Did you train for this?
No. When I started cycling around the world at the beginning of 2019, it had been 14 months since I had been on a bike. I just started unfit and pedalled my way back to fitness. In the beginning, it was torture to try and do 50-70 miles each day, and I was barely above 12mph each day at the start. But by the end of the year, I was doing 200+ mile days average, and sometimes my average speed was 20+ mph.
Isn’t this really, really dangerous?
It depends on how you look at it. On one level, yes. That was demonstrated by the fact that I almost died last year when I got hit by a car in America. I was only a few days away from finishing cycling across the country when I was hit by a car in Texas. The vehicle was travelling at 70mph, and I was hit from behind and flew 50 feet through the air. I had a very long list of injuries which included a fractured skull, a traumatic brain injury, seven broken ribs, damaged artery in my neck, a punctured lung, fractured bone on my back, fractured shin, fractured ankle and a fractured heel bone.
I required multiple surges for these injuries and was in hospital and rehab in Texas for five weeks. I am still recovering from these injures now and still not able to cycle outside although I have been doing some cycling indoors on a turbo trainer. So when you consider that, I guess it is really dangerous.
But for me, the real danger would be to not do this because of the fear of something going wrong. I’m very happy to die while cycling, and if that’s how I go then, I am ok with that. The alternative would be far worse, and that is to live a life without taking any risks or chances and getting to the end of my life and being filled with regret that I never lived the life I wanted to. Because I’ve been injured for the last eight weeks, I know what it’s like to live the alternative. After this long in hospital and on the couch, I already know I couldn’t live this life, and I’m counting down the days until I can get back out there and start cycling again. I’ll never stop.
How do you cross oceans?
I usually take a boat across oceans, or sometimes planes. I cycled from Scotland all the way to Japan without taking any planes. I got a boat from England to France, Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan, China to South Korea, South Korea to Japan. Then I took my first flight from Japan to Australia. Then I also took a plane from Australia to America.
What do you do about visas?
Visas have been pretty easy for me actually. I didn’t need any visas for most of Europe. Any countries where I did most of the time, I would just get a stamp on arrival. For America and Australia, I just had to do an online form which was very simple for a Visa Waiver. The hardest visa was for China, which I had to get when I was in Georgia.
What if something breaks?
You need to find a way of fixing it. It depends on where you are really. Sometimes you can be in the middle of nowhere, and you’re stuck or stranded. Sometimes you can be somewhere where there are more shops. It just depends really.
What are the specific seasonal challenges?
I’ve ridden in every season and every type of weather. I change my mind all the time on whether I prefer being too hot or too cold. It depends on which one I’m currently feeling. In winter conditions it can be tough just to move forward, especially if it’s snowing or icy on the roads. The cold also affects your lungs, and you can’t ride as fast as you usually would. It also makes it a lot harder for accommodation if you are camping.
The coldest I’ve ever cycled in was -11, and that was in Finland. I lasted one night in the tent in those conditions before I took a train to Helsinki to fly to Paris, where it was a bit warmer. On the other side of that being too hot is also not ideal. Last year—when I was riding through the desert in Uzbekistan—it was over 45 degrees, and that was tough. Carrying enough water is one of the biggest challenges, especially in such a remote part of the world where there isn’t any civilisation. I’d probably say I prefer it to be a little bit colder than a little bit too hot. But both extremes are a challenge.