DIY mattress pump (plus hot porn video)

Probably the most useful piece of camping kit I’ve made (to date) plus as a bonus you can see pretty hot porn video with this piece of kit in action ;-).

Googling the other day I came across Exped Minipump. This is an awesome idea, but I’m not sure will fit other brands than Exped. They making quite ok camping gear, but unfortunately too dear for me. So I tried recreate more less same product.

I made valve connector with cable gland. Just cut inside to fit valve.

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Cut ripstop in a shape of big lollipop as below. (already looking hot ;-))

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As ripstop is quite thin I had to reinforce hole with a bit of stronger fabic. Tested and sewn to leg of one “lollipop”.

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A “bun” been made with foam I found at office. The additional holes are to decrease slightly volume of the foam (will pack smaller).

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In other lollipop piece i made air intake hole, and everything has been put together. Voilà, ready to test. Uhh! Ohh! look at that hot pictures below!

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And now promised porn. Do not watch it if you’re under 18! Camera! action!

Final thoughts. Obviously that is prototype or MK1 if you like, just to prove the concept. The pump works ok, but I didn’t pay too much attention to details (as I wanted quickly test it), so I think the air leaks are the main problem. Other than that the test was promising enough to make another iteration in the nearest future.

Mistakes. “Foam bun” is too small, should fill completely wider part. I’m planning to add valve in “hose” part of the lollipop as I got feeling that air been sucked back a bit. The hose is not acting completely as expected, I thought negative pressure will squeeze walls and act as valve). I hoped that¬† stitching need to be air tight so next time I’m going to glue pieces together and than sew it. Intake hole need to be a bit smaller.

Time for Mk2, stay tuned!

Avenir front rack (plus Ortliebs)


I had couple thoughts about distributing weight on the bike. I’ve been thinking about Salsa anything cage with some dry bags. Neat solution, quite like it, but will be a bit tricky to attach it to the fork in my case. What I really don’t like is the price for whole setup. One Salsa Cage in is UK ¬£29 (need two). On top of that is pair of fancy Salsa bags or other dry bags (Porcelain Rocket) with size suitable for the cage, or DIY something.

Other option was Blackburn Outpost cargo cage. This one is around ¬£17 per one. That’s better. Acceptable price, but again, a bit problematic to attach to my fork.

Finally I gave up and started looking for standard front panniers and rack. I’m not really original and went for Ortlieb. As I don’t really see the point paying more for Classic model, I bought “Front City”. Minimalistic design waterproofness guaranteed by Ortlieb and costs 51 quid per pair. Good.

Then I had a bit of dilemma with front rack. I found quite a lot of different designs, but really liked Avenir front rack. Googled about 2 days tried to find any information about dimensions and if they’re compatible with Ortliebs. No luck. The other thing to consider was compatibility with disc brakes. Anyway I decided to purchase the rack and try. I can always return if won’t be possible to fit them. Turned out the rack fits perfectly Ortlieb panniers. So just in case someone is searching for dimensions here we are:


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Two things you might don’t like. At first of all there’s no front joining so theoretically they can be “sucked” by front wheel and cause very nasty OTB. But I think as I have mudguards, the mudguard stays will be enough to prevent this from happening.

Once I checked the panniers fit and brakes won’t be a big problem, started to think how to securely attach them to fork. As I expected none of the fittings were ok for my setup and probably most bicycles will have same problem. The internet is full of similar stories as below:

“This front rack is great if you have very thin front forks, otherwise they just will not fit. I am ashamed to say that I resorted to hammering the fixing to make them fit and put dents in the front forks. If you are ordering online check and check again all measurements……now they fit and are very solid indeed !!! “

Well…, the guy gave 2 stars rating the product. On the other hand I’m just wondering why Avenir decided to give only small brackets (U bolts), which¬† in most cases won’t fit? Why they didn’t supply with another, bigger set of U bolts? Or just simply bigger U bolt? Cost for end customer will be probably around +¬£1.20. Strange.

