Cyclist Will Travel 6,000 Miles Through South America on a Bamboo Bicycle

©. The Carbon Cycle

Dr. Kate Rawles is an environmental philosopher who hopes to travel from Costa Rica to Cape Horn, exploring the topic of biodiversity loss.

Kate Rawles is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. She’s calling it “The Life Cycle” — a 6,000-mile (9,600 km) bike ride starting in Costa Rica and traveling south through the Andes mountains, all the way to Cape Horn at the tip of the South American continent. Next month she will leave her home in Cumbria, England, and cross the Atlantic Ocean on a cargo ship in order to start her journey by bike, which she estimates will take no more than a year.

Rawles, who is a university lecturer and environmental philosopher, as well as a passionate hiker and sea-kayaker, hopes to start an important conversation about biodiversity along the way, exploring “what it is, what’s happening to it, why it matters and above all, what can and is being done to protect it.” By passing through diverse habitats, striking up conversations with travellers and locals, visiting relevant projects along the way, and pulling together all the information collected into future presentations and a book, Rawles sees this trip as an attempt to tackle a major environmental issue of our time. She writes on her website, Outdoor Philosophy:

“Biodiversity loss and its impact on earth’s life support systems is arguably an even greater threat to our survival and well-being – and those of millions of other species – than climate change. The two issues are of course deeply inter-connected. But I think we hear a lot more about climate change, now, than we do about biodiversity and I’d like to help change that. This is a huge issue. It’s about life on earth, and how we affect it, for good or ill. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.”

What makes this trip even more extraordinary is that Rawles will be riding a homemade bicycle make of bamboo grown in Cornwall, England. A bamboo bicycle has a lower carbon footprint than a steel one, and it allows the rider to be intimately involved in the construction process. As a material, it has excellent vibration dampening effects and all the bumps in the roads seem to be effortlessly absorbed.

Assisted by the Bamboo Bicycle Club of London, Rawles spent days cutting, scraping, and soaking bamboo and hemp to transform it into a familiar frame-like shape. She described the unusual process on her blog:

“Taped up to help them strengthen and solidify, [the joints of three recognizably frame-shaped entities] are left overnight, magically morphing (we hope) from a sticky mush into something tough and solid enough to carry humans and luggage for thousands of mountainous mile.”

Rawles is no stranger to arduous adventure travel. In 2006 she completed a similar long-distance bike trip called “The Carbon Cycle,” riding 4553 miles (7300 km) from Texas to Alaska in an effort to explore North American attitudes toward climate change in a major oil-producing region of the world. Her resulting book, “The Carbon Cycle; Crossing the Great Divide” (Two Ravens Press, 2012 & Rocky Mountain Press, 2013) was shortlisted for the Banff Mountain Festival Adventure Travel Book Award and was a runner up in the UK People’s Book Prize.

You can follow Rawles’ progress through Central and South America on her blog, starting in December.