“SO you’re biking around the world? How on earth are you doing it? Are you buying a bike there? How are you carrying your bags? Have you had a cat scan recently?”
Any proclamation that you’ve sold your belongings and forfeited financial security to travel the world by bike usually follows a long series of questions (while accompanied by raised eyebrows and the kind of expression you reserve for that weird bloke who wears his pyjamas to the shops and shouts at innocent bystanders).
In fact so far Scott and I have heard just about every single one from: “How on earth are you going to stay clean and do you plan on showering” (that one was from mum) to: “But how will you cycle across the oceans?” (I’m not kidding).
So for anyone remotely curious on how our hare-brained adventure came together here’s a bit of a run down.
With the help of some friends we decided well before departing that Surly makes some pretty epic touring bikes and so we purchased two Long Haul Truckers. We went with a steel framed bike because we figured they’d be sturdy and we wanted them to be easily fixed no matter where we went in the world. Yes this meant lugging them from one side of the globe to the other but we really wanted to familiarise ourselves with them and set them up to exactly how we wanted (for example swap the drop handlebars for touring bars and chuck a leather Brooks saddle on (which unfortunately requires a good six months of breaking in).
As to how we got them there, at first we were willing to pay a ridiculous amount of excess baggage with the airline company we flew with but after some more research we realised we could freight them to a friend’s parents house in the UK for a total of about $600 au (the excess would have been well over $1500).
Once we had the bikes we kitted them out with Tubus racks (these are some of the best racks money can buy – thankfully they are not that expensive) and then bought some panniers (saddle bags). Ortlieb make a mean waterproof pannier and so we purchased six each – two larger back panniers, two smaller front panniers, a bar bag and a rack pack (that sits across the back rack and can fit the bulky stuff like tents and sleeping bags).
These bags contain all our possessions from down jackets to cookware and even our sleeping gear (and yes, they are bloody heavy).
Because we’re on a huge budget we largely camp and so we carry around our three-man, three-season tent, two sleeping mats, two sleeping bags and a tarp. The other bits and bobs in our panniers include a comprehensive first aid kit, food and electronic equipment such as a laptop, kindles, Go Pro and a GPS.
Before leaving, we had grand ideas of staying somewhere with hot water about once a week. The reality was sometimes it was a hell of a lot more (whoops) and and at other times it was a hell of a lot less (through Central Asia). As to comprehensive route planning we’ve largely “winged it” aside from a vague list of countries we hoped to cycle through.
Much to the dismay of those who believed we’d swap our bikes for paddle boats when hit with a big body of water we either flew (Australia to Europe and the oh so memorable flight from Tehran to Dushanbe) or took a proper boat (Scotland to Ireland, Ireland to Wales, England to France, Spain to Morocco, Morocco to Italy and Italy to Greece).
And lastly, no we were not mad keen cyclists (although that would have helped) and no we didn’t train (once again, this probably would have been a good idea).