Can the Bicycle Save the World?

There have been 45 of us, courageous souls all. Below an optimistic blue sky, we stood with our bicycles on the shores of the Bosporus on the Asian facet of Istanbul, posing for the digital camera, helmets strapped on. The date, August 4th, 2007. In 15 minutes, we’d embark on what some thought to be an unimaginable, even a silly, expedition — a 10,700 km journey that adopted the legendary Silk Street. A 3 and one- half month trek throughout Asia, ending in entrance of Beijing’s Forbidden Metropolis.

Troublesome? Actually. Silly? Maybe. Inconceivable? Not an opportunity.

Certainly, it was not the primary such epic bicycle journey that I had undertaken. In January 15, 2003, I and 32 different adventurous spirits launched into the inaugural run of the Tour d’Afrique — from Cairo, Egypt to Cape City, South Africa in 120 punishing days.

That very first day, within the shadow of the Pyramids, the query I posed to myself was: ‘can this actually be achieved’? Can we cycle each meter — later acronymed and outlined as EFI or (Each F…ing Inch)? In any case, once we had introduced the journey within the media eight months earlier, I used to be variously accused of being a charlatan, an insane adventurer who was risking peoples’ lives, and a naïve simpleton that clearly “had not spent a day in Africa.”

The group reached the outskirts of Cape City one hour forward of schedule

Two years later, I stood in entrance of the Eiffel Tower, posing with one other group. We have been about to embark on a four,000 km, eight-country tour from Paris to Istanbul, which we mockingly referred to as The Orient Specific Bicycle Tour. Ironic as a result of it provided something however the deluxe facilities discovered on the well-known continental prepare trip. The query I requested myself on that event was: can I make an trustworthy dwelling by operating transcontinental excursions on a bicycle? The proof appeared to counsel that I may.

Now, on this advantageous morning in Istanbul, posing for an additional digital camera, I puzzled what query I would ponder whereas crossing the Asian continent. There have been many choices. The route is wealthy in structure, majestic mountains and countless deserts, all appropriate for contemplation. It’s deep in historical past, having witnessed the rapacious violence of Genghis Khan’s and Tamerlane’s armies, the Nice Recreation, the precursor of the Chilly Conflict, the grand designs of the previous Soviet Empire — all wealthy materials to research man’s relentless quest for energy and violence. Or I may confront harder topics, together with private points and tips on how to put which means in my life.

In the long run, it was the standard bicycle on which I sat that appeared price fascinated about. Having conquered two continents, I knew that long-distance biking most carefully approximates the traditional hunter-gatherer frame of mind. The bike owner, just like the hunter-gatherer, should continuously fear about his safety, his meals, a spot to sleep, and tips on how to benefit from the satisfaction that comes with simply making it by means of an arduous day (understanding that the subsequent one shall be no much less difficult).

The bicycle: low cost, nonpolluting, small and silent. Wikepedia amongst others calls it essentially the most environment friendly machine ever constructed by people, as a result of an individual on a bicycle expends much less power than another creature or machine protecting the identical distance. Appropriately, I used to be aimed within the course of China, a rustic through which a billion folks (give or take a couple of hundred million) nonetheless used the bicycle as their principal technique of transportation. And its full potential was nonetheless untapped. Someplace, I would learn that entrepreneurial college students have been designing a small milling gadget that could possibly be hooked up to a bicycle: grind your individual grain, on the go. Or possibly it was a water filter. Actually I would seen generator-equipped bicycles in museums on which a customer pedaling at 50 (or much less) watts may activate incandescent lamp. The one gasoline required for all of this: a peanut butter sandwich.

Updated: January 14, 2019 — 6:27 pm

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