Tour des Trois 2014 (TD3-14)

Standard

As mentioned in an earlier post, I recently came across an interesting event in Switzerland, the Tour des Trois.

In a nutshell, the principle is to gather a group of cyclists, with a passion for vintage bicycles, and riding, and ride together through three countries, in a single day, in a matching historical cycling outfit.

IMG_0890 IMG_1106

The ride covers c.130kms and 1,900m total elevation, with one long, steep climb of 400m close to the start, at Gempen in Switzerland. The ride begins in Leymen, France in Alsace (Haut Rhin), proceeds east into Switzerland into the canton of Solothurn, swings north through canton Basel, across the Rhine into Germany (Baden-Württemburg), before crossing the Rhine again back into Alsace, and looping south back to Leymen.
photo photo (1)

For my part, I had never done such a long group ride before, or put so many kms on any of my old bikes, nor strained them with any heavy climbs, so was unsure as to whether it would be possible without mishap. But to spoil the plot early on…. It is entirely possible, and everyone of the 50 or so riders finished with beaming smiles and nothing worse than a few punctures.

I had intended to complete the ride with my 70s Mercier (which has not yet featured on the blog), but the combination of heavy forecast rain, weak Mafac brakes, steep descents, tubular tyres and a high proportion of unsurfaced gravel track on the route pushed me to make a last minute switch to my more modern (yet still “vintage”) bike, the Fuji Del Rey (1983). 2014-06-29 06.36.26

The weather forecast up to a week before the ride was for constant rain and thunderstorms all day, and the forecast worsened the closer the day came. The night before the ride, after some last minute preparations to the Fuji, I could hear the rain lashing down and could only imagine what it might be like to ride 130kms in constant rain, with or without a rain jacket, in 15°C… (esp. after being used to riding for the last 3 years in Singapore between 28-32°C!).

Weather-wise, the day went like this: Got up fairly early (rain), drove to Basel (in the rain), got out of the car (rain stopped…), sun shone more or less all day, finished the ride, drank a beer, said goodbyes, got in the car (rain restarted immediately…). The timing of the weather was so freakishly perfect, literally to the minute, that I’m not sure who bribed the clouds but am eternally grateful for it!

2014-07-11 11.55.52

While the Fuji had better brakes, better derailleurs, better shifters, better tyres, and a generally more modern, comfortable and planted feel than the Mercier, it also happens to have much higher gearing (to which I hadn’t previously paid any attention… not sure if the freewheel/cassette is original). As a result, the ride up to Gempen was a punishing slog, and I’m not entirely sure how I did it. But I did! This gearing would also explain why I had previously struggled to make much progress with the Fuji in the Alps. I am pleased to now be able to blame my corncob freewheel for my poor climbing instead of my weak thigh muscles =), and from now on will pay more attention to counting teeth…

The Fuji was one of the least glamorous bikes of the day, and there was a fantastic display of bicycles from 1953 onwards. Italian, French, Austrian, German, Swiss and British bikes were all ridden, mostly steel, but some nice early lugged aluminium frames too (e.g. Alan). IMG_1194 IMG_1079

The best thing for me was to see such beautiful bikes being ridden. Properly ridden. Not just on roads, but through mud, tree roots and over gravel, through puddles, pot-holes and up big hills, even though most of them have tubular tyres.

It is a real pleasure to see museum pieces being used, not just kept for show like china dolls, by individuals who both appreciate their beauty, engineering and historical significance, but aren’t afraid to get them muddy, risk a crash or a failed and difficult to replace component.

The TD3 is organised by a great team of guys, mostly based in the Basel area, and has now run for 7 years or so. Flash provides friendly tech support, and takes some great photos, in his fantastic red VW combi van. Many of the pics in this post are his, and you can see much more interesting information about Hetchins bikes on his great website. There are a number of pitstops around the route for food/coffee/fruit/granola bars etc., and the event manages to be casual, yet very well organised in a seemingly effortless manner (which hides significant preparations on behalf of Stefan and his team).

The ride is open to all, subject to application, and using a pre ’85 bike with matching outfit, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it. Many of the participants travelled from far afield to join the ride, e.g. from Berlin, or Austria, so while the number of participants is relatively small, it’s a dedicated and friendly group of guys.

Check out the TD3 website for application opening for the TD3 15. I hope to meet you there. With a nicer bike than mine.

IMG_0947IMG_0961IMG_0976IMG_1019IMG_1021IMG_1050IMG_1131 IMG_1132 IMG_1137IMG_0914IMG_0937IMG_0944

Bike on a plane

Link

We recently returned to Europe from Singapore, and I decided to take my bike with me on the plane, mostly so I would have something modern to ride while the rest of my stuff took the slow boat. You could ride vintage bikes all the time, but it’s nice to mix it up.

As I have never put a bike on a plane before, I was fairly nervous about the whole experience. It is going to arrive at all? in many pieces? or bent into a U shape? But you gotta have faith, so I gave it a shot.

First step: What sort of bag to use? Hard case? Soft bag? Or cardboard box?

