After more than 15,000 kilometers in the saddle we can call ourselves world cyclists. Two years ago we stepped on the bikes without any experience. We read some travel stories from Frank van Rijn, a well known Dutch cyclist-autor, and a manual 'How do I become a world cyclist?', But it all sounds unknown until you're on the bike yourself. Every cyclist develops his own rhythm and habits, which often do not differ that much. We learned what we find important, what we never do and what we always do. These are our five golden bicycle rules.
1. We never cycle in the dark.
Frank van Rijn has been writing it so often in his books as one rules of the cycling handbook that he still has to write. The same applies to us. In the Netherlands and Belgium we often cycle in the dark, but the cycling infrastructure there is a lot better. Once we cycled in the dark on our world trip and were scared to death by every car that passed us. Since then, it is rule number one that we will never violate. Our old bikes have a dynamo with front and rear light, but they have been broken since our Atlatic sailing trip so that the temptation to cycle in the dark no longer exists. In South America, people often ask us what that black thing is on our back wheel. 'That's for the light', we say. "Aha, handy for cycling at night," they say. 'Very useful, but the night is meant to sleep' we always say which is always received with loud laughter.
2. We never cycle on a highway.
Almost as dangerous as cycling in the dark, are the highways. In Europe it is absolutely forbidden to cycle on it, but in the more exotic countries the highway is for everyone. We met cyclists who enjoyed the motorway because it is the fastest way from A to B. We think it's terrible. The passing buses and trucks, the emergency lane full of glass and steel from the broken tires, and endless straight roads. In exceptional cases we have no choice but the motorway. Then we look for a hitch to skip the part, but we cycle ourselves, we refuse.
3. If we cook for ourselves, we always eat vegetarian.
Why not fully vegetarian, you might think. For two reasons. Firstly, we like meat now and them, especially if we eat it occasionally. Secondly, on our trip we are invited to warmshowers or local people on the street, who always want to prepare the best for us. In the South American countries there is a huge meat culture, with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in the lead. Vegetables are often not found on the plate and vegetarian cooking is cursing in the church. We like to present ourselves with 'we eat everything and a lot', and that includes meat. Nevertheless, we want to keep our ecological footprint small as befits our sustainable journey. That's why we always cook vegetarian. On average, we eat meat once or twice a week.
4. At least one and a half hours before the dark want to have a place for the tent.
Why do we attach so much value to that hour and a half? After a day on the bike we have a lot to do before it gets dark. Pitching the tent, washing and changing clothes, blowing up mattresses cooking, eating and washing dishes. Then an hour and a half passes quickly. When it is dark, we dive into the tent and half an hour later we are in dreamland. Sometimes we know in the morning where we will sleep that night. The iOverlander app often shows us the way to a nice wild camping spot. But usually we have no idea where we will end that night and we need time to find a suitable place for the tent. On the Carretera Austral in Chile you had a beautiful opportunity after every turn, but along the Ruta 40 in Argentina it was sometimes a kilometers long search. That is why we start searching for two hours before dark, and sometimes much earlier, because enjoying the last rays of sunshine in front of the tent is the best moment of the cycling day.
5. We cycle more than half of our daily distance before lunch.
We never explicitly mentioned this rule, but during the trip we noticed how psychologically 50% works with us. Often we even do two thirds for lunch and have already had fifty to sixty kilometers covered when we stop for the lunch. An important condition is that we get on our bikes on time in the morning, but Olivier will take care of that. When the first rays of the sun start heating the day, he is already standing next to bed or in front of the tent. Usually we leave between 8 and 9 o'clock in the morning and have more than three hours to cycle half of the day's distance. In Peru we had to renounce our rule. If the day started with a thirty-kilometer climb, we did not get the halfway before lunch. But we did have half of the cycling time and took peace with it. Conversely, in Paraguay it was so hot that we were on the bike at six o'clock in the morning. For lunch we had covered the full day distance.