What are you wearing tonight Si?” was not a question that I expected to be asking my expedition partner on a regular basis.
In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever asked another male that question before setting out on a 30,000km circumnavigation of the world by bike. And I probably could have finished my days without ever having prior notification of my mate’s fashion choices. But, at the moment, and for the next year or so, that question is asked any time we stop in a large town or city for some of the comforts of civilisation as, like almost every aspect of our lives right now, our decisions are inextricably linked.
Co-ordination and co-operation are the words that have ruled our lives since leaving Dublin last November. Every decision weighted and considered in light of what the other might want or think.
We have identical wardrobes generously provided by the house of Patagonia, so if we don’t co-ordinate we’ll look like Bill and Ben dressed in matching outfits when we hit the town- same shoes, identical trousers and t-shirt and matching fleeces… nice.
Cycling as a two man team couldn’t be more different than a solo ride. Everything is multiplied by two, every flat tyre and mechanical problem. Bouts of sickness or moody blues are doubled. In many ways travelling by two and having to co-ordinate and co-operate detracts from the “free and easy” bike ride. Then again, having an ‘other’ to share the unique experiences of the world that the road presents means that you will forever have someone to sip whiskey and reminisce with. For no matter how interested friends and families may pretend to be, launching into yet another “This one time, when I was cycling in…” is eventually and inevitably going to produce a glazed eye and far off stare.
The truth is, much like ‘Nam, if you weren’t there man you wouldn’t understand. And having someone there means that there’ll always be someone else who understands. That, in our opinion, is worth a little compromise now and then even if it does mean setting aside any illusions of machismo and asking my expedition partner, “what are you wearing tonight?”
This post was originally featured on the monthly guest slot at Alastair Humphreys.com .