Page 1

adventure cycling

-

issue 8


Get in touch Website www.viavelo.cc Email info@viavelo.cc Facebook.com /viavelomagazine

Contributors Words and photography Jeroen Dijkstra, Sara Mertens, Stephan van Raay, Rhiannon Roy, Matthew Waudby Words Philip Malcolm Photography Harre Hart, Emilio Martinez, Clare Nattress, Mathieu Pousseau, Tom Somerville Cover photo Stephan van Raay

Š 2017, ViaVelo Magazine Copyright remains with the publisher. No part of this publication may be copied or reproduced without the written permission of the publisher.

ViaVelo is supported by

Photo by Stephan van Raay

Proofreading Hanneke Bergsma Concept and layout Stephan van Raay


Welcome to issue 8 This second 2017 issue is filled with adventure - as always. A new gravel race called Malteni Gravel Bootleggers brings you 245 kilometers of gravel, cobbles and quiet roads in Belgium and France. Beer included, of course. Further east, between Dubrovnik (Croatia) and Kotor Bay (Montenegro) the hilly terrain leads to astounding views, despite the serious mechanical issues. Can you stand the heat? Read about a cycling trip around Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, cooling of in a deserted lake. The second TransAtlanticWay race was held this year. This 2500 kilometers long selfsupported race takes you to the stunning views of Ireland's Atlantic coast, all of them! Happy reading and riding.


Photo by Stephan van Raay

Foto4Laurens v i a V e lvan o m Raay agazine


Contents Stories 6

The places we ride

10 Sunday Ride 12 Malteni Gravel Bootleggers 26 Dubrovnik to Kotor Bay 46 Gallery Special: Matthew Woudby 60 Transkili 76 Riding the TransAtlanticWay Race

Gear 98 Specialized Roubaix Pro 102 Altum Designs Modual Tool System


T

S

L A P CE E H

GALLERY

WE

E D RI

Photo by Stephan van Raay | Reichswald, Kleve, Germany @viavelomagazine

6

viaVelo magazine


Photo by Emilio Martinez | Mount Disappointment, Los Angeles CA

8

viaVelo magazine

|

@milochky


viaVelo magazine

9


We rode thousands of kilometres together

10

viaVelo magazine


[ Column ]

SUNDAY RIDE Words and photography by Jeroen Dijkstra

When I got my first little mountain bike, my dad took me every Sunday to the nearest forest and taught me how to ride it. He taught me how to use the front brake without flying over the handlebars, how to roll over branches and how to wheelie. The whole week I looked forward to our Sunday ride in the forest. As I grew older our Sunday rides stayed, they just got bigger and bigger. During adventures up to 250 kilometres my dad showed me little villages and taught me about the history of our country. We rode thousands of kilometres together until I started crit racing. At that time I rather wanted to ride with the fast boys instead of riding with my dad. After years without our Sunday ride it was time to pick up where we left. Together we took the train to Amsterdam and rode back to hometown near the German border, something we always wanted to do together. Not much had changed since the last time we rode together. We both became older, me and my bike sized up and now I was riding in front instead of behind my dad. But apart from that it was like our Sunday rides again, the ones I looked forward to the entire week. 

viaVelo magazine

11


Words by Philip Malcolm Photography by Mathieu Pousseau


Tractor coming down the trail; I guess I can’t just lie here all day

14

viaVelo magazine


I

’m lying in a ditch. One leg is in a patch of stinging nettles, one leg is twisted around and still attached to my bike whose front wheel is still spinning, almost apologetically, as a reminder of what I’m supposed to be doing. Inventory: Bruised ribs, bruised shoulder, child-like grazes on knee, hip and shoulder, tractor coming down the trail; I guess I can’t just lie here all day. How did I get here? About six months of idle dreaming and three of concerted planning. I wanted to do something different. After twenty years of road racing, time trialling, cyclocross and gran fondos I get the urge every couple of years to try something new, to discover what else you can do on two wheels. Some friends spent the summer posting on Facebook about something called dotwatching during something called the Transcontinental Race and a fire was lit. The ideas of starting a race as if entering a tunnel, of completely disconnecting from the world whilst you ride it, of total accountability to yourself and of raising yourself to the level of the race spoke to me. I applied. I didn’t get in.

However, I was learning along the way. Learning about all the other fascinating, crazy and beautiful events that you can pour yourself into. A world was opening up to me and the inhabitants of that world, I found, were generally people like me. People who, on the surface, look like normal, functioning grown-ups. People who go to work and take out the garbage and do all those things you’re supposed to do but never feel that’s who they are. People who want to connect with something bigger and understand more about themselves: Who they are, what makes them tick, and exactly how much they can wring out of it. People who crave experience. And so, in preparation for one of those events, I buy a new cyclocross bike. I buy a bivvy. I buy bike luggage. I start to train harder than I have in years, half from excitement, half from fear. I entered a few races that were not only longer than anything I raced before but harder too; I started one three hours ago and now I’m in a ditch. Malteni Gravel Bootleggers is the creation of three men who also create

viaVelo magazine

15


16

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

17


some excellent beers right on the border between France and Belgium, in Brunehout. Clem, William and Alex have hit on the concept of combining a camp-out, free beer and 245 kilometers of gravel, cobbles and quiet roads and are now unleashing it upon seventy five unsuspecting gravel riders and bikepackers. They also make excellent use of the location of their brewery. The course takes us in the hills outside of Tournai, hits the Holy Trinity of Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg and Koppenberg, and swoops through the forests of Hainault. Then, after dipping south of the start, we take in a delightfully challenging course that combines the most famous of the Paris-Roubaix cobbles with the trails the farmers use when they really want to abuse their tractors. The weather is perfect; a cold start in the dark has given way to the first warm and sunny day of Flemish spring. Back to my ditch. I ride the opening salvo of dark, rutted farm roads and canal paths in a fast group of ten or so right at the front of the race, sharing the work. We hike up the steep trail to Mont Saint Aubert and then back down again. My rear mech collects most of a

