Howard imitates that his mother was a mud

10 billion - 1890

Asia by Motorcycle = Asia motorcycle travel
Overland to, in and around Asia by Motorcycle

Plan or experience? You can talk with 300 highly experienced Motorcycle-Travelers who rode all continents so far:

All the great motorcycle travelers who rode / ride Around-The-World and possibly crossed this continent as well are not included here. See> English or German version> continents> world

10-20 billion years ago
The universe started to existsomehow.

4.5 billion years ago

The Sun and Earth were created. The earth is one of nine big planets of the sun. Possibly out of change of gravity in the universe it was caused that dust attracted each other at first to smaller parts which are getting bigger and bigger. Finally becoming big rocks which attracted each other to big planets. Most of them were attracted by the gravity of the biggest part which is the sun. The nine planets could escape somehow the gravity of the sun and started to circle around the sun. All of the men / women who have been in satelits speak about the "blue planet earth" because about 70% of the earth is water.

1-3 billion years ago
First signs of life on the earth. After the earth got colder the first cells grew in microbe "Archeos" (= the original, the basic). If these cells came by meteroits from other planets or developed on earth is not proved.

200-170 million years ago
The One-Piece-Continent Pangea (surrounded by the ocean called Panthalassa) on earth so far separated in two big blocks. The northern part was called Laurasis and included N-America, Europe, Asia, North Pole. The southern part was called Gondwana and included Africa, South America, India, Anarctica and Australia.

65 million years ago: North America and Eurasia are still connected, but drifting apart in today's Alps.
South America separates from Africa.
Most of Antarctica is in its current position, but Australia is still attached to it.
India has broken away from Africa and is moving towards Eurasia.)
Theory: In a total of 500 million years, the majority of the earth's land mass could be pushed back together to form the supercontinent "Pangea Ultima" due to continental drifts

25,000 years ago
The "homo sapiens" existed.

13,000 years ago
In North-West-India between the rivers Indus and Sarawah a civilization started. They had houses with three floors and flewing water in 8,000. This civilization stopped about 1,500 before Christ for unknown reasons. Possibly a change of the climate was the reason. This was long before the Egypt civilization.
Later the Indogerman people came from the north and the inhabitants went south. Most of this known by Epos Mahabharat which was given by songs from one to the other generation.

800 years before Christ
The world-map of Greek writer Homer did not contain India.

549-486 years before Christ
The world-map of Greek writer Hekatäus did contain India.

450 years before Christ
The "father of the history of knowledge of the earth" the Greek Herodotus includes India in his world map.

550-330 BC Chr.Achaemenid Empire Persian Empire from Byzantium to the Indus
TheAchaemenid Empire (also as Old Persian Empire designated) was the first Persian empire. It extended from the late 6th century BC. Until the late 4th century BC. BC over the areas of today's states Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. The Achaemenid Empire expanded for the first time in 550 BC. Under Cyrus II through the annexation of the Mederreich. Under the successors, the continuation took place until the later largest expansion, which culminated around 500 BC. Reached and at this time also included parts of the states Libya, Greece, Bulgaria, Pakistan as well as areas in the Caucasus, Sudan and Central Asia. In 330 BC In BC Alexander the Great ended the rule of the Achaemenids.

