Bicycling (South Africa)
What We Carry
A PHOTOGRAPHER DOCUMENTS LONG-DISTANCE BIKE RIDERS – AND ALL THE MEANINGFUL THINGS THEY TRAVEL WITH.
This is the kit that serious bikepackers take with them.
José Luis Osornio Ramírez, 29, San Luis Potosí, Mexico Rides a seven-speed urban bike
I got the idea to ride Mexico from end to end unsupported when I was on a ride in early 2019, and my rear cassette broke. It was Sunday afternoon, and there were no bike shops to save me. I had to go home pushing myself on a skateboard.
My holidays were approaching, and I had money saved and the support of my family. Four weeks later, I got off the plane in Tijuana. I couldn’t believe it! It seemed absurd and impossible. “What am I going to do now?”, I wondered. “I will pedal, until I become the sand that dries between the toes of Mexico.”
In all the forums I’d read, I saw the same advice: travel light. I decided to travel heavy, because I wanted to strengthen my legs. Everything was meticulously selected. I paid close attention to covering my skin; so as not to get sunburned, I wore two pairs of pants, clothes with UV50, gloves, glasses for hot days on the beach. I’d never used saddlebags, but they became a wonderful ally. My action camera was always at hand, even though I didn’t use it very often. What fascinated me the most to use was the drone – when you reach the end of a road, the drone takes you further.
I made it: 5 000km from Tijuana to Playa del Carmen, in four months.
Abril Georgina Morales Rodríguez (and Maku), 40, Oaxaca, Mexico Rides a Giant Liv Tempt 29 V
Travelling with my dog, Maku, has created a strong bond between us. It has been full of adventures that we have enjoyed and overcome together with patience, perseverance, and love. We started from Oaxaca, Mexico, in June 2018, and have travelled 2 500km so far. Our final goal is to reach Africa.
As a woman travelling without the company of a man in this macho world, sometimes it can become the worst experience when unknown men see you as a sexual object and believe they have the right not only to comment on your body, but to decide what to do with it. Fortunately, Maku and my strength – not physical, but mental – have saved me in the most difficult situations. I’ve learned that I must never let my guard down.
Two very useful items for me as a woman are my female standing urinal device and my menstrual cup. I also carry a children’s book, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls ,agreen handkerchief tha’s a symbol of women’s right to decide on our bodies, a photograph of me from when I learned to walk, and three photos of infants that I had in my charge while I lived in Africa for 13 years.
“I carry a photograph of me from when I learned to walk.”
Yì Qīng Xú, 33, Zhongshan, China Rides a Marin city bike
I’d been working in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, and a co-worker said that he just finished a bicycle trip from Chiapas, which is a little more than 1 000km away. I was interested in going to Oaxaca, which is next to Chiapas, and travelling by bike seemed like an excellent option. So I bought a bike.
I had fears and doubts, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. As a beginner, I struggled to keep my stuff from falling apart, namely my rack and pannier bags. After getting those in order, I was happy with just the bare minimum. If I had to name one essential thing that made me happy, it would be my bivvy tent. I had to use it twice when I couldn’t find accommodation; it kept a barrier between me and some angry dogs in a park!
As for the actual travelling part, I took pleasure from how simplified my days became. No complicated thoughts or millions of things to do – only keeping those wheels spinning, satisfying my hunger and thirst with the simplest food, and finding shelter.
After a 120km day with not a cloud covering the sun, drinking a chilled cup of pozol with jalapeño was heavenly. I loved just living the simplicity, and feeling the ups and downs of my emotions each day. But the greatest gift was becoming part of a Mexican family, by fate. I only planned to stay one or two nights, but ended up living and working the land and doing everything with them for a month. In the end I gave them my bike, because I think they needed it more than I did.
“The bicycle has blown my mınd.”
Giuseppe Gemelli, 41, Genoa, Italy Rides a Surly Disc Trucker
I was not a cyclist before this. I had a time of some depression; I’d separated from my now ex-wife, and this saddened me. Searching the internet, I found that there were p eople who travelled the world b y bicycle. I found it incredible! So I bought a bicycle, and two months later I was at the top of the world in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska – with the dream of reaching the bottom of the worl,d in Ushuaia, Argentina.
At first I didn’t know anything about bicycles. Now, after 18 000km, I can say that the bicycle has blown my mind. It’s been a great experience. Incredible. At first I suffered quite a bit, especially my butt and my muscles. I was also afraid to sleep alone in Alaska, with bears and other animals. But little by little I got used to it.
Each day was incredible – sometimes pure happiness, and others crying like a child. This is what the bicycle gives you.
I really liked the ease of moving from one place to another, without paying for petrol or insurance. Or thinking about where to sleep. So many good people, they help you, they invite you to their homes.
The Agata shirt is important because of a family bond. Agata is my niece; I take a photo with her shirt in places that are significant to me. I send them to my sister; they are making a collection.
A very important thing that I care for is the bicycle itself. It has all my things and takes me everywhere. I try to keep her well, and take care of her as best as possible – as if she were my girlfriend.
The Delgorgue Family Jacques (43), Pauline (42), Élise (15), Octave (13), Solène (10), Charlotte (10), Marseille, France
Ride a VSF Fahrradmanufaktur T-700 (2), Vermont 21-speed (2), Cube 21-speed (2)
In August 2019, we cycled through the Americas for seven months with our four kids. We call ourselves 6 à Vélo (6 By Bike). We rode almost 6 000km through Canada, USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Cuba, and Chile. Through this adventure we discovered our children’s strengths and weaknesses, and they discovered who their parents really are. We met a lot of amazing people through Warmshowers, but also on the road, especially in Cuba. Many were living in poverty, but they were extremely generous. We want to model this generosity in our daily life.
We had only basic and necessary equipment. To sleep: two tents, warm sleeping bags, and mattresses. To cook: one multifuel stove, two pans, one saucepan, six plates. To dress (each): three T-shirts, one long-sleeve T-shirt, two cycling shorts, one pair long cycling pants, one pair trousers, rainand cold-weather gear. We carried a drone, a Gopro, an ipad, and a phone, to take pictures and make our film and blogs. Basically that’s it, plus medicines and spare parts for the bikes. The children also carried their school books and notebooks in their panniers.
Cycling is slow and cycling is tough, but this way of travel is so nourishing. Now we can’t imagine travelling any other way.
“Cycling is slow and cycling is tough, but this way of travel is so nourishing.”
Detlev Swoboda, 66, Perth, Australia Rides a 25-year-old Batavus Dasher
From 2016 to late 2019, my bicycle took me south from Brazil to Ushuaia, Argentina, then north to Alaska and Canada, covering 55 000km. My way of travelling includes a bit of comfort. And rather than speeding through these wonderful and interesting countries, I take my time. Also, covering alpine to tropical climates, I need a good tent, and two different sleeping bags. Another essential item is my Trangia stove, which works with alcohol and is basically maintenance-free.
At the moment I’m waiting out the end of the travel restrictions so I can cycle from Germany to Australia. In my life, I have cycled approximately 115 000km around the world on all the different continents, starting my first journey in 1971, from Germany to Spain and back. Ever since then, I long for the freedom and solitude you can only achieve when you’re on the road exercising in the fresh air, experiencing foreign countries and cultures, and making new friends.
“I long for the freedom and solitude you can only achieve on the road.”