Update

Plans change for better or worse: Cycling in the Himalayas

Original Post

Ask me at any point in time and I can reel off a list of different trips, races and adventures I’d love to do. Motivation for some pass whilst others stick no matter how stupid they are and you revisit them time and again.

The itch that you shouldn’t scratch if you will was initially way too big for me to comprehend, in private I floated the idea with close friends to gauge whether the wheels had finally come off. Married friends told me to go for it, whilst single friends told me I was mad. Draw your own conclusions from marital bliss!

Ever more confused I turned to Mark Twain for some advice:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

Societies expectation is you’ve done all the daft stuff by your 30s, you should really be getting serious about ‘life’ – good job, nice house, marriage, kids. Juxtaposed against these expectations my idea seemed whimsical, remaining silent I started to save cash whatever I decided it would come in useful one way or another.

For 2 years things carried on in this vein, not quite committing to setting off but not committing to the next step I should take in life. Time away at Christmas caused me to reflect and force myself to a decision, before I knew I’d outed myself as a fool. My notice was handed in at work, flights booked, kit bought and stress levels continue to rise as weeks fly by and the deadline beckons.

Alaska to Argentina

Alaska to Argentina is considered by many in long distance cycling circles as one of the last epic journeys to be had on two wheels. Overlooked by many in favour of cycling around the world; Alaska to Argentina is a purists dream, the largest landmass in the world with only a small section unrideable between Central and South America.

In late June 2013 I embark on a year-long journey to cycle from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Usuhaia in Tierra Del Fuego, Southern Argentina. A journey of 18,000 miles connecting the most northerly and southerly accessible towns on the American continent. Much of the journey will be ridden on quieter dirt roads away from the busy Pan American highway including the Great Divide the worlds longest mountain bike route running 2,745 miles from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

Along the way I will encounter black and grizzly bears, caribou, musk ox, wolves, moose, snakes and scorpions as I travel through a diverse set of landscapes from tundra, forests, mountains, desert and humid coastlines chasing the seasons as I head south.

Many cyclists take a slightly more sedate approach to cycling the continent with many taking around 18 months to 2 years to complete this monumental ride. By attempting to significantly reduce this time a number of problems arise.

Firstly I’ll be traveling against the seasons, departing in the Alaskan summer I will arrive in a Argentina as winter approaches; hopefully in sufficient time ensure passage through Patagonia before snow and its fabled headwinds arrive to grind proceedings to a halt.¬† Secondly by traveling on quieter dirt roads high daily mileages are harder to achieve compared to rolling down the smooth asphalt of the Pan American highway.

In order to achieve this goal I have decided to dispense with the traditional cycle touring set up and have adopted a lightweight ‘bikepacking’ approach to keep weight, excess and potential over packing to a minimum with the aim of achieving a consistently high daily mileage.

Whilst this is entirely a personal journey to learn more about myself, my physical and mental boundaries, in the process I hope to raise awareness for the British Heart Foundations ‘Mending Broken Hearts’ appeal and the groundbreaking research it is currently undertaking. Having lost both my parents to heart related conditions it is a charity which I’ve become involved with over the past couple of years.

Road to El Chalten
Image Credit: ayline ayline

5 Comments

  1. Debbie Scholes
    22/06/2013

    Hi Mike, I just read about your trip on Explorers Connect. I’m just planning my first multi-day bike trip- less ambitious than yours though sadly!

    Anyway, I really enjoyed reading about your trip and then I saw that your flights are today! So I just want to wish you good luck with your trip. I hope you have a fantastic time, and I hope that the only obstacles/problems you encounter are ones that can be overcome and leave you with great stories to tell!

    ‘May the road rise up to meet you (although not too steeply!). May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face”

    Debbie

    Reply
    • Mike
      25/06/2013

      Thanks for your kind words Debbie.

      I’m actually still in the UK at the moment, I’ve hit some delays but hope to be in Alaska by the second week in July.

      That quote is one of my all time favourite quotes it made me smile!

      Good luck with your own journey, no matter how small it is atleast you are getting out there and doing it and it can only lead on to bigger things.

      Mike

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