bikepacking & long distance cycling
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Contributors Words and photography Jeroen Dijkstra (Jerome), Matt Hart and Dan Tucker (Rolling Donkeys), Stan Engelbrecht and Danielle Fejer (Tour of Ara) Photography Andy Bruhl, Francois Carrier Deziel, Andrew Cullen, Artur Nowak, Laurens van Raay, Frederick Scraeyen, Elfi Thoonen Cover photo: Dan Tucker Illustration Luc Kickken Proofreading Hanneke Bergsma
ÂŠ 2016, ViaVelo Magazine Copyright remains with the publisher. No part of this publication may be copied or reproduced without the written permission of the publisher.
Photo Stephan van Raay
Concept and layout Stephan van Raay
Editor’s comment Welcome to the fifth issue. I am proud of how far we have come already. Our list of contributors is growing fast and sometimes it’s hard to believe how many people want to be a part of this and make time to share a story, send in a photo or help in some other way. A big thank you to all of you. Without you there would be no magazine at all. Special thanks to regular contributors Willem Megens (back next time) and Jeroen Dijkstra. Special thanks to Luc Kickken for making us another matching custom illustration (available in our webshop soon). Thanks to Carsten Maiwald and Christoph Süße at veloheld for their kind support and sharing ideas. Last but not I want to thank our readers. I hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as I did. Let me know what you think of it. Stephan van Raay
Photo Stephan van Raay Foto Laurens van Raay
The places we ride
When all hope is scone
Tour of Ara
The essentials of cycling
Belgium by night
Mio Cyclo 505
L A P CE E H
E D RI
Photo by Artur Nowak Katowice, Poland @red.spokes #pntsoldier viaVelo magazine
Photo by Francois Carrier Deziel 8
Sawtooth Range, Idaho, between Ketchum and Stanley. Riders are
Romain Rosant and Guillaume Bedard
user3161207 viaVelo magazine
Photo by Andy Bruhl | 10
Photo by Andrew Cullen
Pentland Hills just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland
Photo by Frederick Scraeyen | 14
Paso de Jama, Argentina
Only until we rode out of the residential area it hit me: Damn, Stockeu!
STOCKEU Words and photography by Jeroen Dijkstra
escending down Route de Somagne
around, shifted to a lower gear and took
I looked from under my shoulder
up the chase. The road went uphill fast
and noticed my cycling buddy Alex
with increases of around 10 percent
was still behind me. “Left, twice!”, he
according to my bike computer. It did
shouted. I hit the brake a little, cornered
not take long before I passed Alex again.
into Chemin du Château and let my bike
Only until we rode out of the residential
roll again. Early this morning we drove to
area it hit me: “Damn, Stockeu!” I shifted
Belgium for my maiden cycling trip in the
even lower. The derailleur obeyed and
Ardennes. Until now I had never really
the chain slided onto the 28. “Oops” I
climbed. After all the Posbank is no big
thought to myself. This was my lowest
deal. But today that would all change. In
gear already with the steepest part still
the car Alex told me all about sounding
ahead. Slowly I grinded forward, while the
names as Stockeu, Côte de Wanne and
bike computer indicated 20 percent. The
Côte d’Amermont, which we would ride
road seemed endless. Then the sign of
today. The closer we were getting to
bed & breakfast Villa Stavelot appeared
our starting point the quieter I became.
in the distance. Past that sign the hardest
Tensed about what was coming.
part would be over Alex told me. Meter after meter the sign came closer. He was
At the end of the road I took a left turn for
right, the road went flatter. I shifted to a
the second time as Alex had told me to.
higher gear and continued my way to the
But at the intersection I doubted. There
Eddy Merckx statue. Next to Eddy at the
were two roads, both of them going
top I realised how much I had enjoyed
left. I took a chance and took the one
the climb. Alex was right, climbing is fun!
