Posted by: Ian | October 24, 2010

Bikeless

It’s been four and a half days since my last ride, which was across London. On Wednesday evening Heidi and I flew to Cairo. The driver who picked us up from the airport told me that the population of Cairo is a fantastic 22 million. At the hotel I checked on Wikipedia, which gives a figure of under 7 million. My ten year old Lonely Planet guide to Egypt (which I mistakenly brought instead of the new one I have at home) splits the difference, giving a figure of 14-16 million for the population of the Greater Cairo area. Whatever the population, few of them appear to use a bike. In the two days we spent shuttling around from the Four Seasons to the Pyramids/Sphinx, the Museum and the airport I saw only one cyclist.

On Friday we flew to Sharm El Sheikh, where we are now. Since checking into this Four Seasons I haven’t seen any bikes at all.

Our primary purpose in coming here was to dive. This has been great and Heidi has obtained her PADI SCUBA Diver certificate, which in another two days on another trip we can convert to the standard PADI Open Water qualification. We’ve done a few floor exercises each day but not enough to offset the regular intake of resort food. Next week my potential loss of form from time off the bike will be compounded by the extra weight I’ve gained, when I’ll be hauling myself over the infamous hills of the Exmoor Beast.

During our break I’ve been reading about cycling and eating in The Hungry Cyclist, which was a present from Paula that gives an account of a cycling journey from Manhattan to Brazil “in search of the perfect meal”. It’s an entertaining read and I can recommend it but for a book about cycling, and one that presumably includes cyclists in its target demographic, there is a marked absence of info about the bike. At least in the first 200 pages, we don’t learn what make of bike he’s got, what gears he’s running, what rack and panniers he’s chosen or any of the many practical details that a lot of us can be expected to be curious about. We do learn that he got from NY to the left coast with only two punctures but we don’t learn what miracle tyres permitted this astonishing record (though he started to incur frequent punctures when he crossed into Mexico). Maybe the publisher advised the author that every cycle fact, like every Stephen Hawking equation, halved his readership. I think rather he’s simply and surprisingly uninterested in bikes. His preparation indicates that he drifted into the ride without a clear view of what it would be like to ride so far, and what level of fitness (or planning) would be needed. Despite being out of shape at the start, he actually managed to gain weight cycling across the States!

Reading the book only increases my desire to do more cycle travel, though it leaves me with no wish to follow his route or even ride in the USA. At the start of his account the author cites a fabulous-sounding cycling holiday that he had in France that inspired his longer journey, and it’s his French trip, covered, as I recall, in only a brief paragraph that sounds more appealing – though it would make a less entertaining read.

Ironically, while I’m bikelessly reading my bikeless bike book in bikeless Egypt a bike-shaped box from Van Nicholas awaits me in my study in Crickleaze, having arrived almost as soon as I left. I hope that it’s an Astraeus and that it’s my frame size (60 cm on this model) and that it has all of the right components, correctly assembled, and that none of them has broken in transit. If so, when I get back to Somerset on Friday evening I’ll put the cassette on the rear wheel that’s awaiting it in the garage, attach the chain, drop in the awaiting front wheel and try to match up the geometry to my Bespoke spec. If this goes well I’ll take it for a test spin on Saturday. If this goes well too I’ll ride it in the Beast on Sunday. If there are any problems along the way I’ll be on the Felt.

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  1. […] I returned home from Egypt and London to find my new Astraeus in a box in my study. As I wrote last time, my optimistic plan was to take it for a test ride on Saturday and give it a proper baptism in the […]


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