If in your life you have never cycled more than 20 km and, one day, you decide to pedal East until “the money or the patience runs out”, then ending up returning home coming from the opposite direction, after having cycled around the world, you certainly have a great story to tell, of those that feed dreams and the drinks in the tavern.
We are talking about Jonathan Kambskard-Bennett, part of the team of Apidura, one of the leading companies in bikepacking world.
Before working for Apidura, he spent three years cycling 50,000km around the world (learn more about that adventure in full here https://jkbsbikeride.com).
“In January 2015 I left London on my bicycle to see how far east I could pedal…In December 2017 I arrived home having cycled around the world via 42 countries and 30,000 miles. I’m now back in London, so less of my life is spent on two wheels these days. However, I still to try to squeeze in longer rides when I can”.
We made a chat with Jonathan, waiting to meet him at the next BAM!.
What are your first bike experiences? What kind of cyclist where you before your “big travel”?
I grew up cycling – but never did it seriously. My mother is Danish, which is perhaps why we used bikes as a family to go by our day-to-day business – getting to school, going to the shops etc. Before the ‘big travel’ I had never ridden for anything other than function. I’d never ridden for fitness or for travel. In fact, after my last bike had been stolen I didn’t even own a bike until a fortnight before I left. I’d never cycled further than about 10 miles, so I was most definitely not an ‘expert’!
How did you decide to leave and travel around the world for 3 years? there is a moment that you remember?
Actually, I never made that decision, because when I left home I had no intention to cycle for quite so long or so far. I dreamed about cycling all the way to Australia, but I had no idea if that would be possible, either logically or financially. Instead I decided to ride until I ran out of money or patience. Turned out that I had an unlimited amount of patience, and by living cheap I could stretch my savings all the way to Melbourne.
Biking around the world for years is more than a travel: looking back, do you find the essence of this experience?
A big ride is a like a long book. It’s a journey of many chapters. You spend some time at the beginning to find a rhythm while settling in. Some chapters are real page-turners, others are less exciting. At times you find it hard to stop, but then you loose momentum and don’t pick it up for a few days. By the end you are excited to move on to the next thing, but sad to be finishing something you’ve become so invested in. The appeal in a long tour is the time you get to enjoy when everything has settled. The days that you are feeling physically strong, mentally confident in embracing the unknown and experienced enough that no hurdles will be daunting. With this mindset, you can focus on everything other than the actually riding. You can breath in the surroundings, enjoy every new landscape and concentrate on understanding the people and cultures in each different place.
What are the sensations, meetings and places that you remember most?
It is the meetings with individuals and the wild landscapes that I remember most. I have many fond memories of chance roadside encounters and staying with strangers who invited me in for a place to sleep. I think the encounters I had in Iran leave particularly strong memories – I had no idea what to expect when entering that country, but the first night I stopped in a small village looking for a place to camp and was welcomed with open arms. It was the same for the rest of the month, everywhere I went and every day. There were plenty of small chance encounters with strangers around the world that went out of their way to help me.
What is the difference between a ride or a travel and an adventure?
No difference! Only what you make of it. Any bike ride can be an adventure if you try something new. Similarly any ride can be for travel – taking just one unfamiliar turn on a ride will introduce you to something new. It’s all a state of mind!
What is your ideal set up for a medium bike travel? What is your “essentials”?
Since joining Apidura I’ve obviously embraced the rackless life! I have not been on any trips that require so much luggage, and besides – keeping things minimal is a rewarding way to approach bikepacking trips. My ideal set up is a full frame pack to keep heavy items low, as much as possible on the handlebars and a smaller saddle pack. Since riding the TCR last year I’ve become a fan of aerobars – so definitely a techy cockpit! My essentials are a drip filter for morning coffee, a pillow for a comfortable night sleep and some spices (kept in film canisters) for cooking.
Suggest us 3 places that every bike travelers should visit:
First,your own backyard: there is always something new and special to be found in your local area.
The Mountains: nothing is more empowering than making it up and over a high mountain pass. I love long climbs with huge descents – with that in mind I’d recommend the mountains that fringe Tibet and drop down into southern China.
The Deserts: a desert can make you feel small in a way that no other place can. If you don’t mind solitude, I would say the bigger the desert the better. Riding across the Australian outback is somewhere that I would recommend to anyone who is happy carrying a lot of water and food!
thanks to APIDURA www.apidura.com