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Whilst it is in the air, you will know which outcome you wish to be true…

With the cycling around the world event which I agreed to take part in from February, I have faced many challenges, firstly getting out of Europe and into the freezing temperatures of Poland and Ukraine to crashing and having to return home to the UK to fix the bicycle before carrying on from India. If only things were plain sailing from here as a day from Mumbai I got involved in another road collision and the repairs that I had made were useless and the bicycle was ruined once again.

Getting out of India then became my main priority, truth be told this was incredibly difficult for me, travelling 1600 km across a country with a broken bicycle and six bags left me in an extremely vulnerable position and was not a highlight although I see it as a great achievement to of made the trip.

Arriving in Nepal I was keen to look for a solution and had a few options, I was very keen to give the cycling one more bash so had to try and find a frame so that I could repair the bicycle once more and continue the riding. I searched within the country and could not find anything suitable for my needs and was close to giving up. I then had an offer from a company, Tout Terrain, to send me a frame so that I could continue the trip. I looked into import rules for Nepal and they are quite tight and expensive due to the climbing element of the country. This was when I took the decision to fly to Thailand.

Arriving in Thailand I thought that a frame would be with me quite quickly so vowed not to get comfortable, I stayed in a hotel far from the city centre and didn’t unpack many bags as to get going as quickly as possible. On my second day in Bangkok I scoped out a bike shop and got a quote for the work that I would need doing as to be prepared for when the frame arrived.

The shipment left Germany on the 17th April and didn’t arrive to me in Bangkok for a month. This left me in a bit of a dire situation. As much as Thailand is a relatively cheap place to live compared with European standards, a month in a city with no plan of action having to keep myself occupied as to not going insane through boredom led to a burden on my finances. Also the long break from the cycling, I did not anticipate being in Thailand for this long and did not anticipate the delivery to take so long led me with a lack of motivation to get going again.

I made the decision to get going again and take things one step at a time with the decision to cycle down to Singapore as a test run to see how I felt before deciding whether to carry on with plans to go to Australia or not. I got the bike built in a shop and got everything ready to go. I woke up early in the morning and set off from Bangkok, I cycled through the suburbs and into the centre. I crossed out to the other side which was the direction I needed to go and something did not feel right.

I decided I would book into a different hotel and get some rest and then crack on early out of Bangkok as I was staying close to the road I needed to get out of Bangkok on the next day. I took the day to fuel up and try and rest but something just wasn’t feeling right. I tried to sleep at 10 PM, 4 AM came around and I had been lying in bed all night unable to fall asleep. I started to question the whole trip and my motives behind it. I questioned going back to the solitary life I had been leading and I questioned my finances and the lack of and extremely tight budget I was on, student loans only go so far. I questioned what others would think of me if I were to stop cycling here and I questioned whether it was a decision made in haste or what.

I needed more time to decide and took a few more days in Bangkok to try and come to terms with exactly what I wanted to do. This was a huge decision to make and I did not want to make the wrong one. I tried to set off cycling once again and cycled for most of a day out of Bangkok. However it just wasn’t feeling good for me. I couldn’t put my finger on what the issue was but it just wasn’t working for me. I didn’t feel 100% confident on the bicycle and perhaps the two crashes had affected me a little more than I had expected.

I think staying in one place for so long has led to a lack of motivation for the trip and a degree of comfort in having a few friends out in Bangkok living normal lives. The money factor has also played a huge issue, I never made any attempt to hide the fact I was doing this whole trip on a ridiculously small budget but was confident it could be done. Having to fly home from Ukraine and back out to India and then a month in Bangkok led to more cash being spent than I had anticipated and to carry on could have well and truly bankrupt me.

Therefore, I made the decision to return to the UK and admit to failure for my attempt to cycle around the world. This brings me great sadness to of had to of quit such an attempt but for the past four months, life has not been real, and in all honesty I just feel totally burnt out and exhausted from this trip, the mental and physical stress of it all has played heavily on my mind and body and think I need to recharge the batteries.

