Read on to learn more about:
- The Americas Trip: 2017 – 2019
- Map and Stats
- Routes and Info
- The bikes
- Camping and Gear
- Camping and Gear V2 (2019)
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.
Map and Stats
Our final route map is below, along with some statistics from our two year Americas adventure.
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 and stats last updated: 25/08/2019 – In Toronto, Canada.
|Since leaving Ushuaia (01/10/2017)...|
|Days on the road:||659|
|Distance covered:||19,940 km|
|Average daily distance:||62.51 km|
|Time in the saddle:||1441 hours 26 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:||295,739 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:||13.83 km/h|
|Top speed:||71.78 km/h|
Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, USA
|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|
|Most rain:||Peru Great Divide, Mid-October 2018|
|Hottest day:||38c Tatacoa Desert, Colombia|
|Coldest night:||-5.5 in the tent - Paso Sico, Chile (at 4100m)|
Have we missed anything or is there anything else you would like to know about our American 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!
Routes and Info:
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. If there is anything specific you would like us to write about, do let us know by sending us a message.
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 bikepacking.com for route and gear inspiration, andesbybike.com for routes in the Andes mountains, tour.tk is a wealth of general information and crazyguyonabike.com 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.
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.
Some details of the original 2017 bike build can be found on the blog HERE or read on for the actual spec list.
As the bike and kit list is an ongoing project, we’re constantly updating it with any items that we have replaced, lost or added along the way.
In 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.
September 2017 bike build:
January 2019 bike build:
|Handlebar||Ortlieb Handlebar Roll||Ortlieb Handlebar Roll|
|Handlebar||Ortlieb Accessory Pouch||Ortlieb Accessory Pouch|
|Seatpack||Ortlieb Seatpack||PRO Seatpack Medi|
|Rear Racktop||Ortlieb 13L Medium Weight Drybag||Ortlieb 24L Racktop bag|
|Rear panniers||Ortlieb Sport Roller Classic 25L (total capacity/2) - Bought in Montevideo for extra carrying capacity|
|Front Racktop||N/A||Ortlieb 13L Medium Weight Drybag (Moved on to rear rack for better weight distribution)|
|Frame Bag||Ortlieb 6L||Ortlieb 4L|
|Feedbags||Miss Grape Bud (x2)||Miss Grape Bud (x2)|
|Top Tube Bag||Specialized Burra Burra||Specialized Burra Burra|
|Fork Cages||Blackburn Outpost Cage (x2)||Blackburn Outpost Cage (x2)|
|Straps||Surly Junk Strap / Voile Strap Selection||Surly Junk Strap / Voile Strap Selection|
|Empty luggage bags and straps weight:||3.5kg||2.5kg|
Changes for 2019 include a Carradice rack top bag for Ben instead of the seat pack and Steph has small Arkel panniers instead of the Rack Pack. (Compare the bike photos above or see ‘Camping & Gear V2’ below for more.)
Camping and Gear
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 is our final packing list as of September 2017. No doubt this will change as we go around but this is what we are taking and how much it weighs, excluding food or water.
