Michael Strasser began a bike route this week that’ll take him through Alaska, Canada, the continental US, and Mexico, all the way to Patagonia. The Austrian cyclist’s dramatic ride is a world record attempt, designed to raise awareness of climate change and encourage people to hop on their bikes instead of driving gas-guzzling cars.
Strasser’s ride, which he’s calling Ice2Ice, is the longest overland route in the world, a 15,500-mile stretch of land that spans 14 countries and two continents. It’s known as the Pan-American Highway, and he’s striving to cross it in less than 117 days, the current Guinness World Record.
But the cyclist isn’t just seeking Guinness gold. As he pedals through mountainous regions, he’s hoping to draw attention to the loss of snow cover and glaciers that provide drinking water for local wildlife, spurring action to protect these ecosystems. It’s all part of his collaboration with the UN on the Mountain Heroes campaign, which also counts Olympic skier Sabrina Simader as a public face.
“I’m proud to support UN Environment and to be part of their Mountain Heroes campaign,” Strasser says in a statement. “It would mean a lot to me, if I could motivate every single person who follows me to sometimes take a bike instead of their car.
If my attempt is to bike 23,000 kilometers and 185,000 vertical meters, then everyone can manage one or the other kilometer in their daily life, too. I think if all of us contribute something even small, something big can come of it.”
Strasser kicked off his attempt on Monday, starting in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. “The gravel makes a fast speed [difficult], but we already knew that in advance,” he notes on his live blog. Fans can follow his progress with the interactive map on his website, which updates the time and distance covered in real time. By the counter’s current estimate, Strasser has completed 2.1 percent of his route, biking 481 kilometers, or about 300 miles.
This isn’t the first time Strasser has attempted a daring, cross-country ride. In 2016, he launched Cairo2Cape, an attempt to bike the entire African continent from Cairo to Cape Town. Strasser completed the ride in just 34 days, a shorter time than the previous world record holder, although Guinness has not verified Strasser’s victory.
As Strasser pedals through the Americas, he’s also soliciting funds for ALS and ME/CFS research through the nonprofit Racing4Charity. Supporters can “buy” kilometers of the Ice2Ice route with their donations.
If the ride goes according to plan, Strasser will likely end up in Ushuaia, Argentina, sometime this fall, closing his expedition just as he started it: in a chilly, icy locale with glaciers and mountains the UN is fighting to protect.
“It’s great to welcome Michael Strasser to work with us on protecting our mountains,” Erik Solheim, executive director of UN Environment, says in the statement. “His message is simple but powerful. Each and every one of us can shape the future we want, and I hope Michael will inspire many more of us!”