The bike formerly known as 'The Black Beagle!'
Updated: Oct 20, 2017
The Regal Beagle, my amigo, steed, stallion, pack horse, companion, my facilitator and friend, we’ve chalked up 2,500 miles - the official, un-official distance (having lost many days of data), in reality, I think we must be near on 3,000 miles, 8 countries and counting, and I CERTAINLY couldn’t have done it without you.
It may’ve taken us a CONSIDERABLE amount of time, to go, not such a considerable amount of distance, but, to say we only met a few months ago! OK, 6, but I still think thats a pretty good knock for a couple of novices with no experience or clue!
Thats maybe a little unfair on the Regal Beagle (The Light Blue - Darwin), although it is yet to circumnavigated the globe (hopefully under my own supervision!!!) it certainly does boast an impressive pedigree, designed and produced in the UK and with over 120 years of history behind it, where do I even begin to tell you a little about this incredible journey and the beast thats carried me along it?!?!?
I guess the start is probably about as good a place as any!!! I still intend on writing a little about my first few days on the steed, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but, to say the first time I rode the bike fully laden, was the day I left my family home in Norwich, on day one of this grand voyage, probably says a lot about myself, none of which I imagine would be good.
Not only was it the first time I’d ridden my bike fully laden, it was the first time I’d ridden ANY bike fully laden, so this really did take some getting used to.
However, when you got the bike rolling it handled like a dream, but, as a result of my ridiculous amount of gear (I’ll elaborate on a couple of my more comedy “luxury items” a little later in this blog!), the bike was rather top heavy, which meant manoeuvring at low speeds did, to begin with at least, come with a degree of difficulty,
and once or twice, stopping to take photo's may've resulted in a slow-motion, albeit unstoppable crash, although, I hold the pilot rather than the machinery responsible for this.
As it is now, I am a dab hand at slow speeds and manoeuvring through busy streets and even markets - although this is probably not to be advised.
For a non tour cyclist, this may come as a strange comment, but, I actually now struggle, or at least have a fair degree of uncertainty when on the rear occasion, I ride the steed unladen, it actually boggles my mind! Having done so may miles under weight, it really throws me how heightened and responsive the handling becomes and although I can go quick underweight, the power and torque of the bike unladen amazes me, far quicker than any car off the lights.
In comparison to my imagined, twitchy responsiveness un-laden, when I have the beast “properly” up and rolling, it is so smooth and other than the tire/tarmac noise, next to silent, it absolute swallows up the road and completely dampens the ride. With the reynolds steel frame dealing with anything thats thrown at it, all in all, making the beast an incredibly smooth ride.
Even though I started this ride on the worlds heaviest bike, it was and remains incredibly easy and a pleasure to get the beast rolling, thanks to the incredible Rohloff rear hub, which the guys at The Light Blue, ever so kindly packed me off with.
This thing is absolute mustard, hard as nails, smooth as silk and more complicated than the love child of the Crystal Maze and the Krypton Factor!!!
It’s the perfect accompaniment and partner for this bike, in-fact I cannot imagine the bike, nor the ride without it.
Initially, I was a little reluctant with the prospect of such a complicated piece of equipment, solely for the fact that if something happens to it or it goes wrong in a remote area, the likelihood of someone being able to fix it, is lower than the likelihood of me getting the Guinness World Record for the around-the-world-bike-attempt (Mark Beaumont - 78 days, 14hours and 14 minutes - MADNESS!!!).
However, having now put some 3000 miles through it, I have EVERY confidence in it, likewise the bike!
As a complete and utter novice when it comes to cycling, I really had little to no knowledge of anything to do with the bike, nor the set up. Don’t get me wrong I’d done some research and reading before we spec’d out the bike, but, research and reading is nothing compared to years of knowledge and experience, therefore I was happy to be guided by the guys at The Light Blue.
