Posts written by Paul Tolme

David Graf_flying the belt

Gates-Nicolai Mountain Bike Team member–and Swiss BMX champion–David Graf ditches his BMX bike for a Nicolai Argon FAT  in the new video “Pig Rodeo.” Watch G-Raf fly the tabletops and air out his balloon tires like a supersonic swine on the trails of Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

David Graf_fat rear tire

David Graf_flying non drive side 2

David Graf_dropping in

David Graf_clearing tabletop

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Fietsjunks_headwind

In 2013, Elmar and Ellen van Drunen quit their jobs, sold their house in the Netherlands and flew to Brazil to embark on a multi-year journey from South America to Alaska. Fourteen months into their adventure the Dutch couple have pedaled 10,500 miles (17,000 kilometers) on their Santos Travel Lite bikes with Gates Carbon Drive. They’ve battled stiff Patagonian headwinds (see photo above), hauled their bikes up muddy trails, crossed 16,000-foot (5,000 meters) mountain passes, watched King penguins waddle on the coast and enjoyed fresh popcorn, which was first domesticated in Central and South America, given to them by villagers in the Andes. “We have pushed our bikes through deep sand on the Bolivian Altiplano, endured temperatures of minus 21 degrees Celsius (negative 6 Fahrenheit) and didn’t take a shower for 12 days in a row,” Ellen wrote us by email from Peru. Sound difficult? Hardly. “We are living our dream,” Ellen writes. Read excerpts from our email conversation below.

Fietsjunks_camping

Fietsjunks Hit the Road

Ellen: We met in 2003 and began bicycle touring every chance we got, so we nicknamed ourselves “Fietsjunks,” which means “bicycle junkies” in Dutch. We cycled through more than 30 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and America (all documented on www.fietsjunks.nl), but the dream to undertake a long-distance tour stayed with us. In 2013 we decided it was time to go. 
In his previous life Elmar was a mechanic for a bicycle touring company. I am a freelance photographer (www.ellenvandrunen.com) and used to be a communications manager for a big company.For now we are just cyclists, adventurers, dream-chasers, travelers and happy people.

Fietsjunks_celebrating

Santos Travel Lite Bicycles

We had no doubt in our mind about which bicycles to ride: it must be a Santos, it must have a Rohloff hub and it must have a Gates Carbon Drive belt. 
With the experience of our previous cycling years and the fact that we’ve tested many bikes for a Dutch magazine, we know what makes a good touring bike. We like the stiffness and geometry of the bikes and we love the low maintenance of both the hub and the belt. In the 17,000 kilometers we’ve cycled there have been no issues with the bikes aside from the occasional tire puncture. The belt shows no sign of wear and tear and needs no lubrication. We wrote an article about it here.

Fietsjunks_Peruvian mud

Camping Beneath the Stars

There have been many memorable moments during this trip. It’s not just the scenery, it’s also the people we meet along the way. But, honestly, we really enjoy the silent moments in the middle of nowhere. Camping alone at the foot of a huge mountain, underneath countless stars, listening to the water lapping the shores of a lake–that’s when we are happiest, because we realize how lucky we are.

Fietsjunks_Elmar in Peruvian mts

Follow the adventures of Elmar and Ellen on Facebook.com/fietsjunks and read their travelogues and see photos on http://www.fietsjunks.nl. Read their gear reviews and travel tips on http://www.traveltheworldbybicycle.com. Maybe you, too, will be inspired to become a Fietsjunk.

Fietsjunks_Elmar dirty face

Fietsjunks_rear sprocket and rohloff

Fietsjunks_Elmar and bikes

 

 

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Van Nicholas Zion advert pic

Van Nicholas is a Dutch bicycle manufacturer that specializes in designing and fabricating high end titanium frames and components. That lovely bike above is the Van Nicholas Zion Rohloff 29er with Gates Carbon Drive and Rohloff speedhub. We had the opportunity to spend time with this great bike brand during the recent Gates visit to the Bike Motion Benelux trade show. “Our mission is to create the ultimate lifelong cycling experience for every individual customer,” says general manager Ralph Moorman.