18

viaVelo magazine

tree as I’m carrying the bike over a pile of logs and I watch the rest of the group ride off into the distance. I pick up a companion through the forest of the Kluisberg and together with him I ride into the sunrise on the Oude Kwaremont and up the Paterberg, to the cheers of the construction crew removing the infrastructure from the previous weekend’s Ronde Van Vlaanderen. We hit the Koppenberg together and grind our way up its impossibly steep cobbles, rounded by the way the rain had washed down the slope. The first checkpoint is at the top and there I see Bart, a friend from Ghent, my ride home and also a member of the front group. He tells me they’re just ahead as he departs. I fill my bottles, eat a little, get my Brevet stamped and hit the off road descent heading south. I turn left and then right onto a barely perceptible grass-covered tractor track. Because of the grass, I don’t see the loose rock and my front wheel hits it as I lean into the turn. As I stand up to prevent myself from giving the farmer an almighty mess to clean up, I feel the pain shooting through my hip. I can’t stand on it. I have to use my bike as a crutch. I think anyone who


has ever fallen off a bike far from home has told themselves the same lie “Give it an hour, it’ll loosen off”. And so I set off in doomed pursuit of the leaders, but I lose time as I wince my way up and down the steep slopes of the Flemish Ardennes. I’m riding like an idiot. Fear and negativity have gripped me and I keep walking down slopes I would normally ride. I keep making wrong turns because I’m not concentrating and there are still 140 kilometers to go as I approach the French border. I had ridden with another companion whose pace I could hold and even contribute to on the windy traverse south, but he sheds me on a technical section through a mountain bike playground. A little later, my poor navigation skills nearly make me ride off a cliff in a quarry. I am melting down and all I can do is watch it happen and try to keep grinding on.

Checkpoint two is on the French border and marks the halfway point of the ride. From here, there’s a grind along a dead straight, newly laid gravel cycle path along the site of an old railway line (complete with spooky abandoned station!) and then we’re into Paris-Roubaix country...

A beautiful gravelled climb to what must be the highest point for miles takes us to the summit of an old slagheap from the area’s mining past. I’ve latched on to a group of four here and manage to hold their pace up the hill. At the crest we can look to our left and see the Arenberg forest and its famous pithead spread before us, but then we plunge into the sinuous descent towards the pave. The heap of spoil has been landscaped and transformed into a mountain bike park and the twists and turns, taken foot-out in some cases, are the most exhilarating part of the ride so far.

Eventually, the single track spits us out on the famous Trouée d’Arenberg and a new challenge is introduced. For the next 70 kilometers we track north, riding on and off the route of ParisRoubaix, sometimes taking turns midway through the cobbled sectors to dive onto rough farm tracks or single-tracks through the small forests that dot the area. Checkpoint three comes in Orchies. Thankfully we are spared the two sections of cobbles around the town and instead we are offered sandwiches, drinks and encouragement from William. I’ve ridden through the worst of my negativity now,

viaVelo magazine

19


20

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

21


22

viaVelo magazine


the cooperation of my part French-part British group with me tagging along as an Anglo-Belgian has made me believe again that I’m not riding as bad as all that and I’ve won them over to my cause with my liberal donations of the Haribo that has been melting into my jersey pockets since this morning. The ride to checkpoint four is 25 kilometers more of the same blend of cobbles, trails and dust. We’re told the ride from there consists of a tough loop of cobbles and gravel followed by an easier 25 kilometers back to the finish. Steeling ourselves we set off for the wholly off-road circuit just as I see one of the original group of ten fly past on his way back to the finish. Soon, our heads are down and we’re trying to manage our fatigue enough in order to negotiate the loose stones on the corners towards the last set of cobbles at Carrefour De L’Arbre. This area is brutal, and is the last real obstacle on Paris-Roubaix and enough to see most fellow-riders hopping from verge to verge to minimise their exposure to the rutted, broken stones. The Malteni team has a special surprise for us at the end when, instead of heading onto the smooth tarmac of the road race, we dive left onto more stones that are, if anything,

even worse. Free from the tender mercies of the society that tends the race-day pave, these are wild and unkempt and shake the last of my enthusiasm. The final 30 kilometers or so pass in a blur. My companions are scattered, two behind due to punctures, two riding off as I falter, the pain of sitting twisted on the bike all day is now catching up with me and the inner complaining has started. With 20 kilometers to go, I’m caught by Yves, a friend who started 10 minutes behind me and who does his best to get me to the finish. With 15 kilometers to go the remaining riders of my group catch up with me and leave me behind. With 10 kilometers to go I hit the biggest hole of the day on the last of the gravel sections. Also, tiredness setting in, and I have a puncture. A quick fix and I’m on my way again just in time for a 2 kilometer set of cobbles that mark the end of the ride. As I climb off my bike. Limping, sore and tired I somehow find myself smiling. Photographic evidence later confirms this. The Malteni guys excel themselves with a beer crate podium and free food and drinks for all participants as we tell the stories that come from shared adventures. 

viaVelo magazine

23


V I AV E LO T E A M-SHIRT 100% Organic Cotton 155g T-Shirt by Earth PositiveÂŽ Organic cotton & ethically traded & carbon neutral manufacturing = 100% sustainable Fair Wear Foundation = no sweatshop labour Screen printed with water-based ink in Germany