It was fantastic and reassuring to have the support of such a knowledgeable group, yet, you’re still putting 100% trust into a device which in reality, you have no knowledge of, so the first days, weeks, or even months, was really a case of testing and experimenting with the beast.
Everything from how the panniers were packed, their positioning, what went where, how I had the breaks set up (after some youtubing), where was the best position for the tent, even down to seat positioning and height.
All the things that most people probably would’ve learnt whilst training for such an arduous challenge, evidently though, no one thought to tell me!!!
As it was and more through coincidence and chance than it was planning and organisation, my trip began in the Netherlands, the cycling capitol of the world and what a twist of luck that was.
I think I cycled up hill twice and both times it was a small bridge over a motorway, apart from that, the place is flat as a pancake, it has the most incredible cycling surfaces, cycle specific roads and if not, separate lanes. The cyclist ALWAYS has right of way and in an accident, the driver is ALWAYS held responsible, making the Netherlands about the safest place in the world you can cycle. In fact, I actually stopped wearing my helmet throughout the Netherlands! This came as a result of seeing a young girl riding her scooter with her family, she couldn’t have been more than about 3 years old and was
wearing a very nice, bright little helmut, not too dissimilar to mine. In that moment I realised this tiny wee girl was the first person I’d seen wearing a helmet in two weeks of riding, after this I slowly and subtly removed my helmut, hoping that no one would notice!
Despite how incredible the Netherlands is for cycling, it does have one draw back and something I was warned of before the trip, but downplayed, saying “you can’t claim that a country has one type of weather!!!” I thought that was a little naive and narrow minded, in retrospect, you can, its windy there, ALWAYS! Furthermore, I think there were but two occasions, not even days, two occasions, when I didn’t have a head wind! It didn’t matter what direction you turn its continuously gunning for you!
In Germany, I was rather amused by how the looks I was receiving, had changed from that of the Dutch, where almost everyone looked at me with an air of intrigue or fascination! In Germany, these looks had shifted to suspicion! “I don’t know this strange looking man, whats he doing in this area?!?!?!?!”
Although, based on my appearance you couldn’t really fault them!!! Don’t get me wrong, I received incredible hospitality and kindness throughout Germany and really fell in love with the people and the country, its just they all appeared suspicious of me.
Likewise, I love the polarising affect my noble steed and myself have upon the cycling fraternity, some absolutely love the prospect of what you’re doing, without so much as a word spoken. But, then there’s the other side of the coin and the “professional” cyclists, who don’t so much as look in your direction, let alone nod or acknowledge you!
I think they either feel threatened by us or, like I may bring the sport into disrepute with my scraggily beard, cowboy hat, climbing shoes, salt ridden shirt and spandex shorts - you probably couldn’t blame them!
Sadly, its not all been plane sailing, smooth roads and straight A to B’s! and where would the fun be if it had? You can’t have the sweet without the sour, nor enjoy the exhileration of the downhill, without first putting in the graft through the uphill.
I’m not a negative person, faaaar from, but I have had to deal with some god awful roads, terrible terrain, horrendous drivers, continuous arduous uphills, losing sat-nav signal, getting lost, getting lost in gypsy encampments (not to be advised!!!) and all but having to stop and swim into cities on account of the torrential rain and the bike has chewed it all up!
Its also chewed up other riders, leaving many, even road bikes in its wake, I can actually be quite a competitive person and I often wonder what motivates me when I’m on the steed and certainly having a competitive nature helps, so, when somebody cycles passed me, I make it my mission to try and at least catch them up!
It’s funny, some road bikes purposefully cycle passed you as quick as they can, often slowing up after a couple of 100m’s, whereas, I just keep on churning away. When I catch up with these guys and I often do, you can see the sheer shock and disbelief on their faces when this fully laden tourer comes rearing up behind them.
This happened in Lyon at the end of a days ride and at the top of a fair sized hill, where a road cyclist stopped for a breather and a drink of water, having passed me maybe 5 or 10 minutes earlier, you could physically see and hear his disbelief/shock/amusement, when I re-overtook him only moments after he’d stopped.
