The Americas Trip: 2017 – 2019

We left the UK in September 2017 with no real plan or experience and spent 19 months cycling the length of South America from its southernmost city, Ushuaia. We cycled through 9 countries: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, in a generally in a northerly direction. Starting in Patagonia set the bar exceptionally high for the rest of the trip. There was dramatic scenery around every corner with mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and lakes a common daily sight. We crossed the Chile-Argentina border numerous times and often thought about just spending the rest of the trip here because how could it get better?

We eventually left Patagonia after 5 months and chose to take a detour from the typical touring cyclists’ route which follows the Andes, deciding to cycle from Valparaiso on the western coast of Chile to the beaches on the eastern coast of Uruguay. Although this wasn’t always the most interesting in terms of scenery, we met some of the most incredible people on this part of the trip and also got to visit Iguazu falls, one of the natural wonders of the world. We rode briefly through Paraguay, before getting a bus back across Argentina and then continued to follow the Andes mountains. From the salt flats of Bolivia to some of the more remote parts of central Peru, the volcanoes of Ecuador and Colombian mountain towns, we fell in love with the northern part of South America too. 

Once in Colombia we had a decision to make and that was influenced by having three weddings later in the year back in the UK. We chose to fly from Cartagena to Florida and ride north to Toronto. It was a massive change compared to South America but still an interesting cultural experience. The North American people were friendly hosts who went out of their way to help us and show us some of the best parts of their country. 

You can see more photos from our Americas trip organised by country, along with some country specific facts and stats on our Gallery page (Coming soon!)

Where did we ride?

Below is our final route map. You can easily zoom in and if you want to check out our route in more detail, you can. By clicking on the part of the route that you are interested in you find out which day of our trip that was, a brief description of where we rode from and to, along with the distance, elevation, total climb and descent. Pretty neat huh!

Map updated: 25/08/2019 – In Toronto, Canada.

How far did you ride? (and more FAQs)

We are often asked how far did we cycle or what is our usual daily mileage. This where Ben’s love of spreadsheets comes in really handy! We have kept a record of these things and many more, so we were able to give a reasonably accurate approximation of these whilst on the road but now we have collated some of the important statistics from our two year Americas adventure below.

If you want to know the statistics broken down by country, including time spend in each, average daily cost and mileage, you will soon be able to find those here.

Below are the final Stats at the end of the trip.

Ushuaia (01/10/2017) – Toronto (25/08/19)
Days on the road:
Distance covered:21,267 km
Average daily distance:62.92 km
Time in the saddle:1530 hours 04 minutes
Longest day:138 km – Brunswick to Savannah, GA. USA
Longest time riding without a day off:12 days: Villa La Angostura to Pichelemu (Argentina to Chile – February 2018)
Total elevation gain:306,561 m
Biggest daily elevation gain:2947m – Paso Sico, Argentina-Chile
Highest point reached by bike:4959 masl – Punta Pumacocha, Peru Divide
Highest campsite:4569 masl – Punta Ushuayca, Peru Divide
Average speed:13.90 km/h
Top speed:71.78 km/h
Countries visited:11 : Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, USA, Canada
Borders crossed:19
Nights under canvas:163
Nights in paid for accomodation:176
Nights free hospitality (WarmShowers, Couchsurfing, Bomberos, Locals):185
Holiday in England:27
Strongest wind:Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina/Chile – Pedalling North to South with a headwind (October 2017)
Most rain:Peru Great Divide (Mid-October 2018 – Wet season)
Hottest day:38°C Tatacoa Desert, Colombia
Coldest night:-5.5°C in the tent – Paso Sico, Chile (at 4100m)

How do we plan our route?

We use the app, “MapOut” to plan and record the ride each day (available on Apple devices only). In Ben’s own words, “It is the best £5 that I’ve ever spent!”

As MapOut uses open street map data, it has a worldwide data base of roads, points of interest and it’s useful for cities too, as it shows everything from hostels to banks and supermarkets. The biggest reason why it is so awesome is the fact it’s easy to draw a route for cycling, walking or finding the shortest distance (it even creates routes for you from point A to B), view the elevation profile and share it between devices.

We also use Google Maps to scope out road and trail conditions because it shows a satellite view of the more remote locations. Between the two of these, we can plan a great ride even if it isn’t a recognised bikepacking route.

To decide where we are going to ride we read websites and blogs from cyclists that have ridden that area before, speak to other cyclists we meet on the road (which is the best for up-to-date information) or ask locals about the upcoming conditions (though always take this with a pinch of salt, “flat” always means “it is slightly uphill” and “it’s only half an hour away” translates as “it’s a six hour ride”).

Some of our go-to sites are for route and gear inspiration, for routes in the Andes mountains, is a wealth of general information and is a bit of an outdated website but it hosts thousands of cyclists’ blogs, updated daily and is easily searchable by location.

How far do we ride each day?

