For this trip I've invested in some new technology to help me along the way. A constant issue on previous trips was how to keep batteries re-charged on navigation and communication devices. I spent a little cash with the good folk at SJS Cycles (St John Street Cycles) and asked them to build me a new front wheel. I have to say that I am very impressed - exceptional customer service and the wheel is great.
The new wheel consists of a Schmidt SON 28 6-Bolt Disc Dynamo Front Hub and Mavic A719 700c 622 Rim. I've paired this up with a new Schwalbe Marathon with Greenguard Reflex 700x38 tyre and Slime 802739 700c inner tube.
The Son 28 is a dynamo hub and is wired up to a Busch & Muller USB-Werk charger. The dynamo should generate current at anything above 12 miles per hour - so effectively on the flat or downhill. The charger contains a 150Mah cache battery allowing it to push out a continual power supply. To further protect the gadget which is being charged, I've added a Laptone 5200mAh ultra compact portable charger external Battery Pack into the run - which can be charged up overnight to give my gadgets an added boost.
On a test ride of 38 miles, iPhone playing internet radio over bluetooth and being used for google maps guidance and Map My Ride tracking, the iPhone didn't dip at all below 100%. I have a reasonable amount of confidence that this should last all day. I have a couple of additional Laptones to tuck in my rucksack just in case.
This springs ride will be very much a test of this configuration ahead of the summers cycling / camping trip where power conservation is so much more important. On this ride, along the north coast of France, I shall be checking into hotels each night so shouldn't have too much of an issue with power, but it will be interesting to see how it performs. I hope to be able to stay out in the summer on camp sites for a few days without having to find a power socket.
Returning to the subject of rucksacks and luggage I've taken a more streamlined approach for this trip - No camping gear to pack so it allows me a little more freedom. So this year's luggage is the pair of Ortlieb panniers which finished my Rhine trip with me last year (proved to be exceptionally sturdy and waterproof) and a new Osprey Rucksack and 1.5 litre bladder/hydration pack.
I seem to recall ditching my previous hydration pack somewhere in a campsite garbage along the Rhine last year. The benefit of this new one is more to do with the rucksack. The rucksack has a lot more space, allowing me to store all of the valuables which I wouldn't want to leave on the bike at any stops during the day. The theory being that it should be a lot easier to hop off the bike than removing the front box which I carried around with me last year.
This trip is slightly different from previous ones. The decision to leave the camping gear at home means that I need to be within range of a hotel at the end of each day. It feels a little more structured and less of a sense of freedom, but still should be a good, much needed, life reset. Accordingly I have actually done some proper route planning and provisionally reserved hotel rooms for the close of play each day.
The exact paths and roads taken will be a mix as usual of Google Maps and Garmin edge 1000 bike computer route suggestions - probably mixed with a few signposts and getting lost.
I am planning to track my route via Map My Ride on the iPhone and the Garmin simultaneously, certainly for the first couple of days to compare and contrast. I think, given the battery preparations I have mentioned earlier, that I can afford to experiment a little. it will be interesting to see what difference they come up with.