One Year By Bicycle
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Common Questions

Are you raising money for some cause?
How can you get a year off from work?
How do you afford the trip?
How did you pick the route and destinations you did?
Why are you going alone?  Why not go with someone else?
Why bicycle touring?
How do you prepare and train for such a trip?
Do you have advice for me? e.g.
    Should I camp or motel?
    Do I ride early or late?
    How many miles/day should I ride?
What questions do people ask along the way?
(In Australia)
    How far do you ride each day?
    Have you had many punctures? Do you carry many spare parts?
    When/where did you start and plan to finish?
    Where do you sleep?
    Where are you from?
What are you doing after the trip?

Let me know of other questions to add to this list!

Are you raising money for some cause?

No, this ride is not sponsored by anyone.  This is my vacation.

How do you get a year off from work?  How do you afford the trip?

The trip has been in my plans for a while and I've been saving.  I am fortunate and grateful to work in an industry (computers) with a strong economy, interesting work and good pay.  I am also grateful to be able to take off a year leave of absence from Hewlett-Packard.

The way I figure it, this is an adventure of a lifetime.  I'd rather do this now, than work really hard to retire early, and then find that I'm physically unable to do such a trip.

How did you pick the route and destinations you did?

This trip is a collection of trips I've wanted to take for a while.  Australia has intrigued me for a while, and a circumnavigation of the continent is the right balance of challenging but also safe.  A ride around Australia is one of the longer rides in english-speaking countries left (I rode across Canada in 1997 and did numerous other rides in North America).

I have a preference for english-speaking countries in part because it lets me learn more about the people and interact.  It is also somewhat easier if one gets into trouble.  With a credit card and pay telephone, it is amazing what one can accomplish.

A trip across the southern US, completes a rough rectangle with previous rides across the Northern US, Atlantic coast and Pacific Coast.

I've been to India, once.  From that trip, India seems like a very interesting and somewhat intimidating trip.  Mauna Kea has been on my list to climb ever since I bicycled around Hawaii in 1997.

Why are you going alone?  Wouldn't it be better to go with someone else?

Cycling with someone else has its plusses and minuses. You might be slightly better off if something happens, though probabilities are also greater that something happens. You've also got the companionship of another person. However, on the minus side, you need to work harder to synchronize riding styles, schedules, etc. You may be a little more isolated from folks you meet, since they might more easily strike up a conversation with a lone cyclist. You would also be in close proximity all day long for a full year with this other person. Depending on the individuals, this could either work very well or very poorly. I've done some of my other long trips solo and thus am comfortable with this choice

Why bicycle touring?

Touring is an excellent form of adventure! It provides a chance to live from day to day, taking each hill or each challenge as it comes. While touring you get an excellent feel for the country, the terrain, as well as having a chance to meet some locals. It provides a nice compromise of distance vs. depth of experience between walking on the one hand and driving on the other. With some effort, you can move your way across or around a continent fifty or a hundred miles at a time. Touring is outdoors, healthy and non-polluting.

How do you train and prepare for such a trip?  Do you have advice for me?

After my cross-Canada trip, I got a surprising number of questions like this, sometimes focused on physical training aspects or choices of how many miles per day to cover or whether to tent or motel, etc.

There isn't one right answer to these types of questions.  However, following are the two common pieces of advice I've given for these types of queries:

  1. Practice with some shorter trips.  I am a firm believer that one of the best things to do is practice with shorter one-week trips or a few week trips.  These allow you a chance to try out your equipment and also see what touring is like.  Surprisingly, there isn't a huge difference in the packing list for a four-day trip and a four-month trip.

    There are a number of elements I would describe as "cycling style"  where there is variation and no right answer:

    Should I camp or motel?  The tradeoffs here include having motels be more expensive, though perhaps more comfortable with bed and shower.  When camping, one needs to bring along more stuff, particularly if one cooks on the road.  It is perhaps more easy to meet other folks when camping.  No single answer here between "credit card" touring or "fully loaded camping" touring.

