Tag Archive | "bike"

Travels with Larry Olmsted: The Swiss Army Knife Of Road Bikes

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For almost any type of cyclist, the BMC GranFondo GF01 is a great choice.

For almost any type of cyclist, the BMC GranFondo GF01 is a great choice.

If you want a new bike this spring, look no further than the versatile BMC GranFondo GF01.

I got a chance to road test this bike this year for several months and hundreds of miles, and it is the real deal. Most importantly, it is a great fit for all kinds of riders: from hard charging racers to leisurely touring to charity endurance events, on dirt roads or pavement. There are lots of high quality road bicycles on the market from many manufacturers, but I don’t know of another model that does so many things so well.

Read more …

 

larry Award-winning travel journalist Larry Olmsted is a Contributing Editor to US Airways Magazine and Cigar Aficionado Magazine and “The Great Life” columnist for Forbes.com.

Backroads: Czech Republic & Austria Bike Tour

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Bike Quebec with Jules Older

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Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Bike the Charles River Bike Path

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Biking along the Charles River in Boston

Biking along the Charles River in Boston

Boston takes its biking very seriously. When I lived in Cambridge, there were four bike shops within a three-block radius of my apartment. Just on Mass Avenue, I saw bikers with suits going to work, bikers with backpacks heading to school, and crazed riders who just seemed to enjoy weaving in and out of the car traffic. Needless to say, road biking is more than just a sport in this town, it’s a mode of travel. The 17.1-mile Charles River Bike Path runs from the Museum of Science along the Boston side of the Charles through the Esplanade to Watertown Square. The trail then crosses the river to the Cambridge side on its way back to the Museum of Science. Be on the lookout for Harvard, MIT, and BU crew teams that make their way up and down the Charles. Yet, it’s that iconic image of a single sculler slicing through the water, backed by the red-brick bridges and white steeples rising from the Harvard campus that locals and out-of-towners alike find so alluring. It’s like a waterbug skimming the placid surface of a pond, a tranquil setting in the midst of the urban buzz.

 

steve   Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for OutsideMen’s JournalHealth, andSierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at  Active Travels.

The Interview: Tour d’Afrique

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Meltdown Madness in Africa with Tour D'Afrique

Meltdown Madness in Africa with Tour D’Afrique

By Everett Potter

When I hear the words “bike tour,’ I usually think of a week of cycling in Provence, Vermont or Napa Valley. I picture relatively easy riding, incredible scenery and great food and wine, neatly packaged into a six-night trip by an adventure travel company.

What the words “bike tour” don’t conjure in my imagination is a four month trek from Cairo to Capetown or a 2,700 mile ride from Paris to Istanbul. These are rides where your mind and body are tested and where strenuous riding is often the rule, as are deep cultural encounters you’re unlikely to have on a six-day pedal.

The company that offers such extraordinary adventure experiences is Tour d’Afrique and I learned about them from a guy named Shanny Hill, whom I met at the Adventure Travel World Summit in Lucerne, Switzerland last October.

Shanny is the Project manager for the Toronto-based company and we recently had a chance to speak about the groundbreaking trips that his company offers.

 

Shanny Hill of Tour D'Afrique in Ethiopia

Shanny Hill of Tour d’Afrique in Ethiopia

EP: How did Tour d’Afrique Ltd begin?

SH: Tour d’Afrique Ltd was conceived in the late 1980’s when Henry Gold, the company’s Founder and Director, was managing an international NGO that delivered humanitarian assistance to disadvantaged communities in Ethiopia and other African countries. His original concept was to produce inexpensive, rugged mountain bikes in Africa, for Africans, as a low cost solution to local transportation needs, and to market this new bicycle by organizing a cycling race across the continent – the Tour d’Afrique.

While the mountain bike project did not take off, the pioneering vision of the Tour d’Afrique proved irresistible. In early 2002 Henry and Michael de Jong began the preparations in earnest, undaunted by enormous skepticism and the mountain of logistical challenges to be overcome, and, on January 15, 2003, thirty-three cyclists saddled up at the Pyramids at Giza and started pedaling south. Four months later, with Table Mountain and Cape Town in sight, they celebrated the realization of their dream and the establishment of the Guinness World Record for the fastest human powered crossing of Africa.