on the right. Wrong guess apparently. “The other left!” Alex shouted. I turned
by Rolling Donkeys
Words by Matt Hart / Photography by Dan Tucker
Throw in some rocks valleys and Lochs and endless track and you have a rather inviting recipe for exploration and adventure
o to try and hit a sunny pleasant weather window in Scotland seems to be the impossible task, or at least that is what it feels like for us. “Come in May”, they say, “there’s always good weather in May, and you’ll avoid the midges”. Avoid the midges we did but hit a good weather window we did not. No third time lucky for us. As many before we have come to realise that the Scottish weather plays a big part in what makes it so great, unpredictable, changeable, dramatic and occasionally severe. Throw in some rocks valleys and Lochs and endless track and you have a rather inviting recipe for exploration and adventure. This is what has taken us back to Scotland for the past three years and each visit throws up very different and
new challenges. Yes, we learnt to pack our rain coat and sunscreen, and that sleeping where the deer scratch can significantly increase the likelihood of becoming tic dinner. But the one thing that I think we all underestimated, or more fairly to ourselves, had not yet experienced was how deep you sometimes have to go into your own mind to stay positive. This was not life of death and we were not pushing the limits of human endeavour, but this was happening to us and at the time was very real. It didn’t take long into our trip, leaving Fort Augustus and heading up towards Glen Affric bothy that I think we all realised that a few extra training rides would have been of great benefit. Simply relying on muscle memory was not going to suffice this time.
Day two was hard, we knew we had a long tough ride ahead, but we also knew our destination, Glen Affric bothy. Head down focused and spinning those pins, spin turned to plod and the casual chit chat turned to “are we there yet?” I mean, are we there yet? WTF? We had already started to wish away our annual Rolling Donkey’s adventure time, times had quickly become tough. We know it takes us a good few days to find our rhythm, but I was feeling beat. We were wet, hungry and very tired. Unable to stop for long before the cold set in, four minutes max, filter some water and quickly move on. In the wise words of Dory, just keep swimming had become my mantra. We had already started to test our mental strength, sure our legs were pretty shot, but how can you train your mind to ignore the body. I guess one way is to build on past experiences whilst trusting that you can gain from new ones.
Another way, and on that day, our way was to accept our fate and welcome the opportunity presented to us. Night was falling and we were still a long thirty minutes from the bothy, which we were hoping wasn’t full. We could see on the map that there was a SYHA hostel on our route but we had planned to stay in the bothy and that’s what we were going to do. I can’t remember what made us stop that day, but stop we did and I can honestly say it was one of the best stops I have ever made. Out of the chilling wind and driving rain, we were greeted by the gentle warden who informed us that we had picked a good night to pop in, as it was scone night. It turns out that on this special bank holiday weekend, the cosy cabin with its two wood burners and red faced walkers contently relaxing in their dry woollen socks, wasn’t enough to seduce us into booking a room. No, what’s needed is a large plate of freshly baked
No, what’s needed is a large plate of freshly baked warm scones
warm scones. There are times when no amount of ferrell faced manliness and the desire to be a weather beaten adventurer, can match the seductive powers of a warm fresh scone. Our situation may have skewed my perspective a little but there was nothing that could have convinced me to carry on to the bothy, my dough eyed heart had been stolen. So after a pointless conversation about whether to stay or not whilst the blood found its way back into our extremities we set about making home, changing clothes and finding back our happy place with the magical healing powers of a warm scone. The next morning was calm and beautiful and our happy meters restored. Deer passed by as we took on the morning’s fuel, our smiles were back and we were
now ready to saddle up and continue our adventure. Glen Affric was simply stunning and the long rocky ride down was a complete hoot, more of that please. To follow was six more incredible days following the middle loop of the Highland 550 adventure race. To top things off we passed a handful of the incredible athletes partaking that year, quite amazing. We certainly had our inner strength tested on a number of occasions, especially towards the end, but what I take from this year’s trip is that physical preparation can take you a long way and a positive mental attitude is an essential part of the pack list but sometimes it takes a fresh warm scone to bring you home!
The Rolling Donkeys are Matt, Dan and Matty. Go to their website www.rollingdonkeys.com for more photos of this adventure and many more.
