14degrees off the beaten track
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May 13th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,China

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Today’s distance / ???????: 65 miles / 104km
Average speed / ????: 11mph / 17.7km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 53m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 4648mi plus 280mi (?) / 7480km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: 170m
Descent / ??: 420m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N43° 03′ 54.00″, E088° 40′ 27.60″

Dabancheng Wind Farm, Dabancheng, Xinjiang Province, China

Amazing start to this amazing day.

Marija on her recumbent near the Dabancheng Windfarm in Xinjiang Province, China

We woke early. Just as the sun was starting to peek above the horizon. The wind was still at our backs.

Marija is also using these three days of traveling from Urumqi to Turpan as a test to see how her knee handles the cycling. Previously, she cycled over 25,000km across and around the Eurasian Contient before having some issues with a problematic knee. She returned to her home country of Slovenia for surgery, and now, 5 months since the surgery on her left knee, she is preparing to give a go at cycling back to Slovenia from Kazakhstan. I am natually slower than the bike, so my slow pace is perfect for Marija for getting back into the swing of things.

Approaching the small city of Dabancheng, somewhat of an oasis in the desert, we crossed paths with three older cyclists heading towards Urumqi. True adventurers, they inspired me with their positivity, sans all the brands and ‘must-have’ equipment that so many of us western travelers seem to require.

Fellow cycle tourists try out Marija's recumbent bike near Dabancheng, Xinjiang Province, China

Cycle touring, Chinese style, near Dabancheng, Xinjiang Province, China Cycle touring, Chinese style, near Dabancheng, Xinjiang Province, China

The suprise of the day however, was awaiting us as we began dropping from the Tian Shan mountains through a narrow rocky gorge. Lo and behold, around a corner, we meet the infamous Norwegian cyclist extraordinaire Asmund (aka Pink Gloves).

Meeting Asmund Pink Gloves at MM4060 on G312 in Xinjiang Province, China

Asmund gained fame by way of his frequent and poignant comments on English cyclist Edward Genochio‘s cycling blog in early 2006. I was also a regular reader and commenter on Edward’s blog, so I knew of Asmund. Among other controversial statements on Edward’s blog, Asmund predicted Edward’s certain death as Edward made his way across the Tibetan plateau. Read this blog post from Edward that quite nicely summarises the dialogue…

Asmund is also a sort of purist when it comes to traveling by bicycle. While on his tours, there is no cheating. No cheating at all. No other transport other than the bicycle. He was not very approving of my taking a train to the other side of China to begin this current leg of the skateboard journey.

I did not recognise Asmund as he came cylcing towards us on the quiet side road. All I saw was the first western cyclist I had seen since arriving in China. I was elated of course, and all three of us stopped to introduce ourselves.

“Hi, I’m Rob,” I said, shaking the man’s hand.

“Rob? Rob? Rob from Invercargill?” the man said. The man then turned to Marija and began talking to her.

I was naturally taken aback at this comment from a seemingly random, unknown cyclist in the middle of nowhere in the remote Chinese province of Xinjiang.

Asmund was still talking to Marija when I tried in vain to interrupt him. “Now, how exactly did you know where I was from?” I asked.

The man smiled at me and ignored the question.

It was then that I started to wonder…could this possibly be Asmund? I had only seen obscure photos of him on Edward’s blog, so I couldn’t be sure.

I’m not sure how it finally clicked, but I do remember uttering the words “You’re not…you’re not…um…no…you’re not Norwegian, perhaps, are you?”

The man was, and the man was indeed Asmund. To make things more amazing, he had only three minutes before cycled down out of the desert to the north of the road to connect with the paved G312 in order to go to a store to buy beer. A matter of minutes later, and we would have missed him.

I still can’t believe it. Asmund was equally surprised, thinking that I was still skating my way across the US. He hadn’t caught up on the fact that I was now in China.

For postertity’s sake, I had him sign my Guinness World Record log book.

Asmund Pink Gloves signs the GWR logbook at MM4060 on G312 in Xinjiang Province, China

So, Asmund, if you’re reading this, it was a pleasure to meet you. Very suitably random indeed.

Meeting Asmund Pink Gloves at MM4060 on G312 in Xinjiang Province, China

Marija and I left Asmund to go to buy his beer and return to the desert, and continued to enjoy the downhill and tailwind. I had some issues with the uneven surface of the old G312 highway at speed; the trailer almost tipping. However with some fine adjustments, I had it tracking correctly again.

Asmund had told us that the weather forecast for tomorrow was for 37 degrees in the daytime, so Marija and I decided take advantage of the howling tailwind and push on for as far as we could today, to avoid the heat tomorrow as we dropped down to Turpan (150m below sea level).

As we left the narrow gorge, the land opened out into true desert surroundings. Great fields of gravel stretched miles into the distance before thrusting upwards into dry, arid mountains.

Just before dark, we were forced to stop again as Marija’s front tyre once again got a puncture. The wind was still blowing at about 30 to 40km/h. All around there were no trees, nowhere to pitch a tent. We moved off the highway and sought shelter in a small natural ditch in the gravel. Out of most of the wind, we setup our sleeping pads, scoffed down noodles and oatmeal for dinner, and tried to get some sleep, me still shaking my head at the inconceivability of meeting Asmund in the middle of nowhere in China….

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    Permanent Link     Comments (11)

Comment by Lo-IQ — May 16, 2008 @ 5:23 am | post a comment

blimey well you never would have guessed it…

again brilliant reading the stuff as the story untwists as you go along.

I think the whole skateboard trailer thing is excellently crazy and kinda makes the bike you had seem normal.

Anyway got to dash am now with in 7 weeks of leaving myself and I'm still trying to put my life in order.

All the very best from here.


Comment by AbrasiveScotsman — May 16, 2008 @ 6:50 am | post a comment

I'm sorry to hear about all of the problems Marija is having with her tyres. Be sure to check the beading in the tyre wall and the rim tape to make sure nothing sharp is behind all of these punctures.

If it's not that, then the new Marathon Pluses are supposedly puncture proof, although I'm not sure where you would get a pair in rural China.

Best Wishes

Comment by Andrew C — May 16, 2008 @ 3:16 pm | post a comment

What are the chances! Well, 1 in 1.5 billion in China I suppose :-)

Comment by Jean — May 16, 2008 @ 3:50 pm | post a comment

The world's never as big as you think, is it…


Comment by Aunty Les — May 16, 2008 @ 4:53 pm | post a comment

Impressive mountains, the Tian Shan range. Amazing to meet someone like Asmund in such a way in such an immense country.

Comment by Han wei — May 16, 2008 @ 6:10 pm | post a comment

Robert Thomson 你好!


Comment by daisy — May 17, 2008 @ 6:23 pm | post a comment

Asmund is a crack-up. That's so awesomely random.

Comment by Paul — February 16, 2009 @ 3:01 am | post a comment

Thanks for the inspiring writing.

my partner and i are thinking of doing a ride in china this year sometime, where i do not know?



Comment by Crazy72 — October 11, 2009 @ 11:38 am | post a comment

Nothing of the sort happens with our permanganate molecules. ,

Comment by Miss93 — October 23, 2009 @ 1:13 am | post a comment

Therefore we agree with Dr. ,

Comment by Settor44 — October 24, 2009 @ 12:51 am | post a comment

Herman Menderchuck,Can you explain to me everything that has existed thousands of years before your existence? ,

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