Brendan Walsh of Westbrook goes by the moniker Bicycle Brendan, building an impressive list of accomplishments as an ultra-endurance athlete who raises money for charity. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Brendan Walsh was riding his minibike in Boston nine years ago when a collision with another rider sent him over the handlebars at 35 mph. He slammed into the road before skidding to a stop, suffering a concussion, a torn rotator cuff, and even appendicitis because of the trauma of the impact.

For Walsh, a college student at the time who was caught up in what he calls a “hooligan” lifestyle that included “partying way too much,” the crash was a sign to take another path. While recovering from the injuries at his parent’s home, he found the vehicle to that path – his childhood mountain bike.

“That motorcycle accident was the first time when I was like, ‘I’ve got to do something to change my life around,'” said Walsh, now 30 and living in Westbrook. “I replaced all the negative habits in my life with the positive habits of exercise.”

Today, Walsh goes by the moniker Bicycle Brendan, building an impressive list of accomplishments as an ultra-endurance athlete who raises money for charity.

He has biked across the country from Boston to Seattle, 4,000 miles in 60 days. He’s run the length of Maine from Lubec to Kittery, 312 miles in 10 days. He’s hiked the tallest mountains in each New England state while riding his bike from one peak to the next. He’s cycled the length of the country from north to south, going from Madawaska to Key West, Florida, in 11 days, 9 hours and 33 minutes, a journey that set a Guinness World Record and prompted him to write a book, “For Those Who Can’t,” about his experience.

They’re extraordinary feats. Walsh, however, thinks of himself as an ordinary person, “some dude in Westbrook,” no more designed to travel these distances than anyone else.


“It’s the willingness to endure, really,” Matt Perez, a frequent distance runner, said of his friend, Walsh. “It’s going to be painful, it’s going to hurt, it’s going to be so mentally taxing. And the willingness is the superpower within all of this.”


Through it all, Walsh has endured challenges and obstacles, from injuries to a two-week detour in Colombia during his latest effort to set a record by cycling the length of South America in 37 days.

And he’s done it all for charity. The ride to Seattle raised over $4,000 for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and the ride to Key West – paired with a run across Cape Cod – aided the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The run through Maine earned $3,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Those organizations are grateful for his help.

“We got news coverage, he’s out in the community, he’s wearing purple in his Alzheimer’s stuff. He (was) shining a light on our organization, in addition to raising the money,” said Drew Wyman, executive director of the Maine chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “He’s clearly passionate about this, and loves to do it.”


Ultra-endurance athlete Brendan Walsh poses in Key West, Florida, in 2019. Walsh set a Guinness World Record by cycling from Madawaska to Key West in 11 days, 9 hours, and 33 minutes. Courtesy of Brendan Walsh

Michelle Vaughan, senior manager of development for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said Walsh raised more than $10,000, helping the organization with its objective.

“Donations to NAMI support our mission to provide free mental health education resources (and) community-based support groups, and raise public awareness,” she said. “We are so grateful for Brendan’s tremendous support.”

For Walsh, whose latest cause is the clean-water nonprofit Water 1st International, fundraising is what keeps him going.

“It’s all about the charity. Because otherwise, I wouldn’t really feel like I have a good enough reason to be putting all this time into it,” said Walsh, who grew up in western Massachusetts and moved to Maine in the fall of 2021 after his parents relocated to Portland.

“I’m only going to do something if there’s a bigger reason for it. I have personal fitness goals, those keep me going, but they’re also really to build up on the foundations to help everything else.”

Why the push to set records? Walsh, who works at JAR Cannabis in South Portland, said that’s about the charity too.


“It’s really used as a tool to draw attention to the cause,” he said. “If I explain this concept, I’m going to ride my bike from here to here, they’re like ‘OK, that’s cool.’ But then you say it’s going to be in this many days for a Guinness World Record. Then you have someone’s attention.”


When meeting Brendan Walsh, the first thing you notice is his appearance.

