SeekRoad Team Cycles 2175km from Shanghai to Lanzhou and Shares Nine Challenges on the Way
Lanzhou, China - August 6th, 2018 - The SeekRoad team shares their achievements from July, during which they cycled 2175km from Shanghai to Lanzhou, following the ancient Silk Road.
The SeekRoad (seekroad.co) team, consisting of Chaewon Yoo, a previous Tech reporter at China-based tech media TechNode and Jianan Li, a previous Aliexpress e-shop owner, plans to cycle from Shanghai to London, organizing 14 tech meet-ups and interviewing startup entrepreneurs on the ancient Silk Road (the areas of today's One Belt and One Road Initiative) from June 2nd, 2018 to March, 2019. The team will cycle along the Silk Road through 13 countries -- China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Croatia, Italy, Switzerland, France and the U.K. and then come back to South Korea, Chaewon’s home country.
The next “Let’s Talk About Silk Road and Blockchain” tech meetup will be held in Kazakhstan, Almaty on August 17th. Their previous event in Nanjing attracted 34 people, most of whom were locally-based expats. The event in Xian attracted 30 local Chinese people.
Difficulties while cycling from Shanghai to Lanzhou
The SeekRoad team cycled 2175 kms from Shanghai to Lanzhou, cycling 70.2 kilometers on average per day, with a maximum distance of 119 kilometers a day. It took them 31 days to reach Lanzhou, and their average speed was 16.9 km/h. From Xi’an to Lanzhou, there were many mountains, and they climbed to a record total of 8850 meters, with a maximum 1190 meters of climbing in one day. Chaewon shares nine challenges they encountered on their way.
Oh it was so hard. The last 40 kms were really tough. I thought I would continue to see the villages as usual. But there were no supermarkets or restaurants on the way.
This section of the national highway 310 was really desolate and exhausting. There were only mountains, roads and other cars. There was no place to rest at all. There was no place to sit if I had to park my bicycle. When I sat on the side of the road, the ants crawled on my body. I wanted to get out of here for a while. Away from threatening cars that roam at a fast pace and the sad bodies of animals left in the road.
As I came down the first mountain and down the road, I was eager to buy things at the supermarket. I drank three bottles of water, and only a few sips of water were left. Also, I was getting low in sugar because of too many ups and downs. As I traveled on my bike in China, there were so many villages on the way that I stopped preparing snacks, and now there was only one bag of huajiao left which I received from a friendly local last week.
The numbered stones that tells me how many kms I cycled were meaningless. I gave up looking for a restaurant and now I was looking for a place to tent. At that moment, Jianan sent me a location, and told me to go to a certain hotel. It was about 10 kilometers away. I could not believe it. It seemed that no village will ever appear on this road. I hurried up for the last few kms so I could be done at last.
Here, the altitude was 2300 meters above sea level and the temperature was 17 degrees. The weather was cold and I wore a jumper. Then it started to rain. When Dominique passed this part in April, she said it was tough because it was raining and so cold, and even in the first week of August, it was still cold.
When a large truck passed me, it splashed fine droplets on my face. Today we were going through a very high mountain of 2 or 3 degrees of difficulty, meaning that we’ll have to cycle through two very steep slopes.
I heard nothing but my bike passing over the rain - drenched roads. Jianan and I did not say anything. It was a great relief to just cycle together. I felt a little slack in the cold. Especially when cycling in the rainy mountains, you worry about all things. What if something goes wrong and we are stuck here?
Three: getting bruised
Today I fell and bruised my arm. As I cycled out of the city and entered the national highway, the uphill slope began. I couldn’t balance well on the slope and fell from the road to the pit next to the road. The first thing I saw was dirt all over my pants. Then I found that my right elbow was bleeding.
I pulled the bicycle up from the pit. I picked up my bags and put them back on. Then I took out the drinking water and sprinkled it on the injury and picked out the dirt from the injury with a clean tissue.
Four: repairing the bicycle by myself
At 10:50, my rear wheel made a loud noise and stopped the bike. I had a flat tire. I hurriedly pulled over. I had to do the repair myself, without Jianan. Dealing with a flat rear tire is harder and more annoying because all the bags must be unloaded, and your hands become oily.
