I answer the same questions a lot. So if I met you and you forgot to ask me something, or you're just intrigued in general, here's a list of things people ask me.
Why are you doing this?
Boredom mainly. I always dreamt of doing this, travelling by bicycle is the best way to see the world. And I like endurance style sports. It's a bit of an early mid-life crisis, I was nearly thirty and got frustrated at having bugger-all to show for three decades.
What did you do back home?
All kinds of crappy jobs. I worked in a warehouse, a hospital, a kitchen, an office. Nothing stimulating and nothing well paid.
What will you do when you get home?
I don't want to think about this yet.
Are you raising money for a cause?
Yes, GOOD ONE (UK taxpayers make sure you click the GiftAid button. Non UK citizens make sure you DO NOT tick the GiftAid box.)
Did you do much training?
Physical training for something like this is entirely unnecessary, provided you are capable of riding a bike, you will get fit as you go. But I guess I did build up experience and knowledge through a series of shorter trips (with and without the bike) prior to leaving to do this, meaning I was confident in getting visas, reading maps, camping and dealing with people who only speak Foreign.
Do you need to be fit? Outdoorsy? Brave?
It would seem not, as I wasn't really any of those things. Fitness is useful, but you'll get it from the 6-8 hours of exercise you're doing every day. Some outdoors skills are essential I guess, and maybe I was slightly above average here before I started, but you don't need anything advanced, just make sure you know how to use all your gear before you set off. I guess the bravery comes with practice too, it all becomes fairly normal after a while.
What do you eat?
- Breakfast – Muesli, fruit and instant coffee
- Lunch – Bread and cheese. Processed ham is useful because it doesn't seem to ever go bad.
- Dinner – Couscous with tinned fish and raw vegetables (no room in the pot to cook veg).
- Between meals – Fruit, Chocolate, Pop Tarts, doughnuts, cake, biscuits, crisps, Fast food.
Minor variations on this theme.
Where do you sleep?
Wherever I feel like or wherever I happen to be when I get bored of pedalling. I have a bivvy bag (A simple, lightweight waterproof cover for a sleeping bag) which I find gives me more flexibility when choosing camp-sites, it tends to make me too lazy to set up my tarp most nights so I'm always on the lookout for anything with a roof that I can shelter under. I also find people to be very accommodating, all over the world. Websites like Couch-Surfing and Warmshowers are very useful too and a great way of meeting interesting people.
Why do you mess around with a bivvy bag, to save weight?
Nope. I think if you weigh up my bivvy bag, mosquito net and tarp it isn't much more thank a few hundred grams less than my tent. I just prefer to be out in the open where possible. I like the flexibility of a modular system, where I can pick and choose which components I use, depending on climatic conditions. And I also like to be more creative with my shelter options. When you cock it up though, you're in for a rough night, it's not for the faint-hearted.
Do you ever get in trouble for just camping wherever you like? Isn't it illegal?
Technically yes, in most places it's illegal. So I used to always be careful to be well hidden, but now it's become quite normal for me so I don't care as much if I'm seen. In terms of security, I think people see you and think you're weird, so stay away. And I don’t care much about the law on it; telling somebody it's illegal to go to sleep is a backwards law. (Providing you do no damage to your surroundings and don't trespass, obviously).
Don't people ever mess with you when you're camping?
I've only been “interfered with” a few times. Once in Romania some police saw me and I think just wanted to make sure I wasn't a corpse, then called me crazy and wished me luck. In Australia some dodgy youths in a park decided I was “fuckin' mental” and gave me a beer as a reward. And in the USA I was preparing to camp on what I thought was a section of abandoned farm track when a couple drove along it to their house. They invited me to stay in their spare room instead and gave me food and a shower.
How much does cycling around the world cost?
I have continued to monitor my finances in detail and full analysis of this will be available soon. In some ways (food/accommodation) I travel very cheaply, in others (alcohol) my budget is higher than some peoples. At the time of writing, I have spent £6500, on everything; Flights, Visas, Food, Accommodation, Equipment/Maintenance, Smokes, Liquor and various other logistical stuff. My financial calculations do not factor in my four months on the farm, as they were not contributing towards the trip directly, and spending in that time was not typical. With those four months removed, it works out to 14 pounds a day. £420 a month. A lot less than I was spending back at home sitting around waiting to die.
