Positive spin: Delaware native finishes 3,200-mile bike trek home

Cyclist Bryan Hylenski completes the second to the last leg of his journey from Los Angeles to Rehoboth Beach. Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller

DOVER — Bryan Hylenski, originally from Bear, biked from Los Angeles to Rehoboth Beach with only the essentials on his back.

When he arrived in coastal Delaware Sunday morning, he completed 3,200 miles in 51 days on a bike with 25 pounds of supplies.

Although Mr. Hylenski braved the likes of rattlesnakes, lightning storms, and the unbearable summer heat on his journey, he likes to focus on the positives of his trip, like meeting new people.

“In the end I just think of the people I’ve met. And the weather’s been great, even when it’s super hot I can get up early in the morning, and I’m seeing so many gorgeous sunrises,” Mr. Hylenski said. “Even the challenging days, where I’m miserable and climbing up 5,000 to 6,000 feet of elevation a day, if I’m not in a good head space it gives me a challenge for that day. Something new to make myself better.”

When he began to approach his 45th birthday, Mr. Hylenski considered ways he might find a new adventure, a challenge he’d never faced. He wanted to try something different than his longtime hobby of mountain climbing.

Mr. Hylenski has traveled across the world perfecting his climbing skills, whether it be in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, or India. He spent 12 years traveling Asia with his wife Shauna, and after she was born, their daughter Hana.

The family later moved to Longmont, Colorado, where they now live and where Mr. Hylenski opened his own climbing gym, Longmont Climbing Collective. He became president of a climbing shoe company, Butora USA.

After settling down in Colorado in recent years, Mr. Hylenski began thinking of what his next great adventure might be. He thought of cycling, he said, because he’s always hated cycling, and figured it was about time he developed an appreciation for the sport.

“I used to race triathlons in the early 2000’s and I always hated biking,” Mr. Hylenski said. “When I thought about this, I thought well, I’ve always wanted to be a better biker, so why don’t I just ride my bike across the country?”

He explained that the act of cycling still is not very exciting to him, but this journey is more about living for adventure and getting back to his minimalist, backpacking roots.

“I like adventure. So, I don’t like the idea of waking up in the morning, getting on my bike, and going riding for exercise. But I like what I’ve done, which is being able to skim down my stuff to a nice comfortable amount that I can carry on my bike, I can go camping, and I can ride home,” He said. “That’s what I’m enjoying about this, I’m enjoying that I’m on an adventure, not the actual act of cycling.”

From left, Bryan Hylenski, wife Shauna and daughter Hana.

When he brought up the idea to his lifelong friends Brian and Heather Stetina of Dover, they first thought he meant to ride across the county on a motorcycle, not a regular bike.

“I actually thought for a minute, I mean seriously for about a month or two, I thought he was talking about riding a motorcycle across the country,” Mrs. Stetina said. “It didn’t occur to me what he was actually doing, then finally he kept talking about it, so I was like ‘What are you talking about? Do you mean a bicycle?’”

However, the couple said they had no doubt in their friend’s ability to bike across the country once they understood his plan.

“When he told me, I thought if anybody can do it, he can do it,” Mr. Stetina said. “He’s just one of those guys where he’ll figure it out. If he wants to do something, he’ll do it.”

Mrs. Stetina reiterated the same description of Mr. Hylenski as her husband.

“He’s one of those guys that if he gets some plan stuck in his head, he just does it. He cannot talk himself out of it, he’s the complete opposite of most people,” Mrs. Stetina. “It’s one of my favorite things about him.”

Mr. Hylenski departed from Los Angeles on June 12, and Sunday, he reached his last destination by bike in Rehoboth Beach on day 51 of his journey.

This journey across the country by bike is not without challenges. Living with just a few changes of clothes, a thin pad to sleep on at night, and minimal supplies can present serious safety concerns. He has been chased by packs of wild dogs on his journey, struggled to stay properly hydrated, and regularly slept in parks and cemeteries.

Oh, and he averages 65 to 80 miles a day on his bike, depending on weather and terrain conditions. On six days of the trip, he rode over 100 miles. His day typically starts around 4 a.m. when he leaves, then he bikes for eight hours until around noon, when he stops.

In the hot summer conditions, he said the best advice he ever got was to leave early and finish early.

“I get two or three hours before the sun comes up. Plus, because I’m riding east, I get the benefit of seeing the sunrise every morning,” Mr. Hylenski said. “It’s amazing to see a sunrise in California versus Kansas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. It’s really been something, I’ve seen 45 sunrises.”

Mr. Hylenski mostly camps for shelter at night, seeking out public places like parks and churches to sleep in. He originally brought a tent and sleeping bag, but as it became hotter outside even at night, he ditched them both around day 30. On three occasions, he had brief run-ins with police who mistook him as homeless, although they didn’t give him much trouble once he explained his travels.

Sometimes he uses phone applications to find people willing to let him stay with them for a night. He visits gas station bathrooms daily to freshen up and stays in a hotel once or twice a week to shower and recuperate.

After braving the Himalayas and other impressive peaks, Mr. Hylenski has a high tolerance for long journeys through nature’s perils.

Mr. Hylenski’s wife and daughter flew to Kansas City to complete a bike trail with him. This added a few extra days to his trip. He originally planned the trip to last 45 days, but said it was worth it to have his family be part of the adventure.

“They always like to be involved. For this trip, we did what’s called the Katy Trail, which is an old railroad track they converted to a bike trail, and then we just did 30 to 40 miles a day, wine tours, and sightseeing around Missouri,” He said. “My wife and daughter had a blast. So instead of me just blazing through Missouri and getting it done in a few days, we took 10 days, took our time and saw some things together.”

At the end of his journey, he stopped first in Dover on Friday to rest, before his final destination to Rehoboth Beach. Late last week he said he was most excited to grab a slice of Grotto Pizza and hang out with his family and friends.

“I keep feeling like my trip ends on Friday, even though I know I still have a 40-mile ride to the beach,” he said. “I’m trying to hold back myself from being excited that I’m finishing, but I’m still trying to just enjoy each day because its tough, and some of these days I want to give up. But I haven’t yet, so that’s good.”

Mr. Hylenski said he’s considering riding across Africa or Spain for his next adventure and expressed gratitude to his wife for supporting him.

“I don’t rule anything out. There’s just so many adventures to be had in this world, so I’m sure I’ll come up with something different to do,” He said. “I have an amazing wife who supports me with just about any crazy idea I have, from businesses to exercise to adventure.”

After biking across the country, meeting dozens of new people, and sleeping under the stars nearly every night for 51 days, Mr. Hylenski said his takeaway from his journey is to step back and appreciate America’s beauty more often.

“I lived overseas for 15 years, so I spent a lot of time in other countries. When I came home, I think I’d forgotten how wonderful a country we live in,” He said. “I just think of the beauty of America, I mean I don’t really know any other way to say it, but we live in a really cool country that has a lot of fun and amazing people in it.”

WP RSS Plugin on WordPress