Thoughts on the Thorn Sherpa

Now approaching it’s second birthday, my red Thorn Sherpa has carried me around the North Sea Cycle Route and the Atlantic Seaboard.  Time to reflect on the quality and performance of a dedicated touring bike after a fair amount of abuse.  I would estimate it has covered 10,000km over 100 long riding days, perhaps as much as 50% off-road.

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I purchased the bike with a few sensible modifications and added an Alpkit Frame Bag and Ortlieb panniers:

  • Thorn Sherpa Mk3 frame 600L – straight bars
  • Shimano Deore hubs, 10-speed triple chain-set (48/36/26) / cassette (11-36) with XT 9-speed rear derailleur and Dura Ace thumshifters
  • Andra 30 wheels, standard front and CSS rear, with XT V-brakes/levers, standard brake blocks front, Swiss-stop blue pads rear
  • Schwalbe Marathon Dureme 26 x 2″
  • Brookes B17 saddle
  • Shimano T780 SPD pedals
  • Thorn expedition racks front and rear and a T-bar extension for the handlebar bag
  • Ortlieb Front Loader Plus and Bike Packer Plus panniers
  • 20-year old Ortlieb front bag
  • Cateye Volt800 front and TL-1000 rear lights
  • Bordo 6000 lock

Over a period of 2 years I have changed:

  • 3 chains – replaced with Shimano HG-X 10-speed
  • 1 Marathon Dureme tyre (rear)
  • 5-6 front brake blocks
  • Shimano T780 pedals for Shimano T8000
  • Front hub outer cones and bearings
  • Complete chain-set for an XT M780 triple (42/32/24), including Bottom Bracket
  • 11-36 cassette

I was expecting greater durability from the transmission, but given the wet, gravel, cinder and off-road tracks I frequented, I am happy with the 6,000km the original set covered.  Finding HG-X chains at bike shops proved difficult, as they tended to cater for road bike transmissions.  I changed these every 3,000km.  After the major service, I replacing the entire system with lower gearing XT chain set. The 42/32/24 front chain rings gearing are my preferred my choice now – they are more durable and ideal ratios for pushing heavy loads up steep hills.

The Dura Ace thumb shifters are great and changing gear becomes second nature after a while.  Gear changes have been faultless and accurate on the whole.

The bottom bracket came loose after 2,000km due to a broken spacer shim, easily fixed.  But the bearings were a wreck shortly afterwards as water had found it’s way into the frame and bottom bracket cavity.

The tyres are superb, offering grip and durability and tackling loose gravel and heavy conditions easily.  However, the replacement pair doesn’t seem to be lasting as long, perhaps they are using a different compound.  Continue reading

Lands End to John o’Groats (the long way round)

After 38 days of cycling and approximately 4,000km I am back home.  Cycling from Lands End to John o’Groats hugging the Atlantic Coast around England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.  I generally followed the Sustrans National cycle routes 3,4 and 780; the Wild Atlantic Way, Hebridean Way and North Coast 500 on my trusty Thorn Sherpa.  The weather was Wild and Windy, with many good clear exhilarating days.  Mostly camping, with the occasional Hostel.

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Now I have completed the North Sea Cycle Route and the Atlantic Seaboard, I am thinking of circling the Irish Sea and English Channel to complete all of the coastal options around the British Isles.

More pictures and a full write up on a rainy day.

Walking quotations

I have started a list of walking quotations, please help me add to this list:

  • “The distance is nothing, only the first step is difficult” – Madame du Deffand
  • “On every mountain, height is rest” – Goethe
  • “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” – Nietzsche
  • “I know the joy of fishes in the river through my own joy, as I go walking down the same river” – Zhuangzi
  • “Now shall I walk or shall I ride? Ride, pleasure said, walk, joy replied”
  • “Walking is man’s best medicine” – Hippocrates
  • “Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking” –  Machado
  • “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to” – Bilbo Baggins
  • “But the beauty is in the walking — we are betrayed by destinations.” – Gwyn Thomas
  • “The secret to living well and longer is: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure.” – Tibetan Proverb
  • “When I rest my feet my mind also ceases to function” – J. G. Hamann
  • “It is good to collect things, but it is better to go on walks” – Anatole France
  • “To be everywhere is to be nowhere” – Seneca
  • “One meeting by chance is worth a thousand meetings by appointment” – Arab saying
  • “In the morning a man walks with his whole body; in the evening, only with his legs” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “A pedestrian is a man in danger of his life. A walker is a man in possession of his soul.” – David McCord
  • “For knowledge, add; For wisdom, take away.” – Charles Simic
  • “To go fast, go alone; to go far, go together” – African proverb

 

Atlantic Seaboard

Cycling from Land’s End to John o’Groats (LEJOG) via the Wild Atlantic Way.  Google MyMaps plan completed at https://goo.gl/raAtwt

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I think I have a plan.  Follow the NCR 3 and 4 from Land’s End to Fishguard and then catch a ferry to Ireland.  Connect to the Wild Atlantic Way at Kinsale and follow the Irish coast to Ballycastle.  Ferry to Islay, Colonsay, Oban, Barra (maybe Mull), then the Hebridian Way to Stornoway.  Ferry to Ullapool and then coastal to John o’Groats.  About 4,000km I think.  Mostly Eurovelo 1, but with many diversions.