24

viaVelo magazine


GE T YOUR S! www.viavelo.cc/shop

viaVelo magazine

25


Words by Rhiannon Roy Photography by Rhiannon Roy & Tom Somerville


28

viaVelo magazine


I

had seen photos of Dubrovnik and liked the idea of a brief visit to the old city, which had so recently been torn apart by a bitter war. I knew nothing whatsoever about the Croatia’s neighbour, Montenegro, and that in itself seemed like a good enough reason for a visit. My friend Tom and I were not experienced tourers; Tom was more so than myself, having cycled to Paris years before, however I only used my bike to cycle to university and back, and to get around Brighton where I lived, with a few excursions into the Sussex countryside thrown in here and there. Inexperienced we may have been, but keen we certainly were; plane tickets were booked for our bodies and our bikes, and hasty equipment purchases were made as we learned of the need for pannier racks and water bottle holders on the run-up to the trip. The decision to take our own bikes with us was an interesting one - I have had mine since I was a teenager 6 years ago, and Tom’s was about the same age. They were both hybrids, relatively cheap when we first bought them, good enough to get us out and about in the city but no one’s ideal choice for a long trip. However, as we were uncertain about whether we could rent bikes in one city and drop them off in not only another city but another country

a few days later, and as it was relatively inexpensive to take them with us, we went for that option. The only problem then was how to transfer the bike carriers that our bikes needed to be packed in for the flights from our starting point to our destination - hard cases would have to be posted, which would cost a lot, and we would be in trouble if they didn’t make it there. We opted for flexible ‘bike bags’, which we could then roll up and attach to our pannier racks. Problem solved. Or not, as it happens - the bike bags were essentially glorified bin bags from which my bike has never truly recovered… On our first morning in Dubrovnik, task one was to put our bikes back together again from the many pieces they had to be chopped into for the flight the night before. Again, our inexperience reigned sovereign – I knew how to fix a puncture, change a tyre and replace my brake pads prior to the trip, and had learnt how to take off the pedals and handlebars to fit my bike in its bag, but that was about it. So, standing outside our hostel that bright morning, rear wheel in hand, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do when I couldn’t figure out how to get the wheel back on. I had done it in the past a few times and

viaVelo magazine

29


30

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

31


So, standing outside our hostel that bright morning, rear wheel in hand, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do

32

viaVelo magazine


it had always seemed straightforward, but this time something had changed and I just couldn’t see where the wheel should slot into. Luckily for me, the hostel owners comprised of a mechanical engineering graduate and his brother, a keen cyclist, and they came out with tools in hand, had a look, and diagnosed that part of the frame of my bike and my derailleur had bent in transit, due to the fact that our bike bags offered absolutely no protection whatsoever to our bikes on the plane. With a wrench and a good deal of arm strength they managed to bend it back, and the wheel was placed back in position, however it left me with an anxious feeling for the coming trip. To make matters worse, as we clambered on to our bikes for the first time in this foreign land, my pannier rack completely collapsed onto my back wheel. To this day, it is still held in place by a cable tie looped around the underside of my seat. So, covered in oil and unsure whether our bikes were actually fit for cycling, we set off. We had a touristy few days in Dubrovnik, getting used to the hilly terrain and foreign roads. We were also given an experience of the Croatian weather, which was nice and toasty all day (it was late June), and then out of nowhere the heavens would open and cascading sheets of water would

hammer down, with thunder and lightning crackling on all sides. Returning from the old city during one of these spontaneous storms, we were instantly soaked, and got a big cheer from the members of our hostel, who had gathered on the sheltered balcony to watch the lightning flickering out at sea, and had seen us ‘crazy english’ determinedly pedalling up the hill towards them in the downpour. On the first proper cycling day we set off bright and early, weaving through the Dubrovnik traffic to get to the main road leading to the airport. In a way it was a shame to be cycling alongside all the hectic morning rush hour, however the road soon starting lifting into the mountains, hugging the coastline, and breathtaking views of the old city quickly tore our gaze away from the cars chugging along past us. It was on one of these uphill slogs into the mountain that the damage done to my bike on the flight over began to rear its ugly head. For the past few days we had just been cycling around the city, so I hadn’t had much of a need to change gear – something that I am usually pretty lazy with anyway. However, with my bike on its highest gear, I began to feel the burn in my quads during the steady climbs,

viaVelo magazine

33


34

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

35


and decided to drop down a few settings. I pressed the gear levers, there was an unhappy clunk from the derailleur, and my chain began rattling. I tried to peer down to see what was going on with the chain (whilst clinging to the right hand side of the motorway, with cars roaring past to the left, and a steep 100 feet drop to the right, which was no easy feat!) and saw that the derailleur was jammed between two settings – the bent metal unable to move any further – with the chain scraping along, still on the highest gear. Being midmotorway, cursing myself slightly, I had no choice but to power on through on the top most gear until there was a suitable place to stop, which there was – right at the top of the hill. We stopped and Tom took a closer look, while I tried very hard not be be sick over the side of the road. I was already exhausted, and we had barely started! Alas, the problem was slightly too difficult for us to be able to do much about, so I resigned myself to a day of high-gear cycling with the minor reassurance from Tom that he thought that bit was the steepest bit. Luckily, there was a very steep downhill freewheel directly ahead of us to cheer me up, and during the day I discovered that a slight kick from my right foot straight to the derailleur could sometimes convince the chain to slot into the medium gear range.

36

viaVelo magazine

The views from the road were astounding, and cycling south on the right hand side of the road meant there was only a few feet of concrete and a small metal barrier between us and the steep drop to the sea, scary at first, but which I came to love very quickly. Lots of the coaches heading for the airport from the city would pull over and offload tourists for a few quick photos, but cycling the roads meant you felt a part of the scenery all the time, with the wind rushing past and all the senses overloaded. Once we had passed the airport, the traffic reduced to next to nothing, and we were left to speed through the scenery without the constant blaring of horns (which, although intended as a warning by the coach drivers that they were going to overtake us, usually made us jump out of our skins and nearly swing off the side of the road). We mostly had the roads to ourselves, and they were well maintained and wide, meaning we could sit back and look at the mountainscapes and seascapes stretching out in front and behind us without needing to focus too much on the road. One benefit (or not, depending on your worldview) of seeing so far into the distance, was that you could see the dark, ominous, looming smudge in the distant skyline, like a drop of black ink onto a watercolour painting, miles before you were in it. Ideally, this would be useful if you could prepare


