Planet Damian

September 07, 2017

Christof Damian

Cycling in the Pyrenees

Last week I went on my first supported cycling trip.

Supported means that there are cars carrying your luggage from one hotel to the next one. They provide you with food on the tour, space for spare clothes and help out when needed.
They also take pictures and sort out random stuff that comes up.

It was quite a spontaneous decision on my side and I had fixed dates for the holiday, so the choice of providers of these trips was limited. My first idea for a destination were the Dolomites, but this would have required flights and more organization on my side. In the end I went with Canigou Cycling, who conveniently provide a Barcelona Airport pick up service - or for me a pick up from home.

The tour started in Sort, stayed a bit on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees west of Andorra. There was a rest day after three days and then we continued on the French side until returning to Spain on the last day. We hit some famous climbs: Col d'Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet, Col d'Aspin and Col de Peyresourde. You can see the Strava activities below.

The group consisted of ten riders and three support staff with two cars. We were mostly Germans plus two Americans. Amazingly I was nearly the youngest rider, not so amazingly I was not the fastest. In fact I took it quite easy over the days and enjoyed the scenery. We were quite lucky with the weather, having only one rainy day and the temperature was also perfect. 

The hotel selection was pretty good. Because I was traveling alone I always had a single room, which did cost a bit more. Dirk from Canigou Cycling did a good job and was always really friendly and helpful. The only thing I would improve would be the communication. If you spend this kind of money upfront, you really want to be more informed and see something happening on their facebook page and fast response to emails.

I would do it again, though the next time I really would like to see the Dolomites and maybe go with Velodrom Bike Tours, who are based in Barcelona and I know already from their shop.

I probably forgot something, just ask in the comment section.


  1. Sort - Taüll
  2. Taüll - Aínsa
  3. Aínsa - Sabiñánigo
  4. Sabiñánigo - Argelès-Gazost
  5. Argelès-Gazost - Arreau
  6. Arreau - Vielha



Cycling Pyrenees 2017

by Christof Damian ( at September 07, 2017 07:08 PM

August 01, 2017

Christof Damian

London Ride 100

Last weekend I travelled to London for the Prudential RideLondon 100. It is a 100 miles (160km) sportive going through London and the Surrey Hills. This one is held on completely closed roads and is also the biggest sportive I have ever attended, with around 30000 cyclists on the road.

I stayed in an Airbnb in Homerton, which I mainly choose because it was near the Olympic Park, where the start was. And it was good to be close, because I had there by 6:40 latest. You are assigned a colour and a starting wave. They stagger the waves to avoid congestion on the road. I think faster riders will also be in the earlier waves. I guess I was somewhere in the middle.
It rained all night, so the roads were pretty wet, but the sun came out a bit later.

The route went through London, past the sight seeing attraction like London Tower, the Thames, Richmond Park (saw one deer), Parliament, Big Ben and so on. I don't have many photos, because I really didn't stop a lot. This one is from the Surrey Hills at a food stop.

Talking about food stops: they were very well organized and stocked. The whole sportive was organized well. The route was marked with big signs, all dangerous or difficult areas were marked and often stewards were there to warn people. There were food, water and toilet stops all over the route. Start and finish were equally well done.

I saw four accidents and at each one there was already a mobile ambulance helping out.

I felt totally safe riding, the amount of people was never a problem and there was also no aggressive riding.

Support of the crowd on the route was also great. Every village / town had something going on. Live music, cheering, food and small festivities. I guess some of them didn't have anything better to do, because their only road was blocked.

I finished in around 5 hours 30 minutes, which is pretty good for me on that kind of distance. I didn't really do many 100+ km rides this year. My main strategy was to keep on eating my energy gels and stock up on water around the 80km mark. I didn't drink enough water as usual. Bicycle behaved too, no puncture and no problems at all.

I can highly recommend this to everyone who wants to enjoy a bit of cycling in and around London without having to worry about cars misbehaving.

