Some people have asked me: How did you come up with this specific idea for such a big adventure? Below I shed some light on this by giving you the context in which this idea came about.
When I was in middle and high school in Munich, me and my friends did a lot of sports. We rode the bicycle to and from school and in our spare time this was our main mode of transportation. We went hiking and skiing, then added mountain-biking to the mix. I dabbled in triathlon and ran two marathons. But my love was always the bicycle.
I discovered that I liked to ride long distance and to use the bike to get to far away places and see a lot of terrain. More than once we rode across the alps to Italy or around Mt. Blanc in France. I also did some combined riding / hiking daytrips. For example, I rode my bike from Munich to Garmisch, then ran up to the summit of the Zugspitze – Germany’s highest peak (nearly 3000m) – and rode back (180km roundtrip) in about 12 hours.
During the 2.5 years I lived in Fargo, North Dakota, I discovered tailwind riding as a way to go very far. I systematically explored ultralong downwind rides on days with strong wind, and pushed out my 24 hr riding limit via 400km to 530km and then even 700km. (See the trip reports on my home page.) That gave me a lot of confidence about using the bike to cover long distances.
When you read about long bike trips, the Pan American Highway always enters the picture – after all, it is the longest road in the world. Many riders have done this trip, so you can find ample trip reports and for the most part it is safe and you have good infrastructure in most places. You also encounter only two languages (English, Spanish), which makes things easier…
Another fascination was instilled after reading Dick Bass’ book on the “Seven Summits“. I thought about doing the 7 summits, then perhaps riding with the bike from peak to peak – similar to what Goran Kropp had done: Riding 8000km from Sweden to Nepal, then climbing Mt. Everest and finally riding back – a stunning achievement! (it seemed like a logical, albeit extreme extension of my Zugspitze tour in Germany.)
However, there are many issues with doing the 7 summits by bike: How do you cross the oceans? What route do you take? Is it safe? Can I afford ~2 years of my life for such a trip? …
Then in the fall of 2008 I had the idea of riding the Pan American Highway and climbing the highest summit of every country along the way – my version of several summits by bike was born. I gave it the name Panamerican Peaks. This idea solved many of the above issues elegantly: No ocean crossings required, time frame about 1 year, logical route. Yet it remains a BIG challenge, and to the best of my knowledge it has not been done before, so it will be a pioneering adventure.
An idea is a powerful thing! If you think about it, the big decisions in your life are usually driven by ideas. Ideas about what you want to do with your life. What kind of education you pursue or which kind of job or career you seek and accept. As it turns out, after a long gestation period of almost 20 years, this Panamerican Peaks project is now going to focus most of my energy for the next year of my life!