Meet Chris and Ties who have cycled 14,000 miles across Canada and the US

Couples who travel together, stay together. Sounds cliché, huh? For Chris and Ties, traveling is always better shared. And for them, bicycles are not only means of transportation.

Let’s check out this lovely couple as they share the ins and outs of cycling across Canada and the US.

Cyclist Chris and Ties

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

We are Chris Fieldsend (Plymouth, England) and Ties Benguedda (Amsterdam, Netherlands). Chris is a freelance consultant delivering change programmes and specialist advice to the UK government. Ties is a freelance life coach providing personal development and support to young people and adults. We are currently in Toronto, having cycled approximately 14,000 miles around Canada and the US. We are both keen travelers, music fans, foodies and appreciate good design. Although no connoisseurs!

How and why did you get into adventuring and traveling?

Chris: A friend was trying to persuade me to join him on an overland adventure around South America. I was keen but cycling was always my passion so I started looking at adventure cycling. I discovered the Pacific Coast route and then the Southern Tier, and the Atlantic Coast. And decided to link it all up with a ride across Canada. I quit my steady Civil Service job and set up my own business to work independently. This gave me the flexibility and money to go on this adventure.

Ties: I started my long-term traveling in 2013 before Chris and I met, I was supposed to travel for three months, do some soul searching and then get back to the Netherlands where I am originally from. What happened Instead, during those 3 months, I met many long-term travellers who taught me ways to make it possible to travel long term on a tiny budget — that sounded amazing to me and I decided not to go back but to continue traveling whilst working/volunteering in hostels for accommodation and bartending, hairdressing, life coaching on the side, depending on the area, so I never went back to the Netherlands.

Giving everything up including my studio and all my belongings was the best decision I’ve ever made. By the time I met Chris, I was more ‘settled’ in the Mexican Caribbean. There is a big expat community where I did some property management, I had set up a weekly personal development meet up, wrote for the local English newspaper on personal development, I was life coaching, I did some volunteering at a local animal shelter and still did the occasional haircut at a youth hostel of which I knew the owner and often hung out with friends..where one day i met Chris and we clicked immediately, we spend a couple of days together, Chris told me about this amazing bike adventure he had planned and I thought it sounded amazing and wished him the best of luck with that (not knowing that I would be joining him.)

Chris had to go back to the UK, we stayed in touch and a couple of weeks later he surprised me by visiting me for my 30th birthday. We spent two weeks together, we were madly in love and I moved to the UK not long after. Chris reminded me that he had this trip planned and it didn’t took much to convince me to join him..this said..I had never ridden a bike with gears before, so I had a lot of training to do. Chris made me a wonderful training schedule and for six months, every week we would up the miles, gradients and weight until I was comfortable cycling 70miles, up to 18% hills with 55kg. That was as you can imagine not easy to say the least, but I am incredibly grateful and happy that we did that, because I couldn’t have done this trip without that training.

Cyclist Chris and Ties

Why is adventuring and traveling important for you?

Chris: It’s never been important to me as such but has become so since we’ve done this trip. I’ve always loved the great outdoors for the natural beauty and fresh air. I’d always rather open a window and go for a walk, than put on the air con or go the gym.

Ties: Adventuring/traveling is important to me because it is exciting and I learn and develop a lot: New environment, new people, new cultures, new situations, new challenges. Adventuring definitely broadened my horizon. It has made me more humble, grateful, in our current case it has made me more healthy and stronger physically and mentally, it made me more creative and even more curious about the rest of the world. I think that for these reasons it is important for our personal development to get outside.

Cyclist Chris and Ties

What has been the best parts of your adventures and travels?

Riding – We’ve been riding bike for as long as we can remember. For many cycle tourers, the riding is just something they do to get around their adventure. The mode of transport if you like. For us it’s the main event. Every morning when we set off, we feel happy pedaling, and after a rest day it feels extra special to ride again.

Shared experiences – Chris had originally planned to do this trip alone. We’re very pleased we did it as a couple as the time we spent together has been wonderful and travel is always better shared.