First of all, I ate six jujubes for supplements. I thought of several scenarios if I failed to do it alone. One, I’d have to wait for about 3 hours until Jianan passes here. Two, I could hitchhike. I decided to do my best by myself.
I put my bags, sleeping bags, tents and panniers all down. I put the rear wheel in front of my face and sat on the asphalt road. I had to remove the wheel first. It was not hard for me to do this alone. I leaned the bike on the road fence and tried to pull the wheels with both hands. I hesitated to use my bare hands, and at first I used a tissue, which was caught by the cogs and I had trouble trying to pull it out. (Jianan had many disposable gloves!) I covered my right hand with a plastic bag and touched the cog wheel to remove the wheel from the bike.
... I put the inner tube back into the tire and pumped the air in a hundred times. And I put this wheel back in place. After I finished this process, my hands were grimy with oil and dirt. It took me 50 minutes to repair the rear wheel.
As I was doing this, the bikers did not look back, they paced past me. People in the cars occasionally stared at me strangely.
Five: cycling at 12 o'clock
I started cycling at 5 a.m. but I still couldn’t finish today’s distance. The highest temperature today is 36 degrees. Previously when I rode between 12 and 1 o'clock, I suffered from sunstroke. It’s was now 12 o'clock. I looked at the map. 16 kilometers left. I had to make a decision here. Do you want to find a restaurant here and wait until the sun goes down, or cycle 16 kilometers? I decided to split the 16 kilometers into four parts. I can cycle for 15 minutes and take a 5 minute break.
I decided to take the last vanilla flavored sports gel to keep myself going until lunch time. I did my best for 15 minutes. The initial symptoms of sunstroke are headaches, and dizziness. I was talking to myself to make sure I was not feeling dizzy. I rested for 5 minutes on the road, just under a small shade where I and my bike can rest. When the destination was 8.9 kilometers away, I tried to get to the end without any rest.
We thought we would find a restaurant soon, so we walked and dragged the bikes. However, entering a section under construction, we had to pass through a narrow area, and there were a lot of people at lunch time. It was 12:30 p.m. The sun was really hot.
The restaurant did not appear, and we had to drag the bike all along. My voice was already full of irritation. If you are in a situation where you have to drag over 12 kilos of bike and luggage for more than 500 meters, you can’t be so nice and calm. As we went further under the sun, I knew I had reached my limit. I was dizzy with the sun again, and I wanted to stop. We entered a street, and we stopped our bikes.
We began to climb Baiyang mountain(伯阳山), 1300 meters above sea level. The gentle slope was turning into a steep slant. The sun shone in front of us. Jianan used gear 1, 1, while I used gear 1, 2. When I thought I reached the top and the slope was over, the slope continued again and again. It slowly tortured me. When heavy trucks and cars passed us, I quickly had to move close to the roadside to avoid them.
When I stopped the bicycle to avoid cars, it was so difficult to climb back on the bike because the slope was too steep. My bicycle could slip back if I could not balance it on a steep slope. I set my bike at a right angle to the incline and carefully stepped on the pedal and climbed onto my saddle. For this, I had to use a lot of the road area every time, and I checked to see if there were any cars coming towards me. I was almost dancing with the bike on the road, and Jianan thought it was so funny and took my picture. Again, it's so good to have a friend cycling with me. With a friend beside me, all the tragedy becomes comedy. On that day, we cycled 111km and arrived at the hotel at 11:00 p.m.
Eight: finding a place to tent
He came down and shook his head. This was our ninth attempt.
Jianan: The villagers here seem to be too proud themselves. We'll cycle a little more and look for a place in the countryside. The countrymen are more admirable.
I said yes. We put on our helmets and went back to the road. After we climbed up the hill, the signs turned on one by one at dusk.
At first we tried to pitch the tent on a farm. An old man said that we have to get permission first from the farm owner. It was a large farm with a small reservoir. Jianan and I visited the farm owner. The farm owner was a short guy in his thirties and had just finished eating at the round table. With an arrogant attitude he said, all the land on this farm belongs to a group, and therefore we cannot tent here. We left the farm and continued going further.
