The bike part 1

When describing the bike in less than 50 words, Robert Penn, in his book, It’s all about the bike notes the following “ a steer-able machine comprising two wheels with pneumatic tyres, mounted in-line on a frame with rotating front forks, propelled by the rider’s feet turning pedals attached by cranks to a chain wheel, and by a loop of chain to sprockets on the rear wheel. It’s very simple”. Really? He does of course then go on to describe each key component as part of his quest to build the perfect bike.

Some people just don’t get why you need multiple wheels…yet I have different bikes for mountain biking (light, smaller wheels), touring (steel frame, bigger wheels), taking on trains (folding, really small wheels) and taking for a shared picnic (two sets of handlebars). Further, given these specialisms I also then have an inexpensive hybrid for locking up round town. Most people would think I’d have it covered. In deed, I had always presumed the real gap in my collection was the absence of a racer.

However, when considering the bike required for this trip I realised I just didn’t have what was needed. The tourer could carry the gear but would not get me through Africa as comfortably as something with suspension. The mountain bike has suspension but could not carry my gear. It was time to look at what was needed. With 20,00km to go I was not doing the ride on a bike with the wrong set up. I will be on this baby for a few hours a day for almost a year.

There are increasingly more touring bikes being made to take road and off-road adventures into account and I started to look at what was available. With adventure cycling going through what seems to a surge in interest more specialist bikes are now available for these types of trips. Given I was based in Edinburgh however means that talking through requirements for this custom build ruled out frame builders based on London. I just didn’t want to do this over the phone.

I have opted then for a Koga Signature. I am able to chat through what I need and make adjustments with a supplier in Edinburgh and despite the usual maintenance and bang it was the bike Beaumont used to break a world record on. I’m still working on my exact requirements. Having just received my first spec layout there are still changes I wish to make – let’s just hope it’s all possible so I can place my order next week. Update to follow……

A bike can change the world

HG Wells once said “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race”.

While this may not be a sentiment shared by all there us no denying, in my opinion, that the speed of a bicycle and the smiles shared between cyclists while out on a trip signify much about the right way to be – making time and sharing the world in a pleasant fashion with our fellow human beings.

To say a bike can change the world is a bold claim and this blog sets out to show how this bike trip is aiming to make a difference.

I didn’t set out to do this ride as a fundraiser. It is about a journey I wish to make. However, as someone who has worked in the not-for-profit sector for most of my working career I have been privileged to come across many individuals and organisations aiming to make a real difference to the lives of others. Many people the world over are now familiar with magazines sold by the homeless to help them get back on their feet – a hand-up not a hand-out. That’s what the Big Issue’s about.

Another initiative set up to help the homeless, by the same social entrepreneur, Mel Young, is the Homeless World Cup. Having identified football as a keen interest among many who find themselves on the street it now uses this activity to help people through recovery, develop team spirit and individual pride. Every year, from local street leagues, a team is selected to represent their country in the Homeless World Cup football tournament It’s a major feat of organisation and dedication – co-ordinating a global event, obtaining visas and of course training on behalf of participants.

I’ve chosen to work with the Homeless World Cup to raise funds for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most importantly I like the honesty and the outputs they achieve. It’s not an organisation with large numbers of staff but it is an organisation that changes lives for hundreds of people. Secondly, it is of course an initiative that runs across the world – much the same as the bike ride. In 2012 72 National Teams will participate as the Homeless World Cup goes to Mexico. Lastly, while being a global activity the organisation is led by a team in Edinburgh, just a mile down the road.

So, that’s it. I hope you will feel able to support their work. It will be great encouragement to me as I constantly get back on the saddle and with a target of raising £5 per kilometre we do of course hope it will make a significant difference to many people. Go on… click on the link, be a part of it and give me no excuses for backing out!!

You can also text the code NAOM50 £5 (or amount you wish to donate-between £1 and £10) to 70070

The route around the globe

As I’ve been talking about this trip the natural question many people want to know is of course the route… what is the plan? Well, while details are still to be planned we – yep, I think I now have a companion -  do now have a rough outline.

The original world cycle challenge followed Mark Beaumont’s route around the globe – an 18,000 mile journey over 9 months. The route would go through 20 countries leaving London and travelling through Europe, Iran, Pakistan, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and back through Europe. It was a route that had been selected for speed, following pretty much the exact route Mark had taken as part of his Guinness world record back in 2008. It was to be an exciting trip and the sections through Iran and Pakistan were of particular interest to me.

However, as that trip was cancelled and the possibility of planning my own route was then an option this also provided the chance to look at the route again. To decide where one would like to cycle if choosing a route that was not based on world record rules and the key driver of speed. Sounds simple eh?

