Jakub Postrzygacz has traversed some of the world’s most dramatic and unforgiving landscapes by bike. He says it’s the physical and mental toughness that helps pull the extra miles.
Ten years ago, Jakub Postrgacz came across a group of journalists that were travelling in a four-wheel-drive convoy across Australia’s Canning Stock Route, the longest off-road trail in the world.
He says he was mesmerised by what he saw, and later completed the first unsupported crossing of the Canning by bike. The experience changed his life.
With a total distance of around 1850 kilometres, the Canning Stock Route is one of the toughest and most remote tracks in the world. It runs from Halls Creek in the Kimberley region of Western Australia to Wiluna in the mid-west region.
“I asked one of the journalists I met during an expedition, whether it would be possible to do such trip by bike and he basically just burst out laughing and said forget about it,” Jakub says.
However, Jakub was determined. It took a couple of years working with different companies to develop a bike that could ride in difficult sandy terrain and from there he completed the trip.
“It took 33 days and I lost 18 kilograms, which was a pretty good diet,” he says. “Nothing can really prepare you for such a long journey. Quite often you would ride for the whole day and cover 20 or 30 kilometres and you look at your speedometer and you know there’s another 1500 ahead of you before you finish.”
It’s the fittest people who can suffer the most because their bodies require more oxygen to work the muscles. You can be super fit at sea level but at 4000m above sea level that can change.
Jakub grew up in Poland, and moved to New Zealand eight years ago “for a woman”. His wife Adrianna came here as a child and then moved back to Poland again where she met Jakub in high school. She always wanted to come back and live here, so that’s what they did.
“We decided to do a cycling trip around New Zealand which was about 600km long just to experience the country a bit more. Then we decided that this was the place to be.”
His reason for coming to Palmerston however was business. Having worked with the Avanti cycling company for a number of years, he was asked to open up a new shop in the area.
“They needed someone to look after the existing customers and provide good service and so I ended up here.”
In the store, Jakub’s quite obviously in his element. This is a man for whom cycling is not merely a sport or a hobby. It is a passion. He lives and breathes it.
The whole family is interested in cycling to a certain degree. “All three children have bikes and we have a family bike with the kids on a trailer on the back and my wife on the back behind me.” He says.
While Jakub has been cycling ever since he can remember, his cycling expeditions really began when he was a teenager.
“Back in high school there was a priest who was very much into cycling who was one of the teachers in the school. Together we formed a club that would organise bicycle tours around Poland and later in Europe”
Jakub went to Italy and France – among other places – and says it was his first taste of adventure.
His interest kept growing.
He and his wife travelled around Ireland on bikes they built themselves at a scrap yard just outside of Dublin. The bikes are still intact. “We spoke to our friends last year and they say they are still using those bikes,” he says.
Jakub has taken on challenges that have never been completed before. He was motivated to do more he says “you get hungry and you want to look for more adventure.”
He cycled in the Himalayas. It all came about when one of his good friends called him asking for advice regarding going to Tibet. He came back and told his wife about it who said; “You didn’t ask to go with him?”
“So I asked if he needed a logistical supporter and mechanic and he said ‘hell yeah’,” Jakub says.
It was a big call. At the time his daughter was only about three weeks old and they were just starting the new business, but it was too good of an opportunity to give up.
“We put the party together and went through China, and across Tibet to Nepal, through the friendship highway, and the basecamp of Everest. The basecamp was actually closed to visitors due to political tension before the Olympics, so there was a lot of sneaking past checkpoints at night and things like that. Luckily nobody was shot or arrested!”
When your body is pushed to its extreme and out of your comfort zone, it’s no longer a physical exercise but a mental exercise too
The trip took place in 2007. The whole journey took about a month including acclimatization, but consisted of about three weeks riding.
In terms of training Jakub says he was too busy with family and work and had to “pull some extra miles on the trip.” He says the biggest challenge was the altitude.
“It’s the fittest people who can suffer the most because their bodies require more oxygen to work the muscles. You can be super fit at sea level but at 4000m above sea level that can change.”
In taking on these sorts of trips, Jakub has become well-versed in the challenges that come along with them.
He says both long-term endurance and psychological strength are essential. “When your body is pushed to its
extreme and out of your comfort zone, it’s no longer a physical exercise but a mental exercise too,” he says.
In cycling the Manawatu, Jakub says the best thing is that there are many fantastic rides within an hour or two hour’s drive of Palmerston North’s city centre. “Proper, world-class, wonderful trips.”
In New Zealand he says some of his favourite trails to ride are in the Central Plateau and the Bridge to Nowhere in Whanganui National Park.
“If you enjoy meeting new people, great food and great wine then you can’t beat the rail trail.”
Looking to continue his impressive portfolio of cycling expeditions, the trip he’s planning next is certainly an ambitious one. “We’ve been working on a big project for quite a few years now to go and cycle the South Pole.“
Jakub was once lucky enough to meet Sir Edmund Hillary and was given some sound advice over a cup of tea and some homemade biscuits.
“He said you should search for adventure. If you find one you should take all you’ve got, all your strength, experience and passion. If you succeed you will have the privilege of doing something for the first time.”
Jakub says it’s made him a different person.