Sunday, September 14, 2008

So you think you can ride a bike?

I've done some bike tours. Not like this ...
Ian Hibell |

.... IN A man’s life there comes a time when he must get out of Brixham. He must leave the boats bobbing in the harbour, the Devon cream teas, the holiday camp and the steam railway; he must bid farewell to the nine-to-five job at Standard Telephones and Cables, up the A379 in Paignton, and hit the more open road.

Some might get no farther than Bristol. But Ian Hibell went so far in one direction that his eyebrows crusted with frost and his hands froze; and so far in another that he lay down in the hot sand to die of dehydration (as he expected) under a thorn tree; and so far in another that the safest place to be, out of range of the mosquitoes, was to burrow like an alligator into black, viscous mud.

In the course of his 40-year travelling life he went the equivalent of ten times round the equator, covering 6,000 miles or so a year. He became the first man to cycle the Darien Gap in Panama, and the first to cycle from the top to the bottom of the American continent. He went from Norway to the Cape of Good Hope and from Bangkok to Vladivostok, wheeling or walking every inch of the way...

... His favourite had a Freddie Grubb frame of Reynolds 531 tubing on a 42-inch wheelbase, reinforced to take the extra weight of goatskins holding water; Campagnolo Nuevo Record gears front and rear; Robregal double-butted 14-16-gauge spokes; and Christophe pedal-straps. It was so lightweight, as touring bikes go, that a group of boys in Newfoundland mocked that it would soon break on their roads....
This bike sounds a bit like my 1976 Raleigh International. Mr Hibell died on is bicycle, struck by a car driven badly.

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