It is ‘300 DAYS TODAY’ since leaving our home in the UK on our bicycles! to date we have cycled almost 8000km through 16 countries and are now in our second continent Asia, and lets just say that its not been easy at all, we tend to only post photos and videos of us happy and smiling, but that IS NOT always the case, we are human too! we have only got where we are today by literally shedding blood sweat and tears, the fight to not give up has been somewhat Paramount!
We started planning our World Cycling Tour from the comfort of an armchair, well actually in our case it was from a plastic chair in our campervan in Spain of January 2018, as we were living there for 8 months whilst Gabs was finishing her Treatment for Breast Cancer “not as glamorous as it sounds” we travelled all over Spain but had to fly back to the UK every 3 weeks to the Christie Hospital, being in Spain and planning our world tour helped us get through the difficult times, sometimes no matter how tough life can be, just having a simple distraction, something to focus on can make the whole experience that much more bearable.
Pictured above: Living from our Campervan in Spain (Caminito Del Ray)
We planned everything down to the fine details, such as camping equipment, bike spares, translation cards, flags for all 67 countries, routes, visas etc..etc.. its all pretty easy at the planning stage, but things never go to plan!
Pictured above: Our kit when we started
Pictured above: Left: Gran Fondo 100 miles road race in Coxumel Mexico
Right: One of the many col’s in France
We are both very experienced cyclists, having cycled for many years all over the world, and also back at home in the uk where we cycled with many friends and various cycling clubs, BUT this was always waking up in the comfort of your own warm bed or hotel room, then going out for a days cycling on a carbon race bike that weighed about 6kg, it didn’t matter come rain or shine, you would still go out cycling as you were always safe in the knowledge that at the end of the day you returned back to your cosy home or hotel and had a lovely warm shower and some nice hot food (and a few beers) before retiring for the night back to that comfy bed…
Pictured above: Somewhere in Cambodia (Chris & Gabs 5000km Tour of Southeast Asia)
We have done a few tours in various parts of the world and the UK over the years, but they have always had an end date, they only lasted a couple of months and were in hot climates (apart from the time we cycled Blackpool to Scotland in December when it was -15) we toured the whole of Southeast Asia and also cycled from the UK to Spain 3 years ago, but this was in nice warm weather therefore never needed to carry too much gear, and again it was only for a few weeks, so we had that end date.
Pictured above: Our first tour on the Isle of Skye Scotland
So in reality we have now learnt that even though we call ourselves experienced “cyclists” we never had any experience for this type of tour, we could only rely on our past experiences of the previous 2 month tours, then factor in the different living conditions, weather, weight of the bikes etc and you think you are sort of prepared..erm…never the case! as We’ll soon explain..
Pictured above: 5000km Tour from Blackpool (UK) to Spain via France.
Camping, Bad Weather and Mechanicals
So we have been on the road for 300 days, but in reality we have been on the road much longer, its actually 18 months if you include our 8 months living from our camper in Spain.
Over the last 300 days we have wild camped in our tent for 280 days! from forests, farmers fields, under bridges to abandoned houses, the other 20 days have been either staying with friends or at hostels/hotels.
Pictured above: Camped in an abandoned house and under a bridge in Italy
When we first set off from the UK we had a glorious 3 months of summer up until October when the weather suddenly changed in Sardinia Italy, since then we have endured 7 months of dreadful weather, we can count on one hand how many warm sunny days we have had, from torrential rain, constant head winds, snow and sub zero temperatures as low as -20
Pictured above: Camped in Central Turkey subzero -20
Whats been our hardest cycling to date? well we think this could be Turkey, but is it really? out of the 6 weeks cycling across Turkey we have had about 5 ok days of weather, the rest have been freezing cold, wet and extremely windy, but we experienced the same back in the Balkans if not worse, but that was a few months ago, we think its just the fact that we have been on the road for so long and the weather hasn’t given us a break in 7 months, so its more like an accumulation of bad weather and mixed emotions, and unfortunately Turkey hasn’t been our best experience due to this, although the people have been truly amazing towards us, if it wasn’t for them Turkey could have broken us!
