Thomas Stevens was the first person to ride around the world on a bicycle. He did it in 1886 on a pennyfarthing, one of those weird looking devices with a tiny little wheel at the back and a great big wheel in front. If Stevens could do it, so could you, right?
Actually, quite a few people have ridden around the world on a bicycle today. They have had lots of adventures and learned a lot of lessons along the way. Below, two of them — one man and one woman — share the lessons they have learned about successful bicycle touring.
Emily worked as a cycle courier in central London before setting off to cycle round the world in 2011. She says most people pack way too much stuff the first time. Almost anything you really need can be bought along the way if necessary.
She does encourage folks to learn how to set up and maintain their equipment — especially the bike itself — before leaving on their grand adventure. Figuring out how to set up your tent or operate the cook stove in a rain storm is not the ideal way to learn. Still, she didn’t follow her own advice and everything turned out fine for her. But it’s still a good idea to familiarize yourself with your equipment before you begin.
Emily says never turn down an invitation. Even if you weren’t planning on stopping and even if it takes you miles out of your way, you will end up making new friends and experiencing new foods and beverages. You may even discover whole countries you hadn’t planned on visiting.
Cold, exhaustion and hunger will make you more susceptible to fear and pessimism. They will make you more likely to commit acts of stupidity, like losing your wallet or stabbing yourself with your pocket knife. It’s good to remind yourself of these things when you are cold, tired and hungry.
Emily’s final bit of advice is that the hardest part is actually leaving. It’s scary quitting your job; waving goodbye to a family who took you in at the end of a hard day; or just getting out of your warm sleeping bag, packing up the tent and getting back on the road. But the road is where the magic happens. Her suggestion? “Get out there!”
Andrew has cycled across Europe, Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal. His company, Georiders, provides mountain bike tours in the Republic of Georgia. He says,
“My top tip for a cycle expedition is to follow the process and listen to your thoughts, feelings and emotions when the many experiences and adventures unfold before you.
“I once met the owner of the Dusk til Dawn bike shop in Kathmandu, Nepal and he told me that when he is riding along in the foothills of the Himalayas, he listens to the subtle sounds of the bike as a meditation.
“It is easy when cycling in a place like India to let the chaos and attention get to you, but the trick is to go with the flow of experiences and in time you’ll learn to steer yourself in a way that means you’ll get the most out of your travels.”
Use Good Judgment
They say that good judgment is the product of experience. And experience is the result of bad judgment. Whether you plan on biking around the world or just overnight close to home, let Emily and Tom’s experiences make your adventure fun, safe and rewarding.