On September 13, long distance cyclist and motorcycle adventurer, Nick Sanders MBE, will be setting off from Amsterdam on a 39,890km journey around the world on an electric bike. Wales-based Sanders - who set the original Guinness World Record for fastest circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle in 1984 - will be attempting to set a new distance record atop a Yamaha Wabash.
To be classed as a record, Sanders needs to ride further than 28,800km, the same bike must be used throughout (although not the same batteries) and he must pass through two antipodal points - in this case, Madrid in Spain and Wellington in New Zealand. Sanders is expecting to complete the journey over 229 riding days, plus 10 days for transit and flight travel. This means he is expected back in Amsterdam on April 30, 2024 if he covers the expected 100 miles a day.
This isn't the first time Sanders has been around the world on two wheels, however. He's completed multiple trips aboard a motorcycle and also, for his first trip in 1981, by unassisted bike. This took him 138 days and sparked the fire that led to his adventuring lifestyle. From there he took on several long-distance cycling challenges, including setting a new fastest time for riding around the coast of Britain, and again around the world by bike. This attempt, however, will be his first time circumnavigating the globe via e-bike.
The journey of course includes a few flights from one continent to the next, and as there are restrictions around flying with electric bike batteries, the route has been devised to allow stop-offs at Yamaha dealerships around the world. That doesn’t mean that Sanders isn’t prepared to ride without any power, however - particularly in places where it may be impossible to charge. For example, the Empty Quarter in Saudi Arabia.
Sanders will be carrying one spare battery with him at all times, and this will be replaced at the end of each continent when he has flown to his next destination.
Asked what his motivation for the journey is, he replied: “I will be making a feature film, and that motivates me. I want people to understand what this journey is about; a mix of human endeavour but also about the idea of the 'balance of life.'
“I'm no guru, but I do know most people are not happy with their life and the societal processes that push us all down routes we don't really want to go. The more is better mentality - technologically and from the consuming perspective - is a worrying distraction from what we have; a lovely blue planet which people increasingly are struggling to enjoy.”
The bike he’s chosen to ride is a Yamaha Wabash – a bike that has only recently been launched in the UK. It’s an all-terrain gravel e-bike, which means Sanders' route won’t be too limited by surfaces. Sanders is sponsored by Yamaha, but the Wabash looks a capable machine for on- or off-road riding, and one he is already familiar with thanks to his previous long-distance journey by e-bike.
That trans-Europe journey took him from Nordkapp to Tarifa, and he feels that has helped him to prepare for this massive around the world undertaking.
“At the start of the trans-Europe trip, I was 7kg over my ideal weight and relatively untrained. I got down to 10st 13lbs and suddenly was riding 100 mile days relatively easily. The weather was cold in November when my schedule was picked for me, but now I have the choice and I should be on the right side of the weather for the most part.”
Weather is just one of the many challenges Sanders will likely face in his trip around the world – particularly as he aims to ride through most of the northern hemisphere’s cooler months which will reduce battery life a little. When asked about any e-bike specific challenges he is expecting to face, he sounded confident in his planning and itinerary for the journey.
“I’m not expecting anything I haven't faced before except for increased traffic flow from behind. I'll be taking a Garmin Varia rearview radar device to link to the computer on my bars. I’m not anticipating charging issues as I'll top up at cafés when I stop to rest and obviously in Youth Hostels or hotels at night.”
Riding around the world on any type of bike is no easy feat. This will be a massive undertaking both physically and logistically – perhaps more so logistically than if he were to do this challenge on an unassisted bike. Making sure you’re riding a road legal e-bike in every country you ride through is a challenge in itself, and that’s before you worry about where you’ll refuel both the human and electronic motors.
When we spoke to Nick, he was on a training ride near his home in Wales, and his passion for the challenge was apparent. It's a trip that should prove to any doubters that touring can be done on an e-bike - even on a scale as grand as this.
If you want to stay up to date on Nick’s adventure around the world, he will be posting to his Instagram account, @nicksandersofficial throughout his journey.