in advance for the awful lashings of rain up ahead; for us, this just meant that soon, very soon, we would be absolutely soaked. We took a brief respite from the pouring rain under a bridge, hoping it would pass, and telling ourselves that we could see blue skies up ahead. Half an hour later, when this was obviously not the case, we powered on through up and over the final hill and back down again through steep, waving country lanes to a small village called Molunat, right by the Croatian/Montenegrin border, where we found our Air BnB. I was very glad of a hot shower, more so when I emerged to find the sun shining once again, enough to dry our clothes just a little before the next day. We were left with an evening to ourselves to eat, relax and wander round this tiny, off-the-beaten-track cove. The next morning we were up and out early again, just as the rest of the village was waking up. Ashamedly, we decided to push our bikes up the first, extremely steep hill, as we were already aching from the steep climbs the day before and had a long day ahead of us. Soon enough we were back on the bikes and settled back into gliding down empty roads, surrounded by countryside and stretches of sea. As the day before, we noticed a dark smudge in the sky up ahead gradually darken and expand, and as the first fat drops began to

fall we took refuge in a covered building site just off the road, completely abandoned and full of various construction materials. We sat in the shadowy light, dealing out hands from a deck of cards and listening to the rain thunder down around us, glad not to be cycling in it. It appeared to be just a passing – albeit heavy - shower, so before long we were back on our bikes again. We had read a few online posts about the best border crossing to choose between Croatia and Montenegro, and had opted for the one which was supposedly quite quiet, with little or no queues. As we approached, we were overtaken by a couple speeding past on a motorbike and roaring with laughter, but aside from that the online advice had been good - the border was deserted of other tourists. A border guard came out, looked at our passports, laughed a bit at the sight of us, soggy and bedraggled from the dregs of the rainstorm, but still cheerful and holding our bikes expectantly, and he waved us through. Next up was 500 metres or so of no-man’s land, between being checked out of Croatia and in to Montenegro. We saw one, solitary house and wondered which country the owner resided in. At the Montenegrin border, we received another laugh from the border guard, and

viaVelo magazine

37


We received another laugh from the border guard, and a stamp on our passports, which included a little bike in the corner

38

viaVelo magazine


a stamp on our passports, which included a little bike in the corner. I felt this stamp marked a right of passage in more ways than one – we could now officially call ourselves tourers, having crossed a border by bicycle. As we entered Montenegro, we began to slowly descend down from the mountain roads we had been cycling in for the majority of the route, and found ourselves back in civilisation: pedestrians, other vehicles and traffic rules to follow. We skirted along the outside of a few towns, keeping the sea close to our right hand side. Another brief but intense downpour later, we decided to stop for lunch, and locked our bikes to a fence. As we were leaving them, a youth came up to us and said he thought it was really cool that we were cycling, and that he always liked chatting to people who explored countries in this way. We replied enthusiastically about how good our journey had been so far. He then began saying some very ominous and fairly confusing things about bike safety, and how people would take any chance they could to steal bikes, wheels, or anything that wasn’t locked down. Then he started looking closesly at our bike locks, no longer interested in us. A little bit worried that we may have made an

enemy rather than a friend, we loitered until he had wandered off, and opted for a cafe from which our bikes were in plain view. The final part of our journey was entirely at sea-level, hugging the coastline on a narrow road with mountains rising steeply up on one side and the glassy water sitting serenly on the other. We took a 5 minute ferry just across the water, and were soon on the home straight for Kotor Bay. The roads here were very quiet; not many cars and not many people, but the views were all asotunding. Tiny villages clung to the steep mountainsides, immersed in forests, and the water was a bright turquoise blue, even with grey clouds above. By this point our legs were tired and our damp clothes were creating some chafing problems, so we were looking forward to reaching our final destination. It toyed with us for a while, with the furthest inland point of the bay appearing to be right in front of us, and then as we reached it, another section of bay would appear and we would have to cycle on. But finally, we found ourselves clambering off our bikes and walking through the huge stone gates into the city. Kotor was a tiny glimpse of an old world: A cluster of stone buildings, not yet fully

viaVelo magazine

39


40

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

41


Mountains rise up on all sides, with a fortress stretching up to the top, and everywhere you go seems small and local


discovered by cruise ships (although a few have begun to force their bulky shapes ominously down the bay during the day, injecting a flood of rather obnoxious tourists and blaring music for a few hours, but thankfully leaving well before nightfall). Mountains rise up on all sides, with a fortress stretching up to the top, and everywhere you go seems small and local, from the restaurant around the corner from our hostel to the goat farmers on the outskirts of the city, who don’t speak english but serve cold drinks and gesture a request for you to take a shot of their home-made spirit with them - which is certainly not for those who prefer their throats un-burned! During the day it was easy to go for walks or rides and take in the spectacular natural world on show all around us. The

city itself, however, came alive at night – restaurants and bars spilled out into the stone streets, live musicians played around every corner and locals and local holidaymakers would dance in the spare scraps of space. It was, all in all, the perfect place to relax for a few days after our first major cycle trip. We were very sad to be leaving and dismantled our bikes back into their flight bags rather dolefully. We were on the first ever easyjet flight from Montenegro to the UK - and as all experienced travellers know, easyjet starting to offer direct flights is usually a good indicator that it’s time to leave a place. We will definitely be cycling many more borders in years to come – and definitely won’t be re-using the bike flight bags, from which my bike has still not to this day recovered! 

