Hong Kong: My adopted home of Hong Kong is a city of extremes, the juxtaposition of rich and poor; modern and old; fast and slow; concrete and green. It’s a city of hills and mountains and sea and narrow roads without shoulders. This environment makes for an interesting experience as I train and prepare for a cycling expedition in a very different part of the world.
TransEuropa 2011 is also shaping up as an experience of extremes. I am finding it’s very complicated and expensive as I try to simplify my life and stick to basics on this tour. With just two weeks to go before I transplant myself in Europe for the summer, I have shifted into high gear. And this week is all about gearing up, about assembling all the necessary items (and a few unnecessary things, too) in my cycling kit that I will take to Europe. This involves much more work and time than it sounds, and I haven’t even started pedalling yet.
First, it’s trying to anticipate what I and my bike will need in a journey spanning thousands of kilometers of varied terrain across Europe. As a starting point I used the inventory list from last year’s ride across the US. That was a supported and very different ride, so to supplement that list my friend Humphrey Wilson, who cycled solo from London to Hong Kong and lives to tell about it, has very kindly provided me with his extensive three-page inventory list.
My expanded inventory list covers more than 100 discrete items. Including duplicates and spares, more than 150 items to purchase, pack, and schlep with me around the Old World. Although you can buy just about anything in Hong Kong, going to the two bike shops and the camping goods store that I frequent all involve major treks in different parts of town. Just buying a new set of Ortlieb panniers and a new tent and other odds and ends took pretty much the whole day today. Welcome to my weird world. But it sure does beat a day at the office.
The other aspect of my gearing up is an intensive course of Remedial Bike Mechanics. In all my other cycling journeys, I’ve always been able to depend upon someone else in case I find myself in a pothole. This time I am on my own. My 101 course in bike mechanics began about two weeks ago, when Mr Lee, the very helpful owner of my primary bike shop (Flying Ball in Kowloon) taught me how to change a tire. To the amusement of many I was sprawled out on his bike shop floor learning the basics. Today, as I spent more $$$ and hours at his shop, Mr Lee wisely told me: “Relax. You’re going to Europe, not Timbuktu.”
The second class in my bike mechanics course was taught by my cycling pal Jonathan, who paid a house call over the weekend for more elementary mechanics. Finally, last evening I attended a more formal introduction bike mechanics workshop by a new shop on Hong Kong island, Sky Blue Bikes, run by three friendly Aussies. They very patiently helped impart some of their wisdom on a very slow learner.
After this dash course in bike mechanics, I now feel like I know just enough to really get myself into a mess when I start tinkering with my bike. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Here’s my work-in-progress kit list:
Bike & Accessories
Surly Long Haul Trucker bike, with front and rear racks, front and rear lights, and kick stand. Brooks leather saddle. Just the bike and these few fixed accoutrements weigh 16 kilos (35 pounds). On top of that, to carry my load I have six bags (two Trek front panniers, two Ortlieb back panniers, one Canondale handle bag, one Canondale camera bag). Hand pump; two Polar water bottles; two bike locks; eight drybags of various sizes and colors. I do not yet know how much my fully loaded bike weighs.
Spare Bike Parts
Cleats, zip ties, tubes and patch kits, extra spokes, quick link chains, multi-tool set, allen wrenches, tire levers, spoke wrench, pedal wrench. Oil.
Giro helmet with rear view mirror accessory, Gaerne bike shoes, 2 pairs bike gloves, Croc sandals, 4 x bike shorts, 5 x bike jerseys (one long sleeve), arm warmers, leg warmers, 4 x socks, 2 x underwear, 1 pair street shorts, 1 pair quick drying pants/shorts, 2 tshirts, 1 long sleeve tshirt, 1 fleece vest, 1 Polo shirt, swimsuit, wind/rain jacket, wind vest, 1 pair lightweight pumas, hat.
Triton terra aqua tent, Ferrino micro down sleeping bag, Eva camping map, Silva headlamp, alcohol burner, alcohol burner stand, fuel container, cookset with two pots, fork and spoon (or should I bring chopsticks?). Note: all this equipment is probably superfluous and I am carrying “just in case.” I am not planning on camping until I hit the Adriatic region in the fall.
Hygiene/ Personal effects
Sunscreen; sunscreen lip balm; moisturizer; antibacterial gel; quickdry towel and case; soap; deodorant; toothbrush/toothpaste/floss; razor and shaving cream; advil; sinus medication; migraine medication; multivitamins; nail clippers; basic first aid pack with 15 different items; chamois cream; eye mask ear plugs; watch; reading glasses; Oakley sun glasses; immodium; water purification tablets; denture cleaner (to clean my water bottles, a trick I learned cycling in the US).
Iphone + plug + earpiece; Macbook air + plug; Garmin GPS loaded with European map + plug; Canon SLR Camera + battery charger + spare battery + camera accessories; Canon compact camera + charger; Sony video camera + charger; SD cards; electrical adaptors
Collins Europe road map; Lonely Planet – Mediterranean Europe; a book to read; photocopies of passport, driving license, insurance, credit cards; small notebooks, pens; 3 x bungee cords; laminated pictures of Fluffy and Ryan (the penguins — see “Go Green”); extra plastic bags, mesh bags; USB thumb drive; USB adaptor for SD card; matches; “magic letter” translated into Portuguese, Spanish, and French; Tornado whistle; Gerber mini-tool.
I am still debating whether to bring the kitchen sink.
What also amazes about this long list is just how few street clothes items I will have with me. Which means I need to pack extra deodorant.