It’s Monday morning and I’m at work. I don’t want to be here. I’ve only had four hours sleep and I’ve got a banging headache and a pile of emails that I don’t know how to answer because I haven’t been trained properly.
As the morning goes on I leave the emails and start packing boxes. It’s boring, really boring, and I’m working for minimum wage and I’d much rather be outside.
I’d much rather be on my bike.
My mind wanders intermittently to places that I’ve been before, to places that I’d much rather be. I’m fortunate enough to have traveled a bit, fortunate enough to have these memories. They come to me randomly, sometimes because of a sight or a sound or a smell, sometimes completely unprovoked. A memory of a place, a person, a road, just pops into my head.
I’d rather be in the Netherlands, cycling along beside pretty girls in the sunshine as the nation celebrates reaching the World Cup Final.
I’d rather be in Guatemala, riding up a gravel track of a mountain road, being waved at by local kids, crying “Gringo!” with wide-eyed gawps.
I’d rather be in Iceland, cycling across the barren landscape next to glaciers and waterfalls and mountains, a million miles from the rest of the world.
I’d rather be in the Bahamas, riding down to my own private beach of white sand and turquoise water.
I’d rather be in Canada in winter, cycling through a blizzard, hands and face frozen, but hell-bent on reaching my destination.
I love bicycle touring because of the freedom. When I’m on my bike I can go wherever I want, I have no responsibilities, no pressures, no stress. I am free.
But the best thing is, I will travel again. There are more memories to be made. So, you know what, I’d rather be here this Monday morning, because when I’ve answered enough emails and when I’ve packed enough boxes, I will have everything I need to cycle off again. I will have earned my freedom once more.
Cycling to a festival in the middle of a desert is cool anyway, the fact that it’s near the mythical Timbouktu only adds to it and it being a collection of amazing local and international artists makes it top of my list!
Saint Louis is an amazing old crumbling French colonial town in Senegal. My overwhelming memory of it was that it was swealteringly hot when I was there. That said it is the ideal back drop for Jazz and this festival attracts some of the best in the world.
Rio de Janerio Carnival
Where: Rio de Janeiro
When: Late February
Because it’s Rio. And it’s Carnival. And you probably wont get mugged.
Brazzaville was one of my favourite cities on my last trip, it’s really laid back and is on the banks of the river Congo! The Congolese are known for sharp dressing (often living in abject poverty but buying expensive suits) and Congolese music is amazing!
Northern Scandinavia is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I need no more excuse to go than this (and the yoiking and Sami Hip Hop sounds ace!). It’s only 2018 miles from my house…
What do you think? Any more suggestions? Put a suggestion in the comments or send me a message on Twitter here. They have to be epic, relatively random and relatively far away-I quite like indigeousy stuff too!
Next week-Seven Sporting Events I’d Like To Cycle To….
In 2007 Tom and his best mate Andy Welch set off to cycle round the world. All didn’t go to plan and Tom ended up getting married in Armenia. In my eyes the way they went about their trip made it all the more adventurous. Whereas I ploughed through miles and miles of endless roads, Tom and Andy had adventures. They took their time, they took alternative routes, hung out and discovered, they did it properly. Since finishing Ride Earth they have reunited in Mongolia for an amazing bike ride shown in the video below and Tom is currently incredibly engageingly capturing his current trip-a short winters bike jaunt through Scandinavia on his website here.
These are some photos from Tom’s trips past and present:
This is the first part of Toms video about his trip to Mongolia:
I’ve met Rob a few times now and he must rank as one of the nicest people I know. He’s got a real gentle demeanor but behind his eyes you know there is a determination of steel. This is a guy who looked at a map and wanted to get to the end of the earth. He chose Madagan in Russia and met up with his friend from teacher training college Al Humphreys and cycled through Siberia in winter camping rough at minus 40degrees. From here he left Al and headed south through the jungles of Papua New Guinea, did a loop of Australia, cycled through Afghanistan, was robbed at gunpoint, caught malaria and met his wife to be.
You get them, I get them, we all get them. Injuries are the bane of everyone’s life. From little niggles to breaks, tears and rips. Last week I talked about swimming and this week cycling is getting the works!
Cycling is designed to be painless-you’re not jolting your body like you are in running and you’re using your biggest strongest muscles unlike swimming. If this is true then why does it hurt so bloody much?
I get pains in five different parts of my body when cycling: knees, bottom, back, arms and hands. I’m going to try and run through why these happen and how you should cycle to avoid them. I think now would be a good time to point out that you’re thighs are going to hurt pretty much whatever you do when cycling as that’s the muscle that’s propelling you forward! Another classic cycling issue is shortening of your hamstrings. Lance Armstrong can barely touch his knees! It’s important to warm up and stretch off afterwards although even when I set off on big trips with good intentions (stretching and ten press ups/sit ups morning and night) I never end up doing any of them! But here are the five aches and pains you can fix:
All your knees do when cycling is transfer the power from your thighs to the pedals via your shins-this shouldn’t be painful The key to fixing this is the set up of the bike. It’s definitely worth getting your bike professionally set up for you if you plan on doing any real distance on the bike. If you can’t afford to get a full fitting then adjusting the height, angle and position of the seat post should alleviate most aches. You should have the pedal so you can put your heel on it while sitting on the saddle-this buys you a couple of centimetres when you put your toe in the pedal which will stop you over stretching. Generically having pain at the front of the knee means the seat post is too low and pain at the back of the knee means your seat is too high. You might also need to adjust the seat forward or back for comfort-bare in mind a half a centimetre adjustment can change things drastically!
