Day 5: Rest, Recuperation, Review and Revision.

Saturday, July 2nd.

Blog-log: Blog-log: Kilometres from ‘Go’: 1456.2 (none ridden today)

Location: Albarracín

The weather forecast was for a muggy day with temperatures reaching 40º in the Guadalquivir basin to the south and near that in Madrid to the north-west I was glad to have given over the day to rest and recuperation, leaving me to explore Albarracín ‘city’ and consider the rest of the tour, review plans, equipment, etc. which I hope will be of use to other bikers planning a similar trip.

I’ll describe Albarracín and the region – an amazing area for both road and trail biking – in a separate post, the first of a whole category of ‘Places’. But I’ve already learned quite a bit about touring and it’s worth recording it here:

  • Plan of action: the ‘mode’ of the tour, i.e. hopping from region to region and stopping at each for short breaks, is working well so far – given hat this is the first of these stages to have been completed. The contrast between riding point to point with the bike fully laden and then riding footloose and fancy free, exploring the area at will and thinking on my feet is highly satisfying – not least because my bike changes its character significantly between the two set-ups (more below on the bike). I certainly think I’d get bored if I were constantly in ‘touring’ mode. In the meantime I’m beginning to plan three night stays to reduce the fuss of pitching and striking camp too often.
  • I feel that I’m carry too much, but like most people I’ve agonized about the checklist! Actually my kit and clobber is very minimal: five lightweight polyester tee-shirts, two long sleeved cotton vests, pair of shorts, walking trousers and trunks. Add a few pairs of socks and pants and that’s it! I’ll come of to the ‘kitchen’ below but now for the ‘accommodation’: obviously the tent looks enormous and the chair looks like an indulgence, but I’ve bourn in mind that I’ll be spending a lot of time in Galicia and the North Coast, where it can rain and rain, even in July but especially in May/June when I had originally planned on going. Being bolted up in a tiny tent squatting on all fours is no way to have a holiday – and just sitting around in the bar gets both expensive and boring. But the tent is a drag to put up and especially take down I’ll debate the virtues of igloo and tunnel tents in a special chapter but in brief you have a bother versus space issue – the tent is huge inside, so much so that if needs be I can sit up, cook, and keep all my sodden gear in the ‘lobby’, well away from the dry zone in the tent itself.
  • On the catering front I’ve nothing but praise for the Trangia 27-2 cooker set with kettle. Being a tea addict of epic proportions I simply don’t function without a litre of tea of a morning, i.e. three Trangia pots full! The alternatives for me are to buy litre bottles of drinking chocolate – which is what I do for a quick getaway – or go for coffee in the bar. But both of these get expensive and in the case of the latter you may have to wait for 9 or even 10 am for the camp site facilities to open. So quite apart from being able to cater as such, the Trangia will have paid for itself by the end of this tour alone – a good investment! I’m planning a special ‘book’ of camp catering, which will include shopping and eating ‘on the hoof’ as well a some notes of Spanish ingredients, recipes etc. – you can see some of this already on the Food and Drink chapter but one fine day there will be a downloadable ‘book’ on the subject! A final note on the Trangia: I just got the standard meths burner (Sp. alcohol de quemar) despite lots of comments on the blogosphere about the gas or multi-burner options: quite apart from the significant extra cost and payload I’m not convinced that it is at all necessary to have ‘instant’ variable heat. After all, it’s not as if we’re doing Cordon Bleu cookery and I find tat the kettle is boiling by the time I’ve fooled around making up the powdered mils, charging the tea bomb, etc. OK time will tell and I’ll try to include a full review of this in the relevant chapter in the light of experience!
  • On to the bike: as mentioned above – fully laden you really notice the extra weight and above all its distribution, even with Wilburs gas hock absorbers. In fact adjusting these to suit makes a big difference – I only put this on a few days before setting off and I’m still experimenting with pre-load and improving stability all the time; stiffening up the rear shock is doing wonders to cure a very skittery front wheel! But I think it’s really a matter mind-set. Touring is a style of riding and scratching around the really twisty bits is quite another. I’ll wait for BMW to give me a 1200 GS to see if the two can be combined in the one load, but in the meantime I’m happy that my little bike fits in with my ‘plan’ – easy does it on the laden tour sections and ‘Hey, let’s rock and roll!’ when I’m established at a base camp!

Finally I spent the day planning the next stage in detail – into the scalding inferno at the heart of Spain – Madrid!

The Vango Omega 250 tent feels big enough to host a cocktail party - in fact it once held me, Mrs Spanish Biker and our two huskies! - I've been envious of bikers with tiny single pole tents but later in the tour my time will come I'm sure. Meanwhile the downside of the tunnel tent is beginning to matter - it's essential to get a good pitch with holding for all the pegs, and to make sure you get sun enough to dry the flysheet out on the morning you strike camp - in this case after a thunderstorm at 03.00!
The lightweight 30 litre kit bag from Overboard was a freebie with the 60 litre duffel bag. But it's come into its own holding the dry and warm liners for my breathable summer riding suit - I have to allow for the northern climate, even though I'm now in the broiling centre of Spain. I strap this to the big tent bag using the latter's own compression straps independently of the Rok-straps to the rack, so that I can easily access extra layers on the road. The zip-lock bag that it came in is my 'larder': from left to right: powdered milk, tea, couscous and muesli, then yet more tea, couscous and milk powder.

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