The Invisible Bike Helmet

 

We were recently made aware of a rather snazzy innovation developed in Sweden’s urban biking scene by our pal Lyndsey on our Facebook page.

It’s definitely worth a share – and despite the incredible title, it’s not an early April Fools story.

 

Hövding
Helmets are a faff. A life-saving faff – but a faff nonetheless. They’re generally quite uncomfortable, bulky to lug around and annihilate all carefully crafted hairstyles.

Enter the Hövding – a bicycle helmet unlike anything else we’ve seen out there as it’s not really a helmet at all, it’s a collar with an airbag that is triggered when you fall off your bike.

It’s one of those why-hasn’t-this-been-done-before inventions.

 

Cycling safety collar

 

To buy one will set you back €399 with trendy shells available from €59.

 

The company founders say the ‘Hövding is a practical accessory that’s easy to carry around. It’s subtle in design and it will save your life’.

 

Check out this video for their inspiring story:

 

 

Hats off to them.

 

Mont Blanc climber finds ‘crash’ jewels and gives them back.

A French climber making his merry way up a glacier near Mont Blanc this week had a very rewarding day out as he tripped across a treasure box full of precious metals and jewels that had been lost on the mountain for nearly half of a century.

The riches were discovered in a metallic box marked “Made in India” and are believed to have been part of the wreckage from an Air India crash in 1966.

 

Stephane Dan, crystal hunting guide, and Alexandre Pittin, mountaineer and crystal hunter, look at a part of minerals found on Mont Blanc. (AFP)
Stephane Dan and Alexandre Pittin, mountaineers and crystal hunters, check out minerals found on Mont Blanc. (AFP)

 

What’s more, the climber chose not to keep the fortune, thought to be worth around £200,000, but instead anonymously handed it all in to the police to be finally returned to its rightful owners.

Local police were pleasantly surprised by the climbers integrity saying, “He could have kept them but he chose to turn them in because he knew they belonged to someone who probably perished.” What a guy.

Would you have handed the jewels back in? Tell us in the comments below.

 

 

Suddenly interested in exploring the Mont Blanc region for yourself? Thought so. Send out a ski, mountain bike, cycling or walking holiday request with us and go buy yourself a metal detector.

 

The best places to ski in the summer

No that is not a typo, nor the result of too much sun. Summer isn’t all about barbecues and sitting outside in the evening with the family, there is some serious skiing to be done if you know where to look. Those who want something more from their summer holiday than sun, sea and sand might want to consider a ski break instead.

 

Some of the following resorts will come as a surprise who think they will have to travel to the southern hemisphere to ski in the summer, so read on to find a good selection of resorts both close to home and further afield.

 

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Hintertux Austria

When you see Hintertux for yourself, it will come as no surprise to hear than numerous ski teams train here off season. Hintertux is also home to the steepest skiing in the Alpine region that is serviced by a lift. It also boasts some of the surest snow you will find anywhere. Come slightly out of season in late spring or early autumn and you will also have the chance to try your snowboarding skills on the rails and kickers of Betterpark. A year round ski area, the lifts operate in the summer from 0815 to 1430.

 

Les 2 Alps France

Boasting one of the largest skiing resorts in Europe, Les 2 Alps is home to the Mont-de-Lans Glacier, which is open from the middle of June to the beginning of September. The glacier offers an impressive eight runs which are accessible by a railway system and chairlifts. If that’s not enough, and you seek something more daring, then there is also a snow park which boasts an enjoyable snow zone. The snow zone contains a range of small pipes for beginners wanting to try out their moves as well as a 400ft long, 15 ft high half pipe for those with more experience. A half day ticket at the resort will set you back around 30 euros and be sure to get your monies worth as the lifts open at 7:15am and close at 12:30pm.