Despite all this, I think my excitement for cycling has increased more than ever, I want to do more challenges in the future and have had some great ideas. I think I will have recovered some funds for a trip in September perhaps.

I would like to thank everyone who has believed in me for this trip and all of my sponsors, especially Brooks and Tout Terrain for believing me in right down to the end. I must also apologise to everyone who has supported me for not being able to continue and complete this trip.

At the end of the day, this trip has been a failure as I have not achieved the goals I set out to. I think it is important to admit to your failures and the things I have learnt from this trip have been invaluable. I will be sure to be back out on the roads all summer training for the next trip. I urge everyone to keep following the World Cycle Race and cheer on those riders still doing an incredible job every day.

Okay France was the second country which I crossed on my journey I arrived on the 18th February with the sole purpose of getting out of Calais and finding somewhere to bed down for the night and found a place which I had used before near the town of Wormhout so put up the bivvy bag and settled down for the first night of many beneath the stars. I have been debating with myself whether to write a blog for France as I was in the country for less than 24 hours however I think it warrants a blog as I had my first inkling of problems and someone may stumble across it who is planning to ride a bicycle out of Calais and this may help!

 

Cycling out of the ferry is always fun, and if you can get organised you can be off before the cars but if like me for this trip it took a bit longer and I ended up waiting for all the cars to leave and was last off, the rain may of made me reluctant to leave but hey I got off eventually. Calais is kind of hard to navigate but with a map and compass and a GPS route I found the road I wanted easily enough and it is very cycle friendly, I would recommend anyone who is cycling out of Calais to head for the Wormhout road. Wormhout is a small town where you can pick up the North Sea Cycle Route if desired, this is the path which I have taken before and leads all the way up to Norway if you desire. It also links with the R1 Cycle route which will take you to Berlin and beyond from Den Haag. A path which I had taken to Berlin in 2009.

 

Waking up in the morning, it was my first morning on the road in the middle of nowhere on the adventure of cycling around the world. The weather had changed and it wasn’t raining I was in luck! I decided to make some breakfast on the stove for the first time, I made tomato pasta and proceeded to burn my tongue, great start! However with fuel in the body I loaded the bicycle up and proceeded to hit the road and aim to get to Belgium which wasn’t too far away!

 

Before I knew it I was on the quiet French country lanes which are great for cycling, I was following the North Sea Cycle Route for a short while but noticed an issue with the front mud guard, it was rubbing against the tyre slightly and as I thought it might be worth checking I had an issue with the back rack as somehow coming down a hill it had become tangled with the rear guard and this proved to be a problem. I was cursing myself for having these minor problems on the first proper day of cycling. I fixed the problems and carried on going. France is a great country for cycling there is no denying this. It was also nice for it being a Sunday and seeing all of the roadies out pounding the roads like they do every Sunday but what isn’t great is the fact that everything is shut on a Sunday so it is near impossible to get supplies, especially if cycling through the little towns.

 

Feeling good though, I was ever approaching the Belgian border and looking forward to another cycle friendly country. This was a simple day mostly and was just about ensuring I was getting into the rhythm of riding. I enjoyed the cycle paths which immediately followed the Belgian border and would soon discover that it is pretty much possible to cross the whole of Belgium following paths.

 

I found myself in Belgium for a few days so will give it it’s own blog where things started to get a little more difficult. I experienced some very frozen weather in Belgium and also more technical problems and the start of the issues with punctures. That is more to come and I hope with the difficulties I can add some humour to the blog, this was more of a if you want to cycle out of Calais it is entirely possible and easy to get on some great routes blog!

As you are probably aware from my blog posts I am stuck in Bangkok awaiting a new frame so am just in a state of limbo. I thought I would write a brief overview of the race so far, as I have had contact with some of the riders I will be able to give a bit of an ‘insider’ view I hope which people may find of interest.