Anyway at first of all, I needed bigger U bolt. as the one supplied originally with rack was way too small for my fork (the one suplied it’s really 20mm across, nonsense unless you’re owner of old steel frame). After measuring the fork 5 times I purchased suitable U bolt stainless steel 6mm (6 quid) 37mm across. Put some heat-shrink to protect fork. And here we are.

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Next I made two spacers instead of original one. The spacers are made of 5mm thick plastic. I’ve chosen the plastic as is incredibly easy to work with, but that can be done using alloy bar or something else.

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The mudguard stays eyelets are “sandwitched” between slightly oversized washers (I decided to use same threads as for mudguard stays).


The other option for using mounting points only for rack only is Axiom axle runners or DIY similar thing from alloy sheet (might actually try it for my other bike which hasn’t got eyelets at all)

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Everything mounted, medium thread lock applied on all bolts. Done

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Keep’em rolling. Cheers.

DDay trip with Marceli

Jumped in train on Saturday and went to Southampton. From Southampton we rode to Portsmouth with ferry from Gospot. Next 3 days we spent pedalling along the cost from Sword Beach to Utah Beach visiting museums and Arromanches 360 cinema (incredible atmosphere, must see). All together more than 200km.


HoHoHo (Charge Grater 3)

… aka (n+1)-1.

Early X-mas came to my house and I splashed some money on new commuter. After searching for some time I wanted to try bicycle with gears in hub. Basically I hope that mucky ride won’t affect bicycle with hidden gears and disk brakes are more logical choice for British weather. About year ago I tried on LBS Genesis Day one with Alfine 11. Priced quite nicely about 70% of original price (around ¬£900 for almost new- someone returned the bike after week of use), which was still quite steep for me. Since then I’ve been searching to do it cheaper, and I had the idea of buying everything separately and using cyclocross frame put a new commuter together slightly cheaper. Started calculating and I discovered that I’ll probably end up with same price. So the cheapest option, was to find a complete bike, tune it to my needs and sell remaining bits and pieces on ebay. Some time ago I’ve discovered Charge Grater 3. From research on Internet I could tell that’s what I needed. Just swap handlebars and job done. Decided splashed some cash (¬£649) and here we are. Two weeks later shiny and new bike in my living room. I know pictures are rubbish but on Charge web page better can be found.

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Before more of bike porn, some pros and cons (as I see them).

Pros: nice frame – full set of threads for mudguards (front and rear) as well for rack (rear only), theoretically upgradable to standard CX bicycle as on the back drive side fitting for rear wheel looks like ready for derailleur hanger (in fact the alloy socket looks like hanger just cut with saw ;-)). The frame got eccentric BB, looks like is perfect tourer choice. In case of braking rear mech single speed can be made on the side of the road.


Wheels looks solid. WTB rims with Shimano hubs (will see)

Cheap and cheerful hydraulic Shimano brakes, from the bottom of the scale (equivalent of Alivio group), but looks pretty solid in terms of stopping the bike. Rotors completly different story.

Quite nice looking mudguards, fiddly though to set it up correctly.

All hardware from Charge got ascetic look which I think are quite nice.


Rotors are rubbish, full stop.

Apparently I’ve got “anti-rust” chain, but the feeling of that chain when turning crank backwards is terrible. Will see after first 100-200k if that will disappear.

I can’t tell anything about Kenda tyres, but remember not funny experience with (same series – Kwick) couple of years ago. They were tifferent size (25-700) but left bad taste in mouth. Anywho spoiled by Schwalbe Marathon’s, swapped straight away to them.

So the bike porn as promised:

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Tyres changed, rack mounted. Time for swap to road handlebars.

To make it happened I had to search for Versa road levers suitable for Shimano Alfine 8. Found them off ebay in good price. I wanted cx levers as well, as bike will be used mainly to commute to work. For handlebars I found ITM as weapon of choice because of short reach (70mm) and shallow drop (125mm) so really not changing position too much riding with hands on flats or on hoods.


