With the Korean language being a difficult language to master, some people find choosing a hobby in Korea can be a difficult task as well. However, a large group of expats around the country have taken a big interest in outdoor recreation such as cycling in Korea, where the common language is the road. One of those people, is Eddie Glayzer.
The 26-year-old Sacramento, California native began riding after graduating from the University of San Diego, when he embarked on a six week trip where gathered what little cash he had to ride across the U.S. from Vancouver to Tijuana. Having arrived in Korea in 2009, he quickly got involved in the cycling community and was soon riding around the country at every opportunity that arose.
Glayzer then set about making a plan to ride across Asia, and set the wheels in motion for what would be an almost four-month struggle across some of the toughest terrain, climate and political turmoil around.
From March 1st to July 7th last year, Glayzer covered 7,271 km (4,518 miles) on his bike, which started from a boat ride from Incheon to Tianjin, China. Over the course of 129 days, Glayzer rode through China, Tibet, Nepal, and finishing his miraculous journey in New Delhi, India. The photos and journal of his amazing ride are a must read for any cycling enthusiast, as well as anyone who has an interest in off-the-beaten path travel.
Eddie Glayzer with Mt. Everest as a backdrop
For those looking to get into cycling, Korean-World is a blog developed from the adventures of Cycling in Korea, which is now a popular Facebook group. Through this social media activity, I’ve met some amazing distance cyclists who have a passion for outdoors, and would like to live there permanently, but choose to call Korea their home and live on their bike. Eddie Glayzer is definitely that sort of individual, and he has an amazing story to tell.
I completed a brief interview with Eddie during his Korea-China-Tibet-Nepal-India cycling expedition to share with friends and others with these interests. The interview is a background to Eddie’s motivations and experiences, and his journal, The Cycling Vagabond is a popular read in the pages of crazyguyonabike.com
The trip outline
What made you decide on your current journey?
I have no idea. The journey sort of made itself more than any decision I have made. When I graduated from University in the U.S., my gift to myself was a cycling trip across the U.S. I was only just starting to commute by bike at that time, but it seemed like a neat thing to do at the time. When I moved to Korea, I bought myself a proper touring rig and was riding everywhere on it. After completing two tours of Korea, I just decided to branch out and make this an official hobby among many.
Where did your journey begin & when did you come to Korea?
I came to Korea in February of 2009. I was completely broke with massive student loans in the U.S. Still, my first paycheck in the ROK went to a new bike! I actually gained several pounds when I first moved to Korea because I had no bike to ride!
What are your favorite bicycle tour routes in Korea, China or the USA?
I have crossed Korea two times and my favorite ride was along the west coast through the sleepy fishing villages punctuated every now and then by super popular vacation beaches. I hear the east coast is awesome as well, so that’s on my list for next year when I get back to the ROK. So far, China has been a royal pain in my ass bureaucratically. It’s complicated, much more so than a bicycle ride should be, even of this length. The people I have met on the road have more than made up for that shortcoming though. When I crossed the U.S. it was from Vancouver to Tijuana and it was spectacular, if a bit expensive. I am planning a Great Lakes tour next year when I return for grad school.
Does your bicycle have a name? How long have you two been together?
Of course she has a name. It’s bad luck to raise a kick-stand and set off on a long voyage without christening your rig. Her name is Shirley. We have been together for almost three years now and I have never strayed, unlike some of my other relationships….
What are 3 tools that a long distance cyclist cannot do without?
I’m not a big repair-on-the-road kind of guy. If something breaks, I see it as an opportunity to meet new people as you seek help from the locals. That being said, tools are essential. I carry a Topeak Alien II that has been wonderful for the last five years or so and still going strong. Although, I admit I hardly use any of the stuff other than the Allen keys. It’s still nice to have everything you need in one package. Duct tape (Gaffer) is extremely important, as are zip-ties and extra straps or bungees.
Why did you decide to cycle across China?
My major in University was Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis on Asian culture. I want to visit as many countries as I can in this region, specifically, North East Asia. Japan is expensive so that left China!
The roads through Lanzhou, China
What are important things to prepare before setting off on tour?
Your head. Get it straight before you leave and everything else will sort itself out. I’m serious about this. Five days after leaving on this trip, I almost boarded a plane back to the ROK because I missed my girlfriend. Not too macho huh? I have never met a woman who had that sort of impact on me, especially to affect a long term goal such as this trip. It caught me completely off-guard. The other typical things I could tell you to prepare like your bike, your fitness, your traveling technique will all happen within the first two weeks on the road, regardless of whether or not you’re prepared before hand.
What is your greatest moment so far while riding in China?
There have been a lot. My most recent “great” moment was summiting Tranggula Pass at 5231 meters which is also the boundary between the TAR (Tibetan Autonomous Region) and Qinghai. I was completely out of breath due to the elevation. Just standing around left me light-headed. Other than that, I enjoyed staying in the Ganjia Monetary for three days with a group of monks, playing drinking games and listening to Micheal Jackson with a Tibetan restaurant owner near Qinghai Lake, or staying with a local one-eyed woman in the ancient, crumbling walled city of Jimigi in Heibe province. Oh, I was also invited to a local school to do an impromptu English lesson in the country side of Shanxi province. I was half-drunk at the time and gave a 45 minute lecture to about 150 Chinese middle school students. I definitely did not see that one coming when I woke up that morning.
What’s your average mileage per day?
I have been keeping around 100k as a rough goal, but often times I do 80-100 with the occasional 50k or 150k day thrown into the mix. I don’t really keep close track because I don’t like to be on a tight schedule. Unfortunately that has been impossible in China due to their unreasonable short visa periods and expensive (sometimes impossible) extension system.
Cooking noodles on the side of the road during a short pitstop.
What would you bring on your next tour?
Iodine or chlorine tablets. I brought two stoves with me on this trip, my trusty Trangia alcohol stove and a Primus Himalaya multi-fuel. I hate cooking with petrol. I inhale the stuff all day and the last thing I want to smell when relaxing around camp is burning gas. I brought it for Tibet and other out of the way places where I might have to boil water a lot for drinking in which case the petrol stoves fuel efficiency becomes very important. This has turned out to not be a problem since there are more settlements than I thought and I just end up carrying extra water rather than boiling it in route.
What would you leave behind next time?
Primus Himalaya multi-fuel stove. A pair of shorts that I have yet to wear. I also brought a pair of Teva sandals that I am hoping will see some action once I reach Nepal but…
What equipment is essential for an ultra-distance bicycle tour?
A bicycle, an open mind, and a smile. That’s it. Everything else is optional. For me, personally, I would also add coffee.
Where can readers find more information about your tour? Can you give us your website?
Here is my website with a daily updates, pictures, and route information visit www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/thecyclingvagabond
Eddie Glayzer’s Trip Facts
Longest day on the cycle (hours): 14 hours. Tianjin to Beijing.
Longest distance in a day (kms): 159k loaded.
Nights spent sleeping in tent: Not nearly as many as I thought it would be. So far just 7-8 days. Accommodations have been so cheap in China, and the weather/pollution, so miserable that it hasn’t been worth pitching that often. However, since I recently entered Tibet and am dodging the local police like the plague, I am guessing I will get more use out of it, freezing weather be damned.
Nights sleeping in other places: I don’t know, probably 60 or so in cheap guest houses that cost anywhere from $1 to $5. About once every two weeks or so, I splash on a decent hotel with a hot shower. They usually run $10-$15 here in major cities.
Wildlife seen on tour: Not a lot until I got out of eastern China and away from the land of a billion bodies. After that I see stuff everyday. Lately I have been seeing Yaks and mountain goats all day long. I saw lots of camel herds in the deserts outside Golmud and Donkeys on the way to the Tibetan Plateau. There were thousands of species of migrating birds at Qinghai Lake since it’s their breeding season right now. There are some strange looking guinea pig-like creatures that take great pleasure in darting across the road right in front of me in Tibet. The desert rabbits have woken me up in the tent quite a few times while they did through my garbage for food. I have heard there are large bears and wolves in Tibet that come out at night but I have yet to see them in the flesh. I get attacked by large Tibetan Mastiffs on a regular basis.
Weather conditions: Mostly terrible. They were at their peak in southern Gansu, but I have yet to have a day that I could cycle in shorts. I started the ride a bit early in Tianjin and continued to gain elevation as I traveled west faster than the seasons could keep up with me. It feels like I have been going back in time. The last two days in Tibet have been blissfully snow free. The winds in the deserts of Qinghai were always against me and always very strong.
Potola Palace – Lhasa, Tibet
What type of landscapes have you encountered? Mostly arid desert and high mountain planes. In Ganjia and Tibet, I encountered high grasslands. In parts of Gansu the weather permitted lush agriculture, but I was only there to enjoy it for a brief time. I have encountered a great deal of sand throughout this trip….
What is your favorite food on a bicycle tour? Coffee. Everything else is mere luxury. The coffee in China sucks by the way, if you can find any at all. Besides this obvious truth, Snickers are hands down the best food to eat while cycling. They fit in your handlebar bag, fill you up, and are easy to eat with one hand. When camping, I like to make noodles with fresh veggies and whatever meat I can get my hands on for dinner. Lately, it has been dehydrated yak. In the mornings, I eat amazing amounts of oatmeal mixed with dried fruit and honey.
Currently, Glayzer is in Vietnam, readying for his latest adventure, which starts in Hanoi, Vietnam, crosses Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and ends in Jakarta, Indonesia. You can find out more, and follow his trip here.
Brian Perich is an English teacher, father, and adventurer based in South Korea. He completed his first solo expedition of Western China crossing the Borohoro ranges of the Tian Shan Mountains, the Taklamakan Desert, the northern Himalayas, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces, traveling over 3240km standing next to his bike on a overcrowded passenger train for $50, cycling 3200km across Western China, hitchhiking with locals, and learning about cultures and his own limits. He returned and completed the expedition, supporting ETElive.org Education Through Expeditions, UK and IDEAS Intestinal Disease Education & Awareness Society, and he plans to cycle 32,000km from Alaska to Argentina starting in 2012. You can read his extensive blog about cycling in Korea here.