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Charlie Inspiration Other People's Adventures

How Charlie The Scrapyard Touring Bike Made It Halfway Round The World (And How You Can Take Him Further)

This is a guest post by Charlie Rowen, the fifth in a series of owner-riders of Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike, who I rescued from my local tip and refurbished back in 2013. The following year, at the end of his maiden voyage, I nonchalantly launched him into the world with a new owner, Tegan, on a brand new adventure.

Little did I know that I was putting into a motion a train of events that would eventually see him arriving in Hong Kong in time for Christmas 2016 – and in need of a new rider to take him further round the globe!

Could this rider be you? Do you have an inkling for a South-East Asian bike trip in the near future, but don’t have a bike to do it on? Read on to find out how you could write the next chapter of this fantastic little story…

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In May this year, my sister Louise and I set off from our home in Hartford, UK, to cycle to our childhood home in Hong Kong. After 8 months on the road, crossing countries and continents, we are now just a few short weeks away from the end of our trip. Hong Kong is tantalisingly close.

It is hard to believe that just over a year ago I was sat having a cup of tea with Kelly, the previous owner of Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike, chatting about her adventures and our plans. I remember thinking, “oh my gosh, this is actually happening!”. It all of a sudden became very real. I had a bike and kit, and more and more people knew about our plan. I handed in my resignation and a few short months later we set off from home, heading East.

Cycling away from home was very emotional, especially because of how long it took to get out of sight of the house. The day we left was the first time we had cycled with our bikes fully loaded. Only then did we realise that we had massively over-packed. A quick about turn to take out the second towel, hair conditioner, and a few T‑shirts, and we were off again.

We had a fantastic few months cycling through Europe. One day in Austria we met four American girls. They were cycling the length of the Danube and we shared a lovely breakfast with them sheltering from the rain. Upon seeing my bike, they gasped and exclaimed, “you have Charlie the bike!” Turns out he has some fans from across the Pond!

Lou and I have found that travelling by bike is a fantastic way to see the world, discover interesting cultures and explore unknown parts of the map. However, as with all of the best adventures, things worked out quite differently to our original plan. Every twist, turn and visa rejection brought new experiences and actually led to some of our favourite moments of the whole trip, including meeting the wonderful Nina, a German cycle tourer who we spent 3 weeks with cycling through Europe; staying with an old Greek couple who had us helping pick vegetables in their garden; and trying camels’ milk (it’s fizzy!) with a local family in Kazakhstan.

Before we set off, we were asked if we were worried about travelling through certain countries, if it was dangerous, and if it was safe for two women alone. We understood that people might be concerned but we were confident that we were prepared and had enough common sense to not put ourselves in any unnecessary danger. What we learnt along the way is that the countries that people at home were most worried about were some of the most fun, friendly and welcoming. We found that travelling (and especially cycling) as two women opened a lot of doors. People want to help you, sometimes whether you want it or not! When we needed water in the desert or a place to sleep in the middle of the mountains, we found people to be lovely, helpful and genuinely interested in what we were doing, making for a really heart-warming experience.

It has been a fantastic trip and we have met many amazing people, including lots of fellow bike tourers, confirming that cyclists are the best kind of people! It was a scary decision to leave our jobs and set out on this adventure but it has been the most exciting, challenging and eye opening 8 months. We both plan to continue cycle touring and exploring the world on two wheels.

Now that our trip is almost over, Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike is in need of a new adventure. I hope I won’t be jinxing our last few weeks by saying that Charlie has been an excellent two wheeled companion… as long as you overlook his tendency to break kickstands!

If you want to be Charlie’s new owner and have an adventure in mind, no matter how big or small, drop me an email telling me about yourself and your plan, and I shall pick someone to be his new owner. You will need to pick Charlie up from Cheshire in January/February, or if you live in Bath I may be able to bring him to you, depending on timing.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our trip! You can find out more about us at awheelylongjourney.weebly.com. I look forward to seeing where Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike will go next!

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Since Charlie (the human!) wrote this article, I’ve discussed with her an even more exciting idea than bringing Charlie the Bike back home: might we find a new rider to continue Charlie the Bike’s round-the-world adventure from Hong Kong itself?

