Shaking it down

It’s about 3 months until we set of for our Iron Curtain Trail cycle. We’ve done a number of long-ish cycles (about 500 miles) but have always stayed in hotels and hostels. The ICT will be much harder – over 4000 miles and camping most nights – so there’s a lot of preparation to do. So today I did my first shakedown-cycle (2 laps of Holyrood Park), to try to learn more about cycling a fully-laden bike, what and how to pack, etc.

Here’s the cyclometer-map, and here’s the GoPro video: 


  • Left rear pannier: tent nylon and pegs, sleeping bag and fleece liner
  • Right rear pannierTrangia camping stove and meths bottle, electronica (back-up iPhone & cable, USB battery, USB sticks), laptop and cable, 4 ready-meals, head-torch, sleep-phones, wallet, toothbrush and paste, shampoo, analgesic cream, rain-jacket
  • Left front pannier: 3 base layers, 2 buffs, 3 cycle jerseys, 2 fleece jumpers, 3 t-shirts, fleece hat, towel
  • Right front pannier: 4 pairs inner socks, 2 pairs outer socks, thick cycle-tights, medium cycle-tights, 2 pairs thin cycle-tights, 2 pairs of shorts, compressible travel pillow, light cargo trousers
  • Across top of rear panniers: sleeping mat and tent-poles
  • Frame-bag: keys and spare lights
  • Handlebars: iPhone, GoPro camera


  1. Too much volume and weight. The panniers were stuffed to the gunwales. Even though Elly will carry the stove, the tent or another equitable share of the camping kit, we’ll need room for more food, possibly more kit, and for expansion. (Tents and clothes don’t pack as small en route as they do at home.)Potential omissions: back-up iPhone, a lot of the clothing, travel pillow. (I can use a stuffsack and clothing.) There will be Ryan-family administrivia, most of which involves spreadsheet-wrangling, and that will be much easier on my MacBook Air than my iPad mini, and the extra weight is hardly noticeable.
  1. Top-heavy and imbalanced. Even though the sleeping mat and tent poles are very light, Lev felt as if he wanted to fall over. I’ll need to distribute the weight much more evenly, pack the heavier items lower in the panniers and find a way to pack the sleeping mat lower.
  2. Steering with front panniers is less nimble. I knew this anyway but it’s good to be reminded how much I was affected.
  3. Cold toes and fingers. Despite wearing warm inner socks, Sealskinz oversocks and insulated overshoes, my big toes got cold. Better insulation will be needed.My little and third fingers also felt cold at first. Then my hands got warm and sweaty, but it was too cold to go without gloves. I think layers of fleece gloves, and Goretex over-gloves might be the solution.
  4. Sweaty! I wore a cycling jersey, a thick base-layer, a teeshirt and my winter cycling jacket. On sheltered uphill stretches, I got very warm and sweaty. In other stretches, the wind blew through my clothes. So more wicking and better wind-proofing is desired.
  5. Slow and limited. I crawled on uphill stretches. Even allowing for stops at traffic-lights and to watch soap-box carties, I think I averaged about 8 miles an hour – and today was relatively calm and rain-free. I don’t think I could have done a third lap without dropping to Lev’s granny-gear.

In short, I need to pack better, dress better and cycle better, especially to cope with miles and miles of Scandinavian forest!


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