I didn’t feel confident about the cardboard box approach as I imagined luggage being left on the runway in the rain, resulting in the bike being packed in paper maché…

So having opted for a bag, the question was whether to go for a hard or soft bag. A quick look on chain reaction cycles and wiggle.co.uk indicated that prices go from 50 GBP to 250+.

I opted for a soft case, and chose the Brand-X bag with separate wheel bags for 70 GBP. It seemed to have good reviews, and I liked the idea of separate protection for the wheels.

From the baggage handlers (“throwers”) views expressed in the attached article, it seems like the soft bag was the right choice. I wish I had read this article before ordering the bag!

http://cyclingtips.com.au/2014/06/flying-with-your-bike-tips-from-a-baggage-handler/

The bag took a couple of weeks to arrive in Singapore, and lugging a massive box home from the post office was interesting.

Second step: How to pack it?

When the bag arrived, it seemed to have even more pockets than I expected, which is good to store some clothes in, and adds more padding to protect the bike. Not so good, was that there was little protection inside the bag for forks, derailleur and the chain ring. As we had a lot of packing boxes, I ripped one apart and created an internal “box” around the bike to protect it. So not really a vote of confidence for the bag…

I guess packing the bike is pretty straightforward, but once you’ve taken off the handlebars, and the saddle, you’ve got two bits either swinging off the bike or loose inside the bag. The bike wouldn’t fit in the bag with the saddle down (but really I didn’t want to scratch the top of the seat post…). So without the bits of cardboard to protect the frame from the swinging brake levers/stem etc., I’m not sure what condition it would have arrived in. Also, the bottom of the bag probably wouldn’t have lasted very long with the chain-ring sitting against it, being banged along baggage conveyor belts. Also the teeth would probably have been bashed around a bit, along with the derailleur. The chap that checked in our bags recommended I release some air from the tyres, which seemed sensible. Not sure if they would have popped without that, but they survived the trip.

Long story short, the bike arrived safely with only minor scratches to the frame (the Lemond Chambery frame seems to scratch if you breathe on it too hard…), and was re-assembled and ridden within 24h despite jet-lag. I loved the contrast between riding in the heat of Singapore, and the crisp summer morning ride along lake Zurich. Probably a warm sunny day for all the locals, but I though my teeth were going to crack from the cold!

Worth mentioning that the trip was with Turkish Airlines, involved a change at Istanbul (so some extra baggage handling than on a single-leg flight), and cost 160 EUR (one-way). No issues at all.

Do you readers travel often with your bikes? So often that it’s as routine as packing a suitcase? Any tips for this newbie would be welcome!

Tour des Trois

Standard

At the end of the month I’m participating in a historical bike ride of c.130km through France, Switzerland and Germany (tour des trois).

I plan to ride my late 70s/early 80s Mercier (which has not been featured on the blog before! Though it has made a guest appearance in the blog logo…..) with tubular tyres and all French components. A restoration post will follow shortly!

130km is a long ride by any standards, let alone on a 40 year old bike. Wish me luck! I’m not sure which will fail first, me or the bike… Here’s hoping I finish.

Also, while participants are to ride pre ’85 bikes, they must also be dressed in vintage (or replica vintage) cycling gear. I’ve got the bike, but didn’t have the clothing!

Thankfully ebay came to the rescue. I not only found a vintage cycling top, but one from a cycling club in the very city where I grew up, Newcastle upon Tyne! This seems to be from the Tyne Electric CC cycling club. Anyone know anything about it or a bit about the club?

20140602-184807-67687742.jpg 20140602-184808-67688367.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also found and old pair of cycling gloves from when I was a teenager. They’re horribly coloured so should be suitable as early 1980s…! However, they seem to have mud on them.

Possibly a stupid question, but does anyone know the best way to clean them? Just pop them in the machine on a gentle wash??

20140602-184835-67715271.jpg 20140602-184835-67715816.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First ride in Switzerland

Standard

So we moved from Singapore to Switzerland. Gone are the early morning bike rides in hot darkness and the occasional monitor lizard and macaque. In exchange we have fresh (cold!) air, wine terraces, snow capped mountains and sunshine!

This is also the first time I’ve tried Strava, so I’ll share my first ride below. My cycle computer broke some time ago so it’s interesting to see the distance travelled and average speed. I did wonder if not seeing my speed would result in a gradual slowdown, but I guess not?

A poor photo of the Lemond in its new surroundings too. It survived the trip via Turkish Airlines!

20140526-095955-35995104.jpg

20140526-095954-35994799.jpg

20140526-100232-36152745.jpg

20140526-100403-36243876.jpg

20140526-100406-36246952.jpg

Lemond Chambery (2005)

Image

Ok, it’s not a vintage bike, (yet) and it doesn’t need restoring, but I love it anyway!

This is my weekend ride in Singapore. You don’t see many like it out here. I’ve only seen another 3 in the last 2 years.

In fact, I like it so much that I’m taking it back to Europe with me!

IMG-20140503-00586IMG-20140503-00589

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I know… photos aren’t great, sorry…)