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.

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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.

Okay just a quick one, today I crossed into Ukraine from Poland. I took the road to the east of Chelm at Dorohusk and made it to the border in the afternoon after a day of riding. I zipped up the side of a large queue of trucks and lorries and then I came to guard number one!

I said hello and asked if he wanted to see my passport, he explained that this was a border for vehicle only and I thought great this may take some time… I chatted with him for about ten minutes and explained that I had come from London and had researched it and the internet said that I could cross here. He said wait a minute and went to make a phonecall. 15 minutes later he came out and chatted to me about where I had been and where I was heading, when he was happy with the small talk he waved me through. Phase one complete!

I next had to go to a different guard a bit further on who handed me a bit of paper with some writing on it and then waved me through. Simples.

Third check was the passport check, the guy asked me a few questions of where I was going and what I was doing and also kept checking my picture. I am sure facial hair doesn’t make me look too different but he got a colleague to double check and everyone was having a laugh about the guy on the bicycle but it was all good humored.

Finally I got the stamps and then I went to the next check which was customs, I think the woman had had enough by this point and couldn’t be bothered to deal with me so let me through no problem. Finally I was through and saw a ATM machine and a garage, I got some cash and bought a map for equivalent of 1 GBP so was happy and found this hotel. Tomorrow I shall have to make a dent in Ukraine but bike is running well. I am feeling good and it is getting colder but I am happy with the progress.

Lets hope things can carry on. I shall leave you with a video I made this morning when I awoke to everything covered in snow. Here it is;

Another country bites the dust! But I will never under estimate Germany it is a vast country with many lanes and ups and downs to get lost in.

The weather wasn’t great but I guess more fool me for doing this in February and the condition I had not even considered before taking on this thing was poor visibility. There were days where I could not even see what was 10 m in front of me coupled with trucks roaring past on a dual carriageway my life was well and truly in my blinky lights hands.

The back tyre kept getting punctured which didn’t make me happy not when it happened three days in a row I thought something was up with the tyre, riding marathon winters from London and it appeared the studs on the rear wheel had been pressed in to the tyre and had made holes on the inside so not ideal, I have now changed to marathon supreme tyre on the rear and it is holding up well. Touch wood.

Germany was tough, the weather and winds were unrelenting but happy to pass it and feel I am growing stronger by the day. East will add new challenges, languages and currency are some of the key changes.

I am now on one road to Ukraine so let’s hope I can do it quickly. Feeling good and happy to be rolling on.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Okay so we are on the way, I am currently in Koln, Germany fixing a few things with the bike racks and ensuring that things are running well. I have noticed a niggle with my knees so think I am wise to listen to my body and have a little rest. I cannot stay for more than todaz though so things will have to get better otherwise I will have to load up on paracetamol.

 

I have enjoyed the riding through France and into Belgium, Belgium was wonderful, you can cross pretty much the whole country on cycle ways. The hills started with Holland which was strange for a flat country but made it into Germany which seems to be the country of many cycle paths but they do not seem to go anywhere. Navigation is a bit of an issue when chopping and dicing these paths but I am looking forward to getting to Poland where the single road for a while is what awaits.

 

Incase you havent realised I am not going the same speed as some of the others. They are doing a great job! I wish I was going a little faster though, I have visa deadlines I need to meet but all is well for the meanwhile. Lets hope this afternoon of r&r does me good! 

Thanks for all who came down to the start today and apologies for being moody I was unsure whether I had a passport as I hd left it in library the previous day ! Luckily I got through to them.

Tons of media were out which was nice and people came from all over. I am on the ferry to Calais now the weather was truly dreadful today but nice to be riding! This is better than all the planning!

Internet goes dead now so will blog where I can I’m sure if you google the race or me some media stuff will come up, plan now is to get out of france, might bed down quite soon tho !

Okay so the event kicks off on the 18th February which is next Saturday and you can follow it here; World Cycle Racing, this seems to of come around a lot quicker than expected but am happy it is finally here, I have been planning this for a while and think it will be awesome to finally get going. I don’t really know what this blog post is about I guess it’s just me talking about my final preparation and the way I am going to do things whilst on the road.

The last few weeks have been pretty hectic ensuring that visas and vaccinations have been sorted and also teaching myself suitable bicycle maintenance so that I can do an alright job if needs be if anything goes wrong. I hope it does not!

The bicycle has been fully put together now, big thanks to Darren at Poundbury Cycle Sport who has put up with me peering at him while he has worked on the bicycle and let me learn about how different parts have gone together and let me generally just see it all happen which has been of invaluable help. I am riding an alfine 11 speed hub on the back wheel which is very nice and have decided to leave from London with ice tyres on. I am using the Schwalbe Marathon Winter’s in case I see some of this Eastern European cold weather. With these tyres though my thoughts have gone from anxious about this section to excited. To tell the truth, I hope its quite snowy, means I will not have to buy water and hypothetically the roads should be pretty clear and no mad speedy traffic. I am sure I can be proved wrong though!

It is getting there!

I have also been sorting out how best to carry my stuff. I am using Brooks pannier bags which are very rugged and look great on the bicycle which I am thoroughly happy with. Have only used Ortlieb in the past so will be interesting to see how they hold during the extended tour but the build quality looks pretty high so I have faith in them. I am also using an Ortlieb handlebar bag just so I can have a few things to hand on the bike. I already have fallen in love with this and wonder why I haven’t used one before.

