Cyprus Biking Adventure

Cyprus is a small island, But it still has everything a cyclist can dream of: mountain routes (the Troodos), great beaches, seaside bike rides, good food, sunny days and warm hospitality- with most people speaking in English, and a lot of good hotels and lodges to stay.

As we had only 2 days, the choice to go Cyprus biking was quite natural.

Preparing our bicycles

As there was no place along our planned Cyprus cycling route to rent bicycles, we had no choice but to take our own bicycles with us.

We packed our Santa Cruz – Superlight bicycles in a box, and as we planned to rent a car we took a car bicycle rack with us.

Packing bicycles, as well as shipping them by air is something we always try to avoid. Even though acting like busy and spoiled adults, as we left the task of packing to Chen Lazami, our long time loyal mechanic from the bike shop, we still hated the game of “are we going to get our bicycles on the airport in one piece?” This seemed more important at that time- much more than Cyprus biking itself.

Much to our relief – our bicycles did survive both trips, and the only minor surprise that we had, was with the air shipping back home from Cyprus, by Cyprus Air. We were requested to pay 30 pounds (around 40 US$) for air shipping. I would advise you to check in advance with your travel agent if this is necessary.

We arrived at Larnaca airport around 9PM and rented a family car (no pre reservations were required, and it was very simple). We unpacked our bikes and loaded them on bicycle car rack.

40 minutes of driving, half of it on small village roads- and we arrived to the center of a quiet, beautiful village, Lythrodontas.

We made a phone call to our host, and he came to the village center to guide us to his wonderful B&B. At midnight we found ourselves in 2 separate beautiful old style rooms, ready for the next Cyprus biking days.

What did we take with us?

The weather during that time of the year was still quite warm, so we did not have to take heavy clothing with us. We just had our summer riding clothes.

As we had a rental car with us and our rides were (almost) circular both days, we did not have to carry along too many things- only the necessary minimum accessories that we usually carry for a regular biking trip back at home:

  1. One pair of cycling shoes (with cleats)
  2. 2 sets of cycling clothes, including cycling shirts, shorts & socks
  3. Bike riding gloves
  4. Helmet
  5. Power gel – About 3 for each riding day (We assumed that finding food was not going to be a problem in this trip – see Cyprus images below)
  6. First aid kit, including sun protection cream and pain relief cream (Bengay)
  7. Biking maps – the best fitted for our trip was a 1:75000 cycling map
  8. Biking sunglasses, bicycle speedometers and bicycle rear storage rack
  9. On some biking blogs, they say that GPS is not really required. Still we decided to take with us our GARMIN eTrex GPS, just in case…
  10. Camera: We had a camera for still pictures. About video, my experience with helmet video cameras is not that great: I have decided to use my good old Sony DV camera instead.
  11. Personal documents, some money and books (Just like ALL of our biking trips, in this one too we never even opened a single book, but we will continue taking books with us in our future trips..)

Trip details, day by day

Day 1 (44 Km): Lythrodontas and back (circular route)

After enjoying the breakfast at Avli Georgallidi (the best tomatoes I had in years), we started Cyprus biking to the west, along typical mountainous view, olive trees and sunshine.

After about 12 Km of climbing, we reached the junction with a paved road. Our route turned to the south for another 12 Km, passing by near Profitis Elias. We began on relatively flat dirt roads, and then descended in a wide left circle back to Lythrodontas.

In the village center, we stopped by for a scrumptious local snack, and then we came back to our B&B, to attend to the car.

We attached the car rear rack and soon we were on a 2 hours drive along the beach, to Paphos.

Day 2 (55 Km): Kathikas, Pano Arodes & Kato Arodes and back (circular route)

After an early breakfast, we loaded our bikes on the car rack and headed north of Paphos along the main coastal road.

Our starting point was the beautiful village of Kathikas, about 600m above sea level. This village is about 15 minutes from the main road (E701), along the E709 road.

We left the car in the village center and start Cyprus biking to the north along the E709, passing some small villages (Pano Arodes, Kato Arodes and more) overlooking the Mediterranean sea liaise along the west side if the island. You can see all that in the pictures of Cyprus that I have posted.

Judging by the map, the north western corner of the island looked quite difficult for bike riding, so we turned to the west near the village Androlikoli (just passing Fasli).

The 500 meters of direct descend to the coast line was a real reward for our climbing efforts in this mountainous area.

The last part was a long flat ride near the coast line (Lara Beach) back to the junction of E709 and E701. There we set down for an early dinner in a local open air restaurant along the road. One of us just hitchhiked back to Kathikas, to bring the car.