To convert to road levers callipers need to be swapped. That was almost no-brainier and I went for mechanical Avid BB7 (be aware that exists two different versions MTB and Road-different cable pull). The reputation is proven by lots of reviews on Internet.

Problems (and solutions). The build itself went smooth with two minor problems.

First. Cable routing. Looks like minor detail but wrongly done can affect shifting and braking. Quite a bit of fiddling with cables different options considered and I came with solution to cross the brake and gear cable underneath downtube. Doesn’t look sleek but will do better IMHO that sharp bent rear brake cable.

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Second problem was rotors.¬†I hoped I’ll be able to leave original Shimano rotors and use them with BB7’s, but decided after test ride they must go. For remaining rotors I’m pretty sure I can find better use ;-). Will report any issues with newly purchased Shimano Ice-Tec XT RT81 rotors (¬£22.5 per one). That was biggest bump I didn’t expect.

For sale after whole operations: Charge handlebars with grips, Shimano brakes and Alfine 8 shifter. So all in all should cover at least 60% of transformation expenses.

Some links to useful stuff I found (you might find) during build.

Keep the rolling.

Dartmoor (tiny) trip

Suppose to be three day trip to Dartmoor, wild camping, plenty pictures etc, but I was too optimistic about the British weather – predictably unpredictable. Sunday noon after quick forecast check, looked like Sunday afternoon until Monday evening will be heavily raining. I scratched my head, counted pluses and minuses, and decided, that won’t be fun riding in pouring rain and headed back to Exceter. In the meantime, as to ensure me, started drizzling. Anyway, the hills (18-19%) in Devon will take care to not leave you dry, even when it’s not raining ;-).

Such a shame, last bank holiday before Christmas, wasted because of weather.

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Micro adventure

Long bank holiday weekend pushed me outdoors. Initial plan was Dartmoor (possibly Project Eden) but I’ve ended up just touching outskirts of Dartmoor.

Anyway, as always lack of planning is a plan for disaster. The links to with routes are just as an example, I’ve done each day from 110-120km circling around towns or trying to find better way, or trying to find shops etc..

Day 1

Day 1 – reality

I was in rush as I ended earlier on Friday and still had to change tyres, change pedals, tighten crank buy a food etc, etc… Effectively I forgot couple bits and pieces and climbed quite a hills on National Cycle Route no 2 on the way back, plus insane hills just before Cerne Abbas itself. In some places the road is insanely steep reaching (from my Garmin) 18%. Not funny with trailer and panniers, but what won’t kill you will make you stronger.

Day 2

Day 2 – reality

Between Devon and Dorset Route no 2 is in some places just magic…

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… but very steep in some places which makes problems with climbing, but as the rule no 2¬†saying:¬†harden the fuck up. On the other side you can reach easily 70kmh going downhill. Not good at all… As a result after Alps and this trip brake blocks are not existent.

Day 3

Started with brill weather as you can see…

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… and then gradually was darker, and darker and of course started pissing. I thought will be worse so turned back and decided to shorten whole trip one day and get back on Monday.

On the way back I took ferry which saved me probably an hour or so. Ended up, after painstaking hill, on the posh camping near Sidmouth feeling slightly strange between campers worth 50k quid ;-).

Day 4

The steepest and probably hardest hill on the last day Eggardon Hill, but the view was rewarding. On top, one guy just asked¬†Don’t tell me you cycled all the way up?!


Gear camping and some thoughts.

I’ve tested couple of things as always. At first of all what works.

Coffee maker – coffee sack ;-). Basically I’ve made simple method for coffee on the go. I made small sack made of synthetic (polyester?) fine netting fabric. Whole procedure is similar to making tea from leaves and the sack can be used for that purpose as well. Weighs nothing can be squeezed and stored anywhere. Quality of coffee is more less same like from french press.

