Circumnavigating the globe with Jonas Deichmann – swimming, running and biking the equivalent of 120 Ironman races. The book and documentary will soon be available in English and Spanish. Whether on the couch or in bed, it’s bound to get you inspired – and we’ve got everything you need to get started on your first gravel bike adventure.
You’re surrounded by saltwater. The only drinking water around is that in the small water bottle and it’s nearly empty. The waves lap in your face, blocking your view of ships, islands and even the wide, open sea. It doesn’t matter, though, you can’t see anything in the fading light anyway. All you can feel is the heavy floating hotel tugging at the line attached to your waist and, once you’ve climbed out of the water, more water as you unpack your sleeping bag in the rain.
That’s just the first discipline that the German endurance athlete Jonas Deichmann took on in his latest adventure: covering a total distance of nearly 27,000 kilometres to circumnavigate the globe, which is the equivalent of 120 Ironman races. He rode his gravel bike through Europe and Asia, swam from the Croatian coastal town of Karlobag to the border of Montenegro, crossing Mexico on foot, from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast. Moreover, the multiple world-record holder did it all self-supported. While most of us loathe it, Jonas seems to love packing, though as lightly as possible: using a pannier as a float while swimpacking, a frame-, handlebar- and saddle-bag on his bike and running with an adapted Kidrunner. The adventure started in September 2020, before the second wave of the COVID pandemic hit, bringing with it a host of unforeseeable challenges.
On the search for… what?
Jonas jubilantly ended his swimming career after a total of 54 days and 460 kilometres – the longest swimpacking distance to date – though it had only just started. He reveals as much in his 360 video diary. In his calm but tenacious way, he covered between eight and ten kilometres a day, breaking a task that seems insurmountable into manageable bits. Right at the start of one of the swimming scenes, as he floats in the dark, surrounded by ocean creatures, Jonas admits: “I definitely feel out of place here.”
You might ask yourself what he’s searching for. However, it all starts to make sense when he gets on his bike. It’s there that he’s in his element. He lovingly calls his gravel bike his esposa, his wife, and she certainly is a hardworking one. That said, the 34-year-old German isn’t bad at running either. But what is it that makes someone want to circumnavigate the globe? Is it the desire to set new world records? Or is it the rush, or the hormones, the runner’s high, pushing your limits, the publicity? We can speculate all we want and it’s probably a combination of the above. Whatever it is, once he’s set his sights on something, there’s no backing down for Jonas. He says that it’s about the unique experiences he makes, unforeseen events and the colourful array of people that he meets along the way. And there are a lot of them.
He rides and rides and never gives up
“When someone says to me, no one’s done that before, I say: great, then I can be the first.” The above quote says it all: Jonas’ mission is all about making the impossible possible, trying something new and taking challenges as they come. From Munich to Karlobag, Dubrovnik to Vladivostok, and finally Lisbon to Munich, these are the stages that Jonas tackles on his esposa. The former Sales Manager for a Swedish IT company is no stranger to towering mountains, unpredictable weather and seemingly never-ending distances. After all, Jonas has previously cycled from Portugal to Vladivostok in 64 days and from the Northern Cape to the Cape of Good Hope in 72 days.
Neither of these rides was short of opportunities for a wide range of unique experiences either, covering 21,600 kilometres through snow and mud, icy surfaces, Siberian temperatures and zero food or water points through Nirvana. The adventurer’s endurance seems to overcome every boundary – physical as well as mental. The fact that Jonas saw the developments around the COVID pandemic as a sporting challenge can be seen by the way he extended his route through Turkey and changed his plan from running through the USA to running through Mexico instead. He says the biggest hurdle he had to face during this time was the red tape around the travel restrictions. Swiss mountain passes en route to Russia and back turn into a trip around the world unto themselves. It’s the toothless paper tigers that pose the biggest threat.
Self-supported yet not alone
Jonas Deichmann has written a book about his adventures in German called “Das Limit bin nur ich,” which translates to “I am my only limit”. The book will soon also be available in English and Spanish. Those who are interested in the details will often find themselves having to read between the lines, and they still won’t find all the answers. You’ll get the occasional detail surrounding the logistics, such as the packing list, information about the lubricant he uses in freezing temperatures and temporarily repaired shifters. However, there are many points at which you’re left mostly in the dark. You’ll find a few additional details in some of the scenes of his video diary, and we’re excited to see whether the documentary will fill the remaining gaps.
That said, the book isn’t meant to be a step-by-step guide. One thing the video diary leaves no question about is that Jonas had only himself to rely on. He carried all the equipment, food and water he needed, sleeping in his tent, under the open sky or beneath porch roofs. However, he wasn’t completely cut off from civilisation: thanks to social media, Jonas was able to get tips when he was stuck and his producer from ravir film was occasionally around to shoot some of the scenes. Thanks to the media coverage of his adventure, this isn’t the only company he had: bike clubs often joined the adventurer on more densely populated stretches through Europe and Asia. In Mexico, a wave of enthusiasm carried him through his marathon-distance runs.
Viva la Mexico! Melons given as gifts from well-meaning onlookers get hauled along in his “wheelbarrow”, the Kidsrunner, making rather heavy kids. Pedestrians cheer him on, others run with him and chant songs, police escort him to protect him from the drug cartels. Vamos, vamos contigo amigo! They all become friends at some point. With all the invitations Jonas received on his daily runs that often exceeded Marathon distances, he couldn’t always stick to his concept of sleeping under the stars and eating energy bars. He also had to say goodbye to his original plan of crossing the Atlantic via sailboat. However, that’s another story and owed to the COVID pandemic.
You might ask yourself why the last stage, the bike ride from Lisbon to Munich, gets so little mention in the book. Did he see the 4000-kilometre stretch as more of a recovery ride that just wasn’t spectacular enough? Whatever the reason, many readers are likely to be disappointed with the lack of details at this point, though it could be a good reason to do the ride themselves. Readers are also likely to bemoan the lack of emotions described in the book.
The video diary and the book, which will soon be available in English and Spanish, offer a 360° view of the entire route, allowing you to swim, ride and run along vicariously. Photos and other input on certain regions and typical local scenes help complete the picture. And maybe you’ll be inspired to attempt an adventure of your own. We’re excited to see what else the documentary will reveal, which will be screened in cinemas in German and shortly thereafter in English and Spanish. Should you retrace Jonas’ steps? Why not! After all, he wasn’t a swimmer when he started either 😉
About Jonas Deichmann and his projects: jonasdeichmann.com. The video diary and information about the documentary: jonasdeichmann.com/triathlon-360-degree. And about the documentary makers: ravir film
If you’ve been inspired to go on your own adventure and get into bikepacking, our crash course will give you all the information you need to get started. You don’t have to circumnavigate the globe to have an adventure.
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Words: Simone Giesler Photos: Alexander Litau, Andrej Bavchenkov, Daniel Rintz, Hans Bauer, Jonas Deichmann, Markus Weinberg