We are bike tourers (ists?), on a mission to bike a ~ 6,000 mile (10,000km) route through Southeast Asia, China, Nepal, Bangladesh and India – maybe some other places, time permitting. We are in this for an experience, but we aim to learn. We will bike through some of the most amazing landscapes the earth has to offer, and dance with the traffic in some of the world’s largest cities. We will talk with the people, and learn from experience just what it is that makes that freehub tick (or not) in the rapidly expanding cities of the Asian continent. We will film, write, photograph and draw what we find, and we will bring the lessons we learn back home with us to the U.S., where as designers, citizens, planners, activists and (amateur) filmmakers we can advocate for that noble machine that gives us everything, takes us anywhere, and that we believe represents a solution to many of the worlds problems.
“Good luck with the traffic” is the standard warning to all who propose to bike, in nearly all of the places we plan to do it. It is written in guidebooks (“bikes are available for rent, $2/day, but good luck with the traffic”), and is a common verbal answer to our travel itinerary. But more importantly, it is our warning to the world. Bicycles have been around for centuries, invented to solve a problem, and born out of the necessity to get from here to there. This is still particularly true in developing nations. But as motorized transport booms, urban design has marginalized the bicycle – in many cities, the bike is viewed as an impediment to the progress of the automobile. And yet, despite all of the transportation benefits delivered by the discovery of internal combustion, countless new threats to our social and ecological world have developed. New problems – none of which could ever be blamed on pedal power, and all of which might in part be solved by it. Our cities are clogged, our people are choking, and the solution is right in front of us, hidden only because it is ancient and ubiquitous.
We know the sound and the smell of diesel, the car horns and the stress of clogged highways, and we yearn for a quieter, healthier answer to urban population growth. We believe that the ticking of the freehub, the soft hum of tires, and the occasional whine of an un-greased chain will get us much of the way there. This is our mission. We hope to help push the combined effort of policy and design and lube the people with political foresight and belief in a positive solution, which will lead to the cultural and infrastructural investment needed to combat this incessant noise. We aim to change ways and minds. If we can’t, at least after 6,000 miles our battered bikes, tattered clothing, worn out bodies and stories from the road will be a testament to the fact that at least we tried. And anyway: good luck with the traffic, world.
Alex Schuknecht & Rob Tidmore – June 2012