One of the things I have found guilty though is trying to ease off the training before the start. I want to be fresh for the start and am having a week of eating whatever I like and not doing too much in the way of riding to ensure I am ready for the challenge. This is tough as I want to ride but I guess it’s for the best. With the use of a SatMap Active 10 Plus for my GPS to aid me with my map work I am sure my set up is going to be great. They make a really solid mount for this GPS so I am going to have that on, I don’t want to use it too much as I want to use maps mostly I think it’s a better way to do things but it is there just incase. I have split my route into day by day files (don’t ask me how long this has taken) so this means that I can simply finish a day, get some sleep and wake in the morning load up ‘day 2’ and take off from where I left off I think this will be a good system. BikeRouteToaster has been used for planning my whole route and is an awesome website.

Winter tyres til India!

I have also had to start to think about currencies and what to carry what of. It seems USD is king in most of the world still so this will be my main stash. I want to have a very wilderness experience throughout Europe purely because I am a student on a limited budget and I think it will be good to just get into the swing of things early on. This will involve me carrying a lot of stuff from London. Looking forward to doing my food shop before leaving I am sure the people in the shop will think I am slightly mad in what I plan to bulk buy. I will try and put a picture up of this when I get it!

Carrying the GPS tracker is going to be one of the key highlights of this event. Being able to follow me as I cycle around the world is something I am keen to work. With the other riders leaving from Greenwich Park on the same day I think it will be incredible to have the website with everyone doing their own thing but showing it on the same map. I think this has great potential to increase the excitement in the race and also to engage with the audience. I really hope people enjoy our individual stories of going around the world I am sure it will make a great spectacle.

I think this is long enough for now! Will try and give more of an update within the next few days with everything that’s going on but as you can expect its very busy times. I have got my charity page set up online. I am not going to lie and say charity was the main aim for my trip but I have seen how the two organisations I am raising money for work first hand and know that any donations can make a massive difference and if not just check them out, they do an awesome job and who knows maybe you would like to be involved with one of them! HERE IS WHERE TO DONATE. These are the two organisations; Dorset Expeditionary Society and Okhle Village Trust.

So, wanting to go away to some exotic land is a nice feeling. You plan the whole thing out, sort out where you are going to go and for how long and the date gets closer and closer. However with these exotic locations come exotic diseases, and if you are a man, like me. You will probably have left your health to the side and realise just in time that you need to have rounds of injections to protect you against all the nasties that we do not get here in the UK or Western world.

 

I plan to talk through the nasty stuff and why it can all add up as well as the timings needed for the jabs and the issues one can face. Firstly from the UK perspective, if you are going away you will need to fill out a form to your GP showing where you are going, when and where you will be staying. If you say rough camping the whole way like I did you are soon in for a shock!

The lovely NHS, free healthcare for all! What a delight, it’s a shame that most of the jabs you will probably need when going away will not be covered by the NHS, shame! However typhoid and a few others are which luckily I had before this big cycle trip so don’t need to worry about. Here is what I was recommended to get;

 

Hepatitis B – Blood disease, transferred through sex or blood transfusions. Three Injections over a month.

Rabies – Nasty, bites or licks on open wounds, feral animals. Fatal. Three Injections over a month.

Japanese Encephalitis – Mosquito transmitted disease, effects your brain. Two Injections over a month.

Tick borne Encephalitis – Tick transmitted disease, effects your brain. Two Injections over a month.

 

With all of these cheery diseases being described to me, I decided to check with mother as to what she thought I should have, obviously I’m a poor student I was willing to wing it in essence but mother told me to be fully covered so I held my breathe and went to get them done. As I was living up in London and my GP was in Dorset I had to go to a travel clinic in London. I went to the London Travel Clinic on Oxford Street and told them what I needed and the cost for the first round of injections was £245. This was only for the first round which hurt me, aswell as the two injections in each arm which made me feel slightly funny getting on the tube.

 

A week later I went back to the clinic where I had the second dose of the rabies and hepatitis B jabs which cost £90. These were okay and despite the running total of £335 thus far. I was far too busy to think much of it, it was just one of those things which I needed to do to keep me safe and I had 100 other things to do.

 

The third round of doses I was going to get back in Dorset so had the prescriptions for them and had to cash them in Dorset. Not a great deal happens in Dorset unfortunately so when I turn up to a local Boots store predictably they do not have the vaccinations and have to order them in. I got the price however and that was £168 so a bit cheaper than the travel clinic up in London. Proves that if you can get them all done by your GP, it is the best way ! I believe that Boots do cheaper vaccinations than other pharmacies but don’t have any evidence to back this up but I was happy with this price. This is the third and final round of injections so I am immune to most things now hoorah. In the words of Boris from Goldeneye, ‘I am invincible!’

 

However, there is always one more thing… malaria. Seems a long way off for me, especially with the cold weather at the minute, carrying malaria tablets through the -20’s of Eastern Europe is going to feel odd but it is another thing which I have had to consider. There are three types of malaria tablet, one which gives you hallucinations and bad dreams, one which is an anti biotic so has the potential to clear you out and give you a bad stomach and the third, newest one which I have opted for which is mallarone which predictably costs the most… Not sure of the total cost yet but will let you know when I have the stuff.

 

So the running total and ten injections later I am £503 out of pocket and they say you can’t put a price on your health. I disagree!