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February 11, 2019 8 min read

Ed decided, as you do, that he'd like to cycle from his home in the UK to China. A route that covers 10,000km and takes him through 16 countries. Here is his story from 100 days in the saddle.

"My eyes were stinging from the constant stream of sweat. Through this blur I clunked down the gears and attempted another short but steep hill along the Turkish Black sea coast. The mercury had crept closer to 40° and the road was a gloopy black bituminous mess. Just the basics of pedalling and keeping hydrated were a challenge, but my Morvelo kit was doing a fantastic job of keeping me cool and as comfy as possible. Well until we gave into the temptation of the crystal clear blue water lapping the pebbles just a few feet from the road! The inevitable surrender to a refreshing swim didn’t take long each day as we rode through Northern Turkey. Cycling the beautifully rugged and wild coastal scenery was barely enough to drag our relaxed bodies away from the beach to start pedalling slowly further towards China." 

"At the start of my 10,000km bike ride I was pretty anxious about using Morvelo’s kit for the first time for such a long trip. I was bucking the trend of most old skool cycle tourers because I wanted the comfort of Bib-shorts and a well fitted cycling jersey and not an open shirt and tailored trekking trousers. Given the summer heat I would encounter my initial demands were that the bibs had to be light mesh uppers to stay cool and the jersey full zip for ventilation while preserving respect in the many Muslim countries I rode across." 

"The ride across Europe went surprisingly quickly, comfortably and unbelievably smoothly, we averaged just over 100km a day which provided a nice balance between on and off the bike time. The growing popularity of the transcontinental race means that now I’m back people often ask me for advice about the route and kit I used."

"In regards to clothing I now swear by Morvelo bib shorts, not once did they cause chaffing or any discomfort to me despite the long days and how hot and sweaty it got. A good set of shorts makes all the difference on a trip like this. I also think bright colours like my red Eighty Five journey can’t be discounted they genuinely let you stand out on the road when the traffic is manic."

"Another frequent question is what was the scariest part of riding across Europe to Istanbul? Generally Europe’s pretty safe, but one night in Hungary sticks in my mind:" 

"We were shattered after a long day on the flat roads but easily found a wild camp spot in a small thicket of trees, surrounded by a  field of head high maize. It was a beautifully stealthy camp spot hidden from the world. I also rather bizarrely discovered a rickety old shed locked up securely in the trees. Then as it got dark rustling noises, from what I hoped were deer foraging in the maize were accompanied by haunting shadows projected against the tent canvas from distant passing cars. Next the gun fire started, bang, bang, bang, from somewhere across the field. The trouble with camping so stealth was that the gunmen would have no idea we were here as they carelessly fired at something. I lay flat, scared, hardly knowing what to do and thinking what was in that rickety shed? It was all getting a bit Blair witch project but we survived still alive and undiscovered."

"Another incident was in a Romanian castle where we narrowly escaped getting locked up in a torture tower, but I’ll save that for another day!"

"Sitting at home or in the office it’s easy to browse Google Maps and dream up adventures and trips, but it’s also easy to underestimate the distances involved. The planet feels small when you can see satellite images of everything at the click of a button, but the day to day effort required to cycle every kilometre is relentless, it’s easy to start out with grand plans but harder to persevere. Crossing Holland, Germany and the Czech Republic was agonisingly slow for me, I wanted to be in completely alien lands swigging Vodka or horse milk in yurts, but here I was spending weeks on smooth tarmac through pleasant rural German landscapes. I was eating bratwurst, watching the world cup while drinking good beer but feeling depressingly unadventurous. In hindsight this cultural transition to Eastern Europe was just one part of why the trip was so fascinating." 

"After the living history and stunning landscapes of Romania and Bulgaria we were back in Turkey the clichéd melting pot of culture and where the adventure stepped up a notch. Turkey is the cross roads for overland travellers and it was our midway point towards China. As the saying goes all roads east lead to Istanbul, especially when Ukraine is (allegedly) fighting Russia." 

"Turkish food was the first delight, so much fresh vibrant sustenance from bursting lamb kebabs to Mediterranean salads served alongside cakes and sweet thick coffee. You know the strong stuff that blocks drains with a sludge of ground beans.
We rolled on towards Istanbul, knowing all too well the chaos of entering Istanbul from last year’s ride. After a meandering route of dead-end cycle lanes and busy roads we saw the sun set over the enormous elephant back domes of mosques in central Istanbul. I was in my Morvelo T-Shirt proudly exclaiming "Ride Fast, Travel Far" It felt appropriate." 

