AROUND THE WORLD BY BIKE
JIMMY ASHBY 19, has seen the world. Over 2018/19 Jimmy decided to take on a challenge that for many would sound like something out of a fairytale. Starting from his hometown city Adelaide, Jimmy got on a bike and rode it around the world, literally. His 39,400km trip saw him visit 32 countries and experience the globe in a unique and intimate way. To those who were following the adventure it may have seemed like a fairytale, but for Jimmy himself it was just about a pure love for riding his bike.
TOM DUNN: Who is Jimmy Ashby?
JIMMY ASHBY: I don’t believe I’m anything special or unique, I’m just Jimmy! I’m currently 20 years old and live in McLaren Vale, South Australia; I’ve spent my whole life here and believe it’s played a huge part in the person I’ve grown into. The rolling hills are perfect for cycling, rock climbing around the corner at Onkaparinga Gorge and then the beach only 20 minutes away whilst living on 20 acres of land… Perfect!
I graduated year 12 at Westminster School in 2016 and was fortunate enough to be offered a year long Traineeship/contract working in the Outdoor Education Department with Westminster, from there I gained qualifications and skills in Bushwalking, Kayaking, Climbing & MTBing which has allowed me to peruse work as a freelance outdoor instructor for a variety of schools and companies, pretty fun job if you ask me!
I spent most of my high school years competing in long distance running races, both on the track or cross-country, training with Flinders Athletics Club I had bits of success here and there and got to represent South Australia on a number of occasions, however I always loved the solo, wet, muddy long runs on a Sunday morning through Kuitpo Forest compared to the racing side of it. I eventually stepped away from the racing to just run for the love of it which is then where I really discovered a greater passion for longer days in the saddle cycling!
TD: 39,400km, 13 months, 32 countries, $33 000+ raised for charity. On paper it’s a truly epic trip. Was the trip what you hoped for as you were planning it?
JA: It is epic hey!
In short, yes, it was all I could have hoped for. However I look back at myself before I embarked and I really had no idea what to expect or hope for, there was an enormous amount of unknowns but now I’m home I don’t think there was any moment or experience I’d change, although if 18 year old me knew of everything that was about to unfold I probably would have stayed home…
TD: What sort of physical and mental preparation did it take to successfully complete this journey? Do you think that anyone could attempt to cycle around the world?
JA: For sure, I strongly believe anyone could cycle the world and I know for a fact that we all have our world to cycle, mine just happened to be the actual world. But I believe if at 18 years old I could get the money, courage and motivation to head out on an around the world cycle, then anyone can, anyone can take on their “world cycle”, I truly believe I’m nothing special, it's just riding a bike in the end!
Physically & mentally there wasn’t any specific training, because to me I just love riding my bike, it’s what I’m most passionate about. The idea of getting to do the thing I love the most all day, every day through incredibly beautiful places was a blessing. Physically I have been cycling most of my life however I wasn’t heading out to do a single max effort, it was a slow, long journey, I very much eased into it and used the first few months to find my feet and get into my rhythm.
TD: Before this trip began you had already completed a few long distance solo cycles (Kangaroo Island, South Island NZ, Adelaide to Melbourne). Your parents also met whilst cycle touring and have completed their own cycle trips across Europe. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how you decided on your mode of transport, but where did the ambition to go around the whole world come from? Why go so far, and for so long?
JA: Yeah, cycling and cycle touring has been a part of my entire life, I grew up hearing stories about the places my parents travelled through and I always remember it capturing my awe and imagination. A lot of people say I was always going to do something this big, it was in my genes!
After 2017 working for Westminster School, I had some good money behind me and knew I wanted to get away, university didn’t take my fancy at all and the idea of travel jumped out to me like a sore thumb, I simply looked at my bike and knew a big bike trip was the way to go! Initially I had the plan to cycle from Greece to the Nordcap in Norway however whilst out climbing with a friend at Mount Arapiles he joked the idea of “Just go around the World”… little did he know a seed was planted and then from there I realised people actually do cycle around the world and it just snowballed into something very big and very scary quite quickly!
TD: To officially cycle around the world you needed to cover 29,000km. You went further than necessary but also made fairly quick time. Despite already taking some detours, do you have any regrets that you didn’t go to some regions or stay longer in others? Would you take the same path if you were to do it again?
JA: I regularly got told, “Slow down and enjoy it, why are you going so fast, you’re missing the tourist sights?” or something similar… But if I enjoy going fast and cycling sunrise to sunset then why would I slow down? That’s the way I love to travel, I just love riding my bike and I wouldn’t change it all!