As the day 55, leader board has become available, what a 55 days it has been. I am sure we are a long way from saving the planet but the eleven names on the leader board are all sharing the same ambition and living the dream of cycling around the world. When those who set off from London met the day before we went, it was clear that some people were racing all the way and wanted to do it as quick as possible whereas there were a few of us who were more in for the wilderness experience and the experiences along the way. I think this is reflected quite fairly in the leader board and you can see the two groups quite clearly.

Leaderboard presented by QuickEnergy

The distances covered have been phenomenal though. Lets first talk about the race leader Mike Hall. He is now halfway around the world on a bicycle in 55 days, including his transit times. Just think of that in these terms. He has cycled from London through Europe, across India and across Australia on a bicycle in 55 days… mental! I am sure that would be difficult even in a car to muster.

A follower of the race said to me the other day, ‘Stuart you are the only person left who is on the Eurasia continent, do I feel lonely?’ I didn’t realise that this was the case but now I am aware I certainly do. Accidents seem to of played quite a part in trying to slow people down in the event. I have had two crashes but think people have heard enough about them so I won’t go on! Simon Hutchinson had dehydration in India which slowed him down for a few days followed by a crash into a stationary truck in Perth wrecking his front forks and some of his kit. However Simon is back on the road and still in 4th place. This is a tremendous achievement and looks to be going strong and waving the flag for the Irish.

World Cycle Race – Pt 1 from Ian Homer on Vimeo.

Sean Conway, the only man who has a route to take him over all five continents was riding happily along a road at the start of a day minding his own business when a truck came from behind and turned him over quite literally. The bicycle was not a pretty sight nor was the injuries suffered but Sean claims the helmet he was wearing helped to minimise damage. Always wear a helmet kids! I always do! Guinness agreed to stop the clock whilst Sean sorted things out and with a neck brace on decided to restart his cycling and has hit some pretty remarkable distances since being back on the road doing 670 km in two days riding and writing on twitter that there is ‘no more pissing around’ with the hashtag #digdeep. Best of luck with the rest of your effort Sean. I am sure now he is on his own schedule and different timing to the rest of the riders it may have put a bit of pressure off of him as the leaderboard is irrelevant as he doesn’t have to count the days he was getting himself sorted.

Good news to see Stephen Phillips riding again. After having problems with his achilles and throwing the towel in, he has decided to give it another go after talking with his physio. I spoke with Stephen on my brief stopover in London and told him my plans for the rest of the trip and that I was still going to be part of the World Cycle Racing – Grand Tour event even though I didn’t really have a chance of winning anymore. I also urged him to reconsider his position and I am glad that he is riding again. As one of the race supporters has said the more the merrier!

Martin Walker has been going strong and I have only spoken to him once since him being on the road, this was when he was making use of a McDonald’s facilities and said that he hadn’t started to up the pace yet. I understand that Martin has faced some quite strong winds for a prolonged time and has recently been suffering from a bad stomach! Martin is nonetheless in 2nd place and is looking very strong on the bicycle! I would not write this guy off yet. There is still the opportunity to catch Mike Hall and still half a race to go so things are still exciting at this point.

Richard Dunnet has finished his crossing of the US and is now in New Zealand, he is the third placed rider and seems to of had very little problems thus far, or he is just not reporting them. Whilst Mike and Martin are riding with very minimalist set ups, Richard is using rear panniers so think his speed is a great achievement. He looks very strong and again with the unpredictably of road cycling it is all to play for and I think Richard could have a chance of coming up trumps!

Paul Ashley-Unett set off from the Isle of Man and has completed nearly 5,000 miles, a great achievement, currently making his way across the States, he seems to be riding quite strong and generally quite comfortably (bit of guessing here, don’t shoot me if I am wrong!). I am looking forward to following Paul when he gets back onto the Eurasia continent. I believe he has an interesting route planned through China and Kazakhstan. I think it will be interesting to follow this although it is still a long way from home!

