On 1st April 2011 local adventurer Sarah Outen embarked on her London2London: Via the World expedition which will see her loop the planet using her bicycle, rowing boat and kayak. In this post, Sarah explains how to prepare for a bike journey. Read on for her top tips...
Decide a rough plan – Where would you like to pedal and why? It can be a one word answer, but I always think its important to have a goal for a journey - metaphorical, physical or otherwise.
Buy or borrow a bike. Consider the type of terrain you are likely to encounter and the loads you expect to carry and choose your bike accordingly. Don’t go for fancy parts if you are anticipating being well off the beaten track for months and months because replacements might be hard to come by. I would choose steel over aluminium for its ability to be welded back together. Fit some sturdy racks, choose a comfortable saddle that fits you (I am a big fan of the classic Brooks leather saddle) and then decide what you are going to carry and how.
Any journey where you carry your own gear is a liberating experience, I think, an opportunity to travel light. It is a wonderful thing to notice how little you need to survive and be happy. Pack the essentials and a couple of luxuries perhaps – but bear in mind that most people seem to greatly reduce their gear after a couple of weeks on the road when they realise they don’t need everything they set out with.
It’s always a good idea to have a rough idea of how to sort out the basics with your bike and know how do the basic maintenance. The good thing about bikes is that they are universal and so normally someone, not too far away will be able to help with simple repairs or bodges.
Take out Insurance
A good travel insurance policy doesn't have to cost much – go for an annual cover and don’t skimp. Hopefully you’ll never have to use it but it definitely pays to have it ready in case you get injured, particularly personal accident and medical. Kit is less important as it is replaceable but body parts and lives are harder to come by.
Go for it
Travel with an open mind and a friendly curiosity to the world you meet on the way. Go well and return the kindnesses that will inevitably be shown to you. Be respectful of local customs and ways, be a good ambassador for your own country and make sure when wild camping you leave the place exactly as you found it i.e. no trace.
Pace yourself and enjoy it
Pace yourself and be flexible. It can often take a while to settle into a journey and find your rhythm - go easy on yourself, especially at the start. Don’t forget to look up from your bike and take in the scenery you are travelling through.
Road traffic accidents are the biggest killer of travellers. Cover your bike and gear in reflective strips, wear a reflective jacket if you have to travel at night and be prepared with a great quality set of lights. And without fail, I would always recommend wearing a helmet.
Dress for the occasion
I recommend one set of clothes for pedalling and one set for when you're not in the saddle. My set up is a combination of a long sleeved quick drying shirt with a collar, a gilet, Assos ¾ bibtights, a Buff and Goretex jacket and trousers.
If you find yourself struggling at any point, just stop and take stock of the situation. Figure out what’s bothering you and identify what might put a smile back on your face. Sometimes a bit of wallowing is all you need, maybe it’s a call home, or something as simple as clean clothes, a hairwash and a good feed. I always like to think about how far I have come and make a list of ‘Good things about today’. By focussing on good things – even if they are really basic, you can at least try and stop the negative chatter. And remember, however gnarly something might seem at the time – nothing lasts forever!