My check list

So far…

 

Clothes
Mid layer
2x base layers
Shorts
Boxers (Ad infinitum)
Thermal leggins
Thermal gloves
Thin gloves
Waterproof socks
Cycle boots
Thermal terrorist balaclava
Helmet
Waterproof jacket
Down jacket
Waterproof trousers
Casual trousers

 

Various
Microfibre Towel
Sleeping bag liner
Down Sleeping bag
1st aid kit
3x months of Malaria tablets
Painkillers, immodium, hydration salts
Maps
Wireless cycle computer
10L backup water bag
5x water bottles
Sleeping mat
Batteries
Water purification tablets
Carmen
Cable lock
Cable
Brake cable for alarm

 

Bathroom
Tbrush
Toothpaste
Floss
Soap

 

Kitchen
Pans
X-bowls
Multifuel stove
Fuel bottle
Utensils
Food Tupperware

 

Tools
Multi Alienware bike tool
Leatherman Multitool general
Nbt2 cassette tool
Rag, tooth brush
Spokes
Brake pads
Dog dazer
Head torch
Cycle light
Matches
Sewing kit
Cable ties
Gaffer tape
Puncture repair kit
Spare tube

 

Tech
iPad + case
Camera, filters, sd cards, shutter release, wipes
Multi port USB charger+all cables
MP3 player
Kindle
Telephone + charger
A “book”

 

Admin
Passport photos
Passport
Cards
Fake wallet

 

All going on two bikes with
X4 ortlieb panniers each. 2 front, 2 rear
A bar bag each
3x bottle cages each
A rack each
A frame bag
A dry bag
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Three weeks to go…

It feels surreal to think that in three weeks time we’ll be having our leaving party, packing up our things and heading out the door to pedal towards the ferry. You’d think that after two years of planning we’d feel completely prepared by now but as the day looms ever closer we keep remembering more and more things we need to do! I keep waking up in the night and adding notes to my ever growing list.

This weekend we plan to have bought absolutely everything we need so we can relax and focus on the much more enjoyable task (in my opinion) of detailed route planning (in between teaching ourselves to become bike mechanics- a task which Joe has taken to much more readily than myself).

Now that it’s imminent, we’re finding more and more unexpected support and interest from people wherever we go. It’s certainly a conversation starter. We’ve even been lucky enough to receive encouragement from Dazer, a company who specialise in ultrasonic devices. They have kindly sent us one of their Dog Dazers free of charge to protect us from nasty wild dogs who might be interested in having us for dinner. We’ve been trying it out on each other and it really does work!:

http://www.dazer.com/dog-deterrent.jsp

WaterAid have been in touch to find out more about the trip and offer their support with fundraising, which I thought was a nice touch from such a big charity.

One of the main things we’re focussing on now though is the enjoyable task of spending time with all of the people who we might not see for a long time (although we’re managing to convince more and more people to come and visit us along the way) and planning a big leaving party so we can say a proper goodbye.

Now it’s time to stop procrastinating and get a few more things ticked off my list!

 

Purchases

I remember when we were talking about this trip in September 2012. “Next April” seemed like ages away. Now here we are, counting down the weeks.

Just before Christmas, I had the very pleasurable experience of going down to Somerset to have my semi-tailored bike built by Thorn. http://www.thorncycles.co.uk

It involved real service: a guy sits with you to go through every single component and measurement. Three hours and a few £s later, the order is placed, ready for collection the day before Christmas eve. Nothing particularly fancy about it really: just good components and a solid frame. Much of the experience of buying a Thorn is having someone sit down a few hours with you and deconfuse your confused mind over intricacies and marketing bs, designed to confuse you. Also helped that the employees all seemed to be cycle tourers themselves. Robin Thorn himself is a regular tourer, test running his own products with his wife and injecting the savvy back into his bikes. I like that.

thorn-nomad

Thorn Nomad: Solid British manufacturing!

Test riding the Thorn around the steep Welsh roller coaster hills proved a painless experience.  Actually the only fancy thing about it is the nice Rohloff hub gears meaning you don’t have to pedal to change gear, nor worry about derailleur malfunction.  The drawback being higher cost and the fact that it is not serviceable by any of the finest bike mechanics one might find (let alone the local bike mechanic we come across in Turkmenistan!). The counter-advantage to this is that Thorn assure you of it’s 99.x% integrity.  Should it fail, Thorn will courier-deliver a whole new wheel system within a handful of days, to wherever you are in the world.

