Cosmic Pets Playpen:
This is the best investment that I have made for my dogs (other than spend time with them). It's given them a safe place to go and my younger dog prefers sleeping in the pen rather than in my bed!! It is also super light so I can take it when we go to people who don't have fences or places they don't know - it gives the dogs a comfy spot whilst the adults socialize.
Now this little baby took a beating and held up. Initially we struggled with power but it turns out it likes to be powered up every now and then so our leaving it until the day I arrived in George on a day with no electricity was not so great. But, once we started using it, it surprised me! Loads of memory, fast, light, can handle being strapped to the back of a bicycle. To be honest, I was did not expect it to hold up on day 1 with going up and down Montagu then the strapping it tightly to the bike and the weather we encountered. Overall: if you need a netbook / laptop that can handle punishment yet have power and capability of a regular laptop, this is THE device.
Update: This device has been on many adventures over the years with GSS and it is still going strong!!!
GPS Unit - Bryton Rider 40:
Having real time information at my fingertips, I was able to train smarter and thus my fitness improved significantly. This device takes all the great of the 35 and gives you a really nice look (like the buttons) and adds some awesome training tools!! My favorite is how you can set up a workout for the indoor trainer, and then let it tell you what you need to do. It also has cool training tools like a Max Heart Rate Test and some built in training programs like the really fun 60min interval training session I did recently. I could go on about how much I love this device but will leave that to my Twitter feed!
If you just want a tool that will help you succeed or if you just want to know where you have been, then look at the Bryton range! They are awesome tools and come at a great price.
GSS Route 62 Tour: Once again, my trusty Schwinn Moab did the trick -it may be old with an entry level shock but man oh man this bike is bomb proof. The setup I used is the same as I always use: so Mavic Crossmax wheelset with Conti Mountain King / Race King combo (hint: make sure you occassionally top up the sludge in your tires).
For my Europe Trip, I was sponsored a Ghost road bike. It was an ultra light dream to ride on!!! I had Vittoria tyres on and they stuck to the road like glue. Uphill and downhill, this bike was amazing.
Day packs are a nice option if you are going to be doing your first tour – they are cheap, you can pick your size, colour and pockets and can be used for more than just a tour. The only niggly is the fitting as purpose made panniers will have an easier setup, but think my setup wasn’t too bad.
Gadgets:I am a gadget geek – poor Johan and Tessa had to deal with my geekyness. What we had: i-Got U gps units; Toshiba Netbook and Johan had a Kindle.
So wish I had taken mine. Having something to read in the afternoons is critical.
i-Got U GPS:
Nifty little gps bike computer that as a computer rocks.
What I liked: the size of the speed and distance display, fact that you can geotag your pictures when you upload to your pc and it has a battery life that will knock the socks off any other gps unit! The software is also awesome because you can see everything you want to see if you suffer analysis paralisis or just what you want if you not phased.
Downsides: the bike mount broke on day one of the ride so a thicker, stronger mount is needed; the running / arm attachment is nice but gets uncomfy after a while if running / walking (perhaps a modification of this will be nice for the bike), I think a nice webbing strap would be so much nicer; another negative (that maybe there but I havent found it) is the ability to go back and check previous workouts on the unit itself; then, the unit takes a while to find gps so you need to put it outside whilst getting ready.
Overall, its an amazing unit and is priced better than any other unit on the market. I look forward to future software upgrades cause I know they are committed to improving.
Polar F6 Heartrate Monitor:
My trusty hrm that I have had for many years went along so I could try get vitality points. My experience post tour: don’t buy Polar. Seriously, it kept telling me I am heartless.... On top of that, it lost half of my tour’s data before I could load it onto the website. Harsh review, yes but unless you have upwards of 4k you cannot get a Polar with a decent strap / monitor connection. Since the tour, I have discovered that Suunto make quality heart rate monitors with technology that you would find only in the upper levels of Polar for under 2k.
Food and Nutrition:
I can only speak for what I personally used…
Route 62 Tour:
Food on the trip was generally what we found along the way but for a good on the bike meal, cheese rolls rock!! Days we had them, I was strong. Also, filter coffee is a must for an on the road stop.
My brand of choice for this trip was 32Gi and despite the fact that I am pro another brand for my more intense stuff, I think that 32Gi is PERFECT for touring. I used the Endurance for my 1st bottle and Accelerate for my second. I also had a backup sachet of one of them for if I needed an extra. Endurance is nice cause it sustains you and then Accelerate just gives you that boost later. In the evenings I would have Recover which helped me wake up feeling awesome.
The only thing I would add to the nutrition in the days was something to nibble on for the longer days. Like the one day we were a bit hungry and chips and Eetsum more biscuits saved us. For touring biscuits are a nice option but go with oat cookies or crunchies as they are more filling and nutritious. Also, if it’s a killer day (like George to Montagu), make sure you have 3 or 4 bottles instead of 2.
Europe and other adventures:
I have subsequently moved over to Biogen and am finding it on a new level to any other brand. The recovery shake is not only yum but also works well. The Diet Protein Shake has also become a staple food source in my home.
My tent was an elcheapo I bought from Game many years ago. It is light and worked like a bomb. So, there is no need to go buy an expensive tent, just find a cheap and cheerful light tent.
Pillow choice was a First Ascent self inflatable. Nice, comfy and small. Felt like a pillow and not like a camping pillow so this will definitely be a regular in my holiday packing.
Sleeping bag: I have an old faithful but it weighs in at 1.8kg so for the tour I got a K-Way Chamonix Eco 850. At a mere 850g I would have thought it was going to be a summer bag – I was wrong. Its warm and comfortable. Another must have in my holiday kit as its also nice and compact.
Sleeping mat.: A traditional old blue mat. Next tour I am getting something better as if sleeping on grass, its nice but sleep in a normal campground and eeek….
I bought a cake of Dis-Chem’s Home Butler soap which I cut up for us for the Route 62 trip. This stuff is amazing! My clothes were clean and smelled nice and they were nice and soft after washing.
I also had a little gimmick bottle opener I got from Cape Union Mart as well as a clothes line. These are must haves! Both items despite being bought as gimmicks, were both used. In fact, if you see a small gadget you like, get it cause you will likely use it.
I could go into reviews about clothing etc but generally, I had everyday clothes and my normal riding gear. Only thing I would do differently on a tour is pack more winter gear (ie a warmer top, gloves, toe caps), I would take 1 extra stove and pot (so you can make hot choc or oats whilst coffee is on), I would also pack less cycling kit – you only need 2 shirts and 2 shorts MAX! In fact, the last 4 days I rode in the same shirt (I just washed the top each day).