Tom Davies Interview with the youngest person to cycle around the world
At just 19, Tom Davies became the youngest person to cycle around the world. Determined to raise both money and awareness for three charities, Tom spent 6 months riding through 21 countries. In total, he ended up raising £50,000 for charity and although at times, cycling every single day was a gruelling task, the young rider has certainly come back with more than a few stories to tell too.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
In 2015 I became the first teenager to cycle around the world.
After that, I completed an engineering degree at Loughborough University and spent a year working for the sports technology company – INCUS Performance.
I’m currently training full-time as a triathlete, focussing on the Ironman World Championships later this year.
At what point did you decide that you wanted to cycle around the world?
I came up with the idea when I was 17-years-old and in my penultimate year of school. I had already decided that I wanted to take a break from education between school and university, but didn’t have any concrete plans.
I loved riding my bike and I wanted to travel, so I started to pick out exciting cycling destinations and plot them on a map. The idea evolved from there – wondering how I might travel between these locations eventually became, ‘why not just cycle around the world?’
At the time, I had no knowledge or experience of bike-packing, but a quick Google search confirmed that it was possible, and my mind was pretty much set. Ultimately, it came down to a passion for cycling and a desire to challenge myself.
What was it like travelling through all those countries?
Amazing, but not always glamorous. You see a different side to the world when you take a bike as opposed to more conventional means of transport. I rarely ended up in the tourist hotspots and I think my interactions with locals were far more intimate because of it. On the flip side, traversing a country often includes very long stretches of not very much – particularly in places like Australia.
How did people receive you when you were doing the cycle?
People were amazing everywhere I went. I know that not everyone is so fortunate in similar situations, but I never experienced any animosity at all. I came back loving humanity and the people in developing countries were always particularly hospitable, curious, and kind. Without asking, I was often invited for drinks or food, and occasionally offered places to stay. Someone in Thailand even tried to marry their daughter off to me, so that was quite flattering.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
It’s difficult to single out any individual thing. I had a recurring knee injury that began in the first three days of the trip. I got food poisoning in Italy, India, and Thailand, which always resulted in some miserable days on the bike. Blizzards in Europe were also never fun, but it was actually due to the heat in Myanmar that I found myself closest to any serious problems.
I think it’s the mental challenges that are most unique to a trip like this though. The distance alone was something I found very daunting, especially at the start. To this day I struggle to wrap my head around the concept of an 18,000-mile bike ride.
What was the hardest country to cycle through?
I loved India. I was constantly in awe of everything around me, and experiencing such a rich culture in the way that I did is something I will always be grateful for. However, I could not recommend someone ride a bike there with a clear conscience. The roads are crazy. Every wild story I’d been warned about seemed to come true, from trucks driving on the wrong side of the road to cows wandering obliviously across my path. I’m still unsure how I made it through unscathed – more luck than judgement, I expect.