Anne Mustoe: Explorer by Bike

7 Mar

The Internet is full of stories about people who do things that are said to be extraordinary. 

Whether through Facebook, Twitter,  email or Google, we all come across stories such as these.   Some we read – and most of those we forget.

I learned about a woman tonight that I had never heard of, Anne Mustoe.

Her story is both extraordinary and inspirational. At the age of 54, somewhat overweight and not exactly fit, she decided to bicycle around the world. Keep in mind she hadn’t ridden a bike in 30 years!  She was motivated to do this incredible feat – incredible for anyone at any age -  after seeing a man riding a bike while she was on vacation in India in 1983.

It took her 4 years from seeing the cyclist in India, to quit her job and take off on her bike, a Condor, given to her by her students as a going away gift. This Condor, must have been one hell of a bike because she was still riding it 22 years and about 100,000 miles later!

In 1987 on her first bike trip around the world, she took off from London, riding from west to east. She completed her trip around the world, 12,000 miles, in 15 months. As if that wasn’t enough she also rode these miles via historical routes:

"Roman roads across Europe; Alexander the Great’s route from Greece to the Indus Valley; Pakistan and India with the Moghuls and the Raj; and so on. Across the United States she followed the great pioneer trails."

And, keep in mind she did this by herself, at age 54 – with no prior training in terms of cycling.  Extraordinary.

Mustoe completed a second bike tour around the world, but to make it more interesting she did it in reverse direction. There were other trips too, Egypt, across the Alps, from the Baltic to Mediterranean, Buenos Aires and others.

Mustoe left by bike in May of 2009 at age 76 on what was to be her third trip around the world by bicycle. Sadly she fell ill and died in Syria, November 10, 2009.

I was able to find 7 books written by her about her bike journeys: A Bike Ride; Lone Traveller: One Woman, Two Wheels and the World; Two Wheels in the Dust; Cleopatra’s Needle; Escaping the Winter; Amber, Furs and Cockleshells Bike Rides with Pilgrims and Merchants; Che Guevara and the Mountain of Silver .

Yes, I’m a cyclist, but it is not her cycling that I find most inspiring. The way she lived her life inspires me. Hell, it amazes me! Can you imagine doing what she did? I can’t. What courage she had!

I will forever be inspired by her courage and sense of adventure.

Mustoe’s life story reminds me there are heroes among us. It’s a great loss that we rarely know of them. As a society we generally focus our attention on the bad actors and celebrities, and the hero’s live under our radar. That’s a shame, because our world is badly in need of true heroes.

Rest in peace Anne Mustoe.


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For the Love of Bikes Blog by Susan Lash (2009 - 2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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