A Life on the Road: Urs Pedraita’s Record-Breaking Rides

 Urs Pedraita

Night was falling along a desolate stretch of highway M58 outside of Mogocha, Siberia, when Urs Pedraita realized he was no longer riding alone. The temperature was typical for January in Siberia — a brisk minus 25 F — and, as with all of Siberia, the night sky was a tapestry of the Milky Way. The roads, however were a bumpy, icy mess, and now Pedraita's attempt at a solo 9,000-kilometer trek across Siberia aboard his Victory motorcycle was in jeopardy. Not to mention his life. "Three wolves were chasing me for more than 30 miles," he recalls. "There's snow and ice on the road, and so all I could think was 'keep steady, don't have an accident now'!" 

How the 51-year-old owner of a construction consulting business lives a dual life as one of the world's premier distance bikers —and the world record holder for circling the globe — is equally puzzling and inspiring. Speaking with Men's Journal, with translation help from his daughter, Samira, Zurich-based Pedraita or "Grizzly" as he's known to his biker friends, is humble as he casually rattles off allusions to experiences on the road, any of which would outshine most mortals' bucket lists: dozing in the summer grass along the Alaska highway amid wandering bison; seeing the Northern Lights dance at the North Cape of Norway; getting jacked by a Mexican road gang and living to tell about it. 

While Pedraita had several long distance rides under his belt already, he credits reading long distance biking legend Nick Sander's autobiography as the inspiration for going big. "I wanted to do something no one has ever done before, to the the first," Pedraita says. "That's why I chose Siberia. In winter." Pedraita tackled a cross-Siberia ride in 2013 and then repeated it the following year (though this time he opted for a more gentle summer crossing). 


Emboldened by his ability to withstand the grueling hours, fatigue and even pain involved in long distance driving, Pedraita decided to take on the ultimate feat: A circumnavigation of the globe. His hero, Sanders, dubbed "The fastest man around the world" held the record of 31 days from 1997. Pedraita set off East on the 3rd of August, 2014 from Bern, Switzerland and utterly demolished Sanders record, returning just 16 days, 12 hours and 19 minutes later. 

Pedraita is in the process of planning his next attempt, another world record breaker that will have him circling the globe yet again, but this time crossing every continent, set to begin in 2016. Unfazed by the enormity of such an undertaking, Pedraita says a recent trip running the length of Scandinavia beyond the Arctic Circle in the heart of winter settled any misgivings he may have had about his ability to surmount the worst challenges of the road. "It was there that I realized I can drive any road in the world," he says. "It was the last one I needed to really know. Now I feel like I can do anything."