Shake Down

Shake Down

It is a week since Olly and I went cycling around ‘the desert of Wales’ to put more of our kit through its paces ahead of the fast-approaching trip (T – 41 days).  We started and ended not far from the Elan Valley Visitor Centre and cycled around 140km all in all.  Two nights of wild camping, two solid hours of cycling off-road, constant drizzle and murderous midges taught us a lot, but didn’t dampen our spirits.  We tried our first pea fritters in a lay-by, ate Weetabix at the side of the road (there’s a theme emerging…), and cycled through a beautiful pine forest that smelt so, so good.

Lessons learned:
  • Always wear suncream (even if the sun hasn’t got his hat on and hasn’t come out to play).
  • Never leave your midge net at home (or else you too will have a halo of insanely itchy bites).
  • Always eat breakfast (and don’t expect to get very far very fast on a diet of only chocolate Hobnobs).
  • Don’t pitch up in the dark on unknown terrain (or else you’ll end up scraping sheep poop off your shoes in the morning).

 Kit tested and reviewed:
  • Ortlieb panniers (front and back roller classic, plus 35l dry bag): absolutely fantastic as expected and promised!
  • Carradice Originals Keswick Handlebar Bag: a classic style and big enough to store all sorts of essential bits and bobs (Buff, midge cream, tissues, phone, money, gloves, Click-Stand) and a packet of biscuits.
  • Click-Stand: such a useful addition to our bike kit that I first saw recommended on Instagram.  The stand folds away like a tent pole and is just placed under the frame and used with two brake ties.  Very efficient and saves needing to find a wall to prop the bike up against.
  • Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket (women’s): excellent waterproofing (but only third or fourth outing in real rain), but not very breathable, even with the sizeable pit-zips.  I love this jacket, especially the colour, but I do get very sweaty very quickly and then have to endure that sticky, waterproof coat experience.
  • Shimano SD5 Sandals: if it hadn’t already been done, Olly would write a love letter to these sandals and he proudly wears them with socks (pulled up almost to his knees).  
  • Keen Women’s Commuter IV Bike Sandal: I’m really enjoying these sandals: they’re comfortable and they’re a bit more covered and protected on the toe area than Olly’s Shimanos which, for me, having poor circulation, is excellent.  I think they’re pretty stylish for a cycling sandal too!
  • Icebreaker Women’s Racerback Sprite Bra: super comfortable and living up to its anti-odour promise.  I bought another one.
  • Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite: awesome, and so light!  We have since invested in a Therm-a-rest NeoAir pump as we were a little concerned about how much hot air we were putting in the mattresses and the long-term impact this may have.
  • Therm-a-rest Ultralite Pillowcase: does the job, but no replacement for a real pillow, obviously.  I do like a pillow.
  • Rab Women’s Ascent 700 sleeping bag + Rab Men’s Summit 800 sleeping bag: I absolutely love my sleeping bag and trust that it’s going to keep me safe throughout the trip!  Especially this weekend, I couldn’t wait to get in it.  After a good few months of researching and a few more procrastinating, we’re pleased with our choice of sleeping bags.
  • MSR Whisperlite Stove: we replaced a Whisperlite with a brand-spanking new Whisperlite a few days before the trip.  We’re still finding our way with it, and Olly has mentioned needing to borrow one of my loose bottom cake tins.  Tbc.
  • MSR Hubba Tour 2 Tent + Footprint groundsheet: a shadow of doubt hangs over the tent just now and Olly is in communication with MSR.  The groundsheet doesn’t seem to fit properly, it doesn’t seem to go up right and there are issues with water and damp, potentially our doing, but tbc.

We have not yet tried the Sea to Summit Pocket Trowel...