In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

The Wheel Stretches His Legs

New Zealand is a small country when you've got a bicycle and you have itchy feet. It wasn't long before I yearned for overseas adventures.

Tasmania 1988 The First Overseas Cycle Trip
Adi got me to walk down the aisle and I got her to cycle around Tasmania (Aussie). Our first overseas adventure , little did Adi realise one of many bike adventures to come. She didn't realise that she had married a psychotic cyclist. My father bless his heart had filled my little spongy infant head with stories of his pre war cycling tales with the CTC in England. And then to further encourage me had presented me with what seemed to be a life's membership to 'cycling' an English cycle racing mag. I salivated over the touring section. Tales of people who had jungle bashed through Panama to complete the Cape Horn to Alaska trip, and such like.

I'd done the correct thing. My mother would be proud. Married , bought a house, started a career with the Government. Would babies follow?

Not bloody likely. My mum told me that it was not unknown for women to trick men into having babies. So Adi was under no illusion, that should she try that with me, I'd be on the first plane to Sydney (anything would be better than coming home and tripping over kids toys in the driveway).

Luckily Adi wasn't that sort of a girl and she soon informed me that she was sick of paying off mortgages and that it was time to get on the bikes and do a real trip.

So we headed to England! My dreams were to be realised.
England 1992. Lands End to John O Groats

Our appetite's had been wetted, there was no going back. When I returned my work mates said that it was good that I had got that out of my system and that it was back to the grindstone." You'll settle down and have babies now Niel". Niel the wheel does not settle down and have babies was the answer. There are plenty of babies in the world. what we need are more cycle adventurers!

My sister asked me if she should keep her baby stuff for me.

"Sell it" I said . I don't want all my surfaces cluttered and my bike frames not suitable for child seat.

We were grounded long enough to pay off our mortgage and then with tenants living in the garage (one needs extra income) . We were off to France.
1996 Tour de France 4500km.

A trip of a life time we thought at the time.

Climbing the great great alpine passes and watching the Tour de France hero's ( Adi almost passed out when Indurain looked at her. ) I burst her bubble by saying that he was just looking through her to the next corner higher up the road.

Ah those passes. I loved them being a natural hill climber. The same cannot be said for Adi however.
"I'm being plagued by flies".Just ride up the hill faster was the Wheels response. "I cant ride any faster" said poor old Adi.

We both suffered hypothermia on the top of one pass (rescued by a beautiful french B&B owner) and then Adi got sun burnt the next day on the beach at Nice.
End to End Italy 2000

By Italy we were pulling BOB trailers. The Italians thought they were great. We thought they were great too. At the bottom of one high pass Adi decided to pass her BOB trailer over to an Italian roadie showing us the way to the top. Showing that true Italian pride he zoomed ahead. Adi couldn't keep up.

Niel was informed after he had already cycled 120kms that day that he would have to keep up with Louie since everything Adi owned was firmly attached to his bike.

The psychological war was on. Sitting on Lou's wheel 'Niel the wheel' suffered silently like a dog until Louis muscles finally conveyed the message to his brain that another 30kgs had been added to the equation.

Lois started making excuses about waiting for Signorina to catch up.
The Wheel powered on.
 Lois was about to enter lactic acid hell or lose face.Italian roadies don't lose face.
At the top Lois had recovered by the time signorina turned up.
2003 Velo Around Spain and Portugal.
A 5000km cycle tour around Spain and Portugal was pretty much the last straw for my Government job. People working in the government aren't suppose to have a life. "How much longer are you going to keep going away for  months on end Niel?"

"Well forever" was the reply. "It's not like we do anything here except read the newspaper and drive around doing windsceen inspections"

My mother was right the government would have been a good job. If I could have permanently put my brain in neutral.

I left my part time cycle mechanics job as a varsity grad to work for the government and the senior mechanic said "once you get in there Niel you'll never get out". He was almost right

Luckily the Wheel was encouraged to leave. Serious desk work got in the way of my cycling!

Portugal. My Marco Pantani Look.
Niel the Wheel left the government and cycled around Fiji. The main reason for this trip was because  great things were going on in the Wheels head regarding cycle touring bike design. Up until this point I'd been using everything from traditional English touring bikes to light weight road bikes all pulling the BOB trailer. Because Fiji has its fair share of dirt roads of the mud variety, Adi and I used mountain bikes.

Crappy Mountain bikes in Fiji
A bike that combined my love of hand built steel frames,campagnoloblingy bits.

2005 Tour of Germany & Austria.
In 2005 we were off  to Austria and Germany on a circuit of about 5000kms. I had my new creation. A hybrid cycle based around a light weight GT mtb frame but with road components. I had a campag road triple crank set but 26" mtb wheels. The bike ran beautifully and I think it looked the part as well. I could travel between campsites pulling the BOB trailer with Adi. Then on days off, when Adi was giving her thighs a rest' I could head for the hills on my ZUM (Zaskar Urban Machine).

Working part-time in a bike shop enabled me to replace every part of that GT over the next few years with campag and other quality components. The only GT part left was the frame. I had to have quality so after the second frame cracked I searched for a replacement. Something that would take me anywhere and would sit well with Brooks leather, campag components, Gipemme wheels.

It had to be hand built and it had to be light weight steel.
2007 Dublin to Dublin Around Ireland.

