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Cycling Around The World – The Last Leg

Posted on March 12th, 2013
Zac Clayton Cycles The World

Terra Nova speak to British cyclist Zac Clayton as he makes the final push toward completing his cycle around the world.

Cycling around the world is the sort of thing most of us can only dream of. But back in 2010, post-graduate Zac Clayton decided to turn this dream into a reality. Like many of us, after finishing his studies Zac proceeded to sift through various job vacancies wondering just where to start his career. It soon occurred to him that this juncture in his life presented an opportunity to do something special, a once-in-a-lifetime epic adventure.

“I pretty much decided on the spot to put the career plans on ice and take on something completely left field. I knew I’d only be 20 when I graduated which I just felt was too young to shoehorn myself into a linear career which I’d possibly be stuck in for the next 20 years. After that it was just a matter of deciding how much I wanted to take on!”

Zac eventually decided that he would attempt to cycle around the world (as you do!). The expedition would be completely self-funded, so he managed to secure some temporary work as a carer to help him save like crazy for the equipment and funds that he would need for gear, flights and food, etc. He also realised that if he was going to do this, he could also raise money for a charity. After much deliberation, Zac made the decision to support the charity Water Aid.

I asked Zac what physical preparations he made to make this dream become a realistic possibility.

“I’ve always cycled a lot so I didn’t have to worry too much about that – I cycled 30+ miles most days anyway in order to get to work, so had a good base level of fitness to work off when I left – although I’ve definitely got faster since then!”

But what about the practical side of things? Planning flights, crossing borders etc?

“The practicalities were much more complex – from finding the right bike and kit, booking flights between continents, choosing which mountains I’d avoid and which I’d cycle over, and of course wading through the mass of red-tape which is the Central Asian visa system. Most of the information for these things is online if you look hard enough, although I did speak to some other cyclists who had been to some of the less well-known places to get a few tips. I think the best tip I got was not to worry about the details too much – the best things that happen are always the unplanned bits!”

Superlite Voyager pitched in woodland

Superlite Voyager pitched in woodland

Zac set off from the UK in May 2012. He planned to cycle approximately 29,000km in just ten months. Each day, he sets himself a rough target destination, using Google Maps to help him find the route along the way and seek somewhere appropriate to set up camp for the night – usually in woodland areas where possible.

“Once there I’ll usually pretty quickly find somewhere to pitch up for the night – I think the furthest I had to cycle looking for a place to camp after deciding to stop was about 8km; you learn to be pretty resourceful.”

When it comes to long distance expeditions such as this, ensuring you have a reliable shelter to sleep in every night is paramount. But if you’re cycling with this shelter every day, then weight is also a critical consideration. Zac decided to use the Terra Nova Superlite Voyager tent, for its combination of reliability, stability and low weight. He also chose one of Terra Nova’s lightest sleeping bags, the Laser 300 Elite. Made from specialist lightweight materials, utilising 900-fill power quality white goose down, this sleeping bag added only 330g (0lb 12oz) to his weight.

I asked Zac for his thoughts on the Terra Nova gear he’d taken for this epic journey…

“Brilliant! The Superlite Voyager tent has withstood some pretty brutal weather, a few storms, gale force winds, all sorts of pitching conditions, and is still going strong after 10 months of being strapped to the back of my bike. It even once kept me safe from a Tiger snake intent on making friends when I was in the middle of the Nullarbor Plain in Australia.”

Most of us will only ever be able to imagine just what an incredible explosion of experiences cycling around the world brings to our senses. But I asked Zac to try and think of one single experience that particularly stood-out to date.

“What a tough question – I have trouble enough picking out a favourite country! If I had to pick one….waking up at 3,500m near the foothills of the Pamir Mountains in Kyrgyzstan, watching the sun come up behind the snow-capped peaks after breaking camp and then after 30 minutes of cycling being pulled off the road by a nomad herder to share a cup of warm goats milk and a Snickers – not the worst way to start a day!”

lightweight sleeping bag

Food poisoning – Zac in his sleeping bag, at road side

Zac also notes that whilst there haven’t been any genuinely ‘bad’ experiences on his journey so far, one particular event stands out as not being a great moment…

“…cycling over a fairly brutal 1,800m mountain pass just north of the Taklamakan Desert in China into a headwind, which would have been tough on its own even if I hadn’t had food poisoning – having to stop every 30 minutes of the climb to throw up definitely ranks as an experience I’d rather not repeat! I couldn’t even stop and rest – water supplies were running low and I had to make it 100km and over the pass to the next town – although I did have a little break at the top of the pass (see picture…yes that’s the Terra Nova Laser 300 getting some impromptu use!)”.

At the point of writing this blog, Zac is now somewhere in the north of Spain, approaching the French border. Over the coming days, he now needs to cycle up through France to get back to where he started – the UK. He plans to finish the expedition on March 23rd 2013.

Zac gives one piece of advice for anyone reading this who might feel tempted to do something similar,

“The hardest step is the first one – once you’ve actually decided to take on something out of your comfort zone, everything very quickly falls into place and turns out to be a lot easier than you feared it was going to be!”


If you’re planning an expedition, large or small, please feel free to contact Terra Nova for advice on choosing the right gear for your specific trip.

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