Scenery – Canada’s scenery is epic and the natural beauty is incredible. The States has unrivaled variety in its natural landscape and we love riding through all these vistas. From the beautiful desert till the Everglades, the scenery is incredible!

People – The people we have met during our trip have definitely been of great influence, we met so many fantastic people of all sorts, shared stories, laughter, meals, drinks, accommodation, we experienced incredible hospitality, culture and made many new friends.

Cyclist Chris and Ties

What has been the most difficult parts?

Undoubtedly the weather. We had a whole month of rain through Washington, Oregon and Northern California. We set off in the rain, put the tent up in the rain, slept in the rain and took the tent down in the rain. Every day. For a month. It was demoralizing, but we got through it.

Nova Scotia was difficult too. We had freezing rain and strong winds. Chris got chilblains and we had to stop riding by 09:30 on a few occasions as the conditions were so tough.

Planning was easy as Chris is an experienced project and programme manager and treated the whole trip like a project. We saved the trip so we didn’t have to work but Brexit happened just before we left and put a huge dent in our budget. We had planned to spend half our time in motels and visit breweries, museums, etc. In reality, we’ve spent less than 20% of nights in motels and only visited breweries or museums when we’ve had birthday/Christmas money.

The biggest danger was dogs. In the southeastern states, we had at least one dog chase every hour of the day. People don’t leash their dogs and they sadly end up us roadkill.

We keep going by always having something big to look forward to. Currently, that’s Newfoundland. The Canadian prairies made this tough, but we were at the start of our trip so enthusiasm was running high!

Cyclist Chris and Ties

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

We use campgrounds a third of the time, use Warm Showers a quarter of the time, stay in paid indoor accommodation (motels, Airbnb etc) 20% of the time, and the remainder of nights we find free accommodation. This is a combination of staying with friends, friends of friends, local people, wild camping, etc.

Warm Showers is a social network for cycle tourers. Local people host cycle tourers for free. It can be anything from pitching our tent in someone’s back garden, to having our own guesthouse and being taken out to a restaurant for dinner. It works on a reciprocal basis, so we’ll host cycle tourers back in Cornwall.

We have a Big Agnes Wyoming Trail 2 tent. We started with a smaller tent but Chris kept snapping the poles and eventually we upgraded. It’s got a modest sleeping area but a huge garage that we store the bikes and all our kit in. We have MEC 3 Season (-9C) down sleeping bags. We upgraded on Nova Scotia when Chris got chilblains from the cold. We set off with 3 season ones but these were rated for European 3 seasons; +2C!

Most of the time we make our own food. We go to the big supermarkets and cook our own food in a little MSR WindBoiler Stove. Porridge for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and rice or pasta for dinner. We eat a lot of peanut butter, trail mix and tinned tuna! We make our own no cook ‘energy bars’ by mixing oats, peanut butter, trail mix and honey in an empty Folgers coffee pot.

Cyclist Chris and Ties

What are your best advice for new adventurers?

Chris: Have a decent contingency budget. Being a programme manager, I budgeted a modest daily budget and a generous 25% contingency. I know this sounds like boring advice but trust me, it pays off when you need to upgrade or replace loads of kit and don’t have to worry about the cost too much because you’ve allowed for it.

I can’t say I’m an experienced traveler to comment on what people do wrong. I realise I do things very differently as I plan things to the nth degree, while many people do everything on the fly. I would say you need a good plan but be willing to change it as things come up. That’s what we did and it has worked very well. I think most people dream rather than do as they’re scared of the impact on their career and what employers will think of this gap in their CV. I would say don’t worry about that. Employers like that you’ve done something challenging that’s extracurricular. Especially if it’s something a bit different and physically demanding.

Ties: “Adventure lies at the end of your comfort zone,” Neale Donald Walsch. You can’t “plan” adventure. Adventure starts when it’s not going according to your plan. Just book that ticket or pack that bike and get out there. A real adventure should scare you (a bit). Be humble, open minded, and curious. Believe in the good of people, trust that everything will work out (it always does, one way or the other), and always follow your gut.