Rhiannon Roy is a travel writer and photographer from London, UK, who is currently hiking her way solo through the mountains and glaciers of Kyrgyzstan.

flickr.com/photos |

rhiannon.roy.520 |

rhiannonroy


HIGH-RES DIGITAL ISSUES PRINTS AND MORE W W W.VIAVELO.CC/SHOP


46

viaVelo magazine


[ GALLERY SPECIAL ]

MATTHEW WAUDBY I’ve been riding bikes nearly as far back as I can remember, I think. I’ve predominantly been fixated on the BMX side of things but have dabbled in most types of cycling. In the last year and a half, bikepacking and gravel-grinding have steadily taken over the majority of my free time. The idea that you can pedal anywhere, given enough time, on pretty much any terrain, from Photo by Clare Nattress your front door has changed my outlook on life considerably. This freedom and the joy of meeting like minded people and sharing amazing and funny experiences is one of the best things I’ve experienced in my life. My 650b Bombtrack Beyond

is the perfect bike to realise this. It’s a MTB, touring bike, cyclocross bike, road bike and commuter all rolled into one. It does them all well enough! I feel fortunate to have collected these images from around the world, whether it was a weekender with a bunch of strangers to a 3000 kilometres epic with my best friend. I predominantly shoot with a Canon EOS-M. It’s small enough to fit in handlebar feed bags, has pretty good quality and is inexpensive (thanks to the dreadful autofocus it flopped when first released). It’s enough for me! I hope you enjoy the images, I had the best time capturing them! 

Matthew Waudby is a Yorkshire based illustrator. He has an online shop at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/GetWildMatty. getwildmatty

viaVelo magazine

47


50

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

51


54

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

55


LIMITED EDITION PRINTS BY LUC KICK 58

viaVelo magazine


K EN

|

WWW.VIAVELO.CC/SHOP viaVelo magazine

59


Words by Sara Mertens Photography by Harre Hart & Sara Mertens


No crowded parking places, souvenir shops, signposts, or prohibitory signs; I clearly still have to get used to Africa

62

viaVelo magazine


I

f you had asked me which countries were still on my bucket-list, I would never have named an African country. And yet I was talked into going on a little adventure under the African sun. So it happened that on a beautiful day in November I checked in at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, and arrived in Kenya’s capital Nairobi a few hours later. A local driver took me and my companion in the middle of the night to the Tanzanian border, and by dawn the two summits of Kilimanjaro revealed themselves from the clouds. Did you know that Kilimanjaro has two summits? I did not, but during this cycling adventure I would see enough of supreme summit Kibo and its little sister Mawenzi to never forget. The vibrant town of Tarakeja is my first encounter with the Africa as it is portrayed by ‘they who love it’. Two barefoot boys – brothers I suppose – transport a huge branch on their heads. I have no idea where they come from or where they are heading, but sure is that when they spot us they look just as surprised as we do. We have a good spot there on that hill with the waving Tanzanian flag and the perfect mountain-view as we wait for our man to arrive. My companion has made some contacts during an earlier trip, and this sweet Tanzanian will now provide us

with local phone cards. It takes him two hours by car. Is it to help us, or to receive the brand-new smartphone we brought from Belgium? Anyway, he drives for two hours and we wait on our hill. TIA, or ‘This Is Africa’; if you don’t have an off-switch Africa is not for you. With Tanzanian shillings, local calling credits and mobile data in our pockets, we finally start our journey. We start with a 70 kilometers long stage to Lake Chala, which I envision as resembling the ‘Zilvermeer of Mol’ back home in Belgium. After a few hundred meters we leave the smooth tarmac for a dirt road, much to the surprise of some local Tanzanians. They keep pointing to the asphalt road as THE road to the lake. This reaction turns out not to be an exception; during our trip we learn that most Tanzanians don’t seem to understand why we cycle for fun in the first place, let alone take the meandering dirt roads while a perfectly fine highway could take us to our destination in a straight line. It makes you think; the people here are surviving on a daily basis, while we are here to cycle their bad roads for fun. However, we also bring joy to the locals, with our funny-looking vehicles and gear. See and be seen is the motto of this journey.

viaVelo magazine

63


64

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

65


We cycle trough banana plantations on the flanks of this majestic mountain, and then, after an endless descent, we reach today’s destination: Lake Chala. I expected a huge crowd, but we are here alone. No crowded parking places, souvenir shops, signposts, or prohibitory signs; I clearly still have to get used to Africa. After a well-deserved break the water calls, and we start our descent down to the water. This is not as easy as it sounds. Lake Chala is a crater lake, and climbing down the crater’s edge is an expedition on its own. Finally there, we find a small wooden quay from which we can jump into the beautiful lake. From the cool water we look at the cliffs we just climbed down from. The view is so breathtakingly beautiful that it’s almost out of this world. The next few days we notice that Tanzania is a country full of contrasts. After the quiet of the lake and the banana plantations, the crowded city of Moshi, fifty kilometers north, feels a bit uneasy. But Moshi turns out to be a great place for theater; sitting front-row in our plastic folding chairs we watch how oil drums are being transported on tiny motorcycles. This kind of show can be found anywhere in Tanzania, since plastic chairs, soda and mobile data seem to be everywhere where there seems to be nothing.

66

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

67


68

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

69


70

viaVelo magazine


Just as entertaining as a city-show is a day of cycling trough the desert-like plains of Simanjiro. Our local guide Goodluck guides us past the sugarcane plantations and across the Pangani river to the land of the Masai. The hot air is hugging us like a blanket, and we are more than happy when Goodluck takes us to a little shed near a reservoir lake, where he supplies us with, indeed, soda and plastic chairs. A chat with some locals learns us that fishing in the lake is now prohibited, and even though Goodluck defends his government’s decision, it is clear that this rule is widely ignored by those who live from fishery.

