Blog #0001 “You are crazy!” – Some thoughts about motivation and sanity

“You are crazy!” A very common response I encounter when talking about my plan. Some people wonder if there are compelling and sensible reasons to cycle around the world. In my opinion, yes, there are actually many.

Perhaps some of the most frequently asked questions I must answer is: Why do you want to cycle around the world? Why is an old man like me taking on the strains of cycling thousands and thousands of kilometres through forests, mountain ranges, deserts, swamps and cities? Why do I want to endure extreme heat and cold, snow and rainstorms, and everything else the elements can throw at me? What compels me to live a nomads live, sleeping rough and constantly eating on the go? This is, of course, only the first barrage of questions I must address. Follow-up inquiries about dangers posed by terrorists, wild animals and highwaymen are typically the ensuing expression of doubt about my sanity and the rationality to undertake such a voyage.

Let me assure you, according to my own opinion and expert judgement, I am completely sane and rational. A little eccentric perhaps, but otherwise perfectly fine.

My dream to cycle around the world is not a new one. Indeed, the aspiration to do a world cycle tour had been developed during my time at university. The idea to accomplish something exceptional seemed perfectly normal at an age when we all were convinced about our exceptionality and our belief to be destined for great things. For me the great explorers, such as Columbus, Magellan, Cook and Humboldt were an inspiration and I dreamt sailing around the world or cycling it. Call it a sense for adventure and the desire to achieve something special. Now, almost 45 years later I will realize these dreams.

I will cycle slowly through the continents and the countries and will see my dreams become true: see unbelievably blue mountain lakes in the Pamirs; being dwarfed by the mighty snow-capped peaks in the Himalayas; sleep under star-studded skies in the Gobi Desert; relax on unspoilt beaches of Indonesian islands; experience the unbelievably different ecosystems of Australia and New Zealand. I will face the raw nature of Alaska and cycle against Patagonian headwinds. I will enjoy the magnificent colours of a sunrise in the Namibian desert and a sunset on the Baja California. I will cycle the majestic “Going-to-the-sun” road and ride on the incredibly beautiful Costa Amalfi. And most importantly I will do that all in my own good time. A day at a time, slowly, without haste and pressure. Without hassles of keeping schedules of tour guides and to fit everything into a two-week vacation slot.

And I will meet people. Many people with completely different values and beliefs. People who worship different gods and who live lives unimaginable to me. People who are curious about me and want to get to know me. I will be looking forward to meet and talk to all kind of different people. As I will be different and interesting to them, they will be equally interesting to me.

At almost 64 years of age, cycling around the world is not necessarily child’s play. Almost all long-distance cyclists navigating around the world are men and women in their prime. They usually take sabbaticals after concluding their education with the argument that this is their only time-window before getting old and settling down. I beg to differ. I believe that almost all age groups can do long-distance cycling journeys with appropriate planning and the appropriate selection of destinations.

In fact, cycling is keeping older people, like me, flexible in body and brain. When cycling long distances our brain is assaulted with new impulses and stimuli daily. No day is like the other. Routine, the death penalty of any brain, is kept to a minimum. There are those who claim that the constant bombardment of our brain with new impulses leads to the perception that time passes slower. Like with children, who are experiencing the slow movement of time because of all the new impressions they have to digest, while seniors pass their years in the blink of an eye, because there is nothing new in their lives. I must admit, a few extra years, although only perceived, are very appreciated at my age. And if these perceived additional years are sweetened with an increased production of endorphins the smile on my lips will never leave.

It has been scientifically proven that cycling has substantial health benefits. Cycling makes your heart healthier. It improves the mobility of the joints, increases muscle strength and flexibility, strengthens bones and most important of all decreases body fat levels. Having been a civil servant for more than thirty years makes the last fact especially appealing to me. Since giving up smoking more than ten years ago I have been flirting with obesity. I reckon that a cycle trip around the world will kick-start my metabolism again and will remake me into the lean and mean machine of my youth. Jokes aside, I anticipate that I will lose a few kilogrammes along the way and that is just fine next to the other health benefits.

