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Aug. 8, 2020 | Saturday
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U.K. man biking around the world for charity rolls into NOTL
Robert Cleave made a stop in NOTL last week before continuing his bike rike around the world. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

A cyclist from Nottingham, England, whose goal is to ride 18,000 miles around the world, made a stop in Niagara-on-the-Lake last week.

From Morocco across Europe to India, Southeast Asia and Australia, Robert Cleave has been biking around the world for 16 months and Canada is the 28th country on his route.

Having visited London, Cayuga and Fort Erie, Cleave stayed over at Lulu’s Bed and Breakfast in NOTL on Aug. 6. After stopping in Hamilton, he was headed to visit friends in Toronto for a couple of days.

Japan will be his last stop before Cleave reunites with his family and heads back home. The whole ride will have taken 17 months by the time he is done. 

In some countries, Cleave has spent several days to a couple of weeks. In other places, such as Australia, India or the United States, he spent two or three months.

Cleave mentioned a Scottish cyclist, Mark Beaumont, who broke the record for cycling 18,000 miles around the world in 194 days in 2008. Beaumount beat the record of 123 days, set by Andrew Nicholson, again in 2017 by completing the ride in 79 days.

Cleave realized he couldn’t ride 100 to 200 miles a day, so instead of completing the journey in a year, he decided he would spend time sightseeing and meeting people.

With no intention of beating any records, Cleave left his hometown of the U.K. on April 7, 2018. Before embarking on the journey, he’d done a risk analysis on his computer, colour coding every country – red, amber or green – trying to choose a route that was as safe as possible.

“When you start, you don’t know that you can do it. You don’t know how it’s going to work out,” he said. “But I always felt that, to me, failing wouldn’t have been setting out and not being able to do it. Failing would’ve been not setting out in the first place.”

“I didn’t want to grow old thinking, ‘I wish I tried that.’ ”

The ride is funded by Cleave himself but any donations received through his journey go toward two charities in England: Cancer Research UK and Traidcraft Exchange.

He chose those organizations because he lost his mother to cancer three years ago. He was also one of the first volunteers representing Traidcraft, a development charity working with poor producers, artisans and farmers in Africa and Asia.

About $32,000 has been raised for the charity so far, Cleave said.

He said he aims to ride about 100 kilometres a day cycling for five or six days before having a day off to rest and see some sights. The most he’s biked in a day is 155 kilometres, which he admits is “tiring.”  

Cleave travels with two sets of casual clothes and two sets of cycling gear, GPS navigation on the bike, first-aid kit, bike repair kit and spare tubes.

He has a spreadsheet on his iPad where he keeps track of his stops, daily mileage, average and top speeds as well as the number of hours he spends cycling every day.

“It’s not just cycling, you’re juggling so many different things,” Cleave said.

“It’s the logistics of making sure you got places to stay, set up, knowing what the route is, having plan B if something goes wrong, keeping an eye out on visa situation … keeping in touch with people at home.”

Relying on technology, Cleave said he video calls his wife every day and they also met up in Chicago for their 40th wedding anniversary. His wife and daughter will also meet him in Japan where they will have a holiday after his trek ends.

Weather, language barriers and navigation are some of the challenges Cleave has encountered during his ride. The bike has broken down several times and, having gone through seven sets of tires, Cleave recalled how he was once repairing his bike in the middle of a monsoon in India. There were times when he’s biked 9,000 kilometres without any punctures though in India he had six punctures in one day.

“You just focus on what’s ahead of you … There’s no point in sitting down and crying. You just get on with it,” Cleave said.

“It emphasizes what a wonderful and fascinating place the world is,” he told The Lake Report. “How good and helpful most people are, being offered lots of help and advice on the way from people I’ve encountered.”

You can follow his journey online at