Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Other cycling news

Lost in the shuffle of all of the comings and going and reemergences of cycling's top stars, there was a story of the unfortunate passing of a man living the dream of riding as a way of life.


Ian Hibell, legendary adventurer and rough-stuff cyclist, was knocked off his bike and killed in late August, aged 74, whilst riding on the Athens-Salonika highway. Although reported as a case of hit and run, the car's number was taken and the driver later arrested.

Ian Hibell was best known for his cycle treks to little-visited corners of the world in an age when such places really were the back of beyond for westerners; Antarctica, the Amazon, the Sahara and remote Indonesian islands. This incredible man was credited with one the first (possibly the first) true non-motorised crossing of Colombia's Atrato swamp and Panama's notoriously marsh ridden Darien Gap as part of a Trans-American journey. To this day there remains no road connection between Colombia and Panama.

He left a secure job in Devon in 1963, determined to see more of the world, and spent much of the rest of his life cycle touring, often in extreme climate and terrain. His initial idea of a two-year tour turned into ten-year odyssey. Marathon cross-globe treks included Cape Horn to Alaska and a trans-Amazonian journey. His travel anecdotes included over-curious elephants and lions as well as the more friendly interest of a Dyak headman in Borneo and an Eskimo.

Custom bikes were another reason why the intrepid traveler garnered interest from throughout the cycling community and beyond. Ian didn't rely on retro-fit pannier racks but insisted that racks be welded onto his Argos frames.

He was honoured by the League of American Wheelmen (now League of American Bicyclists) and by the CTC for his 'trail-blazing' tenacity. Invited to address Yale University, he subsequently lectured on both sides of the Atlantic. His book 'Into Remote Places' recounts many of his cycling exploits.

What a life. It is a thing to envy, the life of adventure. Imagine just chucking it all and taking off on a ride and never finishing it. Just one long ride to wherever in the world you end up that day... Beats punching a time clock.
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