By Zac Clayton, 19-Apr-2012 11:07:00
The world cycle is practically upon me now - just 12 days away as I write this - so I thought I’d better get an update out before things really get hectic. Thankfully I (think) I’ve sorted all the big scary stuff but with about a million small loose ends to tie up (like how do I get down to Dover?!) I’m sure not to have a moments peace from now until I’m safely ensconced on the ferry across the English Channel.
The few weeks since I finished work have been plenty busy already. Several friends from university came over to where I live in Wales to put together some videos on the cycle for the website and generally spreading across the internet - the thinking being that a video is a bit more engaging than trawling through a chunk of text written by yours truly. The first of these, a route video, has gone up - the others are being edited by my friend Dave, who is obsessing about matching all the frames-per-second rates or something like that...I’m just letting him getting on with it!
The biggest event has definitely been doing a trial run down to London with all my gear. I wanted to do this to test my equipment and physical readiness, and I’m happy to say I encountered no major problems - I covered the 380km in 3 days, finishing each day’s cycling by about 3 in the afternoon, so certainly not pushing myself to cover the distances (which were matched to roughly my world cycle daily average). It did, though, throw up several small things which I’ll address over the next couple of weeks.
First and foremost, I think I have too much gear! I think I had around 50kg of gear on the bike, which while rideable, doesn’t exactly make going up hills much fun! One moment in particular when after 120km on the bike I had to crawl up Fish Hill in the Cotswolds certainly worked up a sweat! So, I am going to go through my gear with a fine tooth-comb and cut out the things which perhaps aren’t essential, or which I might only use occasionally. This should hopefully bring the weight down to a more reasonable level (and avoid some truly eye-watering airline baggage charges). When I’ve done this I’ll put up a full equipment blog and highlight some of the things I decide not to take.
I also realized quite how much I have to eat! I’m not a big eater generally anyway so I had to make a real conscious effort to get the calories in. I’m actually pretty sure I created a pasty shortage in middle England petrol stations. I wild camped on the way down too, something I’ve only really done on the continent before. This was actually great fun, although by the third day the lack of a shower was certainly starting to wrinkle a few noses! My advice if you’re touring in the UK is definitely to give it a go. Britain has a reputation for being full of people and I’ve heard several people say that you’ll struggle to find a secluded place to set up your tent - you won’t. There are plenty of woods within a mile of main roads you can easily camp in with no worry of being discovered. It offers up a completely different experience to that of staying in a campsite, and I’d definitely recommend it. I’m now going to mix more wild camping into Europe, probably staying in a campsite or staying with a host once every three days (for the showers!).
Another thing I noted was that my Garmin bike GPS is truly and utterly rubbish at routing. One day (which I knew was about 125km) it tried to create me a route that totaled 190km - needless to say, I didn’t follow its advice. The maps on it are still excellent, but now I have to plot my own route using them. I also trialled my SPOT tracker on the website, which worked pretty well I think. It uploads my location about every 10 minutes, and on the website it shows the last 50 placemarks. So, you should be able to follow my live progress once I hit the road proper (and laugh as I get lost...).
Finally, probably the biggest thing I’ll take from the practice was the importance of getting in the zone and being mentally strong and disciplined. There were a few moments when I felt a bit low (generally when the wonderful British weather pelted me with hailstones) and I began to wonder why on earth I’m going to cycle around the world! But, I pushed through and of course within 30 minutes I felt fantastic again - and it’s always the good moments that stay in the memory. I also had to be really careful not to push myself when I was feeling fresh - I’m so used to cycling at a high intensity and at high speeds it’s a real mental shift to switch to cruising along at 20-25kph (a lot slower up hills!) in order not to destroy my legs for later on. After a day or so I was comfortable with it...although I’ll admit I’m still competitive enough to try and overtake other cyclists when I see them!
Once I got back from the London trip and seeing some friends (a few days ago) I picked up my confirmation that my Iranian visa has been approved (phew!) and so should be waiting for me to pick up in Istanbul. I’ve also got my Chinese application away, which means that all of my visas (apart from Turkmenistan, which I have to get on the road) are sorted, touch wood. The next 12 days will all now be about the little things - and of course the big thing of saying goodbye to friends and family!
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