The Lighter Side of Bicycle Touring and Cycling. Touring Lighter and Less Encumbered ~ I hope you enjoy and visit often. Please send any links, pictures or ideas you would like to share to

Dear Granny (Gear)

May 27, 2014 10 comments

Dear Granny,

Of all my gears, you’re my favoritest one. We’ve been spending a lot of quality time together lately and I’ve enjoyed your companionship. While all those hammer-heads with their fancy-smancy compact doubles go flying by us on the mountain, I just smile and say, “I’m spending time with my Granny”. And when we do finally reach the top and they’re blowing snot bubbles and can hardly speak I say “Come on boys; no time to rest!” Old girl you’ve seen me to the top of some pretty hairy climbs and in all kinds of nasty weather. You’ve never let me down, and for that I’m grateful.

Your beloved rider, The Velo Hobo

Categories: Stupid Bike Tricks

Tip of the Day: Throw Up a Friendly Hand

May 20, 2014 12 comments

No I’m not suggesting eating then regurgitating Edgar Friendly’s hand. I’m saying wave; the universal hand gesture for howdy neighbor. I share my commute with logging trucks and wood chip trucks. Despite there being a four-lane highway running parallel to and in sight of my commuting road, these massive trucks stick to this scenic back road. I understand why; they are trying to avoid a ticket for their overweight loads.

Bike commuting with logging trucks is our equivalent to swimming with sharks. If you’re not alert you’ll get bit, maybe eaten. Lately I’ve made an effort to build a relationship with these gruff burly men by throwing up a friendly hand. As if to say, “Hey neighbor, I’m the guy that was sitting next to you in the pub Saturday night and in church Sunday morning” or “Hey neighbor, didn’t we go to high school together?”

I think it’s working. They are starting to wave back and I’m beginning to recognize the same faces day after day. They’re beginning to cut me a little slack and don’t seem to be as impatient. And why not? The trucks may be monsters, but the drivers are just hard working guys trying to provide for their families. Humans are very social creatures and we’re all looking to make connections.

Thanks for reading The Velo Hobo!

Categories: Bike Commuting

Guest Writer: James Moss ~ Cycle Far

Check out more of James’ adventures at!

“I’ve been living in New Zealand for the last 18 months following a cycle tour from England. I didn’t cycle all of the way but rode a comfortable selection of about 25 countries along with my partner Ellie. Ellie had recently spent 6 months in New Zealand but for me it was the first time.

The initial introduction was very unfortunate. Upon arriving at Auckland International Airport our bikes were stopped and searched. We were found carrying a small container of methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) that we used to fuel our Trangia cooking stove and fined NZD 500! Had it been a bottle of Vodka (a perfectly adequate fuel substitute for our Trangia) in a delicate glass bottle with a leaky lid we would have been fine, but denatured undrinkable alcohol in a super durable plastic container with safety lid is in violation of the aviation safety laws.

Delayed by hours of arguing and messing about with manual credit card payments we finally arrived on New Zealand soil in the middle of the night. We cycled out of the city late into the night until we came to our first suitable wild camp site and with very little conversation we set up our tent by torchlight and quickly fell asleep.

Because we pitched the tent in the dark I had no idea what vista lay outside the tent that morning. Groggy from mild sleep deprivation I caught glimpses of the early morning sunlight hitting the top of the tent and gradually creeping down the sides illuminating the inside. You can’t ignore the day night cycle when camping, there’s no option other but to conform. It was clearly going to be a bright and sunny day, the air was fresh and cool and reluctantly I felt myself waking.

I unzipped my tent and gazed in astonishment. We were up on a hill in a field looking out over a maze of small rugged hills, verdant gullies and farmland.

The view from the tent on the first morning in New Zealand (800x600)

A quick look at the map indicated that to get to New Plymouth, Taranaki we just needed to head South. Over the next five days we passed small mountain ranges, black sand beaches, valleys with fast flowing rivers and eventually arrived at the foot of Mt. Taranaki, a perfectly symmetrical and charismatic volcano that watches over the peaceful coastal towns that surround it, one of which is New Plymouth, my home.” James~

The black volcanic sand around Taranaki is very iconic. Curiously, it's also magnetic due to having a high iron content (800x600)

Mt. Taranaki as seen from New Plymouth (800x474)

Categories: Featured Riders

Featured Rider: James of

April 16, 2014 2 comments

The bike touring community is a small one; there’s not many of us out there. Within that small number is a subculture of ultralight enthusiasts obsessed with the challenge of touring with lighter and lighter kits. James is the author of a wonderful website on the topic of touring and ultralight travel (actually puts The Velo Hobo to shame).   James has also written an e-book on the subject. Check out CycleFar, subscribe to be updated on new posts and buy the book. I think you’ll be as pleased as I am to find such a wealth of information on this obscure topic of Ultralight Bike Touring!

