I wake up at 6AM, go to work, get back home somewhere between 3 and 6PM, researching maps, fiddle with bikes, order stuff, sleep. Repeat. Groundhog days like these pass by for the last 10 months of living in Rybnik, Poland – a spell broken on just a few occasions to hike, cycle or visit family and friends on weekends. Late November we bring bikes to Warsaw for modifications and get them back some weeks later. Bikeless winter that drags on endlessly.
“Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today.”
It’s been a busy time also bike wise. Finaly the sixth issue of Bunyan Velo saw sunlight and inside Mark Sirek’s article “Location Sensors” accompanied by my pictures from travels around Poland. Please consider supporting Lucas and his efforts to propel BV’s future by donating or orderingdonating or ordering your PDF copy
Big things happened on the Polish cycling scene with the premiere of the first paperback issue of PNT Magazine that happened on the 22nd of April in Katowice. It’s a beautifully crafted piece of art on high grade paper with some wonderful stories by wonderful people and stunning pictures. I was fortunate enough to be part of the issue writing about my travels to Ukraine. The man behind all this Bartosz has some great plans for the magazine so keep your eyes peeled. Meanwhile you can order your copy at PNT HQ, it’s worth it even if you don’t speak a word Polish. Think Bunyan Velo but on paper.
It’s also been a busy time for Saska as her story accompanied by my pictures from our travels around Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo got featured in the printed version of Slovenian SOKOL magazine.
Also an article about Saska has been released Velenjan “Nas Cas” weekly. “Popotnica brez obstanka” – “Traveler without limits”
End of April all this crushes down into a cluster of one shot days. Last week at work, last day in office. Pack things, quit flat, move out 300km back home, unpack. All condensed in just a few days of rushed turmoil. In this organized confusion I chunk all my bicycle bags into the trash bin in Rybnik, something I notice only two days later… Back to Rybnik! Call the Landlord and ask him to go dumpster diving for me… and he does, finding the bags at the very bottom of the bin. Thanks Adam! Hope the whisky was worth it. One day lost for preparation, seven to go.
Everything is in boxes. Bikes need attention, clothing needs careful segregation. I spend 3 days locked in the garage taking the bikes apart and checking for every screw and bearing. Manitou Tower and Rock Shox Reba Suspension forks find their way back onto our frames and Velocity Blunt 35 Maxxis Ardent / Schwalbe Hans Dampf wheels get setup tubeless with some Stan’s tape and sealant – a quick and painless procedure with the help of some compressed air. End of a 29+ rigid era that lasted close to a year.
At the last second I make the decision to equip Saska’s front wheel with a 180 mm rotor as she had been complaining about not having enough stopping power in her BB7’s. The package comes on Thursday and it contains… a 1200 Watt charger. One quick phone call and a visit to the post office later the charger is on its way back. Rotor arrives next day. Nearly too late, but just in time. Hail the 21st century!
Forks get some extra bottle cages mounted via hose clamps which, although more ghetto in appearance, have proven to be a lot less hassle than zip-ties. I get 4 cages, out of which two shall be in constant use, while Saska gets two – for the sake of having a lighter bike. This might get changed shall the need arise for more capacity. I drill my Reba crown to accept a dynamo light mount just to find out that it won’t clear the arch at full compression. Mistake sponsored by being careless and too used to Manitou forks where the arch is at the back of the fork. I’ll probably find a way to chuck a bottle cage in there somewhere… or a smiley face. Meanwhile I get into contact with Krzysiek to organize a handlebar mount in Warsaw as there is not enough time left to order online and wait for shipping.
Last missing item arrives on Friday. It’s a custom saddle bag made by Pawel from BikePack. We discussed on several occasions making a bigger bag for longer tours. Larger in volume and with Molle webbing to strap things on top as I have been less than happy with the small loops on my old Revelate bag for carrying a tent. It’s a spacious bag that can carry my laptop, most of spare cloths, waterproofs and tent ground sheet with room to spare. Strapped to the top with Voile ski straps I carry our Big Agnes Fly Creek Ul3 tent stored in a 5 liter dry bag. Voile straps are a much better solution than those made of webbing as they don’t have the tendency to clog with mud and are much easier to operate. By now Revelate Designs has adopted the same solution with their Washboard strap, but Voile offerings are cheaper and readily available in Europe. Also strapped to the top of the saddlebag is an old Brooks tool bag that was laying around in the house.
One thing I always missed on longer travels was having an instrument with me and so I contacted Grzegorz who already added bottle cage and rack mounts to our frames and asked if he could build a rack specific to a tiny Cordoba Mini guitar. Over the top, unnecessary, heavy’ish and … totally cool. The guitar is protected from elements by a Sea To Summit Big River tapered drybag which fits as if it was custom made. Some spare clothes provide additional padding. It’s a man-guitar symbiosis. The guitar provides me with additional storage space and entertainment and I care for her protecting with my own fleece sweater, hauling uphill and giving bumpy single track rides. This might be the only single track riding guitar in the world.
Saska rides her usual rig consisting of a modified Surly Krampus and stock Revelate Designs bags. Her carrying capacity is extended by adding a 5 liter dry bag on top of saddlebag, this holds her sleeping mattress and rain gear. Saska’s bike can carry up to 6.5 liters of water. Two liters on the fork, two liters in the down tube mounted Klean Kanteen bottle and two liters in the seat stay bottle cages. This can be extended to approximately 9 liters with the collapsible Platypus bottle.
We make an effort of keeping the frame bags empty for food supplies, although my carrying capacity is a bit reduced by carrying tools, spares and 200 ml of Stan’s sealant. I’d wish that my framebag came with a bigger taper, I need space for them bananas.
My bike weighted with all gear, no supplies comes in at 32 kg, Saska’s roughly 28 kg. Heavy by bikepacking standards, but still light when considered they are packed with gear for Scotland and Iceland. It’s a knife edge balance between stupid-light and just-enough. Time will tell on which side of the blade we are. Still the bikes can handle some moderate singletrack and it should only get better as we get stronger with time.
Yet the most important piece of gear in my ensemble is the Zissou beanie, handcrafted by Saska out of merino wool. Not only does it keep my head warm on cold days but it makes me an official member of Team Zissou, I just have to come up with a good position within their ranks. Anyone?
On Monday we prepare late into the night and go to sleep at 3:30 AM, just to wake up two hours later and head for Piotrkow where we catch a train to Warsaw. Only when the door shuts solid behind us I feel a wave of relaxation entering my body. Now we just need to keep those wheels turning. We say bye to Poland. It’s all downhill from here.