Tips / Advice / Well Wishes

About this trip.  We are hoping we haven’t bitten off more than we can chew.  We are optimistic that we don’t get lost (too many times), our bike never gets stolen, we remain happily married etc.

This page is a place for all of you to help us out.  If you have any advice on places to see, things to do or how to safely navigate across the globe please leave those suggestions here  (places we will visit can be seen on our Route page).  We will be ever grateful.  Feel free to leave multiple comments.  If you leave your address we will send you some postcards.  If you have no advice, and would actually advise us to come home, well then just a “best of luck” would also do.

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38 thoughts on “Tips / Advice / Well Wishes”

  1. Cheers from a guy in Philly who just happened upon your site- and just bought a tandem last year to do the same type of trip in 2016! Looking forward to reading about your adventures!

  2. What type of tires are you using. I have a Catrike Trail recumbent and need tires. I enjoy doing long rides and since you guys are traveling you must use the best of tires. What are your favorites. Thanks and continue to have a exceptional tour. You blogs are great reading. May God protect you on your trip.

  3. Hey there, fellow tandeming couple!

    So glad and coincident that we found you, in the middle of Sarajevo! We like your website, and recognize so many things of ourselves in you 🙂
    Here’s our, recently created, website. So from now on, we officially made digital contact 😉

    tandemnomads.wordpress.com

  4. Clayton and Katy: I am attempting to have dinner with you two (vicariously) in Vienna but I don’t know where my banking info gets entered to complete the transaction. Please advise or go hungry.

    1. Wow, our first vicarious liver. We are so excited. The direct bank transfer option became a little complicated, but using PayPal or Google Wallet would be an option (and also the easiest way for us). More info can be found at the bottom of the “Vicarious Living” page (I just updated it). Thanks so much.
      Clayton and katy

  5. The cat is on the table.

    I’ve emailed my friend about the Slovenia portion of your trip. He has lived there a bunch and did a solo bike tour from Berlin to Istanbul a couple years back. I’ll let you know what he says.

    We’ve been thinking about you guys a lot. It sounds like such an amazing adventure. Do you ever find yourselves just looking down at the road? When I run I often forget to look up and take in the views (I hope this comment doesn’t lead to a crash…).

    1. I often just stare at the ground. I think Katy does most of the sight seeing. But it is a good compromise.

    1. Hello and g’day

      So, where are you today…it has been a year since you pass by. Drop me a line and let me know how is life going. See you around,

      ale rizzo

  6. A common friend, Bill Connett, told me about your great ride as he knows I’m a keen cyclist. A lots-of-quick-dashes-round-the local-countryside kind of cyclist + nearly 30 years of daily commuting in London before I retired. The nearest I ever got to cyclo-touring was fantasising about how over the years the commuting miles stacked up round the world – “mmm, must be somewhere in the Gobi Desert….somewhere just off the coast of Japan (my bike rolls on water)”. It’s great to read about people – you and those you’ve met – who do it for real. I admire your spirit and sense of the pleasure in meeting new people. Very best wishes.

  7. Hi Clayton and Katy,
    A friend of a friend told me about your adventure and I am excited you are sharing your experience. My husband and I have talked about a long distance bike tour vacation so this blog is very inspiring. I am assuming a lot of your readers are reading this because they also have similar ambitions. We have never done a touring vacation so I was wondering if you would be interested in sharing more details on the planning for someone who would be interested in trying this out in the future. I have so many questions what items did you bring? How far out did you book warm shower places? Details about the bike and biking gear choices. How are you working the out the phone and internet to connect to the blog while traveling in different countries? You mentioned a radio Katy had on the bike what was it? Something small and light weight I assume. What did you wish you had with you or what do you regret bringing? I enjoy the journal blogging, but if you have the time to incorporate some details on trip preparation I would love it! Safe wishes and best of luck!

    1. Nicole,

      Wow, you just might be our first reader that isn’t family or close friend. I think most of our readers are just checking in on us because they hope we are still alive and don’t hate each other yet – but if someone finds my ramblings inspiring that is also a plus. I can answer any specific questions you have but I will try and give a real brief overview here (although I doubt it will end up being brief).

      Where and When to Go:
      If you’ve begun thinking about bike touring you probably have an idea of where you want to go. Websites I have found helpful include http://www.adventurecycling.org, http://www.crazyguyonabike.com and http://www.eurovelo.com. I literally spent a hundred hours or so combing these websites looking for routes and other question I had. A huge factor I would look into is weather (a nice sunshine and warm temps are key). I did a month long bike tour through Canada two years ago (www.pedalperupedal.blogspot.com) and it rained on me for about two weeks straight – so I knew that in planning this next ride I wanted to be in the sunshine. I also spent a bit of time on http://www.lonelyplanet.com because every country has a “when to go” section that gives a short blurb about the weather.
      I’ve tried to match the countries we wanted to visit with the best time of the year to visit. Once I figured that out I just needed to find out how to draw a line through all these countries that we could cycle through at a pace of about 45 miles per day (maybe too ambitious). This has turned into Europe during summer, eastern Europe and the mediterranean in the Fall and India and SE Asia in the winter. Hopefully we will miss any snow and monsoons.

