I met Andy as he was riding close to Nice. I met him by bike and we decided to find a high camping spot to sleep under the stars.
Faithful to his nickname “DoubletrackFanatic”, he starts climbing the first track out of the village. It will soon be night. In a switchback, a few square feet of flat ground ; We both consider to settle there. With a little smile, he says “I have never regretted pushing a little further.”
Indeed, after a few minutes hiking our bikes up through the rocks, the spot was here waiting for us, with a panoramic view on the “Baie des Anges.”
So you have been living on your bike for four months?
Yes and every day is great, be it hard or easy. I had not that much happening in Wales. Friends and some jobs, but nothing to keep me there. Most of my friends have the usual things that modern life seems to require of us: Wife, kids, long term job, mortgage, car, credit cards ect. I am fortunate to own my own house, have no people that depend on me for their future, so I decided to see what else the world has to offer me. I rent out my house to pay for this trip and live simply, cooking for myself each night and wild camping wherever I fancy. It’s partly a journey of discovery and partly to find a new place to live.
How did you come up with this idea ? Did you travel through places you liked in particular ?
Through many a wet and dreary day in Wales I searched the internet, and Google earth in particular, to find places I’d like to see by bike. I knew that France needed to be first on the list for the sheer variety of terrain that it offers, that and the food and people made it top of the list. The Vosges, the Jura, the Alps, Provence, these have all exceeded my expectations. And there’s so much more I’ve yet to explore….
Where do you find the motivation to ride so much?
Daily riding in Wales was hard work, although not for the beauty or the possibilities but for the weather. The fickle climate with is rain and cold, even in July!, has made me eager to see the rest of the world. I like to take my time, to not rush through a place, to rest in the heat of the day under a tree or in a town square. To watch the world go by. What’s the rush? Who’s keeping count of my kilometres? Not me that’s for sure. The thought of the new and unexpected keeps me motivated. You know that turning that you always wondered where it goes? Well I take that one and see for myself. I’m here to ‘Enjoy not Endure’.
My followers on social media and friends back home give me more motivation than they realise, I think, to keep searching out the great views to capture and to go beyond the norm in my quest for adventure.
I chose this life over the standard one, I made sacrifices to get here, made decisions that others didn’t to be where I am today.
Then the “connected” aspect is important to you?
To be able to share, almost instantly, my daily joy at my journey, but also those hardships of travel in the mountains and valleys, is a great thing to be part of. Social media, if used to motivate and inspire others, can also really help to motivate me. It cheers me up in bad times, with comments that I receive or questions about my experience, and keeps me grounded in the good times, reminds me how fortunate I am to be doing this trip. Writing an almost daily blog on Polarsteps.com/AndyCox, helps me to think more about my experiences and also to fix them in my memory more. Also I like to talk when I get started, so it’s a way of feeling connected with the outside world, in a foreign country where language is a problem.
Food is part of the trip.
Why not enjoy local products instead of carrying the same old bananas and energy bars?
This way, your snack did not have to cross the globe, you’ll reduce your wrappings, support local agriculture AND you’ll treat yourself !
Can you tell us about your bike ?
It’s a Genesis Fortitude with an 8 speed Alfine hub, converted to 27.5+ tyres and drop bars. It’s a kind of do-it-all machine, a pack mule of a bike, that’s why I named it Modestine after R.L. Stephensons donkey in his book about travelling in the Cervennes. Sometimes I have to force her forward or carry her over obstacles, but mostly she’s the one carrying me, so we are in this together.
How about your gear ?
When you go away for a long journey and you don’t know what you might encounter then it’s a real balancing act of comfort versus weight..
For navigation I use a Garmin Edge 1000 with Opencyclemaps. I have two sleeping mats, for a good night’s sleep, and a Trangia alcohol stove for coffee, I am a Cafeind, and for cooking my own meals on. I made the frame bag myself, as for the price of a custom one I bought the materials and learnt some new skills in the process.It’s a lifetime investment, as the knowledge is forever.
In the ‘unusal’ gear category, I have some rechargeable hair clippers, as I didn’t want to be just another hairy bikepacker. I want to try to stay presentable in public!
If I get the opportunity to leave some of my gear somewhere to ride the Torino-Nice Rally, I’d love to attend it ! And it would allow me to enjoy my bike differently than in “tank mode”, haha !
What about your next destination, where are you heading after that ?
My destination for 2017 is:
Not the UK for Christmas…. So I’ll follow the warmth and good weather south into Spain for the autumn.
I’d love to see Camargue on my way. Some flat riding will do me some good ! Looking forward to seeing salt pans, wild horses… and more doubletracks, of course…! There’s many thousands of Kms of Camino’s in Spain to keep me occupied for a while, then maybe Morocco for Christmas..
I’ll keep on ‘Making it up as I go along’.