Nick Lees: Retired Edmonton educator plans record-breaking 14,000 km bike trip to mark 80th birthday

“I thought an E-Bike trip from Fairbanks to Panama City was an interesting test and the Guinness Book of World Records folks were interested.”

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Robert Fletcher of Edmonton plans to set a Guinness World Record to celebrate his 80th birthday this year.

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He is about to travel the 14,000 kilometers from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Panama City on a motorized bicycle.

“I finalized the plans while sharing the frustration of the Covid pandemic with everyone,” says the former marathoner and triathlete.

“I will be leaving Fairbanks on my electric bike on July 4th and hope to arrive in Panama City on December 7th.

“My plan is to show a younger generation that life isn’t over at 65. The journey will also mark my 25 years of retirement as a teacher and principal of Edmonton Public Schools. “

An electric bicycle uses a battery on a bicycle to power a small motor to help cyclists climb hills or over difficult terrain.

“I got interested in e-bikes several years ago when I was blowing and blowing on a hill, and a woman on an e-bike walked past me,” says Fletcher.

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“On another occasion, a man walked past me on his road bike as he pulled up behind his wife E-Bike cyclist.”

Fletcher had been running bike tours for years, and when customers started asking for an electric bike, he bought three, one for himself and two for customers.

Trained at Strathcona Composite High School and the University of Alberta, Fletcher said he had always ridden a bicycle as a child and in the summer of 1972 he and his late wife Beth rode the southern England and France by bike.

“Beth was a wonderful and adventurous person, but sadly in 2013 she passed away from complications from Alzheimer’s disease,” he says.

“One night we watched the movie called The Way, in which Martin Sheen’s character walks the Camino de Santiago, a traditional pilgrimage route in France and Spain.

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“Beth said she would have loved to walk the 800 mile trip on foot, so after she passed away I hiked it and had my certificate of completion dedicated to her. “

Fletcher says Beth also had a fascination with Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, at 5,895 meters, Africa’s tallest mountain.

“I hired a guide and on Christmas Day 2014, I climbed the mountain,” he says. “I felt very close to Beth.”

Adventure and travel have always been in Fletcher’s blood, and on his own he has traveled and signed up for many long-distance bike tours.

“I have cycled in over 20 countries and visited and explored over 100,” he says.

“My first long cycling adventure was a 4,200 km trip from Agra, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, in northern India, to the far end of the subcontinent.”

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Other trips include a 3,000 km journey from Melbourne to Australia’s Gold Coast; a trip from Quebec via Washington, Nashville and Memphis to New Orleans, and a one-month trip of 3,000 km from Amsterdam to Rome.

“What was special about this trip,” says Fletcher, “is that we had all ridden together before. It was like sharing a ride with your best friends through beautiful countries while eating gourmet food. and drinking delicious wine.

In 2015, he cycled from Alaska to Mexico City, then visited other Central American countries, falling in love with Costa Rica’s climate and beaches.

“I bought a recreation property there and now I often lead bike tours through beautiful valleys and mountain passes,” he says.

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It wasn’t until recently that Fletcher started to think of an adventure to celebrate his 80th birthday.

“I thought I could explore West Africa or the Amazon or maybe take an exciting horseback ride on an ancient road,” he says.

“But then I saw the Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman TV series on Motorcycle Riding in the World. I thought an e-bike trip from Fairbanks to Panama City was an interesting test and people from the Guinness Book of World Records got interested.

“The current distance record on an electric bike is 8,209 kilometers and my run will be barely 14,000 km. “

A bicycle company is donating Fletcher’s bike and supplies, and a two-person crew will accompany him to film his trip.

“The filmmakers will be traveling in a school bus and offered me a bed every night on our 156 night trip,” he says. “We have set up campsites for each night, but I’m still looking for a few sponsors. “

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Fletcher plans to travel from Alaska through the Yukon and British Columbia, through the US states of Washington, Oregon and California, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and in Costa Rica before arriving in Panama.

Its planned route has a daily average of 116 km, with the longest day being 180 km and the shortest 86 km.

“Judging from previous outings I’m pretty sure the riders will come and support me the whole way,” says Fletcher.

“My birthday on August 19 will be in Newport, Oregon, and I hope many of my family and friends will be there.”

Shortly after his 80th birthday, Fletcher plans to join a Facebook group called The Royal Academy of Octogenarian Cyclists.

“There is no such thing as peer support,” he says. “I don’t want to get too far ahead, but if things go well, I might consider a trip to South America or maybe Antarctica.

Email: [email protected]

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