About how to ride a bicycle around the world
FAQ’s, tips and tricks to help you plan your next adventure.
Where are you from? (Who are you?)
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, Planet Earth, Sol System, Milky Way Galaxy, the Known Universe, and have called various places home. More>>>
Why did you ride your bicycle around the world?
Essentially, I decided to find the meaning of life or die trying, because my life seemed meaningless, and I figured if there was rhyme or reason to the universe, I would find it. For a detailed description read the introduction.
How do you ride a bicycle around the world?
A bicycle ride around the world begins with a single pedal stroke. More >>>
Where did you go?
I cycled every inch to meet my goal of circumnavigating the globe under my own steam. (The equatorial circumference of the planet is 40,077 KM.) And, that’s not including my 10,609-Kilometer warm-up ride across the USA from border to border and coast to coast, or the trips afterwords to relearn my own country. View the map. Or, view the list of countries.
How did you plan your trip?
Primarily I followed the weather and the wind. Crossing the equator at times, for example from fall in Argentina to spring in England. And I left my schedule rather open-ended to account for fate and chance. I also simply asked the locals for advice. An interesting fact about cycling: it is possible to follow good weather all around the world only at the speed of a bicycle — walking is too slow and cars are too fast. Read the summary on weather.
How much did it cost?
I averaged about $25 USD per day, including airfare, equipment and enough money to visit the local attractions and have some fun. It was possible to tour for as little as 3 dollars per day, if I bush camped, cooked my own food (or restaurants in undeveloped countries), filtered my own drinking water, and washed my laundry by hand. Unless I was near a city, which was seldom, this is what I had to do. View the detailed expense report and the pre-trip estimate.
How did you afford it?
Basically, I worked all the time and never spent my money on anything that I didn’t really need to survive, i.e. no music or movies or fancy cars, no wining and dining. I brought a bag lunch to work everyday. And, I invested my money.
Were you alone?
About half the time. I spent the first 15 months cycling with Dennis Snader, who called my bluff to cycle around the world. In Europe, Dennis deciding he found what he was looking for and went home.
Do you have any advice?
Were you ever sick?
Acute salmonella intestinitis, giardia, Montezuma’s Revenge over and over again, dengue fever, boils, strep throat, conjunctivitis, irritated bowl syndrome, prickly heat rash, plus every other little thing you’d probably not care to imagine. View the summary on health and safety.
What did you bring with you?
I carried over 200 items, and I still can’t figure out how. View the bicycle touring supply list.
What was your favorite…?
What kind of bike did you ride?
Basically, a very strong and durable steel mountain bike (steel can be welded by any auto mechanic or farmer) with downhill racing rims and kevlar tires. Read more about my bike with a cool slideshow and neat captions.
How many flat tires (punctures) did you get?
How many tires did you wear out?
About 10 sets. In South America, I had to use a local brand, and they would explode about once a week from the weight of all my gear. Plus, I wore out my gears 4 times, wore through four rims, 12 chains, 4 seats, and more.
Did you have any major breakdowns?
6 broken spokes, 9 welds, 2 snapped chains, 1 mangled derailleur, 2 broken seats, 1 snapped rear cog set, two broken racks (Blackburn aluminum racks are crap), and many minor breakdowns, like bolts falling out due to the vibration. (I do maintenance and replace worn parts regularly.)
How do you ride a bike across the oceans?
I put extra air in the tires.
How many miles or kilometers did you average?
My goal was 80 kilometers (50 miles) per day. The furthest I rode was 187 kilometers in about 6 hours. On the contrary, I’ve done as few as 35 kilometers in seven hours of pedaling not including breaks, and one day I did less than 10 and most of that was walking my bike through mud.
How long did it take to bicycle around the world?
It took me 4 years, 500 days of continuous bicycling plus pitstops and sightseeing. You could do it about 2 years, if you feel like it is a race.
I lost 65 pounds of fat and gained 15 pounds of muscle. Those pounds really melted off after eating a salmonella sandwich in Guayquil, Ecuador and cycling over the Andes Mountains on nothing but bananas and Coca-cola. More >>>
Don’t you get tired?
Yes! Both mentally and physically. I rested about 2 out of 7 days plus vacations. Now, my body is a bit worn out and I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns as far as bicycling is concerned.
Did you ever get in an accident? Or, were you ever injured?
Ironically my worst accident happened while riding my bicycle to work in San Francisco as part of my training for the world tour. I was run over by a pink-haired hippy. More >>> The Bionic Scott.
What’s the worse thing that happened to you?
Some teenagers were trying to frighten me and lost control of their scooter and ran into me head-on and injured me severely and destroyed a lot of my gear. A close second was spending a day in Zimbabwe prison.
What’s the best thing that happened to you?
It’s more difficult to quantify this than the worse thing. I feel it was the cumulative effect of all the people I met along the way.
Were you ever injured?
Facet syndrome, dislocated wrist, bruised tailbone, sprained knees, heat exhaustion, sunburn, hyper-extended elbow, saddle sores, nappy rash, broken heart, and every other little thing you can imagine.
What did your family think?
Like most people they thought I was crazy. More >>>
What was the most difficult aspect of bicycling?
Loneliness, boredom, headwinds, aches and pains.
How many times did you crash?