Of course, it started with the wish list and was then whittled down on the basis of round the world flight tickets, climate, cost and common sense. Further, by this point someone was interested in the trip too and so compromise also needed to be added to the equation. However, given as my wish list covered pretty much everywhere then looking at the trip from a travel fatigue and companionship perspective were now more important.

Instead then I looked at ways to plan meeting up with others or take the ease from map reading and language at strategic points. While Iran and adventure gave me a real buzz I also wanted to feel safe given we were now travelling independently i.e. without the security advisors and 24/7 support back in London. I was sure that my parents too would be pleased I was taking this into account!

So, following much discussion and research here it is…. , still subject to detailed planning, VISAs and availability…. my 20,000km route.

The trip will start in the USA, heading down the Pacific Coast Highway, a gentle ease in before heading to Japan for our first delve into travel with an obvious language barrier. The original trip set out to be physically challenging and spurred on by this we also decided to add two more demanding parts to the journey. Given we will also now be lugging all our own kit we plan to join organised trips for additional company support and bag carriage for the two tougher sections!

The first of these comes after Japan as we head to China and will then cycle the Friendship Highway from Lhasa to Kathmandu. Going via Everest base camp and cycling at altitude through the Himalayas will certainly not be for the faint-hearted. The reward will of course be stunning viewpoints and curry on arrival in India. We’re still looking at the India leg but plan to head from there to South East Asia. I’ve cycled through Vietnam before and look forward to seeing more from this part of the world.

We expect the journey so far will be the first 5 months of the trip and in December are looking to head to New Zealand for Christmas and Sydney for New Year. Well, it’s important to plan in some fizz for new year and this will be a well deserved “rest” before we plan to join a tour cycling from Cairo to Capetown. Africa is somewhere I have never traveled to and the thought of going to this part of the world, not part of the original cycle challenge, is quickly becoming a part of the trip I am really excited about. The journey through Africa will itself take 5 months and as that trip comes to an end so too the overall ride will be drawing to a close. Finishing off with a poottle through Europe seems simple to say at this point…. I wonder how simple it may feel come May?

Structuring training around personality and physical capabilities

As I prepare for my ride I’m busy reading of trips others have achieved, planning routes, discussing ideas with the potential companion, looking at fundraising as well as costing the trip, selling a house and planning to be away from home for a while. More on the above to be revealed… well, a girl has to tease!

Among the preparation there is of course also the inevitable training. Given I enjoy my bike and gym sessions this should of course not be too bad though I was pleased to read the following in The Complete Book of Long Distance Cycling this week … “ Perhaps the worst thing any cyclist can do is try and duplicate the training of superior riders. This is a shortcut to disaster, not success. Training must be structured around your personality and physical capabilities.”

On Sunday I had fully intended on joining the monthly Spokes ride, leaving at the usual departure time of 10am outside Usher Hall in Edinburgh. However, those of you that know me well will realise this falls at exactly the same time as The Archers omnibus.

So, in accordance with taking the advice noted above, I have remained true to my personality and physical capabilities. I do really enjoy going out with friends (watching the rugby in the pub on Saturday) and taking in a good bit of radio 4 on a Sunday morning. I was physically incapable of getting out of bed at 830!!

While I’m not quite sure that’s exactly what the book meant I did eventually get out on Sunday afternoon and 43ish miles, a flask of tea and 3 hours later I came home feeling satisfied. It had been a glorious afternoon and despite numb toes I was pleased to feel the positive benefit of the daily spin classes.  I hope, as I get a chance next week while away to put some real miles in, that I can start to capitalise more on the intense spin sessions when putting the miles in for endurance.

As for The Archers I fell asleep, as per normal, just at the end, and woke to hear Denise Lewis providing inspiration on Desert Island Discs. While I’m not sure Whitney Houston is the record that spurs me on for the ride it was great to hear of her focus and drive. For my favourite track to sing on the bike I’ll stick to Bachelor Boy!


Live the dream

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do”. Bob Dylan

I’d always felt lucky in this regard. I had a job I loved…. And given much of what we do between getting up in the morning and going to bed at night is work then I suppose, in accordance with the quote above, I was successful….. but, is it all that simple?

As long as we all follow the conventional norms and accept a 35-50 hour working week then I was doing ok. I had friends who had actively decided not to follow this norm… accepting less income for a more frugal way of life. As a self-confessed Imelda, a holiday lover and someone who wanted to be able to afford what she wanted I had instead found myself on the treadmill. I had a mortgage to feed, direct debits to cover and the usual spending habits in accordance with my income. I was officially part of the rat race.

However, in finishing work at the end of 2011, for the first time in over 15 years, I found myself in a very different situation. I was no longer spending 35-50 hours per week at “the desk”. I had instead a different goal in mind. In 2012 I was setting out to cycle the world. It seems easy to say it now but believe me, this was not an easy place to get to. Sometimes circumstances that felt tough at the time can help us discover what we really, yes, really, want to do.