    I've done both, and personally favor motels, though this reflects on my comfort level along with a desire to leave early and travel a bit lighter.  I'm also fortunate to be able to afford extra costs.  On my one year trip, I'll be doing both.

    Do I ride early or late?  There are morning people and evening people.  My style is to get up at sunrise and cycle two or three hours before breakfast.  By noon, I've ridden at least two-thirds of my daily distance and by mid-afternoon I stop for the day.  This allows me early morning quiet riding with less traffic and wind.  I also have less difficulty finding accomodations early in the day.

    I've also encountered others who typically don't get going until mid-morning but then have their peaceful and quiet riding in late afternoon and evening, pulling into town just around sundown.

    How many miles per day can I ride?  Again, another style or preference question.  In addition to differences in riding speeds, there is also a question of how much per day one is on the bike and how many hours per day.  I've met people doing everything from 35 miles/day to 150 miles/day.

    My own personal guideline is to assume ~10 mph including stops and lunch break when riding.  At this pace, I'll ride 8-10 hours per day and take very few rest days in between.  However, there is also a big difference in preferences here.  Some people would prefer to spend more time sightseeing along the way.

    These types of questions don't have one right answer for everyone.  Instead, do some shorter trips and try some of these tradeoffs.  From that, you'll develop your own style that works as well as increased confidence for a long tour.

    Another advantage of a shorter trip is that it helps complete an equipment list.  At the end of a short trip, lay all your gear on the ground and check off items that you didn't use.  Except for emergency equipment, leave the unused stuff at home next time.

  2. The mental parts of a long trip are at least as big as the physical parts.  Typically on a long trip, if one takes the first week or two a bit easier, then it is possible to ride yourself a bit more in shape for the rest of the trip.  Hence, think beyond the immediate physical condition to the entire trip.

The way  I look at things, there are two categories of events that can happen on a long distance bike tour: (1) those that when they happen will cause you to stop the trip and (2) those things that you can overcome.

In the first category are things like straining a knee in a way that makes it too painful to continue.  This is in fact, the most common reason I've seen for people aborting a trip.  Typically caused by pushing too hard or riding on a poorly adjusted bike.  Other things might be having a bicycle stolen or getting into a serious accident.

For the trip-stopper category, one does everything one can to prevent things.  For example, making certain a bike is well-adjusted and allowing some slack in the schedule, particularly early on.

In the second category is everything else.  One can expect a week of non-stop rain, a week of headwinds, mechanical troubles and other setbacks.  The trick here is to prepare for these things with the appropriate gear, and mentally realizing that when they do happen, they are just part of the adventure.

What questions do people ask along the way? (In Australia)

I met and spoke to many people along the way in Australia.  The following five questions are the most common ones people ask me as I was traveling.  I've included the questions as well as the answers I provide.  Some of the others are also asked and already answered in this page.

How far do you ride each day?  It depends on wind and distances between towns.  However, I plan on about 100 km a day and vary it as necessary.  This allows me enough time to ride and also relax/sightsee during the day.  I could ride further, but then it becomes more of a chore and not a vacation.
Have you had many punctures? Do you carry many spare parts? I am carrying extra tires, tubes and other parts.  So far, I've been fortunate without many punctures.  Knock on wood...
When/where did you start and finish? Answer to this has varied over time...It started as Sydney/Darwin, then Sydney/Darwin-Perth and now it is around Australia.
Where do you sleep? I have a tent and sleeping bag, but also like staying in backpacker accommodations or motels when I can.
Where are you from? (The accent gives it away pretty quickly).  Typically say San Jose, California, USA.  Most people have heard of California, Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Fewer have heard of San Jose.  Sometimes have also heard of Silicon Valley.

What are you doing after the trip?

Check back later !  I'm having too much fun now.  Here is my resume in html and DOC formats.

Two questions asked by several people in the lab included, "so after this are you going to write a book?" and also amusingly, "so after this are you finding a wife?".  As answered this last question from my admin assistant as, "nope, no plans for either books or wives...".

Unless otherwise specified, this page c Copyright 2001-2002, Mike Vermeulen