Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Training 6

Route: Münster-Gelmer-Gimbte
Time: 1:45 h
Distance: 34 km
Average km/h: 19,1
Top km/h: 34,3
Conditions: Sunny, Cloudy

I am now at a total of almost 250 km of cycling. This is not by any means a large number. Nevertheless, I can feel that my legs are getting stronger and I can effortless pedal 34 km without a break at an average of 19,1 km/h. Nor do I have any problems with the saddle, although it is too early to make any conclusions here. You can never fully train yourself for a bicycle journey of 100 days. There is simple not the time to bike longer distances for a consecutive number of days when you have a regular job to attend to. I am hoping that the few kilometres I can manage on the weekends will prepare me enough for what is to come. It will be a challenge, but that is why I am going on this journey.

This training was an easy ride, and again I was blessed with beautiful weather. When the conditions are pleasant and the surroundings familiar, I tend to focus on the speedometer. The ride is no longer about taking in the ambience, experience the landscape, but merely how fast I can go uphill or on a muddy trail. Although the scenery can be very striking in its way, it has become too familiar to strike my attention. This part of Germany is flat with scattered farms and small secluded areas of trees, barely earning the description "forest".

When the landscape does not grab my attention the smell certainly does. The German farmers must heavily manure all year around, because it stinks. It is not the ordinary smell of cow shit you might think of. This version of dung is probable a mix of the worst shit of all animal races who walk this planet. Luckily humans have two hands, one to cover your nose with.

I pedalled north this time around, joining the Dortmund canal for a few kilometres before heading west to Gimbte. This little town was the highlight of this short trip. A very small town where German perfection rules. Streets were abnormally clean with no signs of a single fallen leaf, houses newly painted where white paint is as white as linen sheets, not to mention the gardens with racer sharp grass borders. The experience was spooky and also very short, for it took only a blunt few minutes to cycle through this odd village. From here I travelled south on a familiar route entering Münster from the north. After 1 hour and 45 minutes I was home again feeling like I just went to get some milk around the corner. That was a good feeling.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Training 5

Route: Münster-Roxel-Altenberge
Time: 2:30 h
Distance: 49 km
Average km/h: 18,8
Top km/h: 49,5
Conditions: Sunny, Cloudy

This was a perfect day for cycling. Little wind, partly sunny, not to warm and not too cold. The first day of my training period where the conditions were actually decent. Even better, I also got some company this time around. My friend Mattias, who is also a Swede living in Germany, and also enjoys cycling, joined me on this beautiful day. We chose to pedal east of Münster, which suits me perfectly since my routes so far have been north, west or south.

The first kilometres we struggled slightly to find an interesting route, but just outside of Roxel we picked up on a nice northern course that took us to Altenberge. From there we headed east. Apparently, Mattias and his girlfriend, Silke, have done a bit of cycling in these areas, which became obvious when we encountered Silke's mother driving the opposite direction as we crossed a larger road. We were only a few kilometres away from Silke's hometown. As a result, Mattias knew his way around and picked a fantastic route back to Münster. The last kilometres was the best cycling I've experienced so far in my short cycling carrier.


A small concern struck me at the beginning of the route. Mattias' bike computer showed different numbers than mine. In average about 10% more kilometres, which means he was travelling almost 20 km/h when I was going 18 km/h. He explained that his, and his girlfriend's bike computers, were installed by a bicycle store, and they both display the same numbers. The bad news is that most likely my settings have been wrong. The good news is that most likely I have been travelling 10% faster and longer than I have been recording and documenting.

Now, I have double-checked my settings and it appears that I have entered the wrong wheel circumference. This means that not only have I actually broken the 50 km/h speed limit, but all the numbers so far have been false. For example, my longest ride currently is not 54 km (training 4), but close to 60 km. Here are the new estimated records:
Distance: 59,4 km
Average km/h: 20,7
Top km/h: 54,5

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Alternative route South Vietnam

After additional research I am looking at an another option to biking Highway 1 along the Vietnamese coast from Phan Rang all the way to Hue. I am certainly more interested in a scenic route than to cover as much kilometres as possible, and Highway 1 seems to be laud, crowded, and only momentarily scenic. It merely offers an easy, quick connection to the coast.