I believe I got to see things most tourists wouldn’t and I don’t have a single regret at all! With all the other tourists and cyclists I met I realised that:
I travel so that I can cycle whilst others cycle so they can travel. I simply love to ride my bike.
I ended up covering 39 100km and averaged just under 100km a day, however if you take out all the days off the bike my daily average is +130km/day, that’s also covering 300 000+vm (vertical meters) throughout the cycle. There are sections I’d love to do again but also sections I wouldn’t, I see myself visiting little pockets of the world now and skipping the less scenic sections in-between.
TD: Initially your plans were going to see you become the youngest person ever to have cycled around the world (As Jimmy’s kilometres were further than mandatory, meaning the trip was larger and longer, he didn’t return to Melbourne in record time). What did that record mean to you as a motivator in preparation? Does missing out make you want to try to set a different record?
JA: To be honest it wasn’t a motivational factor at all, it was more of a ‘cherry on top’, in my research I realised it was a possibility but never put huge expectations on it, I’d be stoked either way. If I had the choice of the record or being able to spend longer doing the route I did then I’d take the second option every day of the week! There’s not a huge appeal of records for me, cycling is a very personal thing, I very rarely even cycle with people now I’m home, its only ever with people I truly enjoying being with.
TD: Now I assume the generic – ‘What was your favourite moment?’ question must be one of the most common questions you get asked, and with so many experiences along the journey I assume it would also one of the most difficult to answer, so I won’t ask that.
I am still curious to hear about some highlight moments though, so, to make it a bit easier on you, I’ve tried to narrow it down to some slightly more specific versions of that question. What was your… Favourite piece of gear? Favourite week of the trip? Favourite mouthful of food? Favourite campsite?
JA: Gear: Dynamo Hub in my front wheel – It allowed me to be totally off the grid and never have to worry about my electronics running flat.
Week: The first week through Nepal was pretty magic, it was one of the few times I felt truly calm and at peace. I was on roads that were unbelievably remote and the villages I past through were full of such happiness, love and compassion.
Mouthful of Food: This bowl of 2-minute noodles in the middle of Nepal, I’d been pushing my bike for about 10km through deep deep sand and happened to stumble across a home that was selling noodles and cookies… Made my day!
Campsite: I took great pride in ‘free camping’ always pushing the limit of where I could get away with, some of my finest moments were on the Croatian, Italian and French Coasts where I’d sleep on the beaches in front of mansions and uber expensive hotels, I just had to make sure I was gone by sunrise…
TD: What was your entertainment during the journey? What kept you sane during and after a day of cycling?
JA: I’m a huge podcast nerd so I often had them being played whilst riding or while cooking dinner, some of my favourites are: The Hidden Athlete, Rich Roll, Hamish & Andy, Plant Proof Podcast and Stuff you should know. I even began to learn Spanish though podcasts but that quickly grew a bit boring.
I also listened to a lot of music, spotify was a must need! I’m a huge fan of Australian, acoustic artists such as Ziggy Alberts, Xavier Rudd and Kim Churchill.
TD: Weather, broken gear and loneliness could all be factors that could ruin the enjoyment of a ride through even the most beautiful parts of the world. What were your biggest challenges, and was there ever a moment when you thought you wouldn’t/didn’t want to get to the finish line?
JA: To me cycling is my ‘happy place’, it’s where I feel complete and is what I love to do, so while getting up to ride 150+km every day to some may be the challenge, for me it’s a blessing. Of course there are times where it’s hot, cold, windy or I’m hungry (that happens a lot), which makes the riding tougher or less enjoyable but I’m still riding and that’s what I love. Sometimes I have to stop and breathe for a minute to remember that.
So for me, the toughest moments, the times that have brought me to tears, are when I wasn’t able to ride and I lost my ‘happy place’. These times came when I had mechanical problems I couldn’t fix or was stuck waiting for new parts to be posted to me, twiddling my thumbs spending money I didn’t have and just waiting.
The one other moment that I’ll never let go of is when I was in Tajikistan. Six weeks before I cycled the road on the Afghan border, four cyclists were killed in an act of terror by Islamic State. I arrived at the location and found a memorial for them… instantly it broke me, the fear it could have been me but also the fear, the stress and the worry I was putting my friends and family through.
TD: Along the journey you were raising money for Motor Neuron Disease, attempting to raise $1 for every 1km. Why did you choose to raise money for this cause?
JA: Once I had decided to embark on the journey I knew it was going to be something big and I realised it had the potential to make an impact in another way. The Journey came first and the fundraising came next. MND is a close disease to my heart losing both my grandmother and my Flinders AC Coach. It was an easy decision to choose this charity, for me, my family and running community.
