Review: Twenty Miles per Cookie

I followed the Family on Bikes as they made their way from Alaska to Argentina a couple of years ago. I was hoping to meet them when they rode through Argentina while we lived there. But they took the direct route to the end of the world instead of riding east to Buenos Aires and then back west as they traveled to Ushuaia. Their plan saved them quite a number of miles, so I certainly don’t blame them.

Trip Through the US

I was casually aware of their first big family bike trip through the US, but I didn’t realize it was a year-long adventure until I read Nancy’s book Twenty Miles per Cookie. They covered 9300 miles in 19 US states and 5 Mexican states. It sounds like it was a great adventure.

Twenty Miles per Cookie book cover

Starting Out

The family left Boise, Idaho and worked their way to the Pacific coast. Like most bike adventure books I have read, the first part of the book was much more detailed on daily activities than the rest of the book. This is because the author is trying to set the stage for the types of challenges they faced on a regular basis. You are supposed to assume that many of these challenges followed them throughout the trip and therefore would become boring to read about on each page of the book.

The Vogel family’s challenges were very much like any other long-distance cycling trip. Each day they needed to find a place to stay and figure out how to have enough food and water to make it there. They had to pedal through bad weather and challenging terrain. The big difference in the Vogal bike trip a

nd others I have read about is that this was the first time I read of a family adventure of this scale. If I didn’t know they were still together (because of their more recent cycling adventures) I would have thought they might end up living in four different houses after the first few weeks of their trip. Seemed they were getting on each other’s nerves at times. That is typical of a bike trip of this scale; however, when it is a group of guys riding together one can leave the group without it being devastating. Without a family court getting involved, this expedition had to stay together.

Bright Spots

The book chronicled some of their amazing days on the road. I know there had to be many more than what she included in book. What was fun for me was when she talked about places that I have been in my own travels (in a car, not on a bike). I can just imagine how spectacular some of those routes must have been.

At times I felt like the family was too trusting when I saw how quickly they accepted offers from kind strangers. But I also know that being there in the moment gives you an insight into people and their characters that you can’t always convey in written form. As someone who has been hesitant to offer help to hikers and bikers because I didn’t know if they would want it, I am encouraged to be more willing to take the lead in extending a hand because of what I have read.

Dark Days

As I mentioned, there are times when they were at each other’s throats. This involved Mom and Dad mostly. The kids were written about as if they were mostly angels on the trip. I may be revealing a little too much, but I often don’t like reading adventure books written by women. There is usually too much touchy-feely talk. This book had its share, but I don’t think it was too excessive.

When? Where?

The one thing I would have liked to see in the book were some occasional dates. I don’t expect a daily journal format, but knowing about when certain things took place would have been nice. Based on the time of year and the location I could have gotten a better sense of what type of weather they were experiencing. With the exception of Halloween and Christmas there are few clues as to when they traversed different parts of the country other than the talk about it being cold and hot.

Waiting for the Sequel

I thought Nancy Sathre-Vogal did a great job in telling their story. While I may not like some of the way it was presented, I have to say that it was well written. I look forward to the announcement of a book talking about their Alaska to Argentina trip.

Twenty Miles per Cookie, Nancy Sathre-Vogel, Old Stone Publishing, 198 pages, 2011.

Quick Video Tour of Vittorio

I came across this video through Traveling Two’s newsletter. Andrew and Friedel recently enjoyed some time at the Vittorio bike touring fair.

Vittorio makes very nice touring bikes in Amsterdam. This video shows some of their bikes as well as a couple of products and historical information.

We get a quick look at the new Marathon Mondial by Schawlbe. If you need some winter tires, Shchwalbe also makes studded snow tires. The video also shows some kit items that another bike touring family uses.

Enjoy the video and don’t forget to visit Traveling Two’s website for more great videos and product information.

Vittorio Bicycle Fair from travellingtwo on Vimeo.

Review: Bicycle Touring With Children

I eagerly followed the Vogel family on their Pan-American bike ride from Alaska to Argentina. I did not hear about them until they were about half-way through their epic journey. However, as they neared Argentina I was hoping to get a chance to meet them if they chose to do the eastern route of the country and come down through Buenos Aires. They did not.

