Canadian Ryan Pyle is a Shanghai based Motorcycle adventurer, award winning photographer, public speaker and documentary film maker who found fame while circumnavigating China, together with his brother, on motorbikes. 

The trip saw them earn a Guinness World Record for the longest continuous single motorcycle journey within a country (16,240 km in just over two months) and spawned a feature length film: Tough: Rides China

Ryan and his sibling did the same in India in 2012 – and turned it into Tough Rides: India. Both series have been broadcast on the Travel Channel and the Discovery Channel.

Fast forward to 2016 and Ryan has recently completed a solo ride across Brazil – which he’s turned into Tough Rides: Brazil. 

Ahead of the series premiere TNT spoke to the Tough Rides star…

How does it feel to go from the jungles of Brazil to the heaving metropolis of Shanghai?
It feels very strange to be back home in Shanghai, China. The intensity of my journey in Brazil, riding 10-12 hours per day plus all of the filming that needed to be completed, was really exciting and incredibly difficult. To be back at home in Shanghai now, with all my modern comforts feels like an out-of-body experience. It is completely mind-bending. No longer am I sleeping in a hammock in the Amazon wondering what bugs and wild animals might attack me in the night: now I’m back working out in the gym and enjoying catching up with friends at my local cafe.
In many ways it is these contrasts that I have just described that I am most interested in exploring. I love living in a big modern city like Shanghai, but at the same time I love the challenges associated with surviving motorcycle journeys in remote and difficult places. I have a great passion for pushing myself mentally, physically and emotionally through these contrasts. They are incredibly educational and in my own mind they keep life interesting. And of course, the best way to explore challenging locations is on my motorcycle.

 

Did Brazil live up to your expectations? What left the biggest and most lasting impression on you from this journey?When I begin an undertaking like a Tough Rides motorcycle television production I try to have almost no expectations. I pick a country, I do some reading, I set a route and I pray to a higher power. There is no way to begin a 14,000km journey around a country you’ve never been to before and hold any real expectations. My only concern is that I complete my journey safely, and that my team is working in as a safe an environment as possible at that moment. Did Brazil impress? It was more impressive and more incredible than I could have ever imagined.Brazil is an inspiring place, a country of remarkable beauty both in landscape and in the quality of the people. The single thing that left the biggest impression on me during my seventy-day adventure ride was the three-weeks I spent in the Amazon region. The Amazon is flat like a pancake and the heat and the humidity can be unbearable at times, but wow, traveling through the Amazon can also be spectacular. Obviously the roads are horribly muddy and difficult, but these most often lead to beautiful places.

 

How did your motorcycle hold up?
The BMW F800GSA is a remarkable motorcycle and a fantastic companion out in the wilderness. I put nearly 14,000km on the bike in some horrible conditions and the motorcycle just kept coming back for more.
During my trip in Brazil I had four pre-scheduled maintenance stops. These were planned before I left on my journey and were recommended by some of the BMW Motorrad team in Brazil. It turns out that Amazonian mud is just horrible and destroys break-pads, chains and can put a lot of pressure on your clutch. So given that almost half of my journey was through the Amazon getting regular maintenance was really important.
With regards to spare parts, I had extra break-pads and an extra chain and an extra clutch with me during my trip but never needed to make any repairs on my journey beyond the pre-schedule maintenance. My bike was tough, I was incredibly impressed.

 

How did it feel to do a ‘big trip’ without your brother, Colin Pyle?
Colin’s absence on this trip was felt on day one. You know, my brother and I are incredibly close and we’ve shared in some amazing adventures over the last few years. Standing on Copacabana Beach on day one without him was a bit sad. After we completed our filming and got on our way it was incredibly strange heading out of Rio de Janeiro on my own.
Then obviously you become focused on your daily tasks and riding safe and the trip takes on its own life. But I know my brother would have enjoyed some aspects of the Amazon, especially with its incredibly challenging terrain.
While Colin has retired from the adventure motorcycle television productions he has shifted back in to the entrepreneurial world and opened up an organic coffee company named CRU Kafe; that plus he and his wife are expecting their first child later this summer. So, I’ll be carrying the Tough Rides torch alone moving forward. And that suits me just fine.


