The incessant dreaming of cycling around the world was finally coming to an end. There is at last action. Relying on chatting to people who had done long distance cycling before, I went about firstly planning the route and then, getting all the essentials required.
Having been living in Saigon for a couple of years, I though this was a logical starting point. Anyone that has spent two seconds in Vietnam, or large swaths of other countries in Asia, will know motorbikes are everywhere. So after my motorbiking failing me a year ago, buying another motorbike was the obvious choice. Yet was it the most sensible? Everywhere you need to go is normally a short distance, and safety? is it really more dangerous on motorbike than a bike, I thought not. Consequentially I bought a bicycle and spent the succeeding year really enjoying riding around the city. The route cause of my inspiration of wanting to take this enjoyment around the world was a close friend. Whom cycled around South-East Asia and has given a clear insight on what to take and what not to take.
The first thing I did was to get bags set up on my front wheels and on the back. The back bags were fitted easily enough and looked small, yet I was confident they would be able to hold a fair amount of stuff.
Leaving the bike shop, I straight away found that my feet were hitting the pannier and they would have to be moved back slightly.
The mechanic was however out of stock of the front ones. This meant trekking around Saigon looking for front panniers. I eventually found a shop and bad luck as the assistant told me that this bike was unable to carry front bags, as it lacked the fitting needed to screw the pannier on. Do you have any other bikes that could do this? I asked the shop keeper, she replied the Surly Bikes are the best for this. My eyes nearly came out of my socket looking at the price. £1200 was the cheapest one they had, and I could no way afford that on an English teacher’s salary.
Can I really do this with only two bags? Surely not. Well let’s see how far we can get, if it doesn’t work out I can always turn back.
Pimp Out My Ride
A year of cycling is going to be painful. Every possible precaution needs to be taken. This means a comfortable seat. I acquired a new saddle, which strapped on around my existing seat. My god it feels comfortable!
Having my essentials easily accessible is important. A small bag connects on my handlebars, with a phone pocket facing me, acting as my Sat Nav.
The initial stage of cycling through South East Asia means one thing; Heat. The only thing you can do is to have plenty of water with you at all times. It is easy to think, just another push and we’ll get to the next town. Yet when you do arrive, shaking and with severe headaches, it’s not much fun at all. Speaking to a friend who suffered just this, only recovered by shouting help in his hotel and them responding by putting two drips in his arms to pump saline into his system.
Once you set up camp, it’s really important to have two bottles of water. One to see you through the night and another for the next morning, to wake you up and fully recuperated to take on the day ahead.
What to do if there is a problem with the bike?
Having no actually repaired a puncture before, I really needed help with this. A friend advised me on this and what else to take, ”take at least two inner tubes and puncture plasters. It’s best to keep on reusing the inner tubes” Lubrication for the chain was also going to be crucial to avoid any rust.
Not knowing how to repair punctures freaked the hell out, luckily my colleague gave me a run down about how to do it effectively.
Cook or not to cook?
With only two bags on the bike, carrying cooking equipment was just something I’d have to sacrifice. Burning so many calories during the day, would have refuelled by street food only.
Knowing The Way
A rough outline of where to go is really important. Maps me was my app of choice as its super easy to track your progress.
Stage 1 – Saigon to Mandalay. 2,109 km (Must fly into Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh due to safety concerns)
Stage 2 – Dhaka to Delhi. 1,849 km (Must fly into Iran, as the border with Pakistan is dangerous)
Stage 3 – Tehran to London. 5,488 km.
Stage 4 – New York to San Francisco. 4,667 km.
A Nice Playlist
The most appealing thing about doing this, is the cycling within the most amazing scenery. To do this with great music would be even more incredible. So I purchased some decent headphones and put together a playlist.
I also got hold of audio books, which I thought would motivate me through the journey. One of these is the David Goggins audio book. This comes fully recommended.
Important to note that often there are different visa required over land than if you fly.
As a British Citizen, I acquired the Indian Visa (Costing £140 for three months at the consulate in Saigon), Myanmar was just a straight e-visa and the other initial countries were just visa upon arrival.
Once I arrived at Delhi, I would then sort out the next lot of visas.
Making sure if you do run into problems, that you are ready to deal with them is crucial. Water sterilisation and diarrhoea tablets were gonna be important as water in many of these places is not suitable to drink. A medical kits with bandages and cremes would also come in handy.
Other stuff I took:
An insanely long to-do list was overwhelming at first, but seeing the bike come together was awesome to see. I was just hoping it would be enough to see me through all the way.
Keep track of my progress on instagram; @insanelymadadventures