We ride anywhere between 40km and 120km per day, but it depends on a combination of factors such as: terrain, weather, road conditions, how we’re feeling that day, distance between resupply points or what there is to see on the way.

When we are on the bikes we tend to treat each day as a mountain bike ride so we don’t take many breaks, usually we stop every three hours or so when we get hungry and then when we get tired at the end of the day. We like to make the most of our time on the bikes so unless there is somewhere amazing to camp, a cool place to visit or the weather has closed in, we ride from early morning until about an hour before sunset when we’ll start to look for a place to wildcamp.

Rest days are usually every fifth or sixth day but again this depends on where we are, how far there is between towns, the weather and riding conditions. There have been stretches where we’ve ridden for 3 weeks with only two days off and times when we’ve spent nearly three weeks in one place. The nice thing about how we are travelling is that it doesn’t matter how long we spend in a place or how long we ride for as we have no time limit – only the seasons and the bank balance influence the rate at which we travel.

Want more route specific planning help and tips?

Before we left for South America our planning was mainly focussed on what we were going to take and how the bikes would be set up. We had looked at some other cyclists’ blogs but they were mostly narrative recounts of people’s trip and they didn’t always provide specific details. When you are sat at home reading these they are entertaining and make you feel excited, but on the road you want the fine details such as where to sleep or buy supplies, what the road is like and what you will find on the way.

As such, we have written a number of resource pages which you can find here that have further information, tips and insights that we feel would have been useful before starting out. We will update these as we go and hopefully you will find these helpful too and we can inspire you to venture out of your comfort zone. 

What bikes did you ride?

For some the bikes would be the most daunting aspect of planning a trip of this type, but as Ben is a bicycle mechanic this bit was reasonably straightforward. Combining knowledge of what we wanted with what was available through the shop he worked at we came up with a custom spec for two bikes that would hopefully stand up to the rigours of our adventure. (As the bike and kit list is an ongoing project, we have updated it with any items that we replaced, lost or added along the way.)

Some details of the original 2017 bike build can be found on the blog here or if you want to know specifics, read on for the full spec list.

September 2017 bike build: 

January 2019 bike build: 

In December 2018, we briefly returned to the UK to surprise our family for Christmas and replaced various parts on the bikes, making them more like the mountain bikes we used to ride before we started touring (see photos below). You can read more about our decisions on the blog here.

Bike Specs:BenSteph
Frame:Genesis Longitude – MediumSurly ECR – Extra Small
Fork:Genesis Cr-MoSurly ECR
Headset:Cane Creek 40
Cane Creek 40
Wheels – Hub (F):SP Dynamo – PD8SP Dynamo – PD8
Wheels – Hub (R):Shimano XT
Shimano XT
Wheels – Rims:Mavic EN827 29″Mavic EN827 29″
Wheels – Tyres:Continental Race King 29×2.2 Protection (3/4 of these tyres lasted 15 months and 14,000km with no issues – Ben’s rear tyre tore at the bead.)
January 2019: F – Maxxis Minion SS 2.3” (Replaced: Lima, Peru). R – Kenda Small Block Eight 2.1” (Replaced: Cusco, Peru)

* All tubeless
Continental Race King 29×2.2 Protection
January 2019: F & R – Vittoria Mezcal G+ TNT 2.6”

* All tubeless
Spokes:DT Swiss CompetitionDT Swiss Competition
Nipples:DT Swiss ProlockDT Swiss Prolock
Tubeless Valves:Nutrak Presta BrassNutrak Presta Brass
Skewers:Shimano DeoreShimano Deore
Brakes – Levers:Shimano Deore cableShimano Deore cable
Brakes – Calipers:TRP SpykeTRP Spyke
Brakes – Rotors:TRP 180/160mm F/R
(Replaced in Peru for Shimano)
TRP 180/160mm F/R
(Replaced in Peru for Shimano)
Drive – Shifters:Shimano XT 3×10
January 2019: Shimano SLX 1×11
Shimano XT 3×10
January 2019: Shimano SLX 1×11
Drive – BB:Shimano BB52Shimano BB52
Drive – Crank:Shimano Deore 3×10
January 2019: Shimano Deore 1×11
Shimano Deore 3×10
January 2019: Shimano Deore 1×11
Drive – Chainrings:Shimano Deore 22/32/42
January 2019: Uberbike 30T
Shimano Deore 22/32/42
January 2019: Uberbike 30T
Drive – Front Mech:Shimano Deore 3×10
January 2019: None
Shimano Deore 3×10
January 2019: None
Drive – Rear Mech:Shimano Deore Shadow+ 10s
January 2019: Shimano SLX 11 speed
Shimano Deore Shadow+ 10s
January 2019: Shimano SLX 11 speed
Drive – Cassette:Shimano XT 10s 11-36
January 2019: Shimano SLX 11 speed 11-46
Shimano XT 10s 11-36
January 2019: Shimano SLX 11 speed 11-46
Drive – Chain:Shimano Deore 10 speed HG54
January 2019: Shimano SLX 11 speed
Shimano Deore 10 speed HG54
January 2019: Shimano SLX 11 speed
Finish – Stem:Bontrager Elite
January 2019 – 50mm with stem raiser to add reach and height
90mm System EX
Finish – Bars:Alpkit Fumanchu 660mm 40 degree sweepAlpkit Fumanchu 660mm 40 degree sweep. January 2019: Soma Osprey 710mm 40 degree sweep
Finish – Grips:PRO Silicon
(Replaced in Uruguay for Specialized BG Comfort)   
PRO Silicon
(Replaced in Uruguay for Specialized BG Comfort)   
Finish – Seatclamp:Genesis Generic 
Surly Stainless.
January 2019: M Part Clamp with rack mounts
Finish – Seatpost:PRO KoryakPRO Koryak
Finish – Saddle:Brooks B17
January 2019: Charge Spoon
Brooks B17 Women’s specific
Finish – Pedals:DMR V12Hope F20
Extras – Charging:Cinq5 The Plug 3Cinq5 The Plug 3
Extras – Rear Rack:Tubus Logo Classic 29″ Tubus Logo Classic 29″
Extras – Front Rack:N/A