Rohloff 14 speed Speedhub: good solid German engineering!

Rohloff 14 speed Speedhub: good solid German engineering!

I also spent a bit of time looking for someone to take us through buying Carmen’s bike.

Our research outcome is this: if you want service, get out of London, or at least don’t buy from Bikefix in Holborn. Although the manager seemed decent when I made a preliminary sniff-around visit, we were unlucky because he was then off on holiday for several weeks.  During his absence, we had to visit the shop twice, waving money at his staff but receiving no information about the product. Then they admit to knowing little about the bike we wanted so offer to phone us once they’ve done their research. Did they phone us? Did they phucker-tee-too.  Their message seemed clear : “Don’t buy from us“. In fact, we’re helping to spread their own marketing strategy by propagating their message: Don’t buy from Bikefix!  Despite being a nice local shop and a knowledgable manager, the staff were just as indifferent as the bigger chains. We can’t believe they waved £1200 of business away, on two occasions.  Maybe £1200 isn’t a lot to them, but it is to us.

Rant over.

We promptly phoned Chris’ Bikes in Cambridge http://www.chrisbikes.co.uk/, spoke with the man himself who had “great service” written all over him.  He said he’d bring in his daughter’s VSF Fahraddmanufaktur TX400 into the shop because this is the exact same model and size Carmen wanted to buy.  We also got onto a brief discussion about how the internet has jaded high street vendors as it becomes increasingly difficult for a vendor to differentiate between a customer wasting the vendor’s time by trying the bike in the shop and then buying online, and a genuine customer that wants to spend her money.  We immediately booked a train up to Cambridge and duly placed the order after trying Ella’s bike. Chris knew the bikes well and spent the time with us.  So we’re helping to spread his marketing strategy by propagating the message: Chris’ bikes equals great service!

Apart from the bikes, we’ve also bought our first house together: the Terra Nova Voyager XL tent.  3.3KG with a porch, nice.

Terra Nova Voyager XL, in our garden. Henry Tate would have been proud!

Excited first time buyers!

Next step?

A busy two months we’ve had.

At one point, the trip was up in the air due to me losing my job. Turns out this was the best thing ever to happen, both for my personal morale as well as my bank’s. I promptly got offered freelance work within 3 hours of being made redundant. The shortest time I have ever been unemployed for.

(Is anyone actually reading this blog yet?)

So now that I don’t have to worry about being sacked, I can reveal my identity! My name is Joe Crewe, a 31 year old video editor in London. Girl shall remain nameless for now in order to protect her employment.

We’ve barely had the time to think about the trip recently, but that’s probably ok, it’s still quite a long way off. We’re now aiming to get away as soon as possible- sometime around April would be great. This depends mostly on finances, of course.

We have done nothing in the way of cycling trips since August. Although, I am now cycling 16 miles daily as part of my new commute into Soho.

We did meet Ryan and Rebecca, from worldcyclingtour.org, 3 nights ago near their home in Putney. They gave us a handful of very very useful high-level tips which we valued immediately. On top of that, we chewed their ears off with some intricate questioning, one of which was “will we die?”. It was good to be thinking about it all again because we had been so disconnected of late. Not only was it good to talk to people who have done it, it felt good talking with people who understand the idea, without it feeling like a big deal.

Hmm that’s it. Just a simple update.

This is a bit like talking to someone in a room just before realising that no one is actually present in the room.

Maybe I’ll email this link around.

Anyone reading, please comment below?

JC

POSTSCRIPT. We need a name for this blog. Any ideas, do post below!

