Cycling to China across the Euro-Asian landmass. A few weeks prior to departure, life is all about preparations. The big practical turn (from words to action) has already begun. Nevertheless, people ask me, why on a bicycle?
I fell in love with cycling at a young age. Will never forget my first bike; blue and boyish. Made me fast and made me free. Later, when I discovered race bikes, I was struck by the beauty of brands: Gazelle, RIH, Presto. With money earned as newspaper delivery guy, I eventually could buy a Zieleman, once a respected choice of connoisseurs. Especially, with a Campagnolo group on it, bought in Ventimiglia after a summer of dish washing at the Cote d’Azur. Didn’t realize then, that longevity would one day make all this a stuff called “vintage”.
Witnessing the opening of Amsterdam Sloten cycling track in 1972, by the communist elderman Harry Verheijk
Regardless the passion for the bike, it paled in comparison to what I came to understand as cycling culture. The way it can represent basically anything from the rest of life in the most condensed, seminal or crystallized way. Human behaviors, political constellations, social arrangements, diversity of environments, climate conditions, intensity of perceptions, it’s all there once you step on a bike and start to pedal, especially with others. And even more especially when a tour becomes a race. Most people can smile at the start, some can smile in the middle, only a few keep smiling, either because they win, or they found themselves somewhere behind.
If a bike is a symbol of life, riding a bike is life itself. The remaining question is what it means to continue riding for 15,000 km.