Archive for the 'Bike Talk' Category

Flying with BA, and Ground Effect bike bags

If you’re coming to India with us from the UK, there’s no doubt that British Airways offer the quickest and most direct service (T5 issues being sorted by the summer…). As our time in India is relatively short given how far we’re travelling, those extra saved hours on either end – and the fact that a direct plane reduces the chance of damaging trusty steeds – are a real bonus. What’s more, BA’s prices have been really competitive over the last few years.

But like most airlines, BA have been shuffling around their baggage policy recently. Since last year, bikes have travelled for free as an extra piece of sporting equipment, taking any pressure off baggage allowance quandaries. The only stipulation was how they’re packed (pedals off, handlebars turned etc…) and that they’re within a 23kg max weight – no problems there. This year, they’ve introduced a clause stating that while this is still the case, the total dimensions mustn’t exceed 158cm – that’s the height, plus the width, plus the length. Unless you have a folding bike or one with S&S couplings, this is pretty much impossible. Somewhat confusingly, BA also state that standard bike boxes and bags will still be accepted, even though these exceed these dimensions. Anyway, so while it looks like everything will be ok, it’s worth finding the smallest bike box or bike bag that you can, just to try and avoid any issues with surly check in staff.

With this in mind… Although nothing short of a big, heavy hardcase will guarantee the safe passage of your bike, we’ve had very good experiences from Ground Effect’s very diminutive Tardis. With the addition of some locally sourced bubble wrap, cardboard and pipe lagging, it’s really well designed to protect your frame, and packs down to A4 size for easy transportation in the jeeps – for those coming on the Manali-Leh tour. We’ve had several people use them in the last couple of years, and they’ve got a big thumbs up. So well worth looking into, and impressively priced at £60.

Lastly, it’s always worth checking your airline’s bike policy and printing it out to avoid any confusion at the check in counter. Ringing a day earlier to confirm the fact you’ll be bringing a bike can also help.

Photos: Big skies on the Morei Plains, Ladakh.


Riding Sichuan Singletrack* – and the 29er Touring Experiment


Today Cara chilled out her sore, weather-beaten feet (and blistered fingers and nose…) while I headed out to sample some Sichuan Singletrack. ‘Rick’, a Chinese mtber we’d met in one of the many bike shops we’d traipsed around these last couple of days, had offered to take me to Long Quan, home to the Chengdu’s thriving mtb scene.

Meeting up in the morning, we worked our way across the city to its outskirts, via the usual chaotic, everyman-for-himself cycleways (shared, a la China, with the odd wayward car and bus), and a concrete tangle of bicycle underpasses.

Then it was a 21km, bullet straight and billiard flat ride out to Long Quan, a town that sits at the base of a range of small rugged mountains, criss-crossed with singletrack and popular both with cross country riders and downhill riders alike. We’d arranged to meet up with a couple of others from the local club; Zhao Hang, who worked in the Trek bike shop, and Deng Jian Jun, a student at the Sports University.

A sign of these modern times, Rick’s a software engineer for Intel, and was riding a tricked out Trek hardtail (Fox Talas, XTR, Race Face components) which he’d worked out had set him back a hefty $4000 US: a fortune in Chinese terms – and in the UK for that matter. The others were riding an equally capable Giant NRS, and a classic Voodoo. Looking a little out of place with my dragon ‘protection spirit’ stickers and assorted tassles, I was on my fully rigid, Rohloff-ed On One Inbred 29er: 15 kilos of Yorkshire/Taiwanese chromo pipework and Deutche engineering.


Whether touring or mtb’ing, the 29er rolls on.

Continue reading ‘Riding Sichuan Singletrack* – and the 29er Touring Experiment’

Practical Pedal magazine

This interesting and inspiring new magazine from the US includes a feature on bike cargo trailers in all their various forms, with a brief review of the 26in/700c Extrawheel trailer that I’ve been playing around with recently. Seen here in 700c wheel mode, hitched to Cara’s Thorn Catalyst. There’s some more thoughts on it in our Scotland post.


It’s well worth downloading, which you can do (for free) here:

I made that!


Well, technically, I made half of it. But that’s good enough for me, and I’m still basking in the accomplishment (-;

Robin Mather kindly offered to not just to braze on some rack mounts to my Inbred 29er, but talk me through how’s it done so I could have a crack at it myself. “Useful skills if you’re going pan-Tibetan,” he said.


On with the Ray Charles shades. Coat her with flax, fire the torch up, a few thousand degrees of heat and in goes the brass… Robin did one side, and after a few tentative practise runs, I did the other…

Continue reading ‘I made that!’

Carrying your kit while riding on the jeep trips.

Seeing as there’s the indulgent joys of Phunchok and his Tata Sumo jeep on the tours this year, there’s no need to worry about cramming everything into panniers, trailers and the like.

However, we still need to carry a fair bit more than the normal trail goodies. Apart from the usual suspects (multitool, tube, mini pump, little spares like chainlinks etc…), extra layers are important too, depending on how cold you get, or how sensitive to rain/snow/wind you are. We’re talking a decent waterproof at the minimum, plus a light fleece and perhaps some waterproof overtrousers to act as a wind stop on big descents, or even covering your legs when exploring conservative monasteries. And a warm pair of gloves in case it gets really chilly. It’s that old adage: if you don’t have it, you’ll need it. Factor in shades, suncream, Buff, snacks/lunch and a camera – and it’s all starting to add up. Although we have a jeep, we won’t necessarily be seeing it much doing of it during the day (if at all) so we still need to be self sufficient while we’re riding.

Continue reading ‘Carrying your kit while riding on the jeep trips.’

Back from Scotland. And we’re fried…

We’re back from Scotland, and are now catching up with emails and making final arrangements for the summer in India. We’re off on the 18th – just two weeks away – but will have regular access to the internet once we’re there to deal with any last minute queries.


It was a great two weeks of solid, wall to wall riding. Here’s Cara negotiating a superb offroad loop on the island of Harris, in the Outer Hebrides, suggested to us by Andy Mac, the photographic and route expert for the area.


And here’s our picnic spit on the beach at Horgabost. The sun was out, the water was turquoise, and it was fresh salmon (smoked over a peat fire) and soda bread on the menu…

Continue reading ‘Back from Scotland. And we’re fried…’

It’s been a busy one…


The last couple of weeks seem to have been really hectic ones, in the run-up to our season in India. We’ve been working away to get all our work done before we head out to Delhi on the 17th July. Cara’s been putting together two women’s ‘supplements’ for Cycling Plus, which has meant almost as many hours in front of a computer screen as test miles on fancy ti and carbon dream machines, like the Titus Estrella (lucky her!).


Continue reading ‘It’s been a busy one…’

Please check out our main website for details on our bike trips to the Indian Himalayas.

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