It seems that one of the biggest challenges in “living the dream” is being honest with yourself and having the guts to step off the treadmill and just do it.

So, what does that mean in terms of waking up and what that actually transpires to in terms of daily activity? Right now, it means training, planning, selling a house, reading about the adventures of others and looking for work in the interim until the adventure begins. It means I have reflected to bring balance into my life again – the great work/life balance we all talk about but do nothing to address…. until now.

It means I have fire in my belly once again and in accordance with the opening quote… it means success!!

Joining a new group ride

With most of my friends into mountain biking and the difficulties of persuading others that they would really enjoy going out for even a short cycle let alone 50 miles or more it’s always a challenge to find people to go out with. However, when you start looking there are many new people to meet who love nothing better than a jaunt on their bike.

On January 8th I bit the bullet and, arriving at the designated meet up spot, joined the first Sunday of the month Spokes cycle ride. It was a chilly day, my bike had just come out of storage and I arrived, rushed, with skewed handled bars to see who else had turned up. For the first 10 minutes of waiting for any late arrivals it looked like this would be a trip with the boys. As it happened in the next few minutes another woman did arrive and we were soon off…. with what were now straight handle bars!

The great thing about organised rides is that you really can spend time enjoying the ride, not worrying about navigation and learning new cycle friendly routes while out with those who’ve cycled the area many times before. Everyone in the group was friendly and over the course of the next few hours I spoke to most folks out for this Sunday ride. Within the first hour the other woman on the trip had even worked out where we had met before. (I had been a presenter on a training course she had attended some 12 months earlier!).

Heading out of town, past Musselburgh and Prestonpans we found time for pub lunch and after a few hours out on the bike I started to head towards home. All in all this had been a great trip, a friendly group, non-competitive and full of interesting rides and information from other travels. For me the only negative had been that the speed was very slow at times and in chilly conditions a faster pace would have made for a slightly more pleasant ride. I will definitely be back for the February trip… especially having been assured that the pace was much slower than normal….


My first post


The world at 15mph

So, aged 36, an ex career girl plans an adventure. With trepidation at stepping out of the rat race this site documents not only a bike ride around the world but a personal journey and reflection on people, priorities and whatever comes to mind.

2012 will be the ride of my life. Having signed up for a supported world cycle trip – now cancelled – a mission has begun. Routes, flights and even a companion all need to be sought…… bring on the adventure!

So,  it’s time to start planning and see what happens next…… tips, comments and encouragement would be much appreciated.



  1. Hi Naomi, really good chatting to you tonight at the triodos launch; looking at my desk and list of “To Do’s” really envious of your plans – kind of wished I’d taken some time out before setting up this venture – in too deep now! . Sounds like a great adventure – go for it I wish you well.


  2. Hi Naomi – Sally sent me the link to your blog as she thought I would like to read about your trip… Sounds like a brilliant adventure, and if I wasnt off sailing round the world then would love to sign up to travel with you… Hope you have a great time and I will look forward to reading about your adventures! Lucy

    • A few friends have remarked that I should get a pedlo for the water sections…. I think i’ll stick to G and T style sailing however… when does your trip start? Pretty cool too eh?

  3. This is awsome Nao, let me know the detailed itinerary and I’ll see if I can join you for a few days.

    Preferably in a warm country with a strong reputation for good red wine!

    • cool… look up tour d’afrique…. you can sign up for stages of that trip…. maybe the end in south africa would meet the red wine requirements!! pacific coast highway if you prefer californian… my experience of wine in india is very very bad indeed!

  4. Dear God Daughter -What on earth/heaven possessed you to do this then??? Knowing you, you will have a great time – take plenty of vaseline and padding for the sensitive areas!!

    Stay safe – dond’t forget to phone home.

  5. Naomi, am so envious, you will have the most amazing adventure and you have the true black country spirit /grit going for you. Take care and be safe on your travels. God speed. hehehehehhe

  6. Hi Naomi,

    Best of luck with your venture – have you ever read Josie Dew’s books ‘The Wind in My Wheels’ and ‘Travels in a Strange State’ (eight months travelling around the US by bike). Might be worth a read anyway? Have fun – I look forward to keeping up with your writings.

    • hey sigi – cheers… i don’t have travels in s atrange state but do have wind in my wheels…. just finished reading alastair humphreys first book…. also a great read – makes a girl even more excited about her trip!

  7. Some obstacles just make winners more determined than ever to succeed! I look forward to following your adventure Red… wish you the time of your life!

  8. Wow Naomi, you are going to have the most amazing experience, perhaps you could go round twice, you may never want to come back. Keep me posted, I’m supporting you all the way. X