 

Timberline Lodge Oregon

Open from the middle of May until the beginning of September; which is North America’s longest season. The scenic routes are located on the south face of Mt. Hood on the Palmer Snowfield. The main use for this resort is race camps during the summer however there is always one lane usable by the public located in the terrain above the tree line. The resort is open daily from 7am until 1:30pm offering a good amount of skiing time. This charming resort is only an hour drive away from Portland which offers other attractions if you fancy doing something else apart from skiing.

 

Ski Portillo Chile

The owners of Ski Portillo have worked very hard to keep their resort on an intimate scale. One of its biggest attractions is that there isn’t a town, or a shopping centre, or even a Starbucks. All there is here is one hotel painted yellow which can accommodate up to 400 guests at any one time. This turn means there are rarely any queues at the ski lifts, and the slopes are never overcrowded. The 28 miles of well groomed runs at Portillo are accessed by both drags and chairs. Advanced or expert skiers will cover all the runs within hours, but they needn’t fear as Portillo also boast an abundance of steep faces off piste perfect for some daredevil freeriding. Those who want to go even higher can do thanks to heli operations and if that wasn’t enough, there is a stunning back country that begs to be explored.

 

Coronet Peak New Zealand

Situated only 20 minutes from the adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere, that is Queenstown; Coronet Peak is the most popular South island ski resort. Stand at the summit and look left and you will see Gondor from Lord of the Rings. The resort boasts a varied terrain that means there is something for skiers of all abilities, from beginners through to accomplished. Those still finding their feet, so to speak, have a choice of both red and blue runs, whilst those who are more advanced can try out Terrain Park. They can also give their stamina a good testing on the M1, the longest run on Coronet Peak which stretches for 1.5 miles. Before you hit the slopes though, make sure you have suitable ski insurance policy that will cover you for the duration of your trip (try Columbus Direct).

These are just a small selection of the many great resorts which offer skiing in the summer, but are generally considered to be the best. If a summer holiday on the snow holds more appeal than the sand then ditch the sun tan oil and the flip flops for some skis and goggles and have one of the most memorable summer breaks you will ever experience.

 

Where would you add to the list? Spill the beans in the comments below.

 

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How to… Travel Cheaper

We’re all cutting our holiday budgets these days, so here are some handy hints on getting those epic active holidays ticked off your bucket list without breaking the bank.

 

Self guide rather than guided

 

Alex in the Lake District

 

 

On these trips, expert local operators have put together a great itinerary to suit your budget, fitness and ambitions. They organise your accommodation, provide route maps and GPS, then you set off on foot or by bike to find your own way from A to B. Not only is this a more cost effective option than taking a guide, it also increases your independence and flexibility to explore at leisure. They can handle things like luggage transfers between accommodations too, so it needn’t be hard work!

 

Down grade your accommodation, upgrade your experience!

 

The first and most important thing you can do to reduce travel costs is to be prepared to settle for less than spectacular accommodation, and think about basic hotels, pensions and hostels as a way of spreading the cost.

Cheap and cheerful accommodation can surprise you it’s quality and friendliness, and often comes with added local charm, leading to experiences and chance encounters you might not enjoy in swankier hotels. Let’s not forget too that if you have been out walking or biking all day, you are going to be sleeping soundly and probably only need a place to get your head down.

 

Budget for each day

 

Self guided tours typically include breakfasts, and can include evening meals too. This can be a good way of keeping costs down. Given that you’ll be spending minimal time at your place of stay, you’ll want to make sure you set yourself a budget for spending every day you are out and about – lunches, drink stops and extra sightseeing can all add up, so have a plan before you leave!

 

Before you go, book additional trains and buses well in advance – in many countries this can save you a lot on travel expenses. Use the internet to find the cheapest flights, and look out for deals or group savings if you are travelling in a party.

 

Don’t be tempted by tourist traps.

 

walking hols resized for web

 

Stay clear of tourist traps and places than cost an inordinate amount of money. You will spot them a mile off – they are typically the busiest and most picturesque parts of towns, near local monuments and historic sites or places of beauty.

 

Here the food looks lovely and restaurants look like perfect places to relax for a while, but the food will inevitably cost twice as much and, unfortunately is usually a poor relation to the quality local food you can enjoy a few streets away where the locals tend to go.