This Cyprus biking adventure was certainly unforgettable.

How To Ride A Bike Safely In Traffic

How to stay alive on two wheels in traffic.

I’ve heard it said that if you can survive the first two years of riding a bike, you’ll be OK. I think this is a very dangerous statement, and anyone believing it is putting themselves and those around them at risk.

The fact is that it’s dangerous full stop and once a rider realises this he or she is in a much safer place than the rider who doesn’t think about and actively look for the dangers.

The keyword here is LOOK. Riding bikes is done with the eyes. These are the instruments of information gathering, they let you judge distances and speeds, and tell you when someone is going to turn across your path, step out in front of you or open a car door for you to crash into.

I believe in a thing called a ‘Lethal Act’ and I’m constantly on the lookout for one, they are always on my mind when I’m riding. A lethal act is where there is no warning, and no reason for someone to drive in a way that will kill, mame or just plain separate you from your saddle. I like to think they are normally perpetrated by someone who has taken leave of their senses and acted without the restraint of engaging brain first.

With this said, I don’t drive like a sissy, I like to go fast, and living in London, have got used to riding round traffic, filtering, overtaking etc. If I can overtake, I will, even if there’s a red light up ahead and I know as soon I’m past it’s time to slow down. This gives me a freedom, this way I’m not just following, and it keeps my attention focused on staying alive. It means I get a better look at the road, and the idiot (potential idiot) is behind me.

There are certain Lethal Acts which can’t be avoided, they happen just too quickly and in such an unexpected and unpredictable way that there just isn’t time to react.  We all know people who have had an accident ‘he just pulled out in front of me, there was nothing I could do’. However, I believe that if you learn well the discipline of using the eyes effectively, processing the information right and having the discipline to always act on that information, you can almost (not completely) negate the chances of falling fowl of a Lethal Act and therefore greatly increase your safety while riding a bike, giving you a chance to do something about it.

When riding along a city road or street, if there’s a car waiting to pull out from a turning, how do you know he’s seen you? Are you sure the driver is aware that you’re there, coming his way, ready to cut his car in half with 200 kg of powerful bike and fly over his roof like a rag doll, sending his no claims bonus 10 years into the future? Ruining your life and his day – No? Then don’t go past him, slow down until you are sure, stop if you have to. I’ve done this many times, and every time been glad to do it. OK he may have seen you, but now at least he knows that I don’t think he’s seen me, and that cost him another 10 seconds while he had to wait for me to go past at a greatly reduced speed.

You will recognise the driver who doesn’t want to stop at the junction and keeps his wheels rolling waiting for you to go past, I slow down and often stop for them as well, have a good look at them, and hope they get the idea that they’d have been able to pull out earlier in the long run if they’d just stopped. I like my life as it is thanks, I’m not letting an impatient idiot ruin it for me if I can help it.

Just because the idiot has his face turned towards you, doesn’t mean he’s seen you or is aware that he’s seen you. Learn to see it in the eyes, once you’ve seen the recognition in his or her eyes, then you only have to trust him not to let his foot slip off the clutch.

My friend Alistair who’s an awesome rider, really, can do things on a bike that I can’t dream of doing in this lifetime or the next, (he’s a stunt rider) has a theory that I think is a good one, as used by fighter pilots, and called the ‘corridor’. The pilot will have a smooth approach to an attack, straight line, constant speed and attitude, and this makes him and his plane much harder to detect as it approaches – it’s just an object growing. So, Al does the opposite, he makes a slight weave as he’s approaching a turning where a car is waiting to pull out, not like a racer warming up tyres, just a slight deviation from the corridor, and that is enough to to get him seen, really seen.

Good one Al, hope you don’t mind me sharing your gem here. 

Don’t rely on this on its own though, be sure by looking in the eyes, really try, it will become second nature and automatic.

A good thing to practice is the opening up of the vision, using peripheral vision, it’s like having lots of pairs of eyes, all working on gathering information at once.

I am always keeping at least a portion of my attention on the road surface ahead, London is in a crap state roadwise, they take all the road tax money and spend it on everything but mending potholes. It’s important, to know what you’re going to be riding over in 3 or 5 seconds time. At the same time, I need to be checking out whether the driver ahead is about to pull out, there’s a foot I’ve just seen under the bumper of a van parked ahead, and break lights are going on as well. That’s a lot of information to take in, and if your eyes are focused on one thing, like the road surface ahead, you’ll miss one of the important clues to answering the question ‘is it safe to proceed at this speed?’

The more you can use peripheral vision, the more information you can process, the better equipped you are to make decisions, the safer you are.

