Tina from @free_venture shares her solo bike expedition

In December 2022, we had our first conversation with Tina from @free_venture. She shared her plan to ride from Cologne to Portugal alone while riding her Gravel bike. This journey covered about 2,600 km and 10 weeks. Such a tour required careful equipment planning, route preparation, and preparatory training. Tina’s clear goal impressed us for this reason we provided her with the appropriate equipment for sustenance:

In March, Tina set off with her bright yellow bicycle and full panniers. In this interview, she not only reveals what she learned during her solo tour but also if she faced any special challenges. 😉

 Esbit woman on bicycle on the beach

Getting started


Esbit: Tina, in March, you decided to embark on a unique bike journey – all alone. What inspired you to hop on your Gravel bike and be on the road for over two months?

Tina: Jasmin from @jasmin_boehm was my inspiration. She traveled from Germany to Istanbul by bike with her child and shared the journey on Instagram. That was in early November 2022, and five months later, I set off on my dream destination: Porto, Portugal.

Interestingly, I didn’t hesitate much and immediately started planning. I would have loved to leave right away, but it was too cold for bikepacking in Central Europe during winter, and organizing a bikepacking trip required some preparation.

Esbit: How did you specifically prepare for the tour?

Tina: Preparation involved training with the bike itself and selecting the right equipment. For that, I sought advice from Globetrotter in Cologne and opted for a two-person tent, an air mattress, and a compact sleeping bag. Food was also a crucial aspect. How would I replenish my energy reserves and prepare meals on the go?

It was clear that I needed lightweight and compact equipment to be independent and cook warm meals whenever necessary. That’s why I reached out to Esbit. Among other things, I had the CS985HA cookset with alcohol burner and several insulated drink bottles from Esbit with me, which equipped me well for the journey.

Regarding training, I must admit I’m not a great example as I had limited opportunities to prepare for the long bike trip due to time constraints. However, I managed to realize my dream and reach my goal!

On the road to Porto – Solo bike expedition

Esbit: Did you adapt quickly to the camping life with tent, air mattress, and spirit stove?

Tina: I loved the feeling of having everything I needed with me. During my journey, I realized that I needed less than I thought. So, I got along well with my equipment.

However, one should not underestimate such a tour. Especially during that time of the year, nights were very cold. As I got closer to my destination, it became easier to adapt to the simpler life.

I could rely on my mobile sleeping place, but I didn’t always sleep in the tent. For example, during two longer breaks on my journey – once in Zeeland with my family and a few weeks later in Brittany with a friend – I stayed in holiday apartments or rooms, including to do laundry.

 Esbit SCULPTOR thermal mug 550 ml in black at a picnic on the beach

Esbit: That sounds like a nice mix during the trip. But did you ride the entire route on your bike, or did you use other means of transportation for some parts?

Tina: I was on the road for a total of 10 weeks and cycled 2,600 km. I covered part of the tour with a coach trip. The decision to interrupt the bike tour and take a bus from France was not an easy one. But in retrospect, it was the right decision for me.

On the way from the Netherlands to France, it was often stormy and cold, and after the first major stage, I was so exhausted that I almost gave up. However, I didn’t want to do that because I was eager to reach my destination: the warmth and sunshine in Porto.

The right equipment for a solo tour

Esbit: Such a journey is not always easy, and we can see that from your stories on your Instagram account @free_venture. It’s crucial to rely on your equipment and the bike. However, the bags offer little space for clothes, gear, or other essential items. What did you bring along, and how heavy were your bike panniers?

Tina: Fun fact: On March 26, I rode with packed bags on my bike in Cologne. That was the day my tour started! I didn’t weigh the exact weight of the panniers.

But for me, I can say that I packed very well and made good choices in terms of equipment and clothing. Since I started in Germany during winter and arrived in Portugal during summer, I had appropriate clothing for each situation. I particularly recommend clothing made of or with merino wool. Lightweight and compact equipment was also crucial to keep the bags manageable and leave more space for food.

In my bags, I had, for example:

  • My sleeping equipment: tent, including air mattress and sleeping bag
  • A change of clothes for the next day
  • A pocket knife for various situations
  • A headlamp for the evening hours
  • A power bank and solar panel to charge my phone battery
  • The Esbit equipment for food on the go
  • An emergency repair kit for my bike
     Esbit PICTOR sports drinking bottle 750 ml in black in a bicycle holder

    On the road with the right boost

    Esbit: That sounds like a well-prepared setup! Speaking of which, during a long journey, planning food is essential. How did you organize your food supplies?

