Posts tagged ‘bicycle’

The Great Climb. Tagalang La- 5330m, the world’s second ( some say) highest road.

Ode to a big hill – “Ahh Taglang La, you painful, frightening beast of a pass, Even now i can feel the pain you put through my legs and my head, but we beat you and it will always be one of the best things I ever do”.

On the climb up Taglang La

On the climb up Taglang La

Today was to turn out to be  not only one of the biggest challenges of the trip but of our lives. You could almost taste the trepidation as we broke camp and wandered over to the local 0.0005 star restaurant for the obligatory omlette and chipatti. Away by 7.30, we started at a slow pace but none of us could stop thinking about the enormity of the day ahead. Although the climb looked deceptively mundane on the map, when you think about it,  we had a 29 km climb, ascending through serious altitude nearly 1.2 km from 4200m up to 5330m. Even just thinking about those numbers still makes me shudder, but sitting here now supping a clod beer reminiscing, I can’t begin to tell you how proud i am to be able to say that we all did this beast of a climb unassisted, fully loaded and better than any of us thought possible.

The easy bit-

The first 5 km was relatively easy over a 200m climb,  but things started to get tough when we came across a sign saying ” You are only 24 km from the Tagalan La”. What a truly cruel sign. To not also tell us that it was to be another 8 hours of steep, steep, switchbacks with the last 15km on truly appalling gravel roads and landslides, was almost criminal. Add to that scorching heat, Tata trucks and army convoys. You know what- it really did turn out to be one of the greatest challenges and most satisfying days of my life.

The first 10 switchbacks-

As the switchbacks started, we all dropped into our own pace and it soon became apparent that the way to beat this monster was to go at your own pace, empty your mind of what was coming up and just start spinning the peddles for hour after hour. At times we managed to spread out over about a kilometre and that sometimes translates into two or three switchbacks, but by waiting for each other, drinking loads of water, occasionally looking back and using common sense we began to tick off the kms.

These were the easy ones

These were the easy ones

The hard bit-

No matter how hard we thought the first bit was, nothing could prepare us for what was coming next. Actually we were prepared a little bit by a  constant tide of cyclists coming the other way telling us just how crap the road was and how long we still had to go. Their departing cries of “good luck” and “your doing great” followed by a shake of the head and the “thank god i am not going that way” look really started to wear thin about 12 minutes  after lunch. Things really got hard when the road turned from passable blacktop, to bone jarring, teeth rattling, boulder sized gravel. Throw in more and more traffic, roadworks and roads turning to rivers from glaiciers melting and the afternoon became  quite interesting. Oh yeh and a landslide that held us up for about 45 mins we could ill afford to lose.

45 min Landslide - not today!!!!

45 min Landslide - not today!!!!

This might not seem like a problem but as the day wore on we were down to about 3 km an hour and getting back down to a reasonable altitude after climbing that far can be a life and death consideration. The shadows were sarting to get long and i couldnt  shake a growing sense of urgency as the pass seemed to be getting further away rather than closer. As we got into the last 3 kilometres it started to become real that we would make it over the top, but like xmas, you know it would come but it seemed to take for ever. It was astonishing to discover that after all that climbing the last 500 metres would be the toughest. Axle deep in black sand we had to dismount and push, but at last at 4.40 we finally reached the top to be greeted by a howling wind,  20 Royal Enfields and the realisation that we really couldnt stay long and needed to start the 20 km descent before it got dark.

We made it - Taglang La 5330m, What a feeling!

We made it - Taglang La 5330m, What a feeling!

The descent and the arrival of an Angel

As we started our descent the fatigue kicked in and in many ways the ride down was shaping up to be as challenging as the ride up. Ten minutes in though we had an almost crash worthy surprise when around the corner came Tashi from WWF on a motorbike. I can’t even tell you how happy we were and our joy turned to elation when he said he had food and hot tea in his bag. A boiled egg has never tasted so good.  I cant remember being as revitalised by anything so much as that brief 20 min break by the side of the road, with Tashi’s little stash of gold.