Jianan and I went back to the top of the hill. I lit the flash from the top, and he brought two bicycles, one at a time, over the shoulders and up the hill. The radiant white ring of the bicycle wheel looked so beautiful in the light. Now all our bags were on the hill.
We first stepped on the weeds to make it flat, then we pitched the tent. When we visited the Oyama factory last time, we set up the tent there for the first time, so this time we were adept at it. Within ten minutes the tent was up. We placed four of our bags in the corner of the tent to keep the mattress still.
Here, the altitude was high and the temperature was 17 degrees. Jianan was wearing Oyama long sleeves and pants, and I wore KolonSports long sleeves with a SeekRoad T-shirt and a Trickcoo jumper plus a KolonSports jumper. However, sleeping inside the tent wasn’t so cold.
I thought I would be able to use a faucet tonight, but of course not. We used the water from the water bottle, and washed our face and brushed our teeth.
On June 29, the SeekRoad team hosted the “Let’s talk about Silk Road and Blockchain" tech meet up in Xi'an with a Shanghai-based blockchain company Robin8. The same night, Jianan returned to Shanghai to apply for overseas visas. Chaewon had to wait for him for a total of 27 days in Xi'an, and during this period she obtained a certificate of baristas. She shares that taking the hand brew coffee class was her happiest time in July.
I took about 46 hours of coffee classes, and during that time, I found peace. Waiting for Jianan to come back to Xi’an was frustrating. Whether I was writing content or going out sightseeing on weekdays, I blamed Jianan. After I came to this cafe and made a hand brew coffee every morning for three minutes, I watched the trees dancing with the summer breeze out the window. I really felt peace in my heart. There were times when the bad news bothered me, but then I attended the class and I could really put things aside when making coffee.
One day, when I was practicing latte art, Jianan came. I served him a cup of Yirgacheffe coffee brewed with an AeroPress and made a leaf latte art on a cup cappuccino. I was really happy and proud that I could serve guests with a cup of hand brew coffee.
The project’s exclusive main sponsor is Shanghai-headquartered blockchain company Robin8 (robin8.net), a global leader in profile-centric advertising that utilizes AI and big data to profile, rank and match consumers to brands. Their silver sponsors include Primer (primer.kr), a Korean venture capital firm for early stage startups; Startup Alliance (startupall.kr), a Korean organization that enriches the Korean startup ecosystem and helps Korean startups go global; MyRealTrip (www.myrealtrip.com), a Korean travel startup providing personalized guided tours; EnterMedia (eng.enter-tech.com), a Korean company behind wireless home karaoke microphone Magicsing; and SparkLabs Global Ventures (sparklabsglobal.com), a global seed-stage fund with over 70 investments across 6 continents.
Product sponsors include Oyama (oyama.com), a Taiwanese bicycle company which has a wide range of touring bikes, mountain bikes, and folding bikes for the global market; KOLON sport (kolonsport.com), a Korean outdoor sportswear company; TRICKCOO (trickcoo.com.cn), a Chinese winter outdoor clothing designer brand; Silicon Power Computer & Communications (silicon-power.com), a Taiwan-based manufacturer of flash memory products and Cadence Translate, (cadencetranslate.com), a translation firm providing world-class interpreters for high-end meetings. Angel investors include Sunwoo Kim, founder and CEO of Chinada (chinatan.co.kr), the biggest Chinese language learning company based in Korea; Jason Xu, managing partner at Modern Capital; and Eliot Shin, CEO of NEOPLY China (neoply.com). WeWork (wework.com) is SeekRoad’s collaborative partner, providing shared workspaces and an international startup community network for the team.
People can follow SeekRoad by visiting their official website (seekroad.co) or searching “SeekRoad” on Facebook (fb.com/seekroad18), Twitter (twitter.com/road_seek), WeChat (WeChat account: seekroad18) and Weibo (weibo.com/seekroad), Douyin（抖音 account：1127926335）, Kuaishou, (快手 account： qixing2018) and their YouTube channel SeekRoad.