      A Bicycle: Katy and I opted to ride a tandem – this no doubt has its pros and cons. Pros: we always get to our destination at the same time. Cons: we may not be “on speaking terms” when we arrive. We had owned a tandem for a year prior to our departure so we had some idea what we were in for. After a rough week or so figuring out who is responsible for what, we love our tandem. A list of other good touring bikes can be seen here. The best basic standard touring bike you will see people in the USA riding is the Surly Long Haul Trucker. It’s a great bike. REI also makes the Randonee.
      A question to consider: do you want 26″ wheels or 700cc wheels. 700cc wheels are standard wheel on road bikes and most touring bikes. I prefer them. They are ideal for all of the developed world. If you venture into the further corners of the Earth (S. America, India, parts of Asia) you may want to consider 26″ wheels as it is supposed to be easier to find repairs and spare parts for these wheels in less developed areas (this is just what I have read). We opted for 700cc wheels even though we are going off to India and SE Asia and are crossing our fingers we don’t get in a bind.

      What Else to Bring:
      Panniers or Trailer. We opted for panniers. The gold standard of touring panniers are Ortlieb – waterproof and durable. You’ll need a rack to attach them to your bike: I would suggest Tubus. These are high quality but expensive – however you get what you pay for.
      Other things: repair equipment is a must(spare tubes, spokes and a tire and a bunch of tools and the know how to use them all – unless you will always be a day away from a bike shop). Clothes – I end up wearing the same thing every day so you can probably pack less than you think. I have two pair of spandex, two cycling jerseys, an athletic light weight shirt, two t-shirts, two pairs of shorts, a pair of pants a rain jacket and some socks. Electronics: since Katy and I wanted to still be “connected” we have a MacBook Air, two smartphones (although at the moment neither have a data plan – they are just for taking pictures and Instagram when we find WiFi – which is everywhere). Katy also has a Kindle which I think she has used once or twice. I think different phone plans have different ways of “unlocking” data plans so a local SIM card can be used. Katy got a SIM card in the UK but we still have yet to get a new one for continental Europe. Electricity: along with good old outlets we have a Goal Zero solar panel which can charge our phones as well as a speaker system (the one we previously mentioned) we can plug an iPhone into to play music.

      Where to Stay:
      This is also a big factor. There are three options: Camping, Warmshowers/Couchsurfing or Hotels/Hostels. If you decide you will be camping that adds significant luggage to your bike. Katy and I have a waterproof duffel bag on the rear rack that carries our tent, two sleeping bags and pads. Camping is great cause I love nature, it is cheap (and often free – if you are in favor of wild/stealth camping – most cyclists are) and I love sleeping bags. Hotels (I never stay in them) and hostels (I really like them) are also great – especially if it rains. The only reason I absolutely refuse to camp is rain. Setting a tent up and taking it down can also be taxing. Hostels always have WiFi and you can meet lots of other folks. The ABSOLUTE best is Warmshowers. I used WS a lot in Canada and was instantly hooked. It is the BEST part of our trip. It is how we meet great people, learn local culture and save lots of $$. For example: last night we had a delicious dinner and breakfast with a great family in Morlaix, France. Alternatively staying at a hostel would have been €15 x 2, a comparable dinner would be €10 x 2 and breakfast €5 x 2 or about €60 (not possible on our budget). However, while WS does save us a lot of money it is not why we do it. We do it because the best part of our trip is meeting great people who are willing to share what they love about their country/city/village.

      WS logistics: make a profile and use their website or app. Katy and I typically try to always plan about 5 days ahead. Once we know our route we find WS hosts along it at about 50 mile increments and send out emails. For a single night I have found that sending about three emails per night usually works best. One person won’t respond, one will say “I’m very sorry but that night won’t work” and another will say “yes, we would love to have you. Do you need directions? What time will you arrive? Will you have dinner with us?” Only very rarely do I get multiple people who say yes and I end up having to decline people who accept our offer (which I understand is not ideal but if I just email one person at a time and wait for a response and it is a No then I end up emailing another person the day before I will arrive which people also do not like. On people’s profiles on the site they list the amount of advance notice they like and it is usually between two days and a week).

      Money:
      Of course when you tell someone you are riding a bike around the world for a year people will say “how will you pay for that”? My easy answer was always, I’m not paying for it – Katy is. But that is because she was working and I was in school. In reality, I spent a lot of time trying to gauge expenses (because it is her money and I want to spend it carefully). Katy and I have a rough budget of $30,000. Yes that’s a lot of money, but for this length of time not really. The most expensive part of visiting Europe is getting there, getting around and accommodation. So I figure once you are there you might as well stay a long time. And getting around is now free (although tiring at times) and accommodation can be very cheap (as mentioned above). To come to my guess of $30,000 I spent a lot of time on Lonely Planet – where they list average expenses of cheap travel. So far we have stayed below their lowest budget (mostly because we have no travel expenses and fewer accommodation expenses). We have a goal of spending $50/person/day in Europe and $25/person/day in India and SE Asia. This does not include airfare.

