I had been looking for a possible multi-day ride and after watching a film called 'The Way' starring Martin Sheen I decided that it would be a good idea to ride the Camino de Santiago, a centuries old pilgrimage route from St. Jean Pied de Port in southern France to Santiago de Compostella in north west Spain. The idea was mentioned to a few friends, and so it was that James Olsen decided to accompany me. As the route is waymarked and has plenty of bars, restaurants and bunkhouses along the way to support the thousands of walkers who complete the route each year, there wasn't a great deal of organisation needed apart from deciding upon a date and booking the flights. It was while riding this route that James and I started talking about other routes/rides. He had an idea to fly to Magadan in far east Russia and riding west through Siberia towards home. Obviously this would require a summer start but I preferred leaving the UK in winter to avoid the worst of the weather. Starting further south and working my way north as it became warmer would suit me better.

Having a friend living in Beijing provided the idea for a destination. So it was that the idea to ride from Bangkok to Beijing began to take shape. After mentioning to a few friends that I was thinking about an extended trip their comments expanded from "that sounds good", through "I hear you're thinking of a big ride" to "your trip sounds great, when are you going ?" I had already been looking at flight options and guide books for information about possible places to visit and after a discussion about what bike would be suitable for the trip I found myself buying the frame and other parts and booking the flight.

James and I had also ridden a mostly off-road route from Geneva to Nice with another friend Ricky Dickenson during August 2012 mostly following the GR5 and the GR52. This two week trip involved some extreme bike packing, carrying the fully loaded bikes up, and sometimes down, a number of  mountain passes. As James designs bikes for a living and Ricky is a full time cycle mechanic I was able to pick their brains for ideas on bikes, parts and general tips.

The chosen frame was a Surly Ogre, as it had all of the necessary lugs and mounts for this kind of ride as well as dropouts for a Rohloff rear hub gear which I had been using on another bike. I also liked the fact that it was a steel frame, meaning that it could be repaired, if necessary, by any competent welder. Cable brakes for simplicity, 29 inch wheels to help me keep momentum and no suspension. This last point was not really a 'like', more of an acceptance that riding without suspension would eliminate one more thing that could potentially go wrong. Apart from my road bike I have not ridden a bike without at least front suspension for about 20 years. It was a gamble, but fortunately for me it has paid off. The bike feels good even on rough descents.

The bike. A steel framed Surly Ogre 29er.