Unicycling Across Latvia On Hiking Trails

Only a maniac would attempt to unicycle across a country using only hiking trails. This particular maniac is Ed Pratt of the UK. In September, Pratt set out to pedal from the Estonian border across the Baltic Forest Trail to Lithuania.

One-wheel experience

Pratt is no stranger to unicycling expeditions. In 2018, he completed a three-year, 35,000km, round-the-world trip. During that journey, he tried to stick to roads and established pathways. This latest journey was an entirely different beast.

Sticking to a hiking path was part of the challenge. The Baltic Forest Trail is part of the E11 European long-distance hiking route. Though it spans three countries, Pratt only tackled the 674km Latvia section. From the start, it became clear how hard this was going to be.

The beginning of the trail was littered with stairs, meaning that Pratt had to carry the unicycle. But unicycles are not made to be portaged. The frame cut into his hands, and Pratt had to wrap it in old inner tubes for some padding.

From one wheel to two feet

Pratt understood that the trip was not about unicycling the entire distance. He knew there would be sections he had to walk. He wanted to finish the trail and hoped to have unicycled further than he had walked. He gave himself the best possible chance by using a smaller 27.5-inch wheel and a thick off-road tire.

The changing terrain, switching between cycling and walking, and the fact Pratt had never seen the trail before, meant he had no idea how long the journey would take. He tried to cover between 20 and 30km a day and wild camped at night.

The Baltic Forest Trail took him through the Venta Valley Nature Reserve, the Abava River Valley Nature Park, Ķemeri and Gauja National Parks, Northern Gauja, and the Veclaicene Protected Landscape Area.

Ed Pratt and Sylvain Oalulu

Ed Pratt and Sylvain Oalulu. Photo: @Mredpratt


What are the odds?

After 10 days, Pratt was at the halfway mark in Riga. There, he took a few days to rest. In an unbelievable coincidence, he met another long-distance unicycler. Sylvain Oulala, a professional street performer, was cycling from France to Estonia.

Oulala heard that another person was unicycling in Latvia and detoured to team up with Pratt from Riga to Kuldiga.

“Two unicyclists coincidentally touring in the same area at the same time is a serious rarity,” Pratt commented on social media.

Pratt filmed his trip and has started releasing videos from the trail. The first light-hearted video highlights the beautiful landscape of Latvia and hears Pratt share his thoughts and musings as he “wiggles his way through the forest.”

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.