Children Learn Country Flags in Zadar, Croatia (800x600)

“My name is James and I’m the Author of

Though I love to cycle tour, and recently I have been captivated by ultralight touring, I’m an advocate of cycling culture in general.

 James and Ellie in Turkey (800x600)

From CycleFar

“I’m passionate about cycling for transport, utility and touring. I secretly enjoy cycling’s subversive potential to make people happy and challenge the value system of society.”

I often tour with my partner Ellie (see pics) we love to cycle pretty hard, tackle hills but then enjoy relaxing with coffee and food, lots of rest and plenty of sightseeing. We currently live in New Zealand after cycling part way here from England where we commute 100% (we don’t own a car) and like to grow our own food and live simple.


Over the Alps, painful expression (800x600)

Takign a break in Austria (800x611)

Categories: Featured Riders

Researching Rumble Strips: Riders Needed

February 23, 2014 6 comments

The bane of my existence and yours too I’m guessing, is rumble strips.  Rumble strips are those evil divots carved at great expense into road shoulders in an attempt to hinder sleepy or texty drivers from careening off into eternity.  They are also great at flipping cyclists over handlebars, jarring dental work loose and generally wreaking havoc on bicycles and bicyclers.

So here’s an opportunity to participate in a study to develop safer strips to rumble over.  In March volunteer riders, my wife and I included, will spend a few hours riding over an assortment of rumble strips and giving feedback to the researchers.  A shuttle will ferry us for our downhill runs.  This sounds like a great way for cyclists to add their voice to the development and application of rumble strips.

The project is being conducted by the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at NC State University.  It’s being held in Almond, NC on a beautiful stretch of highway 28.  If you are anywhere near the area you should plan to come for a visit and participate in the study.  There’s a lot of great hiking and biking opportunities in the area; so make a mini-vacation of it.

To learn more and to sign up, contact Sarah O’Brien at .  I hope to see you there!

Categories: Road Bike The Smokies

Real Writing with Real Paper and Real Ink

January 18, 2014 7 comments

So the new year is here and my resolution to write 52 letters this year is off to a great start.  I sent off three so far, one to Hendrik in Finland (Hiking in Finland), one to my sister in Virginia and one to my boss thanking him for my bonus.  But now I need your help.  The United States Postal Service is insisting I put an address on each envelope, as if a stamp were not enough.

If you’d like to receive a hand written letter the way it was done ‘back in the day’, please send me your address via .  It would be helpful to put something like ‘send me a letter’ in the title.  You’d not believe the amount of email The Velo Hobo gets; mostly trying to sell me Viagra and hair plugs (who have they been talking to?).

Thanks, Jack


Categories: Going off topic

Another Dam Ride Report: Fontana Dam

January 14, 2014 8 comments

fontana dam panorama

In the mid-1930s Congress decided to share the miracle of electricity to the savage hillbillies of Western North Carolina (e.g., my family).  To do this they dammed-up and tamed the last of the wild free-flowing rivers and built a series of peaceful and picturesque concrete hydroelectric dams.  After completing the dams and seeing that the hillbillies no longer needed electricity because their homes were submerged under 150 feet of frigid mountain water, the government decided to send the electricity across the state line into Tennessee and give it to an aluminum company to make beer cans.  They also sent some to Nashville to fuel America’s most important industry, country music, because you can’t drink beer without country music.  Although homeless, the hillbillies were happy because now they had lakes to play in and they had learned a new word, corporatocracy.  It was what aluminum company executives called a win-win situation.

raquel at dam

Anywho, what we are left with today are some pretty nice lakes and some scenic road riding around said lakes.  One of my favorite road rides here in the Smokies is an absolutely beautiful stretch of road from the foot of Fontana Dam, slicing its way between the lake and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park till it reaches the tip of the Dragon’s Tail.  By Dragon’s Tail, I’m speaking of ‘The Tail of the Dragon’, a famous and dangerous twisty-turny road (318 turns in 11 miles) where motorcyclists and sports car-er-ists come to challenge their skill and bravery.  The trees along this road are festively decorated with car, motorcycle and body parts.  Despite being so close to the Dragon, this mountain lane sees little traffic and is relatively flat considering it’s skirting the GSMNP.  Not to say there isn’t any climbing, there’s plenty from the Twenty Mile ranger station up to Deals Gap.  Enough to kindle a small fire in your thighs, but a series of switch-backs makes the climb manageable for most riders.

jack & raquel

This ride is about 22 miles round trip.  For extra credit (24 miles round trip) start and end on top of the dam, but be careful.  The steep road winding snakishly (yes, I do like to make up my own words; why do you ask?) from the top of the dam to the foot of the dam is just about as dangerous as it gets.  For extra-extra credit do a loop around Yellow Creek and experience the steepest paved road in North Carolina – see my Yellow Creek ride post.

raquel by lake

jack at sign

Categories: Day Tripping

Why I don’t like people on Facebook.

