I thought it’d be useful to put a Q&A on this website, to clarify some questions I get asked regularly and also to inform anyone who’s new to my #SambaCycle challenge…
Pre-departure general questions:
Q1) What’s with the ‘Smudger Samba Soccer Stadium Cycle Safari’ name?
A1) Well my nickname is Smudger (real name Andy Smith), Brazil is well known for it’s Samba style of music and dancing, I’m going to visit each of the World Cup 2014 Soccer Stadiums (yeah I know it’s really called football, but I’m using alliteration here, so it had to be soccer), I’m Cycling, and the definition of Safari is “an overland journey”.
Q2) When do you go and how long are you away for? Are you staying for the World Cup?
A2) I leave London on Friday 17th Jan evening and arrive into Porto Alegre in southern Brazil on Sat 18th Jan morning. I’ve then got just under 5 months to complete my route and reach Manaus up in Amazonia in time for the England v Italy match on 14th June! I’ll stay in Brazil for the whole World Cup, I’ve applied for tickets to all England games (conditional after the Group Stage) and I fly back to London on 17th July, so exactly 6 months after I left.
Q3) What inspired you to do this trip? Why Brazil?
A3) I’d had a nagging feeling for a while that I wanted, no needed, to go on an adventure, and having loved a charity cycle from Munich (Germany) to Trieste (Italy) in May 2013 I really wanted to go on a cycling tour of my own. I’ve never set foot in South America so decided it’s about time, and Brazil is a fascinating melting pot of cultures and geographic beauty, plus there’s the footy, and so my plan was formed!
Q4) How did you get time off work?
A4) I resigned from my job! See more explanation here. And no, I’m not sure what I’ll do when I get back, but hopefully will be inspired and find a new job that I love.
Q5) How far are you cycling? Does Brazil have mountains?
A5) Over 5,500 miles! The 5,500 figure was according to my original Garmin route plan, but I’m sure I’ll end up covering more distance since I’ll be taking some detours in order to visit interesting places along the way, or to cycle along the coast rather than over mountains inland, so a bit further but also more pleasant. And actually the few mountainous areas aren’t huge, certainly nothing compared to the Andes over on the western side of South America.
Q6) Are you doing this on your own?
A6) Yes it’s just me and the bike, unless I pick up random teammates along the way, until I reach Fortaleza in the north east when my brother Martin will fly in to join me for the final stage – a 900 mile cycle followed by 5 days on a boat up the Amazon River to Manaus.
Q7) What type of bike are you using? Will you be taking it with you from London?
A7) It’s a touring bike made by a specialist company called Thorn who are based in Somerset. Their Raven model is designed for long distance cycle tours on sealed roads, they also have a more hardcore model for going off road, but I hope I won’t be needing to do that! It has a steel frame and 26 inch ceramic wheel rims for strength, plus the gears are encased within the rear wheel hub so are very robust, and the front wheel hub contains a dynamo which produces electricity that charges the front light and also connects to a USB port on the handlebars which I can use to charge gadgets from as I cycle along! I’m flying the bike over as a piece of luggage along with my bags – to prepare it I need to twist the handlebars sideways, remove the pedals, deflate the tyres, and will put it into a plastic bike bag. I’ll be happy to get it back off the plane in one piece!
Q8) What will you do for accommodation?
A8) I’ve had plenty of Couchsurfing offers from locals in the 12 stadium cities which is superb news, and I’m taking a tent and hammock (Update: unfortunately the hammock didn’t make it through the international postal system in time before I left home) so that I can camp when I need to in rural areas. Martin and I have already got a hostel booked in Manaus since it’ll be packed with English/Italian football fans when we’re there, and we’ll also book apartments in Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte with some mates who are arriving for the other England group games. Finally I’m staying at a charity project in Rio as my base for the last few weeks of the World Cup, so will be travelling to games if England are still in the tournament, or enjoying the atmosphere in Rio if/when they’re out.
Q9) Which charities are you supporting? Where can we donate?
A9) Laureus Sport For Good Foundation and WFC’s Community Sport and Education Trust are my charities – please watch the videos I’ve linked to here to better understand their great work. I’ve set up an online fundraising page where I’m hoping to smash my £5,500 target: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SmudgerSambaCycle
Post-departure realities of Brazil questions:
Q10) How are the roads and drivers?
A10) As I write this in Curitiba after the first 950km of cycling, I can honestly say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of both. I’d had many warnings before setting off that, for example, “Brazil is not a cycling country” and so was slightly nervous at what I might encounter, but on the whole it’s been fine. I appreciate that I’ve been in the relatively affluent southern states and so the roads are likely to deteriorate as I get further north, but I do feel prepared to deal with that as I have already had some experience here of roads with no hard shoulder for me to cycle on, and roads with potholes or made of bumpy cobbles or gravel or even sand. And as for the drivers, I’d like to thank 99% of them for being aware and courteous of me and my bike so that they pull left when needed just enough to pass me safely, especially the big trucks which can be scary at times when I hear the huge engine roaring behind me and hope I’m not about to be taken out, but the drivers give me space and cruise on by. Plus after being on TV back in Porto Alegre I’ve been really buoyed by the large number of drivers who’ve recognised me so honk and wave to show their support as they drive past!
Q11) What’s the weather like?
A11) HOT!!! So far every day but one (where it rained a lot) the temperature has got up over 40 degrees Celsius, according to the reading on my satnav, with the highest I’ve seen being 48 degrees during day 1! It’s not as bad as it sounds though cos I’m wearing thin, lightweight cycle clothing, plus as I cruise along I’m creating a nice breeze for myself that reduces that heat that I feel. However, going uphill is a double whammy of harder work battling gravity but also slowing down so that the breeze disappears, d’oh! Of course I’m drinking A LOT of liquid to keep hydrated and so managing my drink supply and intake is a really important part of the daily routine, speaking of which…
Q12) How do you pass the time on your bike?
A12) Despite spending hours on the road each day (a 100km ride takes about 6 hours including drinks/food/rest stops) I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied – from basic things like scanning the road immediately ahead for debris or bumps, and beyond that for whether there’s a hard shoulder or not for me to ride on, and of course just being aware of other road users, to glancing at my satnav to ensure I’m following the correct route and am prepared for any upcoming junctions, plus grabbing my drinks bottles for swigs of much needed liquid refreshment and deciding when my next refuelling stop will be. Otherwise I’m thinking about the places and people I’ve encountered and also the next destination and whether I need to find accommodation or if I have it lined up with who/where I’ll be staying and about things I should try to do/see while I’m there, which usually just consists of shower/eat/get online to check emails and social media and post my lastest blog update/sleep. Oh and when I’m not thinking about those things then I’m usually singing to myself for entertainment and motivation!
Q13) What kit are you carrying?
A13) Here’s me giving a quick run through to a journalist at the Maracana:
I hope that’s useful/interesting – please add a comment below to ask me your questions.