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Frequently Asked Questions

 

Following our 14 month trip from England to Australia we were bombarded with all sorts of questions relating to our trip. Several questions came up time and time again so we decided to present these questions and answers on the website. Hopefully the answers will satisfy the curious and inquisitive amongst you. Scroll down to read all the questions or click on the links below to jump to you particular interest.

 
 

How did you get the idea to go travelling by bike?

It really is a combined idea. Isa has always dreamed to see the world. Terry has been cycling since his childhood and was adamant that he was not going to abandon his wheeled friend for a whole year. And so it was decided after a few small cyclotouring trips in England and France: we were going to see the world travelling on bicycles.

 
 

What's wrong with riding a tandem?

The idea never really crossed our mind before we left. But now we can confidently say that we will never go on a tour of this duration on a tandem. Cycling on two separate bikes has given us some space when we needed it (that is after an argument). The anger fades away as you cycle on, which surely wouldn't happen if you are 30 cm from your partner, the only source and outlet of your angst and frustations. On a more practical note, photo and wee stops do not require any prior discussion. You stop when and where you like. On the downside, it is slower and much easier to loose each other.

 
 
What was your favorite country to cycle through?

These were our three favourites:

- The Czech Republic (and maybe also Slovakia, but we only spent 1 week there): very hilly, great mountains, the people are very friendly and the food is lovely. The landscape is full of windy country roads bordered with fruits tree. It was very quiet in mid May when we were there.
- Mongolia: a paradise for wild campers and a delight for the eyes. The countryside is huge and majestic and the people are traditionally dressed horsemen are a sight to behold. The food, based on Mutton mainly, gets tedious after a while and some of the off-roads tracks are too sandy for loaded bikes. Apart from that, it's fabulous.
- China: some parts of the countryside are absolutely amazing and almost ungeard of in the West. The mountain roads are beautiful with very little traffic (for the time being). Our favorite was the G108 West of Beijing and the Qinlin mountains, which mark the border between the temperate and the subtropical China. However, China has its downsides (see below) and the cities are all very similar and a bit tedious after a while.

 
 

 
 
What was the hardest moment?

There were two during the trip. The first one was getting lost in the forest between two oblasts (Regions) in Russia. The path we followed fizzled out, the compass was showing that we were going around in circles, the mud was deep, the mosquitoes were huge and it was pouring with rain. These were Isa's first tears of the trip

Then we crossed "coal valley hell" in China. We were covered in a thick black dust every day and trying to make our way in between maddly beeping and overloaded coal lorries.

But really, the hardest moment is not during the trip, it is the mad few months of preparation before leaving on our bikes. Once we were gone and left the everyday life problems behind us, it was (nearly) all simple and blissfull.

 
 
 
 
What do you eat on the trip?

We try to eat as much local and fresh produce as we can. For the staples, we use porridge for the cold mornings (it can be converted into musli when the weather gets too warm) and couscous for the evening meals (quick too cook, is very water efficient and is compact for the transportation). Bread makes up most of our lunchtime meals. A particular mention goes to the Czech bread, which was the best by miles on the trip.

 
 
Where is the best beer? The best biscuit? The best cheese?

The best beer: Excluding England then it has to be Germany and the Czech republic
The best biscuit has to be the German Nussecken, a delight made of hazelnuts, followed by the weird and colorful Priyianikis of Russia. (Please note: Nussecken falls into that difficult to categorise biscuit/cake area)
The best cheese is a difficult one now that we are in France, which is the King country of all cheeses (Isa may be a bit biassed here). Otherwise, the cumin gouda of Holland was not bad and New Zealand offered the best array of cheeses, but none like the French fresh stinky goat cheeses.

 
 
How long did it take you and how much did it cost?

We were on the roads for 407 days (nearly 14 months) and we rode 18,002 km. We also climbed 137,500m. Click here for a summary of our trip and here for a graph detailing each country (graph at the bottom of the page).
It cost us £16,768 or €24,535, not including the initial cost of the bikes and equipment. For more details on where we spent our money, click here. We have also some spending information per country, which we have not posted yet, so send us an email if you are interested. We have never restrained ourselves on visiting local attractions and we have been to many Capital and big, touristy cities, which increase the cost of living. If you plan to stay more out of the way, you can budget for less.

 
 
Did you have many problems with the bikes on the way?

The bikes have been extremely reliable until a Rohloff hub flange failure in New Zealand, which was promptly resolved by SJS Cycling and Rohloff. Terry also suffered 2 problems with his Marathon XR tyres, which we suspect were overpressurised, and his Brooks saddle, whose titanium weld failed. All our problems have been compiled oin our equipment page.

 
 
How many punctures did you have?

27 (but 8 were on Terry's bike and were caused because the rim tape was too thin for the rim)

 
 
Did you ever feel unsafe?

No. No matter how apprehensive we felt cycling through some countries, like Russia for instance, nothing happened. Most of the people we met on our way were good natured and generally welcoming. We have always been very careful not to display our laptop and Terry's huge camera. We have always kept an eye on our bikes or made sure they were in a secure room if we had to leave them alone.
Russia and Mongolia both have problems with drunks. In Russia they are over friendly, in the Mongolian towns they can be physically threatening.
As you go along, you learn to trust your feelings and you can generally cycle off from every situation that you feel may become uncomfortable.
The only real problem we had was in UlanBataar, where real poverty surrounds you - but the problems are of the petty crime nature eg pick pockets and bag slashing

 
 

How did you prepare for illnesses and health problems?

On our equipment page we give a list of medical equipment and vaccinations which were required for the trip. Plenty of time was required for the innoculations as up to 3 visits to the doctors are required. Our first aid kit and medication included the following: hypodermics, antibiotics, antihistamines, powerful painkillers, upset stomach medication,teatree oil (for removal of ticks), etc. Luckily we had very little need for any of the drugs - except anti histamine for Isa's hayfever.

 
 
Did you do any physical preparation before the trip?

Terry was always involved in recreational cycling and Isa had been dragged into this as well. Due to the huge amounts of time and effort involved with preparations before leaving England we had no time for Cycling. After a month on the road the body begins to acclimatise and the fitness levels gradually rise as the body becomes used to the sustained effort nearly every day. To ensure that all the equipment and bikes were ok we did one weekend tour around Exmoor about 3 weeks before the big off.

 
 

Was it difficult cycling for so long

After the initial month of acclimatising to life on the road then the cycling was not too difficult. No matter how fit you are a fully loaded toring bike will always stress the rider on a 1000m alpine climb - there is no avoiding this - but the views and descents are always worth. Following 10 weeks cycling in CHina we were ready for a rest - but this is more related to the tiring, challenging aspects of travelling in China than the cycling. Generally we planned to cycle 3 days and have 1 day off. This plan depends upon the availability of suitable places to rest. Some stages lasted 13 days of constant cycling - after this a rest is well deserved!

 
 
Did you miss anything while away?

Friends, family, proper English warm beer, being able to communicate meanigfully with people, bread (whilst in China), cider, not sleeping in a bag, proper towels, reading a newspaper, a place to put things that isn't a pannier!

 
 
What's next?

Find a job, earn some money and decide where to go cycle touring next! Be warned it is very addictive
 
         
         
 

For more information or questions please contact us at info@cyclotouring.co.uk