29,000km, 29 countries, 2 years, 2 wheels. And a goal to raise RM80,000 to help underprivileged children via World Vision Malaysia (WVM). To help me fulfill my goals for my solo world cycling tour ‘With Love I Ride’, a number of preparations were made.
MAKING PREPARATIONS, BIT BY BIT
I started planning for this two-year tour in 2010. I was inspired by Rob Liwall, a British touring cyclist who cycled solo around the world for 3 years to raise funds for underprivileged children.
A large part of the trip’s preparation involved money. This included purchasing the right equipment and gears. I also had to do an in-depth research on how to do a self-funded tour and draw up a plan that would work for me.
As an amateur cyclist, I knew that I needed to learn from the best. I spent many hours poring over cycling journals. I also joined a cyclist community known as “Warmshowers” where I hosted other cyclists on their world tours in exchange for them sharing with me their knowledge, experience and insights on cycling around the world. This proved to be very valuable. We not only became good friends, but they also offered to host me when I am in their countries.
In 2015, I did a trial run from Malaysia to Thailand. The round trip took two months. It provided me the chance to review my equipment and gears. It also helped me determine my strengths and limitations.
THE CHOSEN PATH – OR NOT?
To plan my route, I started off with a “Must Do/ Must Go” list where I shortlisted the countries I wanted to visit and the events I wanted to experience. I started gathering information about each country (for example, dates of key events, festivals and seasons). I divided my two-year route into four stages to ease the planning process and discussed with other touring cyclists who had been on the routes that I intend to travel.
The most tedious and sometimes most expensive requirement is obtaining the visa for each country. Terms and conditions change every year so I have to update my information as I approach each country. The visa information helped me to plan my entry and exit dates for each country.
Is planning a two-year itinerary realistic? While I may not follow the itinerary to the dot, it helped me to stay on course as per my “Must Do/Must Go” list. It also helped me determine the amount of time I can spend in each country, and the distance I have to cover daily. However, I also need to be mindful of my strengths and limitations, the condition of my bicycle and be open to changes.
For my route to Europe, I originally planned to cross central Asia via Tajikistan, Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan, Iran, and Turkey. Then, I realised that Turkmenistan issues only a 5-day transit visa and there was no guarantee that I would get it. I would also have to cycle 500km from Uzbekistan to the border of Iran. Additionally, visa applications for Turkmenistan had to be done in Tajikistan, which would take me 10 days. I had wanted to be in the Balkans by Fall. With all these considerations in mind, I decided to change my route.
I crossed over to Uzbekistan from Tajikistan on a free visa, then took a train to Kazakhstan, sailed across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan, cycled to Georgia, and then took another ferry to Bulgaria.
PURPOSE-DRIVEN CYCLING TOUR
It’s very important to have an understanding of the country you intend to visit and how long you would like to spend in each country. This will help you stick to your goals and schedule.
It is alright to change your intended route along the way but you must be sure of your point of entry and exit for each country. Being flexible is required along the way, especially in unforeseen circumstances.
All in all, to do a tour, I strongly believe that one must have a passion for cycling, have a sense of exploration, and simply enjoy the excitement of experiencing new cultures, food, and places.
One also needs to have a lot of willpower and patience. For me, I know that I am not just cycling for my own pleasure, but it is also to raise funds for vulnerable children who lack access to education.
59 million primary school-age children do not go to schools and of these, 53% are girls. These children are at a greater risk for exploitation. Give children a chance to receive an education by contributing to my fundraising initiative at https://www.simplygiving.com/withloveiride.
Your gift of love will give me the strength to continue on my ‘With Love I Ride’ solo world cycling tour!
THIS IS MY TOUR
I often remind myself that this is my tour. I must do what is best for me and not what others want me to do. However, it is good to listen to the suggestions of others before coming to a decision. For me, I need to always be mindful of my goals, abilities, priorities, and limitations (whether it is financially, physically or logistically).
About the Author
Peter Yoong, a cycling enthusiast currently on a two-year solo cycling tour around the world. As part of his trip, he will be raising funds to give vulnerable children access to education through World Vision Malaysia’s Education Fund.
Find out more at https://www.simplygiving.com/withloveiride.
Join my ‘With Love I Ride’ Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1810195412626719/