330-323 Empire of Alexander the Great from Greece to the Indus
Alexander the Great (Greek. 07/20/356 BC in Pelia- 06/10/323 BC in Bayblon. 336 - 323 King before Christ)
+ Greek - India. King Philip II (382-336 BC before Christ) was born in Pelia (Macedonia). His Greek son, Alexander of Macedoniawhat was later called "Alexander the Big". With 28 years he was the Greek king and found and conquered the overland way to India with a huge Greek army.
route: Greek - Turkey - Persia (334 conquered king Dareios at Issos) - Syria (332: conquered Tyros and Gaza) - Egypt (332: conquered, founded Alexandria) - Syria - Persia (331: conquered Babylon, Susa, Persepolis) - Pakistan (Khyber Pass) - India - Persia. He died in Persepolis.
route: Macedonia (Pelia. 334 BC) - Byzantion. Here the Persian Empire began: Mysia- Lydia- Caria (Ephesus) - Lycia- Pamphylia (Side) - Kililkia (Issos. 333) - Syria (Sidon) - Gaza (332) - Memphis- Alexandria (Alexander's name.332) - Paretonia- Ammon-Oracle- Memphis (331) - Gaza- Damascus (331) - Nikephorion- Nisibis (331) - Arbela- Mesopotamia- Babylonia (Babylon) - Susiana (Susa) - Persepolis (330) - Ekbatana- Rhaga- Hyrcania (Hekatompylos- Zadrakarta) - Parthia (Susia) - Aria- Drangiane (Prophtasia) - Aracosia- Kabul (Hindu Kush. 329) - Bactria (Baktra) - Sogodia (Marakanda. 328) - A. Eschate (329) - Kabul (Khaiber Pass. 327 ) - Taxia- Nikala- A. am Hyphasis (326)
Back route: A. am Hyphasis (326) - Multan- A. am Indus- Pattala- Rhambasia (326) - Gedrosien (Pura) - Karmanien (Parsagadai) - Susa (324) - Babylon (323. Death of Alexander in Babylon or in Persepolis?).

Approx. 323 BC Empire of the successors from Greece to the Indus

c. 224 to 651 AD. Neupersian Empire of the Sassanids.

After 8 years abd 18,000 kms the warriors wanted to go back to Greek. They took another route. Sometimes Alexander by boat.

0 year

800 after Christ
+ Arabia-China by ship "Dau".
January 20, 2013, 10: 45-11.45 a.m. in TV-arte. Today, on Sunday, I wanted to relax. I came across a very interesting program on TV-ARTE. She dealt with another piece of the mosaic, how Asia from Europe / Africa (and vice versa) was apparently discovered by Arab traders as seafarers. The German engineer Tillmann probably followed a tip from local fishermen in 1998. These told him that before Belitung Island off Sumatra / Indonesia Porcelain was found on the seabed. A treasure ?

The discovery of a completely sunk arabic dhow was a historical sensation. It turned out that this wooden ship was small, but the ship hadn't broken through and all of the cargo was received; 17 m under the water. 60,000 Chinese finds were funded: mainly jugs and painted plates. A gold cup (426 g) and a gold bracelet with high-quality artistic decorations. The year 826 was written on a piece of gold. Thanks to the care of the treasure hunter Tillmann, the entire collection stayed together. It was bought by Singapore for 32 million, is scientifically evaluated. And later made available to the public. - The ship probably sank 1100 years ago. Thanks to a layer of sand, the wood was not eaten by worms. So you had an ancient ship find. As far as I understand it, there is no older, in any case no comparable ship finds made of wood.

It is believed that the network of the silk roads from China to Europe in which these times had become too dangerous and so the sea route was tried as an alternative route to the "Silk Road on the Sea". - The Arab dhows weren't big wooden ships. They only moved forward with natural sea sails. One of the main tasks of the team was to constantly adjust the sail position according to the wind direction and strength. The wooden boats were built without any nails. The boards each had rows of wooden holes 2 cm from the edge. They were only held together with ropes. The gaps in between were sealed with tree bark on the inside of the ship. In a completely different picture of a dhow, two men with buckets were found in the belly of the ship. These were probably more or less permanently occupied with scooping out the water that was still penetrating. The waterfall was certainly different depending on how heavily the dhow was loaded and how strong the storm and the masses of water tugged on the ship. The advantage of this type of construction made of board elements was that damaged wooden parts could easily be replaced again.