An alternative would be to head for the central highlands after Nha Trang. I would then spend one day less in Nha Trang, and from there bike west along Road 26 for two days until I reach Buon Ma Thuot, which is the largest city of south-central Vietnam. To be able to catch up with the original route once I reach Hue, I would have to take the bus for 190 km along Road 14 north to Pleiku. From here I would continue by bicycle, pedalling north to Kon Tum, and then turn north-east to Quang Ngai. Once back on highway 1, I would bike north to Hoi and later Hue, in line with the original plan.

See grey lines.
Original route
Route map
Route detail

Monday, February 12, 2007

Training 4

Route: Münster-Davenberg-Abersloh
Time: 3:10 h
Distance: 54 km
Average km/h: 17,1
Top km/h: 45,5
Conditions: Windy, rainy, cold

54 km with no rest but for occasional short stops to review the map, take a zip of water or change clothing is a great accomplishment for me. Additionally, the route that I chose was not an easy pick. Approximately 1/5 or the course consisted of gravel roads that had turned muddy from recent heavy rain and snow. A number of potholes here and there also forced me to go slow and keep me alert. Again I enjoyed the cycling, although this particular day contain all of the nasty things the weather gods can come up with. I fought heavy rain, strong winds and almost freezing temperatures.

I pedalled 30 km south of Münster, further away from the city than before. The first 35 km went surprisingly smooth and effortless. I averaged 19,6 km/h, which is a new record for the first 35 km. That was not the only new record this day. On a descending, sloping ramp I switched to the highest gear, gave full power and 150 metres later I saw my speedometer passing 40km/h. My new top speed record is officially set at 45,5 km/h. If it wasn't because of the headwind I would surely have reached 50 km/h. This record will be broken many times.

Heading north, back to Münster, was anything but effortless. I pedalled along the Werse canal, far away from any paved roads. The scenery was beautiful, with scattered farms and a completely flat, horizontal landscape, but the pain in my legs was stealing all my attention. I did not know this kind of pain existed. The muddy road seemed to hold on to my tires, not letting go. The wind was trying its best to knock me off my bicycle. Cold and exhausted I finally made it to Abersloh Weg that lead me directly to central Münster on a perfectly flat and smooth tarmac.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Training 3

Route: Münster-Sprakel-Gelmer-Handorf
Time: 1:40 h
Distance: 29 km
Average km/h: 17,6
Top km/h: 36,3
Conditions: Cloudy

I try to go riding every weekend for a longer distance. However, it is difficult to find the time. Two hours is all that I have been able to manage this far. This past weekend was no exception as I cycled 29 km in 1:40 h. This is less than the shortest distance I have planned in Vietnam (Day 5, Bao Loc - Dalat, 36 km), which means I have to increase the distance as I continue my training.

The good news is that I thoroughly enjoy the cycling. If I get a thrill out of cycling in cloudy, icy, cold and even rainy conditions, in familiar landscapes and towns, I obviously will love pedalling through new, exciting environments and cultures in warm weather.

Nevertheless, the last training route was very interesting. I avoided the bigger roads and chose smaller, unpaved roads. For a few kilometres I even went off-road through the woods, challenging my bicycle and skills. Speed had to be kept low as I discovered that a fully loaded bicycle is not ideal on a bumpy, muddy course. In spite of the low speed for a significant number of kilometres, I ended up averaging 17,6 km/h for the entire ride, which means that I averaged between 20 and 25 km/h at other times. Not bad considering I was riding a fully loaded bicycle.