Overall kit weight (Ben 2017): 22kg
Overall kit weight (Steph 2017): 16.5kg
|Tent||MSR Mutha Hubba HP|
|Extra Pegs||MSR Groundhog/Mini (x6)|
|Sleep mat||Thermarest NeoAir All Season SV||Thermarest NeoAir All Season SV|
|Sleep bag||Mountain Equipment Xero 550||Mountain Equipment Glacier SL 600|
|Compression Bag for Sleeping Bag||Exped Telecompression S||Exped Telecompression S|
|Bag Liner||Lifeventure Silk Liner||Lifeventure Silk Liner|
|Pillow||Sea to Summit Areos Premium - Large||Sea to Summit Areos Premium - Large|
|Footprint/Groundsheet||MSR Mutha Hubba HP|
|Pole repair sleeve||MSR|
|Mat repair kit||Thermarest (w/Mat)|
|Stove||MSR Whisperlite Internationale|
|Stove Service Kit||MSR Expedition|
|Fuel bottle||MSR 30oz (Lost one but replaced, identical)|
|Pot||MSR Stowaway 1.6L Pot|
|Bowls||Sea To Summit Xbowl|
|Cups||Sea To Summit Xcup|
|Frying pan||Sea To Summit XPan|
|Simmer ring||Quiche Tin|
|Chopping board||Generic (GSI Ultralight - lost)|
|Tea towel||Generic cloth (Mountain Warehouse packable towel - lost)|
|Water filter||SteriPen UV|
|Universal plug||Lifeventure travel bath/sink plug|
Victorinox Swiss Card
|Spork||x2 Primus folding spork (As of 3.6.18 - Both broken but still useable!)|
|Sharp Knives||x1 Paring|
|Clothing Stuff Sack||Drawstring nylon stuff sack x4||Drawstring nylon stuff sack x4|
|Down Jacket||Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown RS||Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown RS|
|Rain Jacket||Sweet Protection Salvation||Sweet Protection Salvation Womens|
|Tshirts||Icebreaker x2, Bamboo x1||Icebreaker x 2|
|Singlet||Generic Cotton||Generic Cotton|
|Casual Shirts||Paramo Katmai x1||Craghoppers Nosi, Paramo Socorro|
|L/S Base Layer||Icebreaker x2, HikeBike jersey (Bought in Paraguay)||Icebreaker x1|
|Mid Layer||On-One Merino Half Zip Jersey||Specialized Therminal MTN Jersey|
|Trousers||Cragghoppers Kiwi Pro Stretch||Cragghoppers Kiwi Pro Stretch|
|Waterproof Trousers||Endura Superlite||Ex-Navy Goretex|
|Baselayer Leggings||Icebreaker Long Johns||Icebreaker Long Johns|
|Leg Warmers||Endura Thermolite|
|Shorts||Troy lee x1, Madison x1||Madison x2|
|Cycling Padded Shorts||Pearl Izumi Escape Quest x2||Pearl Izumi Pursuit Attack x2|
|Bra||Icebreaker Sprite Racerback (x2)|
|Underpants||Icebreaker x1, IsoBaa x1||Icebreaker (x2)|
|Shoes||Five Ten Access||Salomon XA Pro 3D|
|Sandals/Flip Flops/Crocs||Teva Kimtah Sandal||Keen Whisper Sandal|
|Socks (Hot)||Icebreaker x1, Generic cotton x2, Madison x1 (worn out)||Icebreaker Multisport Lite Mini (x2)|
|Socks (Cold)||Icebreaker Hike x1||Icebreaker Hike x1|
|Neckscarf||Buffs x3||Buffs x3|
|Hat (Cold)||Buff Merino Single Layer||Icebreaker Liner|
|Hat (Hot)||Buff UV Cap||Buff UV Cap|
|Helmet||Lazer Roller||Specialized Andorra|
|Gloves||Pearl Izumi mitts (Bought in Uruguay), DRB generic mitts (Given in Chile but worn to destruction), Specialized (lost)||Fox|
|Winter/Waterproof Gloves||Sealskinz Dragon Eye||Sealskinz All Weather|
|Casual/Thermal Gloves||Lowe Alpine Power Stretch|
|Headtorch||Petzl Reaktik||Petzl Reaktik|
|Phone||iPhone SE||iPhone SE|
|Phone Case||Outdoor Tech Safe5||Speck|
|Phone Bike Mount||Quadlock||Quadlock|
|Laptop/Tablet||iPad Pro||iPad Mini 2|
|Camera||GoPro Hero+ LCD||Sony RX100 (M1)|
|Tripod Phone Adaptor||Quadlock|
|Travel adaptors||Syncwire USB Charger|
|External battery||Outdoor Tech Kodiak Plus 2.0 & Kodiak 2.0||Outdoor Tech Kodiak 2.0|
|Charge cables etc.||Various||Various|
|Bike Computer||VDO M3.1 wired|
|Front light||Cygolite Metro 650 (Bought in Paraguay)||Cygolite Metro 650 (Bought in Paraguay)|
|Rear Light||Infini Sword||Infini Sword|
|Airstash/SD Reader||Airstash A02||Evita Lightning to SD|
We also have 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 below.
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 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 is too small, you can view the spreadsheet online HERE too.
Get in touch! >> What do you think about our kit list? How do you share out your gear when travelling with someone else? Do you carry anything that we don’t? Do you want any more information about some of the changes we’ve made? >> Feel free to send us a message, we’d love to hear your thoughts.