Always expect the unexpected but…what was the most unexpected thing that happened to you on this trip?
There were two unexpected things that happened to me on this trip, which I was not really prepared for. The first was that I did not fully anticipate or appreciate the mud of the Amazon. It is remarkable. Some days I would be traveling through mud, and potholes full of mud, that covered the height of the entire motorcycle, up to my chest; and of course the motorcycle would get stuck and I would get stuck and it would take a long time to dig out. The mud of the Amazon is so sticky and nasty and I no idea just how slow this would make our progress. Some days we would spend twelve hours traveling and only cover 60km. Painful.
The second unexpected aspect of my adventure in Brazil was the cold weather. Sure, we all know that Brazil is a tropical country but as we were closing out our journey we passed through the southern province of Santa Catarina and I spent a lot of days riding in weather that was near freezing and raining. Compare that to the multiple days in the Amazon, just 2 weeks prior to that, when I was suffering from heat stroke in 35C weather and 100% humidity. In my reading and my planning for Brazil I feel like I was prepared for the heat, but much less mentally prepared for the colder weather towards the end of our journey.

All the extra-curricular activities you did (coffee, beer, sushi, climbing, camping etc.) that make for a great film – how were these researched and organised in advance?
The extra-curricular activities that I do during these expeditions are really important, because they put me in touch with local people and that allows my audience to understand the country and its people better, plus I get the benefit of building lasting friendships. And these activities do lead to great filming, and truly memorable moments. While the motorcycling aspects of the journey is very adventurous, it is important to learn as much about Brazil as possible through these activities and interactions so that there is greater context to the scenery that I am passing through while riding at 80km an hour on the better roads in Brazil.All of the activities that I do in all of my productions are selected and organised by my team. In this respect I am very lucky because Colin and I created the Tough Rides motorcycle concept and we’ve kept control of the series. So that means in Brazil I had to create the concept, plan the route, organise the extra-circulars and bring on the broadcast partners as well as put together all of the other aspects of the production. It is time-consuming, but when it all works as it did in Brazil, it is incredibly rewarding. It should also be mentioned that this is my full-time job; I am only a television producer and presenter and motorcycle adventurer. I make several television productions per year for various partners and broadcasters around the globe.


Did you really feel the strength of social media and the connection to the Adventure community with your communication of this trip?
Social media is remarkable, and allows for so much interaction and sharing. On this journey in Brazil I did feel the strength of social media and the adventure community was incredibly supportive from day one. We’ve had a lovely response from people all around the world that followed my exploration of Brazil. For this support I am forever grateful.


What kind of support vehicle was the rest of the team travelling in and how did this cope with the harsh jungle conditions compared to the bike?
The support vehicle is a very important aspect of the production. There is no real way to make a multi-episode HD adventure television show without having a truckload of camera equipment, hard drives and a dedicated videographer. We had a large SUV to help get us through our journey in Brazil and it struggled. The incredibly long days in the Amazon specifically caused our support vehicle a lot of problems and it would regularly get stuck in the mud and have to be “winched” out. The bike was able to move much quicker through the mud and of course was much lighter than the car and easier to lift out and manoeuvre if stuck in deep mud.


How did the group dynamic work on this trip? Old friends or new crew?
Altogether we had a four-person crew. We had one fixer and production manager who was a local Brazilian who managed to help organise our journey from Sao Paulo, and then two cameramen with me on the road – one of my cameramen was also driving.
Each trip brings on new personalities. My main cameraman, Chad Ingraham, has been with me on all of my productions; including the Tough Rides and Extreme Treks series that I work on as well as a few shows with Discovery Channel that I’ve done. My second cameraman was new to this adventure and my Brazilian production manager was also new.
The group dynamic is always challenging on these productions because there are friendships, but there are also work stresses and significant safety concerns. All of these dynamics need to be clearly understood and worked out. As the director of the show I am also team leader and managing various personalities over a 65-day production in some very challenging conditions is not an easy task. I am very proud that we’ve accomplished what we have. I am excited to look forward to season #4, my hope is that we can begin production in early 2017.


Did the use of drone filming make a real difference to the kind of footage you can capture and show of this amazing country?
As I mentioned earlier much of Brazil is very flat. Showing ‘scale’ and ‘depth’ is very hard because there is never a high vantage point to position the camera on. So using the drone to fly above my motorcycle allows the audience to feel the landscape and get a better sense of what it might be like to “ride” through such beautiful and remote places. I believe using the drone in our filmmaking will bring another element of adventure and understanding to our audience. It is a very effective tool for filmmaking.