TD: Aside from being a fundraiser, how do you think this trip impacted those at home who were following each pedal stroke?
JA: I know it’s brought a lot of inspiration into some peoples lives and to me, that’s all I could ever hope for. A number of people have even reached out to me saying they’ve begun to cycle again or they’ve started taking their own steps to ‘cycling their world’.
Through my Instagram, Strava & Facebook page, a lot of people followed my journey closely and with the use of pictures and stories it felt like friends, family and strangers at home were living my journey too, it really grew into an incredible community!
TD: Simply due to all the experiences you’ve had in the previous few months I expect the Jimmy that left Adelaide is not entirely the same one who returned. Have you noticed any changes within yourself, any lessons learnt that have shaped you as a person? Or did this trip just reaffirm who you are to yourself?
JA: When I left Adelaide I definitely had a huge ego in tow. I wanted to tell everyone what I was doing, where I was going, feeling indestructible. “I’m Jimmy, I’m 18, I will cycle around the world.” I didn’t have an appreciation for where I was going or the places I’d get to see. I had this ‘go go go, faster is better, I can do anything’ frame of mind until half way across the USA when one of my best mates, Chad Freak, joined me for a week while crossing the Rockies in Colorado. He’s a guy I’ve always looked up to and has done some incredible things on a bike in his own right! He definitely picked up on the mind frame I had and he made me really ask myself why am I doing this? Is it to say I’ve cycled the world or is it for me, and the love of adventure & cycling?
Once he left I made the effort, I learnt to be humble, I made the simple switch from telling people ‘I’m cycling around the world’ to ‘Just travelling through’ when asked, I learnt if they were actually interested in my story then they would want to chat. My entire mind frame and schedule changed, I became less stressed and started to feel that happiness I was searching for. If it weren’t for Chad and making that change then through the tougher countries, the challenges and conditions would have torn me apart! I learnt that the macho mind frame I had was going to prevent me from achieving what I wanted to.
From there I began to discover the love, kindness and compassion in the world, particularly Asia and now that I’m home if I can bring back even the smallest aspect of the love, kindness and compassion given to me then I know I’ve grown as a person from this ride.
TD: In the final stages of your trip you were already planning the next adventure, in Nepal. Now that you’ve returned home is that idea still strong or can you see yourself enjoying normality/family/friends for a while?
JA: Of course! I have all sorts of ideas flowing through my head, its part of what kept me sane, day dreaming about the next journey. Nepal and the Himalayas just captured my love and awe, I would love to get back there soon, I’ve roughly planned a 6000km ride that goes from Nepal to Kyrgyzstan via India, Pakistan and China all along the Himalayan Mountain range. All on gnarly dirt roads and a terrifying amount of climbing, I’ve mentioned the idea to a couple close friends of mine but all I can say is watch this space, I hope to be back there soon!
TD: What else could we expect to see from Jimmy Ashby in the coming years?
JA: For me, my next goal is the Indian Pacific Wheel Race in March 2020. With the support from CURVE Cycling, K-Lite and Ground Effect Clothing I’m hoping to have a red-hot crack and mix it with the top end of the race.
The IPWR is a 5500km-unsupported race from Perth – Sydney. No support, no stages. To me it’s the most raw form of racing, there’s nowhere to hide, just you, the bike and the question of how fast you can get to Sydney?
Whilst preparing for the IPWR I have also developed a presentation about my Around the World cycle. This is something I’m very passionate about and have really enjoyed taking it around the schools in South Australia, hoping it will continue to grow and grow and allow me to share my story more. It has a major focus on resilience, happiness and passion, whilst all intertwined with my stories from the road perfect for wellbeing programs and personal development.
TD: Any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with?
JA: Although this was a solo ride I was far from alone, my beautiful Mum, Dad & Sister were there for every pedal stroked and then my best friends Amy, Michaela, Rob & Chad were a rock for me throughout the entire journey, as well as my Auntie Maxine as international support.
I thought about all these people daily and I know they were thinking of me.
Steve, Adam, Ryan, Jesse & Sarah at CURVE Cycling and Jordan at G!RO in England were too, a major aspect of my cycle, they were the bike I rode and when things went wrong with it they moved mountains and rivers to get me moving as quick as possible, its because of that I’m proud to be on a CURVE bicycle.
Cycle Closet, Biomechanics Cycle Repairs, Quadlock & Apidura also deserve a thankyou, all supplying me with love, support and products for my ride.
From here I can’t wait to continue with CURVE Cycling and some new brands, K-Lite and Ground Effect Clothing to see what else is possible, after all I’m only 20, the world is just the beginning…
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