I'm now 10 days into my trip and have been learning a lot already. I've had a couple of people ask details about my trip. How far am I cycling? How long do I cycle for? What do you do if something goes wrong? etc... So I thought I'd put together a post answering some of the questions.
How far do you cycle in a day?
So far I've been cycling around 80-110km a day. I've done over 180km in the past, albeit with a lighter load, so 80-110km is achievable for me. I may reduce the typical distance to 60-80km so that I can spend more times in places along the way. Come China and India my daily mileage may have to drop further due to road surface, difficulty navigating and the heat.
How long do you cycle for in a day?
I usually start around 0800-0900 (1000 if I have a lie in) and finish by 1700. It's usually around 5-6 hours of cycling with a couple of hours worth of breaks and stops. I typically do a first stint of around 20-40km before having a break, and try to have lunch after the halfway distance. Being out in the sun for around 8 hours a day, everyday, means I'm constantly covered in sun block to protect my skin and stop the farmer's tan I'm already getting.
How much do you eat and drink?
In terms of fluids I stick to water. No sports drinks. I'll easily go through 4 or 5 litres throughout a whole day. I carry between 2-3 litres on the bike when fully loaded.
For food it depends upon where I am. Throughout the day I'll snack on peanuts (for fats) and wine gums (for sugars). Add in some fruit, maybe a banana and apple. Possibly an ice cream or chocolate bar too. That's snacks covered. I could easily have a McDonald's for lunch and still have a large dinner. As bad as McDonald's is, for me it provides a huge amount of calories that my body needs, so I sometimes indulge myself. At the moment breakfast typically consists of stuffing down two or three croissants, a nutri-grain and an apple.
Unfortunately in France food hasn't been as readily available as I'm used to in England. So I've mostly been living off bread, sandwiches and pastries. When stealth camping I often go to sleep slightly hungry so will start to lose weight.
I don't have my heart monitor with me, one gadget I decided to leave at home, but at a guess I'm burning around 3,000 calories when cycling. That excludes normal calorie burn, and muscle burn afterwards. So maybe 6,000 calories in total for a day (I could be wrong).
How do you navigate?
I use my Garmin Edge 705. It has a small 2 inch screen and provides me with directions along the way. I draw out a whole days cycling on Google Maps, and port it to my GPS device. Using Google Maps I can pick out appropriate roads and avoid nasty hills. I made the mistake of not including contour lines in the maps I put on the device, so once I'm going I'm blind to steep hills down the road should I change the route.
How do you keep your gadgets charged?
My Garmin Edge GPS, Orange San Francisco phone and Samsung YP-P2 MP3 player and Kindle are all standard usb devices that I carry with me. To keep them all charged I have a dynamo hub on my front wheel. As I pedal along, it charges a usb battery attached to my bike, which in turn I use to charge all of the above devices. The battery full charged can charge my phone once, and it takes around 40km to fully charge.
I can charge devices on the move, or when stopping for a break (the battery can be taken off the bike). However, the usb battery can't charge my high current devices ie camera and laptop, so I have to charge those when I find a plug point (I'm always checking behind vending machines). Fortunately I carry a spare camera battery and my netbook has a 9-11 hour battery life so I can easily last 4 or 5 days without charging them.
Where do you stay the night?
For sleeping I'll either stay at a hostel/hotel, camp site or wild camp for free. In most cases it'll be hostels and wild camping to keep costs down. Wild camping means no shower, water or electricity so I have to go prepared. I normally scout for a spot around 1800. It may mean walking deep into a forest to be out of site. I avoid places that show signs of human activity (litter, tracks etc...). Once I'm happy with a spot I sit quietly for an hour or so to watch out for anything like dog walkers. By 2000 my tent is being put up. And by 2100 I'm inside it watching Prison Break on my laptop. I lock the bike, sometimes laying it down so it can't be seen.
By 0500 it gets bright and the birds make quite a noise. I use ear plugs and an eye mask so that I can sleep until 0700. I usually wake up at least once in the night as despite my luxurious 2.5cm thick air/foam mat, I still get uncomfortable. The main annoyance with wild camping are the insects and getting bitten. I'll have to watch out for ticks across central Europe.
What if something happens to the bike?
There are plenty of options. Firstly I carry a small but reasonably effective toolkit to handle most issues. Common problems will be punctures and spokes breaking. Anything I can't fix on the road means limping into a city where I can get to a bike shop. In Europe this shouldn't be too much of a problem, but in India and China it'll be a much larger problem. Mainly because my road style of bike isn't very common in those countries, if found at all, so getting parts is near impossible.
Worst case if something fatal happens to the bike it will most likely mean ending the tour, flying home to drop everything off, and flying back out with just a rucksack.