What have you learnt most from doing this latest journey?
These motorcycle adventures are all encompassing. They educate, overwhelm and inspire you all at the same time. The learning process is mainly two-fold. First you obviously learn a lot about the country you are traveling in, and its people and what their lives are like; this is where we get involved in our extra-circular actives and this is where the majority of my friendships are made. In my mind these experiences are priceless and very rewarding; and this is basically external learning.
The second process of learning is internal. It is about self-reflection, personal growth and a deeper understanding of “self”. These motorcycle adventures are incredibly challenging, how does one deal with these challenges? How does one react to internal and external pressures? How does one react to problem solving within a team environment? How does one react when Mother Nature tries to kill you again and again and again? These trips allow you to find your breaking point; they allow you to understand how to work within a team in very challenging situations and to understand your own weakness and strengths in a most pure sense. This process of self-understanding and self-reflection is also priceless; as rarely in our distracted urban lives to we really give ourselves an opportunity to “test our resolve”.
If you have weak character, if you like to blame others before yourself, if you lose your temper over small issues…you won’t last one day on a Tough Ride; you won’t last one hour in the Amazon. It is not about finding a “Zen” state, it is about pushing yourself beyond your limits and maintaining respect; respect for yourself, respect for your team, respect for the country you are traveling in and respect for the dangers that Mother Nature is putting in your way.


What’s next for Ryan Pyle?
I am currently filming for two months in Canada, and the going is amazing. And obviously with the success of our production in Brazil there is a lot more activity on the television production front. I’ll be going in to production on Season #2 of my Extreme Treks series in late August, which is on Discovery Channel and there might be a project in the USA at some stage before Christmas as well. Lots to be done!

 

Thanks Ryan! Tough Rides: Brazil starring Ryan Pyle will be shown on the Travel Channel starting 23 July 2016

Canadian Ryan Pyle is a Shanghai based Motorcycle adventurer, award winning photographer, public speaker and documentary film maker who found fame while circumnavigating China, together with his brother, on motorbikes. 

The trip saw them earn a Guinness World Record for the longest continuous single motorcycle journey within a country (16,240 km in just over two months) and spawned a feature length film: Tough: Rides China

Ryan and his sibling did the same in India in 2012 – and turned it into Tough Rides: India. Both series have been broadcast on the Travel Channel and the Discovery Channel.

Fast forward to 2016 and Ryan has recently completed a solo ride across Brazil – which he’s turned into Tough Rides: Brazil. 

Ahead of the series premiere TNT spoke to the Tough Rides star…

How does it feel to go from the jungles of Brazil to the heaving metropolis of Shanghai?
It feels very strange to be back home in Shanghai, China. The intensity of my journey in Brazil, riding 10-12 hours per day plus all of the filming that needed to be completed, was really exciting and incredibly difficult. To be back at home in Shanghai now, with all my modern comforts feels like an out-of-body experience. It is completely mind-bending. No longer am I sleeping in a hammock in the Amazon wondering what bugs and wild animals might attack me in the night: now I’m back working out in the gym and enjoying catching up with friends at my local cafe.
In many ways it is these contrasts that I have just described that I am most interested in exploring. I love living in a big modern city like Shanghai, but at the same time I love the challenges associated with surviving motorcycle journeys in remote and difficult places. I have a great passion for pushing myself mentally, physically and emotionally through these contrasts. They are incredibly educational and in my own mind they keep life interesting. And of course, the best way to explore challenging locations is on my motorcycle.

 

Did Brazil live up to your expectations? What left the biggest and most lasting impression on you from this journey?When I begin an undertaking like a Tough Rides motorcycle television production I try to have almost no expectations. I pick a country, I do some reading, I set a route and I pray to a higher power. There is no way to begin a 14,000km journey around a country you’ve never been to before and hold any real expectations. My only concern is that I complete my journey safely, and that my team is working in as a safe an environment as possible at that moment. Did Brazil impress? It was more impressive and more incredible than I could have ever imagined.Brazil is an inspiring place, a country of remarkable beauty both in landscape and in the quality of the people. The single thing that left the biggest impression on me during my seventy-day adventure ride was the three-weeks I spent in the Amazon region. The Amazon is flat like a pancake and the heat and the humidity can be unbearable at times, but wow, traveling through the Amazon can also be spectacular. Obviously the roads are horribly muddy and difficult, but these most often lead to beautiful places.