Pictured above: Another typical morning in the tent
Over the past few months we have had no end of mechanical problems, from flat tyres, broken chains, pannier racks breaking, buckled wheels and broken spokes and a number of other happenings.. can you imagine, you’ve had endless days of cycling over mountain passes in freezing cold sub-zero temperatures, its either snowing or torrential rain with a constant freezing cold head wind, you spend hours trying to find somewhere to pitch the tent, but by the time you do its gone dark, so you eventually get in your sleeping bag and only have the energy to eat a packet of rasins or peanuts then fall asleep in the process of trying to eat them. You never really get a decent nights sleep as you tend to have one eye open as theres generally the sounds of wild barking dogs and wild pigs around the tent, and of late the sounds of gun shots! gun shots that are getting closer.. we have always been extra concerned with the wolves and bears, they are there around us but so far we haven’t seen any thankfully, but in all reality the biggest threat is people, a simple rule when on the road, no matter how nice people appear, trust no one!
So its early in the morning, of late we are woken by the sound of the Mosque Prayers just before sunrise, its generally around 5am, its lovely and warm in the sleeping bag, but you look at your clothes from the night before and they are frozen, the tents frozen, everything is frozen, you start to pluck up the courage to get out of that lovely warm sleeping bag and put your frozen clothes on, we actually put them in a carrier bag these days and move them into the sleeping bag with us in it so we can defrost them with body heat, so that way they are slightly warm and wet when you put them on as apposed to frozen. Soon as you get out of the sleeping bag the trick is to not stop moving, by the time you’ve packed all your gear and dropped the tent you’re pretty warm, its a great workout in the early hours..it takes about an hour each morning for this process before getting back on the bikes for the journey ahead.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Pictured above: Broken pannier racks and flat tires in snow storm
We had set ourselves a rule, we wont ever get on planes, trains or automobiles, only a boat when necessary (when theres no land) we have recently realised that its not always possible, unless you’re trying to be a hero, which we have many times in the past to our own stupidity.. so the other day we were freezing cold up in the mountains of Northern Turkey, and got caught up in yet another snow storm, and to top it all off we had 3 mechanicals, 2 broken pannier racks and a flat tyre, by the time we had fixed the tire the weather got worse, much worse! but we continued as always…we should have taken shelter in the tent but it wasn’t possible to erect it without damage, and there was nowhere to shelter as we were on top of the mountain, so it was better to keep moving in order to stay warm, and hopefully descend a few thousand feet, but then suddenly an old man pulled over in a very old car with a roof rack, he insisted giving us a lift up to the Black Sea coast, normally we would say no as we remember our rule number 3..NO AUTOMOBILES! but this time we gave in and soon the bikes were on top of his rickety car roof and we sat in his warm car as he drove us to the next town. Its actually difficult getting your bikes and all of your bags into a small car, our bikes are not the lightest when fully loaded, I’m sure we broke the old boys suspension!
Question to self: Will we do it again? Answer to self: If we really need to, yes.
When we first set off from the UK my bike (Chris) was 135kg and Gabs was 85kg, but we both had heavy trailers and lots of what some people would call unnecessary kit, but to us it was all necessary, we carried lots of publicity items to promote our charity (Prevent Breast Cancer) and our cycling tour, I think between us we had 40kg of flyers, wrist bands and ‘Fluffy Puffs Marshmallows’ as we handed these out to all the Mayors we met up with as we cycled through the UK and Europe, Gabs trailer never made it out of the UK, but I kept mine until we arrived in Pisa Italy. My bike now weighs 85kg and Gabs is 55kg, so a big difference, still sounds heavy but we actually use everything we carry, once we reach Southeast Asia we are going to put some of our equipment in storage as there will be many items we wont be needing until later in the tour.
Pictured above: Our equipment the day we started
We constantly need to remind ourselves that we are no longer on a quick 2 month cycling tour, going full pelt like we used to ride previously, for us cycling our bikes around the world is a way to see the world at its best, from the worlds amazing landscapes and not so amazing! down to its interesting people and varied cultures, the best way we believe to experience this is from our bicycles, and at a slow pace, this is now our way of life, its important to remember that everyone has a story to tell, you just have to take the time to listen, theres really no rush.
The Good, Bad & The Ugly Days
We are learning new things about ourselves and life in general on a daily basis, this journey is testing us to our limits no end, from extreme physical pain to self emotions we never knew existed, no one ever said it was going to be easy, but until you are actually doing it you never know how its going to feel until you’re in the thick of it.
From the good days to the bad, its a complete rollercoaster of a ride, just like life, you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, you can only try and assume, so when its a good day, cherish that moment, take nothing for granted, and when its a bad day, hang on in there, the storm will pass and you will get to your destination, but it wont be easy!
always turn that bad moment into a great experience..
..then you’ll start to enjoy the ride
Chris & Gabs