Adam Biel doesn't consider himself to be special. He sees himself as an ordinary guy, trying to help a cause he believes in with every fibre of his being, in the only way he knows how. However, everyone around Adam has a slightly different opinion of this amazing young man.
Prior to 2009, Adam was a pretty normal young guy. He grew up in Edmonton, attended high school in Sherwood Park, then earned a scholarship into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School, and was working toward his business administration degree.
Once in the States though, he met someone who changed the path of his life. Mia Hamm, considered the best female soccer player in history, and Adam crossed paths and struck up a friendship. While talking together one day in early 2009, a huge philanthropist herself, Mia challenged Adam by asking him, "Do you think you're being as effective as you can be?" This single question struck such a chord in Adam that he decided to put it to the test.
The only time Adam had ridden a bike up until that point was just like everyone else, as a kid for fun. But Adam purchased this bike with a very different goal in mind. He didn't have the resources or cash to make a lump sum donation that would make a difference to a charity, so he decided to give the only thing he could; his time and energy. He also decided that his charity of choice would be raising funds for autism research. At that time Adam did not personally know anyone affected by autism, but through self directed research he realized that this disease is growing in leaps and bounds with no answers as to why or how children get it, or how to help people afflicted with it. Adam believes it will soon become a huge social issue as to how to help, house and take care of people with autism.
There is no cure for autism, so those affected, and their families, have a lifelong battle with the disease when it strikes a child. There is also no test to determine where or when autism will strike, so it can affect any child, anywhere. The disease is also progressing at an astounding rate, with more children being diagnosed with autism this year than with diabetes, cancer and Aids combined. And another thing which has yet to be understood about autism, is that it strikes boys four times more often than girls.
So in July of 2009, Adam purchased his first bike, climbed on, and went from recreationally riding a maximum of 25 kms/day, to putting in between 200-230 kms/day, and to dedicate his riding to raising awareness and funds for autism research.
Then, in 2012, Adam decided even that wasn't enough, and he would partner two goals into one by attempting to break the Pan American cycling speed record, riding from the Southernmost tip of Argentina to the Northernmost tip of Alaska in 100 days, and try to raise $1 million dollars for autism research along the way. So on March 20, 2012, Adam began pedaling in Ushuaia, Argentina, crossing two continents, fourteen countries, and over 14,000 miles, attempting to reach Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, 100 days later.
On the trip Adam faced quite a few challenges. On day 18 of his ride, Adam had to take an unplanned day off as crossing the Andes in just one day had taken an extreme toll on his body. Then he got stuck in Lima, Peru for five days when his photographer and support vehicle driver had to fly home unexpectedly, leaving Adam scrambling to find another driver to accompany him along the road. On day 38 Adam had to abandon his plans of riding through Colombia, as the Canadian Embassy informed him that the FARQ (the rebel group in Colombia) had taken a French reporter hostage the week before, and they felt that Adam would become a target for the group. This meant that Adam would have to make up the miles he missed once he reached Panama and the US.
Not just circumstances, but at times the roads themselves presented a challenge to Adam's goal. "The roads in South America were terrible! When you can cycle faster than your support vehicle can drive you know the roads are bad!" laughed Adam.
Things eased up a bit once he reached Panama, as his mom and dad, Lois and Al Biel, met him there and became his support vehicle drivers, which took a lot of worries away from Adam. However, that certainly didn't mean his troubles were over.
On day 56, Adam had reached Costa Rica, which was over half way through his world record attempt. He now had his parents traveling with him, he was on track to break the world record and was feeling really good, when all of a sudden he heard a ‘pop’ in his knee, and experienced excruciating pain. Adam had injured his ACL in 2007 and he thought he might have torn it again, which would bring his ride to an immediate end. After an enforced few days off where he could only walk with pain, and a marathon drive from Coast Rica to San Antonio, Texas, Adam had the knee examined and discovered it was not his ACL, but rather a ruptured plantaris muscle. This meant that after a week of therapy he would be able to continue his ride, but his dream of breaking the Pan American speed record was finished.
Believing in this cause meant that giving up completely was not an option, so Adam completed his therapy and promptly climbed back onto his bike to continue the ride to raise awareness for autism.
The ride wasn't all bumps and bruises though. Adam freely admits that he fell in love with some of the landscapes and Countries he travelled through, noting Chile as one of the highlights. He overcame mental and physical challenges he was originally unsure he could face, and in Texas, he experienced one of the best moments of his life. While Adam was in San Antonio recovering from his injury, Victoria, his high school sweetheart from Sherwood Park, flew down to be with him. Adam took this opportunity to propose to Victoria and she said ‘yes’! So along with the memories, mementos, new friends and experiences Adam will take home from this trip, the best thing he will return with is a wife to be.
Despite the injury and various setbacks he has encountered along the way, Adam is still not far off his mark for the 100 day record, but he is now concentrating on staying healthy rather than his speed, through this final leg of his journey.
Becoming engaged might have been the best thing, but it wasn't the only good thing that happened to Adam in Texas. Once he arrived in Dallas, he received the donation of a motorhome as a second support vehicle from none other than Schwab GM in Leduc! This motorhome would see Adam and his family through to the completion of his ride in Alaska.
On day 90 Adam was extremely happy to ride across the border into Canada again. Only four days to home in Edmonton after that, and what he considers his ‘home stretch’ to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
On the evening of Wednesday June 20th, Adam wheeled his way into the parking lot at Schwab GM in Leduc to a round of shouts and applause from the many well wishers, supporters, and TV crews awaiting his arrival. One little girl even brought him a poster she had made covered with stickers and crayon drawings that said ‘Go Adam Go’! After resting for a day, Adam planned to leave Leduc for the final leg home on Thursday evening. Meeting him at Schwab GM in Leduc were seventeen cyclists that joined him for the final, ceremonial leg into Edmonton.
At this point, Adam expects to arrive in Prudhoe Bay on July 9th, officially ending his Pan American ride. Unfortunately, at the moment he is well under his dream of raising $1 million dollars, and estimates that the amount currently raised is just under $30,000.00. Not a penny of the money raised has been used for his personal costs as Adam has been using his savings to fund this trip himself. He is not letting the low dollar amounts phase him though, because as he pointed out, "I may be done this trip on July 9th, but I will continue to raise funds for this research. My website will stay active as well, so people can also continue to contribute to this cause even though I have finished my ride."
To read Adam’s blog about this trip, follow him to the completion of his ride, find out more about autism, or to help Adam reach his goal and donate to autism research, please go to his website at www.cyclepanamerica.com.