JavaSack ;-) JavaSack ;-) JavaSack ;-)

JavaSack ;-) JavaSack ;-) JavaSack ;-)

New sleeping bag Vango F10 Catalyst 250 goose down (95/5). Just delighted with that thing. Spent 120 quid (RRP ¬£200!), quite a money for me, but I’ll be sorted for early spring and autumn. I must admit was slightly too warm, as in the night was about 14C. Only one night been col enough to zip it up.
New tent Terra Nova Zephyros 2. Seems to be quite ok tent for the price – double skin, under 2kg, spacious tent for around ¬£100. I’ve made two mods: replaced lines with dynema and line-loks and replaced 60cm end masts with foldable ones same length as main pole (43cm) which effectively reduced whole package to almost half size. Terra Nova is claiming that is two person, but really you need to be close with someone to count it as 2 person tent ;-). I’ll call it man-with-a-dog-tent. Plenty of space inside for one person, and in bad weather I believe will be able to cook inside. I’ll post some pictures in the future.
Gearing in front double 46-34 on the back (10 sp) 11-36. Basically mix of Deore DynaSys with FSA Omega crankset SLX Cassette. Works really well with trailer, quite happy with that setup. Can’t see any reason changing to anything else.Allows me to climb even steepest hills (the 36T cassette looks absolutely ridiculous ;-))

What wasn’t work

Pegs from my new tent. Fucking joke! Almost half of them bent after first use.
Bloody Garmin and 705 calculating route 2o minutes, soooo annoying.
My planning skills sucks. No major mistakes but plenty smaller quite annoying (that’s why I haven’t got output from GPS- batter died and I didn’t have cable to charge it…).

Keep them rolling.

2013 TdF trip (La Maurienne Valley)

This year I decided to see TdF in Alps. Plans for slow touring in Normandy been abandoned, and after quick research me and friend of mine decided to book camp.
We stayed on Camping des Grand Cols (map) in the heart of Maurienne Valley. The camp is made for cyclists, and probably 99% there are road cyclists, specially during TdF time. The main objective was to climb most (or all) of the iconic climbs around and have a good time (means not boot camp but keep the wheels rolling every day). Below you can see sign on the way out from the camping, with altitude and approx distance to the top of climbs.


So we did almost all of them (apart from Le Mont Cenis). Numbers in brackets means how many times they’ve been ridden in TdF.
Col de l’Iseran¬†(9), Col du T√©l√©graphe¬†(18), Col du Galibier¬†(31), Col de la Croix de Fer¬†(16), Col du Glandon¬†(13), Col de la Madeleine¬†(24) plus Alpe d’Huez¬†(28) on the day of 18th stage 2013 Tdf. What is more classic than 100th Tour de France and Alpe d’Huez climb?

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Bicycle climbing in Alps means you need to be prepared for not as crazy steep ascents, but steady 6-10% very long stretches of roads. Time is the killer, not steepness. Anyway after finding your rhythm everything becoming easier and whole experience is “mind clearing”. Don’t be afraid you see the pictures and even middle age doughnut like me was able to do it. We’ve been in super minority with our bikes, as I took touring bike, and Woytek had mtb with slicks. Normally 99% of the people riding road bikes, occasionally you can see touring bikes with panniers. In terms of MTB, for some reason (ski lifts?) exist as downhill mostly.

Gearing and some thoughts about riding.
I’ve seen some people riding Col du Galibier on racers with 39/25, but you need to be confident (skinny and fit) to do it. On a racer I would say 34/30 or more standard 34/28 easiest combination will be just right (again I’m doughnut you need to remember). That will give some extra gearing if you want to recover at some point, rather than pushing big gear all the time. Eating and drinking is quite important and again I would prefer 2X750ml, but is really a personal preference, and in most villages you can find tap with water so you’ll need to carry isotonic tabs. As always it’s nice to have something sweet to eat as the climb is literally sucking the juice out of you. Clothes. I recommend arm warmers as well as wind shell. Ascents are usually warm-and-sweaty but descents are completely different story. Descending means usually 15 minutes ride down and you’ll freezing at the bottom. I was always surprised that I actually rode the whole way up, and how long it takes to get back down.