If this might be you, or if you are based in Hong Kong and would be willing to look after Charlie until we find him a new owner, please get in touch with his current owner by email before December 25th to make arrangements. Let’s keep this little bike’s trip rolling!

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Janapar Grant Other People's Adventures

Safe roads & tailwinds to Janapar Grant winner Jess Hargreaves!

A little over a year ago, I was having a chat with a small group of friends who all made a living – one way or another – from adventure.

We’d been having these irregular meetings for a couple of years. Ideally they took place down the pub, but often – the lifestyle of the nomadic self-unemployed adventurer being what it is – they’d be conducted via Skype or somesuch technology, all dialling in from a constantly changing series of locations worldwide.

The reason for these group chats was to soundboard new ideas, figure out if they had the potential to become anything more than fleeting whimsies, and then to hold each other accountable for following through with them.

On this occasion I put two such ideas to the group for mirth and demolition.

The first was to try and create a long-distance hiking & mountain-biking route the length of the Caucasus Mountains.

The second was to create an annual grant that would allow a young person from the UK to go on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure by bicycle.

Much to my dismay, it was the opinion of all present that I could – and should – try to do both of these things.

So I tried.

And now, a year later, it would appear that I’ve succeeded – if you’ll excuse the pun – in putting all of those wheels in motion.

The Transcaucasian Trail, as it has become known, is fast becoming a reality. The core team now extends to 13 people from 8 nations, not to mention the dozens of part-time volunteers who’ve contributed their time and energy so far. Since April I’ve been leading a full-time expedition – supported by the Royal Geographical Society with the Land Rover Bursary – to explore and map possible routes for the trail in Georgia and Armenia; this enormous undertaking is the reason the blog has been quiet this year.

But more the more immediate news is that Jess Hargreaves – the recipient of the ‘Janapar Grant’ I set up and launched earlier this year – sets off today on what I have little doubt will be a once-in-a-lifetime bicycle journey.

I wrote on the grant website that my aim was to support the practice of open-minded exploration for its own sake, for it is this approach that I’ve always felt offers the greatest potential for personal growth through the experience of life on the road.

And when Jess’s first written dispatch landed in my inbox for publication a few days ago, I knew that we’d made a good choice. You can read her pre-departure thoughts right here.

Beyond the one successful recipient – who benefitted from equipment donated by Oxford Bike Works, Carradice, Polaris, and Porterlight Bikes – we made the last-minute decision to extend the mentorship component of the grant to all of the shortlisted individuals. The result is that several other applicants have already hit the road under their own initiative – which, if I’m honest, was my underlying hope all along. And I’d like to thank the mentors – Al, Emily, Tim and Leon – for volunteering their time to help these young people get out exploring.

Jess has a long and bumpy road ahead of her, of which today’s ride is only the beginning. And I look forward to hearing – just occasionally, for the journey is the reward, right? – all about how her adventure pans out.

Her future despatches will be published through the Janapar Grant website, as well as through the TomsBikeTrip.com Facebook page.

But today, let’s just all wish Jess Hargreaves – 2016’s Janapar Grant recipient – all the very best for her journey, wherever the winds of travel may take her. Safe roads & tailwinds!

Categories
Charlie Guest Posts Other People's Adventures

The Continuing Adventures Of Charlie The Scrapyard Touring Bike, By Kelly Diggle (Rider #4)

Today’s guest post is from Kelly Diggle, who has just come into ownership of Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike. Read about how Charlie was born, as well as the stories of his first and second big journeys. Take it away, Kelly…

I’d be lying if I said cycle touring has always been a dream of mine.

In fact, I blame my wanderlust and itchy-feet-syndrome on the books, blogs and adventurers that tell me over and over again that pedalling off into the distance is an absolute must!

This year I decided to listen. Having had my heart stolen during a 10 day trip to Iceland last year, I promised myself I’d return to find out what the island really had to offer – and what better way than exploring by bicycle for one whole month!

