Royal Warrant

The Man Who Bikepacked The World

Across five continents, for three years, in temperatures from +53°C to -40°C and on a budget of $3 a day, one man and his bike fought fatigue, loneliness and a wolf pack to make it home...

Sometimes, courage is not measured in the charge, on a grand stage, witnessed by all. Instead, it flickers from afar, like a lonely campsite deep in the wilderness, as remote from home, help and comfort as it is possible to get. Here, bravery is the simple act of forcing yourself out of that tent and into a blizzard-cursed morning for another despairing day of toil, punctuated by moments of panic.

When Ben Page set out to ride his fat bike around the world, across untracked terrain and inhospitable wastes, he was 22 years old. All this millennial, so-called ‘snowflake’, had was his bike, his backpack and the money he saved from his student loans by forgoing the ‘alcohol and late-night kebabs’ of his peers.

Some 15,000km later he found himself in the Canadian Arctic, during winter, cycling along the frozen Yukon river. He came here with some romantic notions of “withdrawing into the wilderness” but ended up discovering the true weight of his own courage...

There’s a fire inside us that says I want this challenge to see if I can get through it

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Q: In your film the Frozen Road there’s a scene when you’re alone and being shadowed by a hunting wolf pack, howling in the night – did you question your decision to be there?
A:
‘You have lots of doubts when things start to go wrong. When things are going right you think you’ve made the right decision, and then when things go wrong you think you’ve made the wrong decision. What I don’t say in the film but I really do believe, is that one of the reasons I went through the Canadian Arctic in the winter was that I wanted something to be really hard. There’s that fire inside of us that says: “I want this challenge to see if I can get through it.”’

‘I had been through tough challenges in the past but had always got through them to look back and think that they were really formative experiences, which even though they were miserable at the time I knew were worthwhile.’

Q: You were clearly terrified by the potential outcome of that situation but did you learn any strategies in your three-year trip to deal with fear and exhaustion?
A:
‘The thing I found strength in was not just knowing, but being able to practice the idea that everything is fairly transient; knowing these low moments are transient and just accepting them but knowing that in two hours time, or a day’s time, you are going to be in a different level in your mind. If you need to get out of bed and get pushing then you slap yourself in the face and say: “Just get going, fight it!” And there are those times where you think, well let’s just ride with this and see what I am thinking.’

Q: Was there a time when the sheer distance you were trying to cover daunted you mentally and physically?
A:
‘When you are cycling through a desert you know you have got ten days to go through and you are seeing the same view every single day it gets quite drudging. I had cocked up my series of visas so I had to race over thousands of kilometres through Uzbekistan and the Carpal desert, trying to do 240km every day on a big Fat bike. But there’s a train that does that whole stretch, so it was really tough not to think: “I could just take a train, or I could spend the next week suffering into a headwind, through an unchanging desert.” But I rode it – I have always enjoyed doing long days. It was flat and I had done quite a bit of racing beforehand, so I focussed on having a target and trying to get there as fast as I could.’

Q: Early on you took a decision to move from a road-bike touring set up to an off-road, Fat-bike one to explore more – was that ever scary?
A:
‘Yes, once in Kenya I decided to climb a hill to get some perspective on the Serengeti plain. There was no path up it so I ended up bush whacking and didn’t reach the top before dark, so I found a little cave, lit a fire and went to sleep. I woke up to a cold fireplace and loads of noises coming from the entrance to the cave. I thought: “Oh no, it’s a pride of lions!”

‘I was really, really scared so I got my little knife out and was flashing my head torch, and shouting to scare the animals off, but then voices started shouting back at me. It turned out that some Masai tribespeople had come up to the cave for a ceremony through the night. They lit this big fire and were singing and doing rituals; all these intimate moments just because I had gone off the beaten track and stumbled upon them. It was one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had.’

You can find out more about Ben Page at www.benpagefilms.com and watch his self-filmed, award-winning The Frozen Road at https://vimeo.com/252863313

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