There’s the long hair, either down past his shoulders or tied up in a bun, and the full sleeve tattoo, giving the impression of someone who’s part hippie, part punk rocker. Hear him talk and you notice the cadence and demeanor, always positive, cheerful, excitable, and laid-back. It’s part motivational speaker, part yogi, a mix of “Parks and Recreation’s” Chris Traeger and Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski.

It’s not the typical athlete persona, even though Walsh does have the lean build and toned arms and legs of someone who spends hours on a bike. Ask him about it, and he laughs. It’s a topic he’s heard brought up before.

“All the time,” he said. “And part of me loves that, I kind of like the unassuming nature. It’s super-duper inspiring. Then you look at anybody, and you think ‘Man, what is that person capable of?'”


He graduated from the New England Institute of Art in 2015 and is a musician, playing bass and guitar and singing in a band. He’s into wood burning, writing, and poetry. He meditates and has drawn his inspiration from the writings of Jack Kerouac and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

He constantly has a “Dude” or “Bro” ready as he begins another anecdote or describes another life credo. The hat he’s worn along his rides and runs is adorned with a phrase: “Be Good To Each Other.”

“This is me, man,” he said.

When Brendan Walsh was preparing for his bike ride in South America, he spent more than five hours a week on hill workouts and rode for 20 hours a week. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

According to his wife, Olyvia, it always has been. The two met while attending Oakmont Regional High School in Ashburnham, Massachusetts.

“He’s super funny, so creative, always positive,” she said. “Growing up, he was always the one that was trying to make people happy, make people laugh, joking around. He would always be there if somebody needed him.”

Walsh, however, has had his struggles. He deals with anxiety, and he was hit hard at the end of high school and the start of college when he lost two close friends to suicide and another to a drug overdose.


Walsh said the loss of one of those friends, an Oakmont classmate named Ryan Francis, was a catalyst for blacked-out nights of drinking and getting into fights.

“Losing my buddy Ryan at such a young age, that really (messed) me up,” Walsh said. “And I never really realized how sad I was about it. … It took me a long time to be able to see how much it affected me.”


After the minibike accident, Walsh had a break from his self-destructive behavior – and after finding his old bike, he had a new way to fill the void.

“It was the first time I was not in a cycle of partying,” he said. “I was literally forced out of the situation for the first time in years.”

Walsh started riding again. He became hooked. A soccer player, wrestler, and track athlete in high school, he had his next athletic passion.


“I was the running guy in my area growing up. … I’d get home and then I’d run to the only store in town and back, every day,” he said. “For that four-year time period (after high school), I lost all of that.”

Olyvia could see cycling blended with Walsh’s interests.

“He used to love just riding around in Boston, and seeing things on his bike,” she said. “I think it really sparked the love of cycling and exploring.”

Walsh’s rides began to get longer. His routes extended farther and farther from home.

“I pretty much ate up an entire map of Massachusetts in a couple of years,” he said. “I really wanted a fresh, new playground.”

The breadth of the United States provided one. Without any experience with overnight rides, Walsh packed up his gear and strapped it to his bike – a tent folded up on the front, a guitar on the back.


“I just had this calling,” he said, “and I could not get it out of my head, for two years.”

Brendan Walsh at a sign marking Logan Pass in Montana in 2017. Walsh cycled from Boston to Seattle, raising money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Courtesy of Brendan Walsh

He set out from Boston on May 13, 2017, and arrived in Washington state two months later, having spent his nights camping out in the wilderness or on helpful strangers’ lawns, assisted by the Warm Showers app that, Olyvia said, is “Airbnb for cyclists.”

“I could never do that,” she said. “But he just knows how to talk to people. … That’s just who he is. He can figure it out.”

Pushing him along was his fundraising effort and the cause for the trip in the first place. Walsh’s grandmother died of cancer before the ride, and his fundraising for St. Jude was a tribute to her. His subsequent trips – he calls them “art ventures” – have had that same personal touch. Hiking the six New England mountains raised funds for the Alzheimer’s Association after his aunt died from the disease. The record-setting ride to Florida raised money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a cause that became important to Walsh after the deaths of his friends.


