Comments

  • edited January 2

    PART1

    Bike Infantry:
    Dear Eva! It was quite a sensation when you finished your journey! Some of us here in Hungary were following you as well! When did you have the idea to do this trip? And what was your motivation?

    Eva Yoo:
    In 2012, I volunteered for 1 year in Ecuador, but I didn't take my cell phone there. Me and my friend’s hobby was to watch fellow Korean An Sang-eun’s Eurasia cycling documentary. He went on a bike trip with his friend, then met a Serbian girl and got married. At that time, I just thought it’s a lot of hardships, and it’s not something for me. Because I wasn’t even sure I could ride a bike properly. But my friend Moonseup Bae, or usually called Noa, really wanted to start his cycling journey. After returning to Korea, Noa suddenly disappeared. He didn’t reply on Facebook messenger. His university friends also contacted me to ask about where he was. I just thought he embarked his cycling journey. From that time, I imagined Noa on a cycling journey in a random country.

    But I didn't think of this idea until August of 2017 when I was also introduced to a Columbian cyclist named Sam Cruz in Shanghai. I was working in Shanghai for 3 years as a journalist. Sam started his cycling trip from Shanghai to New York in December 2017. I went to his farewell party and I started with him in Shanghai on his first 5 km. Watching him, I thought, wow this is amazing. I wanted to do the same. I thought only rich people can afford this kind of trip. But no, Sam found sponsors to fund his trip. When I saw Sam, who was a peer of mine, I thought, if he can do it, I can do it too.

    There was another reason. I was the first Korean to work for the Chinese publication TechNode. It was a challenging job for someone who didn't speak a word of Chinese when I landed the role. Now I’m fluent in Chinese and well established in the industry, but after three and a half years working in China and as a reporter, I sort of reached the comfort zone. I thought it was time for a change.

    I wanted to make a new start. I felt sorry to myself to be in one place for so long. I have itchy feet. I love exploring new countries, experiencing new things. Realizing that I've been here for over three years, I knew it was time to go, set off for a new adventure.

    Then I thought, if I go to a new country and start working, I would also take a flight, work on my laptop and cell phone, and there would be no difference. So I thought of doing a master’s degree or going on a cycling trip. I chose the latter because I thought the most precious thing I have in China is my networks. I thought if I choose to do a master’s degree, it’s like throwing away all my precious networks in China.

    I also wanted to test myself. I interviewed a lot of CEOs, and I wanted to start something on my own just like them. Many people were nice to me because I was a journalist. Would they still support me financially if I’m not a journalist anymore? I was curious.

    I decided to find sponsors for my Eurasia cycling journey. When there are interested parties, I planned to stick their logo on my project homepage, blog and YouTube and promote their businesses, in return for financial or material support along my journey.

    I thought it's a good way to promote what I do as well as the companies. I wanted this project to be known because I want young people to be inspired and not be afraid to take challenges of their own.

    Finally, I chose cycling because I loved this uncertainty. With a bicycle trip, I have to go through places that I don't want to go to. My initial plan was living in one country for a month, but I liked this project better. I thought this is the last gift I can give myself before I turn 30. I thought an airplane, train, the car is still too fast for me. I decided to cycle because I wanted to slowly observe other cultures at human speed. Also because it doesn’t harm the environment.

    I wanted to experience more things when I'm young. I was free from restrictions or responsibilities because I didn't have a husband, or a boyfriend, or an affiliation or an important position at a company. That's why I thought I could go on this trip.

    B.I.:
    How did you prepare for this adventure?

    E.Y.:
    The way to make your dream come true is to just speak out. I told my friends about my bike trip and they just gave me a bike they didn't use, a bike uniform and a pannier, a bicycle bag. Actually, I didn’t have a bike. I used to cycle with Mobike, a sharing bicycle. I used a road bike that my friend lent me for 3 months, and it cost less than 10 euros to grease the bike.

    Returning to Shanghai on March 1, 2018, I told my friend Sam Cruz to invite me to the bike clubs in Shanghai on WeChat, Chinese whatsapp. I joined the bike club in WeChat group and introduced myself.

    "Hello! I'm Eva. I want to cycle from Shanghai to Turkey this year.”

    My goal at that time was to cycle to Istanbul, Turkey. Looking at my message, a French woman named Dominic added my WeChat. She invited me to her house saying she was going on a bike trip.