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Words by Stan Engelbrecht / Photography by Danielle Fejer
Six days and 700 kilometers of grueling dirt-road punishment in the shortest time
here is no prize. No product hampers, no sponsored frames, shiny new bike parts, or an endorsed cheque. Just the honor of coming in after six days and 700 kilometers of grueling dirt-road punishment in the shortest time. It’s not an easy race, physically or psychologically. Riding an old steel racing bike over hundreds of kilometers of unpredictable African gravel roads can be very taxing. The Tour of Ara is a small intimate race that’s only open to about 40 riders. And for 2015 it traveled through the very remote and mountainous Cederberg, and semi-desert Karoo regions. With such a small group, and such trying conditions, everyone gets really close very quickly. There are no big race staples like tented villages and catered food. The race aims
to be as much of a challenge against the clock as a cultural exploration of the areas raced through. There is lots of great local food and wine, and riders stay in everything from small hotels to sometimes even with families in the villages. For the locals and racers alike, this creates a much more celebratory and inclusive feel to the event. The idea is to keep the Tour of Ara small and independent. For now, and the foreseeable future, there are no sponsors. Racers pay their own way through their entry fees, and together assist in sponsoring a handful of underprivileged riders - strong riders who don’t normally have to opportunity to race, never mind experiencing a stage race through some of South Africa’s most remote countryside.
This is the spirit of the Tour of Ara - celebrating the extreme challenges of the races of old
The bikes have to be pre-1999 steel road racing frames, built in the country the racer hails from. And the bikes have to be fitted with period-correct components, drop bars, and a maximum of 32C tyres. Most of these old frames can only accommodate 28C - they were, after all, built for road racing. But of course there is a beauty and a poetry in the challenge of racing a bike under conditions it certainly wasn’t made for. This is the spirit of the Tour of Ara celebrating the extreme challenges of the races of old.
by the mechanics and processes of the camera if favor of simply trying to capture the feel and energy of each moment. The results portray the unpredictable nature of the race, and this harsh landscape, perfectly. The light leaks, the overexposed vistas, the accidental compositions all work together to capture the race as it really is - wild and untamed. Entries for the Tour of Ara 2016 are sold out, but to sign up for next year’s race, please visit www.tourofara.co.za for some more information.
The choice to photograph the Tour of Ara 2015 on an old film camera was an easy and quite organic one. Danielle Fejer, the photographer, chose to shoot the race with a 1970’s Olympus OM10. It’s an early aperture-priority 35mm, and she consciously avoided being distracted
Dani Fejer is half of the UK-based Little Wheels blog, focusing on women’s cycling in London, but occasionally casting its gaze further afield. Visit www.littlewheels.cc for more great photography and stories from her and Sam Dunn.
Words and photography by Stephan van Raay
Getting ready for the group start
n invitation from Bikepacking.be appeared on my facebook page, ‘DuoDiagonaal’ it said in big letters. It is a selfsupported race in April from Virton in South-East Belgium to the city of Oostende at the coast, totalling a distance of approximately 325 kilometers, in pairs, starting late in the afternoon. I persuade my brother Laurens to team up and we register. With our bikes in one hand we walk down Arlon’s railway platform. A couple of bikes lean against several bistro facades. The start is in exactly one hour and we head over to a small Turkish restaurant to eat something as well. We will need the energy. Around half past three we roll back to the railway station – the starting point. From a distance we already spot a group of colourfully dressed – mostly neon yellow – cyclists ready to take off. Organiser Gunther Desmedt joins the race as well. He climbs on some street furniture and calls out the team numbers. 19 pairs are ready to go. As a group we ride the 25 kilometers to Virton, the official starting point of the race. I notice how diverse this group is. Fast guys on carbon or titanium road bikes
carrying only a small saddle pack or no luggage at all, mountain bikers with large backpacks, cyclists with panniers strapped to their modern tour bikes. I like the â€˜grab your favourite bike and joinâ€™ feel to this race. I took my home built veloheld.iconX (see blog post) with me. On this steel allroad bike I rode about 1000 kilometers during my training sessions, mostly on the flat. The first climbs are no problem at all. My steel bike is a little bit heavier than most road bikes in the field, but I like the steady and comfortable ride when riding long distances. Besides that I fitted more comfortable 28 millimeter road tyres for the notorious Belgian roads and cycle paths.
