In March 2020, Belén and I canceled our bus tickets for a tour in Spain. A strange virus outbreak was taking over the news and shutting down services and borders around us. Meanwhile, adventure cyclists in all corners of the earth were going through much more, often finding themselves stuck in countries far away from home mid-trip. Others were lucky just to finish a trip, and some never even got a chance to start. Our collective freedom-inducing way of seeing the world suddenly ended with no clear future in sight.
As long-time world adventure cyclists in the midst of a lockdown, we dove into an idea we’d long had sitting on the imaginary shelf.
You know when someone tells you about their dream journey or creative idea, and then they say, “But I can’t do it because … ___”? On our travels, we’d met so many people who were excited to discover bike travel for themselves but who always had a reason for holding back. It began to feel as if so many wonderful humans were actively missing their chance to see the world from a saddle, perhaps missing out on some truly life-changing experiences. So we wanted to find a way to convince those in doubt that even in their specific situation, there could be a way to get a taste of the bike life.
What does one usually do to convince others something is possible? They do it. They find other people who do it, who prove the possibility of a concept, idea, or fantasy. And the coronavirus pandemic presented us with the perfect opportunity to find those people and collaborate on a book showcasing the world of bicycle travel possibilities. I remember pushing my knuckles firmly into the wood of the living room table as I leaned into it and said to Belén, “We have to do this now — it’s now or never.”
We already had a list of adventure cyclists whom we’d met on our travels or followed on social media over the years. This slowly expanding list held the Instagram usernames of cyclists who were sharing their photography and stories online. With it, it was easier than ever to set our idea in motion. In our minds, each of these individuals (sometimes as a pair or more) would represent a way of traveling by bike — a way to cycle the world.
So many inspiring cyclists from all over the world (23 countries, to be exact) took the time to tell us about their deepest experiences on the bicycle, often resulting in more than an hour of interaction and days of joyful feelings. By the end of all the calls, we felt as if we’d gotten the chance to travel the world about 50 times over. It was intense and relieving to know that we were trusted with these stories and the opportunity to put them in ink in what would become 50 Ways to Cycle the World, a photo book featuring different cyclists and their unique ways of traveling the world.
Quite undeniably, we would not have been able to create 50 Ways if it wasn’t for the pandemic and how it grounded every cyclist around the world for a little while. It would’ve taken years to chase down everyone, as most would have been out riding, without the time, energy, and right hard drives on hand to participate.
Though we love them all equally, here are a few stories that we’ve found particularly captivating:
Pablo, originally from the province of Asturias in Spain, never traveled without a dog. So when he found Hippie in an animal shelter in 2010, he immediately adopted her. She’d been in the shelter for some time –– nobody really liked how active she was, or that she looked different from other dogs. But Pablo knew she had exactly the right personality for his lifestyle, and so a new story was born, called Bikecanine. They traveled all over Europe; from Spain to Morocco, North Cape, the Balkans, and most recently, Georgia and Turkey. First, they tried using a trailer but it turned out too heavy. So they switched to a little basket over the rear wheel into which Hippie jumps in and out of with ease. Recently, Pablo rigged up a bikepacking setup, and a large backpack that Hippie sits in comfortably. Their journey is a rather synchronous one, constantly looking out for each other and enjoying the everyday adventure of traveling on a bike together. The odd duo get a lot of questions; traveling by bike is already quite unique, and Pablo and Hippie even more so!
Daniel and Karla from Mexico are true advocates for local riding, something we’ve all learned to value a little more since the pandemic started. Daniel discovered cycling through bike commuting due to unreliable public transport, and when he invited Karla to come along on a bike journey in 2018, she quickly got hooked, quitting an intense work schedule and trading it for her dream of traveling. But instead of riding from Mexico to Ushuaia, Argentina (or farther), they opted to start small and ride locally to explore their home country to the fullest. To make riding the Baja Divide more manageable, they cut the route in half and cycled first the northern part, returned home, and cycled the southern stretch when another two-month chunk of time cleared on their schedules. Cycling on unpaved roads is a relatively new activity in Mexico, as well as other parts of the world, but it led Daniel and Karla to unknown, exciting places close to home. Even just a day ride out on a trail you’ve never ridden can freshen up the mind and body. Like Karla says, “During my bike trips, I’ve been able to connect more with myself, respect my own processes, and explore an interesting connection between my mind and my body. I’ve learned to always be grateful for what I’ve done and where I’ve taken myself.”
50 Ways was initially designed as something to give to that cousin who’s always going on about wanting to make a big journey, to that colleague who tells you they don’t have enough time to travel, to those who team up in Lycra on the weekends and haven’t put two and two together yet, or to a partner who simply doesn’t think they’re up to the challenge — an excuse-extinguisher of sorts. But it’s also filled with practical lessons about the different ways to cycle the world.
With the pandemic finally dwindling in some parts of the world, and bicycles being more prevalent than ever, 50 Ways might be the final straw someone needs to dive into a mentally, physically, and spiritually enriching way to explore the world on their own terms.