Cycling on empty country roads will give me time to think. The mantric act of pedalling for hours on end each day will conceivably trigger my thoughts to flourish. Perhaps that will bring wisdom to a cause long considered lost.

To address the original question if there is a compelling and sensible reason to cycle around the world I must say absolutely. Out there is a beautiful and majestic world, full of splendour and inhabited by (mostly) kind and interesting people. It would be a waste of my sensorium not to see this beauty, smell the exotic fragrances of nature and getting to know the diverse people of this world. What better way to access all these experiences than by riding a moderately paced bicycle?

70 thoughts on “Blog #0001 “You are crazy!” – Some thoughts about motivation and sanity”

  1. Go for it Ralf. You only live once and none of us know how long we have! God speed and travel safe. Looking forward to your updates and awaiting your arrival in Oz

      1. Like Lois, I’ll be happy to see you in Oz in a few years. You seem to have planned everything carefully, however if camping out in Australia watch out for the “drop bears” (google it)

        1. Thanks Bob for the invite. I have heard that drop bears don’t eat old, leathery fellows like me, just juicy young blokes. Anyhow, I got drop bear repellent.

    1. Hallo Kai, ich hatte eigentlich vor meine Reise zu geniessen und nicht dauernd vor dem Komputer zu sitzen und Blogartikel in drei Sprachen zu verfassen. Der automatische Google Übersetzer ist ganz gut, vor allem wenn er aus dem Englischen übersetzt. Tut mir leid.

  2. Go Ralf go! Odotan innolla tätä sinun matkaa ja olen iloinen, että pääsen tätä kautta tarakalle mukaan.

  3. Brill.. that’s all I can say. Good luck with following winds and plenty downhills. If you find yourself in Southern California say high to my son 😀

  4. If you inspire each of us to get up from the computer every day for a smidgen of what you are doing, then you will be extending lives all over the planet. Great to see you enjoying yours!

    1. Thanks Megan, I planned this voyage for purely hedonistic reasons, although my pleasure seeking may appear a bit masochistic. If, however, some people get inspired by this and travel in the future sustainably by bicycle, I should be most pleased for them and our planet.

  5. Dear Ralf, reading your motivation for this World bicycle tour, I can´t imagine what a better way to enjoy life. I wish you all the best and will keep an eye in your tour. If you come to Cabo Verde, let me know!

  6. Hi Ralf, I wish you all the luck during your journey around the world and I wish you as less punctures as possible. It must be an enormous challenge for you and your material. I hope everything will work fine for you. I was discussing with a friend of mine concerning your gearbox near the sprocket. He thinks that the gearbox is connected to an electric motor. Can you provide more clarity on this. Anyway I’ve great respect for your plan and hope that you’ll forfill your dream safely. From time to time I will follow your blogs with much interest as an earlier long distance cyclist.

    1. Thanks Kos for your wishes and interest. The gearbox is a Pinion P1.18 . It has 18 gears, which are not powered by electricity, but by good, old Ralf himself.

  7. Hi Ralph

    Good luck and fair weather …etc…. I hope your longtime preparations included links to your medical carer and insurer on your bike …or is that too risky itself…?

    Do try and stay safe…

    John H..

  8. Go for it Ralf. With your Pinion and drop bear repellent, what can possibly go wrong. Good luck and enjoy! Will you be travelling alone or with your partner?

  9. When are you starting? Are you coming through Turkey? Are you a member of warmshowers bicycle travellers? I would like to invite you to stay a while if you come through southern Turkey 🇹🇷 .
    Alf

  10. Ralf: enjoy this once in a life time journey!
    I hope it will bring you everything you expect from it: beautiful sites , interesting people and deep selfreflective moments .
    John

  11. Ralf: This is awesome, inspiring, and I envy you! It sure makes me want to embark onto some long distance journey as well and your post reminded me that should start planning now. There sure will be a sizeable Canadian delegation welcoming you here when the time comes! Happy trails!