    On March 11, I visited Dominique's house. Dominique said she and her British husband David would ride a bicycle from Shanghai to their home in England. The couple was 60 years old. Seeing this couple I thought,

    “If 60 years old can do it, I can do it, too.”

    So I stretched my goal from Turkey to England.

    This is how I trained before cycling trip. In March, I joined a bicycle club in Shanghai. Bicycle group members, RideNow, meet at 6 am to cycle around downtown Shanghai. I was always the last person in the group like a tail. I was so slow on my bike that I missed them many times. I have been to their meeting six times. One day I went to Chongming Island with another cycling group with Dominic. On my first ride I rode 100 km. Also I went to spinning classes six times. Five days before the trip, I went to a bicycle factory and learned how to repair a bike and I camped there to test the tent. In Shanghai, there was a Spanish cyclist named David, who cycled from Spain to Beijing in 2008. I visited him to get advice from him.

    I managed to find 14 sponsors for the trip. The main sponsor of the project was Robin8, a blockchain company in Shanghai. Silver Sponsor were 4 Korean companies that I kept friendship with for more than three years. Rather than seeing commercial gains in this project, I think they sponsored me because they thought I won't be able to get a sponsor at all, out of compassion and empathy I think. Korea’s venture capital Primer and SparkLabs, Startup Alliance, who help Korean startups go global, and the Korean Travel Startup My Real Trip sponsored me. EntertainMedia is a company that makes microphones and sponsored me a microphone, asking me to sing a song with it once a week.

    Product sponsors include Taiwan's bicycle company Oyama (https://oyama.com/), domestic outdoor look company Kolon Sports (https://www.kolonsport.com), and Chinese designer brand Trickcoo (http: // www.trickcoo.com.cn/), Silicon Power, a manufacturer of flash memory products in Taiwan (www.silicon-power.com/web/us/). Wework and American translation company Cadence also sponsored me.

  • edited January 2

    PART2

    B.I.:
    Did other cyclists join you randomly for certain disctances like in Forest Gump, when people simply run alongside the hero?

    E.Y.:
    I wanted to encourage people to join us for cycling, that’s why I planned to leave Shanghai on Saturday 8 a.m. Only one person came. It was my Taiwanese friend Huanry. He cycled with me with a shared bike, ofo, for two days. A total of 50+ 80 = 130 km. I did the same for Nanjing, but nobody came to cycle with me. I was very disappointed. During the trip, a few people cycled with me for 30km or less. It was Warm Showers host Mustafa living in Rize, Turkey.

    B.I.:
    Did you use Warm Showers, Couchsurfing and other online social platforms to get help?

    E.Y.:
    Yes, I used Warm Showers and Couchsurfing. A total of 71 hosts hosted me. I only stayed in 5 hotels/hostels in Europe, from Greece to U.K. It was December and January, and there were not many cyclists. I think the hosts were curious to meet an Asian girl cycling in the midst of Winter.

    B.I.:
    Did you have all the neccesarry tools with you during the journey? Can you fix bicycles yourself?

    E.Y.:
    Yes, I fixed the bike myself. I had about 10-12 flat tires along the way. I had tools, punk patches, a spare tire, and two inner tubes. I carried a bike chain, but later I gave it away to somebody. I thought I wouldn’t need it, and it turned out that I didn’t need it.

    B.I.:
    What arsenal of weather-proof clothing did you take with you? Did you buy any clothes on the road since you realized you have to adapt to a climate situation you underestimated?

    E.Y.:
    I had a sportswear sponsor named Kolonsports, a famous sportswear brand in South Korea. They are more expensive than Decathlon. I wore their summer jersey in summer, and red waterproof jacket almost every day from September when the weather got colder.

    I sent my down jacket to a friend in Istanbul, Turkey, thinking that I might arrive there in Winter. It started to snow on the 3rd week of November in Turkey, and I was still wearing a red waterproof summer jacket. It took me 2 more weeks to finally grab my down jacket in Istanbul.

    B.I.:
    Did you overload the bicycle when launching or did you have a schedule how and when, what and how much of from the beginning?