The whole trip was epic. Camping, very good. Views stunning. We’re slightly disappointed with food this time. Quite a hassle to find something open in “normal” hours.

Second objective was TdF.

Same as last year TdF was slightly boring, because of Sky team domination, but that’s how it is. “Froome train” was spinning steady towards win. Nobody was talking about his gregari, nobody knows who they are. The main actor stayed untouched from stage 9.

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Quite impressive was Quintana, ended with two jerseys (white and polka-dot), and that was probably the best part of TdF this year. This guy is just killer in mountains, reminds me Marco Pantani. Below is Pantani statue on the way to Col du Galibier where this year Giro d’Italia stuck because of snow. If he’ll only be able to ride TT better, Froome might be not as comfortable as he was. Ok, there are people which knows better the sport and more clever analytics than myself. We’ve been there to feel the buzz, atmosphere and excitement of “le Tour” not to analyse.

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Couple of words about journey to and back from France.
I’ve decided to go by train this year and I must say that was a mistake. Each way was couple stages: home->Poole(by bicycle), Poole->London Waterloo(train), commute by bicycle in London to St Pancras (terrible traffic, and even more terrible roads), London St Pancras->Paris Gare du Nord(Eurostar), commute in Paris to Gare du Lyon, and eventually train (SNCF) to Grenoble. Same procedure on the way back. I’ve choose train because I thought will be less hassle with the bike than flying. In fact is the same annoying procedure with Eurostar as with plane. I sacrificed one pannier for bike bag (padded) which proven to be very useful as in France bike needs to be in the bag otherwise you’ll need to pay. Eurostar charging ¬£30 for assembled bike ¬£10 for bike in bike bag, Paris-London is more expensive as I paid 15 Euro. Why? French labour more expensive? Don’t ask me.
On the way back Eurostar didn’t expect so many cyclists (apparently was 80 people with bikes appeared on the station). Effectively I spent 2.5h waiting for my bike and nearly missed last train to Poole. Ended 1:20am in Poole with 30km ride home. ūüėČ

Hint’s for people want to travel by train anyway.
1# Don’t book whole journey trough Eurostar webpage. It’s not cheaper, price is the same. Even more important, you can decide how much time do you need for commuting between stations (if you doing so) (BTW, you don’t want to go to tube/metro with you bike in bike bag believe me).
Normally when you’re booking on Eurostar page, the standard commute time is 50-90 minutes. 50 minutes is really tight with bike (unpack-assemble-ride-disassemble-pack), and you’ll need to be very well organized. In 50 minutes scenario you haven’t got any time for chain drop, or flat tyre. Personally I would rather wait longer, than changing tyre with shaking hands in central London. The other thing is that dispatch office is always some distance from main gate, so it’s waste of time walking up and down.
2# Buy cheap not padded bike bag. For padding use pipe insulation and put them on the frame. To keep together bike use standard bungee cords. With that setup you’ll save 50% of volume in the panniers comparing to padded bike bag.
3# Protect chainrings with some rubber or old piece of tyre.
4# Be organized. I used two 30l panniers. That’s plenty of space and is really handy to just stick panniers on the bike and ride, rather than fiddling with some other stuff attached to the frame.
5# Think about rucksack. In some circumstances, rucksack is more handy than panniers. You can survive 5-7km commute in cities and if necessary even 30km ride is doable. If the plan is staying in one place and riding around (like we’ve done) this might be the best solution.

Next time some camping tips, stay tuned…

Some pictures

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Normandy short (D-Day) trip

That wasn’t the planned, but the first night on a ferry I realised that the short trip to France will be exactly following the beaches where Allies troops landed in 1944. The exact date was 6th July, so was really close to 69th anniversary. Riding along the coast and seeing all museums, memorials,¬†cemeteries¬†makes you think how lucky you’re to be there, and how unlucky was those boys storming Normandy beaches, and how much you owing them.

