The Bike Touring Experience
First I imagined, desired, created, idealized, projected, materialized it and now I write from the sensations experienced. The best time investment is the one used towards the realization of dreams.
Since I was little, Adventure has been special for me. I come from a numerous family ( seven siblings ) in which I am the fourth one out of seven. We used to spend two complete months on our holidays in the mountains of Córdoba province in Argentina. Almost daily and sometimes, forced by my father, we woke up at early morning to go for a hike. There were hikes of all kinds and in every direction. Some were short, in which we took advantage of the water/waterfall and spent the whole day there and other, quite long ones, that took us all day of pure walking. In both cases we packed with food, distributed water equally and ended up exhausted. I remember the sunburned faces and the hunger everyone had. This childhood is responsible for the delirious sense of adventure that I got now. Locating the north with a homemade compass, pointing out the south with a cross at night and knowing that you always have to follow the river when lost, were the first lessons.
“Contact with nature provides some sensations that you won’t find anywhere else.”
The silence. The flora and fauna. Watching the horizon. The immensity. To be sitting on a stone, almost two thousand meters high, boiling water to have a soup that you will enjoy while watching the sunset is addictive. Prioritizing these experiences, living in the city is complicated. Personal time is rare and time perception is over accelerated.
Adapting on the way: sticking to the plan.
Being in Spain doing a working season, the idea of working in Australia, to afterward travel around with a van came to mind. When doing the last minute paperwork, already with my ticket in hand, I realized that I had lost my driver’s license. It is one of the few procedures that you can’t do overseas and which takes time, so until I will return to Buenos Aires, Argentina, I won’t be able to drive. And now what? My eldest sister planted a seed that now sees its fruit. She gave me a book of a cycle tourist that pedaled through Australia. Before reaching the new destination, I had already read half of the book. The HOW changed but I still had the fixed idea of traveling around the country.
“I still feel young. It is now when I can do it”.
Little by little I started planning the structure of the trip that I am in now and from which I am writing. It took almost two years to prepare it.
Once in Sydney, I got a work as a hotel receptionist. As soon as I earned some money I bought myself a bike. Not mountain nor urban. Rather a simple and solid: a touring one. With some few kilometers ridden, I got a second job as a delivery guy with my bike and for over 9 months cycling around was my every day job. I needed to equip myself and have enough money to be able to travel. Panniers, camera, solar panels and camping gear ( tent, sleeping bag, burner, headlamp and many more ). It was then when I met @aleixpinadella. Born in Catalonia, he also spent his hours working with his bike and as a bartender in a bar. It didn’t take long till he decided to join the adventure. Two months before our visa expired we organized a pilot trip to the Northern Territory, center of Australia. We were in great physical condition and wanted the trip to be extreme. We needed an experience like that. And so it was and for 21 days we cycled from Alice Springs to Uluru, going through the Mereenie Loop, an unsealed road of around 120 km in the middle of November.
The traced route was 1200 km long. We went for holidays, hobby and as an experience. I had already the idea of a longer trip in my mind so we took advantage of the trip to generate content freely. There were no brands involved. It was a hard trip because of the heat and the gravel.
The daily distances were close to 100 km. Between us, there were no complications. Dividing tasks in an equivalent way is easy being just two. Two days after having finalized the trip, I was back in Buenos Aires, Argentina after 2 years, with plenty of content and wanting to keep on traveling.
Solo Bike Touring Experience
Costa Rica was the next destination. I worked there for 6 months in an ad agency. The bike obviously traveled with me. I haven’t given it a name or nickname yet. I pictured myself surfing and living near to the beach. San José, where I lived, is the capital and located in centre of the country. Except in summer, it rains almost every day and work took up most of my time.
“I think it’s the pressure of knowing something is about to end, that drives me to make certain decisions”.
In this case, I asked for a few days off in the office and went for a ten-day travel to Cuba with the bike. For the first time alone. Almost six hundred kilometers and a few postcards in memory. I like the silence. Loneliness too. It is in the immensity where my thoughts flow positively. Of course, movement as the main motor. All decisions are personal and there is no one to interfere with it.
“By cycling alone, delegating tasks does not exist and laziness disappears”.
Humor shifts to the background. Nor there isn’t anyone complaining. And if that was the case, I would then grab my bike and leave. It’s a simple plan. Serenity is key and having a clear mind on what I’m doing, even more. Going flat eight times in a couple of hours can become annoying or not. It is the present situation and the only thing what matters then is to solve this situation. It’s all about that. When being in contact with nature and facing adversities, one is resolutive. I could then think if things could have turned out differently but it’s not the case. I adapt easily to the circumstance.
“Traveling alone for a couple of days is an experience that I recommend to auto-gift yourself”.
Group bike touring around Australia
I find myself now in Norseman, Australia. A month ago, together with three friends, we started cycling from Perth. The idea is to cycle all around Australia. We were expecting to find a really hot climate, but January in the Westside surprised me. Several cloudy days, others rainy and very few extreme heats.
