Planet Damian

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

August 24, 2016

Christof Damian

What is in my bag. Part 1: Small Saddlebag

I wanted to this for a while, but it came up again recently, so here it goes.

This is my small saddle bag, that I use daily and in group rides. For sportives or Gran Fondos I use a slightly bigger bag, which I will come to in a different post.

I don't really like to have too much stuff in the jersey pockets. On the usual rides I just carry my phone, cash, credit card and keys and maybe one gel. When it is colder or changing also a wind jacket.
  • mini tool
  • chain tool
  • the silver tools, where I have no idea what they are for
  • tire levers
  • CO2 cartridge and valve
  • spare tube, this is a pretty big and robust one for 28mm tires 
  • chain pins
  • tube valve extenders, in case I have to borrow a tube
  • tube valve tool
  • presta adapter, to use petrol station compressors
  • patches
  • spare contact lens

All of this fits into a Lezyne Roll Caddy, which looks nice and fits to the saddle easily. 

In case you are wondering where my pump is: it is a small Topeak pump fitted to one of the bottle holders.

Use the comments for any tips or questions.

by Christof Damian ( at August 24, 2016 01:22 PM

July 21, 2016

Christof Damian

La Ruta Minera

Mauro talked me into taking part in the La Ruta Minera sportive, conveniently he broke his collarbone before and didn't join.

On paper this looked like a lot of fun. It is a bit shorter than Gran Fondo La Mussara and a "bit" more climbing.

The event starts and finishes in Berga, which is an hour away with the car. There is no good rail connection, so I rented a car for the long weekend.
I booked a hotel through the sportive organisation from Friday to Sunday, with the race being on Sunday. The Hotel HCC Ciutat de Berga was nothing special, but the front desk was very friendly and he did the sportive last year. He even checked out my gears to make sure I was not trying with a 11-25 cassette. They allowed bikes in the rooms for this weekend and also provided extra early breakfast and late checkout on Sunday.

Saturday was for relaxing and sight seeing. The old town of Berga is pretty and for the nerds they have the only Free Software Street in the world.

Sunday the race. I felt good. I had stuffed myself with pasta the previous days. I had water and gels. The bicycle was mostly OK (some problems with the bearings in the front wheel). All systems go.

Maybe the uphill start should have given me a clue, but the temperature was nice and so was the landscape. The first climb was easy to manage around 600m of climbing. But the second one already took most out of me, 1000m of climbing with one ramp of 23% gradient.
Distance wise this was only the halfway point and lots of climbing remained.

Before the next big climb the temperature went up to 37C with nearly no tree coverage. On the last hill the heat took everything out of me. I stopped a few times in the shadow just to cool down again.

The finish line obviously was also a climb. Overall there were only two sections that were flat and allowed me to slipstream a bit.
That my descending sucks also didn't really help.

But ... I did finish and it is a beautiful area of Catalunya. The organisation was also lovely, it felt like a big family. There were less than 600 cyclists taking part, which is a lot less than my previous sportives.

I am probably not going to try this again, but will visit the area when it is a bit cooler :-)

Some more photos in my google photo album.

by Christof Damian ( at July 21, 2016 04:53 PM