    1. Thanks Dom. Perhaps some of you guys want to join me on a particular “étape”.I am still looking for some partners, preferably slower than me, accompanying me through the lion infested parts of Africa.

    1. Thanks Steve. I will always try to insert some specific issue for my Canadian friends. Probably related to victorious hockey players from Finland.

  12. Hieno matka edessä Ralf. Upeeta kun mahdollisuus seurata reissua 😀. Kaikkea hyvää sinulle ja pyörällesi 🚴‍♂️😀.

  13. Maailan ensimmäinen todellinen maailmanympärimatka!
    Minä aion vaatimattomasti pyöräillä vain Euroopassa.

  14. I hope to you lot of downwind, go Ralf and Monica, most of the World is still open🚴🏻‍♂️🇫🇮

    Jussi

  15. Dear Ralf, life is a journey – really worth making!
    Keep having this passion. Perfect time – you deserve it!
    Your plan sounds wicked but I believe it is the best decision of your life. I wish you luck – we follow you – online 🙂 as we have been functioning for the last two years!

    1. Thank you Ksenija. I don’t know about “wicket”, but I am with you on the statement that it is a good decision. It is not quite my best decision, though.

  16. Hello ralph,
    Good to hear that the journey will start soon! It’s a fantastic plan to admire the world through the leisurely pace of a bicycle. Have a nice trip and I look forward to great travel stories!
    Regards, Marco

  17. Hei Ralf!

    Kiitos paljon yllä olevasta tekstistäsi! Se antoi ajattelemisen aihetta oman pyöräilyharrastukseni suhteen. Kerrotko minkä merkkinen ja -laatuinen on pyöräsi? Olen saman ikäinen kanssasi, ja suunnittelen pientä kesäistä retkeä Suomen teillä. Onko lähtöpaikkasi ja -aikasi salaisuus? Kaikkea hyvää alkavalle seikkailullesi!

    1. Kiitos Tapio, vastaukset tuleevat huomenna sähköpostin kautta. Mutta pyöräni on Tout Terrain, Silkroad xplore. Pinion P1.18 vaihdelaatikko.

  18. WOLFGANG BEHRENS

    I wish you all the best, a healthy return and perhaps we will meet together when you’re returning in northern germany near Hamburg.
    I would enjoy to be your host.

  19. Juha Kylänpää

    Hei. Hieno ajatus ja positiivisella tavalla kunnianhimoinen suunnitelma. Esittelet varmaan pyörääsi ja varustustasi ennen lähtöä. Siihen heti yksi idea: vaikka takahaarukassa oleva perinteinen tuki on kuormatussa pyörässä paljon parempi kuin keskellä oleva, niin suosittelen tutustumaan amerikkalaiseen Click-stand – tukeen. Se on satulan alle runkoon tuettava teleskooppiputki. Pysyy pyörä varmasti pystyssä. Toissa vuonna kiertelin Suomea käyttäen itse väsäämääni vastaavaa. Se osoittautui todella hyväksi. Valitettavasti sitä kohtasi onnettomuus enkä enää viitsinyt tehdä uutta, vaan tilasin tuon usalaisen. Jos vielä ehdit jotain lukea ennen lähtöä, niin lintubongauspyöräilyistäni kertoo https://juhakyl.1g.fi

  20. “No day is like the other. Routine, the death penalty of any brain, is kept to a minimum. ” You are so true…

    “Perhaps that will bring wisdom to a cause long considered lost.” I hope not!

