Print this page
Monday, 13 April 2009

Cycle Strongman: An Interview with Chris Roach

Written by Kristen Hamill
Rate this item
(0 votes)


Cycle Strongman: An Interview with Chris Roach, awareness about environmental change, raising money for Oxfam International, cycle the world, cycle Australia, cycle South East Asia, cycle the Middle East, cycle Europe, cycle Africa, cycle the Americas, cycle Eastern Asia, www.cyclestrongman.comOn March 28, 2009, Australian Chris Roach set out on an eight-year journey to cycle the world. The 27-year-old Newcastle native is the one-man operation behind the Cycle Strongman Expedition, an idea Roach conceived only months before hitting the road in efforts to promote awareness about environmental change, raise money for Oxfam International, and see the world without traveling by car or plane. His proposed 75,000-kilometer journey will take him through Australia, South East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, the Americas, Eastern Asia, and back down to Australia, and it will be virtually carbon-emission free. Roach hopes that by circumnavigating the globe on one set of wheels and aboard the occasional sailboat, he will inspire people to lead more sustainable lifestyles and look to the rest of the world on how to live in tune with the environment.

You leave for the Cycle Strongman expedition in two days. How are you feeling?

Apart from being tired, I’m doing well. I’m excited a little bit nervous. It’s a whole mixture of feelings. I can’t really describe it.

 

How did you get started cycling and what inspired you to embark on this expedition?

It all started when I was living in England where I’d been studying for two years. In England you drink a lot of beer and I wasn’t in the fittest shape of my life, I put on a fair bit of weight. I was looking for a really cheap way to travel, I had four or five months until Christmas to go home and see my family. I was sitting in my sister’s lounge in London; I had just come back from a hike through England and into Scotland. I was sitting there watching cricket, and her bike was all packed up in a box in the corner. I kind of got this idea that maybe I could ride through Europe. I packed all my gear up, traded my backpack for a bicycle, promised her I’d have it home by Christmas, and I just took off. I bought a flight to Norway and started to ride all the way through Norway and Sweden and the Baltic countries, old Soviet Republics, and all the way to Turkey. Cycle Strongman: An Interview with Chris Roach, awareness about environmental change, raising money for Oxfam International, cycle the world, cycle Australia, cycle South East Asia, cycle the Middle East, cycle Europe, cycle Africa, cycle the Americas, cycle Eastern Asia, www.cyclestrongman.com

 

I met a guy that was traveling around – his name was Tim Harvey – when I was traveling through Poland. He was actually doing a similar trip around the world and it had taken him two years to get to Europe. We got talking and I think this is where the idea got started. This idea got in the back of my head and this little seed was planted. Four, five months ago I just decided to do it. I was looking for a change and I wanted to get out and see the world, so the expedition was born.

 

What did you learn from your first cycling journey that will help you on your upcoming expedition?

I loved it so much—the change in landscape, the cultures, the people—it was amazing. There were heaps of times when people I met helped me out; they’d offer me a place to stay, help me out with food, and they wanted to hear about my journey. Things like that really enrich your traveling experience. I want to bring myself closer to the cultures that I’m traveling through, and being on a bike is such an awesome way to do that. If you’re traveling on a bus or on a train you cruise by many places. The traveling I’ve done before, particularly when I was 18, was going to all the major cities, but that’s not the culture. That’s part of it, but I’m really looking forward to going to remote villages and veering off the beaten track and interacting with different people.


Why are you going on this expedition? What do you hope to achieve by it?

Cycle Strongman: An Interview with Chris Roach, awareness about environmental change, raising money for Oxfam International, cycle the world, cycle Australia, cycle South East Asia, cycle the Middle East, cycle Europe, cycle Africa, cycle the Americas, cycle Eastern Asia, www.cyclestrongman.com,There are a lot of aspects to the trip. Part of it is self-discovery, but overall with the expedition I want to promote the environmental impact behind the choices that people make. It’s really about inspiring people to think about their lifestyle choices and what they can do to minimize their impact on the environment, and trying to change the mindset and bring sustainability to the forefront of peoples’ minds. Our survival on this planet is dictated by how we interact with the ecosystems that support us. It’s critical and everyday it’s getting, for all intents and purposes, worse and worse. We really have to readjust our lifestyles in order to survive on this planet. Bringing environmental consciousness to peoples minds is what I’m trying to do through the expedition.

 

I just want to inspire people to make simple changes. You know, jumping on a bicycle is one of the best things people can do, getting out of their cars. It’s so easy to do and it’s better for your health and the environment. Some of the choices we can make are really easy, they are right in front of us, but the way our society is geared towards consumption makes it hard.

 

I want to convey with the expedition is that there is more out there that is worth experiencing. Part of it is understanding how other people live. We have it pretty easy in Australia and America, about a third of the people in the rest of the world live below what we would consider the poverty line, but perhaps they’re happier than we are.

 

How have you prepared for the expedition?

I’ve spent the last five months researching, getting the gear that I need, getting sponsors involved, researching what countries I can and can’t go to, what visas I’ll need. Things change when you travel, you can never predict certain things but you can prepare for the basics. You’ve got to get out there and see what happens.