Ok the trip. The timing was just perfect, as day before weather was a disaster (strong wind and rain), and last 5km before arriving back home started pissing again. Nevertheless nice sunny weather, temperature was around 15C. In fact this year is one of the coldest in last 100 years. I slept with all my clothes, wrapped completely in sleeping bag. I bet in the night was something like 3-4C (is nearly June for god sake what is going on?!).

The trip was a test as well. The first time I went with my¬†Extrawheel¬†trailer and new set of panniers¬†Crosso. Quite overkill for two nights trip, but as I said it was a test, and the advantage was spare space for French cheese, and other good stuff ;-). The other thing I used first time was¬†Karrimor X-lite¬†inflatable¬†sleeping mat.¬†Here you can find a¬†review. Anyway in my opinion, all three things are reasonably priced and doing the job perfectly. It’s hard to say after two day trip anything durability, but the first impression is positive. I must say that touring with trailer, is slightly different experience than¬†ordinary¬†panniers on a rack. At first of all¬†clearance between the ground and pannier is about 20cm, and using same principle “heavy things on the bottom” will give you more stable bicycle. The other major difference is weight put on the rear wheel. Basically if decent wheel is used for trailer (standard 700C wheel with 100mm spindle) and well pumped road tyre (up to 110psi) I would say is same resistance as standard panniers. On one hand trailer is heavier 5kg+wheel than standard setup, but on the other hand there’s less rolling resistance with trailer as tyre is less loaded. So is really in my opinion just a individual preference. I don’t like front panniers, and as I hardly going on¬†off-road¬†I don’t need them. The other benefit is bike choice as is just a matter of replacing existing skewer with extrawheel specific and you ready to roll. So even carbon frame racer can be used if that’s your weapon of choice. The trailer I bought with extra rack (you can see here witch attached bag). I didn’t use the rack, but even without bag, I used top of the rack as a handle which proven to be quite handy.


The best thing about Extrawheel in my case is when you arriving at the destination. Just disconnect the trailer and off you go with clean bicycle. So far I love it.

The other thing was Karrimor sleeping mat and it’s quite an improvement comparing to self inflatable mats I used before. In all aspects comfort, weight, and space as well.


Each trip you’re learning something (and making mistakes). Next time I have to have sun cream, I forgot hay fever pills (big mistake in my case), I was too optimistic about temperature and ended up sleeping with all clothes, even cycling leg warmers (sic!) – a decent sleeping bag liner will do the job this time, but I also need better 3 season sleeping bag. Also I made some discoveries. Chamois cream can be used on lips ;-). I need a 11-34T sprocket on the back for pulling the trailer¬†uphill. I didn’t have any punctures, but I need better tyres next time. I’m thinking about¬†Gatorskin¬†from Conti or¬†Gator Hardshell. As I’m riding on tarmac¬†probably¬†I’ll buy something like 25-28mm.

Some Hints.

#1 Now I’m mastering the route from my town (Blandford Forum) to Portsmouth ferry. I used two ferries this time: Hythe (route to Hythe Pier) and Gospot-Portsmouth (route to Southampton-Gosport) so I’ve minimised route on A35 and A27. The other benefit is time on the Hythe ferry you can use to have a snack, because basically you’ll have at least 20 minutes, and after 70km is just perfect place for first break. Then quick jump to Gosport and you know if you on the schedule or not.

Hint #2. When you boarding on the ferry, and you haven’t got cabin with a bed, get your sleeping bag and sleeping mat with you. also ear plugs will be quite useful ;-). Then you can put your mat anywhere on the floor and have (almost) normal night. Hint #2. Get your towel and shower gel. There’s no feeling like hot shower with over 100km in your legs. (if you’ll add a pint of lager afterwards you’re king).

Gps output:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

Some photos:

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