How do you wash?
Normally with my bike bottle, held over my head and squeezed to provide a jet, one fill to lather up, then another fill to rinse off, whilst standing naked. A litre and half of water can provide a decent enough shower if you're careful. You can find free/cheap showers at truck stops, sports centres and even train stations, these can be a nice bonus especially if they have hot water. Rivers and lakes are good and you get a swim, if the ambient temperature allows for it. If available gas station toilet sinks. If nothing else is available and water is being heavily rationed; baby wipes.
Aren't you scared of... (insert irrational fear here)?
The only thing that it makes sense to be fearful of is traffic. Especially in places like Kyrgyzstan. Watch where you're going and make sure people can see you. Predict people acting stupid or recklessly in motor vehicles. As a cyclist your main concern is staying unscathed on the roads.
Have you had any problems with the bike? How many tyres have you got through?
Amazingly no. Just punctures. Loads of punctures. I run my tyres to destruction, and even when I've replaced them, I've used second-hand tyres that have been gifted to me (Thank you Saul, in Geelong, Australia), this has obviously contributed to extra punctures. I've used up four tyres. And the pair on the bike are in bad shape, but will get me home.
Do you get lonely?
Wouldn't you rather do this with somebody else?
No, not really. It was part of the challenge to do it solo, but I met up with a lot of other cyclists who I travelled with for various stretches of the journey. Cycling the silk road is very difficult to do alone, on account of the high population of cyclists.
Does your arse get sore?
Yes. And my back, neck and hands.
How much is the bike worth?
Originally about £700, but with parts upgraded over the few years I owned her before the trip, perhaps closer to £900. An estimate of all This is pretty cheap compared to most long distance touring set-ups, but you could also comfortably do it for a lot less. I recommend spending good money on saddle, panniers, tyres and wheels, but everywhere else you can use what you have. Or just be prepared to have to pay to repair and replace parts s you go. Better to do it with shit gear, than not do it.
How much does it all weigh?
Here's a LIST
How much water do you carry?
It varies. In populated areas I would only fill the three litres I carry on the bike frame itself. In places like Kazakhstan, Australia and Western USA the distances between just gas stations could be up to 200km (two days riding) so I carried up to 15 litres at times.
Do you just drink tap water? Do you use a filter?
I drink tap water, water from village pumps and rivers and streams. This is an area you will need some experience in, but so far I have not used any filtration device, or the chlorine tablets I carried. I am a believer that your body will build a fairly strong resistance to water-born threats as you adapt to the differences while you move very slowly on a bicycle.
The exception here was India, where I drank ONLY bottled water. There is no acquired immunity to the shit floating around in their water. In fact, in India, you wanna be cautious even with their BOTTLED water! As a disclaimer, I'm gonna advise that you research this yourself and use a filter in certain areas. I'm no expert, and I'm lucky with my gut. Or maybe I'm not lucky... I might have some horrible, undiagnosed disease slowly killing me.
Have you ever been scammed/robbed/murdered?
Nope. Despite popular opinion the majority of people you meet are nice and only want to help where they can. I had an INDIAN COP try to extort money from me, but he was just an idiot I think.
Do you have insurance?
None. Insuring your bike and possessions against theft is expensive and should be unnecessary with common sense precautions. I have not had health insurance either, as I have either been in countries where I am covered by reciprocal agreements, or countries where health care is affordable. With the exception of the USA, where I am currently just crossing my fingers until I get out. An approach I do not recommend, especially if you are prone to accident or illness.
Do you ever get ill? Or injured?
I've had a couple of bouts of diarrhoea, a mild fever and I caught dengue fever. My right knee blew up through overuse in the first week, and then (bizarrely) again recently in the USA. I fell off twice with no real damage. Spun my crank round so my pedal hit my shin once (classic). And I fell over when drunk and smashed my long-suffering right knee.