January 14, 2014 2 comments

Just a quick note to all 36 of my Facebook friends who like me a lot but who I don’t like back.  It’s not that I don’t like you, it’s just that I don’t know how to like you.  I guess I’m saying that I just don’t know what it takes to like you.  God knows I’ve tried to like you, I just can’t.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I just find it impossible to like anyone but myself.

I think I must have opened a business Facebook account, or maybe I’ve set some setting where it shouldn’t have been set, or maybe I broke Facebook. 

Anyway, I’d like you if I could…it just ain’t happening.

The Velo Hobo

Categories: Going off topic

2013 in review

December 31, 2013 Leave a comment

The Velo Hobo stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 53,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 20 sold-out performances for that many people to see it. Once again, my post on Polk Salad is the most read thing I’ve ever written.  Really? Polk Salad? I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves the poisonous polk plant.  Here’s a link to learn more about this wild and wooly weed:   Eating Wild Things: Polk Salad

And follow this link to read 2013 stats: Click here to see the complete report.

Thanks for reading The Velo Hobo!  See ya in 2014.

Categories: Uncategorized

Featured Riders: Julie and Mark

December 15, 2013 2 comments

Julie and Mark, two cycling adventurers from England, sent this along to share with The Velo Hobo readers.  Read their epic experience along the TransAm on their Crazy Guy On A Bike journal.

“My husband and I cycled the Transam and some of the Pacific coast this year from April to Sept on a Hase Pino Tandem. The ride was a dream of ours which we worked hard to make happen. We didn’t want to wait until we retired to fulfill our dream as you never know what is around the corner. The tour was very challenging, especially on our bike of choice, but we have wonderful memories that will last as long as we live. We had to give up our jobs to do the ride which was kind of scary, but we have no regrets. The best thing about the ride was the people we met and the kindness we received. We learned a lot about touring on our tour, the main lesson we learnt is how much the weight you carry greatly affects your enjoyment of the ride. All future tours we will be going as lightweight as possible.”

 Here is a link to our journal:

Thanks Julie and Mark for the contribution.

Julie and Mark

Categories: Featured Riders

Featured Riders: Velo Hobos Passing Our Way

November 24, 2013 1 comment

These past few months we’ve been pretty active as WarmShowers hosts. No fewer than six bicycle explorers have taken shelter under our humble roof.  Brett pedaled south to our door from the Jersey shore with an outlandish claim to not know Snookie.  Following Brett were Kosta and Eric, two college friends reunioning together with a bike tour.  Hot on the heals of Kosta and Eric were two French Canadians, Normand and Dominique. These two very experienced tourists stayed two days with us and cooked us a wonderful meal before heading out.  Our last visitor was Kerri, who is taking some time to meander the world by bike.





If you’ve not considered becoming a WarmShowers host, give it a think.  You’ll meet some wonderful fellow bike tourists!

Categories: Featured Riders

Writers Blockhead

November 22, 2013 12 comments

With great reluctance I sit at the keyboard to pen this post.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing, I do; I love it.  But something has gotten in the way; blocking the creative juices and keeping me from doing the very thing that makes abnormal me feel normal.

What’s clogging the creativity conduit keeping all the weirdness locked inside?  It’s the keyboard, the computer, the whole internet thing.  And WordPress, Goddess bless their wretched souls, tweaking this and that as if it weren’t tedious enough to upload posts.

So with or without your permission, here’s my remedy.  My New Year’s resolution is to write 52 letters to 52 people in 52 weeks.  I’ll use real ink and real paper, and a real dictionary for spill chicking.  What a concept.  I’ll use real saliva to seal the envelopes and even though we haven’t needed to since the 80’s, I think I’ll lick the stamps too.  My audience will number one a week; family member, friend, bill collector, whoever.

So what will happen to The Velo Hobo?  I’ll post pictures of the wonderful travelers who take refuge in our home and maybe a few bike related photos of my own.  With no real pressure to be clever and witty, maybe I’ll post more.  Maybe not.

Thanks for putting up with me, and as always, thanks for reading The Velo Hobo.


Categories: Stupid Bike Tricks

7,000 Miles at 70 Years Old err Young!

