cycling utah May 1999
Interview with a Swiss cyclo-tourist
By Lou Melini
Recently I had the pleasure of hosting Marc Bruni who is 2 1/2 years and 80,000 kilometers into his planned four-year journey around the world. Marc is Swiss citizen. He is a civil engineer. He speaks four languages, French, German, Italian and English. he has previously traveled throughout Europe, and has toured through South America before this current travel.
He is currently joined by Frenchman, Michel Cordonnier, who is four months into his around the world trip. Michel and Marc met in Prudoe Bay, Alaska and will be traveling separately upon leaving Salt Lake City. Michel is a member of the French cycling club, Cyclo-Camping International, which currently has five members doing six months (or greater) cycling trips in Asia and the Western Hemisphere. Michel speaks primarily French, some Spanish (from a previous Central/South American tour) and some English. Michel has also toured through India and South East Asia.
Lou Melini: I, of course, need some basics regarding your bike:
MB: It is a Bruce Gordon bike and racks with Robert Beckman panniers. there is a Swiss cycle shop with some connections to the West Coast. Nothing special. Michel's Ortlieb brand panniers may be more water-proof. Everything of importance is in water-proof bags. My lowest gear is 24 teeth in the front and 28 in the rear. I needed the gears for the North Island of New Zealand. The roads go straight up and down.
LM: You and Michel use different wheels sizes. Have you come to any conclusions as to the best wheel set-up. Also I noticed your tires are Schwalbe Special "marathons." I'm not familiar with that brand.
MB: I should have gone with 26" wheels like Michel. Tires and rims are much easier to find in that size. They are everywhere and in a reasonable selection. The best rims are Sunn Rhyno and the tires are from Schwalbe, a German manufacturer. The tires are not imported into the USA. The tires are imported into Canada. The Sunn rims hold up better than Mavic and the Schwalbe tire hold up better under loads that either Continental or Michelin. Of course our choices may change if you are only touring the USA with less weight on your bicycle.
LM: Any special items? I noticed your water bottle cages are unique. Also you do not have quick release hubs. it that for stronger axles?
MB: The bottle cages from a small Swiss manufacturer. Each bottle holds a 1 1/2 liter Sigg bottle. I also attached two to the front racks for my 1 liter thermos bottles. I carried 10 liters of water for a few days but usually much less as I have a filter and could get decent water in most places. Yes the axles are holding up well.
LM: Any problems with the bike breaking down?
MB: No, it has held up well. Michel has a broken rack. He needs to have it welded for the second time. I have 3 chains which I change every 2-3,000 kilometers. Each chain I use twice. Then I get new chains and cassette sprockets.
LM: How long did you have to plan for this trip?
MB: Not much, I just saved money and when the time was right I quit my job and left. You can only get visas 3 months in advance. So I plan as I travel.
LM: Speaking of money, how much do you budget per week?, month? or year?
MB: Whie in America I will spend about $10,000 a year in US dollars. Other parts of the world are of course cheaper such as China. The currency fluctuations cost me more than I had planned.
LM: Do you ride with other people much?
MB: When I can. I does get lonely at times. I rode with various other Europeans. I rode with a Norwegian twice, once we met in Hong Kong and then again in Indonesia. I hope to meet up with some Americans again that I met in Alaska.
LM: This is a big country, how do you just meet up with someone again?
MB: Oh, they have a web-site so I can track their travels.
LM: You seem to be enjoying your adventure. I have to be negative but did you have any bad experiences?
MB: All experiences are part of travel. I had my bike stolen in China, but it was recovered one week later. The officials then prohibited me from continuing on by bicycle. They put me on a bus to the border. I then had to cross China to get where I was going which resulted in my paying a fine for crossing and area not open to foreigners. In China you never know what the rules are and it seems that what rules there are for travelers, they change.
LM: You mentioned loneliness once. When does this trip become less a vacation and more like work?
MB: This is neither a vacation or work, this is Life!!!