The rides come with a price. Walsh has to provide for himself in his ventures. He said his employers at JAR are flexible with his taking time off for the journeys, and he has sponsors in equipment outfitter Kulkea and nutrition company Clean Machine who have paid for meals and gear.


Other costs are more demanding. For the South America trip, Walsh started a GoFundMe to help with the expenses, which dwarfed those of his previous ventures.

“I took out a business loan, I took out credit cards and all of that stuff to pay for … flights, to pay for food, to pay for bike parts, literally to pay for just about everything,” he said. “I’d say about 90 percent of it was self-funded.”

Brendan Walsh at the summit of Katahdin in June 2021. Walsh hiked the tallest mountains in each New England state to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. Courtesy of Brendan Walsh

There’s a physical price as well. Walsh has lost count of the number of scrapes and strains and bruises and muscle pulls. He’s been hit by cars while riding; one collision in 2019, right before he rode to Key West, sidelined him for four months with a torn meniscus and concussion.

He has tried to mitigate that damage by meeting with trainer Hank DeGroat and physical therapist Dave Melchiorri leading up to his events. The two will ease the wear and tear he’s feeling, work with him to prevent future damage and help him get in the right headspace to tackle his next feat.

“Usually, I treat a marathoner and I have a month before they start hitting the asphalt and running again,” said Melchiorri, who is based in Waltham, Massachusetts. “(Walsh will say) ‘Oh no, I already cooked up this other idea, I want to start training at the end of this week.’ … Nobody else I’ve ever really met could have worked towards and achieved what he did.”

When the venture nears, Walsh’s training ramps up. These days, which he considers his offseason, Walsh will spend 6-8 hours a week in the gym, three hours running and four on his bike – he doesn’t have a car, so the bike is how he gets around. When he was preparing for his latest venture in South America, he spent more than five hours a week on hill workouts and rode for 20 hours a week.



There has been one ride Walsh couldn’t finish.

He began his South America ride on March 1, attempting to set a record by riding from Cartagena, Colombia, to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of Chile and Argentina in 37 days. At the start of the second day, Walsh, riding with a crew that included his friend Perez and bike mechanic Juan Laverde, was heading into the Colombian town of Caucasia when they encountered a massive protest triggered by a mining strike over government taxes.

The scene was chaotic. Crowds blocked the street, and smoke grenades and firecrackers went off in pockets throughout the sea of people.

“We roll up to this town, and you could immediately see people flooding into the streets, and there was this big banner across the road preventing the van from going through,” Perez said. “That’s when (we said) ‘OK, we’re going to need to figure out how to move forward here.'”

Brendan Walsh of Westbrook poses with members of the family he stayed with in Colombia in March while being delayed in his effort to cycle the length of South America. Courtesy of Brendan Walsh

Perez and Laverde, in a van, couldn’t move. Walsh, on his bike, carefully wove his way through the crowd. Eventually, Walsh found his way into a valley, where he got word on his dying cell phone from Perez that he should find a place to stay. Walsh pulled over to the house he was beside and asked if he could rest. It was the beginning of a 13-day stay, as he avoided dangerous spots around him while waiting for Perez and Laverde to be freed from the scene in Caucasia.


Despite a language barrier – and while relying heavily on, he said, on charades – Walsh bonded with the family of seven, which he still refers to as “mi familia.” On March 15, the three crewmembers reunited and returned to the United States, narrowly evading more violence that was heading their way.

The turn of events disrupted Walsh’s record pursuit and fundraising push. Similar to how he’s approached the last few years, however, Walsh tried to look at the positives.

“Instead of dwelling on ‘I have no money, this thing didn’t happen, I wasn’t able to raise any money for this charity that’s really important to me,'” he said, “I’m not focusing on those as much as I’m focusing on how I met these people who showed me more love and more kindness in my life than anybody ever has.”

That pursuit is delayed, but not over. Walsh is still fundraising for Water 1st and still thinking of creative ventures to attempt. Walsh doesn’t stop on the road, and he doesn’t stop off it, either.

“I get great joy from being able to help people through this weird thing that I happen to be not too bad at,” he said. “I’m trying to use this niche thing I do to help the people around me.”

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