Van Nicholas only builds titanium frames because the company loves the inherent qualities of the metal. Titanium has a great strength-to-weight ratio. In other words, a titanium frame will be much stronger than a steel or aluminum frame of the same weight, which means you can make a super strong but lightweight titanium bike. Ti also resists corrosion, which is why Van Nicholas never paints its frames, preferring to simply brush and polish them to show off the metal’s luster. Better still, the company guarantees every frame for the lifetime of the owner.

Below are photos of Van Nicholas models with Gates Carbon Drive. If you like titanium and are in the market for a well designed ride that will last a lifetime, check out the Van Nicholas dealer locator and the photos below. First up is the Pioneer Rohloff flat bar touring bike.

Van Nicholas_profile

The beauty below with a black Brooks saddle is the Amazon Rohloff.

Van Nicholas 3
This drop bar touring and fast commuting bike is the Yukon Rohloff.

Van Nicholas 2
Below is another view of the Zion Rohloff mountain bike.

Van Nicholas 4

Want more? See our previous post about the Dutch “Men in Black” mountain bikers, or our Van Nich post with some information about Gouda cheese, a Dutch favorite. You can also read the review of the Amazon Rohloff in Adventure Cyclist magazine, and the Pioneer with ‘riemaandrijving” (Dutch for belt drive) in Bike & Trekking magazine (in Dutch). And for our friends in the Netherlands, please watch our Carbon Drive University videos in Dutch.

 

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Droid app 1Droid app 2Droid app 3

You can’t play a solo on your Gates Carbon Drive belt, but you can measure the belt’s tension like a guitar hero with a new Android app. The Carbon Drive Android app is available for free download in Google’s online store and is a followup to Gates’ popular iPhone app, also available for free in the Apple iTunes store. The Android and iPhone apps allow users to measure belt tension and determine the correct belt and sprocket combinations to achieve a desired gear ratio. A third screen on the apps provides a catalog of the Carbon Drive product range.

Gates iPhone App2

The sonic frequency meter on both apps operates similar to a guitar tuner. It uses the microphone on the smartphones to measure the frequency of the belt. Simply pluck the belt like a guitar string, check the frequency and adjust the tension on your bike. Rock and Roll!

Gates App Reading

 

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Alleykat_riding in sunset

Alee Denham and Kat Webster recently completed the bike trip of a lifetime, bicycling through 30 countries from Europe to Asia and back to their home in Australia over two years–all documented on their website, www.cyclingabout.com. The couple overcame adversity, enjoyed thrills, camped in stunning landscapes, ate incredible foods, persevered through nagging injuries and pains, befriended countless individuals and created enduring memories. The couple started in the Netherlands in 2012 with two Surly Long Haul Truckers modified to use a Rohloff hub and Gates Carbon Drive belt, then switched to a Co-Motion Equator with Gates belt drive and Rohloff hub. Riding without chains and derailleurs gave them more time to enjoy the sites and relax instead of doing drive-train maintenance. We recently caught up with Alleykat, now back home in Melbourne for several months, to get their story.

Alleykat_Kat with bike in Malaysia

Alleykat_camping in Kyrgzstan

What is Alleykat, who are you, and what is your cycling history?

Alleykat is our combined name (Alee+Kat) which our friends gave us when we first started dating. We are both in our mid-20′s and are passionate about the world. So much so that we decided to dedicate two years of our life to travelling the world and meeting its people. We believe that bikes are the best way to experience the planet as we can work our way into all the places that regular tourists don’t often get to. Our bike offers no physical barrier between us and local people, so we meet people more regularly and get to experience the world’s amazing hospitality. We’ve never had to worry about waiting, timetables or understanding a transport system. We do what we want, when we want. Bikes give us the ultimate freedom.

Alleykat_Kat phoning home from Thailand

Alleykat_pickled produce in Turkey

Tell me about your trip: how long in length and time, and what countries did you hit?

