Check out more of James’ adventures at CycleFar.com!
“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.
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~ CycleFar.com
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!
“My name is James and I’m the Author of cyclefar.com
Though I love to cycle tour, and recently I have been captivated by ultralight touring, I’m an advocate of cycling culture in general.
“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.
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.
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!
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.
Thanks for reading The Velo Hobo!
World-wide-wanderer Egor dropped by to rest his blistered feet and seek refuge from a snowed under Appalachian Trail. Originally from St. Petersburg Russia, Egor is more of a citizen of planet Earth than any one nation and has explored extensively around the globe. Most recently he was touring by bike from Miami to the west coast when his knee blew out in Texas. Egor related waking up in his tent unable to walk. Eventually he was able to push himself along on his bike till he found shelter with a Warm Showers host. Doctors told him he needed a $25,000 operation (welcome to America!). Unable to pay, doctors gave him some magic pills and told him to rest. After a few weeks of rest and American-Magic-Medicine, Egor decided thru-hiking the AT would be better for his knee than bicycle touring (ahem).
About eighty miles into the trail, the unpredictable snow storm we get the first week of every March here in the mountains of North Carolina dumped over a foot of snow on the Appalachian Trail. Faced with freezing to death on some un-named mountain top, Egor decided visiting The Velo Hobo was the lesser of two evils and hitch-hiked to what passes around here as civilization. Following a couple of nights sleeping indoors, Egor hit the trail again. We wish him well as he hikes north into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and beyond.
Thanks for reading The Velo Hobo!
Dutch Ultralight bike tourist and sports medicine professional Eelco dropped by to do a few days of hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and (of course) to visit yours truly. Eelco is an avid ultra-distance and Ultralight cyclist in The Netherlands. He came to America last week for a business meeting in Atlanta and decided to extend his trip for a short bike tour to the Smokies. He rented a Trek 2.1 in Roswell (just outside of Atlanta) and cycled his way up through the pretend mountains of North Georgia and into the ‘oh so real’ mountains of North Carolina. In true Ultralight fashion, he is carrying his kit in a small backpack. Eelco is an ultra-distance cyclist in The Netherlands and is quite accustomed to pushing the envelope of riding extreme distances with the barest of essentials. After a few days of hiking in the park with my wife Raquel, Eelco headed back to Atlanta to catch a flight home.
Traveling with Eelco was Joppie, or as he has become known in America, Jake. Jake is a refugee from class 6c of primary school De Leerlingst Haelen (The Netherlands). Jake and Eelco decided to split up here in the Smokies citing “artistic differences”. The tension between the two was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Jake pulled me aside the first night he was here and asked if he could stay for a week then travel with us on our Outer Banks tour. He said the whole trouble started before leaving Europe. Jake had decided the two should cross the Atlantic by stowing away on a cargo ship, but Eelco insisted on flying. Once in Atlanta, Eelco insisted the two would cut costs by renting only one bike. Quite naturally, Jake was very insistent he have his own bike. Eelco would have nothing of it and Jake finally relented. Riding double on a single seated bike caused Jake more embarrassment than he could handle.
By early Saturday morning the two were no longer on speaking terms and neither made eye contact. But oddly enough as Eelco turned the corner of our driveway and disappeared from sight Jake broke down. He was inconsolable. Tears and snot poured from Jake as he began telling us of all the good times he and Eelco had enjoyed; the sunsets, the camp fires, the long conversations about philosophy, religion and women. “You never really know what you have till it’s gone”, cried Jake. He spent the next day crying, eating ice-cream and listening to country and western love ballads. We will try to get him back on the open road as soon as possible to break this miserable funk.