14degrees off the beaten track
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Gear That Didn’t Work

Each item is followed by either skate or cycle in brackets. This indicates what part of my entire journey the item was used on.

‘Cycle’ refers to my cycle journey from Japan to Switzerland, and ‘skate’ refers to the skateboard journey around the world.

Slowing myself down in the Swiss Alps near Leysin, Switzerland Parachute Air-brake (skate)
I made this device out of a lightweight nylon hammock, with the hope of using it as an effective way to slow myself down on really long downhills. The idea was that this would save on wear on my shoe soles, because I would not have to foot brake as much. The reality was that the parachute only worked/was practical under the most perfect conditions. That is, there must be not even a hint of a tailwind, the road must be free from traffic (drivers freaked out big time seeing a huge glorified blanket careening down the road), and the road surface had to be perfectly smooth (very hard to balance while straining to keep the parachute level). Also, it took time to roll the thing back up again and store it. Needless to say, in the end I got sick of carrying it and never getting the perfect conditions to deploy it safely. It got chucked in Austin, Texas.

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The shoe saver in Lausanne, Switzerland

The shoe saver in Lausanne, Switzerland

The Shoe Saver (skate)
Another great idea that didn’t make it past a few days. Still on the prowl to make my shoe soles last longer, I decided to create an ‘overshoe’ made from an old inner tube from a car tyre. I mean, those you can find anywhere in the world.This idea was scrapped due to the following reasons:

  • Car tyre tube rubber lasted about 10 minutes on a downhill.
  • Too much hassle putting the thing on and taking it off every time I came to a hill.
  • Too tight fitting – gave me blisters.
  • Looked absolutely rediculous.

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Speedo on the skateboard in Lausanne, Switzerland

Speedo on the skateboard in Lausanne, Switzerland Speedo on the skateboard in Lausanne, Switzerland

Cycle computer on the longboard (skate)
I saw this as a cheap alternative to buying a full-blown GPS unit for recording my speed and distance data. Great idea which actually worked, but had the following fatal flaws:

  • Due to the small wheel size, the computer would max out at 35km/h. Anything faster than that, and the unit would not register any higher. Guessing this is due to the magnet passing the sensor too quickly.
  • Vibrations from the road killed the computer unit within about three days of use.

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Moving near Cully, Switzerland

Cracks in the Rollsrolls skateboard deck (Vlissingen, The Netherlands) Cracks in the Rollsrolls skateboard deck (Vlissingen, The Netherlands)

Cracks in the Rollsrolls skateboard deck (Vlissingen, The Netherlands) Blister remedy on the Okechobee Scenic Trail, Florida, USA

The Rollsrolls Longboard Deck (skate)
This much-hyped carbon fibre deck was the deck of choice for some other high profile long distance skateboard journeys, so I hardly thought twice about choosing it for my own journey. The deck is excellently well made. The only problem is that those other high profile journeys weren’t travelling unsupported and alone, carrying lots of weight on the boards.I paid over 300 Euro for my original Rollsrolls deck. This lasted 1,500km before I had to have it replaced due to stress fractures. To Rollsrolls credit, they replaced the deck for free. The replacement deck however also soon developed stress cracks in the US leg of my journey, and by the time I made it to the Pacific Coast (4,500km), I was doubtful that it would last another 5,000km across China. I relegated it to use as a trailer.

The carbon fibre deck is also very uncomfortable, owing to the stiffness of the deck. Rough roads are a test of endurance even more so on the Rollsrolls.

The verdict? Too expensive, too delicate, and too uncomfortable for serious long distance loaded skateboard touring.

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Filtering the water for drinking - Kerege-Tash Pass, Kyrgyzstan Katadyn Combi water filter (cycle)
Made the water I was filtering taste great, but I certainly did not appreciate the weight of the behemouth. Over 800g in weight! There are much lighter water filters out there, that cost much, much less.

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First sleeping spot in Switzerland near Brig Thermarest 3/4 length Ridgerest (cycle/skate)
I sent my self-inflating three-season Thermarest sleeping pad home half way through the journey, and opted instead for the really lightweight closed-cell foam Ridgerest in the name of going ultra-lightweight. Dumb idea. There is a point where comfort outweights the weight sacrifice. After too many sleepless nights, I saw the light and switched back to the self-inflating Thermarest.