People ask me literally hundreds of questions per month about bike travel. I answer everything! You’d think I’d get sick of talking about bikes, gear and adventures, but honestly, the more I travel by bike, the more I want to talk about it. You have no idea how deep my passion for this extends! I normally don’t get to reply to your emails/comments in as much detail as I’d like (no time!), so this month I created a place where I can actually do your questions justice. My favourite question this month allowed me to describe the changes I would make to my bike and gear so that it’s more off-road appropriate. It took me a whole day to think that one over! I also got to discuss my rain gear philosophy and how I find all the backroads I ride.
I spent half of today staring at satellite maps in order to piece together a 150km route linking two mountain towns that have precisely… zero roads connecting them. It should have some rad views over the Amazon, but may also require hundreds of kilometres of backtracking if it doesn’t pan out! YOLO??? This month is going to be completely wild, can’t wait to share the experience.
Our sense of beauty evolved from pattern recognition in nature. The things that helped us to survive (for example, picking fruit that consistently looked the same) activated the rewards centre of our brains, helping us to subconsciously navigate potentially dangerous situations. While survival now comes somewhat easily, we still do get a kick from beautiful places/objects that are comprised of great symmetry and detail (like what you’ll find in the natural world). On the other hand, monotonous environments (typically man-made) are scientifically proven to negatively affect our wellbeing, behaviour, mood and cognitive function. For optimal health, Dr. Alee therefore prescribes you 1x daily dose of NATURE. 🌱
The Cordillera Blanca is the highest section of the Andes mountains. No less than 22 peaks exceed 6000m/20,000ft here, resulting in vast areas of snow, ice and glaciers (hence the name, “white mountain range”). I’ve just spent six days exploring some of the mountain roads and trails with mixed luck (weather!) – but it’s safe to say this is one of the most impressive regions of the South American continent.
Two tickets to the gun show! Ok, so my biceps aren’t very impressive, but I can ride my bike for longer than I can stay awake. And I can carry my fully-loaded touring bike up some pretty gnarly trails! 💪🏼
Don’t worry, I’ve got the bike-push technique down pat. The secret is to mostly pull the bike rather than push; from behind the seat tube when it’s super steep, or from the seatpost or seat when it’s not.
Ride with me through the pearly gates and down a dirt road that has more than 30 hairpin turns. The next film is going to have some pretty wild scenes!! 😱
WELCOME TO MY PLEASURE PALACE 💎I’ll just be carvin’ it up here, come join anytime. 🤘🏼
It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop.
I’ve been cycling over snowy passes for six months now! It’s time to say goodbye though; my next ones will be in the USA. 🇺🇸Today I’m cycling towards the Amazon to a region where there aren’t even roads marked on the maps. Hopefully, I’ve done enough homework to string together 7-8 days of small mountain tracks. It’ll be two weeks of backtracking and re-routing if not… wish me luck! 🙃
A week ago I had the worst accident of my life, in one of the least-accessible locations. I was pushing my bike along a small trail when the ground disappeared beneath me. I fell 30 metres (100ft) from the trail with my bike, free-falling the last 7-8m (25ft) onto some rocks. I have torn tendons in my hand and multiple broken ribs. Considering the huge impact, it’s incredible my injuries aren’t worse. There were no roads in this part of Peru, so it was five days before I could get proper medical attention. I’ll be sharing the insane story of this freak accident over the next week, and please rest assured – I’m fine and will make a full recovery over the next month. 💪🏼
It took me a few seconds to register what the hell just happened. I was the straw that broke the camel’s back, falling 30 metres (100ft) from a very low-risk trail. I had somehow protected my head from impact all the way down and I could still feel my limbs. I gingerly got up from the creek bed and couldn’t believe how mobile I was. I moved my bags which were strewn all over the rocks to a place where they were no longer sitting in water. I then had to work out how I was going to get up to the trail with a non-functioning wrist, and a back which was slowly locking up thanks to the muscles protecting my injuries. I left everything behind and started climbing my way up the creek. It was steep enough to climb like a large set of stairs. I jumped from boulder to boulder and finally made it to the base of a waterfall which was over 5m high. I somehow climbed up this vertical wall without using one of my arms – it’s amazing what the body is capable of when there’s no other way out. I stumbled like a robot for a few kilometres to the nearest village and asked for help. The locals quickly turned from warm-welcome to holy-crap-this-guy-isn’t-in-a-good-way; after all, my shirt was torn to shreds, there was blood everywhere and I was covered in dirt. I collapsed in a heap and explained that I’d fallen off a cliff with my bike. My back was seizing up even more and my wrist was now immobile with swelling, but an army of people followed me back to retrieve my bike and gear. I couldn’t leave it where it was, as the afternoon’s monsoonal rainfall was imminent.
