Fiona and Sandy Chambers are the founders and bloggers at The Ratbag Sisters – they call it their subpar blog that documents their cycling tours/travels. The two sisters reached out to us to Fieldtest our pants as they embark on a cycling journey around Asia.
Tell us something about yourself.
People can always tell we’re sisters within about 20 seconds of meeting us – apparently we have the same mannerisms, the same laugh, the same voice… and we finish each others’ sentences.
Sandy is the big dreamer, always scheming up plans and having grand ideas. She’s also the bossy one. I am more pragmatic, putting the schemes into action… and (sometimes) I stop Sandy from doing silly things (like filling up her water dromedary with wine – much more sensible to put it in a drink bottle).
What made you decide to do this cycling tour? What was your catalyst for doing this?
The short answer: Why not?
The medium answer: We grew up in an adventurous family, and it’s the kind of thing that’s in our blood. We both love bikes, and travelling, put them together and Bob’s ya uncle.
The long answer: Sandy met someone who was doing a cross-continental bicycle tour while travelling in Iran in 2009, and ever since then she had been dreaming of doing something similar. She told me about her idea, and once I got on board more people believed it was more that just ‘another crazy idea’. The current plan is almost 3 years in the making, with many changes to the route and timing.
The catalyst for actually making it happen was originally the timing working perfectly (we were finishing uni and work contracts at the same time)… but then six weeks before our departure date for the original trip, Sandy was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (now treated and in remission, thankfully!), so now the catalyst has changed to ‘fuck cancer’, and doing something fun after a pretty rough year.
How many cycling tours have you done before? How do you prepare for it?
None! Our preparation mainly consists of eating a lot of sushi. We’ve both done a fair bit of long-distance hiking before, and love riding our bikes, so we’re hoping that those things combined will see us through. We figure day one is training for day two! We’ve also been following the blogs of a lot of other cycle tourers for inspiration and guidance. The best advice is from Tom Allen (tomsbiketrip.com) who says “1. Pick a date. Start saving. 2. Get a bike, tent & sleeping bag. 3. Choose a direction and start pedalling.”
What motivates you everyday?
Sandy: I want to be a snazzy and pizazzy granny full of great stories about my youthful hijiinks, so every day I try to be the kind of person who will one day become that granny.
Fiona: Good friends, food, and adventures… best in combination.
Tell us a life changing experience you’ve had? Or do you have a favourite travel story to share?
Last year, we completed a 7 week hike on the Bibbulmun Track (www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au), a 1000km journey from Perth to Albany (in our home state, Western Australia). The hike was both life changing and a wonderful travel experience. The whole hike is difficult to summarise, but these things come to mind: waking up with sun every morning, seeing loads of Australian wildlife, singing showtunes at the top of our voices in the middle of the bush, skinny dipping at the most beautiful and isolated beaches in the world, connecting with people who we would ordinarily have never met, laughing a lot, and going “a bit” crazy. The whole hike was a lesson in living simply day to day, in the moment, and appreciating the beauty around us.
What are you top 5 travel must-haves?
Spare underpants, a sister, a bicycle, a mooncup, and a good appetite… and (in the words of Douglas Adams) always know where your towel is!
We are inspired by the Chambers’ sisters fun and fearless attitudes and are proud to have them both as Fieldtesters, a group of inspiring friends that regularly test MATTER products in their workplace and travels to help us improve durability and design. Fiona is wearing the Modern Monpe + All Eye Teal and Sandy is wearing the Easy Dhoti + Falcon Footprint.