 

Like your accommodation choices, once you step off the tourist super highway you’ll be opening yourself up to the interesting chance encounters that make holidays so special.

 

 

Stop Searching

 

Mountain Biking in… Greece

Touring sunny holiday destinations by bike is becoming more prevalent by the minute, partly because of the varied trails on offer and partly because of the warmer climate. Budding bikers can choose from picturesque routes, cruising along the spectacular coastline, to more daring treks along the jagged peaks. There is something for everyone in Greece. Gaining access to the region is easy and a number of flights leave on a daily basis.

Where to go

Greece has a huge range of riding opportunities, as well as a number of high-altitude trails. Such trails are more suited to the intermediate biker as opposed to the beginner. A number of rugged, natural tracks can be found in the area, all of which are surrounded by picturesque scenery and crystal waters.
Many say mountain biking was a pursuit designed for Greece. Mountainous areas, high hills and stunning scenery, surround a large majority of the country. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, although you’ll be able to find certain softer routes on lower ground.

Mountain Biking In Mount Paggaio

Mount Paggaio is an area of tranquil beauty and is a great spot for those that wish to explore natural scenery. Situated at the Northern end of Greece, the area of Paggaio mixes exceptional views with stunning flora. From the city of Thessalonika, the mountain can be reached in less than two hours. Holidaymakers that visit this spot can also try their hand at skiing.

Mountain Biking In Litochoro

Positioned close to Katerini and just one hour from Thessalonika, Litochoro sits at the base of Mount Olympus. This is the tallest Greek mountain and boasts a peak of 2,917 metres. Both the diverse trails and flora make biking here a pleasant experience and one that will showcase a variety of scenic views. This is an area suited to amateur and professional bikers, as there are both manmade pathways and rocky routes to choose from. The further you travel, the better the views of the Aegean Sea become. The coast is just 20 minutes away and makes for a welcome retreat after a morning of cycling.

awake-paros

Image supplied by www.awakeparos.gr

Mountain Biking In Karpenisi

Situated in central Greece and only a short journey from Athens, Karpenisi is renowned as an activity spot and is home to a number of extreme sports including off-road biking. Here you can ride in a remote region and one that offers exquisite views. There are a number of villages dotted along the cycle routes, which means there are plenty of places to stop off along the way.

Stop Searching

 

My Bike’s Insight To The Dordogne

I’m an Egyptian-blue semi-retired Giant CFR (…Pro) from the late 90s who’s spent many a year locked in a dark garage.

 

You can imagine my delight then when I was airlifted to the sunny South of France a few years ago. My jockey wheels were positively jangling at the prospect of riverside rides at sunset with my new owner in Aquitaine – sharing tarmac with trim Peugeots from the noughties.

 

I’d heard much about the warm climate and smooth-as-a-top-tube tarmac in France from some ex-Tour de Francers.

 

Admittedly I was a bit hurt when my last owner’s wife spitefully gave me away during the divorce – an undignified scenario for a fine specimen like myself. I couldn’t believe my luck though when it transpired I’d be moving to France with my new owner.

 

Unfortunately, he’s a typical fair-weather rider. He often forgets to flip me over before leaving me for months on end, my spokes haven’t been straightened in years and when my handlebar tape came loose last year he used basic Scotch Sellotape to fix it. The shame. I daren’t imagine the state of my derailleurs. I quite often let my air out for literally no reason in protest. In truth, our relationship revolves around him bashing me with the wrong tools until he’s covered in my oil with sore extremities.

 

Nonetheless, I’m very grateful to be here, so I thought I’d give you other bikes a glimpse into my new home in the Dordogne to entice you out here.

 

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The Dordogne is littered with friendly villages like Mauzac (above) where your owner can stop for a refreshing Orangina. Apparently they like it best served in a glass bottle. Go figure.