April departure, unless work gets in the way.

Hypafix

It was a revelation when someone introduced me to Zinc Tape for blister protection and recovery.  I have been using this for many years and it has saved the day on many occasions.

Hypafix

Then someone told me about Hypafix tape.  A few youtube videos later and I realise this is used by runners and extreme athletes for blister prevention.

This stuff really works and is very easy to apply, maintain and remove.  It is useful stuff for improvised plasters – just add lint and disinfectant to a wound and seal in place with Hypafix.  If you do get a blister, you can build custom solutions with this tape quite easily.

But for me, it’s all about prevention. I tape up any part of my foot, which is beginning to feel it might blister beforehand;  usually my heels, but everyone will have their own blister hot spots.  A good covering of 1-2 layers really works wonders.

 

Google MyMaps

With a bit of effort, I have finally got my head around using Google MyMaps.  This is an extension to Google Maps that allows you to overlay points of interest (POIs), photographs and route information on top of Google Maps.  This aids navigation and can be used to record locations on your journey for future reference.

 

Here is the MyMaps I used for the North Sea Cycle Route.  It shows campsites, photographs (automatically geotagged), Ferries and other POIs.

Click on these links to interact with the map.  You can switch each layer on/off and zoom into each country:

http://bit.ly/2DgZuX5

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1w_99dhNkgjuy_vRZKJQ7A7o-QoU&usp=sharing

 

 

North Sea Cycle Route (Part 4) Germany to London

Part 1 – England/Scotland  Part 2 – Norway  Part 3 – Sweden/Denmark

My arrival in Germany was rewarded with a huge punnet of Strawberry’s, perhaps not as good as the Norwegian variety, but succulent nonetheless.  The landscape had barely changed, the same sheep tracks, gates and sheep droppings I had been cycling through for days.  On occasion, the track was on the seaward side.  The view of the Nordfriessische Inseln (islands) was ethereal, a mirage of sea, sky and man-made navigational towers.

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I waited at a railway crossing to see a surreal sight of a train, transporting cars, with the drivers and passengers still seated within – reading the days papers. Their destination was Sylt, the aspirational holiday destination which can only be reached by train.

I cross a huge tidal barrier, which guards the entrance to the River Eider. full of day tourists enjoying the endless North Sea views.  Continue reading

Cycle navigation

Every cyclist I meet on long distances routes seems to have their own unique approach to navigation.  Some are dedicated map users, while others have committed entirely to electronic means.

When I set out to cycle around the North Sea, I did a bit of research to see what would be an optimal strategy for each country I would cycle through, while keeping the weight to an acceptable limit.  I used a combination of the following:

  • Google Maps
  • Google MyMaps
  • Viewranger (Android and iOS)
  • Backcountry Navigator Pro (Android)
  • Garmin 520
  • Paper Maps
  • Signposts
  • Intuition

Each method has its uses, depending on the circumstances.

Google Maps

Mobile 4G coverage in Europe, even in remote locations, was excellent.  Perhaps not so in the remote areas of the UK.  Continue reading

North Sea Cycle Route (Part 3) Sweden and Denmark

Part 1 – England/Scotland  Part 2 – Norway  Part 4 – Germany to London

I crossed the Svinesund into Sweden missing Norway within minutes.  It is not to say that Sweden was that different, but I knew that I had been very fortunate to have good weather and perfect ferry crossings.  Not to mention the Norwegian people, who made me feel very welcome.

The road signs have changed colour and the cycle posts unreadable, but the roads are clear through the forests towards Strömstad, a beautiful seaside port.  I eat most of my food reserves for lunch before extracting Swedish Krona in a country which is rapidly becoming cashless.

A long slog against the wind eventually brings me to Tanumshede and an ICA Supermarket which would embarrass Waitrose for the quality of food.  Last time I was in Sweden you could only buy flour and yeast; you were expected to make your bread.  

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I stock up with all sort of goodies and head out to a coastal campsite.  When I arrive, the site is full. I have to ask very nicely to find a pitch as it is full-on Midsummer festival time. I also need to buy a Camping Card, which is mandatory, but this gets good use later.

Friday night is for families, but Saturday night is for the unattached generations, with no holds barred.  Most of the rowdy songs are in English.  What a party. The toilet blocks are a scene of devastation, and everyone is asleep.   Continue reading

North Sea Cycle Route (Part 2) Norway

Part 1 – England/Scotland  Part 3 – Sweden/Denmark  Part 4 – Germany to London

Flying from London Heathrow to Norway was easier than I expected, once I could negotiate Terminal 5 with a bike box. Unpacking and reassembling my Thorn Sherpa in the baggage lounge drew stares, but not as many as I exited Customs dressed and prepared for the next 4,000km of my journey back to London. A surreal scene.

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I had no idea where I would stay that night, but the first task was to find the Hanseatic quayside at Bryggen. This set of buildings marks the start of the North Sea Cycle Route, continuing south and around the coast of Norway towards the Oslofjord. Encouraged by the quality of the cycle paths and roads, I pedalled all the way to the Hahljem and caught the ferry.

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It was then only a few miles to Fitjar and a deserted campsite, apart from a French cycle tourist. The midges were swarming, so I spent a few hours chatting in the communal kitchen about cycle touring and the route south. Cycling 100km in half a day bodes well for the task ahead. Continue reading