This month was the toughest yet! I rode through the snow on the Equator, along aqueducts, up river-roads, down insane hiking trails and across the Colombian border to the Death Road.
MY BIKE: KOGA WorldTraveller-S
MY 24KG GEAR LIST: HERE
MY ROUTE: HERE
MY CAMERAS: Panasonic G9 + GoPro Hero 6
Please note: These are social media updates rather than gallery captions, so my apologies if the captions are a little abstract.
March 18, 2019: My photos and videos make it look like I do this all the time… but honestly, I over-represent these moments just to make you think I’m a badass. 😅
March 21, 2019: My life is CRAZY. 🌊 Flash flooding turned the road I was riding into a massive river! 🤯
March 22, 2019: Here I am cycling almost exactly on the equator. Given the average annual temperature is 31°C/88°F along the equator, you wouldn’t expect snow to be here, would you?! ⛄️
March 22, 2019: Small fish ✖️ Big pond. It’s sometimes nice to feel like you’re just a tiny speck roaming around a massive planet. And it might actually make you a kinder, more generous person too!
According to a recent study, “by diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, awe may encourage people to forgo strict self-interest to improve the welfare of others”. I’ll sign up to that! 🖊
The feeling is also said to bind people together – by causing people to want to share their positive experiences collectively with one another. ⛰
Ok, I’ve got the sharing done, now how do I do the binding with people bit?! 😅
March 29, 2019: I rode the iconic water channel route in Ecuador, and only fell in… once! It’s a slippery bugger!! 💛
March 29, 2019: I hope I haven’t put you off visiting Ecuador!
I’ve been following the Trans Ecuador “Singletrack” route, but I honestly wouldn’t recommend it to many people. There is a Trans Ecuador “Dirt Road” route which requires NONE of the craziness you’ve seen in my photos/videos – it’s essentially 100% rideable and almost as nice.
I ended up choosing the ‘hard’ way through Ecuador as I wanted to escape the pasture lands and access the remote areas offering untouched natural landscapes. Trust me, if a dirt road took me to these places, I wouldn’t have pushed my bike on all those crazy trails.
If you’re thinking of coming to South America to hang out in remote natural landscapes, first consider Peru, Bolivia, Argentina or Chile. They all have great dirt road networks that can take you right into the action! If you have any questions about Ecuador or anywhere else I’ve been, let me know in the comments. 👍🏼
March 30, 2019: Welcome to my most ambitious trail yet!
Imagine a 6km long narrow trench full of giant rocks, ankle-deep mud and almost zero room for me and my bike. Yep, it’s as average as it sounds. Needless to say, the work-to-reward ratio didn’t stack up here, but let’s look at the positives: the Ecuadorian hike-a-bike is finally over + Colombia is a day away (cyclists coming from the north say its definitely their favourite country). 🤙🏼
March 30, 2019: Just wait until you see all the wacky plants of El Angel Ecological Reserve in my next film. I don’t think I’ve EVER seen weirder plants, in fact, I’m almost certain Dr Seuss was commissioned to design them all! 🌿🌴🌳
March 31, 2019: Spot the cyclist! Most days I get to hang out in some pretty bloody picturesque nooks of the world. Feeling ultra-mega fortunate to be able to share my adventures with you! The question is, have you decided to come visit South America yet??? 🙏🏼
April 1, 2019: NEWS: I’m extending my Argentina-to-Alaska bike trip by a full year. Many things have come together to make this possible. Firstly, I’m having THE best time exploring the hard to access parts of the world, which is a much bigger time commitment than I had originally planned. And secondly, I have KOGA Bikes full support for the additional year. So brace yourself for 365 days of extra films and stories, and see you in Alaska late-2020… yewww! 🤙🏼🤙🏼🤙🏼
April 2, 2019: My kit list has been optimised over seven years and 100,000km+ of bike adventures. I’ve got it to the point where I almost don’t break anything from wear and tear.
This trip I’ve broken one spoke, an air pillow, a camera lens, some clothes and a pair of sandals. That’s it!
I have previously used lots of ultralight equipment, but whenever it broke, it got replaced with something stronger. That’s part of the reason why I use panniers – the durable stuff is almost always larger in volume.
Here’s the kind of stuff I broke in the early days: rims, tents, pillows, mats, water filters, pots, beard trimmers and Spot trackers. I’d recommend not going too ultralight with some of that stuff. To see the bombproof equipment I carry nowadays, click HERE. 😇
April 4, 2019: I’m honestly not motivated by total distance, average speed, elevation gain, or even the idea of finishing this leg of my journey. Instead, I’m addicted to the adventure, freedom, unpredictability, vulnerability and diverse range of experiences that bike travel offers. Can’t get enough of this life. 🙏🏼
April 5, 2019: What the hell! This picture shows the weird angle my leg swings over my seat when I dismount. Not sure legs are meant to bend like that, but hey – this adds to the growing evidence that my body was designed for cycling. 😅
April 7, 2019: I believe that time is life’s most precious commodity.