Since then our unique little company has grown, in leaps and bounds, through many trials and tribulations. The Tour d’Afrique has been recognized as the world’s longest and most challenging stage race. Following in its spirit, several more continental and sub-continental cycling expeditions have been undertaken,

All told more than 800 intrepid souls have now completed one of our epic trans-continental rides. Through our Foundation, and the donations of many of our clients, more than 2000 bicycles have been distributed to health care and community development workers in Africa and India.

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The Orient Express Cycling Expedition, from Paris to istanbul, with Tour D’Afrique

 

EP: Give us an example of some of your trips and their length.

SH: Here are three of our upcoming trips. The North America Epic is just as it sounds – an epic cycling ride across all of our great continent from Anchorage to Mexico City. The intrepid cyclists from all across the globe will cycle 7,000 miles through Canada and the USA, and then along stunning Baja Peninsula before returning to mainland Mexico to cycle the final leg into Mexico City. This epic journey under human power takes 4 months and gets underway in Anchorage on Independence Day.

The Orient Express Cycling Expedition follows in the spirit of the luxury train line that once crossed Europe from Paris to Istanbul. But this is no luxury tour of Europe. We will be pedaling our way through each day and each town – covering 60 miles each day and staying in campsites and 2 and 3 star hotels to rest our heads in some of Europe’s hotspots – like Ulm, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. This 2,700 miles journey takes 6 weeks during July and August. We arrive in Istanbul on August 25 after a ferry ride down the Bosphorus Strait. We take advantage of Europe’s rich history, wonderful cycling routes, explore its great cities, and its fabulous countryside scenery, at a pace much slower than the Orient Express trains of the past.

Our inaugural Bamboo Road Cycling Expedition will become the mother tour of South East Asia. This truly trans-continental trip will take participants from the metropolis of Shanghai, thru southern China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and then ending in the city-state of Singapore. For several years now, SE Asia has been a popular destination for cycling tourists, and we want to offer a grand tour that can encompass a great deal of the region in one tour.

EP: Who’s going on these trips, how many riders, what are their ages, and how experienced are they as riders?

SH: The people who are participating in our tours are from all walks of life it seems. From nuclear physicists, to truck drivers, and teachers, they have many varied professions. Though we typically have 60 to 70 % males on our tours, we are increasingly seeing more and more women participating and more and more nationals from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, and the USA. We have also had Brazilians, Egyptians, South Africans, Taiwanese, and many other nationals from emerging markets.

The skill level and experience of our participants is also quite varied. We have serious racers, and fit seniors, to first time cycle tourists who come on our tour and treat it as their own weigh loss program. Participants are as young as 18 and have been as old as 71. We do our best to accommodate all that wish to participate with staffing, cooks, and support vehicles working to create a framework built to give them the best chance at completing each day’s ride.

Chow times on the North American Epic, Tour D'Afrique

Chow times on the North American Epic, Tour d’Afrique

EP: How about accommodations and meals?

SH: Most of our tours are a mixture of camping and simple hotels. Our new tour of South East Asia, along with a few others, are all hotel or indoor accommodation. We choose simple and practical hotels when staying indoors. While camping in some of our more remote locations in Africa and Asia, we do some rough camping where our support trucks, and the water and supplies they carry are all that we have to sustain us for the night.

We do not compromise on is food. We have used trained chefs on many of our tours, because we know the importance of a tasty and nutritious meals at the end of a long day of cycling. You don’t ever want to have a hungry cyclists on a tour.

 

EP: Are there guides along for the entire ride or do I need to be proficient in map reading and another language or two?

SH: We have tour support staff that help create a framework of support. The style of our tours means that we also expect the participants to be involved in the process and involved in making the tour a success. This can mean that the participants will be using maps at times to double check the directions given by the tour leader, helping the chef chop vegetables to prepare for dinner, or helping others in the group with their bags perhaps. The idea is that on an expedition of this nature, its necessary that staff and clients work together as a team.

With that said, we do provide a great deal of staff support – with most of our longer expeditions having a full time medic, chef, bike mechanic, drivers, and tour leader.

EP: What sort of training regimen is required for these rides?

SH: We send out training tips to our registered riders. The most common thing that interrupts riding on tour is soreness. Sore knees, sore backs, sore butts…. The best way to combat this is to ride regularly in the run up to the tour. At a minimum we suggest you start some dedicated training 3 months before the tour starts.

