The title of Bob Fletcher’s soon-to-be-written book is already penned: “Octogenarian Odyssey: Trading the Sofa for a Bicycle Seat.”
As long as he gets enough pre-orders, the book will trace the passionate Edmonton cyclist’s Guinness World Record attempt this year to pedal 13,656 km from Fairbanks, Alaska to Panama City on an E-Bike--an Evelo bicycle powered by a battery that is connected to a small electric motor which only provides various levels of assistance.
“The wattage your body generates helps powers the motor.”
There is no throttle.
“I have to keep pedalling or I fall off,” said the retired Edmonton School Board administrator, teacher and principal.
The current such world cycling record is 8,207 km by Ravindra Kempaiah--from Madison, Wisconsin to San Diego, California--set in the summer of 2016.
Fletcher, 79, who got his first bicycle when he was five-years-old and has never been far from one, is more than confident.
“It is not an attempt,” said Fletcher of the journey which will begin July 4 and end on approximately Dec. 6.
“I will break it. There is no doubt,” said Fletcher, who will be joined by his close friend Wayne Grover, 70.
The furthest Fletcher has previously pedalled is 10,400 km from Anchorage, Alaska to Mexico City in 2015, on a vastly different route.
Why he is doing it is a little like what George Leigh Mallory said about his reason for wanting to climb Mount Everest in 1924.
“Because it’s there,” said Mallory before his ill-fated attempt to climb the world’s highest peak.
Sponsored by Nesbitt Burns, BMO senior portfolio manager Sean Rourke, AirBnB, Swagman Bike Racks and Evelo Bikes, Fletcher is also doing it to celebrate his 80th birthday.
“I wanted something more than just a birthday party with friends,” said Fletcher, who turns 80 on August 19 when he expects to be in Newport, Oregon and where he will be joined by family and friends.
When Fletcher saw Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s last TV series ‘Long Way Up’ about the two actors' electric motorcycle trip from the bottom of South America to Los Angeles, California and around the world, he made his decision.
“I thought an e-bike trip from Fairbanks to Panama City was an interesting test and the Guinness Book of World Records people became interested,” said Fletcher.
But it’s more than that.
“My plan is to show a younger generation that life isn’t over at 65,” Fletcher told Nick Lees in the Edmonton Journal earlier this year.
“But I think I’ve already done that,” said Fletcher, whose list of accomplishments as a senior citizen is lengthy.
He has run five marathons, with his fastest time 3 hours, 28 minutes, and 29 seconds. He has completed three Olympic-size triathlons too.
In 2014 Fletcher climbed Kilimanjaro which, at 5,895 metres, is Africa’s tallest mountain. He did that at the age of 72, becoming the second-oldest person to accomplish the feat that month.
He has visited more than 100 countries - cycling in 20 of them. Oh, and he walked the 800 km of the French Camino de Santiago.
This latest excruciating journey is expected to take 153 days including about 25 rest days.
Fletcher’s route will take him from Alaska, through the Yukon and British Columbia and then down the Pacific Coast Highway through Washington, Oregon and California before heading on to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica before arriving in Panama.
With Arrowhead Productions out of Vancouver doing a documentary--“The CBC is also interested,” he says - Fletcher plans on riding an average of 116 km a day--the longest day 180 km--pedalling at an average speed of 24 km an hour.
“I want to convince more people to exercise and to dream of taking an adventure out of their comfort zone. That’s my goal.”
Those wanting to follow the journey can preorder Fletcher's book at https://igg.me/at/rdf
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