Mental Detox: The Most Important Preparation for Epic Cycling Expeditions

As splendid as my Kenyan cycling safari with Savanna Cycling was, I must confess the ensuing fatigue was rather more substantial than I’d anticipated as it was supposed to be a holiday. 

Such fatigue is why I’ve found it necessary to postpone the commencement of my European adventure, a journey to raise funds for World Bicycle Relief, by over a week. Without this necessary respite, I fear I may falter whilst tackling the first leg: North Cape in Norway, to Stockholm, Sweden. This 1,823 kilometre (1,134 miles) section comprises several stages:

  1. North Cape, Norway – Alta, Norway: 236 km (147 miles)
  2. Rest Day
  3. Alta, Norway – Enontekiö, Finland: 212 km (132 miles)
  4. Enontekiö, Finland – Pajala, Sweden: 183 km (114 miles)
  5. Pajala, Sweden – Luleå, Sweden: 217 km (135 miles)
  6. Luleå, Sweden – Skellefteå, Sweden: 144 km (89 miles)
  7. Skellefteå, Sweden – Umeå, Sweden: 130 km (81 miles)
  8. Umeå, Sweden – Örnsköldsvik, Sweden: 120 km (75 miles)
  9. Örnsköldsvik, Sweden – Sundsvall, Sweden: 166 km (103 miles)
  10. Sundsvall, Sweden – Gävle, Sweden: 224 km (139 miles)
  11. Gävle, Sweden – Tierp, Sweden: 55 km (34 miles)
  12. Tierp, Sweden – Stockholm, Sweden: 136 km (85 miles)

Can you believe it? I only have a single day of rest between these challenging stages, as the rest must be cycled day after day, without break.

Physically, I am in fine shape for which I’m thankful to the gruelling rides across Kenya that have left me, hopefully, in peak condition. 

Yet it is the mental fatigue that truly taxes me. The relentless socialisation of my fortnight without any moment of solitude has utterly worn me out in unimaginable incredible ways. I find my thought processes cloudy and my ability to multitask, make decisions and remain alert compromised. These, one would agree, are crucial skills needed for a lengthy and adventurous three-month journey.

In long-distance cycling, it is the mind that leads and the body that follows. A robust mentality paired with relatively poor fitness can still carry one a good distance. Conversely, achieving the same with peak physical condition yet a feeble mentality is near impossible. It’s a mental game and a clear head is the key to victory.

I must confront winds, hills and other such challenges, and to do so successfully, I require a mind free from extraneous worries. This is why I choose to concentrate on clearing my mind in Amsterdam, rather than being compelled to do so amid the isolation of Northern Europe, far from familiar surroundings and cherished loved ones.

When I first planned my European adventure, I was aware I was toying with danger by scheduling it so soon after my cycling safari in Kenya. Not that I have a penchant for peril, but merely because flying to Canada post-Africa and then boarding another flight a week or two later to return to Europe seemed rather illogical. Therefore, clustering the dates seemed reasonable. However, I failed to appreciate the mental toll the African adventure would inflict upon my psyche. But we live and learn, don’t we?

A delay of a week, or perhaps a week and a half, in starting isn’t catastrophic, even if my brain vehemently objects. In my books, I’m very late, even though the start date is an arbitrary concept. What matters most is kicking off the journey and seeing it through to completion within 90 days due to Schengen Zone tourist visa rules.

So, how does one clear one’s head? 

Abundant sleep, a LOT of solitary time, whether that be sitting in parks or lounging about in my room, going over my plans and routes to assuage any anxiety linked to the unknown, nourishing my body and mind through proper food and drink, and diligently preparing logistics as best I can. 

All these actions will aid in soothing my mind and fostering a sense of readiness. From there, I will book a plane ticket to Amsterdam International Airport, fly to Alta, then board a bus the following morning to North Cape, Norway. There, I will dip my tires in the ocean and begin my southward journey until my wheels touch the waters of the Mediterranean three months later.

This is a blog by JaBig, a Canadian DJ who is (as of this writing) about to cycle across Europe from North Cape, Norway to Tarifa to raise funds for World Bicycle Relief, in addition to embarking on a dream adventure of a lifetime. 

You can donate directly to World Bicycle Relief by clicking here or you can contribute towards his trip expenses by clicking here.