Riding at least three times a week for a minimum of two hours each time. This could be in the form of cross training or bike rides at a steady pace. This will get you to the tour start with a base of fitness and well adjusted to your bike.

 

EP: You’ve got five levels of difficulty –easy, moderate, average, challenging and hard. How hard is “hard?”

SH: Good question. Hard can be very hard.

If I think back to my toughest days on one of our tours, it would be in Northern Kenya – part of the ‘Meltdown Madness‘ section that is rated as hard. Picture yourself riding in the rocky desolate landscape of the Dida Galgalu desert for 60 to 70 miles in 100 degree heat with no shade over a terribly rutted road. Now picture doing that for 5 days straight.

The truth is that this section described here has actually recently been paved and we may soon drop the rating down a notch to ‘difficult’

There are other examples I could come up with, but the truth about these ‘hard’ sections is they are often the most memorable, and people who at the start of a tour were struggling through the easiest of stages, find themselves stronger and more determined and ready to face these hard stages halfway through the journey.

We also have many sections with much lower difficulty rating, and so the ratings scale is definitely worth checking out.

 

North American Epic, Tour D'Afrique

North American Epic, Tour d’Afrique

 

EP: Tell me more about the North American Epic.

SH: The North American Epic was redesigned for 2013 to become a truly unique and truly trans-continental tour. In 2011 it was an west to east tour – from San Francisco to St. John’s, Newfoundland. This was a good route, but not quite exotic enough for our taste, and not truly a crossing of all of the North American continent.

Now with the new route from Anchorage to Mexico City, participants can see a line on a map stretching all the way across our continent. With many other tours being offered across the US or Canada from West to East, this tour give people a chance to cover the continent North to South.

Interestingly, those that have already signed up to participate are not North Americans, but people from all across the globe that want to come here and experience these places from the seat of their bicycle. They are from Norway, Britain, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa to name a few.

All the tour dates, details, and prices can be found here: http://tourdafrique.com/tour-overview/?t=north-american-epic

EP: Can you do parts of the North American Epic, if you do don’t have time for the entire journey?

SH:  Of course. All our expeditions are split into 2 and 3 week segments to allow people to be part of the experience while not committing to the long time require to complete the whole expeditions. The North American Epic is split into 8 tantalizing sections. With names like ‘Land of the Midnight Sun‘ and ‘Alaska Highway’ and ‘Canyonlands‘ interested cyclists are sure to find a section that suits their interests and timeframe.

We have had some people do a section at a time and eventually completing one of our trans-continental tours over the course of several years.

 

Tour d'Afrique riders in India

Tour d’Afrique riders in India

 

EP: Any new trips planned for Tour d’Afrique?

SH: Yes, we always have new projects in the works. The Bamboo Road Cycling Tour described earlier is one, and in 2014 we will start where that tour left off and launch the Trans-Oceania from Singapore to Sydney, Australia – crossing the outback and cycling through Adelaide, Melbourne on our way to the big finish at the Opera house in Sydney.

And, with the completion of this tour, we will have completed all the tours we needed to be able to offer the 7 Epics Challenge – a global cycling challenge for the truly crazy cyclists. A series of 7 supported cycling epics that touch every corner of the globe.

 

Visit Tour D’Afrique for more info

 

3 Adventure Travel Companies You (Probably) Haven’t Heard About

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Vagabond, Ireland

Vagabond, Ireland

One of the best things about attending the Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS)  every year is that I get to meet people who run small adventure travel companies from all over the globe.

Now wait, this is not as absurd as it sounds. If you live in the United States, as I do, and you’re interested in adventure travel, you probably know about Backroads, Butterfield & Robinson, Duvine, Ciclismo Classico and The Wayfarers. And maybe O.A.R.S., Mountain Travel Sobek and R.O.W.

These are all estimable companies. But I’m talking about small companies that may operate in one region or even a single country. Run by locals who have top notch operations and can offer you a terrific trip at a terrific price. They not only speak the local dialect, they may well have grown up there. And they can provide you with an insider’s view of the countryside no matter what sport you’re attempting.