A while later we are all on the main square of Virton. When the church bells ring five times Gunther says something like ‘well, I think it’s about time to start’. From here on it is every pair for themselves. Every team has planned their own route and it does not take long before all pairs are scattered around the roads of Virton. In less than an hour we lose sight of all the other teams and are cycling on the surprisingly smooth roads through the Ardennes. ‘Excuse us, do you have a pump with you?’ Just before the first mandatory checkpoint,
the Millennium Tower in Gedinne, a pair is standing on the side of the road. ‘A flat tyre, the second time already!’ Their pump is broken and my brother lends them his one. After one kilometer we spot the tower. It’s nearly dark. Two other pairs are about to take off. We do not have brevet cards. We text our team number, CP1 and the exact time to the organiser and make the ultimate proof you were there – a selfie. The pair we just helped out is now repairing a broken link on the chain of another pair’s bike. It’s that kind of race. We take off to keep moving - the temperature is dropping fast.
A wild boar - the only one we encountered
With almost 120 kilometer behind us from Arlon we cross the French border. After a short climb and a corner we spot two cyclist on the side of the road again. Itâ€™s team â€˜broken linkâ€™ again. They must have caught up on us by taking a shorter route, but now face the same problem: another broken link forced them to stop. They remain surprisingly calm, standing in a small French village, in the middle of the night with still 200 kilometers to go. We are of no help since we do not have pliers with us, but we wait a while for the pair that helped them before. As soon as two bright headlights appear over the hill we continue our route.
My veloheld packed with mostly thermal clothing, rain gear, food, food and food.
After a couple of small climbs we descend towards the Maas river on wide roads that are deserted except for a single car. With speeds over 40 km/h in the dark I’m happy with my new 100 lux dynamo headlight. In Vireux-Wallerand, a conspicuously quiet town on a Saturday night, we cross the Maas river and a few kilometers further the border again to climb out of the Maas valley. A small country road surprises us with unexpected climbs up to 10 percent. ‘Damn!’ A dirt road in front of us. Planning a route by yourself has both advantages
and disadvantages. We hit dirt roads three times in total, not knowing how long and in what condition it is. We decide to take a detour in order to keep up the pace. It’s five minutes to two when we reach the Belfort of Thuin, the second unmanned checkpoint and highest point of the city. Another pair is already there. As we get off our bikes and walk up to them, it appears to be team ‘broken link’ again! Nice to see that despite the different routes we take we meet each other again at the checkpoints. One of them offers his rolled up pizza. I
decline and ask him where he bought it in the middle of the night. ‘I baked it yesterday and brought it with me’. We take some food from our own supply while three other teams arrive. On our bikes again we head down over Thuin’s many cobblestones. It’s probably a nice town in daylight. After some more kilometers our water bottles are almost empty and we decide to stop at a cemetary. Behind the large metal gate we quickly find the water tap. It was a wise decision, as in the small Walloon city of Ath further on, food or drinks are nowhere to be found. So we chew away one of the many bars we took with us, again. While we are heading for the third checkpoint, the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen, it is getting light again. The sky is all grey so we have to do without a beautiful sunrise. My sleepiness is gone but my legs are getting tired from riding all night. Near the WalloonFlanders border we face a couple of unexpected short but steep climbs – our pace drops fast. In Etikhove, a small village near Oudenaarde, almost every street is made of cobblestones. This must be great for the Belgian classics fans, but after 280 kilometers it’s hard to keep my hands steady on the shaking handlebar. The moment we reach Oudenaarde we stop at the first gas station for some bread and a large coffee – at last! Meanwhile another pair passes us. Hey, isn’t that … After our third selfie and text message in front of the Centrum we cross the market square. Before we reach the other end we are in the middle of a heavy
Another quiet village in the Walloon region viaVelo magazine
downpour. “What do we do?” Well, we both know the answer. We are already wet and we don’t want to cool down. On our way to the finish line in Oostende we face some more rain showers and a headwind. Our route takes us mainly over the bigger N-roads – definitely not the best part of the race. My legs are done. I have to scrape up all my energy, shift to the inner ring and cycle a couple of meters behind my brother. Reaching the finish line is the only goal for now. Another team approaches us. It’s ‘broken link’, again! “Oostende isn’t far anymore!” one of them shouts while they pass us by. It feels a whole lot different to me.
