BHUTAN TO NEPAL ON A BMX – WITH HIS DAD! – MEET DYLAN BEN HASKIN
I’m a photographer from Cape Town, South Africa. I specialise in adventure, travel and wildlife photography. Since I quit my corporate job two years ago, my wife and I have been traveling around the world working and volunteering.
What do you call that weird part on your brain where bad ideas come from! I guess, I’ve always wanted to do something never been done before. And these days, you need to be pretty creative to find something that has not been done! In 2014, I cycled the 109km Cape Argus in Cape Town on a BMX to raise funds for a Rhino conservation organisation. Since then, I’ve had been wanting to do a longer ride on a BMX.
As far as the location goes, my wife and I had been volunteering in Bhutan for the year. It’s such a restricted part of the world – besides the fact they only allow a certain number of tourists a year, tourists also aren’t allowed to travel there without a guide. So the only way to travel in Bhutan without a guide is to work there. I knew it would be a once in a life time opportunity to be able to do this kind of unguided adventure in Bhutan.
When the Nepal earthquakes hit, we felt it in Bhutan as well. Even though it didn’t cause any damage in Bhutan , it was scary to think that the moment we felt the tremor, 1000s of people just a few 100km away had died. I really wanted to do something to help and I thought combining my adventure idea with fundraising towards the earthquake relief.
After that, I skyped my dad to ask if he wanted to join and he was (obviously) super keen, so him and I started planning together.
That’s a good question and it’s one of the first things I ‘Googled’ when I came up with the idea. As good as Google is, it couldn’t find anything on the topic “How to train for a long distance BMX ride” . Because of the challenge of trying to get a BMX to Bhutan, it only arrived 2 days before we set off on the trip! So this didn’t give me any time to actually train on the bike itself. I had a 27-speed 29er mountain bike which I cycled around the village we stayed in a couple of times, but that bike is possibly the furthest thing from a BMX you can get! Other than that, I enjoy trail running and kept generally fit by running too. At the end of the day, it was completely unknown what it would feel like until 2 days before we left.
I think there is a fine line between being an adventurer and being an oddball! I’m not quite sure where I would fit in there… I had a different childhood to most kids. My dad is in Nature Conservation and we grew up on Nature Reserves all around South Africa. We would often do long hikes and cycles together and he would tell me stories of his adventures when he was younger. That definitely installed a huge love for the outdoors, nature and adventure in me. At one stage we lived really far from anywhere and my mom homeschooled us for about 7 years too. That also helped me being content with being different. To be honest though, the longest cycling trip I had ever done was a 200km, two-day cycle which I did about 2 months prior! But in general, I’ve always loved the outdoors and have been pretty active.
There is nothing quite like starting a downhill after you have been climbing a pass for 3 days straight! Some of the downhills in Bhutan were absolutely incredible! Sometimes over 45km of freewheeling looking out over spectacular himalayan mountains!
The people we met along the way were a real highlight too. Watching the kids (and adults sometimes) try out my BMX, having tea with local people along the road, making friends with guys from the indian army, and being invited to stay at people in their homes. It was also an awesome experience to have with my dad. Something I’ll cherish forever.
Everest’ing on the BMX! I never thought I’d ever do that. It was on day 7 when we accumulated a total of 8848m – the height of MT Everest. We ended up climbing over 22000m which is around 2.5 times the height of Everest!
Another real highlight for me was leaving Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu. We met up with a local mountain biking group called SMBA (Single Track Mountain Biking Adventures). About 12 guys joined us on the ride out and on top of that, they all cycled with their seats as low as they could so they could get a bit of a feeling of what I was going through. They probably cycled about 80km for us like that!
I’ve learned so many different types of lessons from this trip.
Practically speaking, we found breaking up a climb up into 300m segments worked really well. After 300m of ascent gain, we got off the bikes, and had a few minutes break and then got back on. So instead of focusing on getting to the top, we just focused on the next 300m.
I also learned a lot about myself. Physically I’m not some kind of incredible athlete – I’m just a normal guy. It was awesome to see how my body adjusted to the daily routine of cycling for 9 hours without being able to sit down. The whole cycling every day was new for me too so I really enjoyed how I adjusted to that routine.
I have a full post about some other lessons which you can read on my blog if you are interested (see link at the bottom of the article)
For a $200 bike, it did amazingly well! The bike only had a rear break, and surprisingly I didn’t need to change the break blocks. If you have a bicycle, you’ll know that the back break doesn’t stop you very well, it just slows you down. This meant that on downhills, I often needed to press my foot on the front wheel if I needed to slow down faster or stop!
After a couple of days the crank started to make some noises and towards the end of the ride that started to cause some slipping when I pedalled. If we had any more days to ride after the end, I would have needed to replace the crank. I only had one puncture in Nepal when I cycled over a nail.
The bike is not really designed for (this type of trip) really bad dirt roads . The small wheel size means a small hole in the road can easily see you going over the handle bars so it’s good to be more cautious on dirt roads. I also couldn’t sit down if we were riding on flat or climbing – the seat was too low and I had to stand most of the time.
We are living in Costa Rica this year. They have these awesome “Banana Bikes” here. It’s like single speed, beach cruiser. I’m not saying exactly what’s happening but I’ve also recently plotted a 1800km route around the country…
Don’t let minor details hold you back. No matter how much you plan and prepare, it’s pretty much impossible to actually have every detail planned for sure but don’t let that stop you. You’ll figure out those things on the way! Set a date and then tell people about it. Once you do that, it makes it harder to pull out and easier to commit. Lastly – I don’t recommend a BMX for long distance cycling!
I’m pretty active on Instagram @dylanhaskin. Otherwise, my twitter handle is @dylanbenhaskin and anyone is more than welcome to send me an email through my website www.dylanhaskin.com
firstname.lastname@example.org - we'd love to hear from you !