Setting off on a bicycle: A letter of thanks to Tom Allen

Paul Ferguson with his first bike, cheers for the mullet mum ;)

Written mid Atlantic on route to Rio to see minha namorada and give Brazil a pedal.

I’ve always enjoyed riding bikes in many different forms, some of my earliest memories are of exploring and crashing on them so it only seemed fitting that as a serious itch to see the world started to take hold my trusty steed would be there with me.

As the BMX started to gather dust I started to roam further and further on my heap of a pub bike, panniers were soon added for the first overnighter and the creek of single speed gears soon spread to my knees. As the trips extended; the next town, the next county, half a country a whole country it was soon time to get a proper work horse for the road. Things were getting serious, the next step would go beyond what any work leave I could hope for, this would require a big change, this was quitting territory.

Setting of on a bike into the unknown longterm is daunting. Really really daunting. I plague myself with what if’s, nightmares of no food, technical failures, will a 600 whatever sleeping bag be enough or will I freeze to death, alone, in padded shorts, bones picked clean by savage Albanian hounds. Oh god, I might make a cup of tea and watch a Black Books DVD instead. swooped in from the Googles and slowly the anxieties cleared, it was possible to survive this and actually I didn’t need the latest trends cooked up by the outdoor and cycling industry to make it out the front door. The honest stores were inspiring and the practical guide very useful. He’s even got in-depth ebooks, one on Kit and the other on Bikes. Wild camping with a dash of common sense is in fact a piece of cake and the many faces you see along the way will be beaming joy and encouragement. It will be ok!

I made the pledge on his site and finally left Brighton UK in May 2015, riding for the Great Silk Road. I had most of my preparation focused on the Caucuses and China, Europe consisted of two lines in my plan, friends in Paris and Florence, that was it, along with a few Euro Velo maps. I gave myself about a month and a half to get to Istanbul, any longer and the Pamir Highway was going to get hellish cold.

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans

Dave Rowse (via Woody Allan I think)

The best thing about travels by bike is how naked you are to the world, in the finest way, each day is different with new faces and warming stories, you soon embrace the unknown. I got to Slovenia and swore I would stay no more than ten days volunteering at a hostel, a month later and I had to tear myself away from a new home and family of friends dashing down the Balkans to share my trip with a special new someone I’d met in Slovenia. Eventually her European visa ran out and she had to return home, it all felt strangely empty without her, the journey pointless. I had trained for repairing spokes and researched flaky visas but I never thought I would find love and it blind sided me.

Anne and I, beach side Hvar Coratia

So here we go. It took nearly four months to get to south Turkey where I switched to a boat to take me west across the Atlantic instead of cycling east. The boat got me as far as the Canaries but it was.. socially complicated, so now I’m on one of those boring planes but excited more than ever.

I can’t shift the giddy feeling that I’m supposed to be doing something a little more normal somewhere else, I’ve surprised myself, all for a bike and love, and thanks to that pesky Tom Allen.

So thank you Tom, you are forever a saint.