Time Flies!

Gosh time goes quickly when trying to work enough to save money, plan for a major trip and have a life! I just noticed the countdown timer on my front page reads 139 days, and there is still so much left to do!

The planning, though, is coming on well. I pretty much know my route through Europe, the Middle East to Israel, and through India. I’ve also been buying lots of equipment and my trailer has arrived. More details on specific equipment in the next post.

Trailer

After much deliberation, and many discussions with Nick from Carry Freedom, I’ve ordered my trailer. It’s based on a Y-Frame Small, and has a Zarges K470 lockable shipping box on it. The tyres are Big Apples, and it has stainless steel axles and much stronger hitch where it connects to the bike.

I’m pretty excited, and can’t wait until it arrives! I’ll post a full update on it once I’ve got it and taken it for a few rides.

Schedule for Europe

So, I’ve pretty much finished my route down to the Middle East, and know approximately what dates I’ll be where, so here it is:
England – 27th to 28th July
France – 28th July to 7th August
Switzerland – 7th to 9th August
Italy – 9th August to 1st September
Greece – 2nd to 16th September

So with that sorted, anyone that’s going to be around in any of those places around those times, or wants to cycle along with me for a bit, just get in touch and we’ll work something out.

Edit 10/02/2008>>

Turkey – 16th September to 10th October
Syria – 10th to 20th October
Jordan – 20th to 22nd October
Israel – 22nd to 27th October

(Very) Long Time no Post, and Israel?

So it’s been a while since I made a post, and time seems to be flying right now what with work and organising the trip and trying to get my family around London to watch my graduation and celebrate family birthdays. But here goes, now that it’s christmas and I’m forced into spending almost two weeks at home with my family, I should get caught up on the blog posts!

In a quick note, I was contacted via facebook by a fellow Brompton rider in Israel wondering if I was passing that way. I’m trying to work out how to make it happen, and have already noted that El Al have regular scheduled flights from Tel Aviv to Mumbai and let you take a bike for free, which is looking to be much easier than working out a flight across the Middle East from Turkey. There are two potential sticking points though. The difficulty that having an Israeli visa or stamp in my passport can cause in getting in to some countries, and the slight inconvenience of cycling through Syria and Lebanon (remember that southern Lebanon was a war zone only a year and a half ago in Summer 2006).

Hopefully I can work it out, because that’s three more countries and some cool people to meet up with!

Facebook Group and Event, Maps

These days everyone has a facebook account. Even my boss at work. And nothing becomes official until there’s a group, or event, or relationship request, or photo to represent it. As such I’ve created a facebook group called, you guessed it, “Small Wheels Big World”. This is more of a holding page pointing towards the blog (here) and upcoming website, and to let everyone know of my going away party on Friday 25th July 2008. It’s planned so far in the future, there’s no excuse for not coming! The group will also allow me to message all members occasionally – it’s so much easier to click “Message All Members” on the group than to paste 100+ email addresses into the CC field in Gmail. So join the group and invite others as well, and RSVP to the party!

In other news, I’m bored of waiting for Stanfords to get hold of the final map of Greece I need, so I found I can order it direct from the publisher for the same price, plus postage and packing from Greece, so a little bit more. But that should be here reasonably soon and then I can carry on with route planning again.

I’ve chosen a charity

So, at long last I have decided on a charity to support during the trip. I wanted to choose a charity based on a number of personal preferences, namely that it should support a – what I think to be – an under-represented area of sustainable development in the third world, be a smaller charity so that any money and awareness I can raise will make a difference, and be relevant to the parts of the world I’ll be cycling through. Although it wasn’t possible to find a charity that fit all these fully, I have found one that I think to be very important, and only compromising on the final preference.

The Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) is a charity dedicated to improving the education of girls in Africa. In Africa especially, girls have the poorest access to education, but not because of any prejudice against educating girls, but because of poverty. In a continent where most families struggle to pay for education for even one child, given the choice, most families will choose to educate their son, rather than daughter. However, female education can help so much in the fight to eradicate poverty. An educated women is far less likely to contract HIV/AIDS, can manage a families finances, and can become the next generation of social and business entrepreneurs.

Ann Cotton OBE started the charity in 1993 by fundraising enough money to send 32 girls in Zimbabwe to school. By 2003, CAMFED had been named International Aid and Development Charity of the Year, and in 2005 with an income of over £2m their educational programmes in Africa supported 246,525 children. CAMFED supports a long term improvement in a girls education, making a minimum of a five year financial commitment to support them through education and young adulthood. The cost of making a real difference is not high, just £6 a month or £72 a year will support a girl in education, but will make a lifetime of difference to her.