 

How did your motorcycle hold up?
The BMW F800GSA is a remarkable motorcycle and a fantastic companion out in the wilderness. I put nearly 14,000km on the bike in some horrible conditions and the motorcycle just kept coming back for more.
During my trip in Brazil I had four pre-scheduled maintenance stops. These were planned before I left on my journey and were recommended by some of the BMW Motorrad team in Brazil. It turns out that Amazonian mud is just horrible and destroys break-pads, chains and can put a lot of pressure on your clutch. So given that almost half of my journey was through the Amazon getting regular maintenance was really important.
With regards to spare parts, I had extra break-pads and an extra chain and an extra clutch with me during my trip but never needed to make any repairs on my journey beyond the pre-schedule maintenance. My bike was tough, I was incredibly impressed.

How did it feel to do a ‘big trip’ without your brother, Colin Pyle?
Colin’s absence on this trip was felt on day one. You know, my brother and I are incredibly close and we’ve shared in some amazing adventures over the last few years. Standing on Copacabana Beach on day one without him was a bit sad. After we completed our filming and got on our way it was incredibly strange heading out of Rio de Janeiro on my own.
Then obviously you become focused on your daily tasks and riding safe and the trip takes on its own life. But I know my brother would have enjoyed some aspects of the Amazon, especially with its incredibly challenging terrain.
While Colin has retired from the adventure motorcycle television productions he has shifted back in to the entrepreneurial world and opened up an organic coffee company named CRU Kafe; that plus he and his wife are expecting their first child later this summer. So, I’ll be carrying the Tough Rides torch alone moving forward. And that suits me just fine.


Always expect the unexpected but…what was the most unexpected thing that happened to you on this trip?
There were two unexpected things that happened to me on this trip, which I was not really prepared for. The first was that I did not fully anticipate or appreciate the mud of the Amazon. It is remarkable. Some days I would be traveling through mud, and potholes full of mud, that covered the height of the entire motorcycle, up to my chest; and of course the motorcycle would get stuck and I would get stuck and it would take a long time to dig out. The mud of the Amazon is so sticky and nasty and I no idea just how slow this would make our progress. Some days we would spend twelve hours traveling and only cover 60km. Painful.
The second unexpected aspect of my adventure in Brazil was the cold weather. Sure, we all know that Brazil is a tropical country but as we were closing out our journey we passed through the southern province of Santa Catarina and I spent a lot of days riding in weather that was near freezing and raining. Compare that to the multiple days in the Amazon, just 2 weeks prior to that, when I was suffering from heat stroke in 35C weather and 100% humidity. In my reading and my planning for Brazil I feel like I was prepared for the heat, but much less mentally prepared for the colder weather towards the end of our journey.

How have your riding skills improved as a result of this journey, and perhaps the BR319 experience?
I always am quick to say on camera, and in my speaking events, that I am not a great motorcycle rider. You’ll never see me signing up for the Dakar Rally or anything like that. I love riding my motorcycle and exploring countries and I love trying out some challenging routes, but by no means am I interested in racing or do I consider myself prolific in the off-road riding department. I am humble. I have a real knack for covering huge distances, staying really focused and riding in insane conditions; but all of this is done at a very reasonable speed and safety is always my first priority.
With all of that being said, the BR-319 was not really motorcycle riding. I mean, yes I was on my motorcycle but the road was so bad and the mud was so deep that I wasn’t really able to get “up on the pegs” and attack the road and really generate any pace. It would have been far too dangerous to do that as some of the hidden potholes and sinkholes were deeper than the motorcycle’s height. So instead I just kept both feet down close to the ground and “limped” my way for about 1,000km along the BR-319. The process doesn’t make you a better motorcycle rider, it’ll either break your spirit or make you as patient as the Buddhist monk. I like to think I picked up a few monk-like qualities on this stretch of road. When you are stuck in a mud-puddle up to your armpits and its only 8am and you still have 500km to cover, getting angry really doesn’t help the situation at all.

All the extra-curricular activities you did (coffee, beer, sushi, climbing, camping etc.) that make for a great film – how were these researched and organised in advance?
The extra-curricular activities that I do during these expeditions are really important, because they put me in touch with local people and that allows my audience to understand the country and its people better, plus I get the benefit of building lasting friendships. And these activities do lead to great filming, and truly memorable moments. While the motorcycling aspects of the journey is very adventurous, it is important to learn as much about Brazil as possible through these activities and interactions so that there is greater context to the scenery that I am passing through while riding at 80km an hour on the better roads in Brazil.All of the activities that I do in all of my productions are selected and organised by my team. In this respect I am very lucky because Colin and I created the Tough Rides motorcycle concept and we’ve kept control of the series. So that means in Brazil I had to create the concept, plan the route, organise the extra-circulars and bring on the broadcast partners as well as put together all of the other aspects of the production. It is time-consuming, but when it all works as it did in Brazil, it is incredibly rewarding. It should also be mentioned that this is my full-time job; I am only a television producer and presenter and motorcycle adventurer. I make several television productions per year for various partners and broadcasters around the globe.