Following Tegan’s adventures with Charlie was what really set my motivation into full swing. Here was a girl, very similar to me, who had no experience but the sheer drive and passion to get on that bike and cycle across Spain (alone) to see her sister. Suddenly one of my biggest fears of travelling alone as a young female seemed irrational – if Tegan could do it, why couldn’t I?

After exchanging a few emails and by successfully portraying in earnest my desire – heck – my need to be the next person to take Charlie for a spin (mainly to remove all possible chance of changing my mind), Tegan happily gave me the address to go and collect the bike from Spain.

Too many people questioned my logic in going all that way for a bike and gear that cost no more than £25. As I answered for the 100th time: “because it’s an excuse to visit somewhere I have never been before!”

I started to believe that was the main thing I would get out of it. I was so very wrong. That 2 day trip taught me that strangers are incredibly helpful (they let you use their phone and give you lifts when you are lost), that travelling alone isn’t scary as long as you’re approachable, and that cycle touring is one of the most exciting, liberating means of travel that there is.

The ride between Alicante and Murcia airport was a straightforward route that hugged the coast. Albeit a small taster of what cycle touring is about, it gave me reassurance that I could do it and enjoy it and that Iceland is possible – all I have to do is get on the bike and ride.

This trip is about more than personal ambition. I want to promote solo female travel and support the belief that big adventure needn’t cost big money. With this in mind, I aim to spend no more than £1000 on the entire trip, including return flights. My choice in wild camping and stove-cooking is not only to keep the cost down but to encourage others to do the same. I hope my social media updates will highlight the positives to simple living, even for a short time on the road.

I have also pledged to fundraise for Tree Aid through this adventure, supporting their aim of planting 1 million seedlings. Through their work, people will be able to unlock the potential of trees to pull them out of poverty and help protect the environment — a cause I deem significant in this current time.

With less than 6 weeks to go, the fears are trying to trump my dream. Will I be safe camping alone with no trees for camouflage? What if I run out of water? Will I have a miserable time if it rains constantly? And will I make it round Iceland in time to catch my flight home?

I imagine most of these worries are normal and I will not let them stop me. In reality, what’s the worst that could happen?

Thanks, Kelly! Follow her journey on her blog and via @blue_eyed_view on Twitter, and if you’d like to support her cause, visit her Justgiving page to get involved.

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#freeLEJOG 2014 Other People's Adventures

#freeLEJOG: What Happened To Tegan Phillips & Charlie The No-Budget Touring Bike?

Last summer I offered to give away a full touring bike and equipment. The winner was Tegan Phillips, a South African student looking for a way to spend a month or so before starting a semester as an overseas student in the UK.

Tegan won the giveaway by making this awesome video:

Then she turned up at my flat in Bristol and wobbled off to catch a ferry to Spain. Her blog about this trip, Unclipped Adventure, was – quite literally – the best blog I’d ever read about cycle touring.

Now? She’s cycling through Africa with her whole family. Her amazing blog continues here, but in the meantime, I asked her to put together another video telling the story of what happened and what she learned on her first big bike trip:

Amazing. Thank you for telling your inspiring story, Tegan, and safe roads!

P.S. The journeys of Charlie The Bike continue! Last I heard, he was heading to Portugal, and there’s a growing queue of riders waiting to continue the journey in the same spirit. More when news becomes available…

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Other People's Adventures Photography Product Launches

Free Photo eBook: Bicycling Around The World by Paul Jeurissen

There are lots of bicycle travellers out there.

There are also lots of excellent photographers.

When they happen to be the same person, and the results are shared with the world, we’re all in for a real treat.

Photographer Paul Jeurissen and his partner Grace Johnson have been pedalling the world for years, and have amassed a huge collection of images. And they’ve just made the very best of them available in a PDF eBook.

I’m not going to harp on about its contents, other than to say that the images and stories are stunning and inspiring, and that all of us (especially those who’ve grown old and jaded through time and miles) should put aside some time to sit down, undisturbed, and leaf carefully through it.

Click here to download the free eBook →

It’s entirely free. Free as in liberty. There’s no annoying newsletter signup to wade through or anything like that. This is purely for the love of bicycle travel.

Huge thanks to Grace and Paul for sharing this with us all! Check out their other free publications at BicycleTraveler.nl.