I think I have come a long way in terms of the bicycle I used when I started travelling this way back in New Zealand in 2011. When I first had the idea to use a bike to take me around the south Island, I really hadn’t a clue as to what sort of bicycle I might need, let alone the kind of gear I might use.
Without much thought and with hardly any worry, I bought a cheap mountain bike with some eyelets on the back so I could attach a rack. With the rack attached, a handlebar bag strapped to the front, I set off from Auckland without even knowing how to fix a puncture. Fast forward two and a half months, and I arrived back in Picton, gateway to the south Island, without having gotten a single puncture.
Everything went well and whilst there were blips on the way (a broken rack and getting caught in two storms), I really enjoyed the feeling and freedom it gave me. Having said that, I also vowed never to do it ever again. New Zealand really is that hilly, mountains and tough!
Well, once again, fast forward to 2013 and that growing desire to do something epic entered my mind. Time is a great healer, and as I looked back at my ride through New Zealand with rose tinted spectacles, I had obviously forgotten just how difficult it really was. With thoughts of an epic bicycle journey now clouding my better judgement, I set out on building my own bike to take me across the globe.
Having researched just what kind of bicycle might be used to take me around the world, it soon became clear that I would need to spend a quite vast amount of money in order to procure something that would carry me all the way. Anywhere in the region of EUR 1000 - 2000 seemed normal but this, for me was simply too much. However, In order to cope with the thousands of kilometres I was likely to travel and the differing, often punishing roads and terrains I would be travelling through, a strong, steel touring bike was nevertheless the order of the day.
Upon further investigation, I also realised that if I went for a used bike, one recently made and thus with good quality materials, I would have more money for the actual journey and so this is what I chose to do.
The bicycle I ended up buying was an older Trek hybrid bike with eyelets on both the front and rear forks enabling me to carry two sets of bags. It only cost me EUR 150 but when you add on the saddle, racks, tyres, handlebar, cages, mirror, fenders and replacement drive-chain and brakes, I reckon the end cost probably touched EUR 700.
I set off from Amsterdam where I had been living since 2011 and cycled back home to Manchester at the end of 2014 with the bicycle I had put together.
As can be seen from the picture above, I was carrying way too much and in all the wrong places too but I suppose this is why this small trip was a good idea: to iron out any niggles and to put my steed through its paces.
In the spring of 2015, I decided it was time to leave for Japan, and with the goodbyes said, I teetered off into the pennines in the north of England.
After five months cycling around Europe, and with the seasons not quite right to continue east, I decided that I would head back to Manchester for a winter break, earn some more money and set off again in the spring of 2016.
Having bought the Trek bike second hand, and having now ridden it for five months around Europe, the moving parts weren’t now in the best possible condition and it became apparent that I would need to replace every single moving part in order to get it road worthy again. In addition to all of this, the right chain-stay on the frame had developed a rather large hole on the inner side back in Portugal. With this in mind, and the fact that I was about to head to a less developed part of the world where the roads and climate will be thoroughly tougher, I thought it only sensible and appropriate to buy a replacement. Turned out that my new bike cost half the money that was actually quoted to me to fix the old bike so it was definitely the right decision in the end.
I then left England with the aim of reaching Japan, however the destination became Vietnam somewhere along the way. The Specialized bicycle I had bought for EUR150 proved to be a capable and rugged beast.
Apart from a broken Botton bracket in Georgia, she carried me through 23 countries without too many complaints. It really does go to show that there is simply no need to spend thousands min bicycle for this type of trip. I'm sure the added benefits you get from spending extra might make your life a little easier but it's certainly not a requirement.
The same bike after having arrived in Kashgar, China. Battered and bruised it may well be but serve me well it did.
Unfortunately the bike was stolen whilst I was living in Hanoi having finished my trip
Having arrived back in The Netherlands, I decided to try and find the exact same frame that I had left Manchester with all those months ago. After much searching, I eventually found the same model, and having kitted it out with the exact same setup as that which I had when I left, it (almost) feels like it was never stolen. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!