14degrees off the beaten track
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July 1st, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,China

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Today’s distance / ???????: 53 miles / 85.3km
Average speed / ????: 10.1mph / 16.3km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 14m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 5380mi plus 377mi (?) / 8659km plus 606km (?)
Ascent / ??: 175m
Descent / ??: 100m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N38° 56′ 10.90″, E100° 26′ 34.70″

I spoke to one of the French cyclists yesterday and discovered that the deal was that he was part of a 103-strong France Cycle Touring Federation supported cycle tour from Paris to Beijing. They did an average of about 120km a day, with longer days being 180km. It took me 9 months to cover 12,000km on my bike. They are doing the same distance in 4.5 months. They are hauling.

They were due to leave at 7am this morning, so I got myself up a little early, and decided to try to keep up with them for the day. Their destination for today was the same as mine – Zhangye City, 85km east of Gaotai.

To got up at the unearthly hour of 6:20am and hurried down to get some breakfast. Many of the cyclists were already out and getting ready to have breakfast and get on the road. Their support vehicles were outside the hotel, with support crew checking bicycles. Local Chinese people were checking out the map on the side of the vehicles.

Paris to Peking 100 member cycle tour (Gaotai, Gansu Province, China)

Such a tour must be an organisational challenge of mammoth proportions. They have seven support vehicles, including two heavy lorries (carrying showers, water etc), and even one refrigerated truck carrying…you guessed it…beer. The cyclists are all European, you know.

Concerned that I might miss them start, I hurried off down the street to a nearby noodle shop for breakfast. The staple breakfast eat out food here seems to be Somen; a flat noodle in a thick peppery soup with chunks of tofu. Very tasty. The noodle shop also has the ‘carved’ noodles that I saw for the first time in Urumqi two years ago (here is a video of those ‘flying’ noodles in Urumqi)

Noodles for breakfast in Gaotai, Gansu Province, China

As I ate, I was aware of the sound that can only be the most wonderful music to a Chinese noodle shop owner’s ears…slurp…sluuuuurrrrrp..slurrrp…sluuurp…slurp…

Noodles are eaten with great gusto in China, and since the soup in which the noodles are floating in is so hot, air is sucked across the noodles as they are sucked into one’s mouth to cool them down. Great fun. How do I eat my noodles in China? When in Rome…

Two forms of transport in Gaotai, Gansu Province, China

I got out of the noodle shop at 7am sharp. I scooted off towards the main highway G312 in hope of catching some of the cyclists. By 8am I had still seen neither hide nor hair of them. Just as I thought I had missed them, I look back an see this.

What the... (east of Gaotai, Gansu Province, China)

I had heard that Comm*unists like the group mentality, but perhaps this is taking it a little far?

But it was the France Cycle Touring Federation group. All the way from Paris. More than 10,000km away. Pack riding for 10,000km. That’s gotta be something else.

I was soon swallowed by the group, and I had my photo taken more times in the space of 10 minutes than I have ever had my photo taken. Some sneaky individuals would speed ahead, stop, fumble with their camera, look up, and see that I had already sped past. It is amazing how a moving thing in front of you motivates you to skate faster.

Part of a 100-strong cycle touring group mostly from France, cycling supported from Paris to Beijing (met east of Gaotai, Gansu Province, China)

For about 30 minutes I skated with some of the cyclists at the rear of the main group. The group all stopped outside a small store, and I chatted to some of the group. Before I knew it they were off again. I was still slurping down an icecream. I was keen to keep up with them for as long as possible – how many times in the last two years have I had the opportunity to travel with others…only twice (in Slovenia and in China).

The main front pack was moving too quick for me to keep up, but a Belgian rider, whom I had met yesterday in the internet cafe (silly me, I only asked his name once – if you’re reading this, you’ll have to remind me!), and who had a much more individualistic mentality to his cycling was kind enough to remain behind and cycle with me.