Shadows, reflections, looking through vehicles pedestrian behaviour, animals, birds, all these could be lifesaving tell tale signs of what’s about to happen. Eyes need to be constantly scanning the picture ahead, every element tells you something, every moving thing taken into account and analysed what’s it doing, what’s it going to do?

When you’re riding around in the traffic, there are cars around, going this way and that, mostly they behave in a predictable manner, doing what  you’d expect. To be safe, a motorcyclist must not rely on this predictability – If you are just looking at the car, you are relying on only a small portion of the available information to keep you safe.

Get inside the car and the head of the person driving it, and read their minds. To do this, you have to have a good look at them, read who they are and what they’re up to, how much attention are they paying the road? Are they aware of you? Are they on the phone? are they chatting, laughing with their mates, showing off to a girl, in a hurry or a bad mood? Are they old and possibly not capable of the sort of awareness you’d like from other road users? Do they look like an idiot?

Now you have some more information to go on, it takes microseconds when you get used to it to gathering this information, and it will save your life again and again.

This also helps develop a sixth sense, like a subconscious filter, this can have you reacting to things you’re not even aware of having seen.

Now you’ve had a look at them, read what they’re planning to do, are they looking at the queue of traffic ahead and getting fidgety? If so, they may suddenly pull out for the right hand turning 50 yards up ahead, or swing a Uturn in front of you.

If there’s a right turn ahead, and you’re about to overtake a car, have a look, is his right hand on the left hand side of the wheel with his elbow up? This is a sure sign that he’s about to turn right, you can spot this behaviour up to a few seconds before it happens, and take evasive action. There are many signs that you can pick up on, so many in fact that to start going into them here would keep us both up all night. You may only have a split second to read these signs, the guy sitting in a parked car whose hand suddenly darts down towards where the doorhandle is -guess what he’s likely to be doing??  you may have to read them over the drivers shoulder, so start practising, thinking like this will make you much safer as you get more awareness.

This gets harder when it’s raining and dark, it’s harder for people to see out of cars, and it’s harder to see through a visor which is covered in raindrops, then through a rained on car window, but you have got to do it, your life depends on it, unless you want to swap your bike for a wheelchair.

There are days when it all comes together, and riding a bike is fantastic, the gaps all open up for you, the lights are in your favour, there’s not too much traffic, and things flow nicely, dry tarmac, sun, and all your favourite corners are free for you to lean into when you get there! These days are great, and I love riding on days like this, they are what make getting cold and wet worth it.

There are also days when things don’t seem to go as well, there’s too much traffic, meaning that the gaps aren’t there for you, the tarmac seems dry in places, but in others you can’t be sure, the lights are against you and the drivers all seem to be in a hurry and in an inconsiderate mood towards bikes, you in particular. My advice is, don’t try to turn this type of day into the other, the one where it’s all coming together – it won’t work – on this type of day, just settle in behind the car you can’t get past, and stay safe. You may find that you can filter  up at the lights, and from then on it eases and you can flow, or it may not, it could just stay frustrating. Some days that’s how it is. This is the discipline, stay within your safety zone.

I’ve seen traffic volumes more than double, probably triple – since I’ve been riding, I did 4 years as a despatch rider in London – cars are everywhere, so many of them that in really heavy traffic there may be few bike sized gaps, drivers are getting stupider as well, they are on the phone, now we have tape, CD, mp3, sat navs I’ve even seen people watching TV as they’re driving, they jump the lights like you wouldn’t believe, it’s like the rule of the car in front, if they get through, I can make it too, and you sometimes see half a dozen cars race through a red light. What I’m saying is that it’s getting more dangerous, cars are faster so can accelerate away from lights so fast that you’ll find them right on your tail after only 100 yards – the sound systems in them are getting better, and bikes quieter so that we’re harder to hear. The people in them are less considerate, they don’t care if you come off your bike, they’re concerned only with themselves, and getting where they’re going as quick as possible, (even if it means the back of the next queue of traffic – it often is) Scooters scooters everywhere- it’s got better, when the scooter explosion happened 10 years ago, there were suddenly masses of people on two wheels who had no idea of safety, road craft or of etiquette – it made riding a bike much more frustrating and dangerous almost overnight. Ride in a way that takes these factors into account.

