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Oli Talks To His Clothes…2 Weeks with Cycling To The Ashes

November 19, 2009

Let me apologize to all those who like to follow my progress on the live map on the Cycling To The Ashes homepage. My GPS tracker got flooded – I picked another one up in Budapest at the weekend, and my route should now be back on-line.

Happy Gilmour at Lunch

As you may remember, from Passau to Budapest, where we arrived last Thursday evening, I was joined by James Gilmour. He decided to escape the UK in gloomy November, and came all the way to gloomy Passau to pedal with me.

He said he wanted to learn about ‘Danube culture,’ but I think he just wanted to get fit to impress his new girlfriend. Nevertheless, he pedalled hard, was fantastic company, and was the driving force behind our consistently high mileage. Without his cheery optimism I might well have suffered a major sense of humour failure as the rain pounded day after day. As a thank you, I told him he could write whatever he liked about his time on tour. This is what he said:

Two Weeks with ‘Cycling To The Ashes’

by James Gilmour

Oli has given me free reign to write whatever I like. I will let him tell you about the fantastic places we visited, and the warm receptions we got from German, Austrian, Slovakian, Hungarian and, lest we forget, Australian cricketers. Instead I will tell you a bit about Oli on tour…

Strengths

The Outdoors Man: I have always lived in cities, and am incompetent when it comes to anything associated with manual labour. For most of our journey from Passau to Budapest I watched in awe as Oli assembled my bike/the tent/the cooking stove, all in near freezing temperatures. He was the only person in our “team” who had a clue what to do when my brakes would not re-align, and when my rack decided to fall off the back of my bike, tearing a supposedly ‘untearable’ pannier.

Cricket contacts: We were given free, warm and welcoming accommodation in Passau, Vienna and Budapest, sometimes by just turning up at a hotel and telling them what we were doing. In all these places we were lucky enough to have found some fantastically kind cricketers, and so had cricket games and willing participants at the ready….in November!

With Andrew Leckonby at the Future Home of Hungarian Cricket

Oli’s enthusiasm for his adventure means that when he has finished a day on the road, he likes to be back on the computer, catching up with cricket lovers and administrators to ensure he can get as much out of his world cricket tour as possible.

Eating: He is good at that. Oli is still carrying a bit of excess weight around the gut area, which is sure to disappear quickly in the heat of Africa. He keeps his pockets well stocked with Haribo, and ensures he has regular stops to re-fuel. Schnitzel and pizza for breakfast tended to be the preferred choice for a day on the road.

Getting noticed: Oli is effectively cycling around the world on a mobile home. It has a clearly visible board at the back, which states his mission. This board results in an incredibly varied range of reactions and facial expressions from people in every town and village. We were pedalling through Central Europe, not renowned as a cricketing hot-bed, and so the main reaction was confusion. However there was a lovely moment when a German lady staying in the Domane Wachau town of Spitz in Austria, gave a street donation to Oli on learning the details of his adventure.

Weaknesses

Early starts: With the short days at this time of year, Oli is pretty ambitious in setting early morning alarms. Being his own boss, the snooze button got a very active work out and in 2 weeks, not once was he first up and out of the tent. His slow starts aren’t helped by the fact that he likes to unpack every item of equipment he carries on tour, every night. The clean up and pack up operation was always of industrial proportions. Our record day together was 122 kms, although half of these were pedalled in the dark – it was mainly guess work as German cycle paths aren’t lit too well, and Oli’s light had run out of batteries.

Chasing for charity donations: Oli is on an amazing trip. When people would ask where he was going, they normally refused to believe him when he told them. He is cycling all that way to raise money for two very worthwhile charties. As well as the kilometres he counts down, and the countries he plays cricket in, his donations page is another barometer for his progress and success. I know he has some fundraising ideas in mind for next year, but please give generously in the meantime. You can even set up a direct debit of a pound a month!

Equipment: A few things here…Firstly, in the two weeks I was out with Oli, it rained every day, for at least an hour, and sometimes all day and all night. Before I arrived he had one day of rain in 3 weeks, and since I left he has been basking in beautiful sunshine. I’m not bitter. The rain did mean we quickly discovered that Gore Tex clothing is impermeable to water drops, but does not always protect you, or your phone, from days of continual rain.  We were drowned rats for 2 weeks, which made camping fun.

When You're That Wet, Shoes Do Nothing

Secondly, Oli needs to invest in a good bike lock. Mine was similar to his, and when it seized up one night, we managed to smash it open with a small hammer, that we borrowed from a local farmer, in less than a minute. He thought we were professional thiefs, but if we were it would have taken mere seconds. Lastly, sweat during exercise is apaprently the sign of an efficient cooler, so any ice man needs a bit of merino wool to keep the sweat away from the body. Oli now has my merino wool top, because he sweats a lot – look after it Broomy. Oh, and Oli is managing to complete his 25,000 km expedition without a single item of lycra – perhaps some Londoners may wish to re-think their choice of attire just before they set out on their 5 mile route to work every morning? It’ a very unflattering look after all.  

