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Trip Preparation

Packing up the bike for a long trip

Packing up the bike for a long trip

When you’re getting ready for a really long distance trip by motorcycle, on the one hand you want to make sure you prepare as much as possible. On the other though, part of the fun of it all is dealing with the unexpected and just sort of “playing it by ear”.

Well it’s been a while since my 2 month circumnavigation of the U.S. in 2010 and I’m ready to hit the road again. I don’t really want to say this is the formal announcement of the trip yet since there are a lot of variables still in play, but I thought it would be useful to document the process of preparing for a mentally and physically taxing long distance motorcycle ride. This will be the first in a series following the steps I’ll be taking to prepare for the next motorcycle adventure.

A Little Background

An approximate outline of our planned route

An approximate outline of our planned route

The Plan: To motorcycle around China, covering approximately 15k miles (24,000km), going through every province (34 including Taiwan) in the country over a period of 4 months.

The Timeline: Amy, my girlfriend, and I are aiming to start our journey around early July. We will go around the country counter-clockwise, hoping to hit Tibet around the end of August and finally finish the trip in early November back in Beijing.

The Preparation: We’ve got a lot to prepare for… Our route will take us from the 3rd lowest point on earth (Tarpan Depression) to one of the highest (Everest Base Camp). We will pass through deserts, grass plains, mountain ranges, and of course sprawling urban centers. It won’t be cheap and it won’t be easy.

What We Need to Prepare

Structuring The Trip

The XL map of China mounted to our wall

The XL map of China mounted to our wall

Before starting out on the trip, we needed to plan out what exactly it was we wanted to do. Where did we want to go? How far did we plan on traveling? How long would it take? What seasons were best for carrying out this type of trip?

So the first thing Amy and I did was go down to our local underground market and bought a giant map of China. This would serve as our inspiration and motivation as we went through the planning process. Sometimes it’s nice to just look at what you’re planning on doing, the scale of it all. Also spending some time just looking through it and thinking through which places you want to see while on the road can really get you excited.

Learning from the Experts

Lets be honest here, it’s 2013 now and there’s very little left that hasn’t been done before in some capacity or another. We’ve thus spent a lot of time researching people who have done similar trips to see what we could learn. This included finding people who knew about the conditions in China as well as people who have done this type of adventure motorcycling before. It seemed far-fetched that we would be able to get a chance to talk with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman from the Long Way Round, but fortunately there are a lot of other experienced riders out there.

We got a chance to sit in on a talk by Richard Margolis who rode with 3 other friends along the silk road from London to Beijing. He in turn had a great Chinese contact that worked for a travel company running motorcycle and other kinds of tours around the country. We also came upon a similar trip done in 2011 around China by Ryan and Colin Pyle called the Middle Kingdom Ride and were lucky enough to attend a talk by Ryan Pyle about his trip at a local restaurant/bar/bookstore called The Bookworm. Finally, there was another motorcycle blogger I had been following for some time, Bill Dwyer from Atlas Rider, that I was able to interview. He recently completed a 20k mile motorcycle ride from the US through South America and just came out with a book detailing his journey called Anxiety Across the Americas. I’ll be posting that interview in the coming weeks so keep following for that!

Physical Preparation

Mr. Moto Muscle Mass from The Sound Rider

Mr. Moto Muscle Mass from The Sound Rider

It never hurts to be in shape, whether leaving on a four month motorcycle trip or not. My thinking for doing this type of prep has three reasons:

  1. Our Endurance: We want to be able to ride for long periods of time without much stopping.
  2. The Body’s Ability to Recover: It’s pretty safe to say that we will drop the bike more than once on the trip. The better shape we are in, the less likely we are to experience any very serious injuries and the better equipped our bodies will be to recover.
  3. High Altitudes: This is the one I’m most nervous about as I’ve heard that Western Tibet can be quite vicious in terms of altitude sickness.

Both Amy and I have set some goals for ourselves in terms of keeping a rigorous exercise routine. We will be focusing on building up our core and whenever possible we will try to restrict our breathing when we exercise to get our bodies used to operating with less oxygen.

The Logistics and Finances

This will definitely be the most challenging part of preparation. Since we will be strapped to fund the trip ourselves, we will be working to try and acquire sponsor’s support for the trip. We also want to use the trip as an opportunity to help raise funds for a China based charity. A lot of work is needed for this step, including:

  • Nailing down our primary target audience
  • Breakdown of gear and finances needed
  • Branding of the trip (website, logo, etc.)
  • Finding media support to guarantee sponsors a minimum reach
  • Preparing presentations and sponsorship proposal materials
  • Approaching charities and acquiring their support
  • Listing all possible sponsors and tracking our correspondence with them

Follow Along As We Prepare for The Great Ride of China!

The Great Ride of China Logo

I’ll be documenting the progress of our preparation in the coming 2 months. I plan on posting information from the various interviews we conduct as well as sharing the specific strategies we use for the physical preparation and for acquiring sponsorships including what seems to work and what not so much.

If you’d like to find out about how we prepare for a long distance motorcycle trip as well as receive updates on the trip itself, leave your email below and join the Rubber on Road newsletter.

Keep the paint side up!

About Buck

Buck, originally from New York, first came to China in 2006 traveling with some friends and immediately fell in love with the country, returning frequently including a semester studying at Tsinghua University in 2009. He finally moved to Beijing after graduating from the University of Toronto in 2010. He has a passion for adventure and travel, completing numerous long distance motorcycling and hiking trips around the U.S., Canada, and China including a circumnavigation of the U.S. (13,840km) and a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (3,500km). When he's not wandering (and sometimes when he is), Buck works as a web developer and marketing consultant in Beijing.