Mark Beaumont: Cycling the Americas, rowing to the Pole

What's next for the mile-eating Scottish adventurer?

Adventurer Mark Beaumont is well known to BikeRadar readers; we interviewed him in 2008 after his world record-breaking ride round the globe, and followed his epic 13,000 mile ride from Alaska to Argentina along the length of the American Cordillera.

Now back on home soil, we caught up with him to discuss the impending release of his new book, The Man Who Cycled the Americas, and plans for his latest expedition.

Since completing his second major adventure in Argentina last February, the Perthshire-born adventurer has been busily writing the story of the journey and contemplating his next move. The nine-month trip down the longest mountain range on the planet saw him not only cycle the whole of north and south America, but climb the highest peaks on each continent; the 20,327ft Mount McKinley in Alaska and the 22,841ft Aconcagua in Argentina.

The book, which he finished in January, will be published on 12 May. Beaumont says it's a very different beast from both his first book, The Man Who Cycled the World, and the BBC documentary of the Americas trip.

“It’s very different, and was so much harder to write,” he told BikeRadar. “The first book chronicled a race; to take on this challenge that not many had attempted before and to set a record. The Americas journey was more about the people and places I encountered on the way, which has made it much more of a travel book. I never thought of myself as much of a writer when I was at university, but the opportunities to get involved in the writing side of things have been too good to resist. The feedback I’ve had from experienced travel writers has been fantastic.

“The new book is very different to the documentary too. That was a short, snapshot of the expedition and even if you watched it, the detail in the book makes it an entirely different proposition.”

The man who cycled the america, by mark beaumont:
The man who cycled the america, by mark beaumont:

'The Man Who Cycled the Americas' will be available from 12 May

Beaumont also revealed plans for his latest expedition. For the first time, he’ll be ditching his bike – as well as his own company – to join a five-man crew attempting to row to the Magnetic North Pole. Row to the Poleis being led by experienced Scottish adventurer Jock Wishart, with the aim of highlighting the dramatic effects of climate change on the ice around the Polar Regions.

The expedition is being covered by the BBC for a forthcoming documentary and the team were in need of a cameraman. Given his links to the corporation, rather than send an actual cameraman along for the ride, they asked Mark whether he’d be interested in the job. He jumped at the chance, despite having no real rowing experience, and is currently in heavy training ahead of the challenge, now less than 100 days away. The team will set off from Resolute Bay in northern Canada, and Mark expects it to take around two months.

“I’m used to riding solo on my expeditions, so this is going to be a big change,” he added. “I’m going to have to get used to living with others at such close quarters for two months! It’s certainly something new for me, it’s a totally different skill set. As much as I’ve enjoyed the bike expeditions, I thought it was too good an opportunity to turn down. It’s great to be learning new skills and although I’m enjoying the change, I’ll definitely return to the bike in the future. I’m still doing plenty of training on the bike, and I’d love to do more ‘off the beaten track’ cycling expeditions further down the line.”

What he doesn’t expect to do is to go back to try and regain the round the world cycling record, which was first broken by James Bowthorpe, and more recently by Vin Cox. He says he was proud to set the benchmark, but breaking records is not something he actively seeks.

“It spurs me on to see these guys breaking the record I set, but I’ve never had a desire to hold on to them forever,” he added. “Continuing to search for new challenges is what drives me on, and that’s what I’ll continue to do. I won’t go back - it just wouldn’t be the same doing something second time round. It’s the lure of the unknown that drives me on.”

The Man Who Cycled the Americas by Mark Beaumont is published by Bantam Press on 12 May 2011, priced £13.99. Look out for Beaumont's promotional appearances on TV and radio around that time, and if you want to meet him in the flesh, he’ll also be doing two book signings on the day of release; the first at 12.30 in Glasgow’s Waterstones and a second at Edinburgh’s Blackwell’s at 18.30.

After early cycling flirtations with the Tour de France on childhood holidays, John Whitney fell for it hook, line and sinker in his mid-20s as an escape from the more sedate sports of his youth. As a classically trained news reporter, he snagged his dream job as a cycling writer straight out of college and is now fully immersed in the industry and wouldn't have it any other way.
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