2018 in a nutshell…

Total distance cycled in 2018: 11,141km/6,844 miles. Unidirectional equivalent: Bergen(Norway) to Vladivostok (eastern Siberia)

img-20181028-wa0002I have to admit, I am in a phase of regression…..

At a drinks party over the festive season, I was in conversation with a contemporary about my habits of travelling on two wheels. By way of response to some of the things I said, I heard the following:

“Really, you travel all by yourself? What happens if you get sick or have an accident?…… You don’t have a support vehicle to carry your kit? But you must have hotel rooms booked in advance at least? No? You mean, you have no idea where you are going to stay each night? Aren’t you worried about your own safety…….?”

And so it went on. And this is only one example of dozens of similar conversations I’ve had with people of my own generation over the years which, not surprisingly, pigeonholes me as some kind of weirdo, a man out of synch with his contemporaries. Years ago, adventure travel for me amounted to nothing wilder than staying in youth hostels, travelling economy class, and eating at the cheapest restaurants. But I now find I am wanting to push back the boundaries, back to my penniless days, to experience the simplicity of independent travel, finding the food and drink I need wherever it is available, laying my head down where nature allows me, and accepting kindness and hospitality whenever it is freely proffered.

I will never aspire to be a desert-crossing, Antarctica-sledging, Himalaya-scaling kind of adventure traveller, but my comfort zone is definitely in long-distance solo cycle-trekking, with minimal luggage and few concrete plans other than knowing my general direction of travel, the pace of which is governed only by the date printed on my return ticket to the UK. For some, enough to inspire fear and anxiety, for me, liberating and energising.


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on January 11, 2019, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I agree totally that travel where the only certainty is arrival and departure dates is exhilarating.
    While I am nowhere as extreme as you and I prebook some aspects of my trip the simplicity of making it up as you go add a sense of adventure missing on a clearly defined all prebooked tour.


  2. Envious of your adventures Frank. I would not be allowed time off to go it alone, though sometimes I do get a hankering for a short ‘plastic’ tour on my own, without a destination in mind, free to go wherever the route takes me – rather like your epic ones.
    Hoping to do a big tour of France this summer, taking in the International Tandem Rally at Marciac. That’s if the ticker behaves. We shall not be travelling light however. We’ll take a tent, sleeping regalia and something to make a coffee or simple food. Karon doesn’t really like to rough it too much – likes the creature comforts and one pannier is given over to her medical bits and pieces too, so we’ve bought a second hand Bob Yak trailer. Planning to follow rivers and canals where we can but the odd contour is bound to be unavoidable. Finding places to stop overnight is a bit of a worry. There are plenty of campsites, but we are not big mile eaters, so may get caught ‘between’ at some stage. I am not averse to wild camping if we can find a discreet spot but Karon is adamant she wants the facilities that go with an official site. Of course, we also have the option of a hotel/BB (if we get a few days of rain, for example) but we’re hoping to keep the costs down by using the tent when we can.
    I’m thinking we may have a test run with the trailer and gear along the Kennet and Avon westwards, though the surfaces are not always that good for a long, loaded up tandem with trailer.
    Any suggestions or advice Frank?


    • We tandemed west to east along the Kennet and Avon last year, from Bristol to Newbury…..great when the towpath was wide enough/not too near the water/had bridges you could safely go under….but not sure about the addition of a trailer.

      When it comes to the rig you carry for cycle-trekking, and how simply you camp…..we all have to stay within our comfort zones. Many people ‘admire’ how little I carry, and would love to believe they could do similar, but the reality is always something else.
      I like to tell people I travel light because I’m too lazy to carry more….and there’s some truth in that.
      Bob, I hope 2019 is a pedalling adventure for you and Karon.


  3. I’ve always been impressed and inspired by your willingness to pick up and just go.


  4. Continue being you Frank as you are in inspiration to others. Happy New Year to you and Jenny.


  5. charles smith

    Hullo Frank,
    I’ve read about your Japanese Cherry Blossom Whirl, in the current edition( June /July 2019) of Cycle at page 59. What did you do with your bike box on arrival in Japan? I guess that you needed it for your return journey to the UK. I’ve travelled with a bike box (hard shell) but only to a fixed centre where the box could be easily stored for the return journey.


    • Good to hear from you Charles. Because I generally fly into one airport and out of another, usually some 2000 miles away, I throw away the cardboard box and get another at destination, from a local bike shop. It seldom fails. But note….these are the throwaway boxes that new bikes are delivered in, not hardshells.


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