      Practice Makes Perfect
      Before Katy and I set off for London we did a three day tour in Northern Michigan. It was great to go out and test all our gear, see what we wanted and what we didn’t want and see what it is like to be on a bike 6 or so hours a day. In general, I would say this trip made me realize that less is more. Bring things that have multiple purposes. And pack less than you think. It’s nice to start off with some empty space in your panniers that will hold food (we buy about a day’s worth of food every day) and other things you pick up along the way. It’s always easier to start with too little and buy things you decide you absolutely need then to find yourself carrying something for months that you never use.

      Well, I told you it would be long winded, but hopefully some of this helped. If you have any other questions, I would love to answer them. Also, out of curiosity who is your friend of a friend?

      Clayton

      1. Clayton,

        Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed response, yes it was long winded but greatly appreciated!! You answered all of my questions and thanks for the great resources. I did not realize that you did a month long bike trip in Canada learning how to plan a tour before taking on this challenge. I was thinking the only trip you had done was the 3 days in Northern Michigan. : ) If I think of some more questions I will send them your way! My husband Gabe worked at Google with Katy.

        1. Yes, my pleasure. I did do a month long tour in Canada, but I would say that all I needed to learn about bike touring from that trip I learned in the first week or so. Figuring out a routine and how to deal with accomodation, food, interent, and cycling happen very quickly. And hopefully you will be out on a bike tour in the (not so distant) future.

  8. Great to have met you last week and to have had you to stay last night. Thinking of you as you journey up and down the hills to Taunton and looking forward to following your trip on here.

    1. Emma,

      Thank you so much for everything. Our stay was just lovely, and you really provided a nice rest and a great tour of Bath that we both needed. Best of luck to you and Simon with all you do.

      Clayton and Katy

  9. The experience I have on a tandem bike is limited to about 35 miles/year with a few training rides (thanks to the fun Barker family tandem LOTOJA relay…). That being said, I’m full of great advice.

    1. I felt that Garrett rode much too fast for my liking and Ben was much too optimistic (yes, both of these moments were during the LOTOJA race). I decided I wouldn’t be overly happy behind either man’s behind, so I chose to enjoy the scenery and be grateful for the opportunity to ride a bike.
    2. Katy deserves a massage at least once every three weeks.
    3. If you have the energy, before you go to bed each night, share your “highlight” of the day. Ben and I do that often and it’s always nice to go to sleep with a good thought. If there are no highlights, list as many “lowlights” as possible and discuss whether you should continue riding your bike through foreign territories.
    4. YOLO
    5. I would consider burning all your biking clothes halfway through the trip and buying new ones. Or keep them, and take a sample from your chamois back to medical school to see if you discovered a new strain of bacteria. Maybe it could cure cancer or something.
    6. Does the bike have a name? It should. It’s pretty much your child right now.

    1. Amalia Jane, you are the new commenter numero uno. These are some great ideas. And we have long been working on a bike name, but nothing has really stuck. Does the Barker Bicycle have a name? And do I have to give that massage to Katy, or is that something that should be done professionally?

      1. It’s name is Santana, which is not very creative because it’s posted in large bold letters on the frame. I still like it though. As far as the massage goes, either one would do, but a professional one would probably be worth the money… Loving the posts and feeling green with envy every day. Gosh.

  10. Hi Clayton and Katy,

    Congrats on your adventure, it sounds completely epic! Your plans reminded me of my friend Megan Ramey’s new business/website, Bikabout (www.bikabout.com), which is all about bicycle travel and tourism. She’s looking for ambassadors to help curate info on cities around the world and offering $100 per published entry – check out http://www.bikabout.com/ambassadors/. It might make sense for you all to connect if you’re already biking and blogging.

    Cheers on your big trip!

    Jen

  11. If Europe ain’t so bad, maybe try for the tandem’s longest bicycle ride. The current holders went “around the world” and it took them 3 years. All ya gotta do is 3 years and 1 day, right?

  12. You need courage to leave everything, and go on an adventure like this! Hats off. 🙂 Safe & happy journey, I’m sure you’ll have amazing memories!

  13. Beware of heights – lack of oxygen. But don’t use “anti height-disease” medicines, they are usually diuretics and can make you dehydrate!!

  14. Bring small packets of peanut butter and chocolate covered almonds. You can never have enough food. Don’t forget to bring your ostrich pillow!

    1. Nicole – looks delicious can’t wait. Caloric and inexpensive are always at the top of my “is this place worthy?” list.

  15. I notice that Birmingham is just 37 miles from LIverpool, home of the Beatles and point of departure for many Mormon converts. If it were me I would definitely visit the Beatles’ home town!

    1. Good idea. We will have to check it out (although 37 miles by car and 37 x 2 = 74 miles by bike is a solid day of travel). This route change could allow us to come down through Wales, which I hear is nice. It also seems they have a great tourist destination: http://www.beatlesstory.com/

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