The dhows usually only drove along the coasts. I (B.T.) myself will be with my travel friend Alfred Reetz crossed with an Arab dhow in 1990 from Kenya to the island of Lamu in the Indian Ocean, where we took our motorcycles with us. We had traveled the greatest distance in Africa west-east from Senegal to Kenya's island of Lamu with motorbikes. It was forbidden to take vehicles on the ferry to Lamu Island. There were no vehicles there. On the coast, such a wooden boat is very cozy with its large sails. But in the case of the sunken dhow described here, we know that it has covered great distances, including across seas. Assumed route: Iraq - Persian Gulf - Gulf of Oman - Arabian Sea - always along today's Pakistani and Indian coast, around India north between Sri Lanka and India, across the Bay of Bengal, across to Indonesia, past Sumatra and Singapore - then high along past Vietnam to the coast to China. That ruled here Emperor Tang dynasty (618 to 907).

It is interesting to still think about how the crew ate during the trip. Since they always sailed along the coast, I suspect that they just went ashore every now and then and supplied themselves with wild fruits. In any case, animals and birds also live here. Perhaps they had already found methods of baiting and frying birds on land or en route. Or they have also exchanged food in inhabited areas. In any case, they partly made a living from the sea and its fish offer (including dried fish). In addition, they had a large wood stove on the deck for cooking / frying. So that the wood stove and the wooden boat did not burn, this wooden floor was filled with sand at the bottom, was high and had two large wind openings so that the heat did not get too big. Presumably you could turn the furnace accordingly so that the openings were perpendicular to the main wind direction. How the sailors managed to light and maintain the fire back then, B.T. unknown. When the sea is calm and the sun is drying, the supply of initially wet driftwood should have been enough to keep the fire going. It would have been much more difficult in storms and sea moisture, rain and at night.

At that time they used a kamal for orientation. This is a rough compass made of a piece of wood with openings and a piece of string.

Whether that something with the legend of the famous earlier "Sindbad the Navigator" has to do, one does not know. An oriental fairy tale from the Arabian Nights,

1271-1295 after Christ
Marco Polo (1254 - 01/08/1324)
+ Europe-Asia. 1271-1295 from Italy (Venice) to Shanghai / Beijing 8,000 kms. Marco Polo came back by ship-
The young trader Marco Polo traveled 8,000 km from Venice to Beijing. Marco Polo's notes were recorded in his captivity in Genoa from memory by the historian Rustichello and published in 1298 under the title "Description of the World". Three men of the Polo family traveled from Venice to Shanghai in 1271-1295. The young dealer Marco Polo traveled 8,000 km from Venice to Beijing,
route: By ship from Europe (Italy (Venice) via Israel (Akkaba) to Asia (to Turkey). With caravans overland: Turkey - Iran - Afghanistan - China (Kashgar - Beijing - Shanghai). When Marco Polo was asked on his deathbed to retract at least some of his most unlikely stories, he replied, "I haven't told half of what I've seen".
This information was taken from the book by Timothy Giles Severin (born October 30, 1940). Tracking Marco Polo. (1964, Publisher: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. London. GB. 1964. ISBN 0-87226-012-7).
German translation: In the footsteps of Marco Polo. Published by Georg Westermann Verlag. Braunschweig. Germany. 1967. Library.
1961: The three young Englishmen Mike, Stan and Tim set off from Oxford in 1961 with two B.S.A. set off with a sidecar (hard shock absorbers, low-pressure pistons) to follow in Marco Polo's footsteps.
2012: A series of TV films is currently running on ntw.

Would you like to see the films in one go?
The 5 x 45min. The TV series "The Marco Polo Track" is available on DVD.
Part 1 From Venice to Turkey
Part 2 From Turkey to Tehran
Part 3 Through Iran and Afghanistan
Part 4 From Tajikistan to China
Part 5 Through the Middle Kingdom
2 DVDs, including 60 min. Bonus material, German version, can be obtained from

DVDs in English language version "Marco Polo Reloaded" (4 x 52min.):
Part 1 "From Venice to Eastern Turkey"
Part 2 "Through Iran"
Part 3 "From Afghanistan to China"
Part 4 "Through the Middle Kingdom

