The urban bike magazine

A Pastry Chef Who Went off for a World Trip by Bike

For Tilmann Waldthaler the dream became a vocation. For around 40 now years the Italian-Austrian globetrotter has been travelling across all the earth’s continents by bike. What motivated him? And what experiences has he had? Plus his top tips for long-distance cyclists.

Barbara_Sowa_755_KB
I grew up in the „Ruhrpott“ and I am working now as a journalist and translator in English in the Rhein-Main-area for many years.I am using the bicycle as a means of transportation in urban everyday life as well as for beautiful rides on weekends. For me that means independence, movement and to experience landscapes.
Foto © Tilmann Waldthaler

Around the World by Bike – How Everything Begun

A chance encounter with a Belgian touring cyclist in the Australian outback in 1975 got the bike rolling. Fascinated by the sight of this round-the-world cyclist with his bike packed full, the 36-year-old pastry chef and cook got into conversation with him. It started a new chapter in his life. After a while the two of them happened to cross paths again and finally cycled a 90 kilometre route together. Completely exhausted and astonished that the Belgian cycled back along the same stretch again, from that moment on Waldthaler didn’t stop cycling.

Initially he just wanted to try out spending two weeks travelling by bike. But from that came a new life philosophy. He sold his car in order to buy a custom-made bike on the advice of the Belgian and became “almost an apprentice at 40, learning to ride a bike,” according to Waldthaler. As a cyclone had devastated his Australian home of Darwin at that time, making the break wasn’t hard for him.

His first trip from 1977-1981 went from the Antarctic to the Arctic. Around a dozen further, bigger bike journeys followed, financed largely through working as a product tester for the outdoor and bike industry, through his numerous travel books and talks. To date Waldthaler has cycled almost 500,000 kilometres, visited 136 countries and consequently circled the world ten times. For him it’s never about records, the journey is always the goal.

TILMANN SPITZBERGEN world trip by bike

Waldthaler’s Top Tips for Preparing for a World Trip by Bike

The one thing that Waldthaler schedules are the start and end locations of his world trips by bike, as they are key to the preparation. Winter or desert trips for example require much more intensive planning (possibly even sending packages ahead) than trips in populated areas. “The most important preparation is clarifying your own goals and wishes for the planned trip,” according to Waldthaler, “the subsequent research is based on this.”

He particularly recommends the following questions and suggestions:

  • Do I want to travel alone or with companions? From his experience, going with others only works if you know each other really well or love each other. However, for many people enduring loneliness is a big challenge.
  • What time of year am I travelling where and what do I need? An individually tailored kit list helps to avoid carrying unnecessary weight and forgetting anything important. A “must”: Clarify immigration requirements!
  • How do I want to sleep and eat? Spending the night outside is adventurous and cheap.
  • However, self-supported travel calls for good planning, equipment and also imagination. Board and lodging in accommodation facilities is more comfortable, but obviously more expensive.
  • Waldthaler finds it quite important “to leave yourself time to travel, to get to know other people, cultures and worlds and ultimately yourself.”

Tilmann Waldthaler Portrait_world trip by bike

Waldthaler’s Top Tips for Preparing for a Long Trip

The right luggage is also vital. Waldthaler himself takes a mini household with him in 5 panniers:

  • (Functional) clothes (preferably leisure clothes from VAUDE, because they are suitable for both cycling and leisure use)
  • Living room and bedroom: Tent, mat, sleeping bag (for longer trips a VAUDE Space II tent and a warm sleeping bag)
  • Kitchen: 2 pans, cups, cutlery, gas cooker
  • Tools ((“Handy10”) mini tool from Parktool,
  • Spanners in sizes 6 -15 to turn screws, rivet keys for the chain, inner tube, 1 x Schwalbe replacement tyre (Marathon Mondial) and Parktool repair kit) and camera (Nikon Coolpix and GoPro helmet camera)
  • Safe container on the handlebars (the luggage rack has a junk room).

In addition, Waldthaler recommends a high-quality bike, accident and illness insurance protection, credit card(s) and a web-enabled device (for example a smartphone) for cyclists going on long trips.

He himself has used 12 different bikes. “To prevent technical problems, the right frame size, a Rohloff hub, Magura disc brakes, Schwalbe tyres and a solid luggage rack are the most important things,” according to Waldthaler. “On my current circuit of Australia I’m riding the Herkelmann touring bike “Tilmann”. It has a Wingees luggage rack set up over the back wheel. The lowriders at the front are from the company Tubus.”

If you’re travelling from a cold climate to a warmer climate, in Waldthaler’s experience, it’s often worthwhile taking equipment with you that can be re-used, given away or sent home. The now 73-year-old is still living his dream and puts his travel experiences on the record in fascinating books – a real treasure trove for globetrotters!

Further interesting links:
The Globetrotters Club: https://www.globetrotter.org/
Across the world on your own initiative: http://weltreise-info.de/

Images © Tilmann Waldthaler

Barbara_Sowa_755_KB
I grew up in the „Ruhrpott“ and I am working now as a journalist and translator in English in the Rhein-Main-area for many years.I am using the bicycle as a means of transportation in urban everyday life as well as for beautiful rides on weekends. For me that means independence, movement and to experience landscapes.

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