Sunday, 20 March 2011

It's partly about the bike

It's not about the bike (book title of Tour De France cyclist Lance Armstrong)
It's all about the bike (book title of cycling fanatic Robert Penn)

It's partly about the bike (blog title Deborah Brady)

'Now they call me The Breeze
I keep blowin' down the road'
(Lynyrd Skynyrd)

Everyone can remember their first bike ride. As you flung away the stabilisers, indignantly moaning that those childish supports were for babies and definitely not, for one as grown up as yourself, and with your parent's guiding hand gradually loosening its grip - off you pedalled. The liberating sense of freedom and independence overwhelmed you, as you sped towards the sunset, the wind whistling in your ears. This fleeting, momentous occasion soon ended though, as only yards further on you lay in a crumpled heap, having collided with the garden gate: your street credibility in shreds after having forgotten to slam on the brakes!

So, as an experienced cyclist of a certain age, it was somewhat humiliating as I wobbled down the road, shakily steering like a child trying to keep a teetering momentum on their first bike ride. I lurched and veered from one side of the road to the other, secretly wishing I had a pair of stabilisers and dreading the moment when I would have to turn around on my heavily laden bicycle and pedal back the short distance I had come. But eventually and cautiously, I made it home, feeling pleased with myself that I had passed the first real test: the pre journey rehearsal of cycling, fully loaded, for my round-the-world bike ride. I hadn't ridden a bike with this much weight and luggage for many years and had to familiarize myself with the different handling and balance needed when this much luggage is stacked up on the rear rack and it took a few heart-stopping attempts before I got used to it again.

But before the wheels touched tarmac, I had to get on the bike. A different approach is required with a mountain of baggage piled high and for some length of time, (and here, I am desperately trying to avoid typing that suggestive phrase which describes a manoeuvre to get one's lower limb up and across the bike frame), I hopped around on one leg with the other flailing around in mid air, waist high, trying to reach the pedal on the other side while slowly falling backwards. There was no point in cycling the world if I couldn't even get on the bike! I tried coming at it from every angle and after various, desperate attempts, at one stage, I was left bent over the saddle: my legs scissor-swinging from side to side, like a struggling gymnast trying to re mount the pommel horse. (not a pretty sight I can assure you). Eventually, and refusing to let this simple, two wheeled, machine defeat me, I found a technique.

This time, with the bike sideways on to me, I goose-stepped up to the bike, putting my left hand on the handlebars, while gripping the luggage at the back with my right, and in one continuous movement and about as gracefully as one of Les Dawson's Roly Poly ballerinas, I high-kicked into a Tiller Girl, Can-Can routine, stepped over the cross bar, twisted round to face front and lifted myself into the saddle. (those of you under the age of 25 won't have a clue who I have just been talking about!). But puffing with pride and the poison arrogance that makes you feel better than you actually are, I began to feel like a seasoned, cycling traveller and proudly, launched myself off down the road.

Before the wheels even turned, I was flat on my back, with both bike and 60lbs of luggage on top of me, pinned underneath the bike like an upturned beetle. And like Road Runner, the cartoon character, who after a mad dash, over runs the cliff edge and hangs, frozen in mid air, taking his last gulp, aware of the fate that awaits him: I, too, after only a few pedal strokes, and with my legs still rotating, started, to topple over in slow motion, swallowing hard as the ground came up to meet me. It was an inauspicious start for a round-the-world bike ride!

My equilibrium regained and having eventually mastered a more suitable technique for getting on and off, I turned my attention back to the bike. During my talks that I give to clubs and organisations all over the country, about my life as a national press photographer, I have often come across many cyclists in the audience. On hearing of my forthcoming adventure, they all want to know everything about the bike and have an abiding interest in all things technical. I also give a lot of talks to camera clubs, who are also keen to find out what equipment I will be taking with me. So, if you are not interested in bike bits or cameras, please skip this part and join me further on. For the cyclists and photographers amongst you, browse the list below:-


Hewitt Cheviot SE 725 steel frame tourer

Bike Components

Handlebars - TTT Morphe randonneur style width 42cc

Handlebar tape - Fizik black

Gear Levers - bar end Dura Ace B ends

Gears - 21

Rear and Front mech - Shimano Deore Convent. Long cage and LX Bottom swing

Brake levers - R400 STI ergo

Stem - ITM racing

Headset - m part comp spacer

Cassette - Shimano Deore 11-34

Chainset - Shimano Deore Hollotech 11/22/44 170mm

Chain - Scram PC 951 (9 speed chain)

Brakes - Shimano short arm cantilevers

Brake calipers - Shimano Road sti

Brake pads - Astec

Tyres - Continental Touring Plus 700 x 37

Spokes - Front 292mm Rear NDS 292mm, Rear DS 290mm

Wheels - Mavic hand made

Rims - DRC Silver

Valves - Presta

Bike stand - Esge

Rim tapes - Velox

Saddle - Brooks BS 17 Ladies black

Rear Rack - Blackburn

Water bottle cages - Specialized x 2

Hubs - front and rear - Deore

Bike Luggage

Ortlieb waterproof Classic Rear Panniers

Ortlieb waterproof sac x1

Ortlieb waterproof, small sailing roll top bag

Handlebar bag - Atura

And for those photographers out there.......

Camera: DSLR Nikon D 300

Lens: Tamron 18-270,mm

Filters: ND Grad and Polariser

Memory cards: Compact Flash - multi 4gbyte cards

Bits and Pieces: cleaning cloths, spare battery etc

Camera case: Lowpro small black

Tripod: portable mini Gorilla flexi tripod

Welcome back!

After experiencing the ignominy of my first attempts at getting on a loaded bike, and to help me get over my dismay that not all the world's topography is flat, I thought I would get the gear ratio changed while the bike was in for its service. Steve, the workshop manager at Mud Dock Cycleworks, changed it to 22/32/44 - its technical term being 'granny gears' - that translated just means it will help me get up the hills more easily!

Someone who has experience of riding up many mountains and hills is my good friend and fellow round-the-world cyclist, Astrid, who I've mentioned in an earlier blog. Astrid is cycling out with me for the first couple of weeks. We both leave from the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly, London and Astrid will cycle with me through Belgium and France and return home when we reach Paris. I am so pleased, as her knowledge, support and friendship has been tremendous and I am so glad she could find the time to share the first part of my trip with me. To find out more about her recent global adventure, please visit:

Well, after this blog, only one more to go before departure! As I am leaving on Sunday 1st May, my next posting will be out earlier than usual to give me time to top and tail my final preparations. When travelling, I intend to carry on with this blog, certainly once a month at least, so please do join me in following my adventures. My contact address for anyone wishing to e mail me while I am abroad is:

As soon as we arrive in Paris, another friend of mine will join me for a two day 'holiday' in mid May and after that I start my journey in earnest, where I cycle out, alone, for the first time, heading South East, towards Langres in France, to join my planned itinerary of following ancient roads and routes across the world: the theme of my trip focusing on the art and artists of each country I travel through. La vie en roads!

Copyright Deborah Brady 2011


( - and all photographs are Copyright Deborah Anne Brady 2011)

1 comment:

  1. Hi! Your D300 with lens on fits in the handlebar bag? Would you recommend the bike to a friend?