In time I will have a sponsorship page online where you will be able to pledge or donate, and please give generously. It isn’t much to ask for £6 a month – and the way I think of it, every two weeks just have one less pint at the pub (at London prices anyway).

Books

While Stanfords still can’t get hold of the final Greece map I need, I’ve been reading a lot of books.
The first is by Alastair Humphreys, called Moods of Future Joys, the first book chronicling the African leg of his epic 4 year around the world bike ride. It’s a fascinating tale of chance – after 9/11 happened it became impossible for him to cycle through the middle east, so he decided to go south instead through Africa.
The second is the Adventure Cycle Touring Handbook. This has everything anyone ever needs to know about touring on a bike. It’s really quite useful.

Website and Blog

Yesterday I was thinking of catchy titles for the trip. “Around the World on a Brompton” isn’t catchy and doesn’t flow well. Then I thought how big the world is, how I’m cycling it on a small wheeled bike, and those came together as “Small Wheels… Big World!”. I googled it and got nothing – result!
So I registered smallwheelsbigworld.com and pointed it here, and re-branded the blog with its new title. As soon as I finish writing a website the domain will point there, with a link to this blog.

Trailers

Stanfords still don’t have the final Greece map I need, so i’ll keep things rolling by writing about my thoughts and indecision over trailers.

I have basically narrowed it down to two options. The Burley Nomad, or the Carry Freedom Y-Frame. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, neither is perfect, and I can’t decide which to get. The Nomad is a mass production trailer, designed with sides and top so it has a closed luggage space, however, it is still not waterproof and the hitch to the bike may be a problem, especially for a Brompton. The Y-Frame is a simple flat bed trailer, with nothing but a flat area with no sides for luggage, however it is simple and apparently very tough, and the hitch I know will work with my Brompton. To show how equal they are, here’s a detailed description of how I would use each one, with both strengths and weaknesses of both.

The Nomad attaches to the bike with a hitch I can’t find many details of. From what I’ve heard it isn’t as well designed as the Carry Freedom hitch, is fiddly, and uses rubber to allow full rotational movement, which can be unreliable over time. The luggage space is enclosed, meaning I could just throw bulky items in without packing them in bags first. But even so, the luggage area is not waterproof, and so any items that had to stay dry (clothes, sleeping bag, documents, etc.) would still need to be in a waterproof bag. It has a cargo rack, basically a rack above the cover so it is possible to attach more items on top – maybe a daypack so it’s easily accessible. But from what I’ve read the Nomad isn’t as durable as the Y-Frame, only taking weights up to 40kg, and Nic and Sedef, the Nuts on Bents, managed to buckle the frame of theirs.

The Y-Frame attaches with an ingeniously simple hitch that I know will work very well with the Brompton, and looks to be very durable – there doesn’t appear to be much that can go wrong with it. The luggage space is unenclosed, as it is just a flat piece of plywood with grip material on. This means that everything would need packing into bags, but the Ortlieb Rack-Packs are perfect for this. It also allows for modifications, for example I could add a frame so one bag would go straight on the base, then another above similar to the cargo rack on the Nomad. It allows for more options, but could be less convenient having to store everything in bags. Looking at the construction of the Y-Frame, it seems to be built to be very tough. The large version can carry 90kg, and the small apparently 45kg, although the large is simply a scaled up small using the same grade of materials, so one would presume it is able carry the same weight. Indeed there are numerous photo’s of heavy loads on the small, including people.

So that is the choice – more convenient but maybe less durable, or less convenient but maybe more durable. I just can’t decide. Dilemma.

Charities?

While I’m still waiting for more maps from Stanfords I’m getting on with planning other aspects of the trip. Ever since I decided I am definitely going ahead, I’ve been deliberating over whether to cycle in aid of a charity. Now, not to do it in aid of a charity seems selfish, but before you think that of me, let me try and explain my feelings about the subject either way.

On the one hand, I’ve always thought of this trip as being a journey of personal discovery, of me, out there on my own, fulfilling a dream. Overcoming the seemingly impossible. If I was to do it in aid of a charity, it would add the pressure of living up to the expectations of the charity and donators, and would mean if I were to fail I wouldn’t only be letting myself down, but also the charity, its cause, and anyone donating money as sponsorship of the trip.

But on the other hand, a trip like this is ideal for raising donations to a charity. And there are so many charities that could benefit, if I were to do it for a charity, which one would I choose? A big worldwide charity that is relevant to the majority of places I’m going, or a smaller charity that maybe needs more help fundraising, but is much less relevant to where I’ll be going for most of my trip.

I’ve come down on the side of doing it in aid of a charity, but I still have to decide on which one. I’ve got a few ideas, but any suggestions are welcome.