I’ve always wanted to cycle around the world. But I have four kids, I need to earn some money to keep them in mobile phones and clothes….and stay married to their mum. So came up with the cunning plan of ‘Best Way Round’: Split the world into 6. Cycling just the best three weeks (2,100 miles) on each continent – one continent a year for the next six years.
The plan being to do a manageable 100 miles a day, bike-packing with minimum gear (3.5kgs total weight) and staying in cheap motels and B&B’s.
So allowing time to meet locals, taste their food, sample the culture, see the sights, take in the scenery, swim in the sea and enjoy the riding, beer, wine, coffee and cake.
I’ve just completed Stage 1: Australia. The idea worked, it was amazing and if I can do it, anyone can…
I did the ride with Steven Pawley, who has done some amazing long rides http://amzn.to/2fTGm8X. We first cycled together over the Pyrenees in 2012.
Below is the blog that I posted through the ride – with the daily fun and games but here first are my thoughts and learnings.
1 Taking minimum gear is the way to go. It enabled us to keep a good 17.5mph+ average and do the climbs in reasonable pace so that we could comfortably get through 100 miles a day and have time to enjoy the country. We didn’t miss anything or have to buy anything – apart from one inner tube for the one puncture in a combined 5,000miles between us.
2. There are only a few people that you could share a fairly intense endeavour with and still be friends at the end. You need to fall into separate responsibilities, compromise over everything else and let each other have their own space.
3 Don’t bother planning a specific route in advance. Some roads turn out to be busier than you think or more gravelly than you believe. Rely on chatting to locals and digging deep into Google maps prior to each day. We did the whole ride without creating any Strava route.
4. Get used to hand washing and using motel washing machines.
5 Don’t bother booking any accommodation until you are happy to decide each day when and where you want to stop. On our second daily stop – about 4pm, We’d have a look at booking.com or Google maps/hotel search and book somewhere we wanted to stay at.
6 Buy a local sim card with a load of data. I got an Australian sim for £18 with an offer with 6gb of data for the month. It meant we could use maps and make local calls to book hotels with no worries.
It was genuinely a brilliant trip. Made entirely by having the time and space to talk to so many local people. Happiness in life is so dependent on having genuine connections with other people day in, day out.
At work this is almost impossible because you have to be a ‘pretend’ you. Putting on a brave face (in economic hard times) showing your face when you’d rather be elsewhere and stressed out by having to answer every single day ‘what have I achieved today’?
Cycling 100 miles a day – takes you further and further away from the office you and back to the real you and answers that crucial question before you’ve even got up - what have I achieved today? - I’m turning pedals for 100 miles – that’s it – and that’s more than enough.
I thought Australians were being very friendly – but it was me that was being far more friendly than I allow myself time to be at home – when stressed and rushing around.
Cycling for three weeks takes you day-by-day back to the real you – the one that has nice chats with everyone you come into contact with.
While we were cycling, Amazon announced they are opening shops without any store staff whatsoever, they are operated through your mobile. If that was the case for our ride it would have taken away every single happy moment we had – the random encounters with local people that brought us funny and heartfelt stories, kindness and tips for the best roads to ride and food to enjoy at the end of it.
With food you can either go to a supermarket or order online or you can go to the local organic store or food market. Real life is the supermarket – cycling is the organic life - better for you and more authentic.
Without a doubt the best way to experience a continent and its people.
Please view full blog with photos and video here https://www.facebook.com/chrisjward
20th November - Home
This is what today looks like...
Because tomorrow is Stage 1 of Best Way Round: flying to Adelaide for 2,100 mile cycle to Brisbane.
Download Mad Men onto Phone √
change brake pads √
fix sandals √ transfer music onto phone √ Clean bike √ Load Aussie map onto Garmin √ Take kids to 'Fantastic Beasts' film. + a whole heap more...
21st November - Heathrow
14kg box. 2.5 kg bag. Not over-packed for 27 days away then...
24th November - Meinigie
Adelaide - Brisbane. Continent 1, stage 1: Adelaide - Meinigie 116 miles. Done. Great day but really tired. Run out of water + food at 90 miles + then passed NOTHING for next 25 miles straight into a 17mph headwind - so strong it loses you TV channels. Best thing is chatting to everyone at the café stops - John, Dutch moved to Aus when 7 and just ridden round Tasmania for 6wks - at 70, 10yrs after he had a heart attack. Tom, likewise heart problems in 70's ex cyclist but so keen to explain the very best roads we should cycle. Peter Gratwick - moved here last year and great to ride a few hours with him. People live relaxed lives a million miles from Brexit & Trump - it's great & it shows. Day 1 followed a day in Adelaide visiting the test ground & a winery for great wine tasting. Great Aussie innovations spotted - drive-thru off-licences & dog washes next to the car wash! A long way to go but a good start.
25th November - Coorong
Adelaide - Brisbane day 2: Tough. 117 miles straight into a 30kph headwind. Meant working hard for 7hrs to average 16.2 mph instead of the 20mph it would have been if going the other way. Luckily the one building in 90miles did food! & We aren't using gravy containers for food, like the only other cyclist...
28th November – Great Ocean Road
Adelaide - Brisbane: Day 5 - Great Ocean Road Pt1. Hi from the most southerly place I might ever be on earth & one that seems to have been colonised by Chinese tourists. Today has literally been more 'Ni Hao' than 'No worries mate'. Great Ocean Road is great with spectacular stop-off at the '12 Apostles'. Although temperature only about 15-18c the blue sky & massive hole in the ozone means it's hard work to stop the tanlines becoming burn lines...This morning we passed a house where they've converted their garage into a top class coffee stop - I have no complaints about today.
