Cycling: critical questions about kit & caboodle

As we keep saying, we’re planning to do a lot of this adventure on bicycle rather than by boat. Chiefly this is because we want to be sure we can keep up with the book in terms of dates, and not be delayed by bad weather or tidal issues. Also, neither of us have suitable experience as sailors. It turns out, anyway, that cycling was quite the thing in the early 1900s, as we’ve noted in a previous post and a podcast.

Riders in the first Tour de France of 1903 (the same year The Riddle of the Sands was published)

Not long ago, I wrote a piece on the Brooks blog that outlined our plan and asked for some help.

So bike aficionados, what is your advice? What kind of bike should Riddle of the Sands Adventure Club members be using for this trip? And am I missing some very obvious accessories that I should be taking?

I’ve had no answer to those questions to date. But a couple of club members have been extremely helpful about planning which way to go on our bikes and – crucially – what to wear on our travels. 

Sadly,  a slight schism has occurred within the Adventure Club. Some members think we should be taking advantage of modern clothing technology, while others believe we should be sticking to period dress. Here’s club member Brian Lunn with a very helpful comment about modern cycling outfitters:

Cycling polo shirts from Velobici ( or VulpineBoth companies also do longer sleeved jerseys which are suitable for off & on bike wear, as do Café du Cycliste.

Vulpine and Swrve do good cycling trousers that are weather resistant. As for jackets I would recommend either Vulpine or Swrve. Depending on the speed you intend to cycle, you may want to equip yourselves with Tour de France outfits (see, such as the winner’s trade mark white coat and flat cap, or his sporty striped number (doubling as matelot for the boating I think), with plus fours and dainty leather shoes.

Go modern? The Swrve jacket.

But here’s club member Nick North with an email about the kind of clothes the winner of the first ever Tour de France in 1903 would be wearing.

Depending on the speed you intend to cycle, you may want to equip yourselves with Tour de France outfits – – such as the winner’s trade mark white coat and flat cap, or his sporty striped number (doubling as matelot for the boating I think), with plus fours and dainty leather shoes.

Go ancient? Marin’s distinctive & winning 1903 look.

The good news about going old school is that we’d also be encouraged to smoke and drink as much as we like, and also grow moustaches. On the downside, I suspect would end up being much less comfortable. Another Club member Jeff Quest suggests if we can’t be bothered with period dress, perhaps we should settle for a period bike:

Have you considered *Biking* like an Edwardian?

Exhibit A – The following link shows a variety of Edwardian bicycles. Surprisingly, modern bikes still look remarkably like bikes from over a 100 years ago. See here –

Exhibit B – I love this. Edwardian bike tricks. Here we can see the variety of ways bikes were rode back in Edwardian times. Pay particular attention to the clothes that they are wearing. Not only are they doing some extraordinary things on those bikes, they are doing them while dressed in suitjackets, ties, etc. I particularly would enjoy seeing you two do the “Changing Machines” maneuver while you are on your grand tour.

Lots to ponder here, not least the idea that Lloyd and I may well need to consider doing a bit of training if we’re going to be in any kind of physical shape to tackle the cycle routes of Schleswig Holstein & Friesland (more info on these supplied by Brian Lunn here), and perform a few of Jeff’s tricks.

It also raises the spectre of breakdowns & bike maintenance too. Are we prepared for punctures? Could we repair a chain on a rainy day in October on the Kiel Canal? Luckily, club members have even thought of the kind of tools we might need to take with us, notably this:


Appropriately enough, it’s called ‘The Nutter‘…

3 thoughts on “Cycling: critical questions about kit & caboodle

  1. Ahoy again chaps. The key to making a decision regarding bikes is to address a number of questions first.

    How much gear do you want to carry?
    How experienced are you as cyclists?
    Do you prefer drop or flat bars?
    How comfortable are you fixing thing (mechanical not pneumatic) if there’s a problem?
    How much are you willing to spend?

    If you were to want a bike that you can use for years (or has good re-sale value). I’d suggest a bike from Koga, a Dutch manufacturer. As you’re curiously specific for dates and locations you’re bound to need lights. They have hub dynamos and using hub gears can minimise the risk of mechanical issues.

    You can spec your own bike ( or buy off the peg


  2. Mention of the Tour de France and bike maintenance brought to mind another useless but inspirational bit of information.

    Our hero is Eugene Christophe, he completed 11 Tours de France from 1906 until 1925, never finished higher than 8th. It was in the 1913 Tour that he was descending in a mountain stage, ahead of he rest of the field on the day, when he found he could not steer, he looked down & saw his front forks were broken.

    He got off & carried his bike for about 10 kilometres, losing loads of time, but after 2 hours made it to a village where they had a blacksmiths. The blacksmith offered to weld the forks back together again, but race officials there objected, as in those days outside assistance of any type was forbidden in the rules.

    So for the next three hours Christophe did the job himself, under the guidance of the blacksmith. He was docked another 10 minutes though, because as he was wielding the hammer & holding the forks, he had allowed a 7 year old boy to pump the bellows.

    As a postscript: He made it through WW1, in a cycling battalion. In the first Tour after the war the yellow jersey was introduced . The first ever wearer? Eugene Christophe.


  3. Speaking of cycling clothing from the era of our novel, I direct your attention to the Norfolk Jacket.
    A Norfolk jacket is mentioned in the second chapter of the book as Carothers is cataloging the interior of Dulcibella, which shows Davie’s at least has one aboard.
    Here is a web page devoted to the garment and its quoted as saying the Norfolk Jacket (is)….”especially suited for bicycling, business, fishing, pleasuring, and the moorland”….
    You can find images of them online but I have not seen one in the flesh in….maybe never? its a shame they are so scarce since they are a classy looking garment.
    I will mention I am on Pinterest too, as JerseyCityFrankie, and one of my boards has a lot of Norfolk Jackets to view:


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