At last October’s ATWS in Lucerne, Switzerland, I met and spoke with dozens of such operators. Here are three that I thought were standouts:

walkoxalis

Oxalis Adventures

I love Japan and I have always wanted to see more of the countryside on foot. Enter Oxalis Adventures., an English company with one foot in Japan (so to speak) that offers such walking tours. Their signature trip is the “Nakasendo Trail,” which is four days of walking on a 12 day trip that covers Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara. But for fitter types, they can take you off the beaten path on the “Kumano Ancient Trail,” a nine day trip with five days of moderate to strenuous walking on the sacred KiiPeninsula. The trip is priced from 2,145 UK pounds, (about $3,354) http://www.oxalis-adventures.com/

vagabond

Vagabond

Vagabond offers small group adventure tours of Ireland. This is a world away from the “tour” of Ireland that your parents or grandparents did, the classic mad dash in a bus from Donegal to Waterford with time for tea in Dublin in between. Using specially designed Land Rivers, Vagabond does tours like the six day “The Edge of the World,” which visits the Dingle, Beara and Iveragh (Ring of Kerry) peninsulas, with hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and sea kayaking (additional charges for some of these activities). The price is E1039 (about $1,411).  They also offer a variety of other tours, including an eight day “Wild Irish Rover” tour that covers the southwest and west of Ireland and a seven day “North by Northwest” tour of the country. For those with limited vacation days – i.e. most Americans – the shorter tours are a godsend. http://vagabondtoursofireland.ie/vagabond/

 

burma-adventure

SpiceRoads Cycle Tours

This company’s motto is “See Asia by Bicycle” and this strikes me as a great idea. “Riding Regal Rajasthan’ is a 12-day trip through one of India’s most colorful areas while “Cycling Sikkim’s Tea Trails” is a rugged trip for those who really want to explore one of Asia’s most remote countries. But no destination in Asia is hotter right now than Burma, so I’m intrigued by their “Burma Adventure,” a  14-day trip that goes to Bagan, Mandalay, and the shores of InleLake. Priced at $3,550, it would be an amazing way to see this extraordinary Asian kingdom up close.

http://www.spiceroads.com/

 

Active Travels: By Bike Through Stanley Park, Vancouver

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Biking in Stanley Park, Vancouver

By Steve Jermanok

This past month, I had the good fortune to bike along the Lake Michigan waterfront in Chicago, alongside the Charles River in Boston and Cambridge, by the shores of the Bow River in Calgary, and around Stanley Park in Vancouver. I loved that all of these scenic rides were on bike trails, not having to worry about car traffic. Sure, I savor pastoral rides on the backcountry roads of Vermont, cruising on two wheels through the rainforest of Costa Rica, or biking past the coffee plantations on the Big Island of Hawaii. But I also enjoy riding in cities. The chance to pedal over the Brooklyn Bridge, with views of the Statue of Liberty in the background. Or heading north towards Navy Pier with the majestic Chicago skyline creating the perfect panorama It’s hard not to be impressed.

The 9 km ride around the Seawall of Stanley Park can be done in less than an hour. Yet, by the time you stop at the world-class aquarium, see the selection of totem poles, and dine on sablefish (a tender and rich Northwestern whitefish) at the classic Teahouse for lunch, the day is over. Riding under towering Douglas firs and along the rocky shoreline, you’ll also stop numerous times to take pictures of the bay. On my last ride around Stanley Park two weeks ago, we spent a good chunk of time being entertained by the sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium. Less than 15 minutes later, we were watching river otters in the wild dining on crabs along the Seawall. Another unexpected find in a city of unexpected finds, the reason why I return to Vancouver as often as I can.

 

Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life.His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World, due out late 2010.He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.