  21. You are actually living my ultimate dream ! As a college kid I mapped out a horseback trip from Belgium to Vladivostok. That sadly never happened. I’m 65 now, and I compesated by taking up mountain biking all over the world, with my brother’s organization El Camino Loco : an average of 3 to 4 weeks per year in the saddle, in the mountains, from dawn to dusk. It changed my life !
    Here is where I have cycled already :

    2006 : Corfu, Greece
    2006 : Pyrenees Coast to Coast Spain
    2007 : Ruta del Cid Spain
    2007 : Pyrenees Coast to Coast Spain
    2008 : Creta XL Greece
    2008 : Trans Belgium
    2008 : DU Copper Canyon Mexico
    2009 : UK Coast to Coast
    2009 : Trans Sardinia Italy
    2009 : DU Spain Monte Perdido
    2010 : British Columbia Bike Race Canada
    2010 : Sierra Nevada Spain
    2011 : Fire & Ice Iceland
    2011 : DU Colorado Trail & Moab USA
    2012 : DU Tenerife & La Palma Spain
    2012 : Peaks & Trails Monte Perdido Spain
    2013 : BD – Trans Nicaragua
    2013 : DU Bulgaria
    2013 : Ruta del Cid Spain
    2014 : Rioja Spain
    2014 : DU Anti-Atlas Morocco
    2015 : BD – Trans Uganda
    2015 : Spain’s Northern Deserts
    2015 : DU Serratia de Cuenca Spain
    2015 : Nendaz – Verbier Switzerland
    2015 : Pyrenees Coast to Coast
    2016 : DU Narvik & Lofoten Norway
    2016 : Fire & Ice
    2017 : DU Greece
    2017 : Anti-Atlas Morocco
    2018 : DU Atlas to Essaouira Morocco
    2019 : DU Andros Greece
    2019 : Fire & Ice
    2019 : Pindos, Meteora and Olympos Greece
    2020 : Trans Morvan France
    2020 : Trans Italy
    2021 : Trans Sardina XL Italy
    2022 : This is Sparta ! Greece

    (DU : destination unknown : you buy a ticket without knowing whereto
    BD : a sponsoring trip with the NGO Broederlijk Delen, visiting local projects)

    I’ve learned threeimportant lessons :

    1. When in doubt, take the high road at a crossing

    2. There are exactly as many downhills as there are uphills

    3. Less is more, but solid gear is key

    As a result of covid, I recently took up electric mountain biking. Quite different, much less satisfying if you are the least bit ambitious, but… so much more enjoyable !

    All the best, Ralph ! I’ll follow your adventures with great interest. Live my dream ! And should you err in the direction of little Belgium : most welcome !

    1. Thank you for this comment Bart. You certainly have a MTB hobby which brings you around. I am glad that you like my reports, which I have to admit, are not only for the public, but also for me. After a month on the road I observe that the impressions gathered each day are staring to overlay experiences from earlier days. The stimulus is so high that my brain is having difficulties to retain each and every impression. The journal is my way to keep myself abreast on each and every detail of this trip.

  22. Hi Ralf,

    Your name came up on my Facebook feed as a suggested contact via Yps Meyer. Normally if I am not in contact with people I overlook them. But I had a flash back to MAST days and said I remember you. In fact Herfried Rohde who I have visited many times has mentioned you. Till now, I knew of at least one accomplishment of yours was your command of Finnish. It was something Herfried mentioned several times as we reflected back on those times in Minnesota. But I now see you have a talent for languages. Great reports and reflections. I enjoy the journey.

    When I first saw you on FB I thought it was an extended vacation, but after a while I realised you are not stopping and I became a bit intrigued. Finally Today I decided to find the beginning of your journey on FB and came across the blog link. All is starting to make sense.

    While it’s been a long time since we met, it’s been great reacquainting.

    Good luck.

    David

    1. Hi David,
      great to have you here. Yes, a long time has passed since Minnesota. I actually will go around Australia in a couple of years. Perhaps we could reacquaint in person.
      Cheerio
      Ralf

  23. Welcome to Taiwan, you are really an inspiration to me. I wish one day we can cycle together for several days.

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