“Men go out into the void spaces of the world for various reasons. Some have the keen thirst for knowledge, and others are drawn away from the trodden path by the ‘lure of little voices,’ the mysterious fascination of the unknown.” -Ernest Shackleton
Cycling is one of the best ways to explore the world.
Rubber hits the road and the journey becomes a grueling all-out physical and mental challenge of epic proportions. You may squirm, tremble, shake, or shout your lungs out. Your heart will pump and you’ll be daunted by questions like: “What on earth was I thinking?”
In a way, an epic cycling trip is about overcoming your self – or becoming a better version of yourself. You come face to face with your own limitations and develop true guts and grit. The physical triumph and personal satisfaction are reward enough in themselves.
Yet, another reward of a challenging adventure is to escape, at least for a time, the all but artificial man made world of strip malls, freeways, consumption, television – and, for a time, immerse oneself in the awesome power of nature. Nature is the greatest teacher, and we have much to learn if we open up our eyes, ears, and heart to receive her lessons.
So, without further do… let us suggest seven epic cycling trips that you MUST do before you die:
1. Silk Road from Xi’an to Mediterranean
An epic overland route along the historic silk road, perhaps the most significant road in history, which linked the cultures of China, India, Persia, Arabia, Greek and Rome.
Begin your journey in Xi’an, a 6,000 year-old city and home to the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Work your way through ancient sites such as Kashgar, Seleucia, and the ruins of ancient Antioch. Take the northern route along the Tianshan mountains and through Samarkand, or the southern route through Hotan, the Pamirs, and Bactra.
2. Great Rift Valley from Ethiopia to Malawi
The great rift valley is a 6,000km+ fissure in the earth’s crust running from Lebanon to Mozambique, and one of the most significant geological features on the planet. According to astronauts, it is the most prominent physical feature when viewed from space.
Formed millions of years ago from violent subterranean forces that tore apart the earth’s crust, “The Rift” is known for its spectacular scenery and unique wildlife. Surrounded by hot springs, geysers and volcanic outcrops, the Great Rift Valley features nature at its finest.
3. East to West Coast of US via TransAmerican Trail
Running from coast to coast between Virginia and Oregon, the TransAmerican bike trail was informally established during the summer of 1976 to celebrate America’s bicentennial. A series of trails and rough dirt roads, the route winds through 10 states and 112 American counties.
From the Appalachians to Yellowstone, the TAT gives one a true spectacle of the varied American landscape, as diverse as it is gorgeous.
4. Pacific Coast Highway (Alaska to Chile)
The 48,000km Pan-American highway from Alaska to Argentina is the world’s longest road. This long trip will take you through the United States, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and the length of the Andes to its end point at Puerto Montt in southern Chile.
From the winding Yukon to the tough, Chilean back roads this trip offers up the most diverse scenery in the world. Begin your adventure at the remote Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, a town on the cusp of the Arctic Circle. Depending on your pace, this ultimate odyssey will likely take at least 2 years, but will forever secure lifetime bragging rights.
5. All (or part of) Australian Coastline
From World Heritage-listed national parks to rainforest retreats and jaw-dropping empty beaches; Australia is an adventure lover’s dream offering up over 35,000km of coastline for the intrepid traveler to explore.
Laid-back Byron Bay and the Gold Coast offers up golden beaches, world-class diving, and surfing. Ride along the spectacular Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Discover the wine regions and surf beaches of Margaret River in Western Australia’s south-west the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, and Purnululu National Park in Western Australia.
6. Friendship Highway, Tibet – Nepal
Take a life-changing journey and lose yourself in this land where time has no meaning. The Friendship Highway between Tibet and Nepal runs along the rooftop of the world and is one of the most remote areas on planet Earth.
This is still a difficult area to access due to tight control over travel from the Chinese government. Much of the land remains timeless, unchanged as it offers a window into an ancient world spanning across the millennia. Set against the stunning Himalayan backdrop, the 1000 km long Friendship Highway, from Kathmandu to Lhasa, goes through seven passes over 3500 meters, four of them rising over 4000 m, one over 5000 m. Opportunities abound to visit some of the most significant monasteries in the area and immerse oneself in the rich Tibetan culture.
7. Yungas Highway, Bolivia
For the truly adventurous, you could try your luck on the Yungas Highway. The road is only about 35 miles long, but distance is not the problem. Legendary for its extreme danger, the Yungas is also known as Bolivia’s “Death Road,” claiming the lives of hundreds of travelers each year (although only 18 cyclists have died since 1998).
Cut into the side of Cordillera Mountain range, the two-way, 12-foot wide road offers no guardrails as it teeters on the edge of a 2,000 foot abyss. Rain and fog descending from the neighboring Amazon make visibility precarious, the road surface muddy, and loosen rocks from the hillsides above. One of stretch of the road is almost continuously downhill, making it an easy – though treacherous ride. Thrill-seekers who embark on this ride will be rewarded with spectacular landscape views and an exciting story or two to tell.