By Zac Clayton, 22-Mar-2012 22:31:00
As predicted, February has been a much quieter month than previous ones - mainly because I have almost exclusively spent it at work! I have been putting in some long hours in order to hit my saving targets by the end of March so I can finish work a month before I leave and have a chunk of time to just focus on the cycle. I even ended up working one 154 hour week (my longest yet) which was quite something.
I have managed to move things forward on a few fronts though. Firstly, I have received visas for both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and a special permit for the Tajik GBAO region - both of which were surprisingly painless to get (I applied by post, and got both back within 10 days - something I’d definitely recommend). This leaves me with Kyrgyzstan, Iran and China to go before I leave, and a Turkmenistan transit visa on the road. It still looks like I should be OK for Iran (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Israelis keep their fingers off the red button...) so that is still my Plan A.
At the beginning of the month I went to see a physiotherapist who gave me a thorough check-up and the green light regarding the state of all my joints and general fitness which was reassuring. He also taught me how to self-release my muscles at the end of a hard days cycling which will hopefully make getting up the morning after somewhat easier (although it’s surprisingly painful to do so it’s a bit of a trade-off!). I also had my final inoculations which is another thing ticked off the list.
The highlight of the month though has undoubtedly been picking up the bike - which is beautiful! It’s a custom-built Koga Signature with all the bells and whistles. These include a Rohloff hub (an internal gearing system, which is extremely robust and low-maintenance) and a Gates belt drive (instead of a chain - it uses carbon fibre and is much stronger) - both aimed at limiting the likelihood of things breaking. Before I leave I’ll put up a full equipment list and bike spec (for the bike geeks among you) - for now though, a few pictures will do.
I have yet to take it out for a really good test ride - just 20 miles or so, but it feels great. I have put the Brooks saddle (made from leather, which will eventually shape itself to me) on my commuter to help break it in - at the moment it is rather unforgiving! I’ve also got some 50-80 mile rides pencilled in throughout March on my days off to get the feel of the bike.
March in general looks a bit more exciting - I’m spending the first week on a survival course which should be good fun - otherwise its more visa applications, buying my last flight and other administrative stuff to sort out. Publicity is also starting to pick up, mainly local papers and radio interviews so far, which is good news for the fundraising side of things. So far I have raised about £3,400 for WaterAid which is much more than I had expected by this stage, so a big thank you to all of the corporate and individual donors who have been so generous already!
Things are definitely starting to feel really close - just 4 weeks at work left as I write this, then a month to (hopefully!) tie up all the loose ends. I actually had my first nervous moment when I picked up the bike...no doubt I’ll have a couple more in the next 2 months, but with anticipation building correspondingly I’m not too worried. Really, I just can’t wait to cycle off the ferry in Calais and get the odometer ticking over!
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