built Stingray which I got for my birthday. My Stingray fits really well and I have not experienced any problems with it so far, but I needed some more storage space.

I couldn’t get a full size Koala because the space between my saddle and back wheel was too small. My solutions would have been to have a custom seat pack made or to just have a rear rack and panniers.

I went to Alpkit with my bike, King Louis, and met Connie, who showed and told me all about this brand new product called a Wombat which is a 7 litre expedition seat pack. Connie said that the new product might solve my problem but it was so new that it wasn't for sale yet!

When Connie brought out the Wombat I thought it looked like someone had taken a Koala and put it through a shrink ray! I put on my Stingray and the dry bag on my handlebars and Connie let me have a ride around the car park with the Wombat and some other products to try.

I ended up with only one of the saddle straps on the seat post but apart from that it  fitted nicely. I did not feel the seat pack at all when I was riding. I only noticed it only when getting on and off the bike because I have to make sure that my leg goes over the bag.

I went for the colour ‘steel’ which is grey in real colours but it is also sold in yellow, ‘chilli’ (red), black and ‘flo orange’.

The price is £70 which is the same price as the Koala. You can now find it for sale on the Alpkit website.

I love the Wombat; it’s just what I had been looking for. I am hoping to put a lightweight sleeping bag or some clothes in mine. I wish it could be waterproof but there is nothing stopping you putting a dry bag inside it if you need to. I also have had a small fuel pod (top tube bag) and a stem cell (for my water bottle).

I would highly recommend the Wombat to children with a 20 inch wheel or larger (depending on the actual bike) who want to carry things without needing panniers, or grown-ups who haven't got so much to carry. If adults have more to put in their bag, they could either use a Koala or the new Big Papa.

Thank you so much Connie and others at Alpkit for helping me to make my dream come true of having my own mini bike packing setup.

PS: The Wombat has been renamed and is now called the 'Small Koala' - my sister Ruth has got one now, as well!

Coming soon... Tom's perspective on creating a bikepacking setup for adventurous children. For now, why not read about Thomas Ivor's speaking trip to Yestival?