Laid Back Around the World
Richard Evans recently completed a once in a life time trip around the world, read his incredible travel stories here in his own words…
After years of planning and training I set off from London on 5th April 2014 to ride my funny bike around the world. My route went east to Harwich where I took the night ferry to Holland, probably the safest country in the world to ride a bike but sadly only 200km wide so I was across and into Germany by the evening of 6th April. Country borders came every few days after that as I crossed Poland, Belarus and Russia on some of the world’s most dangerous roads where I was sharing treacherously potholed highways with juggernauts speeding past my left shoulder with inches to spare. Three weeks and 4,000km after leaving London I arrived, surprisingly intact, in Kazakhstan where I crossed into Asia at Uralsk.
It took another three weeks to ride 2,500km across Kazakhstan, the 8th biggest country in the world. Fierce headwinds and appalling road surfaces pegged my average speed back to just 120km/day. These were hard days, being frequently blown off the road by high winds on road surfaces which varied erratically from brand new international class highway to rutted stony/dusty tracks where all evidence of any previous surface had long disappeared. Including stops at cafes/shops and an essential midday break from the fierce dry desert heat (often in a culvert under the road – shade was scarce) I was riding from dawn at 06:00 to well after sunset, usually stopping around 22:30, utterly exhausted. Average speeds were in the range 12-15kmh and often below 10kmh when the road or wind got really bad. I finally reached Almaty on 15th May, where, having failed to secure a Chinese visa, I took a flight over the Himalayas down to Bangkok.
The 2,000km ride from Bangkok down to Singapore was utterly different and much easier going. Road surfaces were excellent throughout Thailand and Malaysia. Winds light to moderate, sometimes even going my way! It was hot and humid of course but easy to find shelter and rest for a few hours at noon. Daily monsoonal downpours were brief, warm and refreshing. I arrived in Singapore on 8th June and flew to Perth in Western Australia two days later. 8,500km.
Suddenly it was midwinter! Only ten hours of daylight per day so I had to ride a few hours in the dark every day to make the target 200km. Cold nights, sunny days and crazy distances on the signposts with up to 200km between roadhouses. In a Ceduna bar a woman studied my face and pronounced correctly that I had just crossed the Nullarbor desert. How did she know? “Just do” she said, “you’ve got that look”. I guess it was the facial grime or stubble or bloodshot eyes or stench…probably all of the above. I arrived in Melbourne on 5th July. 12,000km. Flew to Wellington NZ, my first antipodal point – a true circumnavigation takes in two such points, bang opposite each other on the globe.
With one or two exceptions London to Melbourne had been mostly flat. In NZ there is not an inch of flat road, and on 15th July I rode the hilliest highway of them all from Napier to Taupo with some 2,235m of climbing. I finished that day in the hot pools where I met Kevin Carr who is running round the world at 50km/day, ie more than a marathon. His blog is called hardwayround. I considered renaming mine easywayround. Arrived Auckland 18th July, 13,300km.
On 21st July I flew from Auckland to San Francisco then rode up the spectacularly scenic (cyclists’ code for hilly) coastal highway 101 crossing California, Oregon and Washington. Riding around 160 hilly km/day used a lot of calories, this was my food diary for 25th July:
• 05:30 2 bowls muesli with pint milk banana & peach at roadside campsite under freeway bridge
• 08:30 huevos rancheros & coffee in café at Rio Dell
• 12:00 bread cheese ham tomatoes couscous salad banana outside supermarket in Eureka
• 14:00 banana bread & coffee in Arcata at fast food place (reliable for clean toilets and free wifi)
• 19:00 mug of chilli con carne & half loaf wholemeal with pint chocolate milk at general store in Orica
• In between above sundry snacks as I ride include trail mix nuts & raisins, dry & fresh fruit, chocolate & muesli bars, 1kg of bananas… I’m not sure how many calories this all adds up to but my trousers are still loose!
On 1st August I took the ferry from Port Angeles over to Victoria BC on Vancouver Island, Canada. 15,000km. From there it took a week to cross the Rockies then a further three weeks across the vast prairie flatlands of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba where I met a trucker driving uranium ore to the processing plant, he says it’s not safe enough by train! He advised me not to worry about bear or wolf…its moose to beware of – weighing up to 2000lbs and with tiny brain they ram trains and trucks. That night I found safe wild camp between the highway and the railway with ladder up signal gantry for my bear/wolf/moose escape route!
In Ontario I spent a further week riding beside three of the Great Lakes followed by re-entry into USA at Niagara, across to Albany and down the Hudson valley into New York on 8th September. 20,500km. From there I flew to Lisbon in Portugal and rode back to London via Valladolid in Spain, my second antipodal point. On 1st October a huge crowd of family, colleagues and well-wishers welcomed me back to my start point at Bikefix, the shop in central London where I had bought the bike some two years earlier. 22,777km.
The vast majority of people I met were kind, polite, inquisitive and helpful. There were countless acts of spontaneous generosity, most frequently in Kazakhstan where complete strangers paid hotel and restaurant bills, gave cash, shared meals, provided accommodation… Several times I was warned to be wary of the people in the next town/province/country where people are aggressive savages! Upon arrival however I was always met by locals of a benevolent disposition, interested in where I’m from, where I’m going and how old I am (52). The only aggression I faced was on the roads: a sizeable minority of people turn into savage morons as soon as they get behind the wheel or onto a motorbike. Road danger was by far the greatest threat to my safety, and much worse in some countries than others. Best NL; worst Russia.
The bike proved super reliable, only 4 punctures! It was a heavy brute to haul around at 15kg + same again with bags + 6kg of water so uphill and acceleration were accomplished at a rather stately pace. Average cruising speeds in zero/light winds were around 20kmh. My body was as reliable as the bike. No illness whatever, not even a headache or a dodgy tummy.
Lots more photos and information about the trip can be found on my blog
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