The Americas by bike - Preparations for our big adventure
We are Martin (very experienced cyclist) and Katja (cyclist since Summer 2021). Both from Denmark. Both Santos riders. Early 2022 we will embark on a big adventure: we will quit our jobs to cycle from South to North America! 25.000 kilometers in 20 months. In the forthcoming blogs we will tell you all about it. To inspire you and to let you join in the fun!
Why we picked this route: from Ushuaia to Vancouver
We have decided to start in Ushuaia, the southernmost part of South America. Martin already cycled most of Europe and Asia on his previous trips, while Katja has long dreamt of going to Peru and Bolivia. Neither of us have been to South America. So that’s why we picked this. It will be truly special to explore a new continent together. A completely new adventure for both of us.
Many people ask us why we decided to go from South to North. Most cyclists choose to cycle from North to South, because of the crazy headwinds you’ll experience if you cycle in the opposite direction. It is mostly a matter of timing: we have the chance to leave for our trip in January when it is summertime in Patagonia and winter in Vancouver. We will deal with the wind the best we can. It will be a challenge for sure, but it is only a small part of a long journey.
So much to prepare for a 25.000 km trip!
Just days after deciding to go on this trip, we set out to buy a giant map of South America. It now hangs on our living room wall so we see it every day. It helps us visualize our journey and is a joyful reminder of why we are spending so much time preparing: the great adventures ahead!
Besides determining the required budget, learning Spanish, quitting our jobs and renting out our apartment, we have to prepare and test our gear, get accustomed to our bicycles, loosely plan the route and so much more.
Can we live without an income for almost 2 years?
The first thing we did was sort out our financial situation. Being away for 20 months with no income calls for savings. The first question we had to answer was: can we save up for this trip? After making a budget and a plan for renting out our apartment we knew it could work out with quite a lot of saving up and cutting down on other activities.
Nowadays, when we want to buy something, we think of the price calculated in a daily budget of our journey. Do we want a takeaway? Then it is one-day worth of budget for our adventure. That makes it easier to think twice when spending money.
We expect a daily budget of 40-50 euros and a buffer for when we get home. Because we will both quit our jobs, we will have no income for the first few months after our return.
How to choose the right gear?
Martin is a bit of a nerd when it comes to gear, which really benefits Katja. Weight and durability is important when you are carrying all your stuff over mountain passes of 5000 elevation meters and are on the road for more than 600 days. We choose our gear carefully, from how many pieces of underwear we need to which sleeping bag and tent we want. Many times, you have to outweigh weight against comfort. We try to find the best balance between the two.
We are changing bicycles!
Mojo ( Martin’s Santos Travelmaster 2.6) did a great job on Martin’s last trip of 38000 km, a trip from Rotterdam to Kathmandu. Read about Mojo here: Review Santos Travelmaster 2.6 - TwistingSpokes. This experience made it easy to choose another Santos bicycle.
We fell in love with the Santos Travelmaster 3+. Again a custombuilt bicycle, where we picked the suitable parts for our journey and a personalized color for the bicycles. The major difference from the Travelmaster 2.6 to the 3+ is the choice of wheel size and gear options. We opted for 27.5 inch wheels with the 2.15 inch Allmotion tires and for the gearing we chose the Pinion P1.18 gear system with a Gates carbon belt.
This setup gives us a bicycle that can handle the load and requires minimal maintenance. Like it or not, maintenance is a major issue with the traditional derailleur system. The internal gears and belt drive eliminate this.
How do we train, both physically and mentally?
People often ask us how we train for our trip. The truth is we don’t train much more than usual. We are both active with running, yoga, climbing and cycling. However, we have gone on some longer bike trips, but the point of those – besides enjoying ourselves – was mainly testing our gear, living together in a tent for days and days and getting to know our new bikes.
We know this trip is a huge physical challenge, but we will take one kilometer at a time. We are confident that along the way we will gain the physical strength that the trip requires.
One thing is the practical preparation; another thing is the mental preparation. If you’re going on a trip this big, it’s all you can think of. We dream about riding in the mountains, we hardly talk about anything else and it fills our days with practical errands, more and more as there is now less than 3 months to departure.
Martin knows what is coming, because of his previous trip. But Katja has no idea what she has gotten herself into. It helps to watch endless hours of YouTube videos made by other inspiring riders and read hours and hours of blog posts about cycling in South America.
When FOMO strikes… so much more to see in 20 months than fits the schedule
What to do, when you want to experience everything? 20 months may sound like a long time, but when you know the length of Chile, you’ll be amazed by the distances. Argentina and Chile are the first countries that we will cross and Chile is 5000 km long! We will spend our first 4-5 months in just these two countries.
Being away for a fixed amount of time is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because the time limit helps us make decisions, and a curse because we have to choose what to spend time on. FOMO (fear of missing out) suddenly has a different meaning for us.
We are not planning more than 1-2 months ahead before we leave. We have a loose plan for what we definitely want to see along the way and the rest we take as it comes. It would be too much hassle to plan the entire route and we want to be free and take travel advice from locals and fellow cyclists we meet along the way.
There is only so much you can do to prepare for what is to come. In the end, we believe that the most important thing is to just jump into it and learn along the way!