Scottish round-the-world cyclist Mark Beaumont tells us about armed escorts, the kindness of strangers and his polar hero.
My sister and I shared the family bikes that were always lying around on the farm where I grew up, in Perthshire, Scotland. My first proper bike was a steel-framed Peugeot mountain bike.
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Cycling is the most efficient way to travel and a great way to see the world. When you’re on an expedition, you get to see the gradual changes in the landscape and the people.
My first big solo ride was John o’ Groats to Land’s End when I was 15. I did a whole bunch of cycle tours in Europe, so, by the world trip (2008), I had done about a decade of cycling.
During my trips, I’ve had incredible highs and come across many random acts of kindness. The toughest part of the world trip was in Pakistan, when I was escorted for about 800 miles by guards armed with AK-47s. They gave me a pretty rough time. Psychologically, riding through the Australian outback was very difficult.
On the world trip, I used a custom-made aluminium alloy Koga Miyata with butterfly bars. I think I’ve got nine bikes at home, because the bikes I use for expeditions aren’t practical for everyday use.
The roads on the America trip (2009/10) were much tougher and I had about 25 punctures over the 13,000 miles. The bottom bracket and headset broke but I managed to get them fixed in rustic bike shops where they can fix anything.
During school and university, my nickname was Monty. I’m not really called that anymore, so now it’s my dog’s name.
My idea of a great night out is catching up with friends. I’m in training for my next expedition, early next year, so if I drink a couple of pints, then I’m gone. It’s certainly not the clubbing of old.
Taking a night off is pretty precious, so when I can I have a nice meal and a bottle of wine at home with my girlfriend.
I enjoy most endurance sports, especially fell running and rowing. I’m a qualified ski instructor and used to teach, out in Italy.
My mum is the biggest influence on my life. I was home-schooled and, without that upbringing, I doubt I would have had the confidence to do what I’ve done.
If I could invite anyone to dinner, it would be Ernest Shackleton. I’ve read a lot about his expeditions and the style in which he took on the South Pole. It’s one of the great survival stories.