(All images: Alastair Humphrys)
Alastair Humphreys is an adventurer. He has walked, run, cycled and rowed his way through many challenges all around the world.
He started early. At age 8 he completed the 26 mile Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. At 13 he finished the National Three Peaks in 24 hours. At 14 he cycled off-road across England. Throughout university he cycled from Pakistan to China, Land’s End to John O’Groats, Turkey to Italy, Mexico to Panama and across South America. He ran a charity project in the Philippines and the London marathon dressed as a rhino. He even ran the Marathon des Sables, broke his foot half way and carried on, finishing as one of the 10 fastest Brits in the race.
Needless to say, this man likes to challenge himself.
One day, after he graduated, he woke up in the morning and decided to cycle around the world. It was to be a journey of 46,000 miles through 60 countries, across 5 continents and ended up lasting four years.
Through determination, joy, curiosity and a unstoppable love of adventure, Alastair and his bike made it around the world. The going wasn’t always easy but he had one rule that he resolutely stuck to.
‘I can give up whenever I want. But I can’t be wet, I can’t be hungry and I can’t be in the dark.’
And after every cold, wet, hungry night he would wake up, look around him and with a smile climb back onto his bike. And so he made his happy way around the world.
We had a little chat with him about the joy of bikes, the joy of adventure and the joy of not giving up.
Why did you pick cycling around the world instead of say, eating as many crackers as you can in 5 minutes?
Cycling is cheap, low-skill and physically tough but logistically simple. It’s non-alienating in poorer parts of world and fast enough to see the world but slow enough to enjoy it. It gives you freedom, independence and incurable wanderlust. Plus I don’t like crackers…
Which bit do you wish you could do again?
Chilean Patagonia – simply stunning.
Which bit was the most challenging?
Winter in Siberia. It was brutal!
How did you keep yourself going for four years?
By knowing that I would regret it if I gave up, even though I often dearly wanted to. Despite it being tough I realised that I was extraordinarily free, privileged, and happy out there on the open road.
What do you love most about cycling?
Its simplicity. The perfect balance between slowness and speed.
Four years on a bike is a long time. You must have built up quite a relationship with your two wheeled friend. Did you name it? Talk to it? Sing to it? Cuddle up to it on the longer, lonelier nights?
She was called Rita! Or at least the first two were called Rita. The third was Beryl (named after Beryl Markham and Beryl Smeeton)
What would you say to encourage all the non-cyclists out there to hop on a bike and give it a spin. Just for an hour or two, not four years.
Try it! If you hate it you can always go home. But you will never know unless you try it!