This has turned out longer than I intended, and not said as much as intended, it’s a huge subject. Having ridden bikes for the last 33 years, in London, on motorways, fast A roads, B roads, small country roads and tracks, I do feel that I know what I’m doing, and know how to read the signs of what’s ahead. Every now and then I come across a situation I haven’t seen before and nearly get caught out, have a near miss and my confidence takes a hit. I worry about myself, am I really safe? Cold wet dark winter mornings riding 25 miles into work…who knows, I hope I never get complacent, because that’s the day it could go wrong – no one is too good at this, and no one is 100% safe. It’s like a game of chess played at high speed, thinking as many moves ahead as there’s useful information. Keep learning, keep safe.

How to Mount a Bike Roof Rack

Many vehicles come with factory-installed roof racks as part of a “sport package;” however, these racks are designed more for looks than functionality and are usually only capable of safely handling about 100 pounds. If you plan on hauling heavy or irregularly shaped items, you’ll probably need an “aftermarket” bike rack. They’re far more reliable when it comes to weight considerations. Plus, heavy-duty bicycle racks accommodate a wide range of gear, including kayaks, surfboards, snowboards, and camping equipment.

Depending on the manufacturer and model selected, installation for each kit will vary slightly. In general, however, installing your new bike carrier is a simple, 7-step process.

STEP 1: Wash the roof of your car. Installing a rack on a dirty roof will make it harder to clean in the future and may also prevent the attachment points of the rack from lying flush.

STEP 2: Standard bike roof racks consist of two crossbars and four “foot” mounts, which attach to the vehicle’s side-rails or gutters. Loosen the hand screw on the exterior of each foot mount just enough to spread them open.

STEP 3: Spread the foot mount openings wide enough to fit the crossbars and insert the crossbars between the four mounts. You should now have two crossbars with foot mounts loosely attached to either end.

STEP 4: Determine the correct width between mounts for your vehicle by measuring from the inside edge of the foot mounts. Once the crossbar distance between mounts is the proper length, tighten the adjustments into place.

STEP 5: Next, attach pads to mounts and caps to crossbars. Pads prevent the bike rack from scratching your roof, and caps seal the ends of the crossbars to prevent water from settling inside.

STEP 6: Open your car doors and center the bike racks on the roof, carefully positioning the front rack away from the top of the windshield by adhering to the manufacturer’s safety guidelines included with the product.

STEP 7: Lock the front foot mounts in place with the included metal clips that hook onto the underside rim of your car doors and tighten them in place, making sure to apply equal tension to all four. Your foot mounts and crossbars are now locked in place and ready to use!

One thing to be aware of: bike racks are easy to remove if left unlocked. So protect your gear from thieves by investing in a bicycle rack or truck bed bike rack that includes locks. If not included, they can be purchased separately.

How to Get Your Gal to Ride a Mountain Bike

It’s a perfect day for a ride on your favorite trail. You and your mountain bike are primed and ready. You’ve got plenty of water, a Powerbar or two, your helmet and gloves. Just one element is missing: your special gal.

Usually I am the official female mascot on weekly after-work rides at nearby canyons, and on day-long weekend wilderness excursions, and frankly I LOVE IT. Why wouldn’t more women want to join their men on a mountain-bike adventure to a place far from the maddening crowds, the dangers of traffic and the stench of industry?

On rides where I am the only woman, the guys lament, “I wish my woman would join us,” and glare at my husband, the lucky devil. This sentiment is even echoed on the World Wide Web, where I ran across an ongoing “Whine Chat” about women in mountain biking. An avid rider named Hammer says, “I love Women! They can add a great deal to most anything. I would guess that most Women would like to ride but the men are so rude….Ahhh, what I wouldn’t give for a Woman who could stay up or even close to me on a ride.” And Mudman adds, “Why can’t there be more women who enjoy getting dirty the right way? Is this the last frontier to get a message to the real dirty women in the world!”

Perhaps the woman you love does not realize just what she is missing. Maybe she associates mountain biking with Rambo doing wheelies, ripping, shredding, gnashing and crashing — just like in the “crash ‘n burn” videos you may have inadvertently played in her presence. She thinks you expect her to perform Observed Trials. She would never be able to keep up with you, and her bike is too big anyway, so why try? More reasons exist for her NOT to ride than to face her fears, climb aboard and take a spin. It’s up to you to help dispell these fears. Tackle them one by one.

First, make sure her bike fits. Is it the one you handed down when you invested in your fully-suspended “unobtainium” model? Hmm. If she is a different size than you, then your old bike probably does not fit her. Buy, borrow or rent her a bike she can comfortably ride on her maiden voyage. A few minor adjustments to the stem, handlebars and seat post may set her up perfectly. Her bike doesn’t have to be top’o the line, but it should arouse her desire to explore nature with her best pal, you.

