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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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©Earl Harper

With more than a century of cycling heritage, Raleigh is one of the most respected bicycle brands in the world. The company is also a leading innovator and supporter of the Gates belt drive revolution. For 2015, Raleigh USA has expanded its lineup of Gates Carbon Drive equipped bikes to six models. Pictured above is the colorful XXIX singlespeed 29er mountain bike–a flashy yet low-maintenance machine for SS racers–or a dream quiver bike for geared riders who want to simplify. It features a Fox Float 100mm fork and hydraulic discs on a nimble Chromoly frame.

Not a mountain biker? Raleigh offers a broad spectrum of belted bikes, from cyclocross and urban commuting to fitness and comfort models.

©Earl Harper
Above is the brightly colored Alysa i8 women’s fitness bike. The Shimano Nexus 8 internal gear hub paired with a Gates belt and women’s specific frame geometry make the Alysa i8 a speedy and functional machine for riding city bike paths. Mount fenders and a rack and this bike doubles as a grease-free daily commuter.

©Earl Harper

The Cadent i8 is a fitness bike with a Shimano Alfine eight-speed hub. Hydraulic disc brakes, a lightweight carbon fork and commuter-friendly geometry make the Cadent ideal for riding to the gym or work.

©Earl Harper

The Mesika 4.0 i8 above is in Raleigh’s urban utility line. Raleigh USA calls it “the perfect, hassle-free commuter.” It comes with a Gates belt drive attached to a Shimano Nexus seven-speed internal hub, a comfy Selle Royal saddle, Kenda tires with puncture protection and “set it and forget it” Shimano roller brakes.

©Earl Harper

The RXS is a performance singlespeed cyclocross race bike with a lightweight alloy frame, carbon fork, Clement tires and TRP hydraulic brakes for added control while cornering or charging downhill on muddy cross courses. The Gates Carbon Drive CenterTrack belt system is a proven winner and eliminates the hassle of cleaning and lubing a chain after a race. Just hose it off, put it away wet and go grab a beer. After you get off the podium, of course.

©Earl Harper

The Misceo 4.0 is a do-it-all fitness and country road ripper with hydraulic disc brakes, puncture resistant tires and an eight-speed internal hub mated to a Gates belt. The styling is sleek and understated, perfect for no-nonsense bicyclists who want a clean and fast tool to get the job done. With a Gates-equipped bike for everyone, Raleigh has joined the Carbon Drive revolution that is simplifying cycling. How about you?

©Earl Harper

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schiller-X1-water-bike-designboom01

The X1 from Schiller Sports blurs the line between boats and bikes. The frame is made of rust-free anodized aluminum, with stainless steel components and inflatable pontoons. The propulsion system features a Gates Carbon Drive belt and sprockets because a chain would corrode. The X1 may be the most advanced water bike ever created, a vehicle that allows bicyclists to “experience the thrill and freedom of biking across a spectacular blue planet,” says company founder and CEO Judah Schiller.

Riders steer the X1 via two oscillating props connected to the handlebars. It weighs about 45 pounds, can be disassembled to fit into the trunk of a car or home closet and can hit speeds of 8 knots (10 miles per hour) depending on rider ability. Schiller worked with engineer Marcus Hays, founder of Gates belt drive eBike brand Pi Cycle, on the design. “If you can ride a bike, you can ride the Schiller X1 anywhere there’s water,” Schiller told USA Today in an article about the invention. “I had the X1 out at the beach locally, about a mile offshore, and ended up biking with dolphins.”

The X1 costs $6,495, with a special Founder’s Edition for $8,775. The company is based in the Bay Area and all X1s are manufactured in Northern California. Learn more at www.schillerbikes.com. Just watch out for sharks.

Schiller on water bike

Judah Schiller chilling on the X1 off the coast of Northern California, above, and pedaling near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Schiller water bike_Golden Gates

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Guapo_Wood_Loft_HighRes

Guapa Cycles is a new British brand that is combining natural materials to create elegant city bikes. Founded by brothers Tom and Harry Williams, the company’s first bike is the Urban One, which features a frame constructed of bamboo and flax fiber. The flax fiber adds strength and dampens vibrations, and Guapa says its bike frames are as strong as an equivalent steel or aluminum frame.

guapa ride shot

Flax might sound like a curious choice, but this is not the flax seed you’d find in your breakfast granola. After being harvested in France, the fiber is woven into an incredibly tough fabric in Italy and then impregnated with a resin. “Flax has been chosen over the use of carbon or glass fibre due to its complimentary mechanical properties to wood,” the company says on its website. “This has enabled us to create a wooden bicycle that is lightweight and stiff yet with minimal vibration.” Learn more about the process and watch a video about flax fiber fabric here.

Guapa completes the Urban One with a Gates Carbon Drive belt system and a NuVinci N360 continuously variable planetary hub for clean, smooth and simple pedaling and shifting. Read the Bike Radar story about Guapa. This is bike innovation at its finest. Call it natural selection.

Guapo_Wood_Gates Closeup_HighRes

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Nicolai FatBike_Schneidi_throwing rubble

Frank Schneider of the Gates-Nicolai mountain bike team shatters the stereotype that fat bikes are for old guys with beards who want to go for slow rides in the snowy woods. “Schneidi” met up recently with photographer Hoshi Yoshida for a shoot in a gravel pit near the Nicolai headquarters in Germany. The Argon Fat that he is riding is one of the most innovative fat bikes on the market. Thanks to the Pinion gearbox and Gates belt it provides twice the fun with none of the grease. The Argon Fat will be displayed at Eurobike next week and Interbike in early September. If you are attending, come check it out. You may not be able to ride this pig like Schneidi, but imagine how fun it will be in the snowy woods.

Nicolai FatBike_Schneidi_stylin on dirt

Nicolai FatBike_Schneidi_splash

Nicolai Fatbike_Schneidi_sideways

Nicolai FatBike_Schneidi_riding ridge

Nicolai FatBike_Schneidi_over sticks

Nicolai FatBike_Schneidi_cornering

Nicolai FatBike_Pinion and Gates

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