Cooling off in the water is still allowed however, and we do so before we start our next long and hot stage. When finally at our destination of the day, we eat what Mama Africa serves us and plunge into the lake with the name ‘House of God’. After several minutes – or hours – the clouds disappear, and yet again we look out on the so familiar peaks of Kilimanjaro. The next day we cross the Pangani river again, but this time without a bridge. A tiny wooden boat that looks like it will barely fit one person has to do the trick. Four people and three bikes are being

viaVelo magazine

71


72

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

73


74

viaVelo magazine


stuffed into the boat, and without any trouble we reach the other side. Here we pass farmland that was bought by the Chinese, because China does not have enough fields to feed its population. In return they build roads, but I highly doubt if the African people will benefit from this deal. When we take a break in a tiny village and relax a bit in our plastic chairs, a Chinese man comes up to us with his smartphone, takes a selfie with us, and sets off again leaving us behind with a puzzled look on our faces. The thought of being a celebrity in China still makes me smile. After some fierce climbs we end our day, while the mountain watches over us like a gentle giant.

The final day of our adventure brings us one last climb. It is a beautiful but endless ascend that takes us forever, partly because it’s heavy, but primarily because we enjoy everything that happens on the way up. Once again ‘see and be seen’ proves to be the motto of this trip. Even a quick break in what seems to be the middle of nowhere turns into a happening when, within minutes, there is a whole bunch of gazing Tanzanians standing around us. Finally we reach the summit, with a mighty view of the Simanjiro plains. Even more breathtaking is the long descent, of which we don’t know when or where it will end. We go all-in, and after a few exhilarating minutes of full-speed downhill racing we come to the end of the road, and our African adventure. 

Do you want to ride this adventure? In November Transactief will lead you around the Kilimanjaro. Starting from Kilimanjaro Airport you will finish there too after nine days, of which eight days cycling and one restday in Lake Chala. You will visit the places mentioned above and on top of that visit the Western side of the Kilimanjaro as well, the habitat of elephants, gazelles, zebras and giraffes. www.transactief.be

viaVelo magazine

75


Words and photography by Stephan van Raay


The TransAtlanticWay Race is a selfsupported onestage endurance road race of approximately 2500 kilometers, held for the second time in June 2017. From the start is Dublin all riders have to self-navigate to checkpoint 1, the Peace Bridge in Londonderry (in the north). From there on the route is mandatory and follows the Wild Atlantic Way closely all the way to checkpoint 2 in Kinsale (in the south). After that it is back to your own naviagtion to the town square of Blarney near Cork.

www.transatlanticway.com

78

viaVelo magazine


'You can do this.' 'OK, I'm going to do it.'

'Are you here for the bike race?' 'Yes.'

Seconds later I hit the 'Enter' button on the website. I was in. It was November 2016 and I wanted to join a big cycling race in 2017. A year before I found out about the TransAtlanticWay Race and it was in the back of my mind ever since. My training began right away.

I entered the Fumbally Stables in Dublin halfway during the briefing due to a delayed flight from Amsterdam. Race director Adrian O'Sullivan was talking about his view on the race and why he organised the event. The room was filled with all kinds of cyclists, some of them ready to jump on the saddle right away. The start was only the next morning. After registration I headed back to my pre-arranged room in the Trinity College to build up my bike that was still in its bike box. The ride out of Dublin after the start sign the next morning was some sort of a group ride. I was in the back and didn't worry too much about my position. My main goal was to finish this race. If I was in front I might be tempted to ride with the fastest riders. Although this was by far the biggest cycling event I had ever done I felt strangely relaxed, ever since I left home for the race. Out of Dublin we were on our own and almost all of the riders were on the N2 heading north.

viaVelo magazine

79


80

viaVelo magazine


'Oh no!'

In Ardee, just 70 kilometers in the race I noticed that slightly different bike behaviour all cyclists know. A puncture. On a parking lot I threw my bike upside down and changed the inner tube. The sun was out and I felt really hot standing still out of the wind. I took off my arm and leg warmers. Ha, rain in Ireland, not today! Back on the saddle it didn't take long before clouds appeared again. Only minutes later we were in the middle of a downpour and roads were flooding. Where did this come from!? Ah, Ireland, 'four seasons in a day' I suddenly remembered. I wasn't expecting the seasons to end so instantly.

'I'm sorry! I was just trying on a dress for a wedding.' 'OK ... Do you have a room available for tonight?'

Minutes later I sat down at the kitchen table of a bed & breakfast, a coffee and a homemade cake in front of me. It was the end of the second day of the race and my first day on the Wild Atlantic Way. The scenery was beautiful, narrow roads, steep climbs and rolling hills close to the ever wild coastline. Now it started to rain. I doubted what to do as I didn't want to push mself too hard in the first couple of days. The B&B sign was too tempting. The kind lady knew about the race and told me that she had three cyclists over last year. Then the phone rang. It was her daughter: “There's one rider stopping in your town right now!” “I know, I know! He's from Holland and he is at my kitchen table right now!” My first experience being a 'dot' instead of a dot watcher. It was a strange feeling, people following your whereabouts on the GPS tracker website. But it did put a smile on my face. I couldn't sleep for a while. It could be the coffee at 10.30 pm or my ever growing excitement for this race.

viaVelo magazine

81


82

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

83


'That's all I have!' I was cycling with Rudy Rollenberg and Yves Conen. We were now in the peatlands, the never ending peatlands. The weather took a turn for the worse and we were cycling uphill, the strong headwind blowing the rain straight into our faces. It took a long while before we arrived in a small village. Without hesitating we stopped at the only bar in the area. Hot food! Or so we thought. The lady poured us some coffee but could only offer us a small bag of vinegar crisps each and a handful of prepacked cheddar slices. This special fusion cuisine was devoured within minutes. It didn't take long before a couple of other racers joined us. Just for a coffee.

84

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

85


86

viaVelo magazine


'You haven't spend months preparing, talking about it for days just to quit now! If you do, I think you are going to regret it later.' 'You're right ...'

