Each day a new journey for outdoor travel pioneer Leo Le Bon

Leo Le Bon sliced through Berkeley’s Tilden Regional Park, his silvery gray hair streaming out the back of his bike helmet as he pedaled past a cyclist.

A short time later the other rider, who was 52, caught up with Le Bon and realized with some astonishment that the man who had overtaken him was a lot older than he was.

“There’s no shame in beating an 80-year-old,” Le Bon said with a smile as he rode on.

Every day is a new adventure for the man who pioneered adventure in outdoor travel when he and his partners opened Mountain Travel in Oakland’s Montclair district in 1969. The company became the first in the nation to offer commercial mountain treks from the United States to destinations abroad.

More than four decades later, the adventure travel industry is exploding, growing at 65 percent a year and worth more than $260 billion, according to a 2013 report by George Washington University and the Adventure Travel Trade Association.

“Leo was a visionary who saw opportunity,” said Kevin Callaghan, CEO of Mountain Travel Sobek in Emeryville. “All the companies that came after his exist because of Leo.”

Passion for mountains

Le Bon has traveled to every continent, with treks to the Himalayas and to peaks in South America. He wrote three books, “Where Mountains Live,” “Majestic Mountains” and “The Adventurous Traveler’s Guide,” which are illustrated with his photos.

Among his favorite mountain places are base camp on Mount Everest, at 19,000 feet, and the expansive Tibetan plateau, at 14,000 feet.

Le Bon was born in Belgium, where there are few mountains. He was raised to get around on a bike.

“I was biking when Eddy Merckx was in diapers,” he said, referring to the five-time winner of the Tour de France, who is 69

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