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Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team

World Record breaking ride

By Kenny Stocker | 29, Mar, 2011

In February 2010 Vin Cox set off in search of adventure, in aid of charity, and in pursuit of a world record.

Within six months Vin had cycled 18,225.7 miles alone and entered the Guinness Book of Records. Although Vin used local accommodation where possible he did carry full bivvy gear. In this short Spotlight Vin shares some of his bivvy strategies and serves as a prelude to what you can expect to hear when Vin talks at the Assembly Rooms in Derby on the 23rd June.

Early in the evening, about 20miles from a town with a motel, I crested a rise and saw the horizon beyond illuminated in purple, blue, and flickering gold.  Dozens of bolts of lightning danced every second from sky to ground and between clouds across a huge area.  Looking back the clouds were circulating ominously and not looking any better for a retreat.  The eerily beautiful light suited the landscape of the "Bad Lands" of South Dakota.  Skidding to a halt and cursing in panic I instantly knew things were going to be very uncomfortable and dangerous for the night ahead.  It wasn't safe to be on a hill-top, I had to carry on down the next hill and find a place to camp - quickly.

Choosing a [usually illegal] road side camp site while cycle touring is actually quite easy once you are desperate and realise that few people will bother you even if they see you.  The key thing for a road-side-camp is not to camp too early in the evening or linger in the morning wherever you are.  I usually make some effort to be slightly hidden, but mainly I'm trying to avoid being somewhere which will flood, and I'm looking for ground without thorns and stones.  

My first camp on the around the world ride was in the Sahara Desert in Libya, near the oil town of Ra's Lanuf that the Libyans are fighting over these days.  There I found how important it is to not only carry super thin titanium pegs; you need something a bit fatter in soft sand!  In Britain I try to avoid gateways and fields which look like they my get a farmers early morning attention.  Wherever I am I make great effort to leave no mess what-so-ever.

Camping before it's totally dark avoids mistakes like I made in Queensland, Australia where I camped on a lovely piece of grass which would have been perfect except for a coving of barbed seeds from nearby bushes.  I'd already pitched when I realised this, so to avoid the effort of re-pitching and the danger of puncturing my mattress I just lay down without a camping mat.  When you're tired enough, lying on thorns is not a big problem.

Heading for that storm in the Bad Lands, I was looking for some extra features to a campsite:  Most important was to be safe from lightning, so I needed to be low down and with trees or high ground nearby.  My next priority was safety from wind, and I also wanted to be safe from flooding.  I didn't give a damn about much else, but I remembered to watch out for rattle snakes as I checked out a site.

Within minutes I had my bike and tent lashed to fence posts and was trying to secure camp for the gathering storm.  A stand of trees were close enough to attract the lightning but far enough away to not hit me if they fell down: Perfect!  A guy in a pick-up truck screeched to a halt and ran over:

"Tornados have hit the next town and there's a massive thunder cell coming this way - can I take ya outa here son?".

I told him thanks but no, I checked the tent again, and climbed in, tense and nervous.

It was a nasty night in the storm, and I had to get out and re-pitch the tent several times as the ground softened and the wind heaved on the pegs.  I lay on my back with legs and arms lifted and splayed against the walls to stabilise my little tent for hours.  Eventually, just before dawn, I fell asleep as the ferocity diminished.  Waking later in the morning to a beautiful day, I rode on, though not so strongly.

During my ride around the world I eventually came to joke that I only camped in the worst conditions.  That's because when all was good I could continue cycling late into the night until I reached somewhere with a comfy bed and food.  Only when I was in the most remote desert, or caught out in atrocious and worsening conditions did I need to get the tent out.  Thankfully I was equipped well enough to cope with these emergency camps.

Vin Cox.

Vin Cox's Great Bike Ride: Global Cycle Touring World Record
Join Vin in June when he comes to the Assembly Rooms in Derby.
Thu 23 Jun, 7.30pm Assembly Rooms – Darwin Suite, Derby
Tickets available now from the box office: 01332 255 800 or visit the Derby Live site.

Global Bicycle Race
Since Vin completed his world record breaking ride he is committed to organising a cycle race around the world. The race will start on the 18th February 2012 from London. For more info see the Global Bicycle Race website.

Equipment used by Vin on his world record breaking ride

Camping equipment:

  • Topeak Bikamper bivi tent.
  • Inflatable mattress.
  • Alpkit PipeDream 200 sleeping bag.
  • Water purification straw.
  • Alpkit titanium mug and spoon
  • I had a stove for some of the journey (first a jetboil, then a honey stove) but eventually posted it home and relied on cold food, motel coffee making facilities, and cafes.

Other kit (all held in small Alpkit Airlok drybags):

  • General tool, spares, and emergency pack featuring plenty of super glue and duck tape.
  • Medical kit with prescription antibiotics (handy for dysentery), sterile needle kit, pain relief, anti-inflammatories, suncream and bumcream.
  • GPS tracker.
  • 2 mobile phones.
  • 2 video cameras.
  • Dynamo powered charger.
  • A small info pack with contacts, exchange rates, and route plan for each country.
  • Multi-lingual business cards explaining what I was doing.
  • Passport.

Clothes:

  • Just what I stood up in plus...
  • Spare pair cycling shorts.
  • Rain wear.
  • Buff.
  • Thin down gilet.
  • Arm and leg warmers.
  • 1 set of thin leisure wear (shirt, shorts, silk underpants).

Bike:

  • Genesis Criox De Fer general purpose CX bike.
  • Shimano Alfine hub gear.
  • Brookes saddle.
  • USE suspension seatpost.
  • Tri-bars.
  • Topeak luggage and rack.
  • Google+

  bikepacking

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