From 1271 to 1295 the young Venetian trader traveled from Venice to Beijing, where he won the trust of the Emperor of China. Be Book "The Wonders of the World" made Europe marvel in the Middle Ages. For the first time one read about China, about distant worlds that one had never heard of. "Marco Polo traveled on the 'Great Silk Road' on the way there. Back then, this network of caravan routes not only brought merchants, scholars and armies, but also ideas, religions and entire cultures from East to West and vice versa. Bradley Mayhew, a 40- year old Briton, is a professional traveler of today. He writes travel guides for Lonely Planet. Bradley is traveling again the route that Marco Polo was on. 8,000 kilometers across the country, from Venice to Beijing. He travels by bus, truck or by hitchhiking. He has the book of Marco Polo in his backpack and is looking for clues: How did he get to the Chinese imperial court? Or was he just inventing everything? Do his descriptions match reality? Marco Polo's trail leads to the Pamir- Mountains of the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan. In the Wakhan Corridor Bradley finds old waymarks of the southern Silk Road. The area is deserted, wild. In his famous Marco Polo described the landscape very precisely: cold, windy, without vegetation. The first stop in China is the old oasis and market town of Kashgar. This is where the Uighur people live, whom Marco Polo praises as great traders, and who are now a minority who are marginalized in Chinese society. Bradley crosses the vast Taklamakan Desert and reaches the Khotan Oasis, an ancient center of the silk and jade trade. The times when you could feel jade with your bare feet in the bed of the Dragon River by moonlight are over. Today the Chinese way of searching for jade is done differently: with an excavator. After a long journey through the desert, Marco Polo, his father and uncle were on their way to the court of the Emperor of China in the 13th century for three years. 750 years after the Polos, Bradley arrives at Jiayuguan Fortress, a monumental landmark on the Silk Road. Bradley's last leg begins here. He passes the Zhangye oasis, where the Venetian trader wrote about Buddhism. In the metropolis of Lanzhou, China is on the verge of becoming a superpower - similar to the 13th century when Marco Polo traveled. Bradley travels to Inner Mongolia, to Xanadu. In the legendary Summer Palace, the young Marco Polo first met the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan, who took a liking to the polo. The Briton finally reached the border with the Chinese heartland, the Great Wall.

However, some historians doubt whether Marco Polo ever made it to China. In his book "The Wonders of the World" there is nothing about the Great Wall, nothing about tea or calligraphy. The Chinese annals do not mention Marco Polo, although, as he writes, he traveled all over the empire in the service of the Great Khan. On the other hand, he accurately describes many places. Kanbaliq, for example, today's Beijing, then and now the heart of the vast empire that Bradley reached after a journey of 8,000 kilometers. One more trip on the Imperial Canal to Hangzhou. In Marco Polo's time, it was the largest city in the world. She completely fascinated the Venetian. Bradley is certain that, despite some exaggerations and inconsistencies, the Venetian actually went on his legendary journey.

07/08/1497 - approx. 09/1499
Vasco deGama
Europe> Asia> India by ship. With two three-masters with a volume of 120 and 100 tons and a cargo ship, he finds the sea route to India.
route: Portugal (Lisbon) - Canary Islands - Cape Verde - broke away from the African mainland to the west across the Atlantic to get better wind and current conditions - South Africa - Circumnavigation of the "Cape of Good Hope" on November 22nd, 1497 - Terra Natalis - Degolabai (10.01 .1498) - Mocambique - here he met the first ships of the Arabs coming from India - Mombasa - from Melinde (Malindi) in Kenya on April 24th, 1498 with an Arab Lhotsen Ahmed ben Madjid to East India - India (Kalikut (Kozhikode)). The shipping route to India was found on May 20th, 1498. Return trip: On October 5th, 1498 he had to leave the Indian waters near Goa and only reached Kenya (Malindi) again after a terrible three month voyage on January 7th, 1499 - February 20th, 1499 sailing around the "Cape of Good Hope" - Lisbon.

