Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Name : Mark Doherty
The plan : To cycle around the world using the bicycle as my main mode of transport.
Bicycle : Koga Signature
Date of departure: 19-11-08
Date of return : 27-4-10
Distance cycled : 23,680KMs
Number of continents visited : 3 (*see below)
Number of countries visited : 18 **
Number of punctures : Too many (approxmatily 100)
Number of deserts crossed : 6***
Favourite country : Iran
Favourite city : Las Vegas ****
Most shocking experience : Witnessing a Sky Burial, in which human corpses are fed to wild vultures
Any near death experiences? : That Kara Su river in Kyrgyzstan nearly had me. It truly nearly had me.
Example of 'It doesn't get any crazier than this' : Skiing down a glacier with one hand on the bicycle handlebars and one hand on the saddle and using the pedal as brakes by leaning the bike towards me.
Hardest day : Somewhere in Western China anyway. Probably the day that included a 33KM uphill in first gear and at the end of the day the altimeter showed a 2000M altitude increase.
Longest distance travelled in 1 day : 163 KMs when I had a great tailwind crossing the Karakum desert in Turkmenistan.
Shortest distance travelled in 1 day : 9 KMs. Just too hung over to continue after an unfortunate experience involving a 2 euro bottle of French wine.
How would you describe the past 17 months of Global Cycle Ride? : Best time of my life.
Longest stretch without a shower : 17 days
Best meal of the trip : Il Latino restaurant, Florence, Italy. If you are ever in Florence, visit this place with an empty tummy and leave it to the chef's recommendation of the evening.
Best country for food : I'm undecided between Greece and China.
Worst meal of the trip : Yak rectum with shite sauce in Tibetan truckstop
Worst country for food : Uzbekistan

* Europe, Asia, North America,
** Ireland, Wales, England, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, United States of America, Mexico, Belize.
*** Karakum desert in Turkmenistan, Kyzulkum desert in Uzbekistan, Taklamakan dersert in China, the Mojave and Sonaron deserts in United States and the Chihuahua desert in Mexico
****Las Vegas. Why does this city get continually slated by people? It is a one of a kind city in the world and I love it. If you know where to look you can get a 4 star casino hotel bed for less than the price of a hostel dorm in Dublin. You can get a 16oz T-Bone steak for the price of a sandwich and coffee from an O'Briens sandwich outlet and best of all: Don't pay for alcohol in Vegas. Every casino on the strip including the Bellagio will give you free drink as long as you are willing to spend a little time in front of a slot machine. My advice is sit in front of a 1c slot and tip the waitress $2 per drink. The bottom line. If you want to break even in Vegas- Don't gamble. To quote Robert De Niro from the movie Casino; "The house always wins". It is an extraordinary city that by very definition is the opposite to banal.


One afternoon in mid November 2008, I wheeled my bicycle out my front door and begun a journey of cycling around the world. When I begun out of Naas in Ireland. I could barely pedal it up the hill past the police station on the Kilcullen road. The weight of all my winter gear and the fact that I was so unconditioned to handling a bicycle with such weight on board. First night by the river in Baltinglass, second night on Currocloe beach, third night in Rosslare. By the time I met my great friend, Andy, in Wales, I felt burnt out with saddle sores and a cold. But Andy knows how to build reassurance; "not to worry mate, you're 1% into cycling around the world". As I rode across France in the winter of 2008, I refused to look at my map of the world. I would get depressed when I compared how little I'd travelled to how exhausted I felt. Dad and my brothers Paul and Eoin came out to visit me. Then Genevieve arrived for the New Year. By the time I got to Italy, I was beginning to enjoy the whole affair. Good food that just got better in Greece. I was feeling real fit now. The weather was great and the best of campsites were available everywhere. I'm happy in a museum, but with 130 museums in Athens, Greece, this was a serious overload for the senses. Next up was Turkey. There were 2 major set backs in Turkey. The neck cracking antics of the 'wanna-be-physio' and the loss of 80% of my stuff when I foolishly turned my back and should have known better. The disappointing realisation that the close of the trip was at the doorstep. But then who walks in the door, but a physiotherapist on a bicycle, with a quest to pedal around the world. A month later, I was 'back in the saddle' heading east towards Iran. I was so nervous heading in here. There's just no good news about this country. As it turned, Iran became the highlight of the entire bike ride. A country that shone like no other due to the overwhelming goodness of its people. Global media's obsession with misrepresenting this country is more than an irritation. Its a crime. Dehydration in Turkmenistan and hunger by choice (and for the good of my health in Uzbekistan). When hungry in Kyrgyzstan, I helped skin my own dinner. I carried my bike up mountains and skied with it down the other side. In China, I've been ordered out of my bed by police at a ridiculous hour. 'This hotel is unsuitable for foreigners. You must sleep in a tourist hotel'. Tibetans taught me how to dance. 'Swing your arms, Don't ye Irish swing your arms when ye dance'. I pedalled my bicycle up mountains half the height of Mt Everest and saw used oxygen canisters been thrown from tour buses by wealthy Chinese tourists as they struggled with the thin air. My legs were exhausted at this stage. But I wanted to continue travelling under my own steam, so I bought an inflatable zodiac boat. I tied the bicycle on the back of the raft and paddled down the Mekong river from the Golden Triangle to Luang Prabang in Laos. Didn't spend long in Vietnam but between Hanoi (Vietnam) and San Diego (United States), I spent a Christmas in Paradise (also known as Hawaii). Pedalled across the Mojave desert to make it to Vegas. I neither felt the thrill of winning nor the lull of losing, cause I never gambled. Mexico was bigger than I realised. When I entered, immigration said it would be impossible to cycle to Cancun. 'Its too far.'I was told. They gave me a 6 month visa. 45 days later I arrived into Cancun. Three days later I had a flight home. It was a bit of a rush towards the end. And then a volcano blew up in Iceland and I got stuck in New York City. I needed to dismantle the bike and put it in a box for the flight home. All I need to do now is cycle it from Dublin airport back home to Naas. The complete journey was 24,000KMs and it took 17 months.
Here are some movies created by Markus from Austria, whom I travelled with for 3 months in Asia.

