Documenting Our Bikepacking Journey Through Europe And Asia

Daniele and Elena from Cycloscope have been cycling since 2014. They have cycled all the way from Italy through central Asia, China, Japan and down to Indonesia. Now they are in China and it’s time to share their story and their best tips from the road.

Check out their automatic road sampler, that documents their trip in unique and very thorough way.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

We are Daniele and Elena a couple of 30something Italians. I (Daniele) used to be an audio engineer and event organiser. Elena graduated in political science and human rights.

We are now in Hangzhou, China, working as English teachers to save money for the trip back to Italy.

I am also a musician and Elena loves to draw.

How did you get into bikepacking?

How we started is a very long story. To make it short we are not sporty people at all, we where fed up with our lifestyle and jobs and decided bluntly and thanks to some coincidences to ride around the world.

We decided to travel by bicycle basically because there’s no cheaper way to travel. We found out about the beauty of it just after setting off.

Inspirational for me are pioneer explorers such as Thor Heyerdahl, people who broke the schemes like Alfonsina Strada and mad dreamers who reject society in a creative way, like Poppa Neutrino.

What is the automatic road sampler?

It’s basically a device that automatically takes a picture from the bike every 250m and geotag it, to create street level photo map of the journey.

We invented it together with the makers group RaspiBo, so we could create a database of geotagged pictures of remote areas of the world.

We hope this could be of some use for other travelers.
We are now uploading our pictures to the crowdsourced street level pictures website Mapillary. A very interesting project every bicycle traveler should know about.

We are also realising space-lapse videos like this one from Indonesian Borneo:

What’s the biggest bikepacking experience you have had?

Everyday is a new experience. Just waking up and head to somewhere you’ve never been before, meet people you’ve never met before and eat food you’ve never eaten before.

Among the places and events that really changed our perception of the world are the Island of Sumba in Indonesia and the Chap Go Mei festival in Borneo, Kalimantan (again Indonesia), but I could really mention hundreds more places and facts.

We had very few really bad experiences, within those being arrested in China was definitively the most eye opening.

What have been the most difficult part of your adventure?

One of the biggest trouble we faced while on the road was not being granted an Uzbek visa, so we ended up in West Kazakhstan in August with only 15 days to get to Kyrgyzstan, some 4000km away.

But that turned out as a great experience. We hitchhiked trucks and have been treated like honored guests by everybody, that was just great.

We have also had a couple of difficulties and fights between us but I guess that’s pretty normal.

Any recommendations for other bikepackers?

A mistake I see many bikepackers do is pushing too much. Scheduling and planning and then trying to stick to that plan no matter what.

I’ve seen more than a few that were completely worn out because of that, so they were not enjoyng the journey at all.

Doing 130km with headwind in the deserts of China is fine for one day. Doing it everyday for 2 months to get out of China without taking trains or buses doesn’t make much sense for me.

My advice is: Less planning, more improvising. Be aware that taking a transport to have than more time to explore an interesting area doesn’t make you a pussy. You’re not cheating as there are no rules.

That’s just my opinion, but I really think that if you want to keep on cycle touring for a long time you better take it easy.

Best places in the world to bikepack?

Woah, that’s a very hard question to answer! Every country we have cycled in was special in some ways, and we basically loved them all.

For sure, one highlight was Japan. The countryside is amazing and camping friendly. Even for beginners, bike touring is really a great choice for visiting Japan. It makes an expensive country really cheap!

Philippines and Indonesia weren’t even in our plans in the beginning, but turned out to be the places where we would like to settle for good.

We constantly change our plans while travelling and I think we got the best out of it. The people you meet and the things that happen change you constantly. Sticking to a plan made one year ago by a different you is rarely a good idea.

Another great country is Georgia. It was maybe the cheapest country we’ve ever been to, with great food and wine and a unique diversity of its landscape: from the Caucasus peaks to the tropical Batumi, the arid plateau near Gori, deserts and the verdant valleys. All in a country that is just slightly bigger than Sicily!

And then China can’t be left out, and Kyrgyzstan, and the surprise of South Korea with its thousands of unexplored islands… how can I mention all the best places?

What’s the cost of your adventure and how do you finance it?

Until now we had a monthly budget of 600€ ($650) per month for 2 people, for a total of 3600€ ($3900) per year per person, including visas, spares, beer and cigarettes (yes, cigarettes).

We financed our trip so far by renting out our apartment in Bologna, Italy. That’s where this budget comes from.

We also sold a lot of stuff before leaving to buy equipment (a good portion of which we got from sponsors). Right now we are working in China to save money for the next leg. We need new equipment and a bit more money for comfort and safety wouldn’t be bad.

It’s surprising how the most expensive countries turn out to be the cheaper ones when you cycle tour.

For example, in Japan and Korea we couldn’t afford hotels or guesthouses so we never spent a single dime for sleeping in 5 months. Also restaurants were expensive for us, so we cooked a lot.

That allowed us to save enough to buy the flights for the Philippines and even a new action cam!

In cheap countries, it’s easy to be tempted by nice guest houses and cheap restaurants and in the end, those expenses will add up.

Your top 5 favorite bikepacking gear?

I won’t make a top five. We are no gear nerds and we basically cycled with everyday clothes and cheap cycling apparel. Our stove was a tin can.

I personally loved my Extrawheel trailer. It really helped my wrists and shoulders by relieving them from the weight of front panniers.

Crosso panniers performed really well and we are really addicted to our TiGr locks, which makes us sleep without worries. They can also be used as clubs in emergency situations.

After all, I think a mistake people often do is to give too much importance to the gear, we did that to. Gear is important when you really face extreme condition, i.e. very cold climates.

Oh, yes I got it, my favourite bikepacking gear I wouldn’t have survived without: zipties! Pack a lot of those.

What will the future bring?

We will be on the road again in 2018 to ride Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iran, Armenia, Turkey, Greece and finally be back to Italy (at least that’s the plan right now).

We plan then to stop a few months in our hometowns and then head to Africa for another several years journey. Then of course there will be the Americas.

We would like to find a way to mix some canoeing in our bike trips, but we still have to find out how. We’re also thinking of hangliding with folding bikes.

Follow Daniele and Elena on their website, on Facebook, on Twitter and on Instagram.

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