Rock Strangers, finish line
When we reach the canal we can finally see the city from a distance. We are getting closer and a a while later we are in the city centre. My Garmin immediately stops working. And my brother’s one is getting stubborn too. Luckily we have no trouble finding the finish line at the beach side. The big red blocks called Rock Strangers are hard to miss. It’s 12:02. We send our last text and take another selfie with our cold numb hands. From Virton we cycled 337 kilometers in 19 hours and 2 minutes through the night – good enough for the seventh place in the very first DuoDiagonaal.
ts in r p n io it d e d limite
g n i l c y C f o The Freedom n by Luc Kickke
op h s / l .n o l e v ia www.v
CYCLO 505 Words and photography by Stephan van Raay
PS bicycle navigation and the well-established brand name Garmin are often used as synonyms. But other brands like Teasi and Sigma are increasing their market share. And Polar added GPS navigation on its V650. But how about the Belgian manufacturer Mio with its Cyclo range. We had the opportunity to test the Mio Cyclo 505 on a five-day bike trip in England.
Size and weight Compared to my older Garmin Edge 800 the Mio Cyclo 505 is a bit bulkier with its larger 3,0 inch touchscreen with a resolution of 240 x 400 pixels, exactly the same as the Garmin Edge 1000 screen. The screen displays sharp text and fine lines on the maps. The Mio Cyclo is also slightly heavier than my Garmin Edge 800: 129 grams (checked) versus 98 grams, but nothing to worry about too much.
Maps, we all love â€˜em One great feature is that the Open Street Map (OSM) is pre-installed. I like that map a lot. It is comprehensive and navigating with this map causes fewer errors and strange turns.
◄▲ Next to the Garmin Edge 800 on the left. ◄ A bit larger, because of the larger screen. ► Your personal online assistant MioShare keeps track of all your rides.
Easy software Like Garmin, Mio has its own online software called MioShare (www.mioshare. com). Here you can view your rides on a map or on a calendar, create routes or simply copy routes from other Mio cyclists. The online application is pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. There is an option to synchronise your newest rides automatically to Strava. That is a big plus, since Mio doesn’t have an app for your smartphone.
Colourful Much like its online software, Mio wants to keep the Cyclo 505 device itself simple
too. The main screen consists of six large buttons with different colours. The Dashboard is fully customisable with up to four info screens containing up to eight fields in which you can choose from an endless amount of functions, and separate elevation, navigation and map screens.
POI, but where to stay? On the Navigation screen you can choose an address or a track you have uploaded to the device earlier. And like most navigation devices this Mio has a POI (places of interest) function. You can search them by name or by category. Mio even added a dedicated button for bike shops. All necessary
categories are there, from gas stations to pharmacies, police stations and restaurants ... except for one: places to spend the night! This needs to be added Mio, hopefully in your next firmware update.
routes. At one point in England we had enough of cycling on a big road with lots of traffic. We gave Surprise Me a go and it worked really well! Two routes with the given distance and a longer, probably more scenic one. Even the altitude profiles are calculated.