August 21, 2013 4 comments


There’s a cool scene in the movie The Great Waldo Pepper where two barnstorming pilots pass each other in the sky and decide to land in a nearby pasture to have a chat; two kindred spirits just stopping to say hello.  Bike tourist can relate very well to this.  A person on a loaded bike isn’t a stranger, but another adventurer out adventuring.

On a long desolate stretch of sand-swept highway last  May, my wife and I spotted one of those familiar specks far off in the distance; the ones that seem to be wobbling in a loaded touring bike kind of way.  You know what I’m talking about.  That tiny speck grew and grew until it had become a full sized bike tourist.

Jack Day, to celebrate his 70th year, was out touring 7,000 miles.  Starting in Des Moines, Iowa he biked to Key West.  Then rode back along the Atlantic coastline heading for the Canadian border where he’ll meander his way back home.

Follow along with Jack on his facebook page:  and on Shutterfly:  .

Thanks for reading The Velo Hobo!


Categories: Featured Riders

Coastal Camping

August 20, 2013 9 comments

Bodie Island Camp

Camping on the Outer Banks of North Carolina can be a challenge.  A dispiriting wind blows here like no other place, picking up sand and blasting everything in its path with equal disdain.  In this treeless environment the wind plows through unchecked for miles searching out its next victim and cyclists are easy prey.  Imagine battling a horrendous headwind for forty miles, arriving at a coastal campground mentally and physically exhausted, then trying to pitch a tent while being pelted by sand.

Here are a few tips for pitching a tent in windy conditions. 

First, site location.  Try to pick a spot with some type of wind break.  This last trip out my wife and I were lucky enough to find tent sites just behind small sand dunes.  If you can’t find a naturally occurring wind break you may be able to make one by up-ending a picnic table on its side.

Tent selection is another consideration.  If you have the choice, go with a smaller tent.  When tents are strung taut with tent poles they become kites and smaller kites are easier to control.  We were using a Big Agnes Seed House 2; a small free-standing tent with a low aerodynamic profile.  It was a good choice, easy to pitch in the wind and never gave us any concern of blowing down in the middle of the night.

Tent positioning is as important as site location.  Obviously position the door away from the prevailing wind direction.  We witnessed several poorly positioned tents inflate and blow apart.  Don’t be shy about asking for help, or offering to help your tenting neighbor. 

Be careful with loose stuff sacks.  Loose everything for that matter; socks, underwear, maps are all fair game to rogue winds.

Lastly, anchor well.  If your tent comes with those skinny bent rod type stakes, consider changing them out for bladed stakes.  Rod stakes will never hold in the sand.  Bring extra line to tie the tent to a solid object, like a picnic table.  You can also make anchors by filling plastic shopping bags with sand and tying off to those.

Do you have any pointers for tenting in high winds?  Leave a comment.

Thanks for reading The Velo Hobo!

Double D and his Surly P

August 9, 2013 2 comments


Since I’m too lazy to blog anything lately…here’s a post from a reader. DoubleD sent pictures of his Surly Pacer…great job on the build!

“Here are a couple of pics of my Surly Pacer. My son (19) wanted to build up a bike so the Pacer frame was purchased.

Components are Shimano Sora, a good choice to me for dependability and good looks, my old Brooks Pro (Presoftened – it says so on the saddle!), Mavic Open Sport rims and Sora hubs. My son built the wheels and although it was a time consuming effort as it was his first ever build, the results have been good.
Bars are Nitto Randonneur and are too narrow for me. I have a Nitto Noodle bar that is two cm wider that will replace it.


Cassette (11-28) and chain are SRAM as recommended by my lbs being the cheaper but equivalent in quality to the Shimano I was going to buy. Seems to match up well.

I remained faithful to the Specialized Armadillo tires (700-28) as using them has caused my tube changing time to be increased from two minutes on the side of the road to something like 10-15 minutes, not including the snack afterwards. I’ve not had a flat but once in the 5 years I’ve used Armadillos. Love em.


The Pacer only has about 300 miles on it so far and I still have some tweaking to do (saddle movement, bar height, stem) but have already fallen in love with it. I love the Sparklboogie blue against the black components and the triple chainring (48/39/30) is fantastic. Most of the time I stay in the middle ring and spin. Oh joy!


I’m torn now as to which horse to ride – the Long Haul Trucker or the Pacer. I have found the perfect bikes for me.
Attached are a couple of pics. Not the best photos but I try.
You live in a beautiful part of the country. I envy you the hills to climb on your bike and the beautiful views seen from the top and the remote hiking trails.
Love your blog,

Categories: Gear
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