 

Be prepared to stop quite frequently at defunct barns that in your owners eyes are calling out to be restored. By them.
Be prepared to stop quite frequently at defunct barns that – in your owners eyes – are calling out to be restored, by them.

 

Expect to make that satisfying "Vvvv" noise here as most of the tarmac is intact. Which is just as well, if a potthole so much as looks at me I'm a gone-er.
Expect to make that satisfying “Vvvv” noise here as most of the tarmac is intact. Which is just as well – if a pothole so much as looks at me I’m a gone-er.

 

There are some cracking picnic spots round here overlooking medieval buildings.
There are some cracking picnic spots here for all you gearly beloveds. Most can be found under droopy willow trees by the river overlooking medieval buildings. Ideal for an old romantic like myself.

 

This is just a selfie I Instagramed the other day.
This is just a selfie I Instagramed the other day…

 

Remain cautious when delving down sidelanes. Some roads inexplicably run out of tarmac and we all know what happens if you attempt a route like the one above.
Remain cautious when delving down sidelanes. Some roads inexplicably run out of tarmac here.

 

Owners love a good sandblasted bridge and there's plenty of them round here for them to stick on Instagram.
Owners love a well sandblasted bridge and there’s plenty of them around here.

 

A classic vista in the Dordogne area. My jittery handlebars never bore of such delightful views.
A classic vista along the Dordogne. My jittery handlebars never bore of this.

 

And incase you were wondering, here's where I rest between rides.
And here’s where I rest between rides. By an unfinished painting near a corner that hasn’t been dusted in well over 3 years. Still, musn’t grumble.

 

If you’re keen on seeing the Dordogne with your own carbon eyelets, I’m told that the cyberspace tool ‘Much Better Adventures’ has made it all very easy. You just get your owner to state dates, group size and preferences and then local specialists around here will come back to you guys with tailored offers. Give it a bash for free here.

 

roadbikingholidays

 

Ps. If there are any Peugeot Urbanite 2.0s in the Lalinde area who are in to heavy pedalling reading this out there… ring your bell.

 

Scotland is the Land of Adventures


The Versatility of Mountain Biking in Scotland

As avid riders will be well aware, Scotland’s mountain biking scene has exploded in the last 10 years. With its plethora of trails and landscapes; its dedicated centres and its careful maintenance of the environment, there’s never been a better time to jump in a hire car and hit the curvaceous roads of the highlands – which is an adventure in itself!

“The Scots have gone positively bonkers!” wrote the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) upon awarding Scotland the Global Superstar title in 2005 and 2006. The Forestry Commission– an organisation that’s been actively pushing Scottish mountain biking- recently increased trails and facilities in and around Scotland’s best natural and cultural areas. What’s more, each trail centre offers its own unique side of Scotland, from the rocky roads of the 7stanes to the mythical lore of the Witch’s trail. Scotland caters to every skillset.

The only trouble is choosing which trail to ride!

 

7 stanes biking scotland

Go With the Pros

If you’re struggling to decide which is for you, why not follow the tire tracks of the professional riders? The Nevis Ski Range area in the Scottish Highlands holds an adrenaline-packed weekend of world-class Downhill and 4-Cross competitive action whilst The Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup is one in a series of nine international competitions.

However, be warned. The Fort William Downhill is a “full-on, flat-out, no-compromise charge down the face of Aonach Mor” – the 9th highest mountain in the UK. This one is not for the beginner. Riders need physical strength, quick reflexes, superb bike control and an unnatural fearlessness in the face of a free-fall. Basically, this 2.8km course is black graded through and through.

 

Monumental Choice

If the latter sounds a little too hard-core for your sensibilities, then don’t fret. 7stanes, situated in the south of Scotland, offer seven mountain biking centres that start from the bottom up. With your bikes strapped firmly to the boot of your car, check out the centres at Dumfries and Galloway.

In the village of Ae you can enjoy a gentle downhill slope that caters especially for families whilst Dalbeattie is known for its infamous black graded Slab. Oh, and keep your eyes pealed for the legendary stone sculptures. ‘Stane’ is the Scottish word for stone and at each 7stanes location, you’ll find a monument reflecting a local myth. A great spot for a tea break.