Aren't you scared of animals?
I’ve seen snakes, scorpions, dingos, coyotes, spiders and a lot of stray dogs, but none of them take any real notice in me. People talk about wolves a lot but I never even heard one. Bears made me nervous in the USA, when you piss around hanging your food up a tree, things suddenly get a lot more 'real'. Overall I Just remind yourself; “I'm top of the food chain”. It does help.
Muslims?! (Mainly USA)
This is dumb. And I don't even really want to answer this anymore, but I feel compelled to as Muslims all around the world were incredibly kind and generous to me. Just as all other religious and non-religious people were. Not to defend them against misinformed judgement would be cowardly on my part but the conversations this starts are always depressing and exhausting.
I'm not going to bother with the political, social or religious discussion. As I'm not qualified to talk in depth on any of it. I will simply say that Muslims are human beings. The same as any other fucking human being. There are good ones and bad ones and humans are, by far, mostly good if you actually get off your arse and go and meet some.
Strategic efforts to dehumanise this enormous group are far-reaching and utterly disturbing. But, dehumanisation is a crucial tool in justifying our conflicts around the world. These poor fuckers are just the most recent victim.
Who built your website?
My good friend; Stuart Fyfe.
What do you do when it rains?
I get wet and, after a few hours, start to swear at a God I don't believe in. But the show must go on.
Do you listen to music when you ride?
Yeah. I'd lose my mind without my music. If you're not an experienced cyclist, or you're an idiot, riding with earphones is probably not recommended.
What clothes do you carry?
I wear clothes that are fast drying and comfortable to wear on or off the bike. No jeans, because these are slow drying and chaff like hell when cycling. But, conversely, no Lycra, because it can't be worn off the bike unless you like looking like a tit. I had Lycra shorts for the first half of the trip, but found I no longer needed them after I'd toughened up a bit. A major mistake people make when packing for any trip is to take too many clothes, take a few sets of clothes that dry fast and wash them regularly. Or just man up and wear dirty clothes.
Do you really only have three pairs of pants?
I did, when I had two pairs of cycling shorts used as underwear. I now just have six pairs of regular boxer shorts. Overkill in my opinion.
Don't you wear a helmet?
Not really. I don't travel much faster than walking pace most of the time. Australia, New Zealand and Spain have laws so I I do try to keep them happy. But most of the time no. Helmets annoy me, they represent part of the problem with trying to encourage cycling; an image of cycling that I don't wish to be part of. That cycling is a dangerous activity only undertaken by hardcore men in Lycra, armour and fluorescent clothing. Cycling is just as safe as walking around, as long as you pay as much attention to not falling over, walking into things or getting run over.
Why don't you use cleats (Cycling specific shoes which clip in to the pedals)?
Because I find that even the recessed cleats are annoying to walk around in and I spend a bit of time off of the bike every day. Carrying two pairs of shoes would be an unnecessary annoyance for only a small return in power output. Also, power output doesn't seem too important to me at 15kmph.
You're from The UK, why are all the measurements on your site metric?
Because my country is stupid. But I am not. If you want to use a stupid system, fine, but YOU can do the conversions yourself.
Your beard is really terrible, are you ever going to cut it?
My beard started out as a joke. It's become an enjoyable reminder of my current freedom from certain societal obligations. But I will be cutting all of it off pretty quick when I get home... I think. Lately I've been thinking slightly differently.
How do you motivate yourself?
It's hard, I have highs and lows, but overall I've been pretty determined to see it out to the end and finish what I started. Even at my lowest points, I've never considered quitting and some of the most enjoyable moments have come shortly after some of the worst, I focus on that when things get shitty. Trying to achieve something that is reasonably enormous can be daunting, so I I broke the trip down into 8 stages to make it seem more manageable. I then broke it down into countries. Then into 7-10 day stints with a bed and a shower at the end of each. Having these small celebrations here and there help keep you focussed. Oh, and alcohol.
Why is your last blog post 6 months old?
I'm busy. Next question.
Are you going to write a book?
