Royal Oak resident sets off on 10,000-mile bicycle journey through Asia, Europe

By: Jeremy Carroll | Online Only | Published April 3, 2011

 Royal Oak resident Kellen Smetana takes a break from riding his bike in front of the Spirit of Detroit, near his Detroit office. Smetana has set off on a six-month, 10,000-mile ride across Asia and Europe for charity.

Royal Oak resident Kellen Smetana takes a break from riding his bike in front of the Spirit of Detroit, near his Detroit office. Smetana has set off on a six-month, 10,000-mile ride across Asia and Europe for charity.

After seeing episodes of “Long Way Round,” a documentary series about lengthy motorcycle trips around the world, Royal Oak resident Kellen Smetana started thinking about a trip of his own.

The active 25-year-old didn’t want to see the world on a motorcycle though.

He wanted to ride it by bicycle.

Smetana recently left for a six-month journey across Asia and Europe to raise money and awareness for World Bicycle Relief, a nonprofit organization that provides bicycles for students in developing countries.

“I’m a pretty big cyclist, and I thought it would be a fun way to see the world,” he said.

The 10,000-mile trip was to start in Hong Kong and proceed west to Lisbon, Portugal — all by way of bicycle.

“I’ve done longer hiking trips, like weeks at a time, but the longest bike ride I’ve done was just a weekend trip,” Smetana said.

He won’t be trekking alone — from China to Turkey, fellow cyclist Ben Youngriev is along for the ride, and for the second half of the trip, he’ll be joined by Bill Corny. Corny is a friend from college, and Smetana met Youngriev through cycling.

Smetana’s bike will be loaded with approximately 60 pounds of gear, including a tent that he said they will use for about a third of the trip, when they can’t find a cheap hostel or hotel to stay in.

“We’ll average about 60 miles a day,” he said. “It will certainly vary if we are in the mountains. And there will probably be days where we ride from sun up to sun down.”

Smetana, originally from Novi, graduated from the University of Michigan in 2007 and moved to Royal Oak after beginning to work for Deloitte as a business consultant. He is taking a leave of absence from the company to do the trip.

“They are a great employer, and they do great things for work-life balance,” Smetana said.

The trip takes Smetana through China, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Croatia, Italy, France and Spain, among others, before entering Portugal. He said he’s most excited about seeing the countryside of China and Croatia.

Before the trip launched, Smetana had raised $1,300 for World Bicycle Relief, with a goal to bring in $13,400 by the end of the trip in the fall. That amount would be enough to get bikes for an entire community that the organization services, he said.

The group started following the catastrophic tsunami that hit parts of Asia in 2004.

Tom Smetana, Kellen’s father, said he and his wife have a strong mixture of pride and anxiety about the trip.

“We are very proud of what he is doing, but anxious because of what the journey entails,” he said.

He said Smetana gets his adventurous streak from both parents, who took him, along with two other siblings, on many car trips throughout the country.

“We taught them to get out and explore, search for new things,” Tom Smetana said.

Smetana left the area for Hong Kong on March 28; his journey is being chronicled on his website, www.revolutionsforrelief.org. Donations for World Bicycle Relief can be made there as well.