 

High on the Lands

For some, the Scottish Highlands are simply too alluring to overlook. If you fall into this category, head to Laggan Wolftrax. Offering 35km of the most up-to-date track in the country, Laggan Wolftrax will take you on a journey through the Strathmashie Forest, an outstandingly beautiful example of lush highland wilderness. Plus, Wolftrax has a green-graded beginners’ trail, a manmade bike park, a fast red-graded route and, of course, a black-graded trail that’s apparently the most technical of its type in Scotland – although they all claim that accolade.

A word of caution, in many rural highland areas, roads are unlit, single-tracks through vast, uninhabited mountain ranges and they will most likely be dominated by sheep. Therefore, it’s important to always keep your wits about you – when driving and riding. However, if you remain alert and keep your bike in good shape, you’re guaranteed to have an accelerating experience that will leave you gasping for another go.

 

 

Continue reading “Scotland is the Land of Adventures”

How to Nurture Little Adventurers

Kids adventures

Whilst some would argue that parenthood is life’s ultimate adventure, having children should never hinder your exploration of nature’s theme park. If anything, it should enhance them. After all, the sooner you get the kids rocking down a cliff-face on a mountain bike, the sooner they’ll be sharing your passion for sheer drops and killer views.

 

Team-building exercises are a great way to develop a strong sense of adventure in children. However, like anything in life, there are good and bad ways to encourage them and it’s all too easy to waste the fleeting sunshine by pushing the kids too hard. With this in mind, take a look at these tips for outdoorsy team-building escapades. Hopefully, with a bit of forethought, your children will be bitten by a lifelong love of adventure in no time.

 

Biking for kids
Fun outdoor adventures for children

 

1. HAVE FUN

 

This is all too easily overlooked. Without fun, you get no buy-in from the children and naturally, the end effect will be the direct opposite of your intentions. Of course, what constitutes fun is totally subjective. One child’s penchant for abseiling is another’s love of impromptu fashion shows. As such, it’s wise to take a quick straw poll beforehand. Water-sports (like those offered by Kingswood’s Adventure Choice) are a good way to level the playing field. Raft-building, pond-dipping, kayaking or even a set of organised beach games get children participating in outdoorsy fun without even knowing it.

 

2. BE FLEXIBLE

 

Obviously, when setting a team-based task, there needs to be an end-goal clearly mapped out. There should be purpose and direction.  However, as we all know, imposing too much rigidity upon an adventure will dry it out. Set goals, sure, but add incentives (prizes of some description or forfeits for the runners-up?) and make sure that you’re ready if the adventure goes off trail – which is more than likely with young children who have a tendency to explore/throw tantrums.

 

The best thing is to retain an open mind and be ready to adapt. Whilst hot-footing it up a mountain face might seem like a blissful day out to you, the little darling strapped to your back is less than likely to agree and they’ll soon let you know about it.

 

3. COLLABORATE

 

If your kids feel like they have a role to play, a responsibility, then they’ll be much more receptive to the challenges up ahead. Perhaps they could help you pack the lunch or look after the bike pump? Maybe it’s their job to check the kit list every day or look after their little sisters backpack? This might sound like a no-brainer, but the sooner you start treating your kids like little adventurers, the sooner they’ll respond in kind. Children love to feel important and grown up.

 

4. TAKE A STEP BACK

 

Whilst being flexible, collaborative and fun, it’s also a good idea to let your junior explorers take the lead once in a while. Let’s say, for example, that you’ve gone on a green-trail family mountain biking trip and you’ve been fastidiously following the designated path. However, up ahead there’s an unexpected obstruction. A tree has fallen. You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, oh no, you’ll have to go through it! You get the idea. Let your kids make the decision and watch as their love of adventure blossoms on the dirt track.