Early morning day six, just over 60 kilometers done, I was standing still at the side of a long and boring N-road. I was feeling low, empty, tired. After my Garmin Edge 800 my new Wahoo crapped out on me too, again. Even the tiniest issues felt like major setbacks at the moment. Why am I doing this? I didn't know what to do anymore. I send a message to my girlfriend which she immediately replied with 'do you want me to call you?'. Yes, please. After that I gave my navigation device another reset. The device started beeping, sounding almost happy. Hours later I was singing out loud to the songs on my playlist. I was almost flying through the beautiful sceneries Ireland has to offer, my arms stretched out. I couldn't be happier at the moment. It's remarkeble how your mood changes so quickly, very much like the Irish weather.

viaVelo magazine

87


88

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

89


'Aaaargh!'

The short but often steep climbs started to take their toll on my knees. Every morning the warm-up took longer than the day before. I had to take it slow. In a race that isn't as easy as it sounds! As I approached Conor Pass the weather started to change. Until now it was fair but clouds were gathering around the top. With a packed bike, my sore knees and rental cars on the narrow and wet road the seven percent gradient was too much. I dismounted halfway and walked my way to the top. The ride down was fast and straight into the touristic town of Dingle. From there we had to ride a loop around the like-named peninsula. After a quick bite I rode across the bridge. Soon it started to rain. Ah well, we had had worse! The rain intesified, and intensified. As did the wind. After changing direction from East to South and West again the rain was hammering onto my face and stinging pretty badly. My waterproofs did a good job keeping me dry – until now. Soaking wet I dragged myself over the climbs. I was in the middle of a storm and hit another low. Why now? Why here on this beautiful peninsula? All of a sudden I started to scream as loud as I could. And again and again. It's only rain, it's only wind, I said to myself. This wasn't going to stop me. Not now.

90

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

91


92

viaVelo magazine


Back in Dingle after a few tries I found a B&B with a room available. The owner showed me my room. I opened the curtains and looked straight into … the sun! What the … !? This Irish weather, it really screws with your mind. I asked the kind owner if I could use their dryer. No problem. He shoved all of my cycling gear in a machine from the last century, closed the door by jamming a wooden pole to it and turned a dial with all markings worn off. At the moment I couldn't care less. The man told me he was a retired fisherman. Obviously he had been in much worse storms out in the open sea than the one I was in just an hour ago. That put me back on my feet. I decided to make the most of my visit to Dingle and went to a restaurant to eat a very tasteful veggie burger and drink a recovery Guinness.

The biggest loop of them all, the Ring of Kerry was busy with all kind of vehicles. This part of Ireland was very popular, and not without reason. Luckily small and quiet roads led to the Gap of Dunloe. This was Ireland at its best and exactly how I pictured it. Seeing it with my own eyes was even better. A peaceful lake next to the narrow winding road in a valley that was protected from the wind by lush green hills. An idyllic place where you almost forgot about the race and just wanted to stop, take a deep breath and take some pictures.

'Let me get you a Guinness'

'Meeh! Meeh!'

Riding into the busy port town of Kinsale I quickly located checkpoint 2, a bar called The White House. Digging up my soggy brevet card from my front bike bag I asked the bartender for a stamp.

I had a good night's sleep and was feeling great on the bike again. I lost a good number of places in the ranking but on the other hand my knees felt a lot better after being off the bike for a luxurious ten(!) hours. I listened to the sound of a sheep that somehow seemed to follow me. I turned my head and saw Rudy in good spirits, bleating like a sheep. He slept in Dingle as well, got up early and rode the loop this morning.

Seconds later I was outside again and eager to cross the finish line, just a bit over 30 kilometers away. With all the power I had left in me I rode the mostly uphill stretch to Cork and finally to Blarney. At the finish line Adrian and his crew were following the incoming 'dots' closely and I was guided through the town square's gate to the finish: a big tree in the middle of the square. High fives, handshakes and hugs and a cold Guinness. I made it. 

viaVelo magazine

93


94

viaVelo magazine


My goal was to 'just' finish this monster of a race. I arrived at the finish line in 9 days, 8 hours and a few minutes after the start in Dublin (picture above). Apart from one puncture I didn't have any real mechanical problems. More detailed information about the bike and my gear will appear on www.viavelo.cc.

viaVelo magazine

95


96

viaVelo magazine


viaVelo magazine

97


98

viaVelo magazine


[ GEAR ]

SPECIALIZED ROUBAIX PRO Words and photography by Jeroen Dijkstra

When I started cycling, I couldn’t understand why people paid up to 50 Euros per tyre. I always bought cheap rigid tyres until a friend let me try a pair of Challenge Criterium folding tyres on my road bike. A whole new world opened up for me: they were so comfortable and had so much grip. OK, they didn’t last as long as my cheap rigid tyres and weren’t puncture proof either. But they had opened my eyes. Since then tyres became a thing for me. After trying many different brands and sizes I found my favourites on the road bike. But when I started graveling, I needed to find the perfect tyre all over again. Not an easy task because of all the different road surfaces. In my search for the perfect tyre I ran into the Specialized Roubaix Pro 2Bliss tyre. According to Specialized this tyre has everything I demand: it is fast, comfortable and puncture proof. Although Specialized tyres never have let me down, this almost sounded too good to be true.

viaVelo magazine

99


First look First things first. The Roubaix Pro is a folding tyre that has been around for a while. The current version is the widest tyre in Specialized’s range, measuring in at 700×30/32c. The ‘/’ indicates a 30c treaded section on a 32c casing. Theoretically this means it provides the comfort of a wider tyre, without having more rubber in contact with the ground. The fact that this Roubaix Pro has ‘2Bliss’ added to its name means you can run it tubeless. Riding tubeless means you can run even lower pressures without having to worry about getting a flat, and get better grip and comfort. But they work just fine with a tube as well.

100

viaVelo magazine

The tyres look mean and ready to eat cobbles due to their size. The fact that they are tan-walled is a bonus in my opinion.

Casing & protection The high tread-count of the casing (120 TPI) combined with Specialized’s Gripton compound makes the Roubaix Pro a very grippy and comfortable tyre. The casing easily conforms to the road surfaces and gives you a lot of grip. It gives a lot of confidence while cornering at speed. To test the off-road capabilities I tried them on gravel roads and even on a mountain bike course. They handle pretty well, considering its a road tyre. I never had the feeling of losing control.