I cycled from London down to Aswan in Egypt with my knees in agony ignorant that I could fix it, thinking that it was just the after effects of tearing my cruciate and medial ligaments. In Aswan I met a South African sports doctor called George who was driving a truck overland to Cape Town. He adjusted my seat by about an inch and after that I didn’t have single a twinge! He also fixed my rim tape on the wheels and we had a bet that I’d buy him a beer for every 100kms I cycled with out a puncture I’d buy him a beer (I’d had 27 in 7500kms until then) and for every puncture I got he’d buy me five beers. When I got to Cape Town I owed him 120beers and he owed me five. Gutted. Pain-free, but gutted.
While my knee was hurting (at the front and under the knee cap from having the seat too low) I found it really helped if I spent a few minutes each break massaging my knee downwards and to the outsides-this really helped with the swelling and seemed to stop the pain temporarily.
I don’t really know the answer to this-I used a Brooks saddle on both my last trips and for 12000miles and 22000miles respectively it was agony! I’ve heard of people who have worn theirs in well and think they’re great-my problem is that I get bored and fidget. This means that when I get an ache on one side I’ll move to the other and then get another ache there and this will repeat for months! I suppose the answer is not to fidget, break the saddle in well and you’ll be fine! (Two pairs of padded cycling shorts helps too!)
This is a classic problem for long distance cyclists. Your back is the part of your body that balances out the leg drive. I had intermittent problems with my back and they only really flared up when I hadn’t been disciplined with keeping my form. Ideally your hips, upper body and arms shouldn’t move at all when you’re cycling. You should engage your core muscles and use them to hold everything in place-this allows each push of the pedal to go through with more force. If you ride hunched up or wiggle from side to side as you pedal then you’re wasting energy and pulling your back apart. Don’t do it!
If you’re cycling all day everyday with your arms locked out then they’re going to ache. You can lessen this by having handle bars that allow you to place your hands in different positions. For my last trip I had bull bars which allowed me to have my hands vertical and horizontal on the bar. Shifting between these two positions really helped me. I always wanted to try out a triathlon handle bar but never plucked up the courage to buy one!
You’re leaning the weight of your upper body on your hands for an extended period of time-they’re going to hurt. Cycling gloves are padded to protect the nerve which runs down the little finger side of the base of your palm. Even with gloves I lost feeling in my little and ring fingers on the first trip-they came back afterwards but it wasn’t much fun. On the second trip I changed the grip on my handlebars from a round one to one with a flat part that fit my hands much better and didn’t have any troubles at all.
In short: posture, posture, posture! And get your bike fitted and you’ll be fine!
The video below is from a great DVD that can help you set up your bike at home:
I met Pete in a dingy greasy spoon cafe in London for a chat last year. He’s a great guy and I’d been following his blog as he slowly wound his way on his long ride home. He was on quite a bit of the same route as I was on so it was always good to know what was ahead. We talked about what we’d seen and the problems you face on trips like ours (dogs, disease and becoming travel weary) and I we went on to talk about his next trip from England to Cape Town: the Big Africa Cycle. I love maps and it’s always great regaling tails and helping with logistics with another simularly minded person. Pete takes some fantastic photos and is travelling through some of the most stunning places on my favourite continent, Africa.
Recently he’s had some bad luck and has had to spend a while recovering from an injury in Dakar, Senegal. I always found that the times I was forced to stop on my two trips; either by injury, illness or visas-were the highlights of the trip. They’re great times to really get to know an area and meet some amazing people. Pete’s done this by walking across Gambia.
2010 is going to be a fantastic year for me, it’s going to be the year when it all comes together and I can realise a longheld dream of manpowering round the world.
But adventure isn’t about size, it’s about attitude. Below are a few ideas for resolutions to change your life or the way you look at your life for the better.
1) Take a photo everyday. Al Humphreys did it in 2009. The photo’s don’t need to be high quality it’s just about seeking out your life and documenting it. Amazing things happen everyday and we miss them wrapped up in our ipod cocoon.
2) Train to do 100 press ups. This is a completely nominal number and a completely random excercise and yet there is some draw to the centurion of push ups!
3) You have plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead. Wake up 10minutes earlier than usual and go to bed ten minutes later-this will give you five days extra each year. You can use this time to stretch, contemplate, prepare, reconnect…
4) Do something nice for someone else every day …and if anyone finds out it doesn’t count.
5) Read a new book every week, read each chapter in a different place (on the bus, in the park, in bed etc)
6) Each month try and spend some time at the seaside and in the mountains.
7) Do something that you hate each week until you like it. It doesn’t matter if it’s listening to different kinds of music, running, cycling, swimming, studying, dancing, walking, eating healthily-find some way to learn to love it.
Tell me about you upcoming adventures, I love hearing about trips and expeditons and will help in any way I can.