The pedalling photographer

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Brompton Cycle Tour Day 10

We cycled into Gillingham town centre following the NCN 25 signs, but coming out of the other side of town we realized they were taking us in the wrong direction. We backtracked to the town centre, found the NCN signs but none of them said where they were going. Following them out of town in the other direction, they took us past the turning for the campsite we’d just left, but further up the road we knew we were on the right track, so continued on.

Another day of very pleasurable cycling – we won’t mention the heat as it was better than cycling in pouring rain! At Childe Okeford, after stopping at the pub for a sausage sandwich and a drink (non-alcoholic, I hasten to add), we picked up the excellent, newly opened North Dorset Trailway, a cycling and walking route following the old railway line from Sturminster Newton to Spetisbury. Coming off the Trailway at Blandford Forum, we continued to follow the NCN 25, which took us right to the centre of our home town.

We had thoroughly enjoyed our first ever cycle tour in the UK; in previous years, we have cycle toured in France. Also, it was our first tour using the Brompton bikes, fully loaded with camping gear. The bikes performed very well, especially on the tracks beside the Kennet and Avon Canal, some of which were quite rough in places. The bikes were very comfortable to ride and travelling with them on the train was a doddle; we encountered no problems whatsoever.

Our remaining impression from this trip is that travelling by bike takes you through places and countryside that you would normally never see. Modern-day travel takes you from A to B by the quickest route possible – you jump in your car and take the most direct, fastest road to get you to where you want to be. We miss so much by this form of transport. The bike slows down the pace of life, you have time to absorb your surroundings, inhale the smells of nature – both good and bad! Time to stop and chat to people you meet on the way. We are all isolated and insular, cocooned in our speedy metal boxes, cut off from our surroundings and the people in them. We can never return to this slower pace: our whole world is geared up to instant/constant communication, speedy travel, fast food, quick fixes, everything is PDQ. But we are so lucky to be in the position to take a step back now and again, slow everything down and go travelling on our bikes.

Now, where to next?

Here is a short video I made of the trip (apply HD – in top RH corner – for better full-screen viewing):

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A mini adventure to test out our Brompton bikes

We spent a few weeks trying to decide where to go to test out the Bromptons for cycle touring. A seed had been sown when I was following Nick Crane’s tweets about his cycle trip with his son along the NCN 4 out of London, along the Kennet and Avon Canal to Bath and onwards to Devon. ‘Sounds like a good idea’, I said to Chris, ‘why don’t we give it a try but avoid the London bit?’ So a plan was hatched.

Being of a certain age, we were able to apply for a Senior Railcard – I suppose there are one or two perks to being over 60 :o( – and purchasing them with our double-value Tesco rewards made them even more of a bargain. We booked a ticket from Poole to Reading and set about revising our packing routine for travelling with the Bromptons.

We had bought a T bag for the front of each bike – these bags take approx. 31 litres and are equivalent to about 1.5 panniers – but were not quite sure what to do about rear bags. The Brompton rack sack has a capacity of 16 litres and is purpose built to fit the rear rack, but we weren’t sure if it was going to be big enough. As far as we could see, the only alternatives were to lay a pannier flat on the rack and attach it securely to the rack (see or fix a rucksack in an upright position by attaching it to the saddle and securing it to the rear rack to prevent movement (see Pathlesspedaled Our pannier seemed to have quite a bit of overhang off the back of the rack, which concerned us a little, and we weren’t too sure that a rucksack would remain securely fixed to the bike. In the end, we decided to go for the Brompton rack sack, as it would make us try to lighten our load, which is never a bad thing! The weight limit for luggage on a Brompton bike is 10 kg each on the front and rear. By the time we had added two bottles of water, we were both about at the limit on the front. On the back, I had a couple of kg to spare, while Chris had about 5 kg spare.

We managed to get all of the essentials in, but it was a squeeze! Of the three items of luxury we allow ourselves – a Thermarest pillow (essential for a good night’s sleep, light but bulky), our Helinox lightweight chairs (the old bones start to creak when sitting on the ground) and a book to read (it is supposed to be a holiday, after all!) – we could only manage to fit in the pillows. Then a moment of inspiration! Usually not one for attaching things to the outside of bags, it occurred to me that the Helinox chairs could be easily bungeed to the rear rack on top of the rack sack. Brilliant! Chris had to forgo her book (I have a Kindle but she doesn’t yet – says she loves the feel of a book in her hands), but said, wryly, that she was looking forward to some scintillating conversation instead! I detected a hint of sarcasm here!

The only other items that space would not permit were our sandals (and boy did we need them as we caught the start of the heatwave weather halfway through our trip!) and food provisions. Chris is only happy if she has a couple of days’ supply of food with her. I’m trying to break her of this habit by telling her that there’s always a little shop somewhere nearby and, failing that, a pub offering some sort of food (oh, and the obligatory pint or two of real ale!).

We may look again at the packing options for the rear of the bikes but, for now, we were ready for the off!

More posts on the trip to follow…

Train tickets and National Cycle Network (NCN) map

Train tickets and National Cycle Network (NCN) map

Early start at Poole train station

Early start at Poole train station

Gear and bikes loaded on to train

Gear and bikes loaded on to train