Oli also has a horrific ginger beard, his smell of his shoes is quite repugnant, and he speaks to his clothes and kit when he packs them: eg. “there you go, you go in there next to the stove….”  

Questions most asked:

Surely you can’t do this all over ground? If Oli sticks to his broad plan, he’ll just need 2 boats to assist him, 1 from Kenya to India and 1 from Indonesia to Darwin, which is only some 700 odd kms – the equivalent of a week on the saddle.

What does Oli consider his profession to be? An explorer

How much training did Oli really do before leaving? None. In England Oli spent his time arranging sponsorship and equipment, the vast majority of which he had not sampled pre-trip. He’s learnnig by doing, and as I left him had an array of maps spread out across the floor to assist him with the route for his next leg. This lack of a rigid plan should help him manage the worst of the southern European winter as dictated by the weather.

Finally I had a fantastic time, feel privileged to have been part of such an ambitious adventure, and would actively encourage his friends to go and join him for a leg. Just as his blogs cheer up a dreary day in the office, it’s really nice for Oli to receive your news too.

Keep pedalling Oli, and I hope to again be at your side in 2010.

Oli here – I am currently in the stunning university town of Szeged in Southern Hungary. I will cross into Serbia in about an hour, and hope to reach Belgrade tomorrow evening. I am due to play cricket with the Serbian Association on Sunday and the Bulgarian Association the week after. The weather is balmy, the beard is healthy and spirits are high after a record 135 kms yesterday. If you like these blogs then please sign up for email alerts here, check out the latest photos from the trip here, and find me on twitter under the username of cyclingtoashes. Keep in touch, bye.

Tent Life Can Get Boring

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Ed Moore permalink
    November 19, 2009 10:12 am

    Very well done Oli. I am in awe of your trip and often think on the way into work about what a brilliant adventure you must be having. Good to hear your buddy James joined you for a leg of your trip and hope the rain has now stopped. Very much look forward to reading your next update and keep peddling! I’m sure there will be a large beer at the end! Best and good luck, Ed Moore.

  2. November 19, 2009 1:06 pm

    hey oli
    it was a big shame you couldn’t come to meet us in Szekesfehervar. some of the girls had made cakes for after the nets session. anyway, good luck with the rest of the trip and come here when you’ve finished!

    cheers
    andy

  3. katie rigby permalink
    November 19, 2009 1:54 pm

    loving it ols. well done happy- nearly in africa- you’re going to get soooo hot and eat a lot of suspect meat.

    xxxxx

  4. Dad permalink
    November 19, 2009 2:38 pm

    James- really bad luck with the weather but you obviously enjoyed the challenge! All his life it has been a struggle to get Oli out of bed in the mornings but no doubt he will soon get used to “dawn to dusk” days in the saddle. I was interested to see that during the first day without you Oli managed 134 km so you obviously left an impression.
    Anyway Oli good to be back in touch, well done and keep at it!! Love from us all.

  5. November 19, 2009 8:03 pm

    Excellent, absolutely excellent. Great to read things are going to so well.

    I got caught up in Berlin … and planning for Berlin and ummm, I will zip those Ieper photographs to you one day … I just need to organise myself instead of always running off into the next big adventure.

    You’re doing brilliant!

  6. Becca permalink
    November 22, 2009 6:02 am

    Love reading about your adventures roomie xxx

  7. Tessa S permalink
    November 23, 2009 5:29 pm

    Your blogs crack me up and always guarantee that my colleagues look over in utter bemusement when I am chuckling at my computer screen. Keep them coming and keep smiling!! xx

  8. guyrigby permalink
    November 23, 2009 8:01 pm

    Its Nicky ! At last I’ve worked out how to read your blog , it makes really good reading,maybe a book contract next ? Lots of love x

  9. Swiss permalink
    November 24, 2009 5:22 pm

    Lovely stuff twin! When you need a break let us know and I will strap on the fake beard, roll in the muckheap and sub on for you for a week or so. Noone will notice. Jono and I are plotting a trip to come and chaperone you through one of the more glamorous legs of your trip – watch this space.

    Good luck against the Serbs. Hope you are keeping a straight bat on and off the field of play and have managed to lure a few unsuspecting females into your tent with what must be a unique aroma emanating from your body by now! Have fun!

  10. November 25, 2009 11:55 am

    Hi Oli, Your blog and flikr stream have just kept me occupied for a whole hour. Fascinating! Well done on your journey so far, and I hope you are managing to keep all your technology working despite all the rain.

    Other people’s observation of you is a very clever addition to your diary. I hope you feature this again along the route. It gives an excellent insight into your daily world.

    The beard is getting quite funky – and I have lost track of the quite astonishing variety of headwear you have displayed in your photos.

    Take care . Eric Michell

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