    E.Y.:
    I had about 36kg of goods when I started the journey, but I finished the trip with almost 10 kg of goods. When I was unsure, do I really need this now, then I sent my goods to the city that I will arrive after one month. For example, I sent my tent, socks, clothes, underwear, sanitary products and a towel to Xi’an, which is about 2000 km away from Shanghai.

    Every time I tried to leave something where I stayed. I gave away my things, such as my tent, my clothes, bags, sponsored microphone to the host, or simply left it in the hotel that I stayed.

    B.I.:
    Did you have a tight budget?

    E.Y.:
    I’m a very thrifty person. I always tried to find a host through the aforementioned websites. I had 14 sponsors, and I spent what it should cost. I spent a total of 10,858 euros on the 8 months trip, that’s 1,357 euros a month, and 45 euros a day. I should also mention that in the first 4 months and 2 weeks, I cycled with my friend, and I covered all his costs, including the airplane ticket, visas, food and accommodation. It would have cost a lot less if I cycled all alone.

    B.I.:
    What did you eat? Did you have a planned diet with callory intake and energy ratio?

    E.Y.:
    I ate local food all the time. The host would prepare local food for me, and I went to a local restaurant for lunch. From Europe, I started to not have lunch to save money. I always carried small snacks like apple, banana, nuts, or chocolate. I didn’t have a planned diet with calorie intake and energy ratio. It would have been too stressful for me. I thought this is a travel, and I should enjoy the local food culture. So I did.

    B.I.:
    Regarding the journey we can surely say: after a while it becomes meditative. Like a trance! But it is also a visual experience with everchanging landscapes. Tell us more about your favourite cultural spots, natural sights or historic locations you will never forget!

    E.Y.:
    My favorite cultural spot was Turkey. Local families were so generous, and they invited me to stay over in their house in the countryside. My favorite natural sights were lake Como in Italy, and the Cappadocia sunrise in Turkey. My favorite historic location was Maijishan Grottoes in Tianshui, China. It was unbelievably beautiful.

    B.I.:
    Did you take a camera to make photos or are you the type who wants to remember?

    E.Y.:
    I took a lot of pictures with my phone. I took so many pics that people around me complained or asked me if I’m really going to see those pictures again later on.

  • edited January 2

    PART3

    B.I.:
    What did you feel when you realized it's over, „I did it”?

    E.Y.:
    I arrived home in Seoul on the most important holiday of the year, Seollal. I felt so relieved to be back home, and I was so happy to see my family.

    Yes, also the feeling, „I did it”. And I was so thankful to all the people who hosted me and helped me on the way.

    B.I.:
    When did you start cycling? / what was your first experience with bicycles?

    E.Y.:
    I learned to ride a bike when I was 16 years old, and I started cycling with a road bike just 70 days before I started the trip. One year before the trip, I tried a mountain bike for the first time with fellow journalists in the high mountains in Anhui province, China. I braked on the slope and tripped over and hit my head on to the ground. I had a pain in the neck, and I had to go see a doctor. My journalist friend still remembers that accident, and he was so impressed when I finished the cycling journey.

    B.I.:
    How many bikes did you have so far?

    E.Y.:
    I had only one bike in Korea, and I got it when I was 21 years old. It was a simple city bike, and I think it costs less than 100 euros. I only rode it around my neighborhood, no more than 2 kilometers from my house.

    B.I.:
    You moved to Germany. What's it like to cycle there?

    E.Y.:
    It’s so nice to cycle in Berlin. I like that it’s flat, and there are cycling roads almost everywhere I go. I also like to go on cycling trips around the city.

    B.I.:
    Are many friends / new friends of yours cycling?

    E.Y.:
    Yes, a few of them. I did three cycling trips to Tegeler See and organized by my French friend Solene, and her boyfriend Soren. I went there with my boyfriend Andres. Our destination is mostly lakes so that we can swim when we arrive there.

    B.I.:
    Are you a passionate cyclist? Do you also cycle off-road or in winter for instance?

    E.Y.:
    I prefer cycling on the cycling paths, and in spring or autumn. I don’t have such a good memory cycling off-road. It’s too bumpy. I cycled in winter during my cycling trip, because I started the trip a bit too late - June 2nd. I think the optimal 8 months would have been from March to October.

    B.I.:
    How would you teach an adult cycling if someone is asking you for advise not having head any experience with bicycles prior?

