Interview: Ed Pratt, the Somerset man who travelled the world on a unicycle
PUBLISHED: 09:41 29 January 2019
Looking to broaden your horizons this year? Chrissy Harris talks to the Somerset man who crossed the globe on his unicycle
Ed Pratt is slightly bleary eyed and croaky after a whirlwind few weeks spent travelling and talking about his trip of a lifetime.
On March 14 2015 the then 19-year-old former Wellington School pupil packed up very few of his belongings, hopped up onto his unicycle and set off on an epic ride across the world.
His incredible three and a half year trip, which attracted worldwide attention, took him more than 21,000 miles through Europe, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan then China and South East Asia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.
Along the way, Ed, now 22, managed to raise more than £300,000 for charity and arrived back home in July to a hero’s welcome.
Since then he’s been in demand, appearing on television and radio programmes in the UK as well as international events, such as the mountain unicycle festival in Alabama, USA.
When we meet, Ed is fresh from his US visit, which was immediately followed by a talk at his local Women’s Institute in Curry Rivel.
“It’s taken it out of me a bit,” he says, reaching for a glass of water. “But it’s all really good fun. I’m enjoying getting out there and talking about the trip.”
Ed left school after his A-levels and knew that he didn’t want to go on to university.
“I just needed to get out there,” he says. “I’d read somewhere that no one else had unicycled around the world before and thought that sounded like a good thing to do.
“It’s one of the cheaper ways of travelling really because you’re obviously not paying for transportation.”
Ed has been unicycling since 2012 after discovering a rusty old 16-inch one-wheeler in his friend’s garage.
He enjoyed the physical challenge and mental focus you need to ride one of these tricky contraptions and began practising, getting bigger unicycles and going further afield before teaming up with fellow enthusiasts.
Pedalling across the world became the next logical step.
“I was inspired by other people who had done these big, human powered trips,” says Ed, mentioning Gloucestershire runner Jamie McDonald who ran across Canada and US unicyclist Cary Gray who rode across North and South America.
“I thought it sounded like a great way to explore the world,” says Ed. “The route wasn’t a big deal. I just kind of drew a line on the map and thought, ok, we’ll try that.”
The idea was simple but Ed spent ten months carefully preparing for his voyage, working out which countries were safe to travel through.
He planned to take two years and raise money for School in a Bag, a charity which helps supply education equipment to vulnerable children.
Ed’s talented grandfather Alan Pratt designed and made a bespoke frame to allow special panniers to be attached to the 36-inch-Nimbus Oracle.
Once Ed had packed the essentials – including a tent, compass, spare spokes and one pair of pants – the time had come to set off from his home in Curry Rivel for Weymouth and the ferry to St Malo.
“I was just excited to get going; I’d been planning this thing for a while,” says Ed, as he recalls those first few days of a trip which ended up taking nearly 18 months longer than he’d planned. Not that it mattered.
In between sips of water to ease his throat, Ed talks about singing a Meatloaf song at a party he stumbled across to celebrate Tibetan new year, riding through China with a cyclist dressed as a superhero, having pennies thrown at him in America, a dingo sniffing around his tent in Australia and much more.
It’s a fascinating tale of a young lad who quite literally had the world at his feet. The story will no doubt make a great film or book one day, something Ed is
He is currently editing the hours of footage and hundreds of pictures he took throughout his adventure. This and the series of talks he has planned will keep him busy until the next trip – which won’t be on a unicycle.
“No, unicycle touring is tough, I realised that a couple of years in,” says Ed. “It wasn’t that I ever thought about stopping. But you do get a little bit jealous when you see people riding on two wheels get to the top of the hill and they can just shoot down. What would take them 20 minutes can take two hours on a unicycle.”
So two wheels next time?
“I’d like to do something else but it’ll be a while before I get that together,” he says, thoughtfully. “I want to put this one to rest first.”
Ed had to pack light for his trip. He didn’t want the weight of too much luggage to slow him down. Some of his bare essentials included: a tent, stove, sleeping bag, gloves, one pair of boxers, two pairs of socks, a camera, notebook, spanner and puncture repair patches.
His parents, Nick and Roxanne Pratt, are proud of their son’s incredible achievements. Speaking after his homecoming in the summer, they said: “He left school in search of a challenge and adventure. Anyone who has followed his journey around the world will know that he has created just that.”
Following Somerset’s finest...
- Our county is home to other intrepid adventurers, including the world-famous explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who lives on Exmoor.
- Adventurer Jason Smith is from Weston-super-Mare. He ran seven marathons in seven days in 2014.
- John Reynolds, from Westfield near Midsomer Norton, attempted to run 400 miles non-stop in four days in May.
- Swimmer Beth French from Milverton became the first woman to swim from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly.