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Just a few of the questions I've got used to hearing...

Q

What exactly did I do?

Leaving on the 29th of April 2008, I cycled four years and 46,180 miles around the world, returning on April 7th 2012. In the process I visited sixty-one countries on five continents and saw temperatures ranging from 53 degrees in the Kazakh desert to -16 in the Turkish mountains.

Q

Why did I do this?

Good question. A mixture of things really: the desire to challenge myself, to take on something I didn’t know I could do, to see the world from a different point of view and to live a life less ordinary.

Q

Did I really cycle all the way?

Yes - or at least I certainly tried to.

I had to do the odd big of cheating here and there (in Kazakhstan I had to take a train as my visa was expiring, in Sudan I had to take a bus as I needed to catch the weekly boat to Egypt and in Croatia I was bundled into a police van for a few miles) but for the overwhelming majority of the ride I cycled every inch of the way.

As for crossing oceans and continents I took a plane from Japan to the US, took a boat from Panama to Colombia and a plane from Argentina to Cape Town.

Q

Did I have to do much training before setting out?

In January 2008, 3 months before I was due to leave, I tore a medial ligament in my knee. It healed up with just a couple of weeks to spare meaning I only got two weekends of training in and as a result when I left home I was over-weight, unfit and about as physically unprepared as possible for taking on something like this .

In the first three weeks I lost 7 kilos of weight.

Q

Was I a keen cyclist before starting and how did I come up with the idea for the trip?

I didn't start riding a bike regularly until my second year of university in Kingston Upon Thames; at this time I started playing football in north London and with the round-trip costing around £4 on public transport I took my bike down and started riding the 20 miles there and back. I soon began riding more, especially around Richmond Park, and after reading about other people who'd cycled around the world I knew I wanted to give it a go. That summer (2006) I rode my first long distance ride from Kingston to Banbury, confirmed in my mind that this was what I wanted to do, finished my degree, saved up some money and left.

Q

Where did I sleep?

The majority of the time I camped. Given the size and longevity of the task I had to save as much money as possible, so it was camping whenever possible and in the cities I either stayed in the cheapest hostel available or - more commonly - used the hospitality networks. The hospitality networks really were great as the people you stay with can give a proper insight into the city you're in and you’re also guaranteed to meet new people.

Also, as the trip progressed, my social circle grew and I found I had more and more offers of accomodation along the way.

Q

What is worse: being really hot or being really cold?

I set off into the Kazakh heat with a vodka hangover and it was one of the most painful days of my life. At the other extreme there were times when I camped on a foot of snow. Whilst I once got hypothermia from the cold, this was my own fault and I can definitively say the heat is worse. In the cold you can put on more clothes to get warm, in the heat you can only take so many layers off.

Q

What did my mother think about all this?

My family were supportive throughout. Whilst my mother did worry she consistently supported me and there's no way I could have done all this without the aid of both my parents. In November 2009 they came out to see me in California and seeing that not only was I alive, but also healthy, my Mum then relaxed a little.

I did however have to e-mail frequently to let her know I was safe.

Q

Was it safe?

The things you fear most will almost definitely never happen. I had some bad experiences - both on the road and with people - but I never once felt in serious danger.

It shocks people when I tell them that I found Sub-Saharan Africa to be one of the safest, friendliest places to ride.

Q

Did I get sick?

I drank the tap water everywhere I went, thinking it would save money. It did and the only time I got sick from this was in China. Otherwise I suffered a mystery illness in Lesotho, Tick-bite fever in Swaziland, an attack from tsetse flies in Tanzania and a bout of dysentery whilst on a boat in South Sudan. This was due to a broken Katadyn Water filter forcing me to drink river water for three weeks and in this period I lost ten kilos of weight.

Q

Am I some sort of language genius?

Nope. I was able to learn enough Spanish to get by thanks to working on a farm in Mexico and studying a GCSE Spanish Text Book in my tent at night times. Other than that I would always learn the basic words - Hello, thank you & a few numbers - and after that there was a lot of miming. Patience was always required.

Q

Did I not get bored?

Sometimes, but I’m yet to meet anyone who doesn’t occasionally get bored. To keep me entertained I had books, I sometimes had an mp3 player (I broke several on the trip) and I also had the people that I met. If all that fails, I remembered that if I wasn’t on the road then I'd have to lead a grown up life and would probably be at work.

Q

Did I not get lonely?

Sometimes, but the positives of what I was doing far outweighed the stresses. Spending seven hours a day in the saddle talking to myself wasn't always healthy though.

Q

What did I do if the bike broke?

I fixed it. If it was something which I couldnt fix I walked/hitched/got a bus to a location where I could . I carried tools and some spare parts, so could fix most basic problems anywhere. As for Africa - which is just plain different - I carried enough to change an entire bike. This was necessary due to the sparsity of parts.

Q

How far did I ride each day?

An average day in the saddle would yield 100 kilometres in around 5-6 hours of riding.

The aim was 100k a day, but this was of course subject to change depending on road conditions, hills etc. Sometimes it was more, sometimes less; the longest day was 195km with the wind behind me in Sinai, the shortest was 57km on steep mountains and bad roads in Kyrgyzstan.

Q

What did I eat?

I ate anything and everything and after doing diet analysis my daily intake on the bicycle was around 6,000 calories. During the day I usually ate 2 loaves of bread with jam etc, as well as anything else I could get on my hands on and for dinner I’d have steamed rice accompanied by fried vegetables. This is for the days I camped. When in a city/with people I’d do my best to eat what the locals ate and managed to eat everything I was served – even iguana.

I loved the lifestyle as it was impossible to eat too much and even when I tried I couldn't put on any weight.

Q

How did I shower when on the road?

I had a two litre old Coke bottle which at the end of the day I'd fill up with water. Whilst cooking dinner I'd heat up this water and use it for washing. In warm climates this was fine, however in cold weather I didn't get to wash daily.

Q

Where did I go to the toilet if there's not a toilet near me?

Use your imagination.

Q

How much does a trip like this cost?

The whole trip will cost an estimated £14,000, which works out at around £10 per day. However when taking into consideration that this includes my flights, my replacement bike parts and all other hidden expenditures it's fair to say that on average I lived off a lot less on the road.

Each day in my diary I wrote down exactly how much money I spent and I tried to keep monthly expenditure under $300 (US) per month. It was not a glamorous lifestyle.

Q

Where did I get this money from?

I worked two jobs for a year before I left and was also fortunate enough to work in California for around two months. I was also given some money and had to borrow a fair bit in order to get home, which I've since paid back.

Q

How did I carry my money?

I had a small amount in the wallet in my bar bag. I then had $50 hidden in a second wallet in my panniers and this was so if I did get mugged (which I never did), I could say 'look, here's all my money'. I then had $300 hidden at the bottom of another bag.

Pretty amazingly, I found functioning ATM's in all countries except Belize, Rwanda, South Sudan and Sudan.

Q

Were visas difficult?

I had problems getting into China originally, but this was due to their desire for nobody to attend the Olympics. Aside from this the overwhelming majority of countries I either didn't need a visa for, or could purchase one at the border. Those I needed to sort in advance were also easy to obtain. Having a British passport was certainly a blessing.

Q

Who are the world's worst drivers?

Women.

Only joking, or am I? Hmmm. Anyway, by nationality it's the Albanians, the Chinese and the Turks (in that order).

Q

Where are the prettiest girls?

.....Turkey, Korea, Canada, Colombia, Buenos Aires, Mozambique....this list could go on.

Q

What road-kill did I see?

If you’ve seen one in a field, I’ve seen a dead one by the side of the road. Even camels, bears and tortoises.

Q

Where did I spend birthdays and Christmases and what did I do for them?

Christmases: 08 - Luang Prabang, Laos. Drinking. 09 - Cambria, California. Working. 10 - Mendoza, Argentina. Stayed with Graham, a QPR fan, and family. 11 - Bethlehem. A visit to the reason for the season.

Birthdays: 08 - Trabson, Turkey. Hotel stay courtesy of family. 09 - Tokyo, Japan. Attended a baseball game. 10 - Panama City. A hostel and drinking. 11 - Vic Falls, Zambia. Ill with a virus and spent entire day in bed.

These weren't much fun to be away for.

Q
What advice do I have for anyone wishing to go on their own bike tour?

Just go. When I left home I was over-weight, unprepared and could only just about fix a puncture. Setbacks are all part of the adventure, you'll learn as you go and more importantly you'll have a great time.

I'm yet to meet someone who's regretted getting on their bike.

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