I had a dream to load up a bicycle with camping gear and everything I thought I might need for many days, weeks or months away, maybe even years, and with no prior experience or practice, just to set out from Cheshire England and cycle the world.
Well what an experience, it's been tough, amazing, enlightening. 12 countries later, here I am. I went as far as felt I wanted, it wasn't all the way around the world, but I just felt I had done, I missed my wife and children and it was time to go home.
The pain I had been experiences as you may have read from my blogs, turn out is arthritis, a result of being flattened by an articulated truck some years ago.
I've had tons of setbacks on this tour and I expected there would be plenty, because I do nothing by the book and simply do things my own way, which as it turns out, isn't always the best way :)
A little more background info
Woah! This guy is huge!
My starting weight was the equivalent combined weight of 6 pro cyclists, including their bikes and a large grapefruit. I'm the heaviest guy to ever attempt to cycle around the world, at a chunky 159 kg at the start and and you would think that after cycling in 12 countries and nearly 11,000kms I would be half the size, but I guess I'm either just built this way or I need to lay off the beer every day :)
My chunky build was crafted through a lifetime in the building industry, heavy weight training, and the odd bacon butty :)
I get asked how my weight affects my cycling, and I try explain that it's like having 2 decent sized people on a tandem with all their bags, but only one person pedalling.
My build does of course have its pros and cons: Me and Hills.
While cycling through the centre of Spain shortly after leaving Madrid, I was followed by 2 guys in car. I was looking for an ATM and I cycled down a small street and they were behind me but turned off, then appeared again and followed me for some time. I stopped pedalling and they stopped a hundred metres behind, watching me.
I put the bike on stands and made it very clear they would be messing with the wrong guy. They got the message.
Saddle sores have been another problem as well as abrasions on my underneath. I have left hotel rooms looking like something has been slaughtered, with blood all over the floor and sheets. That changed in Vietnam when I changed from a Brooks B17 to a Selle Royal Lookin 90. No problems at all since.
Some people are so light that they hardly touch the saddle, but not me. I bought a Brooks B17 that shapes to your butt over a long period of time, it took 2 days :)
I've never bicycle toured in my life and I'm not a regular cyclist, this was my first attempt and with no practice, and as I don't often do things by half I thought I would attempt to take on the world :).
When I told my daughters about my plans and how I was finally going to set out on this tour, they were not surprised, but did suggest I at least do a couple of days training first.
Nope, I wanted to experience this as a first-timer so I just loaded up my new bike for the first time with all my gear, and off I cycled.
Read on, but don't for a minute think I'm looking for sympathy, I would be the cheekiest guy on the planet, because I have lived an amazing life.
I might have had it much tougher than most at times, especially as a child, but I have travelled all over the world, met wonderful people, experienced things you wouldn't believe, and I'm still doing it.
A few years ago I was carrying out a lane closure on the M6 motorway in Birmingham and as I stood on the hard-shoulder, I suddenly heard something behind me going over the rumble strip (the bumpy line that separates lane one from the hard-shoulder).
I turned, just in time to see the front of an articulated lorry strike me. The lorry had left lane one and crossed onto the hard-shoulder where I was stood. The driver of the lorry said he heard and felt the thud but thought it was just a traffic cone, he did accepted he was in the wrong of course.
I suffered permanent spine damage, right elbow, shoulder, neck, and nerve damage to the whole of my right side. I will never be cured of the damage, but I'm extremely lucky to have survived, not so lucky to be hit :), and I make the most of every day now.
Having worked on the motorways for some time I am aware that it is a rare thing for someone to survive such an impact. The specialists put my survival down to my strong chunky build at the time, plus all the winter clothing I was wearing. They believe that if I had been of a different frame and build, I would have been toast.
Situational anxiety is still with me, and I hope this cycle will help cure me of that, as it involves my being near large trucks as a pedestrian. Being near traffic, especially big vehicles makes me understandably nervous given what I have been through, and when I feel the vibrations, hear noise or feel the wind of a passing lorry, my heart nearly beats out of my chest.
Taking on this tour, I knew I would be right next to lorries day after day on some of the worlds worst roads, but if ever I am going to get over this fear, I feel that this would be the way to do it. From time to time, I get a really close call and I have to get off the road and gather myself before continuing on.
Taking my meds regular is hard, and even sourcing them is hard, as I'm quite forgetful in that area. Eating right is hard too, as I rarely try to prepare my own meals, but instead rely on others, such as small shops and cheap restaurants and cafe's.
But I'm a fighter, as you are likely seeing, and I have always done everything for myself and my own way, and so fight on I did and I'm still cracking an ear to ear smile :)
So why do this?
There are few types of adventures that will get you around the world under mostly your own steam, and I have always imagined that cycling would be the perfect pace to really see the world and not just see it flash past. Walking would take a lifetime and bore me to death, and driving or flying would mean missing out on so much.
I find I'm comfortable while cycling, the seat supports my butt, the handlers support my upper body, and the pedals keep my legs turning equally, and there is very little pressure on my lower spine compared to walking or running for example, until I get off and try to straighten up after a few hours :)
I did worry that if I broke down I might be in trouble, which is why I went with a very expensive (big mistake) bike by KOGA Bikes. KOGA turned out to be my biggest mistake in years, but you can read about that in my KOGA review in the link KOGA Review That said, the company aside, thankfully nearly all the bits on the bike were made by other manufacturers.
I had to go for it, and I have it my best shot and didn't do too bad at all. My loved-ones and friends were all behind me, and I feel very lucky to have been able to give myself this chance to do this. Although my wife wasn't and wouldn't even read my blogs, she just wanted me home, but I had something I really needed to do, and I did it, shit or bust.
If this injured, working class father of two daughters can do this, there's a good chance you can too, so if you're thinking you're not fit enough, not slim enough, not experienced enough, not brave enough, I say rubbish in most cases, go for it. I did and love it, mostly :).