I should also mention that I flew with Norwegian from Barcelona and they were brilliant as always. Very friendly, helpful and nice to my bike bag too (as far as I could see). Here is a photo of one of their ground personal making sure my bike doesn't drop of the conveyor belt on the flight back.

by Christof Damian ( at August 01, 2017 01:53 PM

December 27, 2016

Christof Damian

2016 New Year Resolutions Review

The year comes to a close and it is time to see what happened to my New Year Resolutions.

Yoga Everyday

Well, this didn't go so well. Overall I managed about every second day, though I have done most of it in the first half of the year. But it turned into a habit now, so I tend to do it a few times a week.

Cycling Mini Adventures 

I managed to do quite a few and had fun doing them.

Draw something every day

This turned out to be pretty much a failure. While it was going good at the beginning of the year I just gave up after a while. It was just impossible to find the time or inspiration to draw.

Blog once a month

Nearly...this should be number 11 for the year.

12 Books

It was a difficult start, but then I found some easy to read thriller series and space operas and ended up reading 23 books.

Some more goals ... 

During the year I picked up a few more smaller goals and habits where I have been more or less successful.

I had the cycling goal of reach 8000km for the year and achieve all Strava Climbing and Gran Fondo challenges. But an illness in December made this impossible. So I just got 11 of the 12.

I also started to do Vegetarian Mondays with a 64% success rate. I found it difficult when traveling or when there were social events.

I worked on my Spanish with Duolingo for most of the year and finished all the lessons. You have to keep it up though so you don't loose it again.

And I reached my goal weight. The remaining fat has somehow to be replaced by muscles.

Of to the next year...

I haven't quite decided on anything yet, but I definitely take it a lot more easy :-)

by Christof Damian ( at December 27, 2016 08:45 PM

December 13, 2016

Christof Damian

Shanghai 144 hour transit visa

Short tip this time, just to confirm to anyone googling for the 144 hour transit visa for Shanghai that it really works.

I have just been to Shanghai using the 144 hour transit visa. My trip was from Barcelona via Dubai to Shanghai and finally Manila.

You can find more information on the net, but this is how it basically works:

  • you can stay only 144 hours (there are some rules on when these begin and end)
  • it has to be transit, you can't just return to your origin after the visit. you have to go to a third country (Hong Kong doesn't count either)
  • you have to use one of the two main airports  in Shanghai, you can't just use any odd border (I think there is a port option too)
  • it doesn't cost anything
  • you have to have a passport from certain countries Europe/Schengen and USA are fine for example  

The main problem of the transit visa is that nobody knows about it. The Chinese consulate here had no idea and the Emirates staff also had not heard about it.

It is best to bring a printout of your flight tickets to Shanghai and continuing to the next country, plus a printout of the the hotel you are using in Shanghai.

When you do the check in at your point of origin the airline staff will ask you for your visa, which obviously you don't have. If you then say transit ticket they might insist that it is only for 24h, you will just have to convince them.

Once you land in Shanghai it is much easier, there is a special queue just for the 144 hour (and 72 hour) transit visa. In my case it was just about ten people, but it still took about an hour to process. Mainly because most of those people didn't full fill the requirement of the visa and were for example travelling back to the country of origin and not a third country.
As I had everything correct and the printouts ready it only took about two minutes and I was in Shanghai.

Leaving is equally quick, no hassle at all. Again for the check in at the airline desk you might want to have the printouts of any following flights, depending on where you are going.

In summary: a very nice visa and a good idea, but it has to be wider published to be really easy to use

by Christof Damian ( at December 13, 2016 01:54 PM

September 21, 2016

Christof Damian

Solo cycling weekend in Ripoll

Amazingly this is the first multiple day cycling trip that I have done alone so far. I had the weekend for myself and decided to use it to explore some new roads in Catalonia.

After asking my cycling friends for some tips I decided on using Ripoll as a base. It is a two hours and €8 train ride from Barcelona and surrounded by nature parks and nice mountains.

I found a reasonably cheap Airbnb, which I booked from Friday evening to Monday.
I had been warned by the host that the stairs are steep, many and without much room to move a bicycle. And she was absolutely right. I still managed though and otherwise the flat was really nice, with a washing machine (!) and fully equipped kitchen. I cooked every day and basically lived on pasta.

