Two Bikes in Asia
Interview with Mortimer
63xc.com: I guess a lot of readers will already know about 2bikesinasia. For the rest of us, can you explain about the project?
mo: we are 2 bikemessengers from berlin and nyc, we had the idea of riding our bikes from tokyo to budapest, to find cyclists and possibly messengers in asia and to bring them with us to budapest for the 9th cycle messenger world championships (cmwc).
we wanted to bring the cycling community together and tried to get those guys via sponsored plane tickets to hungary!!! it never really happened that someone sponsored any of those guys... i guess if we did a tour with a taxi and looked for taxi drivers all over the world it would probably work out. car world!!!
63xc.com: How did you and Dustin meet up?
mo: i met dustin in berlin, he's a canadian and i'm a berliner, i rode my bike home, in the middle of the night thru' downtown berlin, and dustin saw me ridin' a canadian brodie frame... we both then worked as bikemessengers in berlin, i went to nyc to work as a bikemessenger in '98 and we saw each other almost every year for the cmwc. during the metropoloco race in 2000 in ny we had our idea! we also race together in a cycle courier team, the Berlin Massive.
63xc.com: How far did you travel?
mo: we rode from tokyo to osaka and then took a ferry to china (shanghai). from there we rode down the chinese coast to hong kong, into vietnam to hanoi and down the coast to saigon. then into cambodia (damnthat was hot!) to phnom penh and up to siem reap, sometimes witha bus and sometimes on pickup trucks... mostly with the bike. but a bus is cheaper than a hotel, and can save time and $$$.
63xc.com: Why did you choose to do the whole trip on track bikes?
mo: we use trackbikes for work, they're light, no parts that always break, like on mtb, and yeah being different... also we thought it would be easier to get a sponsor...
63xc.com: Were the manufacturers supportive? What mods did you make to the bikes before setting out?
mo: the manufacturers didn't even answer our letters (cannondale). we just put on racks, and used pretty rugged tires...
63xc.com: How long were you and Dustin on the road together?
mo: about 4 months!
63xc.com: How did people treat you? Were they used to seeing westerners outside of hotels and buses and cruiseships?
mo: when we were ridin thru' china we got the most looks, people were just staring at us the whole time, we started riding during the night finally, cuz nobody could see us and also there was less traffic... we felt like superstars in vietnam and cambodia, hello, hello 1000000000 a day, after a while it got on our nerves, so we just answered questions like... my name is clint eastwood, i'm from turkmenistan and i'm going to hell, wanna come ???
63xc.com: Did you find a messenger scene in Shanghai or Hanoi? Did you make contact?
mo: no, we didn't meet any messengers, as they probably don't have the messenger, they do but they don't have a message, they have a chicken or... anything you can imagine gets done with a bike... we were hanging out with the rikshaw guys all over vietnam, the coolest guys were the ones in nha trang, everybody told us to be careful with 'em, but they were nice, they rode our bikes, and we tried the rikshaws, they are fixies too...
63xc.com: There's one section on your excellent website called, I think, 'Never mess with a Vietnamese trucker'. Can you tell us some more about the experience that led to that?
mo: ok, hmmm that's a long one, better link it from your site to ours... we were ridin thru vietnam, as the cars fly by an inch next to you and honk, honk, honk the whole day... then this one guy cuts dustin off after looking into his mirror, so we slapped his mirror, it unluckily broke, he chased us like crazy with guys hanging off histruck... we thought we were gonna die, serious! these dutch guys came and helped us, later the whole village was waiting for us, but the dutch posse was luckily still with us, so we survived...
63xc.com: How did the bikes stand up to the journey?
mo: dustin slammed his bike into a scooter during a race in tokyo, but we did find a pink track frame to replace it. in tokyo, 56cm was easy to find !!! in vietnam, cambodia he crashed hard into potholes, but made it to bangkok where he got it welded for $1, it finally broke in thailand... no chance to get it fixed again... our messenger community helped us to get a free sponsored frame from surly, which made it with dustin to beijing, he left it outside a store to get a lock for the bike, the bike was gone... i had only one problem in cambodia, where i crashed into a pothole, we fixed it. i'm still working on the same old cannondale as a bike-messenger... dunno why cannondale don't wanna hook me up with a new bike ?
63xc.com: It looks like you ran into some political trouble at the end. What was happening? Was that why you finished the ride?
mo: i was in nepal when the nepalese royal family got killed by the son, that's what the press says at least... all the nepalese people i met told me the government killed the family, the borders were closed for over a month, dustin couldn't get into the country and i couldn't get out, time was running out... i flew to istanbul and dustin went to beijing to catch a plane to vienna, we than saw each other again in budapest for the cmwc...
63xc.com: How does it feel to be back?
mo: hmmm, when i was in china, i always said i will never ever go back again here, but now i can't forget these insane places i saw. it's just soo different, a bit sad too, but... hmmm, very difficult question,i wanna go back for sure, we wanna help those peoples, maybe not with money and so on, but maybe bring them bikes or show 'em how to fix 'em, don't know...