Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

27 Sep 2013

Entering Beijing: 18 months on the road

Posted by Will

As the clock ticked over 18 months on the road, I sped down out of the mountains with a light drizzle itching my legs. I passed several brown tourist signs pointing the way to the Ming Tombs, apparently a big deal, but I didn’t feel like stopping. My brakes hardly work anymore anyway. Beijing lay on the horizon and there wasn’t a chance I’d put off arriving.


I had arranged to meet my hosts at their apartment which I knew was in the north-east corner of central Beijing. Unfortunately, that’s all I knew. I hadn’t bought a map, don’t carry a GPS, certainly don’t own a smartphone and can barely pronounce the simplest Chinese words let alone ask for directions. Armed only with a compass and a profoundly misguided air of optimism, I continued, smiling, into an increasingly chaotic melee of cars, trucks, electric carts and scooters.

Still 30km from the centre, I was well and truly inside the city. Highways and high-speed train tracks flew overhead, overpasses and underpasses weaved in, over and around six lane intersections and all the while a near-perfect cycle lane guided me safely in the right direction. I cycled under the 6th ring road surrounded on all sides by towering residential skyscrapers.

Near the 4th ring road I turned left onto Kehui street. The name rang a bell and I didn’t have much else to go on. The traffic thinned out as I reached a park which I pedalled through with an escort of local cyclists, all gaping at the shape of my face, the bags on my bike and the filthy state of my legs. ‘Ni hao, ni hao’, I beamed. Half smiled and returned the greeting, the rest just kept staring.

And then, I saw the Bird’s Nest, the 2008 Olympic Stadium. Now, it was me who couldn’t stop staring. Whirring my legs in circles for hundreds of days, often with little to see besides fields, sand or trees, I now pass a symbol of the rising Chinese superpower, a structure which held glued the eyes of the world, eyes which arguably haven’t left since, and my eyes were glued, but for a more personal reason. Day by day, I lose sight of how far I have cycled in 18 months. A sudden sense of achievement overwhelmed me. Without a doubt, that moment was one of the happiest, proudest, most fulfilling and most emotional of my ride. I have cycled from home to Beijing: dirty, tired, changed and unknown. But still happy to feel the breeze.


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10 Comments already on “Entering Beijing: 18 months on the road”
  1. 6:22 ampermalink
    27 Sep 2013


    We watch those kms rising all the time and know just how far from home you are. xxx

  2. 9:07 ampermalink
    27 Sep 2013


    Blown away by your achievements, engrossed in the story and slightly giddy at the physical effort. Well done Will. Paul – Ashton Keynes

  3. 9:44 ampermalink
    27 Sep 2013

    Sarah Dehn

    Hi Will – that is so awesome – makes running from Sydney to Melbourne (a friend of mine is doing it now) look positively pathetic. Keep it up and we look forward to giving you some good tucker in Melbourne.
    Sarah (cousin of sorts)

  4. 10:48 ampermalink
    27 Sep 2013


    What emotion this evokes. My heart pounds with yours. Congratulations doesn’t do this achievement justice, so I’m going to suggest this: How about we ride together – the length of the Americas or Africa!?

  5. Will

    11:58 ampermalink
    27 Sep 2013


    @Paul – thanks for reading along. I hope Ashton Keynes will feature in my last blog post – the final village of my journey. And I am also a bit giddy, but that’s probably because of the happy hour Tsingtao I’ve just guzzled :)
    @Sarah – running Sydney to Melbourne!! Pathetic?!? Unbelievable more like. I’m always in awe of runners since us cyclists get the chance for a rest on the downhills … running is a whole different ballgame. I’m sure my friend Jamie would agree… he’s running across Canada right now:
    @Andrew – but you’re going to work for the investment banks, or was it the lawyers, it’s destiny. haha. i’m sure a bit of company by the time i get to the Americas or Africa will be very much appreciated!

  6. 12:00 pmpermalink
    27 Sep 2013

    Mark E. Martin

    You constantly remind me of the transformative power of the bicycle when combined with personal drive. Your experience upon viewing the Bird’s Nest brought tears to my eyes. I look forward to reading more of your truly epic ride.

  7. 3:05 pmpermalink
    27 Sep 2013


    Congratulations! What an amazing moment. Miss you as always! -Jackie

  8. 3:08 pmpermalink
    27 Sep 2013

    James Down

    Unbelievable. Your achievements are comparable to very few physical excursions I have ever heard or will hear about. In a way the birds nest represents your story so well- an image of immense vision and ambition. All the best Will and thinking of you. Keep going and stay safe, James

  9. Will

    5:26 ampermalink
    28 Sep 2013


    @mark and @jackie: thank you both again for your comments. Great encouragement!
    @jamesy: great to hear from you and thanks! on an unrelated note, this summer i thought of you because i followed the ashes pretty avidly (even using a USB internet pen in the tent to get live BBC updates!) and knew you’d be just as addicted.

  10. 3:21 pmpermalink
    28 Sep 2013


    Hmmm! you certainly deserved that moment of elation and sense of achievement. Oh boy! Winging you a very big hug and imaginary champagne. You are nearly (but not quite!) our main topic of conversation. Lots of love and congratulations from us all. Marion