We love getting feedback from our podcast listeners. A couple of months ago, after we finished cycling across Europe, Michael from Christchurch, NZ, wrote saying that listening to us made cycle touring sound like “sunshine and roses” and that it can’t always be like that. He was keen to hear more about the physical demands of riding our bikes every day and how we cope with maintenance issues.
As I wrote out my thoughts, I decided it might be worth whacking them out on the blog so that everyone can see how we deal with the rigours of cycle touring and provide some reassurance that there are sometimes sucky days.
Thanks so much for your feedback. It’s always a real thrill to hear people are listening to our podcast.
I have been thinking a lot about your questions while on the road. They have become increasingly relevant as we’ve tried to adapt to the completely different climate of Latin America.
To be honest, our two-and-a-half month jaunt through Europe could well be described as all “sunshine and roses.” There were only a few tough days such as a really wet one in the Limousin in France, crossing the Pyrenees into Spain, vicious headwinds on the northern Spanish plateau and a couple of mega hot days on the Douro in Portugal, but overall our bodies held up fine. We pushed the boat out riding six day weeks for the first 6 or 7 weeks but when we started getting ahead of schedule, we gave ourselves a few more days off the bike.
When we arrived in Lisbon, I did nothing for a few days. Literally nothing. I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t inspired to immediately run around checking out such a wonderful city but soon realised the truth was that I was tired and just needed to rest.
We thought the next part of our journey in Central America would continue as Europe left off but it was a completely different kettle of fish. And it’s all down to the heat. We are probably here in the wrong season. It’s 25 degrees when we get up at 5am and by 10am, it’s usually over 35 and getting hotter. At the point, it’s really too hot to ride.
I had planned to cycle alone around the west of Cuba while Shelley did some sightseeing with her parents but I abandoned the idea after only two days and headed to meet back up with the family. It was just too hot. I wasn’t prepared for the suffocating nature of the air I was breathing, especially difficult when I needed to take big gulps of it while climbing hills.
As you may have heard in episode 17, I got pretty severe heat exhaustion riding on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. We were trying to ride 114km in a day which was just too far for us. My heart was beating at 100 miles an hour and I was sweating like crazy. Luckily I didn’t need to spend any time in a Mexican hospital on a drip but it was a wake up call that knocked my confidence a fair bit.
Once I plucked up courage to resume cycling, we decided to wake up earlier and ride in the cool morning air with a view to knocking off around 10am and finding somewhere to stay the night. We are in Belize right now and the plan seems to be going well. We mostly end up doing around 40km a day. It also allows us some time to check out our destination rather than immediately scrambling to find food etc.
As for maintenance, we are real dunces. We did a few courses before leaving London and we actually built up Shelley’s Surly ourselves at a Build Your Own Bike day at the London Bike Kitchen. But there’s been a lot of time between drinks and some of that knowledge has started to drift from our heads. When something goes wrong, confused looks immediately appear on our faces.
Luckily our bikes are so good. If you go to the gear list on our website, you can see we have some top quality stuff and that certainly helps. We had our bikes all spruced up before we left and then checked over by a pro when we got to Portugal.
We had a few things go wrong back in Mexico but there seems to be a lot of bike mechanics around so we have had our problems sorted quickly and cheaply. Surprisingly cheaply! Most mechanics in London charge between £50-70 an hour but I had about five minor issues sorted in Chetumal for less than £2 and they did a fine job.
So yeah, we have definitely found it tougher here in Central America. I kind of wish that we didn’t spend such a long time off the bike as the muscles have struggled to get going again, especially my shoulder which has been giving me jip.
One thing that’s exactly the same in both the continents in which we have travelled is the hospitality. That’s what we really love about slow travel and cycle touring in particular. We can’t wait to experience it when we get back to New Zealand.
Thanks again for your feedback