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!:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
POSTSCRIPT. We need a name for this blog. Any ideas, do post below!
We camped up by the hut that can be seen in the distance:
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..