Active Travels: Bike Chicago

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Steve Jermanok and Fran Leavitt bike in Chicago

 

By Steve Jermanok

Last week, I had the chance to catch up with renowned Chicago biker, Fran Leavitt. Fran has taken at least one international bike trip a year for the past 20 years. These include jaunts on the Garden Route to Capetown, South Africa, on the winding backcountry roads that lead to the chateaus of Loire Valley, France, and along the Moselle River on a barge trip in Germany. Yet, it’s the maze of paved pathways in and around Chicago she knows best. For a stunning introduction to the city skyline, she first took me south on the Chicago Lakefront Bike Path. Starting at Navy Pier, we passed the flowing waters of Buckingham Fountain, the Shedd Aquarium, and Soldier’s Field, home to the Chicago Bears. However, it’s the jaw-dropping vista of the skyscrapers on our return trip that had me reaching for my camera. Next up was a trip she does every Saturday during the summer with her main squeeze, Saul. Starting from the Old Orchard street parking lot, we headed north through the Forest Preserve past lagoons filled with kayakers, eventually reaching the Chicago Botanic Garden. Talk about the perfect place to stop for bikers! The grounds were overflowing with flowers in bloom, you can dine al fresco on freshly made salads and sandwiches, and then fill up your water bottle with both ice and cool water. For my next warm-weather outing to Chicago, Saul wants to take me on the Fox River Trail, another one of his favorite bike paths. Staring at a Chicago bike map, where trails lead off in every direction like the spokes of a bike, the choices seem limitless.

 

Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World, due out late 2010. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.

Active Travels: Bike the Cape Cod Rail Trail

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Bike the Cape Cod Trail

 

By Steve Jermanok

The small strip of pavement forms a straight line into the horizon like an express route to freedom. Astride my bike, I zip over bridges and through tunnels, past large ponds, salt marshes and cranberry bogs, all while breathing in the sweet smell of spring wildflowers and the far more potent brine of the sea. The hum of traffic is gone, replaced by the call of the red-winged blackbird and the yellow warbler. The only obstacles before me are runners, clumsy rollerbladers and other leisurely bikers. In the Cape Cod town of Orleans, I hop off my bike for a few minutes and take that quintessential New England snapshot of fishing boats bobbing in the harbor. Soon after, I’m in the shade of Nickerson State Park, pedaling straight through Brewster to a series of swimming holes that reward bikers with a refreshing dip.

Such is a ride on the 25-mile long Cape Cod Rail Trail on a corridor that, until 1937, was used to ship cranberries the Cape to Boston aboard the Old Colony Railroad. Today, the relatively level rail trail is a placid retreat that has quickly become one of the most popular destinations in the Northeast for biking, hiking, strolling, jogging and in-line skating.

Like so many of these paths proliferating across the US—from the 225-mile Katy Trail that stretches across most of Missouri to the 61-mile Illinois Prairie Path that snakes through the heart of Chicago’s suburbs—the Cape Cod Rail Trail was for many decades an abandoned railroad line. Far away from maddening congestion on city streets and the noise of rural highways, rail trails are beloved by outdoor enthusiasts and a focal point of renewal across the country. From 1965 to 1985, only 1,000 miles of trail were opened. Today, there are currently more than 15,000 miles of rail trails open across the country.

The Cape Cod Rail Trail takes you through the interior of the Cape from South Dennis to Wellfleet, or vice-versa. The salty air is a pleasant reminder that the Cape Cod National Seashore and its 40-mile stretch of pounding Atlantic surf is never far away. At the visitors’ center in Eastham, you can veer off the CCRT for two miles on a separate trail to lounge on the dunes of Coast Guard Beach. Continue on to Brewster to cool off in a series of kettle ponds (swimming holes). Nearby, a favorite picnic spot, the Pleasant Lake General Store in Harwich, was once a popular stop on the Old Colony Railroad Line.

 

Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World, due out late 2010. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.

Active Travels: Bike Manhattan

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Bike Manhattan this weekend.

By Steve Jermanok

One of my favorite outings last spring was a ride around the perimeter of Manhattan with my 14-year old son and close friends. There’s no better way to see the city than to slow down and bike along the Hudson, East, and Harlem Rivers under historic bridges with the Statue of Liberty peering down at you in the distance. Most of the island is now lined with bike trails, far away from the honking of taxis. One of the best sections of the ride is amidst Hudson River Park, heading south to Battery Park. Across the street from Hudson River Park in the far West Village is The Jane, an affordable hotel where rooms start at a low $99 a night. This spring, the hotel will offer complimentary bikes to guests, so you can cruise Manhattan on two wheels. Or simply take a stroll on the nearby High Line, once an elevated railway, now a walking corridor nestled with trees and gardens that stands 30-feet above street level. Grab a sandwich at Chelsea Market and you have the perfect picnic spot for lunch.

 

Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World, due out late 2010. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.

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