 

Lets not forget Jason Woodhouse, who had issues with his bicycle from the off, this meant that he was slower to get going than the others but has crossed Europe and made it to the US. I like to follow Jason’s updates, seems he meets someone interesting almost every day. from people running across America to having dinner with minor reality tv stars. Certainly living the high life!

 

Niel, the last person to set off has been battling his way through South America, he has witnessed extreme winds, snow and altitude so lots of fun things, however explains his pet hates to include cars honking at him and people whistling and staring at him. He seems quite comfortable and is enjoying the adventure as much as anything.

One thing is for sure, everyone is determined to get round. Crashes and injury cannot stop the riders and the pedals keep turning. I am awaiting the first crossing of riders expectantly. I always thought since the concept of this race first came about that two riders crossing each other on the road would be an amazing and surreal experience especially since the last time they saw each other they were pedalling in opposite directions and x amount of days later they still are!

I am sure we are in for a lot more twists and turns! Lets hope the second half of things provides a safer race and people stop having so many problems. I cannot wait to get back on the saddle myself. I am actually missing it very much and have looked up gyms in Bangkok.. if only stationary miles counted!

Keep those pedals turning guys and keep safe! To keep following go the race website here!

@WorldCycleRace

I think with all the things that have gone on in the past few weeks it is important for me to restate my aims and tell the ways that I aim to move forward with this venture. As you should know, I left London on the 18th February with other riders with the aim to race around the world. This has been far from incident free for some riders!

 

I have had two crashes and damaged the bicycle, Sean Conway has had a nasty accident and also damaged his bicycle. Stephen Phillips has had issues with his achillies and had to take a rest break and Simon Hutchinson has spent a spell in hospital recovering from dehydration in India. This is without mentioning Jason Woodhouse’s problems on the first day meaning he didn’t get going for over a week past the start when returning to the UK.

 

I bet that none of us foresaw any of these problems occurring when we all met for coffee the day before the event and spoke excitedly about our routes and our last minute preparation. I have been in limbo for a while now as my frame is damaged beyond repair and I can’t ride forward without it. I could not find somewhere to get a new frame in India or Nepal so am now in Bangkok.

 

I have been in contact with Tout Terrain, a German company who have some quite innovative designs with their touring bicycles, like the integrated back rack into the frame and the USB charging device called the plug which is discreet and most importantly works well. They have agreed to supply me with the parts that I need which I am ecstatic about, for one I am a student and whenever I look at the bank account it strikes fear into me and secondly, it’s a company which make quality products and I’m not just saying that! I will be looking forward to my new bike build and telling all how it rides.

 

So there! I will have a bicycle operational to carry on around the world! I don’t think I am going to be achieving any records, nor do I believe that Guinness specification will be met entirely, but I still intend to complete the route and do as close to 18,000 miles in total. I think North America is a place where I can make up a lot of miles if I can plan a great route.

 

The journey has been a long and tiring one to this point but I look forward to getting back on the bicycle, the days of the frozen beard and winter gear may be behind me but the journey will no doubt be still full of surprises, one can hope for a bit of a change in luck in the future and am positive about the next few legs, I have friends dotted about this part of the world so am happy to keep things moving.

 

I really cannot wait to get back on the bicycle though. It will be great to do what I actually intend to do and enjoy the wilderness side of things. I have a feeling this will be possible in parts of my Australian and US legs which still seem a fair way away.

 

So, awaiting a frame and then a bike build and I will be ready to go! I cannot wait and will be sure to get some videos I have online from India shortly, including one which I will dub the Audio book version of parts 1-3 of the tale at a staggering 25 minutes in length.

After finishing breakfast in the cafe I wheeled the broken bicycle to the side of the road and made about trying to get a lift to the next big city called Nashik, I was at the side of the road for about 10 mins and a lot of cars just waved as they went past but I got a truck to pullover and told them Nashik and they loaded the bike in the back and let me in.

Finally on the way again and probably not aware fully of the 1700km ish journey I had just started to the border. The two guys in the truck were nice enough, gave me fruit and tea and bought lunch when we stopped. I tried to get a formal arrangement for the cost before starting but it didn’t happen but I had a feeling I would be okay, I guess one of the guys just looked genuine and kind so I had faith!

