GlobeBuster’s very own Kevin Sanders has traversed the ancient silk road through Asia many times, and in July he returned from another epic trip leading a group of riders from the Ace Cafe in London all the way to the opening of the new Ace Cafe in Beijing, China.
In the October edition of Motorcycle Sport & Leisure magazine Kevin, who completed his latest trip on our range of Continental adventure tyres, explains why China is a country that delivers “the very best of culture shocks.”
The first thing you need to sort out upon reaching China is the border crossing, and in Central Asia, these can be some what difficult explains Kevin. There can be endless forms, lots of messing around with paperwork, and you’re dealing with all this in baking heat. As you approach the border crossing between Kyrgyzstan and China, you’re actually in for a somewhat pleasant surprise, thanks in part to the fact that virtually no foreigners arrive by motorcycle. There are many hoops you need to jump through just to get permission to ride in China, and in fact GlobeBusters are currently the only company that bring people in on their own motorcycles. The authorities in China demand that they have a photo of you, standing with your bike, holding the registration documents at least 3 months prior to your arrival date, and routes need to be agreed in advance, with local guides to accompany you, and that’s not the end of the requirements!
Over the years Kevin has found that cameras at borders are often forbidden, and can even see you punished for ‘spying’ but in China it’s the complete opposite – everyone wanted a photo with the group on their latest trip, from policemen to customs officials and the cleaner. Unless you’re in one of the large commercial cities, then westerners are a rarity in China, and people are mostly very pleased to see you – fascinated by differences in appearance, and of course the bikes.
Then there’s the food! After weeks of travelling across central Asia, which comprises of lot’s of vodka and meat on a stick according to Kevin, the first taste of real Chinese food is like an explosion of flavours. The only problem can be the breakfast, which is often last night’s leftovers served cold, with a glass of orange juice… that’s warm orange juice by the way!
Kevin explains that China is a country of extreme contrast. One minute you’re in the countryside with farmers herding ducks or working knee deep in paddy fields, and the next minute you’re in a modern city with 10,000,000 other people for company. The clear division of wealth is apparent when you compare the simple diet of those in the countryside, who are often thin, with that of those people in the city, who are starting to be westernised by businesses such as McDonalds, as fast-food chains begin to pop up in major populations centres. You’ll also find plenty of Bentleys and Ferraris in the city if you know where to look.
The expansion of the country’s road network is taking place at an unbelievable pace, with motorways hugging mountain sides on huge concrete pillars, and workers building tunnels that would make even the most revered of Alpine engineers jealous. However, in Western China, motorcycles are not allowed to fill up their tanks directly from the pump. Apparently it’s too dangerous, although Kevin can’t quite work out why. Instead you park a few metres away and staff fill 10-litre containers which they bring over to you – fine on a little commuter, but a pain when there are 15 of you riding 30-litre adventure bikes! It’s just a long standing custom that you have to accept.
One thing you’ll definitely notice is the lack of rules on the road. Communist countries are expected to be somewhat controlling, and China is in many ways, but policemen don’t bat an eyelid when drivers run red lights, ride on the pavement or go in the wrong direction down a one-way street.
GlobeBusters always offer a reward to the first rider who breaks their horn when in China, and Kevin say’s “you’ll be leaning on it from dawn until dusk. If it moves, honk at it. The only country where we’ve experienced anything like it is India.”
GlobeBusters Motorcycle Expeditions are one of the leading motorcycle touring companies in the world, offering riders the chance to experience once in a lifetime trips across several continents. Run by World Record holding husband and wife duo Kevin & Julia Sanders, they are currently guiding a group of riders from Nairobi to Southern Africa. Their official tyre partner for all these grueling rides? Continental.
Check out our complete adventure tyre range – tested and approved by GlobeBusters!