1786 Overland "Pacific - Kamschatka - France" by horse and waggon
A Frenchman from the ship brings a message overland with new maps of the world to the French King Louis XI. He needs 13 months for the Kamschatka - France route by horse and cart. This is the overland trip from the Pacific to Europe (France) that I know for the first time.
I wrote it down "very quickly" when it was said on the TV program. The ship had found a new route. As far as I understood it was James Cook's 3rd trip (1st trip circumnavigates N.Z. 2nd trip circumnavigates the Pacific Islands. 3rd trip Finds Behringstrasse 1785). Was captain Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse (Lapérouse; born August 23, 1741 in La Gua near Albi; † 1788 near Vanikoro, Solomon Islands) was a French navigator, circumnavigator and geographer in the Age of Enlightenment.
La Pérouse came from a patrician family in the old south-west French town of Albi in Languedoc. At the age of 15, La Pérouse went to Brest and embarked on a career in the French Navy. The officers were divided into aristocratic 'reds' and bourgeois 'blues'. To make a better career, La Pérouse added a title of nobility to the name of his family, "de Galaup", after a small family farm outside Albi, the La Peyrouse was called.
The Seven Years' War, which had just broken out, led La Pérouse to Québec, among other places. The return of circumnavigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville to France in 1769 inspired La Pérouse to do similar things.
From 1772 to 1776, La Pérouse sailed on behalf of the French governor in the Indian Ocean between the French-ruled colonies of Mauritius, Réunion, Pondicherry in southern India and Madagascar, where he completed his geographical knowledge.
Because of special merits, La Pérouse was ennobled and promoted on his return. When France wanted to undertake a similarly prestigious trip after the discoveries of the Briton James Cook, the choice of King Louis XVI fell. 1785 on La Pérouse.
Two ships - the one Astrolabe and the Boussole - were equipped and a top-class group of scientists from the fields of astronomy, mathematics, geology, mineralogy and botany were put together for the trip. Her mission was to precisely research the geography of the Pacific and the trade opportunities there, from the far north to Australia, from Asia to America.
On August 1, 1785, the two ships set sail from Brest. The first stop was Tenerife. In January 1786 Patagonia was reached. Via Cape Horn and Easter Island we went to Hawaii and on to Alaska. La Pérouse, who counted himself among the Enlightenmentists, was the first European to consciously refrain from taking possession of as yet unexplored islands. In Alaska he made important contacts with Indians before exploring the California coast and praising it for its wealth.
The winter was used to cross the Pacific. In January 1787, the two ships landed in Macau. Now the previously little-known East Asian tributaries, the Chinese Sea and the Japanese Sea, have been systematically explored and mapped, as has the large Siberian peninsula of Kamchatka, which was interesting because of its abundance of fur.
In Petropavlovsk (today: Petropavlowsk-Kamchatsky) the interpreter Jean Baptiste Barthélemy de Lesseps disembarked on September 29, 1787. He crossed Kamchatka and Siberia and reached Paris via Okhotsk, Irkutsk and Saint Petersburg in October 1788 after traveling for over a year. He brought the first reports of the world tour there at a time when La Pérouse and his people were probably no longer alive.
After Sakhalin and the Japanese Kuril Islands had been explored, the South Seas were headed for. Source: Wikipedia: "Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse ".

Route of Thomas Gaskell Allen and William Lewis Sachtleben. Map out of book: ISBN: 9 781587 420214. Inkling Books