    Tina: I always had an emergency ration with me, a bag of gummy bears that provided quick sugar. Additionally, I carried energy bars that could replace a meal in a small frame bag. To start my day, I usually prepared a protein shake and took it with me in the insulated drink bottle. For longer breaks, I often relied on carb-rich foods, like pasta with sauce, which I could quickly and easily prepare in the cooking set.

    In general, I listened to my body and ate accordingly. Thanks to my planning and food routines, I could stop whenever and wherever I wanted to enjoy either a snack or a warm, fresh meal. I loved this independence from relying on local offerings, and your equipment made me super flexible throughout the entire journey.

    Esbit: That sounds fantastic! Now, back to your bike tour. From Cologne to Porto is quite a long distance. How many kilometers did you cycle daily, and which places left a lasting impression on you?

    Tina: The stages varied in length, but I cycled between 50 and 130 km per day. Initially, I had planned not to set fixed daily goals and just ride as far as I could. However, I also allowed myself to stay at beautiful places when I arrived there. This plan of not planning worked out well for me.

    I particularly enjoyed the cycle paths in the Netherlands. They are well developed, have few differences in elevation, and the landscape is stunning. Especially for beginners, the Netherlands is an excellent destination.

    Emotionally, the highlight of my trip was arriving in Porto. The bus trip from France was very exhausting and long, so when I got off the bus, overwhelming happiness took over me. Standing on the Ponte inf d Henrique, I had a fantastic view of the city. At that moment, I thought, “Tina, you made it, you have arrived in Porto.”

    The town of Peniche surprised me, as I had only known the Algarve region in Portugal before. Riding along the Euro-Velo route was also an absolute highlight and a significant part of the route follows the coastline!

     Esbit woman with sunglasses and bicycle helmet

    A recap of the solo bike expetition

    Esbit: In your Instagram stories on @free_venture, we could follow your journey. We saw many highlights, but there were also challenges. What advice would you give to people planning a similar tour?

    Tina: Overall, I would always recommend such a tour. I learned a lot about myself and grew beyond my limits. Whether alone or with a companion, there are different challenges and advantages. When traveling with someone else, the chemistry must be right because you always have to coordinate whether to continue or where to set your daily stage goal.

    During my solo tour, I particularly enjoyed the freedom to make decisions independently and be self-reliant. However, I always made sure that my phone’s battery was adequately charged, as sometimes I cycled many kilometers alone on the road. In emergencies, I had to rely on myself.

    And my advice: Don’t plan too much. Of course, you can set some stage goals in advance, but my experience shows that plans can change quickly. A small emergency repair kit was also essential for me because a bike can encounter issues over so many kilometers. I had a total of three breakdowns.

    But most importantly: Enjoy being on the road. With bikepacking, the journey itself is the destination. Keep your eyes open while you’re on the go because often, you discover the most beautiful destinations and places during the ride.

     Esbit gravel bike on the beach

    Coming home – what’s next?

    Esbit: Has the journey changed you, and if so, how?

    Tina: I quickly learned that progress is made step by step. Before the trip, I had many ideas that I wanted to implement all at once. But on the road, I realized that you have to tackle things one by one. I also learned to face problems openly. Instead of immediately falling into despair, I would take a deep breath and look for a solution with a clear mind.

    During the breakdowns with my bike, I had to follow this advice myself.

    Esbit: Do you already have the next tour planned?

    Tina: I have just spent several days on the bike with my daughter, and that was lovely. After that, my family and I went on a camping trip together. We did a tour through southern Germany with our SUV and rooftop tent. It wasn’t a bikepacking trip, but of course, we had our bikes with us. I’m especially happy that my family gets to experience these adventurous vacations with me. The wanderlust has taken hold of me, and I already miss discovering new places.

    In the fall, I’ll be heading back to Portugal, but this time by car, with a rooftop tent and camping equipment.

    Esbit: One last question: which is more challenging – setting off on a journey or returning?

    Tina: Returning – I could have set off again immediately. I wanted to see my family again and have them with me, but I would have loved to head out with my family right away. We’ll fulfill this wish soon.

    Esbit: Thank you for this exciting insight into your solo bike journey, your experiences, and the tips you shared. We now have wanderlust and are looking forward to your next travel report!