Did you really feel the strength of social media and the connection to the Adventure community with your communication of this trip?
Social media is remarkable, and allows for so much interaction and sharing. On this journey in Brazil I did feel the strength of social media and the adventure community was incredibly supportive from day one. We’ve had a lovely response from people all around the world that followed my exploration of Brazil. For this support I am forever grateful.


What kind of support vehicle was the rest of the team travelling in and how did this cope with the harsh jungle conditions compared to the bike?
The support vehicle is a very important aspect of the production. There is no real way to make a multi-episode HD adventure television show without having a truckload of camera equipment, hard drives and a dedicated videographer. We had a large SUV to help get us through our journey in Brazil and it struggled. The incredibly long days in the Amazon specifically caused our support vehicle a lot of problems and it would regularly get stuck in the mud and have to be “winched” out. The bike was able to move much quicker through the mud and of course was much lighter than the car and easier to lift out and manoeuvre if stuck in deep mud.


How did the group dynamic work on this trip? Old friends or new crew?
Altogether we had a four-person crew. We had one fixer and production manager who was a local Brazilian who managed to help organise our journey from Sao Paulo, and then two cameramen with me on the road – one of my cameramen was also driving.
Each trip brings on new personalities. My main cameraman, Chad Ingraham, has been with me on all of my productions; including the Tough Rides and Extreme Treks series that I work on as well as a few shows with Discovery Channel that I’ve done. My second cameraman was new to this adventure and my Brazilian production manager was also new.
The group dynamic is always challenging on these productions because there are friendships, but there are also work stresses and significant safety concerns. All of these dynamics need to be clearly understood and worked out. As the director of the show I am also team leader and managing various personalities over a 65-day production in some very challenging conditions is not an easy task. I am very proud that we’ve accomplished what we have. I am excited to look forward to season #4, my hope is that we can begin production in early 2017.


Did the use of drone filming make a real difference to the kind of footage you can capture and show of this amazing country?
As I mentioned earlier much of Brazil is very flat. Showing ‘scale’ and ‘depth’ is very hard because there is never a high vantage point to position the camera on. So using the drone to fly above my motorcycle allows the audience to feel the landscape and get a better sense of what it might be like to “ride” through such beautiful and remote places. I believe using the drone in our filmmaking will bring another element of adventure and understanding to our audience. It is a very effective tool for filmmaking.


What have you learnt most from doing this latest journey?
These motorcycle adventures are all encompassing. They educate, overwhelm and inspire you all at the same time. The learning process is mainly two-fold. First you obviously learn a lot about the country you are traveling in, and its people and what their lives are like; this is where we get involved in our extra-circular actives and this is where the majority of my friendships are made. In my mind these experiences are priceless and very rewarding; and this is basically external learning.
The second process of learning is internal. It is about self-reflection, personal growth and a deeper understanding of “self”. These motorcycle adventures are incredibly challenging, how does one deal with these challenges? How does one react to internal and external pressures? How does one react to problem solving within a team environment? How does one react when Mother Nature tries to kill you again and again and again? These trips allow you to find your breaking point; they allow you to understand how to work within a team in very challenging situations and to understand your own weakness and strengths in a most pure sense. This process of self-understanding and self-reflection is also priceless; as rarely in our distracted urban lives to we really give ourselves an opportunity to “test our resolve”.
If you have weak character, if you like to blame others before yourself, if you lose your temper over small issues…you won’t last one day on a Tough Ride; you won’t last one hour in the Amazon. It is not about finding a “Zen” state, it is about pushing yourself beyond your limits and maintaining respect; respect for yourself, respect for your team, respect for the country you are traveling in and respect for the dangers that Mother Nature is putting in your way.


What’s next for Ryan Pyle?
I am currently filming for two months in Canada, and the going is amazing. And obviously with the success of our production in Brazil there is a lot more activity on the television production front. I’ll be going in to production on Season #2 of my Extreme Treks series in late August, which is on Discovery Channel and there might be a project in the USA at some stage before Christmas as well. Lots to be done!

 

Thanks Ryan! Tough Rides: Brazil starring Ryan Pyle will be shown on the Travel Channel starting 23 July 2016