Tyson Fonder woke up one morning ready for a grand challenge.
“I looked at myself in the mirror and was like, ‘What do you want to do in life?’,” Tyson recalls. “I thought, ‘You gotta set a high goal. If you break a record or do something really ridiculous, then you can do pretty much anything that you want to do.’”
The answer came to him soon after. Tyson wanted to ride a 50cc scooter around the United States — coast to coast, border to border. It was a big bold idea that was thrilling, and, it turns out, potentially record-breaking.
Tyson had been riding for about four years by then, motoring around his Minneapolis hometown on a Tao Tao 50cc four stroke. He knew that he’d have to upgrade while planning the trip, so he went out and bought a Genuine Roughhouse 50 Sport two-stroke.
Tyson’s hometown scooter shop recommended replacing the stock tires with Heidenau K58s. “I still have the original front tire that I used on my trip on,” he reports. “That thing has 14,000 miles on it, and it’s still going! I tell everyone about these tires. I can’t speak enough of the company. They make the best tires on the market.”
The record-breaking ride started in Minneapolis and took him to New York City, down the coast to Miami, through the south to San Diego, up the west coast to Seattle and then back to Minneapolis. He stopped by Heidenau USA on his way up the California coast.
It took 95 days — leaving on 20 April and arriving back home on 23 July — to travel 10,585 miles.
Most of the trip he crashed on people’s couches using the Couchsurfing app or camped in local parks. “I probably stayed at 40 peoples’ houses, 40 strangers,” he says. “There are a lot of good people out there. On the news, there’s a lot of bad stuff, but you never hear about the good things that people do. This restored my faith in humanity a little bit.”
While there’s a lot to take in when you’re traveling across the States on a 50cc scooter, Tyson has some memorable highlights, including his first stop in New York City. “When I saw downtown New York City and the Statue of Liberty, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m kinda doing something big here.’”
Throughout the ride, Tyson had good mechanical fortune. “There were no rough times,” he says of his scooter and the K58s. “I hit a nail when I was in Montana, but I had my tire kit on me, and that was okay. The engine on my scooter — this is crazy — blew 20 miles away from Minneapolis. It was the last day!”
He’s waiting to get confirmation from Guinness World Records that he now owns the record for Longest Distance on a 50cc Scooter. “They’re going over all the information, like the GPS tracker, the gas receipts, signatures from gas station employees, and all that.
“I think I only spent like $500 in gas, but I probably had 400-something receipts and 30 or 40 pages of signatures,” he says. “I had two terabytes worth of GoPro footage because they want 20 minutes a day of video. So, that’s a lot that went into getting all that together.”
Tyson is already mapping out his next adventure. “Next spring I’m heading to Europe for two years,” he says. “Right now I’m saving up some money and looking for sponsorships. I’m gonna do it slow and sightsee.”
That passion for the next trip was born from his experiences on the road, as well as how he felt when he got home from the first one.
“When I got home that first night all I could think was, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I did that.’ There were times when I wanted to quit. I crashed once on a slippery hill in Pennsylvania and thought I should just go home. But, I squashed that right out of my mind 10 seconds later. I thought, ‘If I quit now, I’m gonna quit for the rest of my life.’ So, I kept moving forward.”