Esther Tacke and Warren Sanders
We met at Edinburgh College of Art in 1994. Which is not geographically accurate, as we were studying in Finland at the time at Lahti Institute of Design. Straight away we started traveling together with a trip to St Petersburg in Russia. Within months we were doing an extended trip ‘car tenting’ around the USA. We did the same sort of thing in Eastern Europe and then we discovered THE BIKE.
For the past 12 years or more we have been doing increasingly ambitious cycle tours. Starting at first onboard questionable mountain bikes and looking like tramps, we have since smartened up considerably. Ten years ago we had our first custom touring bikes built to bike across France. These joined an expanding stable of bicycles as we started to race Audax endurance events, ‘just to keep fit for the touring’. I became a ‘super randonneur’, completing a 200, 300, 400 and 600K in one year and Esther has a best of 400k in 24 hours but the distances we like the most are 200 and 300k. We have also done ‘sportives’, short and appallingly fast events such as the Hamburg Cyclassics, where Esther came top 10 in age with just under 26 mph average.
We have ridden the North Sea coast of Europe, from Amsterdam to Stavanger in Norway and several major trips in the UK and mainland Europe. Two years ago we rode the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway, through the Appalachians in eastern USA on folding bikes. We decided that we liked it a lot. International travel by bicycle was definitely what we wanted to do, and in substantial quantities that would make holding down a job impossible.
We contacted Dave Yates, the famous frame builder and had our first ‘hand crafted’ bike. This was Esther’s, and she did Lands End to John O’Groats on it, and other testing trips around Scotland. It worked a treat. Dave built my bike in 2010, and then we put together the rest of our wonderful equipment and were ready to go. Everything we own went into boxes and was put into store and we set off with a plan or two.
We intend to be ‘on the road’ for four years, ‘CHERRY PICKING THE BEST PLACES IN THE WORLD TO CYCLE’.
Year 1 2011- New Zealand a figure of ‘8’ and USA West Coast ( LA up to Seattle ) and Northern Tier, the coast to coast ( Seattle across to Boston ). This totalled 17,000 km and the high point was the trip across the USA, which is to be recommended if you are looking for just one ‘ must do ‘ trip.
Year 2 2012- Europe, from furthest tip SW ( which is Portugal – for the geographically challenged ), to Sweden, returning via Finland and around the Baltic states. We enjoyed Portugal very much and had outrageously good weather for Jan and early Feb. We biked north, trying to stay with the progress of the Spring through Spain and France. It was then on to Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and back to Germany. A total of 10,000 km for that trip and 17,000Km in total if anyone is counting.
Year 3 2013- Asia. We flew to Kuala Lumpur the Malaysian capital ( mostly on the strength of them giving a 90 day, no question visa, on entry, and the population speaking English ). Heat and humidity for the first time and the heat would follow us as we biked North through Thailand. We intend to bike in Burma, Laos, and India, but managed time only in Laos on account of Burma being still unstable in border regions, and India being just too much for our nerves. We managed to obtain a 2 month visa for China and entered through Laos into the Yunnan Province. China has to be seen to be believed. It is one very big construction site with no alternative way through. The route that last year was perfectly nice was now being turned into a rather bigger highway. Our conclusion is to do a well researched loop and save yourself the grief. It is amazing, and has wonderful people and the paper-work is not as bad as you may imagine.
We left China to enjoy its push towards world domination, and flew to Istanbul in Turkey. This is a great place to cycle, being blessed with so much to see and possibly the most welcoming people on the planet. Our route back through Europe took in Greece and up through Macedonia and the Balkans – with Bosnia being a gem and up to Hungary. Countries come close together, with cultures and longstanding disputes every few hundred kilometres. It is a complicated area and undeniably stunning. At southern Germany, we were on familiar territory after 10,000Km. This brings the total so far to 37,000Km as of August 2013.
Year 4 2014- anywhere that we have missed and still want to go, ( This is a frighteningly large list, but will probably include a return to the USA – we are running out of energy and need their natural enthusiasm and hospitality to keep us smiling ).
The stories of our trip so far are in the body of the ‘ blog ‘. If you are looking for some inspiration, pour yourself a cup of tea and nip over to the blog. If you have a specific topic, then type that into the search function at the top, or just look in the archive at the right year. Anything you want to know, then just fill in a comment, and we will get back to you ASAP. If you have had the merest thought about doing a bike trip, then you must do it. Money and time almost never occur in the same place, at the same time, and there may never be the perfect time – so GO NOW. If you have never had the urge to travel you are lucky. As soon as the thought occurs to you to make a plan and travel, you are cursed. You will have the regret of not doing it if you do not follow through. Have a look at the equipment section, and save yourself from buying rubbish that will fall apart, leaving you at the start of a what may be a long walk.
In the end we did 32,500 miles on that trip through a total of 39 countries. You would think we have had enough of bike stuff, but not a bit of it. Now we are back in Scotland doing mostly short trips and trying to get things lighter. We have started doing bivvying and plan to combine that with our racing road bikes. We have lots of projects planned. We hope at least some will be an inspiration to you. So get across to the blog and have a look at the latest story.