Jan Zdansky crossed the United States, climbed through the passes of Himalaya, attempted to get to the frozen Lake Baikal and travelled from his homeland, the Czech Republic, to Tokyo in only a couple of weeks.

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The most frustrating failure of my gear happened…

When you’re depending on your gear, you try your best to prevent any kind of failure. Despite meticulous maintenance, the greatest trouble hit me when the aluminium frame of my bike broke during my trip across the United States. Stressed from the previous ride from Europe to Japan, the bike frame was prone to signs of weariness but a rupture was the last thing I expected. Instantly, I was standing in the middle of nowhere with an intense need to find someone owning a welding machine who would repair the double-butted aluminium tubes of my unhappy bike. Luckily, the USA is a great country with even greater people. The rupture was discovered on my stopover at the petrol station where I asked the staff whether they knew about a skilful serviceman around. There was no one available but a friend of the station’s attendant took me to the nearest bike shop in his car. They didn’t know how to help me either but the customer visiting the shop turned out to be a good friend of a local welder. As soon as I arrived in his garage, I found his welding machine out of service but after a couple of calls, we managed to arrange a fixing in a small factory next door. The consequence of actions resulted in a successful repair with over 10 people involved. Everybody who helped me had a big smile on their face. I was amazed by the selflessness of those who gave a helping hand to a stranger.

The most horrible chill I’ve ever experienced…

In 2015, I decided to ride over the frozen Lake Baikal in Russia using a specially designed tricycle. This place in Siberia is infamous for harsh winter conditions with temperatures dropping below -30°C. Getting out of the tent in the morning just to answer the call of nature was the biggest challenge I’ve ever experienced (laughs).

The most frightened, I was…

Again, it was during my winter expedition across Lake Baikal. The problem was I chose the wrong year. The lake was not entirely frozen and I had to move zigzag to dodge cracks in the ice. The overall ice quality was poor, endangering the achievement of the adventure. The enormous icy masses resembled a living organism. Everything moved and made frightening noises, coming deep from beneath my feet. The worst happened when I experienced a real earthquake on that lake. After several tremors, I went nuts. Considering overall exhaustion and the lack of food supplies, I decided to give up after 10 days spent on the ice.

The worst exhaustion of my life…

Complete fatigue caught up with me while I was on my first bike-packing trip to Himalaya in India where I crossed the Martha valley. I was said to be the first mountain biker in history to do that. Things went well but I was afflicted by an altitude sickness during a climb to the Konmar pass (5,130 m). The awful disease forced me to stay in a bivouac overnight. I was not able to ride the next morning either. Pushing the bike before me as a burden on two wheels, I had to take a break every ten steps just to take in a dozen deep breaths. At that moment, I was close to failing to move further but, in the end, I got over the pass and made 80 km on top of the trip the same day.

The most unexpected help in need I got from…

I spent many days in the desert of western Kazakhstan during my bicycle expedition across Asia. It’s a complete wasteland where both food and water supplies are scarce and you need two days to get from one village to the next by bike. Even today, I can remember the starvation and the hydration shortage. Although no more than two cars were passing me per day, every driver coming by pulled over and offered me fresh water. Without that help, I could have barely made that trip till the end.

How I save weight

The amount of gear and the overall weight are crucial while cycling around the world. I try to pack as light as possible to move freely. I grew fond of using a water filter that enables me to travel without heavy water bottles. Instead of a tent, I’m carrying tarp, which is a light sheet of strong, flexible and waterproof cloth without a groundsheet. The best nap comfort is ensured by sleeping bags with down-feather insulation and to reduce weight, I prefer washing my clothes to carrying extra pieces in the panniers.

The best advice I can give to a bikepacker is…

Listen to what your body tries to tell you on the way. If your body deserves a break, do it without hesitation. Never skip intimate hygiene because you need to keep your buttocks fit on the seat for days. Regarding planning, I usually try to contact local bikers for useful information. If you want to stay overnight at an unknown location or utter wilderness, try to attract as little attention as possible. The most important thing is to hop on your bike and set off because the worst trips are those you never make.

You can follow Jan on his Instagram.

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