By Sal Ruibal
Everyone who rides a bike has at some point thought, "Wouldn't it be cool to ride my bike around the world?"
And perhaps after a few beers, you and a couple of your best buddies make a solemn vow to make this global trek, only to totally forget about it when you sobered up.
In 2010, three French cyclists—Morgan Monchaud, 27, Siphay Vera, 24, and Brian Mathé, 24—made that vow, but are actually pulling it off. They left their comfortable professional lives in business management and engineering to pedal around the globe on a $10 a day shoestring budget. That's like one McD's drive-thru a day for all your expenses over 50,000 miles of pedaling.
They had a bit of family history to guide them: Monchaud's father explored Antarctica over 30 years ago, and he wanted to experience adventure travel, literally in his father's footprints.
Their goals are to "explore the world, discover remote cultures and destinations and inspire solidarity of the human race as they befriend thousands along their journey."
And now, about halfway through their journey, they have endured Saharan sand storms, Amazon rivers teeming with parasites, walls of snow and ice in Antarctica, muddy roads that forced them to push their bikes uphill not just for hours, but for days.
It hasn't all been physical torture, Mathé says.
"We have received a lot of help from people everywhere we went," he says. "The hardest part is finding food in very remote places, but the local people have been very generous to us. We have even been able to surf and sail with the people we meet."
They must filter almost every drop of water they drink to avoid diseases that could not only stop the trip, but also endanger their lives.
And for a trio of handsome French guys on an exotic journey, interaction with the opposite sex has been a special treat from time to time.
"We don't really write about that in our blogs," Mathé says, "but we are men and we are French."
Their rugged Surly Long Haul Truckers are almost obscured by the gear they must carry, but they have been trusty steeds. Equipped with Rohloff internal-geared hubs, they have avoided all but one major mechanical problem—if you consider broken pedals, snapped shift-levers and broken saddles as minor problems in snow, sand or mud.
The trio has had few flats and despite the distance, their Schwalbe tires have been remarkably sturdy, with just a handful of flats and only a couple of trashed tires.
They are now in Oregon, where they will be feted at the Filmed by Bike Festival on April 13-18. After leaving North America, the trio will travel to New Zealand and then across Australia in the heat of the summer. The journey will then take them up the Malay Peninsula across India, Pakistan, Turkey with final return to France scheduled for August 2013.
Mathé says the biggest hurdle is being away from their families for three years. They met with their families in Costa Rica, "but leaving them again was very hard for us.
"But we are a family ourselves. We keep each other going. When one is down, the others pick him up. That's how we get through this, as brothers."
Follow their journey here: solidream.net.