Somehow it's the end of May. Somehow.
That means we have 10 months until we start our trip, 10 months to save as much money as possible.
As events turned out, both of our tenancies have come to an end at the same time so to help save money we've decided to move in together. Although this will be a big test of our relationship we spend all our spare time together as it is and this is nothing compared to all of the hardships which will come along with cycling around the world together. It seems a sensible thing to do, although at the outset slightly scary and some may say rushed. Though when we met each other and very quickly decided to cycle around the world together, people thinking that you're rushing things is moot.
We were so lucky in our flat hunt; timing is everything. I got very used to the London housing market speed of things (I once nabbed a flat in Walthamstow before it went on the market) and so got a series of flat viewings set up for one sunny Thursday a few weeks ago. By the end of the day we'd put three notes of interest in on three different flats, hoping we'd get one landlord to say 'yes' to us. The way things work here is viewings tend to be done as groups and if more than one interested party puts in a note of interest then the landlord makes the final call on who s/he wants in their property. We actually ended up with two landlords accepting our offers and we went with the very plush, big flat with a view of the Clyde. We will be sharing with Mike's current flatmate so we'll split the rent 3:2. This means Mike and I will be paying £495 monthly rent between the two of us plus bills. Overall, we hope to be able to save about £1500 between the two of us a month. Fingers crossed this will be enough to take us around the world. If not, we may have to take a month or two out of our schedule to work in Australia to earn the last of the money we'll need to take us back to Glasgow. Thankfully my uncle lives in Melbourne so hopefully we'll have a place to stay while we do this. Currently everything that we've saved between making the decision to go and now has totally gone on buying the bikes and the kit for the trip, even though we've tried to be thrifty about it.
While this money saving is all part of the adventure and the preparation, it's the most stressful aspect for the both of us. Any excess expenditure either of us makes puts a seed of doubt into our minds that we're not going to be able to afford it. But then we take a moment to remember that once we move, our outgoings are going to more than halve, which is huge especially in the current economic climate! We remember that we don't have that much more to buy for the trip except the tent, flights, insurance and visas. We remember that there's no way we're not going to do this trip just because we're short on cash and might have to tighten our belts even more between now and leaving. Lidl is our friend, living close to work is our friend, and selling all of our old stuff is our friend.
I'm currently in the process of selling my old books and DVDs to a company called Ziffit.com. I've got just under £100 for old textbooks, novels and DVDs which I no longer need and don't want to put into storage. Anything we don't get rid of before we go will need to find a home in a charity shop, through eBay or under the spare beds of friends and in the attics of family members. Once I started to look at the stuff that I own I realised I could shift quite a lot of it for a bit of cash. The japanese word 'tsundoku' describes me perfectly. I buy books quicker than I can read them and let them pile up. I just love having books around me and now I've got a Kindle it's got increasingly worse. So off they go; I just hope the sound of groaning the courier man will make while lifting my stupidly heavy books will cover the sound of me whimpering as my beautiful book collection gets taken away from me.
Mike has sold his recumbent bike and I've also sold a head camera. The recumbent sale began a discussion on where the line of sentimentality really lies. It's always nice to be surrounded by stuff, especially those with memories and meaning, but when you need to not have much left it's a brutal decision on what stays. I have some signed books, favourite films and framed pictures I want to keep. Mike has furniture he's built, a record player and framed pictures he wants to keep. Besides those and clothes we'll want to wear when we get back (because we can't spend the rest of our lives in lycra) that's what it's all going to boil down to. We've both become brutal with what we don't need. Even though we still have 10 months until we leave, there's no point in moving it in to the new flat so we have less than 2 weeks to spring clean out belongings and make as much money as possible.
Beyond this we're eating very healthily from fresh ingredients from our good friend Lidl, the supermarket chain. If you haven't been, you're missing out because it's so freaking cheap. We'll do a video once we've moved of our weekly shop and the amazing and yummy meals we make out of it. Well, what Mike makes out of it all. He does the cooking. I'm rubbish at cooking, you'll see.
