Philippe Robin’s pan-American cycling journey

From his doorstep to Argentina, the Concordia alumnus is biking for a cause

Philippe Robin poses with his bike in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Photo Philippe Robin

Philippe Robin, a former Concordia University journalism student, had always dreamt of travelling the world by bike. Now, he is fulfilling his goal on a voyage of over 30,000 kilometres from Montreal to Ushuaia, Argentina that will end in December 2024.

The project is titled “Objetivo Patagonia”—Patagonia being a region in Argentina and Chile. After Robin completed his degree at Concordia in May 2023, he began his trip from just outside his apartment’s front steps a month later, on June 10. 

Before he settled on his current route, Robin initially wanted to travel from South Africa to Egypt. “I really thought this kind of journey would be better if I start[ed] from my place,” said Robin. “I love the idea of just riding out from my front door.”  For him, cycling allows him to see the smaller details of the world.

“I just think that cycling is the best way to travel because, when you travel by plane or by car, you see the tourist attractions or the big cities, but you will skip what’s in between them,” he said.

Robin was in Texas when he spoke to The Link. He stayed at a Warm Showers location—a service that pairs touring cyclists with people that will host them for free. Robin called the service “a real blessing.” Although he only gets hosted when he has rest days, Robin estimated that “95 per cent of my nights on the road are spent in my tent.” 

Through his journey, Philippe is raising money for Fondation sablon. Cynthia Deschambault, the philanthropic development advisor at sablon, said their mission is to “facilitate access to sports and outdoor activities for disadvantaged children to empower them to unleash their full potential and positively transform society.” 

Robin has a personal connection to their mission. He believes that what kept him in school was his participation in a soccer sports-study program. “If I didn't have the opportunity of playing sports as a teenager, I would have dropped out of high school. I don’t know what my life would [have been like],” he said. “Since I got the opportunity to move and spend my energy, I was more focused in class.” 

Deschambault empathized with Robin and said it was a perfect partnership. “We felt like he really cared about our mission,” she said. 

Robin has raised close to $600 since he began his trip. Sablon plans to boost his visibility through their social media and through the newsletter they send out to donors.

Philippe sits next to his tent in Gros Ventre Valley, Wyoming. Photo Philippe Robin

Since the start of his trip, Robin has faced a few obstacles. Forest fires in Quebec made him change route and go straight to Ottawa, Ont. instead of passing by Abitibi-Témiskaming, Que. He also rode through areas with bears, rattlesnakes and cattle crossings. 

“When I got out of the Rockies I was like, ‘I'm out of bear territory, and I'm safe now’. Then, I get into Texas and there are snakes everywhere. There are gigantic spiders that can kill,” he said. “Every time something happens I see it as a learning opportunity and I have to be careful.”

However, Robin said his biggest challenge was running out of water as he rode through Great Basin Park in Wyoming with a fellow biker he met in the United States.  

“We couldn’t find anywhere to refill our bottles, so we had to filter water that I’d never drink in any other circumstance,” he said.

Ultimately, the water made him sick, but he kept on riding to get to fresh water. “Water won’t appear by itself. If you don’t feel good, you have to talk to yourself and keep on going,” he said.

Robin credited his three sponsors with being able to bring the project to life. Robin had worked at La Cordée, an outdoor sports store, for three years. When he pitched his idea to them, they happily partnered with him. La Cordée provided him whatever equipment he needed for the trip. 

Arc'teryx, an outdoor equipment company, also did the same after they received a twenty-page document from Robin that detailed his journey and who he is. He had sent that document to many companies and Arc'teryx was one that came back with an offer. 

Lastly, Memento Cycles, a local shop in Montreal, was tasked with building his bike from scratch. Ronny Perez Jaramillo, the co-owner, designer and machinist said that they had to think about striking a balance of comfort and power. They also considered everything he had to bring with him, and built a rack that could store large amounts of water and his backpack.

Philippe Robin cycles in Great Divide Basin, Wyoming. Photo Philippe Robin

Throughout the journey—and true to his journalism background—Robin made sure to socialize with people. He was able to ride for a few days with some people he met in the United States. 

“For me, these little meetings with people sort of help me divide the trip into smaller trips, and it makes it more digestible,” said Robin. “If I think too much about Ushuaia, I can easily get overwhelmed and sort of question myself”

He has also been accompanied by his loved ones at times. While he was in Yellowstone National Park, his father left Montreal to stay with him for a few of his rest days. 

This December, he will be in Costa Rica, where his girlfriend will fly down to spend the holidays with him. 

One of his close friends will also join him in Costa Rica with his bike. Robin will return to cycling in January 2024—up until December 2024—where his friend will continue the ride with him. 

Perez Jaramillo, who is also friends with Robin, takes time to check in on him. He said it’s all Robin needs from him. “We can always try to look up bike shops and help him if ever needed, but [Robin] can handle himself, so right now it's mostly moral support,” Perez Jaramillo said.

Despite the difficulty of his endeavour, Robin remains modest about the 30,000 kilometre journey. 

“I don't feel any sort of pride about what I’ve done. I don’t feel proud that I rode across Canada and the U.S., I just feel proud that I set off and left my home. I [made] a decision to do this,” he said. 

Robin is currently in Mexico and is past the 120-day mark of his voyage. He is a long way from his final destination, but has the full intention to finish what he started.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 4, published October 17, 2023.