Cyclist Chris and Ties

How do you prepare for your adventures and travels?

Chris: I started by building up a professional network so I could take a year off and then (hopefully) reenter the job market relatively quickly. Then planned the budget and the route. I researched what routes other cycle tourers and cycle touring companies used. Then amended them to cover the areas we wanted to see.

Our three best bits of kits are our Arkel Panniers, Therm-A-Rest sleeping mats, and AeroPress coffee maker. Got to have quality carrying equipment, sleep is important and coffee is a must!

Ties: I trained 6 months for this trip to get in shape for this trip, I used to do yoga before that. Chris really loves planning, so he is head of planning.

Cyclist Chris and Ties

How do you finance your adventures and travels?

Personal savings. We don’t have any sponsors but are very open to the idea! We are both self employed. Chris has his own business (Fieldsend Consultants Limited) but it’s just him. He kept the business trading while we were away so he can pick it up as soon as we return. Ties is a freelance life coach providing personal development and support to young people and adults, locally and online, she will find her clients where we settle through networking. We budgeted £10k each and are on track to come in slightly under.

We spent more on travel than gear but our gear costs were pretty high as we had to get good quality touring bikes and equipment.

How do you balance normal life with adventuring and traveling?

Chris: I put ‘normal life’ on hold while we did this trip. I literally stopped working for a year and fully committed to this trip for a year. We don’t have kids. I miss friends and family most. I miss creature comforts way less than I expected but I do really miss coming home to the same bed every night.

Cyclists Chris and Ties
Chris and Ties’ current route

How’s your cycling tour so far?

We are 14,000 miles into an incredible cycling adventure around North America. In the past 11 months, we’ve cycled through 9 Canadian provinces and 26 US states. We started in Toronto, went west to Vancouver, then south to San Diego, east to Key West and north to Cape Breton. We completed our loop of North America in Toronto and we’re flying home to the UK via Newfoundland to make it a clean sweep of all 10 Canadian provinces.

We’ve ridden through typhoons, tornadoes and torrential rain, survived bear and raccoon encounters, and stayed in everything from a Texas jail, to a 19th century schooner and a Prince Edward County vineyard. Not bad for an English guy and a Dutch girl who’ve never been on a bike tour before!

What has been your best adventuring purchase below $100?

The AeroPress. We love coffee and it’s lasted so well during this trip. We use it multiple times every day and it’s got signs of wear. It saves us a lot of money as it makes such god coffee that we’re rarely tempted to buy a coffee.

What other favorite gear do you have?

Chris: I have a SON dynamo hub on my front wheel. This powers my front and rear lights and charges anything with a USB socket. It’s fantastic, and works much better than I imagined. I also love my Arkel GT54 panniers. They’re very well made and have a zipper that opens all the way round so you can easily reach stuff. Most tourers use Ortleib bucket style panniers that are waterproof but are a real pain to get that item that is invariably at the bottom of the bag.

Ties: My B17S Brooks saddle!! I also really love my Portland works front basket, which is incredibly solid and comes with a shoulder bag, which we use a lot to do groceries or day trips. I also love my four Carradice panniers, which are easy to use and waterproof, my favourite thing about them actually is that they were pitch black when we started, but the sun has bleached them completely to which I could personalise them with my drawings. I am a huge fan of our Therm-A-Rest, which has given us such good (and important!) nights sleep, which really help to recover from a long day on the bike and to wake up well-rested for a new day on the bike.

Cyclist Chris and Ties

What will the future bring?

We’ll settle down for a few years in Cornwall who’s adventuring in the UK and the Europe on short trips and saving for another big adventure. It will probably be another bike tour, but we can’t decide between Asia, Africa or Europe.


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2 Comments

  1. Love following your trip,best of luck in your future travels .

  2. Ximena Bravo says:

    Wow! It’s really awesome and incredible all your adventure! I wish you the best good luck every moment on this trip and hope meet you again somewhere on your road I would love to! Keep going on! Kisses! From Playa del Carmen!

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