What began as a weekend pastime has rapidly transformed into the foundations of an epic adventure. Beginning in September, this site’s authors, Andy and Evan, will set off on a year-plus tour of China by bicycle. The timeline and exact itinerary of our journey are thus far very tentative, and they are likely to remain that way. Our goal is not to complete a distance course in record time, but to immerse ourselves in the fabric of China and familiarize ourselves with its people in order to convey their stories on this site and elsewhere.
Over the course of our journey, we’ll be weaving between various landmarks as marker points, but the vast majority of our time will be spent in the countryside, where ‘real’ China still exists. Dense urban and manufacturing centers, while teeming with LBXes of all backgrounds, have largely been sucked dry of both values and culture. We plan to make a grand tour of historical China, departing and finishing in Beijing. From there we’ll cruise straight to the ocean before joining the Yellow River and exploring Henan, the cradle of Chinese civilization. From Henan we’ll split time between Anhui and Jiangsu provinces before rejoining the coast at Shanghai and probably taking a short breather with some friends. Then we’ll bolt inland again through Anhui and make a run back toward the ocean through Zhejiang, one of China’s major manufacturing provinces. Weather permitting, we’ll spend some time in Hubei and Hunan, dead in the center of sub-Yangtze China. Then we’ll skirt the coast down through Fujian before pushing into Guangdong, the wealthiest and most influential province in China, where a visa run to Hong Kong will probably be in order. From there we’ll start getting more ethnic as we head west to meander through Guangxi and Yunnan, provinces of mountains and minorities, cutting right against the borders of Vietnam and Burma before the return of summer when we’ll undertake the craziest leg of the trip: the climb up the Tibetan plateau through Sichuan and Qinghai (think “little Tibet”). After months of exploring wilderness and Tibetans, we’ll cross the Silk Road and skirt down to Lanzhou before tilting north again through the Muslim province of Ningxia and making a long run through Inner Mongolia and the deserts thereabout. Finally, we’ll venture south enough to cross the Great Wall and will continue north across some of the bleakest, driest stretches of Northern China before terminating again, roughly one year from our outset (God willing), in Beijing.
View Portrait of an LBX Trip in a larger map
We know of no other trip thus undertaken – that is, through as many of the remotest geographical, cultural and historical locations in China as possible, and made entirely by bicycle. A few quick clicks on Google maps approximating the route described above reveal a trek of some 9,000 miles (15,000 km) as the crow flies. The bicycle may seem an odd choice of transportation for such an undertaking, but it is this choice that excites us most: the bicycle will facilitate an unparalleled personal interaction with both the land and the people, making the discovery of each new location and unique individual an achievement worth celebrating. Not only that, but the fact that we are willing to traverse the roughest terrain in China, pushing our lives around on the strength of our quadriceps, should endear us to the people we intend to live with for the next year.
We are currently in the process of assembling gear and doing as much preparation as possible without tying ourselves down to anything too specific. We’ve both quit our jobs (and in this economy!) and are looking forward to the adventure of a lifetime. As we solidify our gear list and other details in the coming weeks, we’ll post all that to the site as well, just in case there are any bike-heads out there following us. We’re financing this project entirely on our own (i.e. we have made no arrangements for corporate sponsorships), but if you feel like what we’re doing is particularly interesting or important (or you’re related to us and are afraid we’ll run out of funds in Dunhuang and will have to resort to selling our bodies or teaching English in order to buy train tickets back to Beijing), we’ve set up a donations page so you can help us out.
Beyond that, just stay tuned. More updates and information will be coming out as we cook it up!