- By Vin Cox
10th April. 74 miles cycled.
I pressed the panic button at lunch: Asked the team how to get out of Sumatra fast… Not that Sumatra isn’t great, no; very friendly people, beautiful landscape etc. Just such hard going!
Many punctures today on road very very broken or not there in places. Sometimes it had been washed away, other times it was never fully there to start.
Plan now to go for Kota Padang 230 miles away south. Ferry or fly from there to Java.
Today saw: Chocolate trees, rubber trees, bananas, coconut palms, pineapple, rice paddies (so many terraces), Dorian, chillies, and peanuts.
Took 1 mile off total due to search for hotel. Also disbelieve cat-eye today as I saw it go mad when I was slogging away super-slow (<4mph). Garmin okayish – just thinks I’ve stopped when under very thick tree canopy.
74mi @ 10.9mph
“The panic button” was my terminology for phoning home and asking my family to see if Guinness World Records would sanction my using a port other than the one registered in the plan to leave Sumatra. The pendulum had swung too far from speed to adventure, and if I kept going like this I might miss the record. I did find myself thinking “if only I had an MTB and less time pressure, this would be paradise”. I had to return to Sumatra, but for now I had to find a way to limit my losses. Approval from Guinness WR would take a while to get, and I’d still have to reach a port, so the rugged adventure riding would continue.
A loaded touring bike with tyres fit for the road is simply not fit for mud and gravel tracks. My shoes, with their carbon fibre soles and large plastic cleat were also not suitable for hiking with the bike. It did all remind me of my cyclo-cross and mountain bike racing days – but the Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross was never anywhere near this hot! I was barely a hundred miles from the equator.
I really enjoyed passing through the villages and small-holdings where people were working their strip of land between road and jungle. Chickens would dash for cover and farmers would wave their machetes at me as I waved hello to them – it could have been threatening, but I convinced myself they were just returning my greeting gesture. Children in Sumatra would usually recognise me as a westerner and shout “Hello Mister!”, except in one village where they’d been taught wrong and all shouted “Hello Miss!”.That was my diary from precisely four years ago. I’m writing up each day on it’s fourth anniversary as a motivation to get this long overdue task done. These days I’m to be found spending my working days at a brewery, my leisure time cycling, and my family time with my wife and baby daughter. I hope this entertains, informs, or motivates you.
- By Vin Cox
My hand written diary is quite short for day 2, so I’ve added my reflections and hindsight as a post script. First the basics:
8th Feb: 119.6 miles
Coffee stop at Koksijde, 21 miles: Cold, sleet, headwind.
Finish 8pm. 119.6mi @ 13.4mph: Snow & rain & wind. Miserable in every way, so pleased to achieve okay mileage. Shorter route than planned (to be sure of making the Marseille ferry deadline) – have to make up those lost miles somewhere warm.
It was a dull dark grey day, with the wind blowing slushy iced water into my clothes and permeating my consciousness with it’s mood. Flanders (the region of France and Belgium) on this day was a land of miserable mist and mud without a horizon.
Visiting Koksijde was supposed to be a moral boost for me; an iconic and familiar place from cyclo-cross racing. But I stopped for coffee there and seriously contemplated failure because the headwind and conditions were making me so slow. Over that coffee I realised that I should respond to circumstances; turn south straight away rather than head for the Netherlands. It would turn out to be a great decision, but it felt like defeat there and then. The coffee also eased my tiredness, which was probably part of my low morale too.
I tried to draw strength from remembering that a hundred years ago this was the land the First World War was fought on. Our recent ancestors faced days like these and much worse, and if they tried to quit they were shot by their own side. In all honesty this little mental game of remembrance only made me feel worse; now I was a coward too… Then I stopped at a war grave site at the roadside. I had a cry. Eventually I was crying for the memory and respect of the lost generation rather than self-pity. I was stronger, if not happier, for the experience.
Facing some demons early in the challenge benefited me. Getting through it, and making acceptable progress on a bad day became part of my character. I determined to “persist in persisting” and “keep on keeping on” among other mantras rattling around my weary mind.
- By Vin Cox
There is an argument around disc brakes. Cyclo-cross is the current battle field, but the stakes are high because the industry is just warming up for the big sell to the road scene.
There are some quite rational reasons to resist this development. If you’re happy with your regular braking performance, you’d be crazy to mess with it; particularly when a change of braking systems means replacing not only brakes, but also wheels, frame and maybe even gear shifters.
The industry see the chance to get excited about something new and sell not only the brakes, but whole bikes AND make your garage full of spares incompatible.
Some people assum
e I’m a disc brake fanatic. Certainly I was an advocate for the rule change which allowed discs to be used in races – really that was just resisting pointless rules though. I do have a long experience with ‘road’ discs: Shimano used my 2010 Guinness World Record in some publicity for discs, and I was winning domestic UK ‘cross races on a disc braked custom Ti bike back in 2006. My reasons for going disc weren’t performance though…
This is a step-change. To go with it means selling your old kit and starting again, expensively, and discarding hard learned knowledge and experience with the existing technology. So why would you? What is the advantage? Well, there are some, but not massive ones. It’s a case of the old ‘aggregation of marginal gains’.
- Consistent brake performance in different conditions.
- Your wheel rims won’t wear out.
- Rims could be made lighter, or of any material.
- Brakes still run smooth on wobbly wheels.
- Improved modulation and power.
- No brake gunk on your tyres or hands when fixing a puncture.
- Less grit and water ingress into cables.
- Reduced clogging in cyclo-cross. (This benefit has been overstated by some)
There are technical down-sides to the new brakes. Heat build-up causing total failures on road descents is a serious fear (which has happened, but only to a very few strange people with non-mass-production equipment). Other issues include:
- Poor aerodynamic performance.
- Wheels having to be built differently.
- A weight penalty.
- They are ugly – to some eyes.
- Technical unfamiliarity.
- And the stuff I said before about making all your existing kit obsolete.
Some people have been saying discs will rub more, or be slow getting wheels in and out. I’ve not found that to be the case. In fact it’s been the reverse – there’s an advantage of not having to fiddle with your brakes when removing or inserting a wheel. There is also a good point that you shouldn’t want consistent braking if your tyres will not be giving you consistent grip.
So why did I swap to discs, and should my reasoning affect you? Eight years ago I thought ‘like it or not the move to discs will come’. Deciding the change was inevitable made it obvious I should not buy any more non-disc ready equipment. My old bikes and wheels would live out their lives while disc technology developed and occasionally joined my fleet. Seven years ago I got a new ‘cross bike with dual mounts and started racing with discs. So the only real thing I saw wrong with rim brakes was them becoming obsolete.
Do you want to try and keep rim brakes alive or get on with cycling on new brakes?