Training: Way of the Roses

We have just completed our first bit of “training” since we agreed to the adventure last month.  I say training; it’s not really, it’s just to see if we can actually do more than two straight days of cycling in a row without too many complaints.  Last year we weren’t able to make it up to Bedforshire 50 miles away and back the next day.  I had a knee complaint, so we jumped on a train from Hemel Hemsptead back to London.  Rubbish.
On our excurisions over the past year or so we have come to realise that over-indulging after a hard day’s cycle doesn’t pay off if you intend to get back on the bike the next day.  No more beer, no more 3-course meals and no more late nights.
With this in mind, we set off on a four-day coast-to-coast ride from Morecambe to Bridlington via Yorkshire Dales. We planned to wild-camp as much as possible, avoid the pub as much as possible and avoid our wallets as much as possible.
An early wakeup call saw us packing our panniers at 6am before realising we hadn’t pumped up our tyres which were drastically low on air.  Rubbish. After a hectic race around north London to find a pump and picking up my gear that kept splattering all over the roads, we just about made the 07:25 train from Euston in the nick of time. No time for our cheap-Sainsbury’s grab-a-breakfast. So instead we treated our hungry stomachs to a wonderfully expensive pile of crap courtesy of Virgin Trains.  Rubbish.  I also had to splash out on a new pair of sunglasses after smashing them whilst rushing to the train platform. Rubbish.
Day one
Set off from Morecambe: 11am. Target: wilderness.
A pleasant, moderately-hilly 40-mile ascend into the Yorkshire Dales via some beautiful scenery, in 25c of heat.  There was one very sharp 2-mile climb from Settle to the top of a hill.  It was here that we reviewed our motives to get through the Austrian Alps. So what if the Alpine altitude sits at least 3 times higher than this hill? So what if no other cycle-adventurer seems to have gone through there before?  We’re adamant on going through Slovenia but to do that requires a pass through the Austrian Alps.  Just a bit more research needed that’s all. In any case, we can’t just follow tried-and-tested routes. We need to try and test for ourselves: we are adventurers after all.
I had been fantasising all afternoon about finding a stream to camp next to so that we could cool down and wash off. Around 6pm we duly found a nice secluded spot with a stream which we jumped straight into before pitching up and cooking dinner: Haricots au four avec sauce tomates oignons et cumin  (baked beans with onions and cumin, in English).  Result.  We had a wild-poo, did some yoga as sun set and went for a 2 mile stroll in order to keep warm.

We camped up by the hut that can be seen in the distance:

Day two
Set off from camp: 8am. Target: York, 65 miles away
We breakfasted on some cake and hot chocolate and then took the stunning descent into Burnsall where we breakfasted again on a bacon and egg roll whilst chatting to a local family. We do find that after two hours of cycling we’re ready for more breakfast.
We went through some marvellous spots of beauty that no photo would do justice. Some awe-inspiring descents at scary speeds (I reached 43mph before freaking out and appying my brakes, which did little to slow me down!)
We arrived at York around 6pm, exhausted.  We then did the last 5 miles to the campsite and treated ourselves by venturing to the village and indulging in a lamb roast and a pint of shandy each.  We had after all just completed a 75 mile-day, forty of which were hills.  We had pitched up next to the Noisy Family from Noishire and had a crap night of sleep. Campsites, we realised, weren’t for us.  Or their people.
Day three
We had given ourselves four days to complete the journey:  more than enough, as most people do it in three.  We are not overly competitive people and the spirit of our adventure is to be enjoyment over speed.  We had a late start by having a couple of breakfasts in the sun by the river on the campsite and drying off our gear from the previous night’s storm.
We ventured into York for a wander; it was her first time there so I was excited for her to see it.  We hit the road again with a stressful fight through the city and being told to “fuck off” by one its tourists who was also negotiating her way through it. We were suddenly, and thankfully, back out into the flat landscape.  Cities, we realised, weren’t for us. Or their people.
How would we deal with Chinese Megacities when even quaint York posed a threat?
We cycled for 15 miles and stopped off at Stamford Bridge for lunch and a long kip, still suffering from the lack of sleep. Things picked up thereafter when we were treated to hills. This is where we realised that flat non-descript terrain is not for us. The hills actually energised us and we felt more alive, positive and happy.
One of the best parts of the trip was coming down from Millington into a peacful haven of nature.  After the previous night’s rubbishness, we were keen on wild-camping again and eventually found a secluded spot behind a small wood: an unkept grassy part of a farmer’s field.  We ventured into the village pub and indulged in a pint of shandy before returning to our camp and cooking something that resembled food.
Miles completed: 30
Day four
With only 35 miles to the coast, we took an easy pace and stopped off at friend of hers in Lund. Here we were kindly offered a second breakfast and chatted for some 2 hours before setting off for the last 25 miles. We duly arrived in Bridlington and treated ourselves by indulging in fish and chips.  We had managed to literally dodge any rain throughout the whole trip.  We often saw rain clouds ahead of us but they would always disappear upon approach
What did we learn?
-We can cycle more than two days in a row.
-Yorkshire’s bloody brilliant.
-Throughout the trip actually we felt alone and unharassed by cars; the Way of The Roses is a well planned-out route indeed.