The big purple button with the question mark beholds a unique feature. It is a navigation function, but not your standard navigation in a straight line. You can pick an address or a place on the map, or, if you want to start and finish in the same place, choose the loop option. Type in the distance you want to ride and the Mio Cyclo 505 comes up with three entirely different
A couple of days ago I tried Surprise Me again in the Loop mode. The ride started out as nothing new. I was about to go my own way when it suddenly started to beep for a right turn. A bit surprised I took the turn and found myself on a smaller road I had never noticed before. After some more back roads I ended up on a bigger
The Dashboard ...
is fully customisable.
road and it started all over again. It was a great mix of fast cycle paths and idyllic country roads. And yes, they did take me home. Surprise Me - this nice feature certainly did.
is slightly annoying when you are heading for an intersection and want to check the map quickly. The same goes for the zoom scale on the map. The uploaded track was quite long (about 250 kilometers). I noticed that using shorter tracks made it respond a bit quicker. Fortunately, the navigation function itself doesn’t suffer any lag - just don’t touch it.
Wait for it … After having started the uploaded track I noticed a change in the device’s behaviour. At first it was snappy (enough) when pressing buttons and flicking through the menus, now all of a sudden I had to wait a full second before the screen responded to my finger. And another second or so before it actually acted upon my request. . The lag
Wireless As connectivity is the keyword in our digital lives, cycling computers cannot stay far behind. And Mio certainly doesn’t. First there’s ANT+ for the heart rate and cadens
Adjusting heart rate zones is easy.
Previewing the uploaded track, height profile included. I think I will go for ‘bicycle’.
sensor. Since ANT+ is an open protocol it works with sensors from other brands as well. I took my Garmin heart rate monitor on a Polar strap and connected it to the Mio. It worked. Same with the Garmin cadens sensor that was already on my bike. If you don’t have these sensors already there is a 505 HC version with heart rate and cadence sensor for only 30 euros more. Now that is a fair price!
calls and text messages pop up on the screen - if you wish.
The 505 also has Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone. You can flick through songs on the screen when playing music on your phone from your pocket. Incoming
And wifi, of course. After a ride you don’t have to turn on your computer. Just connect the Mio Cyclo to your home network or smartphone in hotspot mode with a single press on the wifi button. The upload will start immediately. It works the other way around as well. When you have made a route on MioShare, you can send it directly to the device without the need of a cable. But there are more fun options, for Strava enthusiasts in particular. Do you want to know if you are breaking your PR or
Plug in the standard USB cable to charge. But wait ...
even setting a KOM as you go? The Mio Cyclo 505 is compatible with Strava Live Segments. Strava Premium is needed for this option. The pros with Shimano Di2 can see information about their gearing on the screen and afterwards read out the data in the software.
Battery, Aziz! With the high resolution screen and all the extra functions the battery doesnâ€™t last for an entire day (10 hours and over) but that is the case with most GPS devices. . No problem, the 505 has a standard USB port on the backside for charging, so out
Surprise Me: different routes every time ...
which you can preview before selecting one.
with the portable charger. But wait, on the backside? That means I cannot put it back on the stem mount – oops!
where the adventure starts! With a couple of improvements I believe the Mio Cyclo range can be an interesting and cheaper alternative to “ye olde” Garmin.
In conclusion The Mio Cyclo 505 is very easy to use. No complex menus but still you will find almost anything you need (except an auto-pause function). The same goes for the online MioShare software. The touchscreen is sharp but lags when a route is loaded. The Suprise Me feature is truly the highlight of the Mio Cyclo 505. I have gone to places where I have never been before, just kilometers away from home – and that is
Pros: Surprise Me feature, price, OSM map pre-installed, wifi. easy to use Cons: lag when track is loaded, USB port on backside, POI without places to sleep Mio Cyclo 505 € 369,99 Mio Cyclo 505 HC € 399,99 www.mio.com
“I think I’ll turn around” no real cyclist ever said
Contents • The places we ride • Stockeu • When all hope is scone • Tour of Ara • The essentials of cycling • Belgium by night • Review: Mio...
Published on Jul 2, 2016
Contents • The places we ride • Stockeu • When all hope is scone • Tour of Ara • The essentials of cycling • Belgium by night • Review: Mio...