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Girls on tour - Judi Zebedee's solo world cycle

We met Judi on the road in China in 2010, she is now somewhere in South America, heading to Argentina and has cycled a mammoth 28,000km so far!

What do you do when you are not cycling and why did you decide to go cycling?

I was a physio working on an acute stroke ward. Chucked in the job and rented out the house, which is paying for my trip. I love the job, but got fed up with cycling round in circles at weekends so decided to do one BIG circle.

Dervla Murphy, Josie Dew and Anne Mustoe were all sources of inspiration. I believe if you have the chance, you should do at least one impressive thing with your life. I'm not fit enough to climb Everest or trek to the South Pole, but I can cycle round the world. Not sure what I'll do when I go back as I love being outdoors and not too keen to return to life in the NHS.

I believe if you have the chance, you should do at least one impressive thing with your life.

 

Where have you cycled so far?

Left UK on 29th April 2010 and travelled through France, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, Ujraine again, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Laos, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China again, Alaska, Canada, USA. Now heading south to Mexico, Central and south America til I get to Argentina then who knows....?


What have been the Highlights?

Georgia for people and food, Kyrgyzstan for people and scenery (though def not the dogs!), Tibetan areas of China, Alaska for wilderness, Oregon coast for scenery and of course, being able to eat as much as you like and still lose weight!

What bike do you have?

Thorn Nomad with Rohloff hub. Ideal as it's designed for the job and needs minimal maintenance. It has 26" wheels and a Brooks saddle.

Don't know if my bum is saddle-shaped or my saddle is bum shaped, but the two are now a perfect match!

 

Still know nothing about bike or maintenance excpet how to change a tyre, which I've only had to do once since getting Marathon Supreme tyres. I use 4 Ortlieb panniers plus a bar bag and tent. Keep it simple! I carry the bare minimum. 20-25kg when fully loaded. If you can't justify it, bin it (unless it's a book!) No ipod or computer. Minimal spares - just tyres, tubes and a multitool I don't know how to use.

What do you wear?

I swear by Corinne Dennis' cotton/lycra cycling shorts. By far the most comfortable and flattering on the market. Always wear undies as you can't wash cycling shorts every day.

I wear casual shirts as I don't want to look like Lance Armstrong when I'm wandering around some small market town in the middle of China.

 

I wear SPDs, which means carrying a separate pair of walking shoes, but it's worth it. I've had very little hassle, but try to be discreet and wear trousers over my shorts when I feel uncomfortable. Azerbaijan was the only place I got trouble from men.

What about make-up, jewellry etc?

I don't wear make-up at the best of times and perfume just attracts the mossies, but I wear a wedding ring and simple earrings.

My luxury items are too many books, a small bottle of whisky and too many moisturisers (eyes, face, body). You can't moisturise too much at my age (40)!

 

I've recently discovered Neutrogena sunscreen (essential, not a luxury), which is fabulous and goes on dry so no greasy hands after application. I also like to keep my toenails painted. It's a girl thing! Haircuts can be a bit hit and miss - esp in China when you can't explain what you want, but I keep my hair short coz it's easier.

Do you ever worry about your safety as a solo cyclist?

My family worry, as all families do. My Mum cried for 2 hrs when I told her what I planned to do, but now she loves to tell her friends all about my trip. I've never felt unsafe, but I'm an eternal optimist.

Generally, though people are incredibly kind and even protective of a woman on a bicycle.

 

I did Jiu-Jitsu as a teenager, but in Alaska they suggested I carry a gun in case of bear attack, but I'd be far too afraid to use it! I've held on to the bear spray, though - just in case. People tend to be less of a problem than dogs. I used my dog dazer a lot in Central Asia, but never needed it in China. Things might change in South America.


Cycling touring can mean you have to rough it a bit, how do you cope with that?

I've never minded roughing it. I've been up to 10 days without a shower. I'll camp almost anywhere including tucked in beside the wall of a power station in China. As long as I have a couple of litres of water I'm happy.

It's funny how whenever you try to have a wash in a mountain stream a shepherd pops up from absolutely nowhere!

 

There were a few close calls in the mountains with a storm closing in at nightfall and cliffs on both sides of the roads, but somehow something always comes up. Bizarrely, not being a girly sort, the one thing I miss is my hairdryer! And the radio and my jeans.

On coping with toliets, periods etc on the road...

Any time any place anywhere. I have developed an obsession with gathering supplies of toilet roll (and plastic bags - you can never have too many!). I learnt to pee standing up whilst in Africa but tend not to as it attracts too much attention!. I use tampons. Thought about a moon cup, but you need too much valuable water to rinse it and again it would attract attention in public loos.

After so many months on the road, how do you feel about cycle touring now?

I just love the freedom of the open road. I have only spent a total of about 8 days cycling with others though am just about to cycle down Baja with a new friend.

I've recently been amazed and humbled by how much I seem to inspire other women along the way.

This might have happened in other countries, but if you don't speak the language you won't know.

In terms of the challenges, I´m struggling to think of challenges... I´m a natural optimist and tend to believe that even a bad day on the road beats a good day at work! I guess returning to a cold, grey China in mid winter having just spent a wonderful time in Vietnam and Laos with my sister and then with a friend was probably the hardest part.

Communication was difficult in China and it was the one time I felt lonely. I went 3 weeks without being able to speak to anyone. Another time was dealing with the physical side of things (also in China) when my water bottles froze overnight in the mountains and I was gasping from dehydration the next morning but couldn´t wring a single drop out of them. Note to self... Buy better water bottles that don´t leak so you can keep them in your sleeping bag overnight to prevent them freezing!

Do you have any advice to others thinking of doing a bike trip?

DON'T DREAM IT - DO IT!! The hardest part of the journey is getting out of the front door. After that you can start to get fit and enjoy the ride. Don't listen to the nay-sayers. You can do it. I chose to make my very first bike tour a RTW one, but you can start small and build up. Just get on yer bike!!

See Judi's blog

 

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