Russell Smith likes adventures. An avid climber, mountaineer, cyclist and general alfresco adrenaline junkie, he’s spent the best part of his life pushing his body and his mind to the limit.
Here's an example of just how far Russell likes to push himself: in 2014 he cycled the UK’s National Three Peaks Challenge. But he didn’t just cycle up each of the peaks – he cycled between them too, from one to the next.
Then he cycled all the way to Brighton – maxing out his cycling at a cool 800 miles – and jumped straight in to the Brighton Marathon to finish off the adventure. All this, and Russell has, believe it or not, worked as a health a safety consultant for the past five years.
And then there’s the time he attempted to break the Guinness World Record for longest distance travelled on a spacehopper – but that’s a story for another time.
Because today, you see, we’re interested in the time he decided it would be a good idea to ride a kick scooter, unsupported, from one end of the UK to the other. That’s 1,363km. On a kick scooter.
Where did you get the idea for this insane scooter adventure?
I’ve wanted to do Lands End to John o’Groats for a long time. Being a keen cyclist, that was my first choice, but I’d want to do it in a really quick time. It’s around 1000 miles, and I would’ve liked to do it in three or four days. I was thinking about it back in 2014, and then this friend of mine asked me to look after this scooter for him.
So I began just using that around London and my local area, and I fell in love with it. I had a chat with the company who made the scooter and told them what I was planning on doing and asked if they’d be interested in supporting the trip, and they were really keen on it. I did a few test trips – one around London and one across the breadth of the UK, which was 130 miles – and those trips helped me realise that it would be possible. So I set a date, got all my gear, and set off at the start of August.
So the trip was unsupported?
Yeah – I had a rucksack with a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, one change of clothes and then just some food and some battery packs to charge my phone. The bag weighed 4kgs all up, and I just got food from shops and camped along the way.
How long did it take you all up?
21 days in all.
Did you have any major concerns before you set off?
My main concern was travelling on the roads and being quite a slow vehicle. You can only do about 10 or 12 miles an hour on a scooter, so where possible I tried to stay off the roads by using disused train tracks, cycle lanes and pavements. That made it quite interesting, because I spent a lot of time off the main roads and going along all these disused routes.
"From a mental point of view, when you set off on a long journey, you really have to keeping telling yourself that you’re almost there."
I did get run off the road three times in one day. In Scotland, I had to literally dive out of the way of lorries because they were overtaking each other and couldn’t see me. It was when I was going around Loch Ness, and after the third time, I just decided to call it a day, set up camp for the night and head out in the morning when hopefully the roads would be quieter.
Did you get much attention from passersby?
Oh yeah. So many people look at you like “What…what is that? Is that an adult on a child’s scooter?” But then, as you approach them, their face turns from confusion to a big beaming smile. Everybody did it! A few times I stopped to talk to people to tell them what I was doing and they were in utter disbelief. I picked up quite a few cyclists who slowed down their journey because they wanted to spend a day with me whilst I was scooting along. That was nice, otherwise it would’ve been a very lonely journey!
What do you think your favourite thing about the experience was?
It was frustrating at times, but I think the best thing was that I consciously made the decision to just use Google Maps to plan the whole trip. I set it to choose cycle routes, and I did it just to see what it would be like. Instead of intricately planning each day and knowing where I was going to end up, I wanted see the journey unfold in front of me.
It was frustrating because, as with most sat navs, it takes you down routes that don’t really exist anymore. There were a few times when I was taken down tiny, tiny little roads that would take me out to a farmers field, and I’d have to scoot through the field and climb over a gate to get back to the main road!
Then there were the views. Scotland, especially, is such a beautiful place. The good thing about scooting is that you’re always facing forward, so you can take everything in.
"The road vibrations made me lose feeling in my legs for the last four days."
And the final day, of course, was a highlight. The wind was atrocious and I had 50 miles to do. I was having to scoot so hard, even going downhill, so the last day took me about 13 hours. But I got there just as the sun was setting over the sea. It was really quite magical.
How did you celebrate?
I was so tired, I just booked myself into a local hotel, had a couple of beers and went straight to bed. From a mental point of view, when you set off on a long journey, you really have to keeping telling yourself that you’re almost there. It helps you think it’s achievable. So it took a while to sink in, because I’d kind of been telling myself that I’d effectively already done it.
Did you incur any scoot-related injuries?
It was very strange. I developed a really specific lump of muscle on the outside of my thigh within the first week. I could feel it pulling my knee out of place, and it ended up really sore. Luckily that loosed up after the first week.
Another thing that I didn’t anticipate whatsoever was that, because scooters have no suspension and only small tires, the road vibrations made me lose feeling in my legs over the last four days. The swelling in my feet from the trip took about 10 weeks to go down, too.
And you’re planning on turning the trip into a children’s book, is that right?
I am, yeah. I’m still doing a lot of research. I’d like to write an adult adventure book about it, but I think it’d appeal more as a children’s book. I think it’d make for a better story.
Well, I’m quite excited about this. I’ve just started to learn how to swim, at the age of 37, and next year I’ll be swimming the largest body of water in the United Kingdom, which is Loch Ness. Stay tuned.
Keep up to date with Russell's awesome adventures over on his website.