    E.Y.:
    No worries. Believe me, I had no experience with road bikes prior to my cycling trip. If you can manage to cycle around your neighborhood, I think you’re qualified for longer cycling journey.

    B.I.:
    What was the most extreme (design) bicycle you owned or were allowed to try?

    E.Y.:
    It was when I was a journalist, I tried out some VR bikes. You are cycling on a cycling machine with VR HMD on.

    B.I.:
    Have you heard of Oli Broom who cycled from the UK to Australia playing cricket on the road?

    E.Y.:
    Yes, I just searched it. As for me, I interviewed 10 startups in each country and held 10 seminars on the way. :)

    B.I.:
    What would you answer if someone asked you to write a movie script about your journey for adaptation on the big screen?

    E.Y.:
    Yes I’d love to. In fact, I already have a scene in mind that I want to film. The setting is in Kazakhstan, and it’s the day when I wanted to leave my friend and cycle alone. I failed because he easily found me. The next setting is in Turkey, and it’s the day when my friend left me for good. It was all of sudden, and he blocked all my contacts.

    B.I.:
    What are your top 3 recommendations to someone who got inspired by your story (wanting to do a similar journey)?

    E.Y.:
    Firstly, whether you’re young or old, have money or don’t have money, or where you come from, it doesn’t matter. I met a 60-year-old couple who cycled from Shanghai to London, and two Iranian cyclists who were spending $1 a day. You just have to do it. People might say cycling through all these countries is a crazy thing, but there is beauty in it. We’re so much used to speed; riding on airplanes and using phones, so it’s a gift that you get once to take the slower speed and let the world give you what it’s supposed to.

    Secondly, I really advise you to start cycling in March or April. Now it is November and it’s getting colder and colder, and sun is getting shorter. Thirdly, make the best use of warmshower.org and Couchsurfing and make a lot of local friends on your way. Fourth, join cycling WeChat groups in your city, like “RideNow” in Shanghai, for example. Tell everyone your plans. I didn’t even have a bike in March, but when I told people around me about my plan, my friends and a group member of a cycling club gave me a road bike, jersey, helmet, sleeping bag, and panniers for free. I only paid ¥50 to transform from a Mobike rider to a professional cyclist. Cycling with professionals is very important too. They gave me very useful advice.

    Then, pitch your idea to relevant companies to get sponsorship. Think about what you can offer them in return. I received sponsorship from 14 companies. In May, there is a big bike fair in Xujingdong in Shanghai. Talk to all the bike brands, and get a free bike or at least, get a discount. Be creative and ask people to get what you want. I got three packs of tampons, sponsored by a tampon brand CEO, and one year insurance from a person who works in an insurance company.

  • edited January 2

    PART4

    B.I.:
    Can you describe any physical changes which accoured over the span of such a long-distance cycling trip you had?

    E.Y.:
    I gained weight. After the trip, I gained 3 kilograms. I started at 53 kg, and I came back with 56 kg. After the inbody check-up, I realized that I had fewer muscles than the standard. I was so disappointed and started a serious exercise and diet after the cycling trip. Eventually, I lost 6 kilograms in 4 months.

    B.I.:
    Any bad experience on the way with people you have met?

    E.Y.:
    After travelling down the side of the right-angled triangle, I turned right at a 90-degree angle. I was riding on a country road when a man on a motorcycle passed me by. Kept going and passed what looked like a school, in front of which the man stopped his bike and looked at me. The man had a dark complexion and was wearing a military jumper. I continued to ride. Suddenly, the sound of a motorcycle drew near, and I looked to my left in fear that an accident might happen. It was the man on the motorcycle from earlier. Someone touched me and left. I was so startled that I screamed for 5 seconds.

    The man rode ahead of me and maintained his speed at my pace. I yelled at him to stop. I communicate my refusal very clearly and he disappeared into the distance. I rode alone for some time thinking how terrible of an experience it was. Then, I came across a beautiful river. I stopped my bike, took photos, took off my sunglasses and put on my regular glasses. The man from before walked up to me and said,

    “How are you? Do you want sex? Sex, sex?”

    I shook my head with force and before he got on his motorcycle, I got on my bike and pedaled as fast as I could. The motorcycle roared in the back, and I turned my head back in fear. The man easily caught up to me on his motorcycle and touched me once again before passing me. He snickered as he rode his bike behind a tree. I came to understand this pattern of his. The man would ride 100 meters ahead of me, watch me from the woods, and then catch up to me from behind. I understood the severity of this issue. The sun was setting, and this desolate country road had maybe one traveling car every minute or so. There were no houses to be seen near the fields and I feared that this man would rape me. I became frightened and stopped my car.