It's unlikely I'll finish writing my next blog post before I get home. A book would take me more years than I have available to me. But maybe.
Do you ever have problems with police/customs?
Yeah, sometimes. Oddly at times when Least expect it. A Serbian border guard hated me because I had a Kosovo stamp in my passport and treated me to a lengthy search. An Indian cop tried to extort money from me. But normally they just ask me normal questions. In central Asia and Turkey they would just make me tea and delay me. USA police were uncharacteristically lovely to me (I'm white though, remember) all the way until Massachusetts, where I met an utter twat in a uniform who insisted on behaving like an angry schoolboy, and was only further angered by the fact that I wasn't saying “yes, sir” and “sorry sir”. If I was black I'm confident he'd have gunned me down with a grin.
You seem super fit, but then you drink and smoke?
You've answered your own question. I'm really not all that fit. And cycle touring isn't really all that athletic.
How do you take your bike on a plane?
You get an old bike box from a local bike shop and, depending on how big a box you get, dismantle the bike enough to get it inside then cocoon the whole thing in parcel tape. Airlines normally request pedals removed, handlebars turned sideways (or removed and turned sideways for drop bars), wheels removed and tyres deflated. I recommend removing the rear dérailleur too so it doesn't get bent. Airlines seem to be moving towards having you check the box in as a regular piece of luggage, which means you can stuff some of your gear in the box now (they never cared before anyway) and it tends to work out slightly cheaper. All my other gear gets stuffed in a large bag, the ones you see people using at laundrettes.
Where are the areas you would most recommend? Your favourite country?
I struggle to give a favourite. Not because I'm being diplomatic, but because I had great experiences in almost every country for differing reasons. People are the same the world over; pretty bloody nice, and every country offers a unique experience in some way. Here's a run-down of the top performers though:
The Netherlands is by far the easiest country in the world for cycling, due to their great cycling infrastructure and flat terrain. And marijuana is legal. If you're into that.
The whole of Central Asia was awesome. A unique area of the world filled with gallons of cheap vodka and friendly people. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are much more relaxed than the other former Soviet republics. The camaraderie on the Silk Road was an amazing experience and being a part of the “class of 2015” was the experience of a lifetime.
Myanmar was made special by the people's smiles, the unique experience and the food.
New Zealand's scenery is utterly spectacular. But there's hills. Steep ones.
Personally, if you twist my arm... I'm gonna say Kazakhstan. But your results may vary.
What was the toughest point?
My last day in India was absolutely hell. You can read about it HERE, although I get nowhere near describing accurately the misery I was experiencing.
Why did you choose to follow the “rules” for a circumnavigation?
Firstly, because I'm doing the trip to raise money for charity, it helps to have a tangible goal. It gives the trip more sense of purpose. The second reason is for personal reasons, to give me a sense of achievement and to say I've done something semi-worthwhile with my life. And it impresses chicks.
What ARE the rules for a circumnavigation?
“The journey should be continuous and in one direction (East to West or West to East), the minimum distance ridden should be 18,000 miles (29,000km), and the total distance travelled by the bicycle and rider should exceed an Equator's length, i.e. 24,900 miles (40,100km).Any considerable distance travelled opposite to the direction of the attempt must be discounted from any calculations of the overall distance travelled. The route must be ridden through two approximate antipodal points."
Doesn't following “rules” restrict yo
The rules in the Guinness World Record book allow for a lot of flexibility. If I was targeting a fast time or the record itself, I would probably have chosen flatter, or otherwise easier, countries to travel through. But I chose countries and areas of interest to me.
What are some good websites to learn more about cycle touring?
They're easy enough to find through internet searches. And it's a good idea to do some research by searching for specific information on country/countries you plan to visit. But here are a few nice sites for a bit of general inspiration:
Can I contact you with questions?
Yeah, sure. The yellow envelope button over on the left of every page will shoot me an email.
Do you get bored of answering the same questions all the time?
No, not really. Obviously what I'm doing is of interest to a lot of people and I really enjoy telling people about it, in the hopes that people will decide to take the plunge and do something like this themselves. I whine a lot, but anyone can do it.