I"m sure a lot of people from my generation feel the pressure just the same as us to save money. Most people are doing it for a property deposit which I'm sure we'll come round to doing once we're back. The constant worrying about spending too many pennies each week. Budgeting to include the unforeseen events (like getting locked out of my flat yesterday and having to pay £70 for a man to use plastic to get me back in. Today when we got locked out again, we bought a £2 bottle of water to jimmy the lock ourselves). Can we save enough to go? Yes. Why? Because we're a team and we're doing this trip.
So we need to start getting used to going on some bike packing adventures. Neither of us regularly camped at any point in our lives (except Mike's cycling trip to America) so the prospect of doing this for 14 months next year is slightly daunting. We are yet to buy our tent for the trip so we're still using Mike's reliable Vango tent he's had for a few years - thankfully big enough for the two of us.
Not only will be need to do more of these long weekends away to get used to being alone in the middle of nowhere with our bikes and our tired legs and our excited faces, but we'll need to get into a routine of finding somewhere suitable to pitch up and setting up camp for one night at a time. Wild camping is legal in Scotland so that's the plan for multiple weekends between now and leaving in April 2017. Yes, even over winter!
So our first trip away together was to the Isle of Arran. We eased ourselves into the wild camping by just camping in the garden of a work colleague of Helen's. Not a campsite, but not the middle of nowhere. A good place to start.
See our vlog here:
Golly there are a lot of bikes. A lot of bloggers will say that any old bike will get you round the world. To be fair that's probably right, but with visas, wild camping, water, weather and money to worry about as we go, I can't face the prospect of being stranded if the bike can't manage the journey! So, shiny new bikes are the order of the day for me and old Clarkingtons.
We spent A LOT of time researching bikes that were available off the shelf, looking at the spec list for each and trying to figure out if the componentry was up to the job, and whether, if anything went wrong we could fix it or find spares in the remoter parts. After looking at some fantasy bikes (from Thorn and Koga, lovely but too expensive) and ones within our budget of around £1,500, including panniers and the rest (like the Kona Sutra, or the Specialized Awol, or Cinelli Hobootleg ), I came to the conclusion that speccing our own from the components up might just be answer. On the bikes we could afford there were certain parts that I just couldn't get comfortable with… like sub-par wheels, or STI shifters. The chance that these could fail was just too much, however unlikely that actually is. Even mechanical issues in Scotland have been an issue in the past, so in needed to get the failure risk as low as possible
So the grand trawl had to begin. It started with taking a standard long haul trucker and going through the components. In a few hours I figured that with some selective shopping we could put together bikes built of better parts, for the same cash. By better I don't mean more expensive, I mean more suitable. Hood brakes on good cantilevers with bar end shifters, stronger wheels, stronger racks, a better seatpost. The focus of the exercise was on reliability, then fixablility, then replaceablity. With so many hours researching comes another advantage – I actually understand nearly every aspect of the bikes we are going to ride round the world. And that's the second tick for building our own, because Helen and I are putting the bikes together with our own hands (and the hands of a friendly man called Dan) we should, in theory, be better placed to make the repairs we need on the road.
A full component list is going to follow once the bikes are built, together with a full breakdown of costs and our assembly, but to start with we've spent under £1,000 each so far, including frames, Tubus racks, Vaude panniers, and having carbide rimmed dyno hub wheels hand built by top man Harry Rowland. And there's really not that much left to get. By my reckoning the complete bikes will be coming in at about £1,500 a piece, including all the extras. So if you're interested, check back to see them in their final form, meanwhile, I need to get my credit card out and back to google - our first test tour is coming up in July.
Oh and as an added bonus – Gareth at spray.bike is very generously letting us have some of his brilliant paint so we can customise the bikes even more. Thanks Gareth!