Our good photographer friend, Ryan Pyle, is on an epic journey through all of China with his brother, Colin. Called MKRide, the 60-day journey hopes to raise funds for SEVA, a charitable foundation that finds solutions for health problems in lower income communities around the world. They’ve asked Shanghaiist to publish the tales from their journey, and being fans of both long trips through China and doing things for charity, we agreed!
In this edition, Ryan dashes our dreams of just randomly hopping on a motorbike and taking off! It requires training – brutal and lots of it – if you want to survive on your trip. For more MKRide updates, click here
DATE: August 13, 2010
It was about 10:55am when I let out my first whimper, it was low enough that no one else in my group could hear. After whipping the thin, light, dust out of my eyes I could tell that we had only been riding for about one hour, and it was only the first day. Expectations, and confidence, were already shattered; this was going to be an intense two-day training course.
I should note that I am not the kind of guy to seek out unnecessary training – I have the kind of personality that will say, “It’s no problem, I can wing it”, or learn on the fly. But in this particular situation, with such an intense 60 day , 20,000km path ahead of us, both Colin and I decided to pony up and get some Off-Road rider training.
When planning a massive motorcycle journey in a far away place, a lot of things go through your mind, the main being: “Can I actually do this?” Confidence is a key factor, and with 20,000km ahead of us my brother Colin and I both decided we needed some Enduro Training, the confidence equivalent of a “booster shot”.
We have both been riding for years, Colin on a BMW R1200R in Toronto, and myself on a BMW F800GS in Shanghai. But “put-putting” around town is a bit different then traversing through some of the world’s worst roads – not to mention the world’s most deadly.
The location we picked was Hechlingen, Germany – close to Munich. The course we selected was the BMW Enduro Beginners class, and it almost killed me.
Munich is home to BMW and a host of other prestigious car companies, but the real jewel of Bavaria is not Munich itself – it’s the BMW Enduro Park in Hechlingen. A former stone quarry turned Enduro Park and purchased by BMW in the mid-1990s is home to some of the greatest off-road training around, a must for any serious adventure motorcyclists.
We had booked months in advance and signed up for the beginner’s class. We are lucky we did… The “beginners class” involved just about everything you could ever imagine, from low-speed maneuvers, to camel backs, to water, to sand, to narrow stone filled trails, and intensely steep accents and descents. It is safe to say that we were on the pegs for two straight riding days. It was nothing I had ever experienced.
By the lunch break on the first day I had fallen three times, lost all feeling in the left (clutch hand) wrist and had a bruise on my shin (just between the boot and the knee pad) the size of a grapefruit. I had broken both my clutch lever and my front break lever and bent my gear shifter (left-foot) in to the most bizarre boomerang shape.
Yes, the Germans take their motorcycling seriously. Yes, this was the hardest thing I have ever done on two wheels.
Laying in bed after day one, I starred at the ceiling and reflected on how my first day had gone, and I thought to myself, “If our journey around China is anything as tough as this course, we won’t make it through the first week”. Confidence was at an all-time low.
When we mounted our bikes on day two, our final day, my back screamed as I swung my leg over the high BMW F800GS seat. When I took the clutch with my left index and middle fingers a pain shot up my left forearm. I questioned how I was going to get through the day.
But as we headed up in to the hills above the gravel pit for our first group ride of the day, something miraculous happened: my movements became smoother, my jitters escaped me, I got my balance back. I started riding and stopped bitching – I was back!
After being shattered on day one, by day two I was as giddy as a school-girl. My smile came back; I stopped noticing my aches and pains and just enjoyed the riding and world-class instruction. The knowledge that these instructors were passing along was genius; the breaking and turning techniques, the balance and body positioning for different surfaces; all of a sudden I was thriving! Bring on China!
Colin and I completed our Enduro Training at the Hechlingen Park at the end of July. As much as half of our journey around China, some 10,000km, could be considered off-road – with surfaces ranging from hard-packed gravel to deep sand, and if the weather worsens – even thick mud.
As we are set to take off on our journey in just 24 very short hours, I now have the confidence to say that both Colin and I can handle whatever challenges lie ahead of us, at least in regards to off-road riding. Obviously that doesn’t count for much while I am sitting on my couch in Shanghai writing this blog; so we’ll be sure to keep everybody updated as we proceed with our expedition.
Photographer, Film Maker, Adventurer & Motorcycle Rider
**Charitable Partner** – The Middle Kingdom Ride is riding to raise funds for SEVA, a charitable foundation that has, for more than 30 years, served people around the world who are struggling for health, cultural survival and sustainable communities. Learn more about SEVA at www.seva.org, and make a donation today.
**Corporate Sponsors** – The Middle Kingdom Ride could not have happened without our wonderful corporate sponsors: BMW, Touratech, The Tomson Group, Airhawk, Pelican, Kodak, Oakley, Cardo Systems, Lowe Pro & Mandarin House.
You can follow MKRide on Facebook, Youtube and @MK_Ride on Twitter