06/14/1890 - approx. 06/03/1893 (again in N.Y)
Thomas Gaskell Allen, Jr. (American, born 1868, later British citizen) other William Lewis Sachtleben (American, died December 13, 1953 in Laudeedale, Florida)
+ Across Asia on a Bicycle and + Around-The-World.A bicycle tour Around-The-World by two American students Thomas Gaskell Allen and William Lewis Sachtleben. They were inspired by Thomas Stevens two books; "Around the World on a Bicycle".
A 15.044 miles tour RTW with two "Humber Safety Bicycles". Their 8,000 miles trip through USA and Europe is not described in their book. - They took 2,500 photos of their trip. But they are lost somehow until 2014.
Evald Bentsson in Sweden: During the journey through Turkey they did ascent of Mount Ararat. With Iran on the pilgrim route to Mashad. Furthermore, through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and into China at Kuldja. They went through the Gobi Desert where one leg of 400 miles was headwind of storm strength and loose sand so they were forced to lug the bikes. Until Komna they had no soles on your shoes and clothes in rags. They reached the end of the Great Wall of China at Dyou-my-shan.
In China they overnighted in filthy mud huts among lice and flies. Upon arrival in Beijing was the bikes in scrap condition. They were the first riders in a country where there are now many hundreds of millions of bicycles. They performed, without maps and sign posts, a journey on roads that at best it was camel trails.
The whole trip was on a budget and they lived on the same food as the population. They must constantly learn them most necessary phrases in the language of your areas passed. The book describes a lot of people who live by the distance and the living conditions as well as some historical facts. "
Purpose: To add practical experiences to the book knowledge of the university.
route: North America (USA (Wasington University, St. Louix, Montana somehow to - New York) - by ship from N.Y. on 06/23/1890 to Europe (Liverpool, Great Britain (by bicycle first time from Liverpool - London) - France (Normandy - Paris - Bordeaux - Marseilles) - Italy (they left Brindisi 31.12.1890) by ship to - Greece (Corfu - Patras - Athens. Here they stayed in wintertime) - in springtime by ship to Asia (Turkey (Konstantinopel (= Istanbul) - across Turkey to mountain Ararat (near Iran border) - Iran (via Pilgrimways to Teheran - Mashhad (Meshed) - Turkmenistan - Uzbekistan - Tadjikistan - Kasakhstan - China (from border Gulja, Ili, Xinjiang overland to Peking it is appr.> 4000 km - Shanghai) - by ship to Japan - by ship to North America (by bicicyle in USA (San Francisco - Arizona - New Mexico - Texas - New York).
Publication: Books. The total journey was 15,000 miles. But the book is about the hardest part, Constantinople to Beijing, covering 7000 miles. The European part is published in: Penny Illustrated Paper. See "Old Letter Tells", chapter 8. In English language.
- Thomas Gaskell Allen, Jr. other William Lewis Sachtleben: Across Asia on a Bicycle
The original book was published appr. 1894 by publisher T.Fisher Unwin (1895) in London. Or: Century Co. in N.Y. New York.
- Thomas Gaskell Allen, Jr. other William Lewis Sachtleben: Across Asia on a Bicycle
With additional notes by Michael W. Perry. ISBN: 9 781587 420214. Inkling Books (July 1, 2003). Inkling Books Seattle 1894/2003.
ISBN: 1-58742-020-1 or 9781587420207 (paperback, 168 pp.). - ISBN: 1-58742-021 (hardback). in USA.
- Thomas Gaskell Allen, Jr. other William Lewis Sachtleben: Across Asia on a Bicycle
Paperback: A replication of a book originally published before 1894.
Published in "Book on Demand" (January 1, 1894). English. ISBN: 978-1275311732 (all infos out of
The book-authors say:
They were the first American who climbed the mountain Ararat in Turkey.
They were the first travelers after Italian Marco Polo who made this tour through Asia in China!

Until 1893 they made with their 15.044 miles tour on the bicycle the longest continious land journey ever made around the world.
They mentioned that America Thomas Steven took the leg via India which was not so dangerous than their leg overland through India.


2013 First information of the travel and a book by Swedish Evald Bengtsson
05.10.2014 Detailed information by internet. through BT.
08.10.2014 Book of InklingBooks arrived
08.10.2014 Letter to W. Perry to make sure the row of the book publications and the ISBN of the new books.
09.10.2014 Last summary above.

February 10th - May 31st, 1893: Travel.
1894: Book.
De Montélimar à Constantinople par mer et back à bicyclette.
Lieutenant Guyot. TR.
route 2019: France. Italy. Croatia. Serbia. Bulgaria. Turkey.
Book: 978-2-916271-85-9 (2017 reprint. Artisans-Voyageu. Pub .: Plon, Nourrit et Cie. VII-308 p.16 inches. 1st edition.
2018: 1st info by: Weiss, John. Keizo Kobayashi. PG. BT.

