Loneliness of the Long Distance Cyclist

On the 24th of July 2015 Peter Adam Smith departed from Dumfries, Scotland in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for circumnavigating the globe by bicycle and complete this journey in under 100 days. Peter was supported by a team of three young volunteers to make sure everything off the bike ran smoothly. The proposed route consisted of thirteen countries travelling East through Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan and China.

 

Besides being a keen cyclist Peter had not completed any professional coaching or intensive training as a build up to the event. With an average target of 200 miles per day it was clear the attempt would be gruelling and most other attempts are made by professional athletes. With three students as a support team and little experience in long distance cycling it was going to be a steep learning curve. 18000 miles ahead of us, we were nervous but excited to get going.

Half way through the Russian section of the trip we were falling behind, Peter is only able to cover around 120 miles per day even when riding into the night to make up time. It is clear his knee is giving him significant trouble as he can barely walk when he climbs off the bike. There are good days and bad but peters mental state is not positive, the initial drive for starting before dawn has drifted and even with the rock hard beds getting going in the morning seems more of a challenge every day. Despite this something always comes along to remind us why we are here, not just for the record, this is something bigger than that. The experience of another culture, of new landscapes and experiences gave the team a renewed energy to push on.

We’ve been on 3 different roads so far in Russia, and we’re following the West-East highway through Kazakhstan, so technically were only taking 3 different roads from Russia to China!
— Excerpt from Lap The Planet blog by Aleksandra Brizgalova

We are in the North of China, its incredible how quickly cultures and landscapes change when you cross the man made line of a border. Exiting Kazakhstan and leaving the desert behind we are heading into the Tian Shan mountain range which runs between the cities of Ili and Ürümqi in Xinjiang province. This promises to be the biggest ascent of the trip, climbing to 4000 meters before heading down the other side, the descent being 25 uninterrupted miles of curvy downhill cycling heaven. Even with the great conditions of late and the excitement of a new country it is hard to forget that we are behind target, completing the journey in under 100 days is now impossible and even if everything goes well from here beating the current record of 125 days is looking unlikely.

After 47 days on the road Peter decided to call an end to the record attempt. Losing the possibility of the 100 day record which was one of the initial goals was tough and took a toll on morale. Even if Peter achieved 200 miles a day every day, a goal that had only been completed once in the trip, the 125 day record was slipping away. His body was struggling along with his mind and it was clear his legs could not deal with the constant and immense workload required. Peter flew home from Qitai on the 8th of September 2015 and the team delivered the support car to the Laos border as planned.

 

To see a series of travel portraits from the journey, check out my album "Portraits of the Road"