This German Cyclist Couple Goes Home After Spending 5 Years on the Road

5 years ago, German couple Franzi and Jona from Tales On Tires quit their jobs to travel the world.

It’s now time for them to return home to Germany for the first time in 5 years!

In this interview, Franzi and Jona share their experiences from travelling the world.

Learn how cycling gives you independence and freedom, how to deal with rough situations, how to appreciate the small things in life and how to believe in people again.

Tales On Tyres - Returning Home

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

We are Franzi and Jona from Hamburg, Germany. In 2012, we quit our jobs and left home to travel the world. We both felt we did not want to spend our days working for money we don’t really need but rather live our lives through experiences and travel.

How and why did you get into cycling?

We started cycling after 4 months of backpacking across India and Nepal. We just felt exhausted by spending most of our time squished into overfilled buses and trains, only to see the world swooshing past the dirty windows. When we met a Swiss couple on their bikes one day in Nepal, we felt excited and exhilarated about the idea of traveling by bikes and we decided to give it a try.

Only two months later, in the south of India, we bought two very cheap hybrid bicycles and asked a tailor to sew us some panniers. It was not easy to organize everything and most of our gear was pretty improvised and basic but our excitement was too big of that anything could hold us back. It only took us a few weeks, to get everything together and to be honest, we did not have the slightest idea in what we got ourselves into but that is the beauty of traveling — to embrace the unknown.

Tales on Tyres Franzi and Jona

What have been the best and most difficult parts of your cycling adventures?

The best part has been everything we learned about ourselves, others and the world. Everyday you get thrown into new situations, sometimes within but also sometimes far beyond your comfort zone. When you are traveling by bike, you can’t hide behind a bus window or a tour guide, you learn how to deal with uncomfortable situations really fast and appreciate the small things. When you travel around the world in this very vulnerable way, you learn to trust and believe in people. And maybe that’s the most beautiful thing: The world and its people is a good place. We are kind, generous, compassionate and we care about each other.

The most difficult part is also the beauty of such an adventure. Being challenged and pushing own boundaries. Of course, it sucks at the exact moment but you can not deny the effect it has made on you.

Why is cycling important for you?

Cycling for us has become the ultimate way of traveling. You are independent and free. It allows you to get to places you otherwise would easily miss. When we travel by bicycle, we can shape our own path and adventure. In addition to that, we simply love spending our time outdoors in nature. In our daily lives, we are often so distracted and stressed, nature really allows us to disconnect and take a step back.

Tales on Tyres Franzi and Jona

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

Depending on the country, when we traveled through the USA, we mainly cooked our own food to keep the costs low. However, in Mexico and most of South America, street food is so cheap and good that we often would eat out if possible. Of course, as we spent most of the time riding our bikes, we also carry our own food and cook ourselves.

For sleeping, we like to wild camp. It is maybe one of our favourite parts of traveling by bicycle: Waking up outside, surrounded by mountains, watching the sun rise with a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

We are using a Hilleberg Anjan 3 Tent (we love it because it has lots of venting options, possible to pitch only inner mash in hot climates and also has enough fixing points to withstand harsh weather), which is pricey but a very solid lightweight choice. Together with the super versatile Katabatic Flex 15 sleeping quilt (850 water-resistant goose down, dries very fast when wet, lightweight, multiple uses from blanket to fully closed, and ideal for traveling through several climates) and Exped down-filled sleeping pads (nice and comfy sleeping pads with some insulation but down gets stinky after a while, smells when deflating).

For cooking, we use the solid Optimus Polaris Multifuel stove (we always use regular gasoline – cheap and everywhere available, the stove comes with a nice high quality aluminum pump instead of plastic like cheaper models) together with parts of the MSR Quick Cookset (only one pot, we always fill all space in the pot with food/spices before cycling).

Tales on Tyres Franzi and Jona

What are your best recommendations and tips for new cyclists?

First of all, leaving everything you know behind. Take courage because some people might think it’s crazy. Second, the best advice we can give to a new cyclist is that we are many. Once you get out there, you will meet all those amazing people cycling across countries, continents, and around the world. Don’t get hung up on having the perfect plan or be prepared for everything. The world is an amazing and friendly place, people will help and support you from Iran to Bolivia, you will only have to ask. Lastly, buying quality but expensive gear is nice but don’t let this hold you back if you can’t afford all the fancy stuff. Almost everything works in the end and it’s mainly a matter of comfort.

Tales on Tyres Franzi and Jona

How do you finance your cycling tours?

If you live frugal, traveling by bicycle can be very cheap. We camp almost every night, cook most meals ourselves and try to keep any other costs as low as possible. Before we left for cycling across the Americas, we worked for 18 months in Vancouver, Canada with the main focus to save as much money as possible for this trip. This money has lasted us now for 1.5 years but it is hard to say how much such a trip in general costs. It depends from person to person, we have met people traveling with hardly any money, where others like to treat themselves every now and then to a fancy hotel and a luxury meal. The best way to estimate your costs is to take the amount of money you have, look at the time you want to travel and by that, you can see how much money spent everyday.

Regarding sponsors. When we changed our bike setup from road-touring to bikepacking, halfway across the USA, we contacted companies for the first time for a sponsorship in order to finance the transformation. We were lucky as Bombtrack, Katabatic Gear, Sinewave and WTB offered their support, which helped us a lot. Though, just to make this clear, sponsorships don’t mean you get things for free, the companies need to get something out of the deal as well. So if you look for sponsors, make sure you have something unique to offer them in return.

Tales on Tyres Franzi and Jona

What has been your best cycling-related purchase below $100?

Stein Mini Cassette Lockring Driver (aka Hypercracker). It is a very smart tool, which is essential, in our opinion, for long distance trips. You can take the cassette of the freehub without heavy tools on the road, needed when spokes break on the driveside for example.

KleanKanteen Stainless Bottles (specially the Wide 64 oz model). Sustainable, durable water transport, in cold weather they can double as hot water bottles in the sleeping bag or when frozen in the morning, you can melt the water in fire or on the stove.

What other favorite gear do you have?

Integral Designs Vapour Barrier Liner Socks – super lightweight, temperature boost for your feet when cold during cycling or sleeping.

Tales on Tyres Franzi and Jona

What will the future bring?

We have reached the end of our cycling trip across the Americas and we just returned home last month for the first time in 5 years. We are excited and have many plans for the future, which also includes many cycling adventures across Europe. But first, we might want to dive into building a sustainable life, which is not based on making money but rather live and having time to do what we love.

Follow Franzi and Jona on their website, Facebook, Instagram

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