I put this down to the gearing on the bike, I don’t know enough technical detailing to tell you about the gear ratio’s, all I do know is that together we’ve gone bloomin quickly down hill, I’ve been able to maintain a solid cruising speed of 20 miles an hour or so on the flat and I’ve had enough in the low range, that I can even summit some of Switzerland's mountain passes, fully laden, TWICE!!! In-fact, summiting two separate mountain passes, twice - a story for another time!
In 5 incredible months of riding, through 8 beautiful countries, the only issue I’ve encountered with the steed is a number of broken spokes, when I say a number, its quite a large number, however, again I put this down to pilot error!!!
I mentioned early about a couple of my more comedy/luxury items, well, as essential items for a cycle tour go, I think a flair bottle (practice cocktail bottle) and a solid metal harmonica neck brace, probably aren’t too high on too many other peoples lists - not this guy!
I basically left the UK, with more items than you can shake a stick at!!!
“Ew, maybe I’ll need this!”
“This, this will definitely come in handy”
I’m sure you could quite easily put this down to a lack of training and I certainly do!
For maybe a 1000 miles, I’d not had a single issue, other than having to get the beast up the occasional hill, however, having summited one of these occasional hills on my way from the Nurburgring in Germany, I was rewarded with a downhill section, wanting to enjoy this section, test my skills as a pilot, as well as the bike itself, I set about descending this terribly bumpy/rocky terrain and clearly I did so too quickly. Evidently and obviously, breaking two spokes in the process, which in itself wasn’t a massive issue, and with the stupidity of what I’d done - to be expected!!!
The real issue arose when I realised/remembered that stupidly I was yet to buy any spares, I didn't so much as have a spoke key at the time and had to ride at least 40 miles before finding a cycle shop, the next day, at which stage the gentleman pointed out I’d actually broken three spokes, not two.
3 spokes of 32 is a significant amount and following this, despite how many cycle shops I’d go to and I went to a LOT, across multiple countries, in order to have spokes replaced, the wheel was just buggered and as hard as you may try, there was nowt that could be done, it was sadly beyond saving!!! RIP Wheely McBackwheel!!!
Which is why, I have been in Barcelona the last week or so and why I was so pleased when THIS…… Beautiful work of art was delivered to me!
I have a brand spanking new wheel, fitted with a beautiful 36 spoke rohloff hub, all of which are faaar to clean and tidy for my liking and I am extremely excited to get back onto the beast and test out the new limbs on route to Portugal!!
Where will I end up tomorrow and where will I be staying tomorrow night? Who knows!?!?! All part of the adventure, I’m just hoping its not Barcelona, again!!! and what a ridiculously fortunate position I’m in to make such an outlandish comment!!! I LOVE this city and LOVE my life, so to The Light Blue, ISON Distribution, HT Components, Halo Wheels, Ortlieb Panniers, Vango Tents, Litelok, Lifepower, Glenbrae, Swagger and Jacks, Tarp Hats and EVERYONE who has supported and or/helped me whilst on this ride, a MASSIVE THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, without you guys I wouldn’t be here now and it means the world to me!!!
Likewise, to everyone who reads, comments, likes and/or shares my posts (I’m talking to you here mother!) thank you sooo much, your support is incredible and really helps to motivate me when times are tough!
Remember, I am embarking on this ridiculous challenge, with the aim of an even GREATER challenge, to help set up a self-sustaining sports charity in rural Cambodia, if you want to support this fantastic cause please follow this link!!! Remember that none of these pennies come to me, this trip is 100% self-funded, 100% of all donations made will be going directly to establishing this charity and god knows I need everyones help to hit my staggering target of £150,000!!!
Anyways and as always, muchos gracias mi amigos, muchos luv & Peace Out!!!! XXX