Travel the World
“Our idea developed into this adventure by bike on an earlier backpacking trip. We didn’t want to have to rely on buses and trains any more", explains Daniel Mathias about his plan to become so free that they can stop and rest up anywhere and everywhere that takes their fancy. His partner Claudia Hildenbrandt and Daniel left Thuringia and their jobs behind to cycle the world and experience social and political backdrops through encounters with people, to gather knowledge and stories and find out what Pakistan, Iran, the USA, Chile and Thailand have in common.
After a few initial difficulties at the airport in Iran, they made their way into the Elbrus Mountains, heading towards the Caspian Sea. From Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, via Tajikistan, China, Pakistan, Laos, Thailand, the USA, Canada, the Atacama and the altiplano of Bolivia to northern Patagonia, Claudia and Daniel have had many adventures, which they also document on their blog. They are currently in Northern Patagonia.
Boundless freedom and meeting interesting people are things that immediately come to mind when you think of a trip around the world. And their expectations of a journey around the world bore out as the couple travelled the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, admired the breathtaking gorges of Kyrgyzstan, made friends in the USA, stayed in bamboo huts on the beach in Laos, watched whales making waves in the Pacific Ocean and observed grizzly bears at close range in Wyoming. However, the fact that a project like this does also come with difficulties became all too evident to them time and again. In Iran, although they got to know great people, their view of the role of women was hard to swallow. Long periods of heat while cycling on gravel and sand for miles on end, illnesses and heavy luggage not only tore at their nerves, but literally their material things too.
TEN QUICK QUESTIONS TO MACHAON LIGHTS
The ultimate tip for a trip by bike?
Plan your route precisely and allow enough time, including downtime days. How do you navigate? Quite simply using a smartphone and navigation app. We have a map as a backup.
What equipment should you never be without?
A puncture repair kit, tools, rear-view mirror and helmet, clothing for all weathers, sleeping bags and foam sleeping mats, a storm-proof tent, a water filter and a mobile phone.
We rely on all-rounder glasses with self-tinting Varioflex lenses that cover light protection categories 1 to 3. With them you can even ride at dawn and dusk and stay protected from wind, dust and flies without your vision being affected too much. In the high mountains or on salt lakes, we recommend glasses with protection level 4.
What should I pay particular attention to with regard to the bike?
The bicycle should be adapted to the demands of the route. We ride very sturdy, steel touring bikes with thick rims, powerful disc brakes and hub gears. So far we have (almost) never had any faults, even on rough gravel roads. If you’re going to be mainly riding on tarmac, you would definitely be better advised to go for a light touring bike or an audax bike. The bike doesn't have to be high-tech, but it does at least have to have good wheels and tyres.
How much luggage (in KG) can you carry reasonably comfortably on a bicycle?
About 20 kilos of luggage plus some water and food. But with the weight of the bike as well that’s pretty much the maximum weight, because sometimes you have to lift the bike, which on its own weighs about 18kg, over steps or tree roots.
How many flat tyres should you expect per kilometres distance travelled?
Our average with "puncture-proof" tyres is around one flat tyre every 2,000 kilometres. So far we have had to patch a tyre 15 times over a total of 30,000 kilometres.
And in supposedly dangerous countries: What do you have to keep in mind?
The German Foreign Office can provide you with a good overview of all potential and impossible dangers - the conclusions you draw from those warnings are really down to each person themselves. By far the greatest danger in any country though, is road traffic.
Do you need to have trained before the trip, or does fitness develop on the journey?
If you are not completely untrained before the trip then the fitness comes all by itself. Perhaps the bigger challenge is what’s all around you: Erecting a tent in the wind, sleeping at sub-zero temperatures, washing up with ice water, eating unfamiliar food, giving up privacy and what we call living standards.
That definitely includes personal hygiene, right?
That's right. For two hot meals, washing up and personal hygiene, we have a water bag with a volume of 15 litres. That has to suffice. Wet wipes can help whenever there is a shortage of water. And we can rinse our merino wool laundry in brooks.
More information on their adventures and their fascinating photos can be found on their blog.