So how did it start?

So many people ask me this question- “What on earth has made you decide to cycle round the world?”, and the idea has been there for so long now that it’s hard to formulate an answer. But I’ll try:

When we met over two years ago, we were both quite excited to have met another person who wanted to go exploring outside of London at weekends, so we started going on a few cycling trips- Epping Forest, London to Brighton, Norfolk, celebrating our achievements joyously after each one with a well deserved trip to the pub! I was high every time on the freedom a bike could give you to get out of the city, which sometimes feels like it goes on forever, and explore beautiful scenery and new places.

Norfolk was the first trip into which we incorporated camping (the first trip where we’d managed to cycle for more than one day in a row)! I hadn’t camped in about five years previously, getting caught up in busy city life, and I’d forgotten how amazing the night sky is with no light pollution to mask it- I’m not kidding we saw about five shooting stars that night. It made me feel kind of giddy with freedom, very far away from the insignificant stresses of everyday life, and very aware of the tiny scale of our planet. It seemed bizarre that the Earth was so small compared to the vast expanse we were staring at, and yet there’s so much of it that we never even think about exploring. I was suddenly aware that I’d never even been outside of Western Europe.

Naturally, our conversation strayed into the realms of exploration- “Wouldn’t it be amazing to just keep going- put a tent on the back of the bikes, cycle all day, camp and then just…do it all again, and again, and just go wherever you wanted?” It’s a wonderful thought, carrying all that you need with you, watching the landscape gradually evolving from familiar into new and challenging, having the freedom to explore wherever you like, at whatever pace you choose…It’s one of those things you always think “wouldn’t that be amazing,” but your brain gently informs you that it’s not possible, not realistically. My brain dutifully informed me of such a fact, and I went back to London the next day and though no more about it…

… At least for a few weeks, anyway. As it turned out the idea had been subtly planted and was lurking at the back of my mind, waiting for a catalyst to bring it into consciousness. The catalyst, with came about a week later, was a song- “The Lion’s Roar” by First Aid Kit. I remember exactly where I was standing when I heard that song for the first time, and it immediately sparked a crazily strong emotion in me. (I’m sure that’s quite common with music, and for each person it’s different, but for me the ones that really get you on the first listen and make your hairs stand on end are rare, and this was one of them). I played it on repeat all day and by the end of the evening, I knew that I wanted to cycle round the world.

I was so excited there was no way I could sleep. That night I was alone in the house as my housemates were both away. It was late but I was desperate to tell somebody of my amazing plan, so I sent a long e-mail to my parents. They naturally replied the following morning with a carefully constructed list of reasons why it was, in fact, a disastrous idea. (My favourite point was one of my mum’s- “But darling, what if you get sore feet?!”). Whilst taking their valuable cautions on board however, I was too high on the idea to be put off the idea so easily, and marched straight round to Joe’s house the moment he got back from his cycling holiday around Spain.

I told him my idea and held my breath. Of course, not once did I imply that I was asking him to come with me- he had to come to that conclusion on his own and I wasn’t about to put the burden of a decision on him. It was a completely different situation for him- he was older; he’d already spent years of his life living abroad on various continents and had put off his career for longer than he’d planned. He had a good job now, a nice house. He seemed like he could settle this time in London.

His response, as I’d expected (although I’d hoped differently) was, “Wow, that sounds so amazing! I wish I was in a position to come with you”. My heart sank a bit, but I couldn’t have expected anything more. He was quiet for about five minutes, brow furrowed, cogs whirring in his head…Then all of a sudden he leapt up, announcing, “Right then- let’s get the map out- which route shall we take?!” It hadn’t taken long for him to convince himself!

That night we discovered the blogs of other cyclists who’d taken similar journeys, and as soon as we started reading the first one, we were hooked. Almost two years later, it all seems much more real. Originally the plan was to leave the following April, but after about half an hour of budgeting we realised sadly that it was pretty much impossible to do it so soon, so we decided to delay for a year. Now we’re on track- I’ve got a better job that pays more, and am managing to get enough music commissions on the side to bulk up the travel fund from time to time. We’re living frugally (to an extent)- Joe’s had to give up his love affair with fine wine and cheese, and I have banned him from his indulgent trips to Waitrose- it’s Morrisons all the way now.

So now the months seem to be flying by and we’re realising the full scale of planning that needs to be done! I think it’s time to meet up with some seasoned cycle-tourers and get some tips..