 

What about physical preparation and training? Have you done much of that?

Not at all, and a lot of people are surprised by that. That’s not what the expedition is about, it’s not a race— you don’t need to train for this sort of thing. You need to train and prepare mentally, but physically, the training is the first couple months on the road. You start off with forty kilometers a day and then the next day you do fifty and in the next couple of days you’ll do sixty, and you slowly build it up to get to a comfortable pace you’re able to set your day by. It’s not a race so there’s no training involved, it’s an experience; you just jump on a bike and enjoy things as they come.

 

Will you be doing the whole trip on your own or is any one coming with you?

I’m doing the whole trip totally on my own.

 


 

How are you dealing with the idea of being on the road for the next eight years?

Cycle Strongman: An Interview with Chris Roach, awareness about environmental change, raising money for Oxfam International, cycle the world, cycle Australia, cycle South East Asia, cycle the Middle East, cycle Europe, cycle Africa, cycle the Americas, cycle Eastern Asia, www.cyclestrongman.comAt the moment I’m kind of just focusing on the first leg from Newcastle to Darwin. That will be about three months cycling, which is about three and a half thousand kilometers. That will be the first leg and then getting over to Indonesia and through South East Asia, around Burma, you can’t actually cycle through Burma there’s always problems trying to get visas, so to avoid that I’ll be going through China, and then Tibet if I can get through, and down through India. Then through Nepal, back up through the ‘stans’- Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, through to Iran, then Turkey. That’s where my focus is at the moment. I’m trying to break it up. It gets very daunting thinking ‘oh I’ve got this big route around the world.’ I’m trying to take it in small bites at the moment.

 

I noticed that your tentative route passes through several countries (Libya, Sudan, Iran) that aren’t exactly easy to travel through. How do you plan on handling this?

There were just a few options for the route. I haven’t really planned too far ahead to be honest. Its two years away and there’s so much going on at the moment; there’s so many different aspects of the expedition – I can’t be looking too far into the future. I haven’t even started putting any energy into getting that far yet. I’m just focusing on getting to India, and then from India to Europe. And that’s when I’m planning on taking some time off. I’m going to have to work along the way and save a bit of money.

 

Will your friends and family be able to visit you or will you return home to Australia at all?

I’m trying not to return home, only in the case of an emergency with my family. The idea of the expedition is to get around the world as sustainably as possible. I’m trying to get around and see the world, and get other people to think about their impact on the environment.

 

What will be the hardest thing about this expedition?

I think the way the trip evolves will be kind of a learning experience. The hardest part will be missing my family and the friends that I’ll leave behind. There is a lot I’m giving up. I have two beautiful nieces that are only four and I won’t see them grow up. And I’ve got my girlfriend who I am leaving behind. That will be really hard. They’re really supportive for the most part, if not a little worried. But I’ve got a lovely family and they are fully behind me, I couldn’t have done it without them and their encouragement. Just to have that safety net there, having them there to support you. They’re a little scared but also excited for me and keen to follow the trip, to see how it morphs and see where I go.

 

Do you speak any languages besides English?

I speak a bit of Norwegian, but not a lot. I’ll pick things up along the way. You’ve got to learn to communicate in other ways. Even that experience is a learning experience.

 


 

Will you be blogging or video blogging along the way?

I have my website (www.cyclestrongman.com ) and I’ll be blogging on there and doing regular updates, photos, and videos I hope. The expedition will be carbon neutral, so I will have an environmental section on the site, giving people ways to help the environment, since that is the focal point of the expedition. Cycle Strongman: An Interview with Chris Roach, awareness about environmental change, raising money for Oxfam International, cycle the world, cycle Australia, cycle South East Asia, cycle the Middle East, cycle Europe, cycle Africa, cycle the Americas, cycle Eastern Asia, www.cyclestrongman.com,I hope to jump into Internet cafes and update the site throughout the trip so people can hear my stories and share in the experience. I want to incorporate a learning-based module as well, geared to junior school kids, to learn about the environment and landscapes that I travel through.

 

Are there any countries or areas of the world that you are particularly looking forward to or not looking forward to traveling through?

You know what it’s like when you are traveling and you have all these perceived ideas about what a country is like and it turns out to be totally different, that’s what I’m looking forward to—not knowing. That’s how I feel about going through the Himalayas; I haven’t been there before. That part of the route will take me through India, Nepal, and up through China. The one area I’m concerned about the most is Africa. Things change over there so quickly, and governments come and go. I mean there are other countries as well but I’m a little bit more worried – not worried but cautious, when it comes to Africa. That will be the biggest challenge.

 

What were you doing before you planned the expedition?

I was working as an engineer for an environmental consulting company, and kind of the reason why I wanted to get away from that job is because I wasn’t really happy with the work, a lot of it was in coal mining. I couldn’t see any sustainability in it and it was really frustrating being an engineer, especially an environmental engineer, working in that field. It really started to weigh on me; if you’re not a part of the solution you are part of the problem. That spurred me on as well to do something different in my life and change the world in my own little way.

To contact or follow Chris Roach on his Cycle Strongman Expedition, visit his website at www.cyclestrongman.com .

©Kristen Hamill

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

Related items