This trip with The Bikings Project is different. We have to generate content. There are several brands involved and the group harmony is required to be able to transmit something beautiful and genuine.
Understanding the extension of it is what makes it complex. The goal is almost a year away. In kilometers, it is about 16 thousand but I already learned that this number does not mean anything. Sleeping in the outdoors and being in the sun all day is exhausting. Sharing the breakfast, lunch, and dinner too. The minimum complaint can be the cause of many hours of mind thinking while cycling.
“Easing against situations becomes obligatory. An art that you have to master or to learn on the way”.
Losing the perspective can be very easy. Also the notion of where we are and what we are doing. We are used to something totally different. Consuming, competing and being constantly “connected”. There are many times when I find it hard to enjoy the present moment and I realised it is because my thoughts are not aligned with the big picture. Looking after each other and being attentive to keep our words steady, when cycling at four is sometimes challenging. What an experiment! The mental work goes up first in the list of priorities for us to be able to continue with the trip.
“In every group there is a natural leader”.
In this case, I am the eldest of the four and bearing the work position, I work towards the group wellbeing. Below is a series of organizational tools that help the team and we have been applying them for a while now.
To begin with: Security
Having and following a protocol is essential. Knowing how to act in front of different situations is not random. We must always contemplate the integrity of the four of us. Easing is the mother norm. There is always someone crazier than you and being on a bicycle in the middle of the route makes us vulnerable. Easing by perspective. Each one carries a walkie-talkie. They have a range of 60 kilometers which we have not tested yet… The wind usually generates a lot of noise. Knowing that channel 40 is the one used by trucks gives us some security. They would be the ones who would intervene in the first instance if we had a problem ( hopefully we never have to contact them). Rearview mirrors were our last acquisition. Really important when facing one-way routes full of trucks that pull almost 120 tons of cargo. Stopping and standing aside is the most sensible and responsible thing to do. The sun in this country is very strong and in many sectors the shadow is null. Using sunscreen in the morning is vital to avoid risks. A sunburn would not only be painful but would delay the whole group.
“No one can afford to be irresponsible”
When traveling alone the responsibility is not delegated and attention to things is bigger. I trace the route previously and do a really deep research of the place. I try to contact a local to have where to sleep the first days and from there, finish organizing the trip.
“Planning does not reduce the sense of adventure”.
Fuel and fire. In Australia this is the main issue. It rains very little and the landscape becomes super flammable. In fact, setting up a fire is fined with about a thousand dollars all around the country. Our kitchen goes with gasoline. Through air pressure, the fire that is generated is very controlled. We turn it on once a day and is due to the time it takes us to cook. The fact that we are a group ubicates yourself. There are times when the voracious appetite leads to bad decisions in a supermarket and that one of the group making us stop, means a celebration for the economy.
I´m not a great cook and in cases of need I don’t freak myself out. @francobicicleta is a cook and his culinary experience enrich every meal. Many tasks are divided by the mere fact of predisposition. In this case, spices and techniques are more than useful for the group’s diet. Calculating quantities, cooking times and alternatives. Having sixteen panniers and two trailers allow us to carry ingredients that if traveling alone wouldn´t exist. We have oatmeal with raisins, coconut, honey and cereals for breakfast … A luxury.
Cycling in a group without being a bunch
At times we ride altogether. Cycling at 30 km per hour fully loaded and screaming with happiness is something beautiful. If we divide ourselves for many kilometers, we know that we will meet at a scheduled point. Waiting is something that exercises patience. However, many times it is a cause for discouragement and negativity. When you go flat it is pleasant to have a team that encourages and helps to change the tyre. Otherwise, it could mean a delay, slowing of cycling rhythm, cooling down and losing attention.
Cycling in a group has these types of dichotomies when facing a situation. The same with breakfast, dinner, etc.
Pedaling alone is something beautiful. FREE WILL is present at all times and the HOW as well. It can become a bit arduous on long trips. Not for the fact of making all the decisions by yourself but rather because of loneliness. I get along well with myself and enjoy my company. I spend time reading, making videos and photos.
Give yourself the opportunity!
Movement is something unique. So unique that people greet, smile and encourage us when overtaking with the car or from the same sidewalk. Of all the ages and in any situation some curious people approach us in search of hearing a little bit of the story. It is simple and primitive. Riding a bicycle requires a bicycle and the desire. I recommend traveling like that. Both in a group or alone. For some days, months or for a couple of years. The route is just an excuse. Being at nature’s mercy, exposed twenty-four hours a day has its consequences. Purple necks, slanted eyes, and a hungry smile. Along the way, the number of people you get to know is something that only happens because of the circumstance. Because of asking for directions, shelter or for sharing a dinner.
“I learned this way to be present. Understand that time goes by and instants are the stories that I later have to tell”.
writen by @francobicicleta and @rechtdaniel