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80-year-old cyclist rides through Prince George on his way to break a world record

‘We are quite capable at all ages of doing incredible feats’

Bob Fletcher – a retired educator and avid adventure cyclist from Edmonton – is ringing in his 80th birthday and 25th year of retirement with the journey of a lifetime.

He’s on what he’s calling an “Octogenarian Odyssey” attempting to ride his electric bicycle from Alaska to Panama.

That’s approximately 13,500 km over 155 days and once completed he would break the existing Guinness World Record for the longest journey made by a motorized bicycle.  

Fletcher began his ride just south of the Arctic Circle in North Pole Alaska on July 4 and passed through Prince George on the August long weekend.

He said rather than celebrating his 80th birthday this August with friends and a cake he wanted to go on another adventure and began planning this trip a year and a half ago.

“It was also to illustrate to all other generations young and old that life doesn’t end at retirement and there’s plenty of years left for getting out and exploring the world and having adventures,” said Fletcher.

“I just wanted to prove that we are quite capable at all ages of doing incredible feats.”

Fletcher is riding an EVELO ebike and covering about 116 kilometres per day and staying in Airbnb homes along the journey.

“One of the things that I wanted to do on this particular odyssey was to make sure I met people along the way, local people,” said Fletcher, adding that he thought it would be easier to meet people staying in Airbnbs rather than hotels or campgrounds.

“I should be able to meet the hosts and the people in the community,” said Fletcher.

“In fact, we had our first Airbnb in Prince George and we met some of their neighbours and had some good chats with them about Prince George and about my trip and it is rewarding to stay in a community with local people.”

Fletcher, who now resides in Costa Rica, said he had only been to Prince George once 30 years ago but enjoyed his time in the northern capital and explored a few of the city’s parks and scenery.

He also noted he’s been very impressed with the scenery and has seen plenty of bears and moose while traveling through northern B.C. but logging trucks and highway noises pose a challenge.

“We’ve had a lot of experience riding on highways and the shoulders here in British Columbia are excellent so there’s room for us to ride, but with the logging trucks coming by – I took a video just to show how close these things are to us. I could almost reach my hand out and touch it – so it can be intimidating,” noted Fletcher.

However, despite turning 80 years old, traveling long distances every day on an ebike doesn’t phase him.

“I have a lot of energy, I think, and a lot of strength. I have been cycling all around the world for a number of years so my body is used to the long distance, but sometimes my rear end gets a little sore,” laughed Fletcher.

He’s now headed onto Vancouver before crossing into the United States, where he will be following the Pacific Coast from Washington down to San Diego and then onto Mexico and Central America. He said he is most excited to explore Guatemala and El Salvador before reaching Panama.

“I like to encourage everybody young and old, mostly older people to try and get out of their comfort zone and try something new,” said Fletcher.

“When you're out of the comfort zone, it becomes part of your comfort zone, and then you can keep increasing that. It doesn't have to be cycling the North American continent, they can pick whatever they want, but try and get off the sofa, go outside and pick an activity that will challenge living in the comfort zone.”