From then on it was all down hill ( in a good way) but with Tashi as a guide and the promise of a warm welcome and hot food ahead of us  with the WWF team, an unscheduled extra 15km’s in the dark seemed  a small price to pay. Little did we know just how great our time would be at Tso Kar.

More photos from the taming of the Taglang la beast


September 5, 2009 at 10:22 pm 4 comments

Interview with founder of Thorn cycles – World leader in Touring bicycles.

thornhomebuttonroll Here is a great interview I did with Robin Thorn, head of Thorn Cycles, the trusted brand that we will using on the Cycle for Change project. It’s a short one but we cover all sorts of topics including what you need to think about when you’re buying a touring bike. The benefits of steel vs aluminium, Rohloff hubs and some of the challenges that you might face when on a long cycling trip are all covered. Robin is an engaging , informative guy who was more than willing to pass on his knowledge and experience. So if you are thinking about doing a cycling adventure and are thinking what bike you might be buying for the first time or ugrading to, have a listen and make use of his years of experience.

Listen to the interview here

Read the transcript of the Robin Thorn interview

January 26, 2009 at 7:25 am 3 comments

Riding through Tokyo – video

Last Sunday saw the beginning of efforts to improve our fitness for the Cycle for Change project by mixing up our training with a bit of running. It seemed like a good idea at the time to go for a run around the Imperial Palace in Central Tokyo, so thats exactly what we did. Stayed of the booze the night before and got up early to beat the crowds and the threatening rain. Had to get there somehow so of we took the bikes and this is the video of our cycling trip into downtown Tokyo. For your veiwing pleasure we have cut down the original 25 mins to a more manageable two or three. If you have any riding around your town videos of your own, we would love to hear about them and maybe, just maybe, we might start a bit of video library of rides in cities from all over the world.
Anyway here’s our sunday ride through Tokyo, more to come soon. Enjoy!!!!

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January 19, 2009 at 6:46 am 1 comment

Get inspired by other touring cyclists

One of the things that really helps inspire us to keep preparing for this adventure when the times get a bit tough is the stories of others that are already out there on the road living their dream. There are loads of great blogs and websites of people riding to the far flung corners of the world, doing the most amazing things, with great stories before during and sometimes after their adventures that make you just want to jump on your bike tomorrow and get going.

Here are just a few of the sites that we regularly check in with, that keep the passion up when day to day life is getting us down and we need a bit of inspiration.

Great touring cycling sites in no particular order

January 6, 2009 at 3:48 pm Leave a comment

Cycling for training and fun around Mt. Fuji


Mt.Fuji here we come

One of the best things about getting ready for a great adventure like the Cycle for Change is it gives an excuse to get out and ride as possible. Christmas 2008 provided an extra little piece of festive joy when my brother ( who was in town for a few weeks ) and I went away to Lake Kawaguchi at the foot of Mt. Fuji.

Read on to learn about the ride

January 6, 2009 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

What it takes to prepare for a cycling adventure – Part two

Welcome back to this run down of some of the things we have discovered about organizing a major environmental project come cycling adventure. In the next few posts, I want to focus a little more on getting support for your project from people, organizations or companies that you don’t know. For many this is the most daunting part, and a few common questions come up straight away. Namely-  Who do I call?, Why would they talk to me? and What can I ask for?

Your doing what ?

You would be surprised by how interested people are in projects that they think are out of their realm of possibility. For us, I think the Himilayas hold a special place for most people and that has been a real door way to get people to talk to us. The first reply is usually – You What?  The Himilayas? Are you mad? but after they gather their breath, it usual that they are a little in awe of what you are doing and become very interested. It is also important to have a theme or special reason for what you are doing. Just asking for help or equipment to fund your own private adventure is going to make it that much harder.


December 21, 2008 at 4:14 pm Leave a comment

getting started-why is it so hard sometimes?

I am always asked “how do you do an adventure like the Cycle for Change?”. And in truth until I started this project I didn’t know and in many ways still don’t, but the learning curve has been huge and i hope to pass on what i have and continue to learn as this adventure progresses. (more…)

October 28, 2008 at 5:18 am 1 comment

Cycle for Change Project