Before the Baja expedition, I spoke to the 4th Graders at Chula Vista Elementary in San Diego. They were following the expedition and after came up with a few questions. It would be great if other classes can think of some questions to ask me.
Next I will be speaking to students at the International School in Iceland.
Answers to questions from Chula Vista Elementary
Which ride has been your favorite so far?
My favourite expeditions are always the ones I have just completed! They are all special, but all different. I only begin an expedition when I am 100% passionate about my mission to complete the journey; the physical challenge, the interesting places I will visit, the story I will create and the outreach projects that I will develop with it – whether it be creating an education program or raising money to benefit the people and places I travel through. I always feel very privileged to have the opportunity to see and experience such remote and interesting places – I never take it for granted. They are all special – Europe, Russia, Australia, Africa and now each of the preparatory expeditions for Breaking the Cycle South Pole.
How are you able to ride on both sand and ice?
Riding on sand and snow are similar (ice is different because it is a hard surface). I got the idea of cycling across Antarctica when I was riding along the Canning Stock Route in Western Australia. The CSR crosses four deserts and about one thousand sand dunes, and I did it on a normal mountain bike (not a fat bike). Cycling on snow and sand are similar because of the soft, unstable surfaces, so the techniques I have adopted are also similar. The surfaces are always changing, so I have to try to read the snow or the sand and be ready at all times to push out of the very soft patches. A lot of energy is expended just to keep balance. This means I use a small gear on my bike and try to turn the pedals quite fast, so I skim over the top rather than plough through the deep snow or sand. It takes a lot of strength and is exhausting, so I try to be as efficient and use as little energy as possible. It is very different to ‘normal’ cycling and uses the whole body, not just the legs.
The type of bike I need to do both is therefore the same, with very wide tires and low gears. There are some differences though, because the sand will wear out the working parts. I have to use different types of lubricant because the sand will stick to wear out the chain and gears. In the extreme cold, normal lubricants (oil) will freeze and make it impossible to turn the pedals.
What has been the most dangerous place you have ever traveled to?
The biggest danger of any bike journey is being hit by a car. As long as I research to find out what the specific local risks are and have a plan to avoid those, I believe the most dangerous regions are the cities and large towns. In some African countries there were potential threats from conflict and insecurity, but in those cases, I always took qualified advice and employed security, so we were able to avoid major problems.
There are some basic common sense practises that I will adopt to make sure we are safe. I believe that whenever I am travelling on a road, I have to be equally as vigilant, whether I am in the USA, Mexico, Somalia, Australia, Russia or Europe.
Did your bike break down during your most recent trip?
The bike, in general worked like a dream. We chose the best set up, with 2.8” wide tires to deal with the sand and good grip to deal with the rough and unstable surfaces. My brakes did wear out though, after descending many steep mountains, so on the last day we had to change my brake pads.
It is really important to keep checking the bike and add lubricant most days to keep it running smoothly.
At one stage we cycled over many cactus thorns, which normally would cause punctures, but we were using tubeless tires with sealant, so when the thorns punctured the rubber, the sealant filled the hole and solidified, blocking the puncture.
How many bikes have you used? Which bike was your favorite?
Three road/touring bikes, four mountain bikes and now I have trialled four all-wheel drive fatbikes. I don’t still have all of these, but at the moment in my home in Melbourne I have 2 1/2 mountain bikes, and when I arrive home this time, 4 fatbikes.
The bikes that I have used on my long journeys (Russia, Australia and Africa) become so special, they are like a part of me. I love the new Christini all-wheel drive fat bike that I just collected yesterday in Maine. It is the fourth custom built bike that Steve Christini has made for me. I discovered Steve’s patented AWD system that he use for build ing mountain bikes a few years ago and approached him to see if he could make a fat bike with his system built into the frame. He loved the challenge, and over the last few years when I have been planning to ride across Antarctica, he has improved on his design each time. I can’t wait to try it in Iceland.
Have you taken any breaks or are you always training for your next ride?
For my ‘normal’ job I work as a real tennis professional (called court tennis in the USA). I coach other people and play professionally. This is the original game of tennis, but it is quite different and only a small game around the world. It is my other passion that makes me happy, though I don’t earn the kind of money as I would as a lawn tennis professional.
I have to manage my career so I can do both. Therefore, I don’t have time to train for cycling every day. I keep fit in general and always work to maintain my fitness, but I don’t have time to cycle consistently all the time. I have to prepare and step up before I go on an expedition. Usually I suffer quite a lot at the start of an expedition until I become fitter. There is also a lot of inbuilt fitness from all the journeys I have done, but I have to work very hard to find that fitness every time.
Have you ever been injured on one of your trips?
So far I have been fortunate not to be seriously injured during my journeys. I have fallen off many times, broken a rib, grazed skin off my elbows and knees, been sick with stomach illnesses, had viruses and colds, been exhausted and suffered from the cold, but never enough to stop me from moving forward.
Here are some of the students starring in the 10News story braodcast in San Diego: