It all began in 2015, with a 3-month bike tour of New Zealand. Now, Tristan Ridley plans to spend the next five years cycling more than 100,000 km through over 100 countries on six continents. And he’s doing this with a purpose—he rides for an amazing charity, Build Africa, fundraising to support disadvantaged schools in Kenya and Uganda. He stepped off his pedal for a bit to tell us about his life and rides.
The greatest life lesson for you from this journey so far: Two years of cycling around the world has changed my life more than I could ever have guessed. I’m a much calmer, happier and more confident person now than I was before I started. I’ve pushed my limits and learned as much about myself as I have about the world. It’s a little cheesy, but I’ve learned that I’m capable of anything that I set my mind to. It’s one thing to say it, but my journey has made me really believe it.
The minus side, if any, of a venture like this: There are definitely negatives to my fairly hardcore style of bikepacking. Pedalling for days on end into brutal headwinds, camping in freezing conditions and feeling knackered, vulnerable and alone aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I didn’t want a holiday, I wanted an adventure. And I’ve learned more about myself from the hard times than I have from any number of easy miles. You have to take the bad with the good.
The most surprising discovery you’ve made: I really had to think hard about this one as I’ve seen so much that surprised me, but I think I’m going to have to go for something that happened just before I started cycling. I was hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere through the Australian outback when I met a middle aged woman walking on the road, pushing a supermarket shopping trolley, loaded up with food and water. She had spontaneously decided to walk the 1500 kilometres from Adelaide to Alice Springs through nothing but desert, and as towns were so far apart she needed the trolley to carry enough food and water for a week at a time. Why? Why not. What a brilliant, bonkers adventure.
The most breathtaking sight you’ve seen: There have been so many breathtaking moments. As a mountain lover I’d be tempted to pick somewhere in Tibet, Kyrgyzstan or perhaps Norway. But oddly I’m going to say the most breathtaking thing I’ve seen was the border between Papua New Guinea and West Papua, Indonesia. Cycling through Papua New Guinea I was almost completely sure I was going to get myself killed, so when I made it to the border I was utterly overwhelmed with the realisation that I’d made it through. Innocuous though it is, that border was a sight I’ll never forget.
How do you strike a balance between biking and blogging: Biking has always come first for me, and I’m always behind on my blog and trying to catch up. I enjoy writing my blog and the opportunity to share my ride with people all over the world, but it is definitely secondary to my personal experience on the road. I wouldn’t want it any other way though – I think if I were travelling just to write it would change the experience, making it more like work. It’s got to be all about the journey for me.
One essential you can’t/won’t travel without: Whether travelling with a bicycle or just a backpack, I would never set out without a sleeping bag and some kind of shelter system, whether it be a tent or a simple bivvy. Wild camping is probably my favourite part of the experience, and being free to sleep anywhere means you never have to worry about being stranded somewhere without access to accommodation. It saves you money, and gives you a home wherever you go, completely unlocking the wilderness. It’s simple, but aside from my bicycle there is nothing I value more.
Tristan Ridley spoke to Rachit Magoo of Travel Secrets magazine.