I showed them the map at lunch and they were going to a town the other side of Nashik by 30km so would take me there, this was a bonus as avoiding a big city is always good!

Eventually arriving at the destination they unloaded the bike and showed me the way I needed to go, I gave them 200 rs each, as they were kind to me and didn’t ask nor pressure me for anything. Not bad for the distance.

I tried to get back on the road to find another lift but nothing was forthcoming. A man and his wife on a motorcycle stopped to talk. He went out of his way to find out what my problem was and said he would help. It appeared I was trying to get a ride 50 meters away from a bus station which was round a bend, oh how foolish. I went to the place and the man was waiting for me trying to get me a ride to Malegaon next on my hit list.

A taxi driver said he would take me for 1000 I was close to accepting when my driver from earlier walked up. A stroke of luck as 5 mins later a local bus came round the corner going to Malegaon. With the bike loaded on top and me inside I was off again, vehicle count 2.

The bus cost 77 rs and the ticket guy had an electronic machine which printed tickets so he was unable to rip me off nice! He asked me all standard questions, where are you coming from? Are you married? Where are you going?

Arriving in Malegaon it was dark and I was unsettled. Didn’t know where to go from here. Literally making this plan up step by step and didn’t have a step for now. Luckily some guy unloaded my bike and told me to follow to go to bike shop. I went with him but knew bike shop wouldn’t do anything. We walked through busy streets and drew lots of attention I felt like I was being paraded a little.

The bike shop did nothing and seemed to like pulling the brake levers and looking at spokes but not the gaping dent in frame. We drew the attention of a bunch of 20 year old guys and one spoke good English, I said I wanted to sleep and get to Indore, he told me there was a sleeper bus which went there tonight, I was up for it so asked him to show me where. He took me to a ticket office and it cost 650 for the bus, they charged me 350 and 300 for the bike. I later got told this price should be 200 total. The bus left at 11 PM and I arrived in Indore at 7 AM. A day of massive distances and was in high spirits for coming travel plans although being absolutely tired and drained and not sleeping at all on the sleeper bus. Transport count 3.

Okay this is getting long so probably going to be 4 parts. Will continue with the Rickshaw driver opening the window of the bus with his key and literally licking his lips at the sight of a westerner when arriving in Indore later.

This is going to be quite long so I have decided to split it into three different blogs to explain the past week in India. I arrived on Saturday morning and got riding on Sunday out of Mumbai. Things were going well and I was enjoying the riding. The Indian driving ethos of bigger is better takes some getting used to, so does the overtaking/undertaking and driving the wrong way down the road. You need to keep alert at all times here and I would recommend having a horn to people!

The sun was coming up and I had ridden about 40 km and I saw a sign for a cafe 12 km away. I thought this would be a great place to catch some breakfast, drink some tea and rehydrate. I know I don’t look after myself at the best of times so this would be perfect opportunity to start, after Simon Hutchinson’s visit to hospital I didn’t want to take any chances.

Riding down the road a further 5km a motorised rickshaw which are everywhere in India overtakes me and pulls right in front of me. Literally 2 metres from where I am riding and comes to a halt. I could not slow my speed at the time but was going at about 10 km/h so not quick. I hit the back of him and 4 people got out the rickshaw. The driver did not speak English but seemed very agitated. Two of the passengers spoke perfect English and explained that they wanted damage money. I pretended to be French and shrugged shoulders saying I didn’t understand. I was quite angry as this was no way my fault nor could I prevent it! The rickshaw had a small dent in the back to go with the 20 dents already there. Eventually after much animosity they left and I didn’t give them any money.

My body was unhurt in this kerfuffle however the bicycle has seen better days. I have two impact zones, the frame is bent quite badly and is unable to be ridden, I can feel the flex in it when putting pressure on it. I could wheel the bike a long after loosening the brakes and removing a bottle cage. I now had some tough decisions to make and was not in the best of moods as this must of been about 70 km riding after the crash in Ukraine and my initial thoughts were this is it. How/What do I do here?

