Bobcat Faces: Robby Landauer

Landauer sets out to raise autism awareness on global bike tour

Robby Landauer on bike

Robby Landauer is a graduate student at Texas State University.

By Catherine Harper

Whether over peaks or through valleys, the limits of human endurance know few bounds. For Texas State University graduate student Robby Landauer, endurance and determination will soon lead around the world on a journey to solo circumnavigate the globe on a bicycle.

Landauer, who will graduate within a year from Texas State with a master’s degree in geographic information science, plans to head into the horizon on May 1, 2012, shortly after his graduation. His cause? Raising autism awareness. Landauer is partnering with Autism Speaks, an Austin-based organization for the cause. He hopes to raise a half-million dollars through donations and corporate sponsors, and plans to donate 70 percent of the proceeds to the organization.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘What’s your story; what’s your connection to autism?’ and the answer is I don’t have one. I fail to see why that means I can’t help,” Landauer says. “I picked autism because it affects more people than you think — 1 in 110 children, or more children than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined — and it doesn’t already have massive nationwide fundraisers like AIDS and cancer do. Autism Speaks, I think, would notice my meager contribution a little more.”

On his trip, Landauer will travel from Austin to Nome, Alaska, then move across the Bering Strait in a specially equipped, pedal-powered boat to Russia before turning down through Europe and Africa, heading across the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil, and finally shifting northward back to the United States. With the journey, Landauer will become the first person to ever solo circumnavigate the globe on a bicycle fueled solely by his own power. “I’m proud that this world first is going to be done by a Texan,” Landauer said in a recent interview with the University Star, Texas State’s student newspaper.

Landauer started competing in marathons during his undergraduate education at the University of Texas in Austin, and says his interest for biking around the world came from discovering that no one had done it before. “I’ve always wanted to do something that no one else has done, to leave my mark on the world,” Landauer says. “At one point, I started flirting with the idea of biking around the world, and then I discovered that no one had ever done a completely human-powered circumnavigation before.  So I thought, ‘I could do that. Why the hell not?’”

As an athlete, Landauer has set some astonishing records during his college career in marathons and charity races across the state and the nation. He says he hopes to continue breaking barriers on his upcoming tour.

Bike at Continental Divide

Landauer completed the Texas 4000 charity bike race.

Among his achievements, Landauer ran the Boston Marathon  in less than three hours; finished first in his age group in the Dallas Marathon; finished second in the Austin Marathon for his age group; completed the Texas 4000 charity bike ride from Anchorage, Alaska; and finished in the top 5 percent of the Tough Mudder competition.

Recently, Landauer has attended several events for autism awareness in Austin to further his cause before the trip, including the Walk Now for Autism Speaks event in September. He says the preparation is something he enjoys. “Well, I run and bike a lot [to prepare],” Landauer says.  “Of course, I always do that, just for fun.”

His supplies for the global adventure include a tent, sleeping bag, and panniers and bags that can carry up to 100 pounds of food, water, tools, spare parts and other necessities. He plans to sleep on floors of schools and churches during his journey.

For Landauer, though, the most important element of the trip will be to raise money for autism. Landauer says he also aims to raise awareness of bicycles as a viable means of transportation. “If I’m doing something this expansive, it tends to get some attention, so why not use that for a good cause? If you have the chance to help someone, why not?” he says.

Once he completes his master’s degree, Landauer says he hopes to pursue a career that will help provide means of alternate transportation to rural areas. A website for the cause, Robby’s Ride, where Landauer is accepting donations and documenting his preparations for the journey, is online.

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