I had picked some routes before, but decided on the day which one to pick. The weather turned for the worse and it was a bit colder than I expected. I am not an early riser anyway, but in this case I waited until 10:00 to start each ride so that it could warm up a bit. In the end I only got into the rain once though.
Many thanks have to go to Mauro to helping me with the routes and suggesting the area in the first place.


Ripoll - Olot - Oix - Beget - Camprodon - Ripoll  relive movie

I decided to this ride first, because it was relatively flat and I was expecting rain. It started to reain just after Olot and continued for another two hours. I was glad that I had bought some of the gear that kept me warm (see below).
A very nice ride on mostly quiet roads, lot of nature and nice climbs. In Olot I also climbed the volcano, which has a little church on top.


Ripoll - Montgrony - Castellar de n'Hug - La Molina - Toses - Planoles - Ribes de Freser - Ripoll
relive movie

It warmed up a bit so I went a bit higher and to the west. The main goal was La Molina, but the highlight was Montgrony, with basically no cars and great views. The climb was also nice and the only place where I saw some other cyclists.
In Catellar de n'Hug they do gigantic croissants, but they were a bit big for just one person. Maybe a nice snack in a group.
The return via Toses was equally nice, small single lane road winding down back to Ripoll.


Ripoll - Santa Maria de Besora - Vidra - Ciuret - Olot - Banyoles - Girona relive movie

I packed up and made myself on the way to Girona to take the train from there. I expected it to get a lot warmer, the forecast was 28C for Girona, while it was only 10C in Ripoll in the morning.
I picked a tiny agricultural road that winded its way to Olot. I had checked some of it on Streetview before, just to make sure it was really a road. It was quite rough, most of it was concrete and not asphalt, which made it slow.
But the nature was nice, lots of cows, sheep, horses and birds of prey. No traffic at all.
I had to stop for water in Vidra, which was the first fountain I saw.
There might be a nicer way from Olot to Girona, but this was OK and for a Monday the cars were not too annoying.

I might be imagining it, but the drivers around this area seem to be especially nice to cyclists. And they are already pretty nice in the Barcelona countryside. In Girona they are as bad as in all the cities though.


I kind of went the bike-packing route again. I used a large waterproof Ortlieb saddle bag, a small Decathlon 13€ handlebar bag and a small sports bag on my back.
I had a set of cheap clothes for walking around in town that I disposed of in Ripoll (Our cycling group calls it "Decathlon gift bag"). With all the other things that I used up on the trip, like energy food and sun screen I was able to also leave the sports bag.
For the first two days I used my small saddle bag, which I had brought in the Ortlieb one. And on the last day going to Girona just saddle and handlebar bag. I can't stand cycling longer distances with something on my back.


For this trip I also used some new gear, which turned out to be great.

Oakley Radar EV Path Photochromic - my first photocromatic glasses. I mainly bought them for the autumn and spring where I tend to cycle to work in the sun and home in the sunset or night. Until now I had another pair of Oakleys with a few sets of lenses and I swapped them during the day. This is obviously not ideal.
This pair also only has a half frame, which helps with ventilation and makes it easier to look down, for example at the GPS.
I still have to get used to how light they are, sometimes they feel like they are slipping up because there is not enough weight on my nose.

Sportful Fiandre Light NoRain Arm Warmers - arm warmers, you can't really go wrong, they are all more or less the same. These ones are in neon yellow, windproof and a bit rain resistant.

Castelli Perfetto Light Short Sleeve Jersey - I have been looking for something like this for ages. A jersey you can wear directly on the skin, with the usual back pockets, usable in warm conditions, windproof and reasonable water resistant. 
The most know option is the Castelli Gabba, but from what people say it is really for colder weather and when it is really cold I wear a long sleeve anyway. 
The Perfetto worked perfectly. I used in in temperatures between 10C and 25C, in the dry and in torrential rain. It did keep me dry all the time, it didn't feel to warm and on the long and cold descents it kept me comfortable. 

by Christof Damian ( at September 21, 2016 06:59 PM