A journey that consisted of a continual stream of smiles and waves and cheers of encouragement. I've slept in everything from building sites to UNESCO world heritage sites. I've slept in peoples' back gardens, industrial estates, under a tree in front of a police station, bus stops, under motorway bridges, 4 star golf resorts etc etc. (I actually meant to sleep in a graveyard at some stage, but never got around to it. Ah well, there will be plenty of time for that later.) There were so many evenings spent watching the sunset or staring up at the stars. And then being woken up by the call of Prayer throughout Turkey to being woken up by the howl of the coyote throughout the North American deserts. I seem to automatically wake after sunrise and I never get tired of pedalling my bicycle. I've been chased by big dogs in England and very excited locals in Iran. In one village I was stoned by the school kids. In another I was directed to fields full of wild marijana. I've had lunch with heroin addicts and got drunk with police chiefs. I regret that I never made it into Iraq or Afghanistan. I just don't believe our media. When they are not publicising the irreverent antics of some 'celebrity', their main international topic of debate that they like to repeat over and over again is; 'The world is a dangerous place. Stay inside your bubble'. NEWSFLASH; Afghans love being photographed and when you enter Iraq from Turkey, there is a huge sign at the border saying "WELCOME TO IRAQ" in an attempt to develop the seeds of tourism. I hope to visit both these countries within the next 2 or 3 years. I've learnt that no matter where you go in this world, dogs pee on car wheels, moths fly towards the light and we live in a world full of good people. (Well, apart from Chinese police. Using brain washing and other aggressive methods of training, these people are transformed into pure evil robotic figures of authority. Only a very small percentage of these portrayed any vague human-like qualities.)


I got so much help along the way.
A very special thanks to my girlfriend, Genevieve, who not only tolerated such a selfish endevour as me going on a 17 month solo adventure holiday, but to continually support and encourage me throughout the journey. Just an incredible girl.

Special thanks to my Dad, Jim. In all he visited me 5 times during the trip. Great to have the company and also great for him to get the chance to spend his retirement travelling the world.

Thanks to the many other touring cyclists I met on the road. In particular, Markus from Austria. Not only was he great company and always keen to attempt the road less travelled, but the guy saved my live when that Kara Su river in Kyrgyzstan had the upper hand of a potentialy nasty situation.

Vincent the French physiotheripest on a bicycle, who checked into that Istanbul hostel and played a big part in sorting out my neck.

To the many home invitations. There is too many to mention but a few that particularly stood out was from Jerome in France and Clare and Recep in Turkey. Thanks guys.

Haji, The American guy living in China was a legend. The man's strenght exceeds the borders of time and the limitations of age. He's 70 years of age and is presently pedalling across Tibet, the rooftop of the world. This will be followed by a bike ride, not through, but around Australia, and then up the lenght of South America. Come on Haji, Whats your secret??

