Around the world… in just one gear.
From September 2015 to August 2016, Markus Stitz completed an around the world bike journey covering 34,097 kilometers through 26 countries… all on a singlespeed bike. Here’s the story, photos, stats, gear lists, and a map where you can see the GPS track for each of the seven legs of his trip.
Words by George Tyson, photos by Markus Stitz
German cyclist Markus Stitz set off from Edinburgh, Scotland, on a single-speed bike ride around the world in 2015. It was six years in planning and, just several weeks ago, he completed his challenge – returning to his adopted home on 27th August.
For a trip of this scale, gear choices, route planning and logistics are paramount, but as Markus discovered on the road, it was the day-to-day experiences that mattered most, and he’s now dedicated to sharing the inspiration he found.
“The round-the-world trip was my big dream and I’ve done it. It felt good to return to the shores of Edinburgh’s Portobello Beach, and it’s only just sinking in that I’ve finished,” says Markus. “But now that I have, I want to share what I’ve done.”
Markus moved to the Scottish capital in 2009 after living in New Zealand for two years. He was born in Germany and raised in Schwobfeld, a small village in the country’s centre, but speaks most lovingly about the place where his trip began: “Edinburgh is where I’ve developed most as a person, and where I discovered bikepacking, so leaving from anywhere else on my round-the-world trip wouldn’t have felt right for me.
“Emotionally, it was super tough to leave. I was doing it on a budget – I had sponsorship of the bike and bags [Surly Ogre and Apidura respectively] – but no financial support. That meant camping, hotels when he needed them, and relying on the kindness of strangers. Fortunately it’s incredibly straightforward being on the road for a year’s time – you ride your bike, you meet new people, you eat every now and then, and you sleep somewhere. The complexity of issues isn’t that great, whereas normal life needs a little more planning.”
After leaving the shores of the UK, Markus quickly realized that the trip would be much less about cycling than he first imagined. Riding across countries until he couldn’t ride any further, he booked flights to connect his routes. But these travel deadlines revealed an unexpected pressure that would change the pace of his adventure.
“When I left Scotland I had flights booked out of Barcelona. It meant I had to ride with my head down, covering a certain amount of kilometres each day. When I arrived I recognized that I didn’t want to spend my year like that. Constantly asking myself: ‘Where am I going to get lunch, where am I going to get supplies, where am going to be in the next 60km.’ The more the trip went on, the more I tried to make the most out my time. If I was eating in a beautiful place, I’d spend an hour there just looking at things. I became much calmer, and learnt to live in the moment.
“It was an interesting progression, and it made me see that in everyday life before the trip, I was constantly looking ahead at what was next, and looking at the bigger picture. It’s dangerous, because you can’t enjoy what you’re doing that way. But now that’s changed.”
This change in attitude stayed with him. By the time he’d made it to the Middle East, the end of the trip was in sight, and his brother Matthias joined him to ride through Iran. “We averaged about 75km a day, which is probably half what I was doing without him,” remembers Markus. “Up until then I had cycled solely by myself, then suddenly it was the two of us. We had so many people offering us cups of tea, and inviting us into their houses for food. It was such a rich experience, and if I had have cycled through riding 150-200km a day, I don’t think I would have liked the country; it would have been just another desert [laughs]. But slowing down and having these experiences – these are the things you look back to.”
For Markus, it’s this feeling of exploration that he wants to share. “Beyond big adventures, I think it’s even more inspiring talking to people about what you’ve done. Not necessarily riding round the world – not everyone wants to rip themselves out of their careers for a year – but bikepacking in general.”
Having only just returned home, Markus dove into the organization of the Capital Trail – a bikepacking event he devised for the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling in 2015, and winner of that year’s BIKEPACKING.com ‘Best New Route’ award. The race starts on Portobello Beach, the end location of his own adventure, and takes participants on a 240km journey into the surrounding countryside. “After the race, I found out that 60% of people who rode it had never done a bikepacking trip before – which is exactly the reason that I organized it.
“Sometimes I think people do these events to get in touch with other like-minded people. It’s physically very demanding, and you might find yourself in pretty horrible conditions, but to have company in the evening by pitching your bivy next to a fellow rider can be a great and unique experience.”
Beyond big adventures, I think it’s even more inspiring talking to people about what you’ve done. Not necessarily riding round the world – not everyone wants to rip themselves out of their careers for a year – but bikepacking in general.”
Arguably one of the first people to ride around the world on a singlespeed bike with bikepacking packs, Markus doubtless has plenty more experiences to share. And now he’s beginning to settle back into life in Edinburgh, he’s contemplating his next move. “When I came back from the trip, I cycled 100km to catch a train the next day. It was important for me that I didn’t ruin my passion for cycling by doing a trip like this, and while I’m still stoked to find a really nice piece of single-track, it’s not just about the activity anymore. I now see cycling as this amazing tool for meeting people and having experiences that aren’t necessarily connected with the riding itself, and I can’t wait to share that with more cyclists.”
By the Numbers
As defined by the Guinness Book of World Records, the official distance that defines an Around The World bike trip is 29,000 kilometers in total distance cycled during a continuous journey. While not the first to complete this feat on a one gear bike, Markus is the first to do it on a singlespeed mountain bike with a bikepacking setup… and went over the Guinness benchmark by more than 5,000 kilometers. Here’s a few other interesting stats from his trip:
Total mileage: 34,097 Kilometres (21,187 miles)
Total climbing: 342,000 meters (1,122,047 feet)
Countries visited: 26
Longest Day: 255 Kilometers (158 miles)
Average per Day: 120 Kilometers (75 miles)
Mileage per Month: 3,000 Kilometers (1,864 miles)
Highest Altitude: 3,150 meters (10,334 feet) (Iran)
Lowest: -67 meters (-219 feet) (Caspian Sea)
- Frame Surly Ogre
- Rims Halo Vapour Rims
- Hubs SP 8 series dynamo / Surly Ultra New
- Freewheel Halo Clickster 18t freewheel
- Tires Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 2.0 with tubes and Doc Blue sealant
- Seat Post Thomson laid back
- Saddle Brooks Cambium C15
- Handlebars Jones 710 Loop h-bar aluminium
- Grips ESI silicone grips, ESI bar tape and silicone tape
- BrakesAvid BB7 brakes
- Cranks/BBMiddleburn RS7 cranks
- Chainring Surly 32t
- Chain KMC X1
- Seat Pack Apidura Saddle Pack Regular (lined with Exped Dry Bag)
- Frame Bag Apidura Frame Pack (Prototype)
- Handlebar Pack Apidura Handlebar Pack Compact (lined with Exped Dry Bag)
- Handlebar Accessory Apidura Accessory Pocket
- Handlebar Accessory Spokwerks Jones Loop Bar Bag
- Top Tube Pack Apidura Top Tube Pack Extended
- Stem Bag Spokwerks Cookie Jar (2)
- Fork Mount Salsa Anything Cage HD with Salsa Anything (2)
For Markus’ full around the world gear list, click here.