We found a good way to get down to the bike and an even better way to get all my gear out. The assisting kids each grabbed a piece of my luggage and we were now marching towards the nearby village. It was only now that I realised my bike was in a bad way, which should be expected after an impact from 30 metres. The front wheel was folded in, the forks were bent, the handlebar was snapped and all kind of bits hung off it. I didn’t even want to entertain what was going on inside my panniers. About halfway to the village, and a dozen people were assembled who were shoving leaves in their mouths and chewing furiously. I was sat down and an elder poured water over my open cuts. She was then summoning people to spit the chewed-up green paste on all of my wounds (turns out they were coca leaves), rubbing it in deep. This is the traditional way to ward off infection. By now I was feeling faint and REALLY had to lay down as my back had almost turned to stone. It was another few kilometres of marching up a hill to a house which was finally accessible by three-wheel motorbike. I was laid on a heap of blankets and was thankful that this was over for now. The family offered to get me to a nearby medical centre, but given the pain I was in, I couldn’t imagine anything worse than bumping along these tracks on the back of a trike. I asked if I could spend the night with them and they kindly agreed. They brought me plates full of rice and chickpeas and helped me into their icy-cold shower to change out of my bloody clothes and into something dry.
At 6am I was woken because a trike was waiting to take me to a nearby medical centre. I jumped in the back with all of my possessions and we were soon bumping along the insanely steep mountain roads. The trike operator made a cushion for me to sit on, but the shock travelling up my back was simply unbearable. I squatted to reduce the impact, however, after just a few kilometres I was in tears. I was already dreading the remaining 110km to the hospital and started planning a way to walk out of here! The medical centre was as basic as you’d imagine, complete with muddy floors. A handful of random passers-by joined the nurses to hear the details of my accident. After some painkillers, a cream was getting rubbed into my wounds while my wrist and hand were getting aggressively poked and prodded to find out which bits were in the most pain. I didn’t dare tell them about my ribs. The steep muddy roads were too much of a risk to ride with the current heavy rainfall, so it was a 4-day wait for a trike that could take me to hospital. In the meantime, I was invited out for every lunch and dinner, and for a whole day, I patrolled the town with the very friendly police officers. Nobody I spoke to had ever seen a foreigner in Bambamarca. For most children, I was the first foreigner they’d ever laid eyes on. Their stares couldn’t have been longer or more intense.
Alarm anxiety had hit. It was 1AM and I could feel cortisol stimulating every part of my body. In just one hour I’d be in the back of a trike making the long journey to hospital. The trike was rumbling outside my room while my helper Oliver was gathering my every possession and dumping them into the single bed sized tray. The full moon offered far more light than the dim, wavering headlight beam. My eyes were quickly able to adjust to the serene dark blues and greens of the endless mountains surrounding us. A sea of thick clouds had perfectly filled every valley 2000 metres below; we’d soon be visiting this damp, mystical world. The stillness, quiet and beauty of the nightscape were only interrupted by face-level spiderwebs… annnnd intense jolts that resulted in the audible cracking of my ribcage. I jammed my feet in the corners of the tray, single-handedly holding onto a safety rail and bracing myself with core muscles I didn’t even know existed. I kept my quads loose enough to absorb as many of the big hits as possible; it took every bit of my concentration to prevent them from cramping after suffering a leg death of a thousand squats. The 20km/12mi journey to a nearby 4×4 track took four hours to complete. A few days prior I walked UP this trail, gaining almost 3000 vertical metres (10,000ft) in as many kilometres. So essentially, we were descending a trail that’s >20% for the most part. And there is almost zero margin for error when the rear wheels take up the full trail width. While the riders take all the precautions necessary, it was still terrifying being so close to the near-vertical embankment as the trike slid about in thick mud. An aspiring World Rally Championship driver was waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain. Nine people piled into the only vehicle leaving for the city today. I wish there were more moments when the four wheels weren’t drifting; the game of ‘corners’ is much more fun when you don’t have hundreds of kilograms of bodies crushing your damaged rib cage. The smell of vomit permeated through the vehicle as plastic bags were filled and immediately discarded out of the windows into the pristine canyons outside. Seeing this disregard for the environment hurt more than all my ailments combined. It may have taken 15 hours to cover just 291km, but I was now within spitting distance of a hospital in the beachside city of Trujillo.
