A Welsh photographer traveled for 6,500 miles—and may have set a new world record along the way
Tim Woodier was riding through Kentucky. Or maybe it was Tennessee—he doesn’t quite remember. Either way, he was lost.
Woodier realized he had the wrong address for his host that evening, so he stopped by someone else’s house hoping to borrow their Wi-Fi so he could find his destination. It turns out Woodier was just a couple of miles away from his intended destination, and these neighbors knew the woman he was supposed to be staying with.
“They directed me to her house but said that along the way I could stop at their parents’ house and come and have some blackberry cobbler,” Woodier says. “So I stopped there and had some blackberry cobbler and something to drink and, I mean, I just knocked on a stranger’s door! Everyone was so supportive.”
Tim Woodier with his ElliptiGO at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Photo by Lindsay Abel)
This was par for the course during Woodier’s journey up and down the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, which wrapped up last Saturday in New York.
Woodier’s dream, 10 years in the making, was to travel America by car, finding interesting people to photograph and write stories about along the way. Then in March, the photographer from Wales had a different idea.
Why not start the trip in two months, traveling only by ElliptiGO? Woodier, an ultra-marathon runner, had discovered and begun to ride the elliptical bike several months earlier after suffering a foot injury while training for another ultra, and he went on to complete a 256-mile ElliptiGO ride in Buckinghamshire, England. So he logged into Facebook from his home in Abergavenny and navigated his way to the ElliptiGO group, a worldwide community made up of owners of the bike. Would anyone be willing to host him on a trip across America?
By the end of the trip, he had stayed with 28 ElliptiGO community members and 22 others he connected with on warmshowers.org, a community of cycling tourists who host one another on their travels. It all began with Carol Galgano, who (virtually) arranged for Woodier to ride her custom 11-gear ElliptiGO down to Florida and back.
Tim Woodier at Valley Forge during his ElliptiGO trip. (Photo by Lindsay Abel)
Woodier met Galgano for the first time in Central Park, where on June 1 he pedaled off on the borrowed bike and began his 87-day, 6,500-mile trip across the eastern United States and parts of Canada.
“That night he was set to stay at my friend Carmen’s house on Long Island—she’s another GO rider—so we rode a literal lap around the Park,” Galgano recalls. “He took off from there, not showing any reservations whatsoever.”
Woodier had a rough map of his route when he left the UK for the US, but he didn’t plot his exact routes until his rest days. One he reached each stop, he took a day off with his ElliptiGO host to experience their city and collect their stories. Woodier hasn’t done the math, but he estimates he averaged about 130 miles per day of riding. He had somewhere to stay every night and—with people expecting him—little room for error. He made it to every destination.
“I turned up at people’s houses at 2:30 a.m. at some points because I had 25 mph headwinds or bad weather so I had to stop for a bit,” Woodier says. “Or, just because I had to go 200 miles and it takes a long time.”
The maps also didn’t always show him what type of roads he would be on. Gravel can be especially difficult on the ElliptiGO—especially with an extra 36 pounds of gear loaded onto the bike—which he encountered most in Georgia and Florida. Then there was the time he got stuck in a foot of muddy water in Vermont and, without internet—Woodier was using a prepaid phone running on credits throughout the trip—he just had to slog through it.
[quote position="left" is_quote="true"] I turned up at people’s houses at 2:30 a.m. at some points because I had 25 mph headwinds or bad weather so I had to stop for a bit. Or just because I had to go 200 miles and it takes a long time.[/quote]
“I was on a dirt cycle path and it had been raining all day, so it was flooded with a foot of water. It was dark and with no other map, there was no way for me to route around it,” Woodier remembers. “I had to carry the ElliptiGO and all of my gear and just sort of wade through the water for about a half a mile.”
Flooded paths aside, Woodier was able to take in the incredible sights while riding through the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Carolinas, along the Great Lakes in Michigan, and through the national parks in Florida. Along the way, he kayaked through the mangroves in Florida, took a ride on a glider plane in Virginia, went to a shooting range in Pennsylvania, fed alley cats in the middle of the night in Baltimore, and rode the Maid of the Mist to get up close to Niagara Falls.
He attracted the most attention riding through cities—New York, Boston, Miami, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland—as people commented on the ElliptiGO, wanting to know what it is and what he was doing on it. And it was in New York that Woodier finished his ride on Saturday. He says he still has yet to process all of the things he did along the way, but that the overarching message of the trip is just how generous people can be.
The map of Tim Woodier's journey.
That support was evident until the very end, when Woodier was joined by nine other ElliptiGO riders to finish his final miles where he started just 86 days before, in Central Park. He was reunited with Galgano and fellow riders from Toronto, Boston, and even Florida. The entire trip went off without too much of a hitch—some flat tires, some minor bike repairs, but no injuries. On Monday he caught a flight back to the UK—a flight that he had booked before the trip even started— and back to his wife and two children who cheered him on from afar.
Woodier isn’t the first to embark on a long journey on an ElliptiGO, but he will contact Guinness World Records, petitioning for recognition of the longest trip on an elliptical bicycle and the longest trip on an elliptical bicycle in a single country.
Meanwhile, Galgano now is the proud owner of the ElliptiGO with the most miles on it.