10 steps to preparing for a 10,000-kilometer cycle ride
Last summer I cycled 6,000 kilometers across the United States. It was an epic, life-shifting experience. After cycling coast-to-coast in 50 days I didn’t want to stop. By the time I reached the Atlantic Ocean I had an irrepressible yearning to continue pedaling around the world, one continent at a time.
Fast-forward to April 2011. I departed my employer of 17 years, a major Hollywood studio, for an extended sabbatical to cycle across Europe the long and mountainous way.
I will set off from Lisbon on June 5 and plan to reach Istanbul by the end of October. This ride will be solo and self-contained on behalf of Yaowawit, the Thai children’s charity.
What makes my story interesting, I believe, is I am a typical Hong Kong professional trying to juggle career, family and personal passions.
Here are my 10 steps to preparing for 10,000km of cycling ecstasy (or agony, depending upon your perspective):
1. Pedal with a purpose
TransEuropa 2011 is my chance to make a difference to the lives of some deserving children. I hope to raise at least US$35,000 for Yaowawit, the non-profit Thai boarding school established after the destructive 2004 tsunami.
Yaowawit believes education holds the key to breaking the poverty cycle and provides food, shelter, nurturing, and a quality education to 120 extremely disadvantaged Thai children, aged between three and 18 years. This bigger purpose gives meaning and motivation to my little bike ride.
Variety Hong Kong is the donations platform for Yaowawit, the Thai children’s charity -- 100 percent of contributions go to charity. http://www.varietyhk.org
2. Share the dream
Bike touring and blogging go together, and so I launched a new website [http://transeuropa2011.wordpress.com]. In the coming weeks several speaking engagements to civic and educational groups on “Chasing Dreams” also help me share my aspirations for TransEuropa 2011.
I also addressed a UN environmental conference about climate adaptation. Bicycling and the environment also go together, and I will champion a “Go Green” message throughout my ride. I remain convinced that action on climate change has to happen at the individual level, because it isn’t happening at the institutional level.
3. Take Bubba Too for a spin
I need an expedition-quality bike that can go the distance on good roads and bad, and carry my considerable load. So I ordered the appropriately named Long Haul Trucker from the United States.
The bike has arrived in Hong Kong and I took this solid and strong workhorse, which I christened Bubba Too, for a get-to-know-you spin. Riding Bubba Too with its fat tires and steel frame is a completely different experience than riding Bubba, my fast and slim carbon-fiber bike.
4. Map the way
There are a million possible ways to get to Istanbul from Lisbon. I just need one. In early April I bought a large road map of Europe, outlining a theoretical route after networking with other European cyclists.
I plan to cycle on rural, secondary roads through smaller towns, to follow my nose and see where the road takes me. I also developed a daily plan for the first week of cycling, mapping a route such that I don’t have to cycle more than 100 kilometers a day and where accommodation is available at each day’s destination.
I will not pre-book my accommodations and, just in case, will also bring a tent with me.
5. Shift into high gear
Manic busy just became panic frenzy. I’ve already purchased my air tickets and made the requisite travel arrangements. Now it’s time to get everything else done.
6. Learn how to fix a flat tire
For years I have had a ‘no hole’ strategy, figuring it would be easier to just not get a flat tire rather than have to change one. This strategy has worked for thousands of miles, but on the off-chance there’s a hole (no pun intended) in this strategy, I decided to err on the side of Boy Scouts.
So I finally learned how to change a bicycle tire. My bike shop opened up early to conduct a remedial mechanics session for me. In the coming days I will also get more bike mechanic tutorials from some of my cycling buddies and go through a more structured bike mechanics class.
7. Find two penguins
There’s a long list of non-cycling tasks I need to complete, including organizing insurance and my finances; setting up base camp at home to provide some long-distance logistical support; and making sure my GPS and other electronics work.
But what most occupies my thought is how to find two mascot penguins. Why penguins? Because they are on the front line of climate change. Their dependence upon icy habitats makes them vulnerable to global warming. Accompanying me in Europe will be two penguin mascots -- Fluffy and Ryan -- created and named by my son.
8. Gear up
I need to complete my kit, assembling all the necessary items (and a few unnecessary things, too) to take to Europe. This requires trying to anticipate what I and my bike will need on a journey spanning thousands of kilometers and 15 European countries.
Two cyclist friends who have major expeditions under their belts have advised me how to prepare. My expanded inventory list covers more than 100 discrete items. Including duplicates and spares, more than 150 items to purchase, pack, and schlep with me.
The bike and racks alone weigh 16 kilos, before adding four pannier bags stuffed with electronics, spare parts, chamois cream for saddle sores and emergency food. I hope I have a little room for some clothing.
9. Huff and puff
With all the organizational demands of this expedition, I don’t have enough time to train by riding long distances now. So my training consists of short 90-minute rides on Hong Kong’s hills.
I spend as much time at the gym cross- and strength-training as I do in the saddle. With my kit assembled I now ride around Hong Kong on my fully loaded bike to get used to the torque loads and to shake-down any unforeseen mechanical issues.
10. Stay balanced
Like life, cycling is all about keeping balance. So in my final week before departure I spend as much time as I can on the things that really matter, such as joining my son on a school field trip. At this point I am either ready or I am not, and it’s most important that I just remember the golden rule of cycling: rubber-side down, always.