The highlight of the route was just outside of Gemler. I passed a huge field of tall grass, measuring almost two metres. Behind the field the sun was already setting, casting warm light over the golden grass. It was a Kodac moment, or actually a Canon 400D moment, that I could not resist.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

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Monday, February 5, 2007

The Equipment

It has taken a couple of months to gather all the right gear for this trip. Since I'm a beginner a lot of research, reading and Internet surfing has taken place in the last months. Now I have finally brought together all that I need for the 100 days bicycle journey. Here is a list of the main equipment:

Front rack
I had the bicycle store mount a front rack at the time of purchase. Here I carry two small front panniers.
Rear panniers
I ended up picking the most reliable product, Ortlieb waterproof panniers. Since I will even out the weight with front panniers as well, I chose the smaller Sport-Packer Plus, 30 litres. They lock quickly to the rear rack, and are as easy to release.
Front panniers
All I need here is something simple and waterproof. Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic will do the job, 25 litres.
Top dry bag
On my rear rack I carry a simple dry bag for various bigger gear. Also Ortlieb, Dry bag PD 350. This bag is flexible in size. I can fill it to 35 litres but also roll it down to 15 litres. This comes handy when I travel by plane, bus or train.
Handle-bar bag
Here I find that Ortlieb's bags are lacking pockets and flexibility. I ended up selecting a bag that is not 100% waterproof without the built-in rain cover, but offers many pockets, inside as well as outside of the bag. It also has a built in plastic sleeve for a map.
Bag carrying system
Ortlieb has a carrying system that fits all their panniers. It simply turns your bicycle pannier into a backpack. As a result, I do not have to carry yet another bag. I need a backpack for trekking tours or a long day in the city.
Bicycle computer
Also from a German company, Trelock. Actually, my mother gave me this Trelock FC 900 which turned out to be perfect. It has all the functions I need and its wireless.
Bicycle rear mirror
This comes handy in busy streets. You also want to know where those noisy, dirty and unpredictable trucks are when they are approaching from the back. I chose a discreet one that mounts easily on the handlebar.

Since I won't be camping much I don't want to carry a heavy and big tent. Vaude, also German, makes a very small one person tent, called Vaude Bivi. Just perfect for me.
Sleeping bag
I won't use this very much either. I have a small one since previous trips that handles zero temperatures, and takes little space. Could also be used as an extra pillow or mattress.
This was obvious for me once I tried it out. Canon 400D (US - Digital Rebel XTi). A great SLR camera which takes beautiful pictures. It's also relatively light considering its capacity.
Water filter
When biking you obviously sweat considerably, especially in a warm climate. Drinking water will become an important part of this journey. Buying bottle water every two hours is not an option. The best small filter on the market today is MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter.
Water bottles
There are thousands of kinds of water bottles. The only requirement I have is no plastic bottles. They make the water taste plastic and breed microbes. I will carry three 0,6 litre bottles at all times.
I had the bike store replace the pedals to in-step pedals. This helps ease the pedalling. Clip-in pedals were never an option.
This is necessary. I place the compass on top of the map in the handle-bar bag plastic map sleeve.
Also necessary. There are many brands out there and prices ranges just as much. Most important is that I wear one and that it's comfortable.
Rain gear
I have to bike no matter the weather conditions, therefore good rain gear is crucial. I have a wind and rain set of pants and jacket. However, when heavy rain will fall I need extra rain protection. A poncho I easily put on in a few seconds. It covers my entire body and I can even cover parts of the bike and gear with it.
Pepper spray
Most likely I will not use this. If I do, it will be in an extreme emergency, involving a very aggressive and large dog. 50 ml will do and I picked the fog alternative so I don't miss. On the other hand, I have to watch where the wind blows.
Mosquito net
I will not be eating Malaria pills regularly, nor am I vaccinated against Japanese Encephalitis, thus a continuous protection against mosquitoes is necessary. (I do have Malarone should I get infected my Malaria. See Vaccinations).
But for normal clothes, I need two pairs of bicycle pants. They are not sexy but very comfortable on the bike. There is extra padding for the more sensitive areas. I also have a pair of light shoes with an extra sole, but other than that I will travel in regular, comfortable clothes.
Extra bicycle gear
Outside of larger cities it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find extra gear. Obviously I cannot carry all extra components of a bicycle, but I plan to take the essentials and the parts that tend to break; inner tubes, chain link, brake/gear cables, extra bike computer batteries, spokes and brake pads. I also carry a standard tire repair kit.