Cycling is for everybody and for all ages
Cycling is not just for young people. Many people have the idea that long distance cycling is an activity for young, rich and healthy people. The idea is not strange, after all, when you grow older, the muscles don't work as well when you were younger. But does it mean bicycle journeys are only for the younger generation?
It is true that you will see more young people independent traveling then older. The general view is that older people prefer the comfort of a tour group.
But what is the truth? Like most people I started cycling when I was a kid. Many people forget the bicycle when they grow up, they get a motorbike, a car and then they have a family and a bicycle is not a comfortable way of transport when having a family.
Once people have families, most are no longer "able to ride a bicycle". Reasons are plenty, it's difficult with a child, you need to bring too much stuff with you to keep the kids busy. In Holland many parents take their children out on a sunny Sunday afternoon to the country side for a nice bicycle ride of an hour or 2. When I was living in Amsterdam, you could see many families riding bicycles through the forests of the Veluwe or in the polders.
But long distance bicycling, like I do (and I am 46 when I write this), isn't that just for the younger generation? The people who have no family and are healthy? When I left Holland on my way to Asia, to my surprise I met quite a few 60 plus cyclists on their way to Santiago de Compostela (also known as Saint James of Compostela, a Catholic pilgrimage place) in the northwest region of Spain.
Many of those pilgrims stay in cheap hotels or go out on camping. And why not! It made me realize cycling is for everyone, not just the "happy few youngster's".
Arend and Ina Stam
Let's have a look at a few good examples like Ina and Arend Stam from the Netherlands. Ina wrote me in October 2006 that she and her husband would do a bike tour starting in Hong Kong (in fact starting from Guangzhou, south China). Arend and Ina call themselves amateur cyclist.
In an email Ina wrote that they joined a tour group in Thailand 2 years earlier with all very professional looking cyclist. But they managed to cycle in north Thailand.
Before they started their Asia adventure on the 24th October 2006, they had cycled Thailand, Malaysia. China they had traveled with an organized tour but, as Ina wrote, it was time to explore the country a bit closer. The bicycle seemed to be an excellent form of transport.
Over the months I kept keeping emails from them. They are the proof of a great journey. But, isn't traveling by bicycle something difficult? How many kilometers can you do a day. Arend and Ina are in their 60's and yes, they're in good health. But cycling in China is different then cycling in Holland ... or not?
The emails I got describe an adventure where they cycled on a regular daily base anything from 33 to 70, sometimes a little more kilometers a day. Does it matter how fast you go? Of course not. a traveling cyclist usually comes for the country, the experience being in a different culture.
Arend and Ina stay in cheap hotels or camp with their tent, stay sometimes with local families, eat and drink what the locals eat. Nothing fancy. I met over the years more older people who did bike journeys.
Over the years they cycled Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Argentina, Cuba, South Africa, a dozen or more European countries and several countries I do not have knowledge of.
In 2013, they came again to Malaysia. It was a pleasure to finally meet them. When they left, I cycled with them to Kulim, 35 km from Penang, where they had their first night stop. From there they cycled to the east coast (their 2nd time).
Arend (70) and Ina (69) told me with some shy pride they sometimes cycle some young kids out of the wheels and I do believe them. They are the living proof you do not need to be young to cycle, you need to have the desire to do it.
Johan, 8 years old cycles from Pangkor to Penang
Another example that cycling is not just for young and healthy people is Johan Annuar, a young Malaysian boy who lives in Penang. With his 8 years of age (at the time of the journey), he managed to cycle from Pangkor (in fact from my home in Sitiawan, nearby) to Penang. Johan and me cycled 4 days with after the second day a day of rest in the Taiping Zoo (Malaysia).
Johan on the way to Lumut, Malaysia
Johan cycled in those 4 days 250km, a serious contest for him on his kids bike with no gears. He still talks to his mom and sister about his journey and wants to do more. He too got addicted.
Cycling is for westerners with a lot of money
Another statement I hear sometimes, which is not true too. Here are two examples of Asians who simply had an idea and fulfilled the idea.
I met Wang when I cycled in south Yunnan, China. Wang was a local Chinese guy who lived in Yining, in the far north west corner of China, not far from Urumqi.
Wang picked up a cheap Chinese bike and cycled along the Chinese border, starting at home in winter (!). By the time I met him, he had done about 75% of his journey. Here is the story about my meeting with Wang.
Another example that shows when there's a will there's a way, is Tzuo Hann Law, a college student from Malaysia who had to find a way back after graduating in the USA. He's somewhere in Asia now and progressing rapidly.
Tzuo Hann Law is another example that cycling is indeed of all ages, and for all people. What Tzuo Hann Law, Johan, Arend and Ina and many other unnamed cyclists show is that long distance cycling only requires one thing: Determination
Bicycle travel Inspiration, cycling with a handicap
Probably the most impressive bicycle journey done, if you ask me, is the story of a Chinese, Daishen, who, by the time I met him had cycled the distance Dalian-Dali 3 times. That was in 1996. Since then he must have cycled more because by now he lives in Yangshuo.
Cycling with a handicap, this man knows what he is talking about, here in Yangshuo China
This Chinese man has lost one full arm and a full leg in an accident. But he can still ride his bicycle.
Once you have decided to go out on a bike, the rest is easy. The decision itself is probably the most difficult one, leave all that you had behind and go. But as I said on the homepage: the road goes on forever, the story never ends. Every cyclist knows its true.
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