The Zen of Cycletouring, or Cycling for that matter

It was September 21st last and I had breakfast in Le Croix d'Or, as I remember the name of the hotel in Chateauneuf du Faou in Brittany. This was the last day of a six-day solo tour I made, my first solo one for about 10 years. The previous night I had eaten in the hotel. This is the only hotel in this inland town and very good value but the food while nice was scanty. Not cycle-touring stuff at all. I'd gone out to a creperie across the road after dinner but the crepes were particularly poor and I love crepes. Breakfast was, well, breakfast only in name. This is a difficulty in France as many hotels give you a very poor one. Before leaving town I visited the patisserie around the corner and got two big nourishing cakes, one with almond and the other a kind of chewy cakey looking confection and put them in my bags.

Off I went. I followed a route of small roads I'd done previously, though Langonnet, Groas-Loas, Toul-Dous and Plevin. It was a dull-still day, there was almost no traffic and the scenery was moderate. Then I descended towards the Nantes-Brest Canal. This is only navigable by canoe but has a bike/walking path along it of varied composition. I'd cycled stretches of it in the past and loved it, but my cycling companions, Mick once and Mary several times found it a bit tedious. As I crossed the canal there was a path to both sides but I rode about 100 yards along it to the left and came to a picnic table. Out with my Chinese TK111 stove in which I burn white spirit (turpentine substitute, a kind of paraffin). I pumped the stove, opened the valve until about a teaspoon poured out, ran it around the wick material under the burner, turned the stove upside down and lit this with a lighter. This does not ignite as readily as petrol. Then I left it for two minutes to prime while I poured two packets of Kenko 2 in 1 (coffee plus whitener) into my mug. When primed, I turned the valve on and gradually opened until I'd a roaring blue flame. 500cc of water in the stainless steel pot I use and three minutes later I had my cup of coffee.

I then sat down and slowly munched my gorgeous cakes and sipped coffee before this marvellous view. I love stillness and the sound of running water.

It was THE moment of a fine tour...

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8 comments on “The Zen of Cycletouring, or Cycling for that matter”

  1. Hilary wrote:

    Yes you can't beat that perfect brew stop moment. A bench to sit on, a fine view and the sound of running water is as close to heaven as it gets!
    I've not heard of the TK111 stove, I must investigate! I've never tried White Spirit, does it burn clean, I'd imagine it would produce a lot of smoke and soot?

  2. Chris wrote:

    I was thinking about this post when I had a tin of Heinz Big Soup earlier today. I keep thinking about taking my Trangia out of the loft, but stoving is a bit of a faff, isn't it? Re the fuel, am I right in thinking I would have used meths for my stove? I'm not sure I still have the canister I used to keep the fuel in, but the stove's up there somewhere. Maybe if I go on a proper tour again...

  3. Garry Lee wrote:

    It smells like paraffin but not as strongly and is a bit smokey when priming but burns well. It's not explosive and you can get it in every town and is cheap. You need wicking material to get it to light with a lighter but most liquid fuel stoves have that.

  4. Garry Lee wrote:

    you can prime with alcohol as well but I find it's not perfect. I've burnt white spirit in msr dragonfly and msr xgk as well. Great in both

  5. Kern wrote:

    Cakes, coffee and running water ... a Zen moment indeed. Many of our touring "Zen moments" have also involved food. Food and cycling are the perfect complements.

    I've never done a solo tour, in fact I've never even thought of it. Interesting concept.

  6. Hilary wrote:

    am I right in thinking I would have used meths for my stove?

    Yes Trangias run on Meths. You don't need a proper fuel bottle, the plastic bottle you buy it in is fine.

  7. Garry Lee wrote:

    You can burn Meths or any pure alcohol in a Trangia, including bioalcolhol etc. You cannot burn petrol or similar.
    Trangias are not messy but they are slow.
    It takes 7 mins to boil 500cc in one as against 3min in a Dragonfly etc. If you want to boil a litre in a Trangia it will take at least 14 mins and more than that will never boil.
    A Dragonfly etc., will do a litre in 6 mins or so.
    A solo tour is a way of totally spoiling yourself.

  8. patrick randell wrote:

    hi, just read comments ref trangia, i use one a lot, try putting it into the wind, the more the better! ive a small kettle with it, about 5 min to boil, enjoyment is the secret not speed in my book, ive been brewing for 10 years, a real tradition and long may it last!

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