Puncture resistance has also been impressive. I’ve had some ‘Oh no!’ moments when I couldn’t avoid some broken bottles in Germany. But the tyres survived without getting a flat. Luck might have got something to do with that, but so does the Blackbelt protection layer. Specialized uses that protection layer on many different tyres. At first I was a bit sceptical, because compared to a Schwalbe Marathon, you don’t really feel a protection layer, but I’ve tried different Specialized tyres now, all without getting a flat.

Not for weight weenies You might wonder if there aren’t any downsides. Well there might be one: The

Roubaix Pro 2Bliss isn’t a tyre for weight weenies. With its 375g is pretty heavy, almost double the weight of a normal road tyre. But compared to a Challenge Strada Bianca or a Clement Strada LGG it’s not that bad. And frankly I can’t say it bothered me while riding.

In conclusion The Specialized Roubaix Pro (2Bliss) is a tyre that not only eats cobbles for breakfast, it will get you fast and comfortable over gravel too. It isn’t the cheapest tyre around (€39,90), but if you’re looking for a fast rolling and comfortable road tyre that also can handle gravel, than the Roubaix Pro might be the tyre for you. 

viaVelo magazine

101


102

viaVelo magazine


[ GEAR ]

ALTUM DESIGNS MODUAL TOOL SYSTEM Words and photography by Stephan van Raay

Derived from the wellknown crowdfunding website Kickstarter.com, the Modual Tool received plenty of backing in a month’s time. Now, it’s readily available via www.altum.cc where the Modual Tool System (MTS) and the Modual Tool Roll (MTR) are sold separately or as a combined set.

Screwdriver + wrench = smart Let’s start with the tool itself. You probably already figured out it is a bit system. However Altum Designs did something clever. Put a bit in the top of the tool and you’ve got something of a screwdriver for working fast and access hard to reach places. Or put the same bit in the side of the MTS and use it like a wrench. The tool is long enough to provide a lot of leverage. Much more than your standard folding bike tool. As for the bits, Altum Designs include 10 seperate bits: hex tool (2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8), a T25 torx, a philips and a flat head screwdriver tool. In the supplied rubber holder there is room

viaVelo magazine

103


for two more bits if you would like. Also included is a bit extender. Much like the bits itself this a pretty standard tool, which is an advantage since you can easily replace parts if they might get lost. Incorporated in the tool are three spoke keys (3.23, 3.3 and 3.45mm) and four of the bits can be magnetically housed inside the tool. Sadly on most bikes, Lemmy knows why, four tools is not nearly enough. Another nice feature are the two tyre levers. They are made from glass filled material for extra stiffness and also attatch magnetically to the tool itself.

This leaves a clean looking and compact tool including those odd shaped levers. According to Altum Designs the levers form an ergonimic handle, which is true to a certain point. Once your hand goes past the even part of the levers they pop up like a … well … lever. So I take them off most of the time and reattach them when I’m done. It works just as fine. In case they go missing, the levers are sold seperately too (£2.99 for 2).

Roll it up Altum Designs put a lot if thought in their Modual Tool Roll, or MTR, made from hard-wearing Cordura. When you

viaVelo magazine

105


are done, just slide the tool in the elastic band on the center part. It sits quite firm in there. Next fold the flaps over each other. Simple as that. One of the large flaps has a zipped pocket to stash the tool bits, the extender, some patches, your money and much more. On the outside there is another, larger elastic band that holds a spare inner tube. Then, strap the whole thing with a buckle and velcro strap to your saddle rails. Although it’s a nice looking package I found it a bit large for a Sunday morning spin. Viewed form the side there’s no problem and it looks much cleaner than a standard saddle bag. But from the top of the saddle you can see the tool roll sticking out. I like to switch riding positions on the saddle and sitting on the back of the saddle my upper legs touched the tool roll, albeit only slightly. Putting it in your jersey’s back pocket might be a better option. When going on a multi-day bikepacking adventure the MTS and MTR are of great value. First of all you have a reliable tool at hand, which can be customized to your bike. Packing for a longer tour the larger tool roll becomes and advantage. You can keep all of your spare parts together: a chain link, spare brake and shifter cables, mini bottle chain lube and so on. Roll out the MTR and use it as your work mat on the go.

In conclusion The Modual Tool System is an all-inone bike tool which can be custumiozed with different standard tool bits. The srewdriver mode and wrench mode are a very clever solution for working fast and access hard to reach places. The tyre levers housing inside the tools are great for storing them, but when using the tool I prefered to take them off. The Modual Tool Roll is a clever solution too with a large zipped pocket for storing the bits, bit extender and a lot more. A point of attention is its size. All rolled up it is fairly large. If you are a minimalist or weight weenie, this isn’t your tool system. If you are going out on a multiday adventure and want an all-in-one solution for fixing your bike in the middle of nowhere, the Modual system might save your life, or at least your day. 

Pros: wrench and srewdriver mode, high quality materials, tool offers a lot of leverage, customizable with standard bits Cons: bulky tool roll, tyre levers snap loose when using the tool Modual Tool System & Tool Roll: £44.99 (shipping: UK: free, Int’l: free over £30.00)

www.altum.cc

viaVelo magazine

107


Not done reading yet? There is more.

viavelo.cc/magazine

www.viavelo.cc

|

facebook.com/viavelomagazine

Viavelo Magazine 8  

// Stories // The places we ride / Sunday Ride / Malteni Gravel Bootleggers / Dubrovnik to Kotor Bay / Gallery Special: Matthew Woudby / T...

Viavelo Magazine 8  

// Stories // The places we ride / Sunday Ride / Malteni Gravel Bootleggers / Dubrovnik to Kotor Bay / Gallery Special: Matthew Woudby / T...

Advertisement