Six days after finishing high school, B’yauling Toni packed up his bicycle with some food, a sleeping bag and a bivy tent. At just 17-years-old at the time, Toni’s ambition was to circumnavigate the globe by bike. After seven months, he is nearly back in Saskatoon where his trip began.
Toni is now on the final leg of his incredible around the world journey. He’s now 18-years-old and after departing Canada in the height of summer in July 2018, he expects to finish on Tuesday. The wintery conditions in Alberta have delayed his arrival home. Toni is set to become the youngest person in the world to circumnavigate the globe by bicycle when he completes the journey.
The route to circumnavigate the world
Travelling unsupported and solo, Toni has ridden 31,000 km in relatively the same direction and has passed through 16 different countries. The antipodal points on earth he’s passed through are Madrid, Spain and Wellington New Zealand.
When Toni’s journey began in July, he pedalled across Canada from Saskatoon to Halifax. From there he flew to Portugal and rode through Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Latvia and Estonia before entering Russia. After riding across the vast expanse of the worlds biggest country he entered Mongolia and then headed through China to Shanghai where he flew to Perth, Australia.
From there he followed the southern coast all the way to Brisbane before flying to Invercargill, New Zealand and riding to Aukland. The final leg of his journey began when he landed in Vancouver in the latter half of December. Since then it’s been a slog across the Rockies and into the Prairies.
Back on home soil
It hasn’t been an easy trip and the final leg is proving to be one ot its most difficult. Toni has been battling the worst a Canadian winter can throw at him. While at times he’s taken it in stride like when he took a day off in B.C. to go snowmobiling and enjoy the winter conditions, it’s also made progress slow.
When asked what the toughest part of the trip has been Toni responded, “My answer is usually Mongolia because I got very sick, so much so that I could not walk. The roads in Mongolia are unpaved, the food was non-existent and the Gobi desert is very cold.”
Now he is reconsidering that response. “I have to say [Friday] and [Saturday] give Mongolia a run for its money. I have been racing to make it back for Sunday. It was -20 C and I spent 16 hours battling headwinds only making it 170 km. At 4 a.m. I bivyed in the ditch for 4 hours and set out again.”
Conditions hadn’t improved. “The wind had only picked up and I realized I was not going to make it despite my hard work. I could only average 8 km/h. Around midday the wind was so strong I was often forced to walk. I suffered frostbite on my face underneath three buff layers,” he said.
While he’s been on the road for months, the strain of the challenges he faced are not just physical but mental.
“I was surprised by the mental drain of the constant grind. Over a long period of time my body is tired but recovers but my the mental struggle tends to just pile. Things become hard to remember and my mind feels fuzzy and overwhelmed,” he said.”There are times when I was struggling so much that I wondered why I was putting myself through this but I don’t think I would ever quit. In my mind it is not really an option.”
Why cycle around the world?
Toni’s motivations for circumnavigating the world by bike is two-fold. He is raising money for the Outdoor School Program which is an outdoor education program that gives students the chance to learn hands-on through trips canoeing, camping, backpacking, skiing, cycling, climbing and more. In 2016, Toni was enrolled in the program thanks to the Outdoor School Alumni Association which helps with tuition and to supply gear for students in need. The curriculum also covers education in geography, earth and environmental sciences, and English.
“The skills I learned and my heightened love for the outdoors is part of the reason I am here today attempting to bike around the world,” he wrote on his GoFundMe page.
The school is poorly funded because of cuts made by the Saskatoon Public School system and is only able to run one semester a year now. Toni hopes it can become available for anybody. Through his circumnavigation, he hopes the program can continue to inspire and educate students and to raise awareness for the importance of making these sorts of programs available to youth.
Half of the donations he receives goes to the Outdoor School Alumni Association while the other portion goes to supporting his trip. Expenses such as flights, bike maintenance and food add up.
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Ran into some sudden bike problems, but big thanks to @redbike in Edmonton I am back on the road and cruising. Getting close to home now!! @spokensport306 is organizing a fundraising ride for my return on Tuesday. Bundle up and come on out to ride with me the last 5km of my world tour, or come to the finish line for some hot chocolate and stories. link to the event in my bio. #bikepacking #kona #apidura #bikewander #cycling #bike #biking #aroundtheworld #spokensport #worldbybike #biketouring #konasutra #outdoorschool #warmshowers #travel
The other reason for his trip is because of his love for long distance cycling which began when he was 12 years old and rode a $100 girls Walmart bike from Saskatoon to Vancouver. The challenge and experience made him fall in love with long-distance cycle touring. In 2017, he completed the Great Divide mountain bike route.
The youngest to circumnavigate the world by bicycle
Toni plans to arrive back in Saskatoon tomorrow. When he completes the trip, he will become the youngest person to have circumnavigated the world by bicycle but that accomplishment isn’t that important to him.
“I don’t think breaking the world record was nearly as important as experiencing the world. The record is a great way to give my trip a little guidance as well as fundraising for Outdoor School,” he explained. “But personally I don’t have an overwhelming need to hold some record. At the end of the day it has had no influence on my personal experiences in the last 7 months.”
While the prospect of riding around the world is unimaginable to many, let alone a young man straight out of high school, Toni has experiences that have made a lasting impression on him. “The high point of the trip was just all the small things you learn to appreciate more when living on the road. It’s all about the little moments every day that make cycling so amazing!”
Despite his good attitude, he did find his youth sometimes influenced his experience out on his trip.
“In Western countries, I find being young can sometimes make it harder to initiate conversation. People tend to avoid me or look at me with pity or disgust because they think there is something wrong with me. People often think I am homeless or running from home,” he explained. “But on the other hand people who do understand what’s going on, usually other cyclist or people with travel experience, are very excited to help.”