In 2007 the Tour De France was in London.  Adi and I were there also to once again see the contenders flex their muscles, and in Adi's case there buttocks. Once the buttock flexing was over we headed to Mercian Cycles in Derby to order my new frames, and Buttock boys headed for France.

We cycled around Ireland in pretty much glorious weather while the boys at Mercian built me a real frame made to measure and a spare just in case. I know these frames are designed to last a long time, but I'm a realist and can't be laid up for three months while my frames fixed.

My last GT frame got me around Ireland despite road surfaces that I thought were only available in the third world.
Shortly after I arrived back home in New Zealand my new frames arrived. And once being fleeced by NZ customs for tax I finally had the bike of my dreams.
2009 Across Australia. The Nullabour.

I had my MUM (Mercian Urban Machine) and one month off work at the bike shop so I thought I'd cycle across Australia. My workmates thought I was stupid which was kind of funny because they have bikes. I think they might need to be enlightened. To me the bike is a way of life and a means to get around. In some places the bike is a life line between you food and a comfy dry bed for the night. To others it's a recreational toy.

In Aussie I had up to 200kms to ride a day to get a steak and chips and someone to tuck me in at night. Otherwise  I was in the desert with the dingos.

My MUM got me there each evening. Adi was not keen on cycling this trip so she loaded up a 200cc Vespa with all her stuff and followed me each day. Mercian and BOB went the 4500kms across Aussie without incident. Vespa did pretty well only loosing its rear shock attachment half way. Easily fixable. (This trip was a test for future Vespa / Bicycle Tours).

Niel the Wheel enjoyed that trip despite horse flies and magpies!

Working part time in a bike shop has its advantages. Not only do you get to talk about bikes all day, you also meet cycle adventurers from far off lands. Lets face it most people outside of the US head the other way when they hear an American accent. Customers mean potential bike sales in the bike shop however  and during the recession one cant be fussy. So breaking through that accent barrier was something I did quite often during our tourist season. It wasn't long before I learnt about the GD trail. The GD trail is short for the Great Divide Cycle Trail running the length of the Rockies in the US and Canada.

I thought that was a perfect trip for my Mercian. I wasn't quite so sure whether it was a perfect trip for my Adi but I knew she would throw caution to the wind and want to be part of it.

2010.We arrived in San Francisco for a three month trip up the Pacific coast to the Canadian border, East to the Rockies and then South through the Rockies to New Mexico where we would head back to San Francisco.

This trip was a huge adventure. The Americans were very friendly. The scenery was lovely and the wildlife kept its distance. Although while we were freedom camping worried about being caught by US rangers two people were dragged from their tents and mauled by a hungry bear in an official campsite nearby. One of those people died at the scene.

The US was hard cycling. Colorado was at high altitude . Nevada and Utah were extremely hot when we cycled through. And we had long distances to travel between towns.

Adi suffered in the heat and altitude so after repeated threats to leave me and go it on her own I compromised and we left the GD Trail and continued on the road. Not before meeting some extremely hardy cyclists travelling the length of the US along the GD trail carrying all their camping gear.

I admire them and feel I have unfinished business there.

Adi and I completed our circuit of the US travelling in total 8000kms in the 3months away.

2011 saw me at work checking out the latest news on the Brooks Blog page and dreaming about what new Brooks leather seat I should buy to further enhance my Mercian. My work mates have long tyred of my obsession with these saddles and bags. But a saddle wasn't what caught my eye but an invitation from Vin Cox to participate in the inaugural Global bike race!

This has got to be a once in a life experience!

A chance to go down in the cycling history books. Much like the early Tour De France champions of old. I dreamt about this for a month or so because I knew that if I mentioned it to Adi she would immediately start planning my attempt on the record.(bless her sole)

My work mates humoured me. "You guys aren't taking me seriously, I could do this"

"Yeah Right" was the reply

Fellow Wheeler Mitchell Cooper gave me a bit of encouragement (probably because he wanted my hours at the bike shop) and I went home and told Adi.

Within a month Adi had my route planned and my minimum mileage each day calculated so that I could win the race and beat the record!

She said there was no way I could do this challenge without her so she would follow on her Vespa to keep me honest and catalogue my progress across the globe.

I worry about the Vespa bit. I like vespas. But unlike bicycles I don't trust them. Never turn your back on a Vespa. Always do a little prayer each night before you go to bed asking Vespa to start in the morning.

My M.U.M needs no such prayers as the Mercian follows the laws of physics and basic mechanics unlike Vespas

These things I learnt on my across Australia.

2012. Overseas For the Global Cycle Race!

Here I sit contemplating what I am about to take on in 8months. To cycle all the way around the world through who knows how many countries. (Adi will of course). My problem is I'm a realist. I can imagine all the problems that will be encountered along the way.

Adi sees sunny days , a humming Vespa and joy of the watching me suffer!

I think pay back time is on the horizon. All those trips that Adi suffered and my usual form of encouragement... "toughen up lovey" will come back in spades.

One things for sure. It will be Adventure. Please feel free to follow my suffering. But remember as most cycle tourers have learnt its the bad days that you recall in a trip. I expect to have plenty of memories to take to my old age after this trip.

Of course you've got to reach your old age that's the trick.