Though I did not meet them while we were both in Argentina, I have gotten to know them a little more personally since then. Mostly I have continued to read their blog posts and interact with them through email. I was excited a couple of weeks ago when I got an email saying that they had a free ebook available called Bicycle Touring with Children: A Guide to Getting Started.

Book CoverThis book is written by Nancy Sathre-Vogel (the mother of the family). She helps encourage the reader that it is possible to go on a bike tour with your family. Not only is it possible, but she gives some pretty good arguments as to why you should consider it and why you should consider doing it as soon as possible. You only get one chance to spend these years with your children. Don’t wait until later to do what you want to do now. The years ahead are uncertain and you don’t know if you or your child will be physically able to do a tour at a later date.

While you may not agree with all the advice given in the book, you have to remember that this family has done a couple of grand bike tours. As the mother, who has her children’s best interests in mind, Nancy gives great advice that is borne out of experience. I would come closer to trusting her than someone who has written a book purely from research.

Even though she has her experience to rely upon, she also got help in writing the book. She asked several other bike touring families to tell what bikes they chose for their tours and why they chose the ones they did. To me, this was the most interesting and helpful section of the book. Most of the other information is available in other resources. It was invaluable information to see that a tour can be done in a variety of ways and individual family circumstances can dictate which is best for them. There is no “one size fits all” solution to choosing bikes and types of tours. There were some great nuggets of wisdom on making your own bike choices.

The rest of the information covered in the book are things like where to sleep and what to eat. Those are basic points that needed to be covered, but were not necessarily specific to family bike touring.

This book was announced in their newsletter at the same time their other new book was released: What Were We Thinking?

To get the Bicycle Touring with Children book you can sign up for their newsletter and download the book.

 

 

How to Clean Old Bar Tape Off Your Handlebars

I wanted to re-wrap the drop handlebars on my vintage road bike this week. I watched a couple of YouTube videos on how to wrap handlebars in preparation for the project. The videos I watched showed the new tape being installed on clean bars. They also showed that the new bar tape did not have any adhesive on it. However, when I pulled off my old tape I was disappointed to see that it had a sticky adhesive that stayed on the aluminum bars.
Bars with old adhesive

Soap and Water

I started with plain soap and water hoping that it would do the trick. I used a kitchen sponge that had an abrasive side. It was not a heavy abrasive since I did not want to scratch the soft aluminum. The soap and water helped to soften the rest of the old bar tape so that I could get off the sections that were still stuck to the handlebars.

However, the soap and water didn’t do much for the sticky adhesive.

WD-40

Knowing that WD-40 is good for removing sticky stuff, I gave that a shot. It took a bit of elbow grease, but it eventually softened up the glue and took off the goo. I used the aforementioned sponge to help scuff away the sticky stuff and make the bars shiny again.

The biggest problem with the WD-40 is that it leaves a greasy residue after you get the old tape off. You need to clean it well with regular soap and water. This will help your new bar tape adhere to the handlebars.

Bars after cleaningWhen spraying the WD-40 onto the bars, you need to be careful and not get any on your rims or brake disks. Doing so will make your brakes less effective. It could possibly make your tires slick too. WD-40 is great for what it does, but most of the time it is best to keep it out of the bike shop.

Re-Wrapping

I found Specialized S-Wrap Cork tape at my local bike shop. They told me that there was plenty of tape to wrap the bar and have some left over. I wrapped it as carefully as I could and still could not make the grip tape cover the bars sufficiently. I was only short about 4 inches from what I wanted to do. Either I overlap too much, or I don’t have the same concept of “plenty of tape” as the bike shop guy.

Here is the video I found most helpful when getting ready to tackle this project.

BikeLit Revisited

BikeLit after dog encounterA few weeks ago I wrote about the great little lights I have for my bikes called the Nite Ize BikeLit. I have been using these for about a year. However, one of them met its demise last week.

