4,000km – Reflection from the saddle

We are cycling 25,000km in 400 days trying to raise £25,000 for our charity. Now, I like maths, but at the same time I’m also quite lazy with numbers. You’d probably agree that this all seems a tad tidy. We will average 100km per day, 500km per week with 2 rest days taking a total of 50 weeks and allowing a margin of about 6 weeks to arrive in time. Now I’m boring you already, and rightly so, because it’s taking all the fun and adventure out of what we are doing. For this reason, I have spent no further time worrying about numbers. I wrote out a simple 6 leg route plan and if I repeated it often enough, it should become realistic. (www.cyclingtotherugbyworldcup.com/route.php)

From the comfort of our Highbury sofa, I had flippantly assured Jodie that everything was taken care of but behind closed doors everything was a loose estimate. I’ve never been one for careful planning. I find it tedious and if I can’t find out important information in 2 minutes from Google or Wikipedia then I deem it unimportant. Such as how far we are going to have to pedal for example. 25,000km? That number is based on a few similar journeys made across the world by bike. Even if you knew your route, there is no way of telling, small differences in road signs and actual distances vary from place to place, and what about diversions? We’ve had many kilometres of road closures, back tracking and flooded paths already. As the crow flies it’s about 17,000km to Melbourne, so I added about 33% and then rounded it up to the nearest 5,000km.

It is perhaps a little comical then that on the afternoon of the 56th day (8 weeks) that the bike computer ticked over to 4,000km, exactly in line with our extensive calculations. With the European rugby stories now explored, this seemed a good opportunity to reflect on our trip from a personal angle. What had we set out to achieve and what had we discovered this far.

First things first. We’d use Europe as our ‘training ground’. That was the standard response to anyone questioning why we had not done any cycling practice for this trip. Now Europe was effectively over and we had recently encountered our first genuinely hilly terrain. Nothing appeared to get any easier. We didn’t seem to be any fitter than when we had started, if anything, perhaps the nagging relentlessness of the journey was slowly wearing us down. ‘Real’ cyclists like our friend Claudiu would go searching for the hills on their journeys. They love the fight of the gradient, the defiance of gravity and the embrace of the challenge. We too enjoy some hill cycling, but I suspect on different sides.

The real challenge in this trip is not physical, but psychological. When you have no place to sleep, and the weather is perpetually oppressive, you have to maintain a strength of mind to keep with your mission. These are the hardest points for us. When you can’t sleep for worry of wild animals, or passers by stealing your bikes in the night, the lack of quality rest can roll on for days. We don’t want to look back on our trip and think that we could have tried harder, so we continue and hope that the next day will be kinder.

I am touching a forest of wood as I say that our equipment has held up well. The bikes are good purchases but we need to spend a little more time on maintenance. The saddles too are thankfully not causing the problems that many had suggested and the only flat tyre was caused by a rusty nail on the A2 to Dover. Weight is still an issue. We are carrying around 90kg of equipment including the bikes. We’ve had 2 pieces of advice, and have been guilty of procrastination. One experienced cyclist wrote that if you can’t lift your bike and walk comfortably with it for 200 yards then you are too heavy. 200 yards? If this was a spread over the entire trip I would sell it. I had to take weight lifting advice in Bulgaria just to get it up a curb. Another expeditionist said that after the first few days you sort your gear into 3 piles. The first, equipment that you haven’t used, the second that you sometimes use, and the last that you regularly use. You then discard the first 2 piles. I suspect that as reality kicks in across Turkey that some items are going to suffer this fate. It’s difficult though, do you really need a big heavy camera to survive? Of course you don’t, but how important are those photos at the end of the trip? The nature of our trip, the documentating of the journey and the coordination of the rugby means that we also require a certain amount of electrical equipment, laptop, solar panel, battery and many cables too. The items that we haven’t used have been our summer clothes, but you wouldn’t discard these approaching the hottest parts of your journey.  We have gone round and round in this manner and achieved nothing this far.

Despite all this, we are still on track. In fact we are probably slightly ahead of schedule even after spending a full week in Bucharest for the Nations Cup. Turkey will be our real training ground and I suspect in the absence of regular rugby appointments, the reality of this trip will start to sink in.

So promote rugby we will, tell the story of rugby, we will try, but become cyclists, I think there is more chance of me playing at the world cup.


5 Responses

  1. C’mon fellows! Keep the faith, you can do it even though sometimes it looks too hard to continue! You have to be strong! We will always support you and cheer for every km you ride! You are not alone on the lonely roads, a lot of old friends and family members and new friends and fans are behind you. Keep ride and stay strong! Radu & Anca

  2. Ahhh poor didums Tom. Now get on with it you are a Footscray man after all. Will be nice to tell your brother he doesnt have the best beard in the family. I check the site most days so keep the updates coming its great to hear the exploits. England 3-0 up against the Aussies in the ODIs !!

  3. Hi you two !!!
    Just keep PEDDLING !!!! must be easy after all those scenic ‘extended’ WELSH walks I took us all on Tom !!!!!
    It’s not the mileage or the weight that should be bothering you !!! it’s those wild animals and lack of a tazor !!!!
    keep the updates coming …………….
    love mum xxxxx

  4. Fantastic work so far guys!
    Good to see the beard is coming on nicely Huddo.
    Was I the “Mr Edwards” in the 2km indoor rowing piece? Co-incidence? Or do you have that same conversation that often???
    I have some time on my hands now so I’m gradually catching up with the story thus far….inspiring stuff.
    Keep up the good work and who knows maybe see you down in NZ.
    Cheers, Brien
    ps: It’s psychological ; )

  5. Top Beard, you remind me of that film into the wild. Don’t eat any berries. Jodie, yours is rubbish. Please send photos of you doing some stunts on those bikes. Napoleon says they they are sweet rides & you could get at least 3 feet of air on them. Love Uncle Rico.

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