 

Kids adventures
Kids on an adventure

 

Like it or not, one of the most important things about adventure is the independence and problem solving it encourages. If you want to raise children that have walking boots welted into the soles of their feet, you need to put them in the right environment and then leave them to it (metaphorically of course). No one is ever passionate about something they’ve been forced into. Given the space to define their adventure, your children will own the experience and the passion, rather than feeling like it’s an extension of their parent’s interests.

 

Do you have any tips to nurture little adventurers?

 

Lake District: an Adventure Seeker’s Paradise

Nestled in Cumbria in the North West of England, the Lake District’s scenic beauty and tranquil pace of life has been attracting tourists for hundreds of years. Its residents have included some of England’s most famous artists and many of today’s visitors are looking to follow in the footsteps of the writers and poets who were inspired by the region.

However, away from its cultural and historical heritage, the Lake District’s terrain of mountains, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls attracts a more adventurous and active holidaymaker. Walk through any of Cumbria’s sleepy towns and you will be confronted with shops selling a range of outdoor clothing, climbing gear and camping equipment; that’s because this is the ideal destination for those who enjoy hiking, climbing, sailing and cycling.

Lake District Walking
There is so much for the outdoor enthusiast to do in Cumbria that it can be hard to choose just one activity. Saying this, one of the main attractions of the region is its mountains range, which includes the highest peak in England, Scafell Pike.

Throughout the Lakes there are numerous trails that are suitable for all hiking and climbing abilities, from those who just enjoy a ramble along designated paths to experienced mountain climbers seeking a more challenging route.

The fact that its mountains are such a popular attraction means that there are many companies that organise hiking holidays in the region, which normally include an experienced and knowledgeable guide, along with all the health and safety equipment needed. This option is great for those who are new to hiking and who don’t have the skills and confidence to go it alone.

Another activity the mountain range provides is abseiling. Again there are many companies that offer visitors the chance to try abseiling in a safe and friendly environment, which is especially popular with families looking for an activity that the whole family can participate in.

For those who enjoy hiking but would rather stay at ground level there are many routes throughout the region to choose from. These can vary in distance, from 15 mile hikes to more gentle 5 mile walks; while walkers who choose to follow the path around Ullswater Lake have the option of shortening or lengthening their walk by catching one of the regular ferries that stops off at pre-designated points around the lake. Those walking near to Ullswater can also visit Aira Force, a waterfall that drops 65 ft. The route to the waterfall takes walkers through ancient woodlands and landscaped glades.

Lake District. Image provided by eGuide Travel.

 

Along with hiking, walking and mountain climbing the Lakes is a great place for cyclists. Many of the paths surrounding the lakes are suitable for cyclists as well as walkers. While for those who prefer biking off the beaten track, there are numerous of routes suitable for experienced mountain bikers. Cycling in the Lake District not only provides varied tracks, but also allows bikers to take in some of the most unique and stunning scenery in the UK. For those who are new to cycling or who just want to join a like-minded group, there are many tour operators based in the region who offer cycling holidays for a variety of skill and fitness levels.

During summer the Lake District becomes a haven for water sports enthusiasts. From sailing to water skiing its numerous lakes are a hive of water activities. If you are heading to the area with water sports in mind you are better off going to one of the more touristy lakes, as they will have more activities on offer. Lake Windermere is well known for its water sports and some of the sports it has includes sailing, water skiing, wakeboarding, canoeing and kayaking.

Another popular activity in the Lakes is camping. Most choose to camp in one of the many designated campsites, however for the more adventurous there is also the opportunity of wild camping. If you are new to wild camping and don’t know its rules and regulations it is a good idea to join an organised wild camping holiday, which will not only offer an introduction to the activity but will also provide the information and skills needed to go it alone in the future.

With so many activities on offer it is clear why people who enjoy the outdoors are drawn to the Lake District and in many ways it has now become an adventure holidaymaker’s paradise.

 

Written by Derin Clark a writer, editor and blogger.

Image 1: Much Better Adventures’ Alex hiking in the Lake District earlier this year.

Image 2: Provided by eGuide Travel.