Can you make out the 4500-year-old brickwork from this ancient ritual building? I camped within a stone’s throw of this timeworn structure, thinking all-night about the generations of people from different eras who also shared the same night sky. A humbling and incredible experience! 🌌
DO YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND? Standard question, asked every day. No, I don’t. This life is rough – I live in a tent, eat mangoes underground, push my bike up unknown trails and sometimes fall off cliffs, apparently. What kind of messed-up human would actually join me on a silly journey like that?! …cos I need to meet them. 🤤💍😂
For 365 days now I’ve been on the South American continent. I feel like I can remember almost every moment, which is such a cool aspect to living a non-routine life. Routine is nice; it gives you great comfort – but it’s also the ENEMY of time. It makes it disappear! I’m hoping to turn my 100 years on this planet into 1000 by living my unconventional dream.
A lot of you have been asking if I’m getting a whole new bike. I spent days checking and re-checking every millimetre of my ride, and fortunately, the damage is limited to the front. The fork, headset, handlebars and rim will be replaced in the coming weeks. KOGA bikes actually allowed me to design my new handlebar shape which I’m SUPER excited to test. It could be better or worse than my beloved Velo Orange Crazy Bars – I’ll let you know. 😅The rear rack needs replacing too; it was the roll cage that protected the rear end of the bike. A massive shout out to Aloys at KOGA for helping to get this broken traveller back onto the smallest trails of the Andes! 😎
Hey! It’s just me on this incredible car-free road in Peru (my favouritest country ever for adventure touring – I’ve been here for five months and don’t think I’ll be able to leave ✌🏼).
Ever wondered why I like short-shorts so much? With these bad boys I get water clearance for dayssss! (They’re actually normal-length shorts delicately draped over some irresistibly lengthy underpinnings – Sarah Hammond will verify the numbers! 😂)
I was recently asked whether I think spending so much time documenting my experiences detracts from the ‘purity’ of travel. The thing is that I’ve never NOT documented my travel experiences! To me, the storytelling aspect of travel has always been just as important as the journey itself; it’s both my creative outlet and precious preserver of memories. Since childhood, I’ve always taken photographs in exotic places, and even before I started CyclingAbout, I would put pen to paper to keep a highly-detailed daily journal. Going public with my thoughts, ideas and experiences has actually given me MORE insight into my own life, as I get to start regular dialogues with thousands of brilliant minds (you!).
What am I going to do when I get to Alaska? Let’s be real here, I’ll probably try to keep the dream alive and go to AFRICA! (But only if I’m still having as much fun as I am now… 🤘🏼)
The sheer resilience and incredible efficiency of cactuses never cease to amaze me. These two qualities I quite admire in almost everything, including all the great humans of this world. Here’s to being more resilient and efficient, my globetrotting amigos!
Since I was a child, one thing has always made sense to me: we should learn how to live our lives from people who’ve almost completed theirs. For a long time now I’ve been designing a life that AVOIDS the greatest regrets of the oldest members of our society. This seems like a logical shortcut, no? The most profound things I’ve heard include living true to yourself (and not living the life others expect of you), expressing your feeling more, spending less time worrying and more time accepting, investing more time in your family, working less, travelling more and keeping in touch with old friends.