We have been getting some emails and several questions from people we meet about the day to day practicalities of the trip, so to answer the most common here are some explanations.
The bikes are nothing special. They are basic mountain bikes modified for long distance comfort and load carrying. Bar ends to vary the riding position – it helps but we still suffer from a numbing of outer toes and fingers. This is common. Pannier racks front and rear plus a bar bag carry all our equipment and daily supplies. They have a broad spread of gears particularly in the low range for long climbing in the mountains. Fully loaded each bike weighs in at around 45kg.
We each can carry a minimum of 3 litres of water plus a litre of fuel for the stove.
Two small solar power cells generate enough power to charge our mobile phones and MP3 player. The upholstery is hand made leather saddles by Brooks of course and the air conditioning comes as standard.
Our first choice is to camp wherever possible. The tent we use is a Saunders Spacepacker Plus. These are made by a small company in Chigwell in Essex. It is a single hoop design very easy to erect and take down. They are the best tents we have come across in all the years we have travelled this way. We have used them in minus 20 degrees in Alaska, on top of mount Kenya and in the tail end of typhoon in Japan. In all these conditions they have always kept us comfortable. Mostly we find a campsite – easy in France and Germany but less so in Poland as although our guide book says there are 500 or so we can’t always fine the blighters! Wild camping is more of an option in counties such as Poland with large tracts of untouched forests. The downside of wild camping that there is no hot shower at the end of the day and we try to avoid decimation of the local aquatic life by not skinny dipping and polluting the water with our heady cocktail of sweat, sun screen and industrial strength insect repellant. When there is no other option we use pensions, hotels or hostels, whatever is available. In the two months we have been on the road so far we have only had to do this 3 times.
For food we usually cook our own fresh each evening when we are on the move using an old fashioned primus stove we originally bought in Korea over 20 years ago. It burns parrafin which we have found to be available almost all over the world in some form or another and cheaper and easier to find than Calor gas. The stove is also very efficient, capable of boiling a litre of water in around 6 to 7 minutes depending on altitude.
Clothing and laundry keeps cropping up as a question we are asked and our answer is that as a rule we only have one change of clothing which is rinsed out each evening. And thats all all decency permits us to divulge.
The medical kit we carry has every thing from asprins, plasters and rennies to antibiotics, antimalarials and sterile syringes. We carry water purification tablets, strong 100% Deet insect repellant and a comprehensive dressings kit.
To navigate our way across the counties we ride through, we try to use two different maps constantly comparing each with the other. This and a compass usually serves us well. We aim for 50 mile days, 5 days a week and 2 days rest. Over a month this gives us 1000 miles which can be used for forward planning for visa’s, climate and post restante collections.
For the first part of the trip we brought maps with us and supplemented them with others bought locally. For the second part we have parcelled up and left in London what we need and they are awaiting the word from us to be put in the post as we approach our first collection point at Ezerum in Eastern Turkey.