Ailie and Dave are a doctor-lawyer duo from the UK and are the newest ambassadors to join our fold. Having lived in New Zealand for the last two years, they are now heading home - with a couple of months of bikepacking in Japan along the way.
They’ve already started sharing their ride on their blog (The Dailie Adventure) and Instagram and it is looking fantastic so far. We caught up with them a couple of weeks ago to find out more.
Ailie and Dave draw their outdoor inspiration from Ailie’s grandparents. Now in their 90s, they have maintained their sense of adventure and regularly swim in the North Sea which, by the way, is absolutely freezing (even in the summer). They are at the forefront of Ailie and Dave’s minds whenever they are considering a very chilly swim.
The couple took to the saddle for their first big cycle tour back - on their way to New Zealand - in 2016. Cycling the length of Patagonia, from north to south, they cut their cycle-touring teeth along the Argentine-Chilean border. Aside from the Andes, the extreme wind in the region proved to be a bit of a challenge, but the pair loved the freedom of exploring on two wheels and knew that they had to plan a two-wheeled tour for the way back.
As pretty much every cycle tourer will tell you, there is not much point in any sort of specific physical preparation other than just making sure that you are reasonably fit and have got a few miles in your legs. “The good thing about a cycle tour is you tend to get fitter as you go and increase distances accordingly so we will probably start slowly and build on our distances as the trip goes on”. They have been travelling around New Zealand for a few weeks before they leave, though, and have done “lots of walking” and run a casual off-road marathon. Fitness will improve as you tour but starting with some in the bag will always make those first few days more enjoyable!
New Zealand being pretty much as far away as possible from dear old Blighty, Ailie and Dave had their pick of a huge number of countries ‘on the way’ home but, after much deliberation, decided to go for Japan. Why the Land of the Rising Sun?
There were plenty of countries in the mix but, say Ailie and Dave, “we wanted to cycle somewhere varied with interesting culture as well as beautiful scenery and with hills but not too much snow”. With mountain passes along their route, they have decided to cycle from south to north; arriving in the cooler part of the country after the snow has melted. Another big plus about Japan? Their hot springs; known as ‘onsens’. “What”, says Ailie, “could be better than an onsen to soothe aching muscles at the end of a long day’s cycling?”. It’s hard to imagine!
With a rough route planned out, they will meander about 2000km from Kagoshima to Tokyo with 50-100km days and at least one rest day per week. They’ll camp but throw in a few traditional Japanese inns - ryokans - which are small, family run bed and breakfasts with communal baths, tatami floors, and guests wandering around in yukatas (summer-weight kimonos), for the experience. They’ll meet Ailie’s godmother for a trek halfway through but, apart from that, the only things set in stone are their flights into and out of the country and the emergency noodles that they will carry with them “at all times”. Other than that they’ll always have a first aid kit, a paper map and a bar of chocolate in their panniers; three items that will get most pedallers out of most pickles. This pair set off on their trip a couple of weeks ago (read part one of their blog here) and it looks like they're already having a great time.
A few final questions...
As is customary, we’ll round things up with some ‘Desert Island Discs’ and some ‘would you rathers’. A la BBC Radio 4, we asked Ailie and Dave what they would take with them if they were only allowed to take eight songs, one book and a luxury item on their journey. Here's what they chose.
“Our Japanese is so limited at the moment that it would probably have to be our Japanese Phrasebook! Otherwise maybe a paperback edition of ‘War and Peace’ (with very small writing)!”
Their luxury item:
“A black pepper grinder. It really improves all camping stove meals.”
And their preferences…Ailie and Dave, would you rather:
Have all of your clothes or your bike stolen while you’re in an onsen?
“Definitely all our clothes. Our bikes have travelled from the UK, down the length of Patagonia to NZ and then on to Japan with us- they are very precious!”
Miss seeing the cherry blossom completely or cycle the whole trip in a cloud of cherry blossom?
“We are reluctantly going to have to miss the cherry blossom in favour of other hopefully spectacular views we will encounter (and our safety on the road!)”
Eat a jar (250ml) of wasabi in one go or sit in a bath of sashimi for two hours?
“This one is easy - in fact if you could arrange a bath of sashimi that sounds wonderful”