Monday, January 25, 2010

Which bike?

I'm planning to ride my Bike Friday Tikit. Bike is optimized for foldability, but without sacrificing rideability. Bought this bike as a treat last Fall, and since then it has become my main commute ride -- my old favorite Raleigh Twenty is now in semi-retirement. Tikit has tiny wheels (16") , while most bikes have wheels running roughly 24" - 28". Seems like this would make it ride like a toy, but it doesn't... wheelbase is comparable to a normal bike. Drivetrain is based on the Nexus 8-speed internally geared hub and small drive sprocket paired with a large chainwheel... so pedalling cadence and gear ratios also roughly match a normal bike. Internal hub may seem an odd choice, but I like these Nexus hubs, and have put lots of miles on them on a variety of bikes. Bike is middle of the road weight-wise... guessing around 25 pounds. I'll weigh it eventually and find out for sure.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why Europe? Why the Netherlands?

Why Europe? Lot's of reasons -- I travel on business quite a bit in the US, haven't been to Europe in a while, enjoyed previous trips, but mostly -- there is some terrific cycling. Which leads to...

Why the Netherlands? There is a lot to like about the Netherlands -- fascinating history, a liberal culture, most Dutch speak better English than I (me?). But let's cut to the biking -- IMHO, you just can't beat it! Think about it...

1) Almost everybody rides so... no bad "car vs bike" dynamic
2) Thousands of kilometers of bicycle paths...
3) Not a heck of a lot of uphill pedalling... highest point in the country is about 300 feet.

Ok, let's address the obvious. No uphill pedalling means... no downhill coasting. But as a cyclist, you still come out WAY ahead. Here's why: Einstein was a cyclist. He noticed that, in hilly areas, you seem to spend 10x as much time pedalling uphill as you do coasting downhill. This is the observation that prompted his "Special Theory of Relativity", which states that time does not flow at a fixed rate. Thus, physics tells us that... cycling in an area without uphills is much better. (Trust me on this one.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

The practical minimum of Stuff

Passport + CC + Toothbrush is a bit TOO minimal.

The alternative -- the bikers you sometimes see with tents, sleeping bags, multiple packs, cookware, stoves, etc etc all strapped on -- is too much for what I want.

My goal is lightest feasible load for "credit card touring"... no camping, no cooking.

If I could, I'd strip the load down to a point that it would fit in a tiny backpack I use for my daily commute. That bag holds my computer, train ticket, change of shirt and not much more.

For six weeks on the road, I decided to add a small aluminum briefcase I found on eBay. Modified my bike rack to mount it behind the seat. Checked out how much it could hold, and it was almost enough... but not quite. So I'm also going to use two front-mounted mini-panniers. Should let me balance the load a bit better around the bike, and take just a bit more stuff.

Goal at this point? Doesn't fit... don't take it.

We'll see if it is possible!

The bare minimum of Stuff

Bare minimum?
1) Passport
2) Credit Card
3) Toothbrush

How unstructured?

The idea for this trip developed during my bicycle commutes to work. Actually the commute is 1) bike into trunk of car; 2) drive to Caltrain station; 3) ride train to San Jose; 4) bike from San Jose central station to office... ~30 miles total... roughly 3 by car, 23 by train, 4 by bike.

As I would turn off the bike path and towards my office, I sometimes wondered: "Where does this path go next? and after that?"

And I began to think that it would be cool to just follow the front wheel, see where the path goes, stop when I wanted, start again when I wanted, find a meal when I got hungry... that unstructured.

Then I began to wonder... what is the bare minumum of Stuff that I'd have to carry?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why on a bike?

I like riding bikes. I'm a weekend and commute rider. Not a racer or a particularly high-miler... just a guy who likes to ride a bike for the same reason that we did as kids: it's fun!

I like building bikes. I've built a few up from scratch -- modified frames, built wheels, fabricated custom metal parts when what a bike "needed" just wasn't available. Nice thing about a bike you've built yourself -- you get exactly what you want, and you can fix it when it breaks ;-)

I like folding bikes in particular at this point. They are very useful -- toss them in the trunk, take them on the train, open them up, and ride. Some folders are toys, but the good ones are great.

I've got a few bikes. Enough? Hard to say exactly. A friend who has grappled with the same question put it well: "How many bikes are enough? One bike short of divorce." My relationship with Katie is pretty good at this point, so it looks like I don't have too many... yet.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why (and how!) six weeks?

My employeer -- eBay -- has a terrific employee benefit: after 5 years employment, employees are encouraged to take a 1 month paid Sabbatical! Further, the Sabbatical can be be extended by using available vacation time. My 5 year anniversary with eBay was in August 2009, and I'm planning to combine the Sabbatical break with 2 weeks of vacation time, for a total of 6 weeks. It's great to have an extended block of time, opens up all kinds of possibilities -- hardest choice may be exactly WHAT to do!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First post to "Footloose Fietser"...

My name is Steve Oglethorpe.

I've created this blog to document a project / trip / crazy idea...
spending 6 very unstructured weeks, on a bike, in Europe,
this Spring.

This blog is called Footloose Fietser... Footloose for
unstructured, Fietser which is Dutch for bicyclist, and I
like the sound of the two together!

A lot of the cycling will probably be in the Netherlands.

Have the tickets booked (free roundtrip on United frequent flyer miles, thanks to heavy business travel schedule last year), so this much is "certain": will start the trip in late April, return in early June. The rest... is TBD.