29th November - Mornington
Adelaide - Brisbane: Day 6. Feel guilty posting this one - the best of The Great Ocean Road today (incl the very brilliant Wye River General Store), followed by a 30min ferry & the 60mile ride up towards Melbourne. Long 120 mile day so tonight is a pizza/beer/TV night in. 6 days in and 1000km down - tired but eating loads keeps you going...
1st December - Melbourne
Adelaide - Brisbane: day 7. Racing local triathletes (with all our luggage on!) = More time for the very best coffee ('magic' - a slightly more intense flat white - coming to London soon?), old friends, beer & food Melbourne had to offer. Preparation for 600 miles over the mountains to reach Sydney in a week's time.
2nd December – King Valley
Adelaide - Brisbane: Day 8/9. From Melbourne inland and climbing up to the (ski resort) mountains. Temperature rising above 30. Ended up on tough gravel track - so sticking to tarmac from now on. Went through King Valley, couldn't miss out on special winery tastings & meal for 2 sweaty cyclists - who then had to ride another 25miles. The highlights being the scenery, the locals we meet at every coffee stop, hearing 'Jingle Bell Rock' being practised by a primary school class in the 30° heat - 24 sleeps to Xmas & a potato pizza! It's a tough ride in the heat but we're knocking off the 100miles a day in 6hrs actual cycling - so lots of time for people, beer, coffee, cake and now wine.
5th December - Thredbo
Madly just spent a long morning cycling 2,750m uphill in 28°s to have lunch surrounded by snow at the highest restaurant in Australia - remembering, thanking & blaming my Dad in equal measure. He would have been 82 today x
6th December - Canberrra
Adelaide - Brisbane: Day 10-13, through the Snowy Mountains. A tough few days proving Australia isn't flat. Culminating in the 2,750m climb before having lunch at the top of a cable car at Australia's highest restaurant. On the way we left our bags at a cafe and 'smashed' another well known 'Snowy' peak, found ourselves in the middle of a pro bike race and sampling the sponsors beers in Bright - the home of cycling in the alps (stayed at excellent @bright velo), also stayed the night in the emptyest town in Aus, got drowned out by the loudest birds and cycled thru Siberia - a place literally 100m wide, at the top of a remote climb. Now in the capital city - and visited the Government, in Canberra. About 1,300 miles done and about 800 to go. It is amazing and every day is different but it is harder than i thought - I look about 73 (result of squinting behind shades all day, in 30 degrees, with no moisturiser) and if you don't get your nutrition exactly right you feel awful too (had 1 1/2 bad days out of 12 on the bike so far) and yes. My bum is sore. It's an adventure.
8th December – Bondi Beach
110 miles cycling straight into a 25mph headwind climaxed in our amazing 'electric' storm of a welcome to Bondi Beach
10th December - Sydney
Adelaide - Brisbane: Day 14-17 - in and out of Sydney. Made it! Still a massive buzz to reach an iconic city for the first time - & on my bike. Getting there meant cycling 100miles through a national park, with just one building the whole way, luckily it was a pub, with a freezer full of pies and a microwave. That led to an amazing dusk descent for 30miles, surrounded by kangeroos! Following day was a battle thou - 120 miles riding against a 25mph wind into Sydney. Brilliant drinks and brunch with two old friends Joe Port (who I went to school with from 5yrs old!) And Simon Smith-Wright who's one of lifes' good guys!. We left Sydney by boat & now travelling up to the Gold Coast, taking as many boats as we can! - between the inlets.This ride is turning out to be pretty amazing.
12th December - Port Macquarie
Adelaide to Brisbane. Cycling advice needed to get us to Byron Bay - 400km away in 2.5 days - But with an 18mph wind (gale!?) coming in the opposite direction! How do we best move in a forwardly direction?! Tips so far include; fight like a banshee to be the back rider, down protein by the cow load, eat more cake, leave in the middle of the night and 'Man up'. Any others?
14th December - MacLean, New South wales
Adelaide - Brisbane: Days 18-21. Only mad dogs and Englishmen cycle the Pacific Highway in December! 45 degree heat, 25mph winds and logging trucks inches from your right shoulder... Solution - leave at 6am and make sure you're done each day by 1pm at the very latest. On the very upside, the whole coastline is a beach with no one on it, restaurants open after 9pm include Chinese ones in the middle of rain forests, motels have laundry rooms and people still make an effort to decorate Christmas trees with tinsel - even if the result is slightly weird... Brisbane only 200 miles away now...
17th December - Brisbane
Made it!! Cycled 4,000 amazing kms. Adelaide - Melbourne - Sydney - into Brisbane airport! Last few days with amazing people, beaches, large trucks! & long snakes...
18th December - Heathrow
Home bloody baggage handlers, good job my bum doesn't want to see my bike again for a long while...
Stage 2: South America is in December 2017.
Chris Ward has raced, bike-packed, mountain-biked and written about cycling around the world.
He's been fortunate to have cycled to the Great Wall of China, Mount Everest, North Korea and Australia, mountain biked across the Rockies, Alps and South Africa and bike-packed across India, Bangladesh and Taiwan. He has also twice represented GB in the amateur world championships, became the oldest Briton to cycle up Mount Ventoux six times in a day, ridden almost every Grand tour climb and guided groups throughout Europe.
It was when he cycled the length of Greece and reached the Peloponnese, that he experienced his best ever time on a bike; endless glorious roads and the odd island-hop, to ancient cities, amphitheatres and a modern-day, tourist-free, holiday paradise. With his wife Helen he has set up Breakaway Greece, in order to share this cycling paradise and their simple approach to life, with others. www.breakawaygreece.com
When he's not cycling he's hanging out in coffee shops, writing books and trying to engage the world in charitable campaigns.