I wheeled the bike the 7 or so km to the cafe where I got some food. Luckily they had a menu in English with prices so I couldn’t be ripped off! I eat and had some tea and looked at a map. I made the decision before starting this leg that if anything was to happen I would get to Nepal and sort things from there. Having spent three months here previously I know basic language skills and my way around and how things work. I had about 1600 km to the border however. My budget is extremely limited and I was very angry inside about this bicycle misfortune. I did not want to be out in the sun with no certain way forward. I felt in a very vulnerable position. I have a bicycle, 4 panniers, and a bag on the rack which needs to get to the border somehow… hitch hiking seemed the best way to go from here.

Will publish part 2 later!

After the issues with the bike which were a result of the crash in Ukraine and my subsequent decision to return to the UK to get things sorted the next stage of my journey has happened and I am in Mumbai, India.

Flying out of London was relatively uneventful, I flew with Jet Airways who don’t charge extra for bikes as long as it fits the baggage policy. I met Malcolm from QuickEnergy at the airport who did an interview with me which should be appearing soon and I thanked him for sorting out accom the day before my flight.

Arriving in India at 00:00 and the airport was busy! I got through security okay and collected baggage. No damages to report although after setting bike up and walking it through customs, the front tyre went flat… Great fixing a tyre at 1 AM is what we all love.

I attracted a fair deal of attention from airport staff but they were pleasant and just curious so didn’t mind. With the wheel back on I saw a sign for drinking water so stocked up filling all my bottles and drinking a fair amount.

I stepped outside the airport and it was around 02:00. I got the GPS out as I needed to find the road and this is best way. I started to cycle and experience the madness. Rickshaws were honking me to say hey and the road was a free for all drive where you like.

I started to go past some stray dogs. Some chased me and a growl from me would put them off. Some were more persistent and I pedaled fast and some groups were 5-8 dogs strong and I would turn and face them if they came after me this deters them but makes for slow progress. Dogs are a pain but I feel confident in dealing with them.

There were people everywhere still at like 03:00 and it makes you wonder if people sleep here. I made it close to the route 3 which I will be following for the majority of time here and saw signs for a hotel and decided to call in.

In the night my front tyre went flat again. I felt rubbish and thought I would fix in morning, to deal with timezone I decided to have today to sort things out with luggage and inspect the wheel carefully.

It is pretty hot here but I think early start tomorrow will be a good way to go. Want to get to Nepal asap in all honesty. In high spirits though and looking forward to this leg.

So title says it all, I have been quiet for a few days now but have had some big decisions to make and therefore wanted to ensure that I made the right decision before declaring publically my intentions. In Ukraine I had a crash and the bike and set up was damaged and I didn’t feel comfortable carrying on with the set up so had to look for a fix.

I had conversations with some of the other riders and also with some other people involved with the race and the general view was that I had to carry on and I had lots of support and that I needed to get things sorted. The best way forward I felt would be to have a drastic route change and return to the UK briefly to get the bike sorted before bypassing Russia and Kazakhstan and flying to India where I will be carrying on a new version of my route.

The reason why this has become more difficult is because the visas to Russia and Kazakhstan are fixed and with the delays my original route was looking more and more less likely to fit in. Unlike other visas, these have an entry and an exit date so are fixed and are unlike other visas with just a simple enter before date.

I am very frustrated with the way this has panned out as I know I had not chosen the simplest of routes but believe it or not I was enjoying the snow and the conditions. I was just getting into my stride and upping the distances but then this happened. I am confident to get going again and go to India later this week.

My main priorities at the minute are fixing the bike back up to a state that I am comfortable with and changing my luggage arrangements due to damage to the front panniers meaning they need replacing. Luckily the guys at Brooks are very supportive and are sending me some replacements as soon as possible so for this I am grateful.