Equip her with a pair of padded bicycle shorts, a pair of padded gloves and by all means, a helmet. If she says she doesn’t like what it does to her hair, tactfully let her know prevention is smart practice. A woman’s saddle will inevitably make a difference on longer rides, if she becomes an enthusiastic rider. Toe clips and rear shocks are recommended, and preferably front shocks. Be sure to simply explain the functions of the bike. Does she realize that bikes can have up to twenty-seven speeds and hair-trigger brakes these days? Give her the option to wear knee and elbow pads, if she wants. She will need a good pair of eye shields. Present these on a special occasion, maybe even gift-wrapped, emphasizing their importance to her well being on the bike.

Inform her of other members of her gender who have made the world proud. Did she have a chance to watch the flamboyant Italian, Paola Pezzo, snatch the gold at the Olympics’ first-ever mountain-biking event? The mild-mannered Susan DeMattei brought home the bronze. And what about Juli Furtado, who despite numerous knee operations, held the number-one spot as leading American female mountain-bike rider for five years.

Now it’s very important to get this next part right, because your first ride together will be the deciding factor on whether she continues her proverbial climb.

Under no circumstances should you bring her along on a gonzo ride with the regulars. Big mistake. They will not be patient, and you will have to wait as she dismounts to walk over a rock stream that you would long since have flown over. Avoid sabotaging her future mountain-bike career. Take her gently by the hand and make a date with Nature.

What woman does not love a romantic picnic in an idyllic setting, with flitting butterflies and untainted air, where your eyes can meet hers and your spirits carress? With perhaps a skinny-dip opportunity? Well, what about combining a bicycle ride with a picnic destination complete with a lightweight blanket for lounging on, and a picnic lunch. Pack your food and drink carefully.

It’s like Pavlov’s theory. If you can find a way to connect her impressions of mountain biking to a romantic interlude, you can get her to mount that ne’r-been-used bike which came without instructions on how to get her on it.

Let her know the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits derived from riding. Mountain biking builds endurance, feeds the internal organs, dismantles fatty deposits and builds some fine legs and butt. She can get a good upper body workout by rhythmically pulling back on her handlebars while climbing hills. A mountain-bike workout relieves stress and provides the opportunity to “commune” with nature — strong medicine. These life-enhancing benefits will add longevity to your relationship.

You will know your initial journey has been successful if she proposes the next ride. If she still needs more convincing, and is willing, set weekly or monthly dates to get away on destination bike rides. Ride together as often as you can in your neighborhood. As long as she derives pleasure and rewards from riding, she will be more likely to continue. Before you both know it, she will be riding greater distances and noticing some handsome cuts in her thigh muscles. She will be hooked.

The following caveats apply to the afore-mentioned instructions:

* You must crave to enjoy the mountain-bike experience with your woman.
* You must be patient and gentle as you guide her through a potentially fearsome experience.
* You must patiently give simple non-judgmental instructions to improve her riding.
* You must be ready to accept changes in your lives together.

Romantic Destinations

Let’s say you both ride happily ever after. Now you must feed two voracious appetites. Consider a romantic off-road adventure in some real mountain-bike country, Southwestern U.S. style:

* Moab, Utah, where Slickrock is the hub from which dozens of rides emanate. Best time late Fall. World renowned as “Mountain-Bike Mecca”.
* Marin, California, birthplace of Mountain Biking. Best time Spring through Autumn. Right across the Golden Gate Bridge from cosmopolitan San Francisco.
* Big Bear, California, host to numerous NORBA-endorsed races for good reason. Best time Spring through Fall.

Are you feeling frisky enough for the great unknown? Here are a few tried and trues:

* Whistler Mountain, British Columbia, Canada. Summer’s longer days will provide time for biking and summer skiing. Alison Sydor’s stomping ground.
* Costa Rica, Central American jewel featuring expansive national park refuges for exotic animals and habitats, volcanoes, rain forests, and beautiful beaches. Most enjoyable in December and January.
* Zermatt, Switzerland, abode of the notorious Matterhorn, alpine wildflowers and gushing waterfalls. Awesome in the summertime.
* Litochoro, Greece, at the base of Mt. Olympus, playground of Xena and Hercules. The window of adventure is open from Spring through Fall.
* South Australia, home to the world’s oldest mountains, the Flinders Ranges, and a wide variety of native animals including kangaroos and koalas. The kind of place to fall in love. Spring through Fall are October through May.

Don’t forget, some Rules of the Trail:
Take plenty of water and some form of edible energy.
Always wear a helmet.
Ride only on areas designated for mountain bikes.
Revere Mother Nature.