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The World Bicyclist: fast enough to see the world, slow enough to meet it’s people

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The World Bicyclist: fast enough to see the world, slow enough to meet it’s people

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September 4th, 2015

Patrick Martin Schroeder, the self-proclaimed world bicyclist and modern nomad, is a welcome beep on any cyclist’s radar. We asked him a few questions about his massively impressive touring history which he answered with a patchy internet connection somewhere in Central Asia.

Since 2007 he’s travelled to 132 of the 193 UN member states (that’s an incredible 68%). When we spoke to him back in June he was in Uzbekistan, at time of writing he’s in Georgia, and over the next 18 months he plans to tick a few more off the list including Iraq, Yemen, Bhutan, and Seychelles.

The route map and flag list on his website convey the epicness of his journey better than words:

Martin's routes

Martin's flag

Imagine what his passport(s) must look like!

Patrick is generous with interviews and his insights are sprinkled around the internet as a result. We tried to keep our questions fresh and interesting, beginning not by asking his favourite country (“there is no favourite”), but which country differed most from his expectations“I’d go with India”, he says, “it’s a very polarizing place. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but somehow compared it to south-east Asia in my head, which is nowhere near the truth.

He explains that it has extremes of good and bad: “anything from extreme poverty, lack of personal space, pollution and harassment to a vast array of religious, cultural and historical sites, natural beauty and delicious food.” This exposure to a country’s real personality is one of the benefits of seeing the world by bike, even if it can be intense on occasion.

Not everyone has the realisation that they want to live a transient life on the road, and when asked about the first time he realised it was his ambition to travel once around the world, Patrick’s motivations revealed a driven and ambitious young man: “I said to myself once when I was 13 that ‘I’ll never have a normal job’. The idea to travel came later when I was 17: I talked a lot with my geography teacher who helped me to plot the first route. At 18 I finished school, at 19 I finished military service, and three weeks later I was on the road.”

Patrick with a great vista

That view!

We asked about bike types and how people respond to seeing a tourer on various types of cycle, he told us that “people are probably most shocked to hear about me touring on a carbon road bike because they don’t believe that it holds up to the challenge. I also get weird looks when people realize that I currently tour on a full-suspension MTB.”

Part of it comes down to rider confidence and comfort thresholds, too: “my tour planning does not change depending on my bike. Most bikes can ride any terrain, I did sand and gravel on 25mm road tires, while riding 50mm MTB tires on paved roads at the moment. It’s mostly a question of the riders skill and comfort.”

Handlebar set-up

One of his handlebar set-ups

One of the most refreshing aspects of Patrick’s journey is his willingness to not confine himself to a specific type of bike, nor even to the bicycle in general. He explained which factors dictate how he decides to travel – when to ride and when to jump into something with a few more wheels.

“It depends on anything from weather, to costs, to personal mood. Once my girlfriend and I left our bicycles in Cusco, Peru, and started hitch-hiking for over 10,000km through Chile and Argentina, before flying to Easter Island. It seemed like a good idea because flying with a bike is difficult and Patagonian roads are windy, empty and bitterly cold at that time of year.”

Other times it’s a financial decision: “if I spend $10 a day and cover 150km, it will cost 1 week ($70) to get 1000km. If there’s a bus that takes one night and costs $40, I’ll take the bus. And then there are times when I’ll do a difficult and challenging part by bike on purpose, even if better alternatives exist. Think crossing mountain ranges or deserts: it’s quite rewarding once you’ve done it and look back at the effort.”

To put that last sentence in perspective, consider that he has ridden through the Sahara in summer and Siberia in winter.

Side note: leaving the bikes behind when hitch-hiking is a good idea. The image below is how one of our team attempted “hitch-biking”, luckily the driver was easygoing and happy to give it a go as well!

Hitch hiking with a bike

There’ll be none of this nonsense on a Ride25!

After his girlfriend designed him a slick website, Patrick began reaching out to potential sponsors to see if they’d be interested in swapping gear for publicity – he’s attracted some impressive names:

Patrick's previous sponsors

Patrick’s previous sponsors

Their gear offers “higher grade of comfort and less hassle with repairs”, but he’s quick to note that they don’t necessarily determine where he will or won’t go. “I’d have gone to Russia in summer instead of winter if I didn’t have access to the expensive winter gear. But regardless of the sponsoring, I would have still gone there.”

After having covered so much of the globe, Patrick has a pretty firm grasp on what a good touring day looks like: “distance as much as I can do, flat terrain, 20° Celsius, a bit of cloud, company that can keep up, and access to some good food and a hot shower at the end of the day.” Although he does admit that “none of those ever line up on tour though, so I have to make do with what I’ve got.” This tenacity summarises well his attitude to the road – inspiring stuff.

Incidentally, company, good food and a hot shower is what we aim to provide on a Ride25! But not necessarily flat terrain…

Geneva to Milan day 2

Where’s the fun in flat? Elevation profile of day 2 of our Geneva to Milan trip

To end, we asked the same question we’ve asked our other cycling champions: to summarise cycling in 20 words or less. Patrick’s answer is a fine addition to the list:

Cycling: A cheap form of transport that is fast enough to see the world, slow enough to meet it’s people.

We think you’ll agree this is a truly interesting young man with an incredible vision, and join us in wishing him all the best in his future travels (which you can follow on his website, on Twitter, or on Facebook).

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