This race has already shown me tremendous support and it isn’t necessarily the case that I am going to win it but finishing is important. I realise my route has now changed and I will update the guys at trackleaders accordingly. I still plan to do 18,000 miles in the same direction and cross two opposite points. Slow and steady wins the race and it is important I can carry on with this and live my dreams. I hope for some better luck in India and am looking forward to some new challenges.

Okay so after the day before with the crash and the mangled bicycle and the fact I couldn’t make it to a town and had spent the night in a frozen bivvy bag with ice on the inside as well as out I thought I should probably get up and make a move to sorting things out. I unzipped the top of the bivvy and inevitably shards of ice fell on to me. This is just a part of camping in this part of the world!

Typical camp in Ukraine;

I took camp apart and looked at the food and the water situation which I had and knew things were not great. Did not have the best time the day before so was not organised. All water had frozen and I had some nuts left only. I thought it cannot be too far to a petrol station so didn’t worry, put luggage back onto the bicycle and roped the front panniers into position.

It is incredible how you lose all your dexterity from your hands when they are cold and tired. I don’t know if it the way I ride or what but my little fingers have felt numb for the past 2 weeks and simple tasks like doing laces up on shoes is a struggle. I find it difficult to use a pen also which is amusing at the best of times.

Emerging from the snowy forest I rejoined the road, I always wonder what the trucks and cars must think when I come out of the forest dragging a bicycle covered in snow and frost. I started to ride down the road thinking 34km to Korosten, the nearest town and started to count down km by km. After about 6km I came to a petrol station, I bought some orange juice and rehydrated with a litre. I also eat some nuts, the snow was again coming down quite heavy and my head was full with negative thoughts I just wanted to get to a town and get things fixed.

It was here that I made the decision to contact home and try to pull Ukrainian contacts, I knew a woman who was following the race had a big support network in Ukraine so I text my brother and his wife to give her my number and ring me and she did and she said she would send some emails about.

I plodded on from this petrol station and kept going down the road. I was unsure as to whether anything would happen I just knew I had to keep making progress albeit slow and not happy progress. I did about another 10-20km on the bicycle and came to another petrol station which was a bit bigger and had food in it. I bought some chocolate and some biscuits and a bottle of coke and sat down to refuel in the warm.

I got a phonecall from a Ukrainian number and it was a person called Vlad he had got the message from Wendy, the person with the contacts from the UK and was going to work out a plan to sort me out. I spoke to him for a bit and handed the phone to the guy at the petrol station to say exactly where I was, there were a few other people hanging around the petrol station drinking coffee and something was happening so I decided to sit tight and await other phonecalls. The guy from the petrol station gave his phone number to Vlad so that we were not spending a fortune on phone calls and before I knew it, two guys from the petrol station would take me to Kiev for 70 USD which I thought was okay as I didn’t really have any other option and it was about 160km away.

I took up the offer loaded everything into the van and was on the way to Kiev. The phone kept ringing with people trying to figure out what was wrong with the bicycle and what I would be needing in Kiev, I didn’t really know what was going on but it was good to be moving. The journey was quite uneventful, I was just bemused by how fast we were going past the km marker signs as travelling by bike speed is a lot slower!

We arrived in Kiev and I saw that it was busy! Something which I had not seen yet in Ukraine and we made our way to the hot air baloooning HQ which is where Wendy has her contacts and I got dropped with my bike and kit here. I was given a coffee and access to the internet and the guys were great. Really friendly and wanting to help, I knew I was in safe hands. After checking some things online, we went out in the car to search for accomodation and then to go to a bike shop to do the repair.

I was travelling with a guy called Igor, he was 18 and at university in Kiev, he speaks good English so is handy to have around and we immediately got on. We got some food and went to bike shop to drop bike off. It is a bank holiday in Ukraine today, (Woman Day) or something so we were unsure whether the bicycle could be fixed but they said it should be ready by 5 PM. I hope so!