We spent over two years cycling 31,000km (19,000 miles) between Amsterdam to Melbourne in Australia. We zig-zagged through Europe to Turkey, then headed into Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran before cycling through the ‘Stans (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan). We were denied a Chinese visa at the time, so we flew over it to Korea, and then caught a boat to Japan. The typhoon hit the Philippines late last year, so we went over to help. We then flew from there to South East Asia to cover six more countries before flying into Australia to complete the rest of our trip.

Alleykat_night in Croatia

Alleykat_disaster relief in the philippines

What kind of bike and gear did you have?

We started our big trip in two separate bikes (both with Carbon Drive) before realizing that a tandem would allow us to go further, faster. It turned out there were other benefits too, such as the extra space given to us on the road, overwhelmingly kind responses from the people who saw us, easier communication between us on the bike, and the feeling of a team effort. We got a custom tandem bicycle made by Co-Motion in the USA, and we carried around 40kg (88 pounds) of gear between us in five bags (no trailer… woo hoo!). You can see our gear breakdown here.

Alleykat_camping in Japan

Alleykat_Georgian home in the gloom

What were the high points of the trip?

The most mind-blowing thing about our trip was undoubtedly the people. It is always the people who make a place special, who change our perceptions and who open our hearts and eyes. We have had the most incredible travel experiences in the dullest of places. We’ve learned that we can trust more people than we ever thought was possible. We’ve learned that people are incredibly hospitable and on the whole, people are very kind and generous if you give them a chance… even in your own country!

Alleykat_night in Iran

Alleykat_Montenegro gate

What was the most difficult experience of the trip?

The hardest thing to deal with was how Kat was treated in some countries. Men felt it was their right to touch her inappropriately and even kiss her. Sometimes it happened multiple times per day, making it very hard to have a good time. This problem was localized in small pockets of the world, and we did become a bit better at dealing with it over time. We don’t want to discourage women from traveling, so let’s put it in perspective: Kat was treated very well 99.99% of the time.

Alleykat_Bosnian night

Alleykat_mosque in Uzbekistan

Tell me about your experience with Gates Carbon Drive.

We had a very positive experience on the three bikes we’ve used with Gates Carbon Drive. At the time we left, we were unsure as to the durability of the system, but we thought we’d give it a go anyway. We carried a few spare belts just in case. Our first (and only) belt lasted 31,000km. Try getting a chain to last that long!

Alleykat_night swimming in Germany

Alleykat_cooling off in Albania

How did the Gates belt and sprockets compare to chains you’ve used? Did using the Carbon Drive belt make the trip easier or less maintenance?

The best thing about belts for us was the maintenance-free nature of them. We cleaned our belts with water and a toothbrush about once a month on average. We found that they required more frequent cleaning on dusty roads with really fine grit, but those kinds of roads were only a few short sections of our journey. On the whole, the Gates belts certainly made our life easier.

Alleykat_original bikes in Netherlands

Alleykat_pedaling in Laos behind bus

What are your plans now that you have returned home?

We are taking some time to think about and remember and reflect on all that has happened over the past few years and determine how to implement some of the amazing ideas we’ve come up with. It would be easy to float back into jobs, but we think it’s important to extract everything we can from our life-changing experience. With that in mind, Kat has recently started writing a book about our journey. She has also decided that it’s time for a career change from teaching to dietetics, so she will be studying as of next year. I’ve decided to devote some time into making our bicycle touring website even better, and will invest time into learning new skills, notably the ins and outs of documentary film making. Work will have to wait.

Alleykat_dinner in south korea

Alleykat_food market in Vietnam

The few images we’ve shown in this post are just a tiny sample of the incredible video and photo archive Alleykay have compiled of their trip. Below is their video report from Laos. It’s hard not to love these guys once you see and hear their enthusiasm for this beautiful nation, its people, wildlife and culture. Who knows? Their joyful attitude may convince you to embark on a bicycle journey yourself.

CyclingAbout.com // Alleykat Loves Laos (EP.12) from Cycling About on Vimeo.

 

 

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