If anyone reads this blog and feels ready to give it (or something similar) a shot, my advice is; To do plenty of research and then go for it. Its important to work with the weather and wind direction. Long distance cycle tourers are always complaining about having the wind in their face. Check out the 'wunder map' on and plan accordingly. Have the best of maps and the most up to date information on visa requirements. Listen to local advice ,but don't always take it. "You can't go that way. The mountains are too high. Its too cold. Its too dangerous. Its not possible on a bicycle". When it gets really, really hard, remember that one day you will be looking back over that moment and enjoying the memory.


I bought all my own equipment, so when I recommend something, its not because I'm getting a sponsorship cheque at the end of the month, its because I genuinely believe in it. Rather than using cheap inferior equipment and carrying a load of spares, I only used what I believed to be the best available and I only carried 2 spare tubes, a puncture repair kit and a set of allen keys (and from China on, I carried one spare tyre).
First you need a good bicycle. I chose a Koga Signature. Its not available it Ireland so I took a one-way flight to Amsterdam and enjoyed the test ride home. All bike components were Shimano XT Deore. The saddle was a Brooks B17 and I have the same tyres since Rome; Swalable marathon plus. I encountered no problems with the bike. That bike has been left out in everything from freezing snow to the searing sun. Its been dropped, thrown over fences, dragged through ditches, choked with sand and dirt, smacked into potholes and those pedals have rotated a million times or more. I didn't even break a spoke. I believe its the best touring bike available. An average bicycle would have fallen apart within a month of what I put them through. I don't want to get to technical now, but if anyone wants more info on the chain choice, oil used, wheel rims etc, email me at
You need a good tent. It becomes home. I chose a Lightwave t0 ultra xt. I've slept in it about 400 times and only recently are the zips starting to fail. It only came down on me once - that was in a flash flood in Iran. It cost 300 euro and weights just over 1.5 kilos. It was worth every cent.
Sanity is relatively valuable - don't forget your ipod.
Now for equipment to avoid. Number one is Magura brakes. The first 5000KMs, they were just incredible, but after that they slowly deteriorated. Not stopping the bike when I needed them to and then sticking to the rims when I'm pedalling uphill. They were seriously expensive. The overpriced service kit was a joke. No instructions and not even brake pads. Magura brakes were probably the biggest regret of the trip.
And as for that XTX tyre from Bontrager. It takes a collective effort from research through to manufacture to create a tyre as hopeless as this. It failed to perform almost daily, giving countless punctures. Although I could never locate it, I'm certain there was some built in device that was able to locate and attract thorns. After a measly 2000KMs, I dumped this piece of balding rubber. I replaced the bontrager with the old swalable marathon plus tyre. Even though she had covered 13,000KMs, the retired swalable limped on the last 1,000KMs to Cancun. Its also worth noting that the bontrager cost more than the swalable. (It must have been that thorn tracker device.)


I believe the bicycle is the greatest mode of transport and possibly the greatest invention ever. It was Leonardo Da Vinci at his best. It can take you wherever you wish to go. And if you are faced with an obstacle, its easy to push and light enough to carry. It can hold great weight (more than 40 kilos), and it can pull a trailer if necessary. Its non polluting, great for your health and fitness and its just fun being on one. If there are any problems mechanically, the bicycle is relatively easy to fix. And if I can't fix it, practically every town in the world has some sort of bicycle mechanic. Most of us probably have happy memories as kids on bicycles. Why do many of us turn our back on this enjoyment as we get older. I believed the bicycle would be the perfect mode of transport to travel around the world but personal security was always a concern. A solo touring cyclist is very vulnerable. Pedalling alone across some desert with everything you need to survive attached to the bicycle. The fear was it was going to attract the attention of some enterprising criminal. It took me 21 days to cycle across Iran and with no international bank cards recognized here, I crossed that border with U.S.$1000 in my pocket. Only one bank in Turkmenistan would give me money. 30 days in Uzbekistan and I only found one ATM working. These countries receive very little tourism and from the stares I was getting, I'm convinced most locals had never seen a tourist on a bicycle before. But rather than seeing a foreigner that they could rip-off or steal from, most people greeted me with smiles and waves and welcomes.
If you are whizzing through some country on a tour bus, you can very often be viewed as that wealthy tourist, but it seems that when you are on a bicycle, you are just greeted with curiosity and welcomes. In general the bicycle is the mode of transport of either children or the poor. So when I pedalled through some random town, I was neither viewed as a threat or as a wealthy tourist. People see you as something different and their curiosity welcomes you more than 99% of the time.