Surly 8 Pack Rack
Extras – Bottle Cage:Topeak 
Blackburn outpost cages
Blackburn outpost cages
Extras – Phone Mount:QuadLockQuadLock
Overall bike weight (September 2017):15kg


HandlebarOrtlieb Handlebar RollOrtlieb Handlebar Roll
HandlebarOrtlieb Accessory PouchOrtlieb Accessory Pouch
SeatpackOrtlieb SeatpackPRO Seatpack Medi
Rear RacktopOrtlieb 13L Medium Weight DrybagOrtlieb 24L Racktop bag
Rear panniersOrtlieb Sport Roller Classic 25L (total capacity/2) – Bought in Montevideo for extra carrying capacityN/A
Front RacktopN/AOrtlieb 13L Medium Weight Drybag (Moved on to rear rack for better weight distribution)
Frame BagOrtlieb 6LOrtlieb 4L
FeedbagsMiss Grape Bud (x2)Miss Grape Bud (x2)
Top Tube BagSpecialized Burra BurraSpecialized Burra Burra
Fork CagesBlackburn Outpost Cage (x2)Blackburn Outpost Cage (x2)
StrapsSurly Junk Strap / Voile Strap SelectionSurly Junk Strap / Voile Strap Selection
Empty luggage bags and straps weight:3.5kg2.5kg

What camping equipment and gear did we use?

So this all started when we managed to pick up a cheap deal on an MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent and from there we continued to buy kit that we thought would take us around the Americas. Sleeping bag research and how to find the best deal on a Thermarest took over our lives for a few weeks (spreadsheets were made and nights were spent restlessly considering the options!) until eventually we found what we considered to be a good deal and met our extensive criteria. *It is worth nothing here that our ‘criteria’ was from information that we had researched online, from other people’s blogs and simply a guess really. We had never done anything like this before so everything was a gamble, albeit a well-researched one.

Below are photos of everything we left with in September 2017. If you want to see the spreadsheet (2017 and 2019 gear lists compared side-by-side) click on the ‘Camping and Gear V2’ tab above.

Overall kit weight (2017)

Ben: 22kg. Steph: 16.5kg

We also took a fairly extensive medical kit and toiletries but these aren’t overly exciting to look at. If you really want to know what we took though, you can see the full packing list (2017 and 2019 compared side-by-side) on the ‘Camping and Gear V2’ tab above.

Camping and Gear V2 (2019)

Way back at the start of 2017 when we were planning our trip across the Americas we used websites and blogs to help us choose our kit, as we had no prior touring experience. After riding for well over a year from Argentina to Ecuador, we have a much better idea of where we want to ride, what kit we like or dislike and we’ve met lots of people who we have taken inspiration from. This has all helped us form our own opinions about what makes a good setup for mostly dirt road touring.

Below is our updated kit list with changes and upgrades, mostly for lighter kit, that we have made over the first 16 months of travelling and when we returned to the UK in January 2019.

Disclaimer: We are in no way sponsored and everything we have with us has been bought at our own expense. All choices and opinions are our own.

To understand how we’ve colour coded the list, an orange box indicates an item that we no longer carry, green is an item that we have changed and grey is something that we’ve never had/isn’t appropriate.

Everything that Ben has previously carried and now currently carries on his bike are in the first two columns (labelled “September 2017” and “January 2019”) and Steph’s the second two.

We’ve explained some of our kit choices and the decisions behind some of it on the blog here.

If the text in the table above is too small, you can view the full spreadsheet online HERE.

Have we missed anything or is there anything else you would like to know about our Americas cycling adventure? Chances are we have the answer (Ben meticulously noted most things on his spreadsheet!) so get in contact with us and we’ll add it to the list, or if we don’t have the data we’ll collect it on the next trip.