an epic bike ride around the world

Michelle Liu
June 06, 2024
fitness

Ten days before Hawaii Bicycling League member Douglas Concha was set to complete his 18,000-mile charity bicycle trip around the world, he was hit by an SUV.

“I started tumbling forward, thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is happening. This is terrible,’” says Concha, who blacked out and woke up to firefighters and paramedics on the side of the road.

He started his journey last summer to raise money for Doctors Without Borders, as well as set the Guinness World Record for circumnavigating the world on a single-gear bicycle.


Concha's biking route around the world.

At the time of the accident in Texas, Concha had already biked across six continents, battled extreme weather, suffered a hairline fracture in his knee, contracted food poisoning (that had him throwing up every hour on the side of the road), and two bouts of COVID-19.

Through it all, Concha continued to bike 100 miles every day, determined to reach his goals. Despite brain swelling, a dislocated shoulder, and a torn groin muscle, he wasn’t going to let this last accident derail him either.

“I couldn’t even walk, but I promised myself that I would achieve this,” he says. “I committed to leaving Honolulu on June 1st and coming back on March 1st. I knew I wanted nothing more than to finish.”


Concha in the hospital after the accident.

So, Concha decided to keep biking. He consulted with his doctor and called his mom, who immediately flew from New York to Texas.

“My mother, my saving grace, drove 10 miles per hour on the side of the highway for 1,000 miles,” he says. “She was monitoring me from behind in case I became unconscious or physically crashed because I was cycling with just one arm.”

What should have taken his usual 10 hours per day instead took 16 hours. He would wake up at 4 a.m. and bike until 11 p.m. before checking in to the next motel, where his mother would be waiting for him.

“I had all these cuts and wounds, some that were so deep that they needed to be dressed,” says Concha. “So, I’d just lay on the bed and my mother would treat these injuries. And I thought to myself, ‘How strange it is that this woman nursed me when I was a baby, and now I’m a 45-year-old man, and she’s still caring for me out of this undying love.’ Despite the challenges, it was a beautiful experience.”

Ten grueling days later, Concha was on a flight back home to Honolulu to finish his ride.

Humanity shines through the dark
With minimal clothing and essential supplies packed on his bike, Concha generally rode around the world alone, surrounded by nature. He witnessed stunning rainbows and sunsets that reminded him of home, wild elephants and giraffes roaming freely, and lavender trees and snowy landscapes.


Some of the stunning views.

He also faced harsh conditions: freezing cold with a chill that seemed to penetrate his bones, wind so powerful he couldn’t see, dry and dusty air that made it hard to breathe, and sweltering heat, which gave him severe headaches.

It was hard to find food and water in some countries. Shelter was also a challenge. In these times of need, Concha encountered the power of the human spirit.


Concha had help along the way.

“Hundreds of kind people saved me emotionally, physically, and logistically to get me across the world and that finish line,” he says.

In Australia, two men helped fix his tent when the pole snapped in the unrelenting wind. Truckers in Kazakhstan gladly shared their supply when he struggled to find water during the long, empty stretches of biking. Indonesian families opened their homes, and he met a runner in Africa who gave him granola with cold milk, which was a godsend in the hot sun.

“This experience revealed to me that while things might hurt and there might be many tears and suffering, that’s the way to live life, to experience so much beauty and love,” says Concha. “If nature wasn’t brutalizing me, and if I wasn’t in a desperate situation where I had to make myself vulnerable and trust other people, I wouldn’t have seen all that love and beauty.”

Giving it his all
This wasn’t Concha’s first epic bike ride, but it was his longest and most difficult.  

“I wanted something to push me to my limit,” he says. “I didn’t want to get to the edge of the cliff; I wanted to look into the abyss and jump into it. I wanted to know what it was like to be fearless and willing to give up everything.”

He faced brutal obstacles that sometimes made him want to quit, but he drew motivation from the charity he was riding for. While biking through Australia, Africa, and Europe, Concha met some of the brave men and women working with Doctors Without Borders.


Visiting the Doctors Without Borders office in Germany.

“It was what these heroes do and how much they sacrifice and suffer that was my inspiration to keep me going when it got difficult,” he says. “No matter how much pain I was in, I could always imagine them facing death, starvation, bombs going over their heads, all to help vulnerable human beings. And I said, if they can survive that, then I could survive this 140-degree African desert or negative 20-degree European winter.”

Fearless and accomplished
When Concha biked the last 18 miles of his global trek, on Oahu from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to Magic Island, his Hawaii Bicycling League team was with him for the entire ride. Now that he’s home, he feels at peace.


A full rainbow in Australia.

“I faced my fears; I proved I was willing to do something I cared about. I wanted to raise money for charity. I wanted this world record,” he says. “I had overcome so much: all those challenges, injuries, and illnesses. And I proved to myself that I cared for something enough to give everything without holding back and without fear getting in the way.”

Concha’s ride may be over, but he’s still raising money for Doctors Without Borders.

Photos courtesy Douglas Concha

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