Having started as a career swimmer, it was an easy transition for Rob to move onto triathlon racing. However, after an unfortunate ankle injury, he was told in no uncertain terms that he was no longer going to be able to run like he did before without the risk of further injury. This got Rob thinking and eventually brought him back to his first love. Swimming. 

Somewhere along the way Rob decided that he would like to attempt swimming across the English Channel, a feat that many call the Everest of the swimming world. As an avid mountaineer, something he got more and more into after meeting his wife Caroline, he thought it would be really great to not only conquer the Everest of swimming, but to also conquer the real Everest. As he got to thinking, he figured since he was doing a mountaineering event and a swim event, he may as well throw in a cycling event and there would be no better way to do that than also achieve a lifelong dream of cycling across the USA. 

 A huge part of climbing Everest is being fit and all that going into it, but really staying healthy as you kind of approach the mountain and get on the mountain.

Since it would take him about 2 years before he would be able to secure the pilot that would steer the boat that follows him across the English Channel, Rob would have ample time to prepare his body for the 15 degree (60 F) water of the English Channel and to climb some really big mountains in preparation for Everest. To add even more challenge to it, Rob decided that he would do all three events in a 6 month period, and even get married in the middle of it. 

Due to Everest being such a busy mountain, Rob and Caroline decided to climb it from the North side, flying into Lhasa before catching a bus into base camp. From there Rob and Caroline slowly made their way up through the various checkpoints, constantly keeping their eye on the health and waiting for the right moment to summit. In the end, they decided to wait an extra day so that the majority of climbers will have had a chance to summit, completing their own summit the following day before a major storm would be arriving. When summiting Everest, climbers don’t have the luxury of enjoying the moment and the view for an extended amount of time, as it is imperative that they start the descent, which can be more difficult than the climb itself.

Yeah, the whole goal is to get calories any way you really can, because being horizontal in the water it’s really hard to digest anything, so solid foods are typically harder.

Having 1.5 months between summiting Everest and swimming the English Channel, Rob had to try to put on as much weight as possible before attempting the swim through the frigid English waters. By eating pizza and burgers every time he wasn’t full, Rub managed to put on 30 lbs (13kg) before jumping into the English Channel wearing nothing but a speedo and a bit of vaseline in some sensitive places. With strict rules in place such as not being able to wear a watch, touch the boat, and having to eat and drink food that is lowered down in a basket, Rob endured 12 hours of swimming, all the while being lacerated by countless numbers of jellyfish. After finishing the swim, all he had left to do was a simple bike ride across the USA.

And I thought in like this weird sadistic way that it would actually give me like a little adrenaline shot and something else to think about…

For his ride across the USA, Rob decided to use a Specialized Diverge endurance bike, which allowed him to relieve some of the pressure from his shoulders and wrists. Throughout this supported ride, Rob averaged nearly 100 miles per day (160 km) for 39 days, suffering through mountains, heat, rain, and saddle sores. Due to the need to cycle day after day, something that most assume to be the easiest part of the entire tour, Rob says that in reality it was the most difficult of the three events, both mentally and physically. 

Most people before this whole thing started, and especially after I’ve done Everest and the swim thought, “Oh, the bike is going to be like a total cakewalk”, because I think most people have ridden a bike and they can kind of imagine like riding a bike for a couple of hours or something like that.

Doing any one of these events is challenge enough, but completing all three events in a one year period is a first of its kind. Rob’s motivation and drive was to promote gender equality and to empower women. To learn more about Rob, his adventures, and his goal of empowering women, follow the social media links below.

Cheers and keep on pedalling.


Follow Rob on his adventures at:

Show Notes

~ 50 sec       Intro to Episode 21 with Rob Lea
~ 5 min        Preparing for Mt. Everest, why they climbed from the Tibetan side of the mountain
~ 9m 30s     Challenges and dangers to climbing Mt. Everest
~ 24 min      Swimming the English Channel and rules for making the swim
~ 30 min      What he ate throughout the swim, how he prepared for the swim
~ 35 min      Challenges during the swim, pacing, keeping the correct heading
~ 40 min      Cycling across the USA, deciding his route
~ 45 min      What bike he used, modifications, bike setup
~ 50 min      Having a support car and accommodations
~ 54m 30s   Highlights and lowlights, which event was most difficult physically and mentally
~ 59 min      Gender equality campaign
~ 1h 7m       Where to find Rob on social media and what’s next for him
~ 1h 11m     Next time on Bike Tour Adventures – Pablo Espitia

About the Author
Traveller. Cyclist. Expat. Over 15 years experience living abroad in six different countries. I've travelled to over 40+ countries and met countless travellers, cyclists, and other expats. As a passionate cyclist I've had opportunities to bike tour in some truly amazing places. While definitely not an expert at bike touring, I'm passionate about sharing bike touring stories and helping others learn hacks, tricks, and techniques to improve their touring experience. I look forward to you joining me on this journey of learning about and becoming a better bike tourist.

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