It, therefore, shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve dedicated my life to exploiting time for all its worth. My philosophy is simple: when faced with a decision, pick the option that selects for the most learning, sharing, compassion and personal contentment.
Admittedly, this brazen optimisation has – by design – put me on a very long and uncertain pathway through life, which certainly isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. But I must say, this approach has allowed me to live an undeniably vibrant existence, full of surprises along the way. 🙏🏼
April 8, 2019: Ecuador. 🇪🇨 This is farewell.
For such a small country, you pack a lot of punch! On the bike, you gave me volcanoes and mud as I’ve never experienced, roads that were literally rivers, unbelievably stony Inca trails and the steepest hills in South America. You’re definitely a tough nut to crack for us bike adventurers.
Off the bike, you showed me your beautiful colonial cities, vibrant markets, reserved yet friendly people, and incredible biodiversity of both the Amazon jungle and the Galápagos Islands.
I’ve gotta go explore Colombia now, but hopefully, I’ll be back soon enough. 😘😘😘
April 13, 2019: Welcome to Colombia’s Death Road.
Carved into the side of an unbelievably steep mountain is this crazy road. Dropping 2000 vertical metres from high plains to the jungle, Colombians drive this rough road at speeds that leave very little room for error.
I’m glad I had full control of my destiny travelling on a bicycle. 🙏🏼
April 14, 2019: As the sun was setting, the only flat bit of ground was this construction site. I moved enough large stones to pitch my tent on a nice surface, watching the fog rise from deep in the valley.
My stove ignited with a bang, catching the attention of a little street dog who was keen for a pat and a feed. We shared dinner together (pasta) and then the little doggo curled itself up under the tent’s vestibule.
At 5AM (still dark) the construction workers started digging. They kindly worked around my tent so I could wait for the sun to rise. With men in hard hats pushing wheelbarrows brimming with soil about the site, I made my coffee and oats and was thinking about how this situation was only possible in a few pockets of the world. 😅
April 16, 2019: Let’s talk about belt drivetrains.
I had the option to choose a chain when I ordered my KOGA, but there are two main reasons I went with a belt: they last 3-4X longer than a chain, and they require almost zero maintenance.
I’ve been using belts to cross continents for nine years now, covering every riding condition you can possibly imagine. My belt drivetrains typically last more than 25,000km before I need to consider replacing anything.
The main downside to a belt is that you need specialist bike parts (a belt drive frame and an internal gear hub or Pinion gearbox – both expensive).
April 17, 2019: This is Mica. He was backpacking in Colombia but decided to try travelling by bike instead!
He purchased a bike for $50, spent another $10 on upgrades and went to a welder to get a custom rack made for his hiking pack ($15). It’s not the ideal setup but fine for his five-week trip in the south of Colombia.
We’ve been camping in eco-villages, on farms and on mountainsides. The Colombians have been very friendly to us, offering coffee, bananas, bread, lots of sweets and ‘agua panela’ which is a hot sugar cane drink.
The last time I travelled with someone like this was ten months ago, so it’s nice to share the special moments again, even for a short time. 😎
April 18, 2019: The mountains have been pretty dry recently, but all that changed when I dropped into the Colombian jungle. As you can see the roads get pretty flooded when the epic tropical thunderstorms roll through. You can’t say I’m not having fun though! ⚡️🌴⚡️
April 19, 2019: When you hone your senses in on the life of the jungle, you can cycle along and spot so many animals.
I’ve seen lots of tiny monkeys, colourful insects and all kinds of crazy birds. I usually try to focus on movement (rattling trees and silhouettes) and sound (crushing leaves, animal calls) when observing wildlife – do you have any spotting tips? 🔭
April 21, 2019: The Colombians call me NAIRO when they see me cycling up the steep hills! This is the name of a very famous Colombian cyclist, Nairo Quintana, who has won 2/3 cycling grand tours. 🇮🇹 🇪🇸 Obviously, my cycling palmarès are equivalent when you factor in that I also carry my house, kitchen, office, wardrobe AND pantry. 😅
April 24, 2019: For one week I travelled with Mica.
His $75 bicycle was allowing him to experience Colombia in exactly the same way as me. The difference was in the bike maintenance; his top headset cup was removing itself from the frame’s head tube, a piece of glass punctured his front tyre, he had to replace his brake pads after a few hundred kilometres and he had flat-spotted his front rim a few times on the rocky roads.
Mica didn’t really mind though, because he only had 440km until his end goal of Bogotá. In comparison, my bike needs to survive 20,000km more to my final destination of Alaska.
May 5, 2019: I use rather wide handlebars which give me a huge amount of confidence when descending.
The high steering leverage makes it super easy to make pinpoint-accurate steering manoeuvres which helps me to stay on the best lines. The aim of the game is to minimise brake pad wear – I’m up to my fourth set in 17 months of mountains! I reckon that’s pretty impressive considering where my bike has been. 🤙🏼
May 8, 2019: I was loving the tree-lined highways of Colombia so much that I punched out 170km yesterday. That took me nine hours including a few breaks… oh, and I was carrying every possession I own too. 💪🏼