We found a hostel for me to stay in and Igor gave me his notebook for the night. This has given me access to the internet and enabled me to be able to keep everyone updated. I am very grateful to Wendy, Vlad, Igor and everyone else who has helped me thus far. Yesterday was a whirlwind day and I am happy to be in Kiev now so I can collect my thoughts and work a way forward. The kindness I received yesterday was something special. Strangers had no obligation to ferry me around in a car with all my kit to ensure I was somewhere safe and my bike could be repaired but they did and made sure I was okay for food and medicine.

Tough times early on in Germany;

Okay so I have been in Ukraine for a few days now, my first impressions were about how little traffic was on the road. I was a bit hesitant with my route through Ukraine as I was following the M07 into Kiev and on maps it looks like quite a main road but this soon changed when I started to ride on it and it is just a single carriageway road with the occasional truck and car whizzing along. Happy days with a direct route like this I thought it would be quick miles.

My first full day in Ukraine was pretty uneventul I managed 187km feeling I could have done more but was close to a town so didn’t want to overcook it so that I would finish in a town where I would want to stop for the night. I found a nice forest though and settled for the first night bivvying in the snow. I had now reached the point in my journey where snow was on the ground everywhere and I thought great! No more water issues and hot chocolates every night bivvying.

Awakening the next day I realised that the bivvy bag had frozen solid which was new! However I had been comfortable for most of the night. I set off feeling confident that I could do a big day and started riding. I noticed it was snowing a bit more than I had seen before and I was pretty much going into a blizzard, must have been amusing to be a truck driver and to see this little cyclist going down a road. The people in the petrol stations sure thought it was amusing with two guys inviting me and giving me coffee sitting me down next to a radiator to let the beard defrost. I was happy with this and was in high spirits. I was nearing the 100km mark and was feeling great and then I had just reached it.

Video about 20km before the crash. Feeling good but you can see the weather;

The mind games one plays with oneself on a ride is amusing, I try and count in 20km splits and then think I will eat and drink every 20 km so I am literally counting down, then I am trying to break this down further and working out percentages and all sorts just to keep the pedals turning. Anyway when I got to 100km I was elated as I hadn’t realised and was already at 105km, I pedalled on and saw a car at a junction trying to get on the road, I was in a rhythm and thought I would make it past him before he turned on as in the UK the car would have given way and let the traffic go but he pulled out and I couldn’t stop so hit him from behind and smashed my head onto the top of his boot. Always wear a helmet! I always do and think this helped me greatly. I split my eyebrow open but apart from this was okay.

The bike was a bit worse for wear though. I had seen that the back rack had totally been ripped off the frame. Not good. Both front panniers front hinges had snapped off. Not good. The front wheel would not move and the front fork was all skewed. Not good! Lots of things were going through my mind and I thought that this was it and that would be the end of the race for me. I took all the luggage off the bicycle and the car had stopped also and they must have seen me in a bit of a shock. They had a lot of tools in their car so they worked on hammering the forks apart so that we could get the wheel loose and back into position.

Eventually we got the wheel spinning freely clipped into position but the brakes would not connect and the wheel was further back than usual making it impossible to do anything than cycle in a straight line. To top it all off the blizzard was still going on. The car then drove off leaving me to put everything back onto the bicycle and get going again. I knew I would have to get help as if I had punctured the front wheel I would not have been able to take it out and put it back on due to the bodge job.

I bungeed the back rack on straight both sides and put the luggage on, it seemed to hold which was nice and was pretty sturdy. I then proceeded to get out the emergency rope. Why I always carry spare rope I don’t know but this time it was perfect I had 2x2M bits of 12mm rope and they did the job on tieing the front panniers onto the rack into position. Things were secure and I could ride…. be it in a straight line. I was kind of near a town called Korosten. I thought if I could make it there and get to a hotel and internet I could sort something out. However this wasn’t to be and my negative thoughts were winning so I stopped in some forest. Ignored the paw prints and set up camp. Another night of freezing bivvy with an uncertain tomorrow. I just wanted to shut the world out.