I was visiting a friend when a strange storm blew up. We experienced winds in excess of 50 MPH. The rain was torrential. I went to my friend’s place on my bike because I thought I could get home before any bad weather rolled in. I didn’t leave before the storm came.

My bike was blown over in the storm. Their 6 month old dog had a good time chewing the life out of the BikeLit. When he was done with that he took to chewing the cover off my seat. Needless to say, I now only have one Nite Ize BikeLit.

Stage 19 Tour de France 2011

I have casually watched the Tour de France the last 3 years. I can’t claim to be a great fan of the sport, but I highly respect the endurance aspect of it all.

The 2011 Tour has been enjoyable (on the days I have been able to see it), but it hasn’t been overly exciting. At least, not until the last 2 days. I did not see stage 18, but looking at all the final statistics of the race, it had to have been amazing. There was quite a shake up at the top of the leaderboard.

Stage 19 (Friday, July 22), was incredible. It certainly was the best stage I have seen this year and maybe the best ever. Towards the end Contador (of whom I am not a big fan) showed some amazing ability on the mountains and pulled away from his main rivals—brothers Schleck and Cadel Evans. I was disappointed that he could not hold the lead to the end. He was not far enough ahead of the Schlecks to take much time away from them. But I really wanted to see him finish the stage in front because of the courageous effort he gave when pulling away from everyone else.

The guy who did win, Pierre Roland, took advantage of the friendship of Contador and Sammy Sanchez. When Sanchez pulled up to Contador to let him know (I think) that Sanchez was there to help pull Contador along, Roland burst ahead on the other side and got far enough in the lead to keep Contador from catching him. Well played! Gripping stuff considering they were at the end of a couple of really tough climbs.

I loved seeing Contador punch the runner. I have been wanting to do that to spectators every time I see the race. I don’t know what was going on, but the guy in green was putting something up to Contador’s face that he didn’t like.  I have rummaged around on news sites and still have not found out what happened with that.

I don’t know that I had a favorite rider in the race this year, but I like the Schleck brothers. Partly because I can pronounce their names. While I admittedly don’t follow professional cycling much, I have grown to respect the Schlecks over the last couple of years. They look strong as riders and seem to keep their nose clean. I have not heard any controversy surrounding the two.

Frank was valiant today. He stayed with Andy and Cadel Evans. Andy seemed to be in control. Evans never took the lead to pull the group along. He let the Schlecks do the work. Frank could not stay in the point position, but he kept jumping up there when he could. Andy did the work to pull the three up the mountains and didn’t even look like he was dying in the process. Though at the end he was spent.

Voeckler (the Yellow Jersey) had a great few minutes in the middle of today’s stage. He was in pain, but launched an attack that made him look deserving of the jersey. Unfortunately that did not last long and he lost quite a bit of time.

I am pleased to see Andy Schleck in the yellow jersey for the final two stages (assuming he keeps his lead tomorrow). I won’t be able to watch Sunday’s final stage, but if he is wearing it after tomorrow’s time trial, then he will cross the line as the winner on Sunday.

Slow Bikes Are Not Good For Cold Weather

The last couple of months I have been enjoying the use of a friend’s bike. It is what we call an English bike in Argentina. In Europe it is what I think they refer to as a Dutch bike. Either way, I call it a Granny bike. It is slow, but very comfortable to ride. I think of it as a luxury bike.

While all my friends are enjoying the warm weather in the northern hemisphere, we are getting really cold down here in the south. This last week we have had several nights that plunged beneath freezing.

Riding a bike fast in cold weather can freeze a person. The wind chill while riding at 16 MPH can cut to the bones. However, I am not typically riding that fast when I casually ride my bike to the train station or to the grocery store. In those cases the slow granny bike keeps me outside in the cold weather longer. I think it is time to give my friend her granny bike back and I will ride my commuter for all my needs for the rest of the winter.

At what speed does the wind chill become a big issue? If it is 35 degrees and you are dressed warm enough, is it better to ride fast and deal with the wind chill, but get to your destination twice as quickly? Or, is it better to ride slow, not have a wind chill issue but stay out in the cold longer?

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