Dozens of times. Almost all very minor. A couple crashes took some time to recover, but nothing that one doesn’t expect doing this kind of thing.
Did you ever cry?
What did you eat?
3 times whatever the locals eat. Read Scott’s All-you-can-eat Diet.
Safer and friendlier than riding a bike in America. As you travel people will tell you where to go and where not to go. It’s that simple. Not much planning needed. In general it’s the big cities that are unsafe. The rest is more a matter of preference. You’re biggest safety issue will be avoiding collisions, but that is just the nature of the beast of bicycling, and most countries have more respect for bicycles than Americans. Along with that you’ll want to take the ordinary health precautions and stay clean.
Were you ever robbed?
Yes. I was held at gunpoint (one main with a revolver and another with a sawed-off shotgun in Antigua, Guatemala. I’ve also been burgled many times, conned and blackmailed.
What did they steal?
The robbers took my brother’s tape recorder, which I dropped on the ground when I ran away. The burglars usually take little stuff, as if I won’t notice it, like: food, toothbrush, lighter, water bottles.
How much water did you drink per day?
I averaged about 8 liters up to 25 liters per day in the Australian Outback.
Did you ever had trouble with animals?
Dogs chasing me. Mice, opossums, raccoons, crows, cockroaches and monkeys stealing food. Wild boar, dingoes, wallabies, jackals, etc. prowling around my tent all night. Nearly trampled by a herd of wild elephants (twice). Stung by a scorpion in my bed. Annoyed by flies, mosquitoes and gnats; they’re the worst. Generally speaking, there is a shortage of wild animals in the world and too many people.
What was the most dangerous animal that gave you trouble?
Did you do any training?
I had six surgical operations to get ready: knee surgery, eye surgery, and skin surgery four times. Plus, physical therapy, chiropractics, vaccinations and some weight training.
What is your job?
I used to be a graphic designer. Then I rode a bike. Now I am a graphic designer again.
How old are you?
I spent from 31-34 years of age traveling around the world, plus year 27 crossing America on my warm up tour.
Did you work along the way?
Sometimes, I stopped to help people plant food, build roads, fix cars, etc. but not for money.
Did you ride for a charity?
No, I bicycle for myself. My goals were spiritual ones.
Did you have sponsors?
No, it is easier to earn the money myself, besides I don’t want to answer to anyone.
Are you married?
No. I didn’t have a girlfriend, wife or children. It wouldn’t have been fair to leave them.
Would you do it again?
I haven’t decided yet.
How did it feel to return home?
This is a big question. But basically extreme culture shock. I finally saw my own country with the objectivity of a foreigner, including all the good and bad. I didn’t feel I had a place to stand anymore in this culture that is materialistic and lacking community and offering happiness in bottle at every turn.
What did you learn?
The longer answer is that I finally did discover that meaning to life and happiness. In part, I learned to that I create my own life and am responsible for my own emotions. On a deeper level, I discovered that we are all the same. That sounds cliché until you have the experience.
An excerpt from my book describing my greatest discovery: “One mystery was that everywhere I went, sometimes dozens of times per day, people asked me the same questions. Most had never read a newspaper or watched television; some had never seen a foreigner, heard of America, or even knew in which country they lived. It was a fascinating mystery. How could all these people (regardless of age, race, gender, culture or any other factor) be asking the same questions in the same order? Then serendipity smiled and I realized that it was a key to human nature. People everywhere are fundamentally the same: we all have fears and doubts; and we all have hopes and dreams. The questions people asked me were evidence that we are all on a similar journey: traveling a path from struggle and survival, learning to befriend our fears, through a quest for meaning and happiness, and ultimately seeking peace and enlightenment”.
How do I ride a bicycle around the world?
There’s a lot of wisdom in the statement: Just do it! Of course, I recommend reading my book Falling Uphill to get the flavor of one journey; you’re journey will be very different. Mine was about the inner journey, not the bike, so anyone may enjoy it. There are more books and advice here for those preparing their own travel or expedition.
If you did it again, what would you change?
Go slower. Enjoy the moment more. Meaning to really internalize the cliche: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Spend longer periods of time in small communities to really get to know the culture. For the most part, I wish I had less angst and spent the time to create more meaning in my life and other people’s lives, rather than thinking there was some exterior solution (meaning to life) that would make me happy. I also wished I had documented the trip better: more photos, more emails and newsletters, and I wish had brought a video camera. On the other hand, if I didn’t have the angst and the soul-searching drive, I probably would have been content to stay home.
Do you plan to write a book?
Are you going to make a movie?
Lots of people ask this, and a few people in the business have expressed interest. I’d love to do a documentary full-length feature production. I imagine the cinematography of a lone figure riding through the natural wonders of the world would be amazing. For now, I only have this short film, which has been featured in many places.
What are you going to do next?
What’s bigger and better than riding a bicycle around the world? Almost everyone I meet asks me some variation of the question: “What are you going to do now? What’s bigger and better than riding a bicycle around the world?” If you want the full story, including the inspirational answer to what really comes after a monumental experience of a lifetime — you’ll have to buy the book :)
BTW! Just because I finished cycling around the world, lived my dream and had the adventure of a lifetime, doesn’t mean life is over. In fact, why not get a new dream and have another adventure of a lifetime?
What are you doing now?
For the lastest update, please read “Scott’s Adventures” in the Argo News.