"The Morvelo kit was ensuring we stood out as ‘proper’ cyclists and being mistaken for a pro was maybe a good thing. We were told the story of two, ‘well weathered’ looking cyclists riding further south in Turkey: They heard phiew phiew and saw dust flying alongside them, they pulled over hugely freaked out to discover a man was firing a rifle right at them shouting abuse. Surviving long enough to loudly shout Tourista Tourista  he stopped, realised his error and explained he thought they were from nearby Syria, now inviting them into stay and have dinner with him. They declined." 

"After leaving the coast in Turkey it was the mountains of Georgia before we rolled into Tbilisi where I wrote my initial thoughts on the Morvelo cycling kit on my blog. When I say ‘initial’ my first look review was after about 5000km of daily use which puts most magazine reviews to shame! It was an overwhelmingly positive blog post as we had no real negatives on any of the kit." 

"Tbilisi was the end of the ride for Marion and she was heading home.  I was carrying on and wanted to reduce my setup weight for central Asia. I wanted to fly through the Uzbek deserts and glide up the vast Tian Shan Mountains like the eagles above. As part of this philosophy I took the somewhat bold move of using just one set of my Morvelo kit and sent back the Unity bib short and jersey, I also begrudgingly sent home my fantastic and much loved bright green Movelo Gillet. I was going to smell bad but this combined with a few other changes meant I could go super light!"

"We had always planned Marion would leave the adventure in Tbilisi, but it was much harder than I anticipated, I honestly had no idea when I would next see her. We had this plan I would just ride across the Himalayas and we would bump into each other in Kathmandu but that might be a bit more romantic than practical." 

"It was onwards and eastwards all on my own. I had officially entered the part of the world where wearing full lycra bike kit goes down like wearing a clown suit to a formal wedding: some laugh and some hurl abuse at you! In rural parts of these ex-Soviet states, a man is only a man while drinking vodka and wearing not jeans but full furs on a huge horse! While lycra kit never resulted in physical violence it was clear I was pushing the boundaries in central Asia. As I said in my blog: "One small step for mankind but one giant leap for cycling apparel in Azerbaijan"."

"By coincidence I passed four fully kitted out Team Astana pro-riders and their team car on a training ride near Taraz; this is Kazakhstan's very own professional cycling team and I wonder if they get the same reception I got. I suspect they don’t ride through the same backwater towns!"

"After about 8000km (I don't know exactly how far because a kind chap stole my computer in the Kazakh desert!) I was into Kyrgyzstan where for some reason the Movelo Eighty Five jersey often seemed to imply I was American. For example, I often got asked in Russian "Where you from? American?". "No, Anglia" I reply. "Ah, Anglia. Wayne Rooney!" they say. Then a friend turns up and they say again in Russian "Yes, he is from America". I heard you and the English are not American!" 

"The adventure was getting properly real in the mountains of central Asia. The passes here made the Alps look quaint. I rode up two back to back 3500m climbs before the weather changed: an unseasonably early winter was rearing its freezing head in the Tian Shan Mountains. It was all about layering up and getting my Uzbek rabbit wool socks on while keeping my head down."

"Despite my fear from exposure to the chill and snow in the air, this was the land I had dreamed of exploring when I was way back in sunny Suffolk."

"On the road I created a personal bucket list to finish before I left this area. First was to get invited to a mosque: literally the next day on a rainy cold night I was invited to sleep in a friendly Kyrgyz mosque and I enjoyed another evening of great local hospitality. The next item on my list was to stay in a traditional yurt. I quickly discovered two things: firstly the nomads were leaving the summer pastures in their hundreds. The valley down to Talas in Kyrgyzstan was a traffic jam of horse herders, goat herders, sheep herders etc. All waving and smiling as they passed. A few vans were carrying the yurts down too, only a few hardy souls survive by horseback alone." 

"I also realised most yurts are either smart traditional looking ones for tourists or smaller, dirty and full of busy people living a tough relentless life in a harsh environment. I was invited in for tea in one but I didn’t invade, instead camping next door in my own tent, still a bit safer from the wolves that roam this region." 

"Riding here was simply mind blowing the landscape is huge, there’s so little civilisation that you can ride for days without seeing a town and it was here that I felt complete. I was now alone up here, gone were the herders from these highest pastures.  I rode through the triangle that is made up by Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and China. It’s a wild part of the planet, and even more when a gale force blizzard hit. Eventually I failed to get into China due to visa issues but it was maybe a blessing in disguise."

 "I hoped on a plane from Almaty to Kathmandu in Nepal where the weather was fantastic! In Nepal the Morvelo kit got a good few stares, but maybe any cyclist risking their life on these roads would get the same reception! I rode a vague route over a couple of weeks but by flying over China the trip had lost its beauty: no longer was it a continuous journey through transitioning cultures and environments and with that gone so was my motivation to be alone out there. It was finally great to bump into Marion in Pokkhara, Nepal, just a shame I had cheated a bit getting here, but like all adventures it was about the journey and the adventure of everyday entering the unknown!"

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