‘Yo Markus, I made this book specially for you. I made it to help you. Climb every mountain, ford every stream. Pedal every highway, until you reach your dream! All the best and thank you. Nigel, 24th October 2007.’
While in the process of cleaning my room to make it ready for someone new, I picked up my Pedallers’ Paradise guides by Nigel Rushton, which have been utterly useful when I started cycling in New Zealand in 2007. Back in 2007 I set the foundations for what I am doing at the moment, planning a trip bikepacking on a singlespeed bike around the world. I can still remember my last night in Wellington before leaving to Germany, having a few beers with good mates. Back then I said I will be back soon. That was in 2009. Finally, after 6 years, I will be back. On 12 December I will touch down in Middle Earth, and I can’t wait.
Looking over the Firth of Forth on a beautiful afternoon yesterday made me realise how lucky I am. I had all sorts of things going through my head in the last weeks, they have been an eventful time. I was planning to write down much more here, and I will do so from now on, but I struggled to find time to even ride my bike, yet alone blogging. But standing on a hill view a nice view, looking around, playing around with the bike – this is exactly what I am so looking forward to for when I set off on 3 September.
The date is set, most of the first part of the route is set as well. Preparing and planning a trip on a singlespeed bike around the world if you are not a natural planner is a tough task. Finding a point to start is even tougher. Most of the time in the last few weeks I felt that the cycling will be the easiest bit, even on just one gear. The trick is to break it down into smaller chunks and focus on those. Most importantly though, focus on what you are really good at first, and use the energy gained from those successes to deal with the stuff I don’t want to do.
Right now I got a bike which is a dream to ride. This is the most important thing, and the biggest success. I also have a backup team that helped building the bike, which couldn’t have been any better. Pat, Andrew and Mat from Ison did a great job building it, Dougie helped me to fit a square taper bottom bracket and Middleburn cranks, Charlie the Bikemonger thought of useful things like Anything Cages and the Alexander Graham bell, and my brother is just finishing off building a Forumslader, the device which will power my USB devices once I am on the road. I am so looking forward to test the bike even further, but the Surly Ogre will be a great bike to ride. I will explain it in much more detail once it is properly built up, some little things are still to be changed. Once the ESI grips, silicone tape and bar tape arrive from California I will fit bags and all electronic devices to the bike and start riding it fully loaded.
One thing I have experienced throughout the last weeks is amazing kindness and support from people who really believe in what I am doing. Friends, family, random people who are fascinated by it and pull all the stops to help making it happen. Organising my bank accounts, finding insurance, looking at the fine print in contracts, those tasks have at times totally drained my energy levels, and made me seriously think about what I am doing here. I am pretty good at sorting those things now, and hopefully the boring bits are over soon. But whenever I was close to throw the towel, someone saved the day with nothing more than a nice chat. One of them was James, who just recently opened Fine Bicycles on Broughton Street. I remember quickly popping in for a coffee and chat after having to deal with some less understanding people on the credit card hotline, and within five minutes my mood got better. We talked about random things, but at the end of a long day our chat about random bike-related things was exactly what I needed, while James also saved the problem finding a suitable lubricant for a long trip. Knowing that I will experience the same once I am on the road kept me going on those tough days, and I really appreciate the support and kindness. Sophie, my girlfriend, and my whole family have helped me getting here, and although the idea of cycling around the world doesn’t sit naturally with any of them, they are the backbone I need to make it happen, and I am very fortunate to have that.
As I worked in marketing for a good number of years now, I really enjoyed networking and building up a network of partners that will help me realising this trip. After attracting a good few supporters for the trip already it was great meeting Mark Beaumont for lunch, who helped me with more knowledge and some useful contacts. Finding sponsorship was the focus of the last weeks and is still ongoing, but looking for partners has also helped me finding the source the right gear for the trip at the same time, and opened some interesting conversations about the trip. Thanks to Ison, Charlie the Bikemonger, Surly, Halo, Apidura, Spot, ESI Grips, PDW and Lifeproof for the support so far, I feel that I have the right kit for the trip, which is a hugely important thing. At the same time it has been great to work with all sponsors on a really constructive base, all of them wanting to contribute to the journey with the best they have in stock. I still have meetings lined up in the next weeks, while the focus now shifts away to getting properly ready to go.
While I had a very clear idea about the bike, I needed to do much more research on finding the right route to start, and more importantly the right gear to take to make living a year on the road as much pleasure as it can be. I am just preparing a final packing list, and the copy of The Bikepacker’s Guide from Salsa, which arrived in the mail yesterday, has helped to make final decisions. The I will post the list as soon as everything is ordered next week, while then starting to pack it on the bike, to have enough time to change things around. After loads of research I am planning to take a freestanding solo tent, lightweight air mattress, down sleeping bag, multi-fuel stove, titanium cook set, cutlery and water filter as basics to camp outside for most of the time. Knowing that I will hit summer in New Zealand and Australia, while the temperatures in the States might be much lower, I am planning with three seasons, which should be sufficient for the last part of the trip in Asia as well.
Talking about Australia, and to finish this first port off, here is the idea of the route so far, please feel free to leave comments. I will set off on the 3 September with Sophie, my girlfriend, spending the first three to four days together cycling through the UK. We will start on the Capital Trail, doing the first leg down to Melrose, before continuing south from there. I will hopefully be joined by Charlie in Swanage to go westbound towards Salcombe and Plymouth, and then catch a boat to France and cross France. I will fly out of Lisbon on 28 September to London, with a short stopover at Gatwick, before heading out to Iceland for a few weeks. From Iceland I will fly to New York City in the beginning of October, with the next flight booked from Los Angeles to Auckland on 10 December. I am already looking forward to spend Christmas in Wellington, still one of my favourite places in the world, and hit the South Island trails after that, before returning to Wellington to fly out to Sydney. The plan is to cycle from Sydney to Melbourne, from there to Adelaide and on to Perth. Australia has got some amazing riding in stock, I am really looking forward to the Munda Biddi Trail, a 1000km off-road cycling experience. From there the route is unknown so far, but I will spend the next week on developing that further.
I am looking forward to post more insights into the planning in the coming weeks, focusing on the bike, what to take and some aspects of the route, the journey is as much about doing it as it is about sharing it with people, hopefully it will inspire you to ride more often if you don’t already do. You can also follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube for more updates, and stay tuned. Time to ride bikes!