    I thought that I should hitchhike. It was my only way of escaping the situation. I stood on the side of the road and raised my hand up. I saw headlights of a car in the distance. I wished for it to arrive quickly, but it was so far away that I was able to see the size of it after 20 seconds. I waved my arms for help, but this German car, a Volkswagen car ignored me and passed on by. The third car came to a halt in front of me, but it was very old and small. The driver noticed me and stopped the car. As soon as he rolled down the window, I said in English,

    “Could you possibly take me to Komotini? That man keeps following me.”

    The man couldn’t understand me. I used Google Translate to convert what I said in Greek. I showed him, he said yes, and asked if I could speak Turkish. The man was Turkish. He got out of his car, folded the back seat to make room for my bike. Fortunately, my bicycle was able to fit inside the trunk. I got in the front passenger seat.

    B.I.:
    Were you stopped by authorities? How easy was it to cross borders?

    E.Y.:
    As a South Korean, it was easy to cross borders. South Korean visa was the best passport in 2018 May, due to the fact that South Korea hosting Winter Olympics that winter. So I didn’t have much problem crossing the borders. I was once stopped by police in the freeway from Alexandroupoli to Komotini. As I was riding on the freeway, a truck belting a neon orange ribbon transporting red cones used for road construction stopped in front of me. I had seen the same truck on my first day in Greece too. He insisted that I crossed over the safety line, and that I should ride within it. The man I saw that day got out of the car.

    “I warned you. You cannot ride on the freeway.”

    Ah, I didn't know. Then how can I get to Komotini?

    I turned on Google Maps and he indicated a route with narrower streets instead of the freeway. It was a very big detour – a right-angled triangle – the freeway being the longest side and I had to ride around it on a 90-degree angle. “Wow,” I thought, “Europe is really different, huh?” There had never been anyone who’s given me a hard time on the highway. Well, I was stopped altogether at a toll gate once in Xi’an, China and another time in Gemlik, Turkey, on my way to Istanbul. Other than that, I’m used to riding alone on wide roads. They had many cars and lane changes were frequent. Times when I am sandwiched in between cars, or when I have to squeeze myself in between them were very dangerous, but what choice did I have? That was the only way.

    B.I.:
    Who were the most inspiring strangers you met during your journey? And which of them are those you keep in touch with?

    E.Y.:
    The most inspiring stranger on this trip was meeting a German farmer Selmo in France. He used to be an entrepreneur in Jordan, founding the first recycling center. Later the authorities suspected that he was a spy, so he was banned to enter Jordan. So he moved to a little village in France and started to learn to farm. He was deeply concerned about the impact of global warming on our lives, and he thought about how to create a truly sustainable lifestyle. He found ways to save electricity and use as little resources as possible.

    I keep in touch with most of them. A good friend is an English girl Holly, who I met in Tbilisi during the trip, and London, which was my destination. This year, I met her in Berlin.

    B.I.:
    Do you regret anything about this journey?

    E.Y.:
    The fact that I didn’t do warm-up exercise and after cycling exercise. My knees got pretty weak. They squeak when I kneel or do crunch.

    B.I.:
    Did you already look up some routes? Perhaps in Europe? Is there a next projekt? If yes, where would your chosen path take you?

    E.Y.:
    I would like to cycle from Berlin to South Africa, probably in 2024.

    B.I.:
    Would you set out to do another journey soon if fans of enthusiasts would want to cycle in a tean of 5-10 participants? Or are you the loner who needs solitude during a trip?

    E.Y.:
    I very much enjoy accompany of other cyclists. I would enjoy that a lot better than doing it myself.

    B.I.:
    Any advise to those without experience on long-distance cycling?

    E.Y.:
    I want to say, it’s okay. Whatever happens or whatever will happen, it’s okay. All the world is ready, you just have to get yourself ready and go.

    B.I.:
    Thank you!

    Recorded online (October-November 2020)
    Edited by BikeInfantry (January, 2021)

    Photographs: courtesy of Eva Yoo

Sign In or Register to comment.