It was an awesome experience to have someone to pace with. He cycled next to me for the entire 85km to Zhnagye. As he correctly pointed out, I was subconsciously always trying to push faster, because he always appeared to be in front of me due to his front wheel being in front of me, despite him actually being right beside me. In any case, the time flew by. He recounted stories of the trip so far, and of course, being Belgian, gave me many points to consider drinking beer during the day to replenish fluids and essential nutrients. Indeed he himself had a 600ml bottle of beer during the morning at one of our stops. “All the nutrients is in there from the brewing process,” he said. “Think about the monks way back when, when they were not allowed to eat for 40 days. They brewed beer and it supplied for their needs for that time.”

He commented on the good points and bad points of cycling in a group. “Of course, you can’t beat the refrigerated beer truck,” he pointed out. “And of course in a group it is safer. But sometimes it can be frustrating not being able to do your own thing. But overall of course it is a great experience, that in the end, no one can take away from you.”

Along the way today I was treated to bottles of electrolyte drink and a few energy bars. What a treat. I had a 3kg watermelon in my trailer, but never got the chance to eat it. We were on the go all morning.

By the time we had arrived on the outskirts of Zhangye at 1pm, we had covered 85km. Quite easily a record for me. And I was feeling great. I had been moving for just under 5 hours, and had only had a few breaks. It was a real eye opener to what my body is capable of, if I have the right frame of mind. It reminded me how much of his human powered game is psychological. Had I been on my own, I would have been telling myself to take it easy, take rests, not push.

I did notice that I took not nearly as many photos as I usually do, and I did not talk to the locals nearly as much either. It was on the go all the time. From that perspective, I don’t think I could ever travel at that pace for very long. To travel at that pace from Paris to Beijing, I think I would end up feeling as though I had missed too much of the locations I was travelling through.

But great fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks to parispekinavelo.com for a great morning!

Paris to Peking 100 member cycle tour (Gaotai, Gansu Province, China)

And no, they were not riding these bikes. The whole group was riding specially made Cycling Federation bikes. And regulations required that panniers were installed on the front wheel, not the back. Which makes no sense at all when you’re only carrying two panniers. What can I say…it’s a French organisation.

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    Permanent Link     Comments (6)

Comment by Keith — July 3, 2008 @ 1:35 am | post a comment

I love mixing it up with the cyclists during short bike rides. Last time, one of them had a t-shirt with 'one less car' on the front. I WILL get some printed with 'one less cyclist' one day soon.

Comment by Mum — July 3, 2008 @ 4:50 am | post a comment

There's a cyclist here in Christchurch who has "One Less Car" printed in bright red on the back of his lime green backpack. Why not skateboard and have "One Less Cyclist" instead? I reckon that you could skateboard faster than the slow moving traffic during peak times here and there are heaps of cycle lanes springing up.

Comment by maki — July 3, 2008 @ 4:57 am | post a comment

It was great meeting for you Rob!! I have been very interestied in your comment recently.'take it easy, take rests, not push' .yeah truly!!

Comment by Alex — July 4, 2008 @ 10:56 am | post a comment

Hey Rob,

we finally finished our tour after 18 days and arrived in Flensburg on Tuesday this week. We had mixed feelings about it, happy on the one hand and sad on the other…I am already thinking about sth else…:)

Talking about your tour, its great to see that you are getting more and more cool impressions in China. I feel kinda good reading about your journey and your updates.

Enjoy and keep in touch!



Comment by mahmoud — July 4, 2008 @ 5:38 pm | post a comment

I saw a "one less car" sticker for the first time today. funny.

I've always wanted to do a sticker saying

"bikes are people too"

(makes sense to me ok)

Comment by Pastor Phillips — August 3, 2008 @ 8:47 pm | post a comment

Its 945pm sat. nt. Just checking to see your whereabouts. We havn't forgot you! Shady Grove Pentecostal church, DeRidder, La.

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