Bryan Taylor is a doer. Some 20 years ago he joined the Auckland Tramping Club and got chatting to a fellow member who was a keen cyclist and had just completed the Trans American Cycling Track. It sounded interesting to Bryan, who was nearly 60. The fellow said that he’s done it as part of a group, but that he thought it would be a great trip to do alone too.
This sparked an idea in Mr Taylor, who having not really ridden a bike much since his school days, decided to cycle across America, some 7000kms! “That was 1994 – I was close to 60 when I got my first bike as an adult,” he says.
When asked about his training and preparation, he “trained on the road – I only had to go 50 or 60 km a day, I could go at my own pace.”
Since then, in his very understated way, Bryan says he has cycled 51,599km around the world on various trips, usually on his own, occasionally with friends who decide to join him. He camps in camping grounds at night wherever he can, but does admit to camping on the side of the road in cities such as LA and Amsterdam, “I just find a quiet spot, no-one would ever know I’m there.”
His is an amazing story, by virtue of how understated he is about it. It certainly isn’t the way he thought he’d spend his retirement. “Travel was never a passion of mine,” he says. “But it’s nice, just being out riding. I don’t think too much about it – I just wonder what’s around the corner. In Europe, I ride near rivers a lot – then you see some hills in the distance and wonder how hard they’ll be.”
Bryan doesn’t necessarily pack light – a two man tent, sleeping mat, cooking gear and clothing. He stops at supermarkets along the way to buy food and says he eats very similarly to the way he cooks at home. “Sometimes I’ve been riding for a while and come across a little town and think, ‘well I better find something to eat’ – in Europe, by Saturday afternoon, it’s good to have supplies through until Monday morning. I can alway find coffee somewhere in the morning, and a pastry or something sweet.”
When friends accompany him, as his friend Joan (pictured with Bryan) did, they pack their own gear and join the ride. “I met Joan through the cycle club and I was going on a ride from Auckland to the South Island and she asked if she could come along. That trip worked out well and I said I was off to Europe and she asked if she could come too and I said why not.”
A plumber and gas fitter by trade, he has managed to keep jobs going over the years, while indulging his urge to travel and cycle. People often ask him how he can take off for three months at a time and come back to a job. He believes in being good at what you do – and to give his employer plenty of notice. “If you’re good at your work and don’t spring it on them, they can make plans,” he says. “When you get back, they don’t have to re-train you or anything, so they don’t have to waste money, you can fit back in.”
He started out on a bike with “plenty of low gears- I was a lot stronger then. He then moved on to a mountain bike style and has recently made the transition to an e-bike. “The e-bike is great because I can ride as normal and if there is a big hill or something, I can just get a bit of assistance.”
Bryan celebrates his 80th birthday in August. He doesn’t have another big trip planned this year (although he has already done a 1000km trip from Picton to Queenstown via the West Coast to help out the cycle club and drive a vehicle back that was located in Queenstown). “It’s getting harder to get insurance at my age,” he says. “I had a heart attack 15 years ago, but other than that, I’m fit – I’ve been the same weight for 50 years!”
He does all his navigating with paper maps, and often plans them using books from Bike Line Europe. He’s not certain how many European countries he’s visited, “you don’t even get your passport out in Europe anymore,” but has cycled across America twice. The longest trip was across America – “I think that was 9500km and took about three months.”
On one trip, before cellphones were common place, he called home to the sad news that his mother had passed away and been buried the day before. “It was a shock,” he says, “but I had seen her before I left and we’d had hugs – she was supportive of my riding.”
People are always friendly and he can’t recall any problems he’s encountered on the road. “You have to be a bit careful, but then if you go shopping at the supermarket, you have to leave your tent and everything – I do take my camera and passport in with me. I just find everyone very friendly.”
He has a grown up son and daughter who think his adventures are pretty great. “I’m a bit computer illiterate, so I text them to stay in touch while I’m away,” he says.
So there you have it. Bryan Taylor is a quiet achiever, but a very significant one. He embodies the ‘just get on with it’ spirit and is a genuinely nice fella. Let him and his can do attitude be an inspiration to you!