How to bike around the world

Words: Alastair Humphreys
Photography: Alastair Humphreys

Are you on the run from Sally Mae? Crossing something off your bucket list? Trying to impress that certain someone? Alastair Humphreys can teach you how to see the whole world, on a bike.  

Cycling and camping is cheap. It’s simple. It’s the perfect blend of easy but challenging; fun but a struggle; slow but fast; crazy but achievable. There are no barriers to entry: you learn as you go. You get fit on the job. If you can ride a bike you can cross a country, a continent, a planet. And that’s exactly what professional adventurer Alastair Humphreys did. When he arrived home after four years on the road, (hair wild, clothes ragged, head stuffed with memories) he’d cycled 46,000 miles across 60 countries. The whole adventure cost under $10,000. According to Humphreys, a long bike journey may not be easy, but it is simple. His tips for making it happen. 

Man with large icicles frozen into his short beard

     Except for the icicles, that’s an extremely well kept beard for someone on the road every day.

1 COMMITMENT

“What differentiates people who do massive adventures from those who want to but never do has little to do with athleticism, experience or affluence. It’s about committing and beginning and making stuff happen. The first and most important thing to do is commit to making this happen. Tell your friends so that you can’t back out. Announce a non-movable departure date no more than one year from today. Start sorting things with your family, work and commitments. One other point to note: you will not have organized everything by the start date. It doesn’t matter. Just begin. You’ll be fine. It’s only a bike ride and a camping trip.”

Red desert on a cloudy day

     Above: Wadi Rum, Jordan (Not Mars).

BUDGET

“Begin saving today. Going for a pizza and a couple of beers costs as much as cycling through the wilds of Bolivia for two weeks. Adjust your priorities. And save, save, save.”

alastair humphreys

     Jamming through Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia.

STYLE

“Questions to consider: do you want to go solo or with a friend? Ride fast and cover big miles, or ride slow and savor what you see? Do you want to live like a dirtbag (wild camping, cheap food, long trip) or more comfortably (hostels, nice food, shorter trip)?”

Map of the world with rout printed on it

     Check out the route taken by Alastair. 

ROUTE

“Questions to consider: where in the world excites you? Which season will you be riding in? Where can you afford? (Traversing the U.S. will cost far more than South America, for example). Do you need to fly (expensive, tedious to organize), or will you just pedal away from home? Do you want a familiar culture and language, or something different? Do you want epic (Siberia in winter) or pleasant (California in the spring)?”

Man holding a champagne bottle sitting on the coastline

     Alastair is taking a well deserved break after reaching the African coastline.

EQUIPMENT

“Note that gear is last on my list. It’s not very important, though most people believe that it is. Expensive gear is nice to have, but not essential. Only spend on gear money that is surplus to the essential items in your budget: living costs, visas, insurance, flights, etc. If you’ve got lots of money, buy a bike like this. If you can’t afford it then get any old bike, and go on that. Imagine if you were preparing for a week-long bike ride. That is more or less all the gear you need to ride round the world. A camping stove will save you lots of money and allow more flexibility in your plans. A multi-fuel stove is the best option for a long tour in far-off lands. You do not need a titanium spoon. Buy a bigger bike pump than you think you should. It’s better to have a light sleeping bag and sleep in all your clothes when it gets cold than to carry a heavy bag for thousands of miles.” 

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11 2015 The Red Bulletin

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