The first of Robert’s five epic cycle rides was in 1894 from London to Constantinople, a journey of 2,480 miles, made in two months.

The following year Robert rode from London to Moscow and back, covering 4,281 miles in 49 days. On his return he described the ride as "an excellent anti-fat prescription" having lost two stone in weight during that time.
Publication; Jefferson, Robert L (1866-1914).  Awheel to Moscow and back: the record of a record cycle ride.
Preface by Lt. Col. A. R. Saville. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1895. {38434642}
            Jefferson set a record for time and distance in his ride from England to Moscow and
back, which, according to The Timeswhile interesting from an endurance perspective, had little other value.    

Robert Louis Jefferson (1866-1914).  
Across Siberia on a bicycle
. London: The Cycle Press, [1896?] {1392419}
In 1896 he left London in March, to cycle 6,000 miles to Irkutsk in Siberia, arriving in August and surviving at times on black bread and sardines. One Russian steppe was 1,200 miles wide, with the only evidence of human life being telegraph poles. For perspective, Irkutsk is on the banks of the giant Lake Baikal, 104 ° of longitude east of Greenwich, 29% of the way round the globe.

Review by Jasper Gates in 2018: below:

Across Siberia on a Bicycle

Siberia. The word conjures images of endless ice and snow, not to mention hints of forced isolation and punishment. The vastness, harshness, and remoteness of the place makes the very word Siberia cause shivers of trepidation for many — and tingles of excitement for a few hardy adventurers. Riding a bicycle across Siberia may sound like a mad feat, but it's been done, and more times than you might imagine. I can think of a handful of books about trans-Siberian bicycle trips, by Erika Warmbrunn, Jane Schnell, Mark Jenkins, and Rob Lilewall, to name a few.

But one of the first to do it was the English cycle-adventurer and author Robert Louis Jefferson. Born in Missouri in 1866, Jefferson grew up in Victorian England, where, as a young man, he was an impressive athlete and, later, a journalist. (He shares the Christian names of the celebrated contemporary Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, and Jefferson admits that these names came in handy more than once in the world of writing. He once told an interviewer, “anything by a man with those prefixes was certain to sell. ”)
In the 1890s, as the bicycle boomed, he embarked on a series of extensive adventures awheel, which took him from London to Constantinople, Russia (twice), Mongolia, and Uzbekistan. Jefferson wrote a book about each trip, the first published in 1894 and the last in 1899. Although the cycle-travel-adventure books of his contemporaries Thomas Stevens, William Sachtleben and Thomas G. Allen, and John Foster Fraser are better known, Jefferson was one of the most prolific cycle-travel writers in this inaugural golden age of trans-continental bicycle adventures. Yet for some reason, his legacy remains obscure in comparison, and his books, today, are hard to find. Not a one is in print, even in this age when some of the most obscure Victorian texts can be acquired via print-on-demand publishers.
But with a little work and the help of inter-library loan, I got my hands on a copy of Across Siberia on a Bicycle (1896). And while the volume is brief and uneven, to be sure, it offers enough insight into early bicycle-adventure travel and some perverse bits of entertainment to make it worth checking out.

The book certainly is slim, a mere 80 pages, and the first 37 of those cover Jefferson’s mostly uneventful ride from London to the Ural mountains, the beginning of Siberia proper. This first section feels a lot like filler meant to pad out what is otherwise a 40-page account of crossing Siberia on a bicycle. Once Jefferson gets there, however, there’s a palpable excitement in his voice: “Here I was at last! Siberia! ... The land of steppes, forests, mountains, mighty rivers, innumerable races — of almost illimitable space! What possibilities lay before me? What wonders should I see? "
Wonders, indeed. He is attacked by dogs and also a wolf (he shoots at both with his trusty gun, one of the very few pieces of gear he brings along), but his “most terrible fights with wild animals” were battles against mosquitos— “bloodthirsty and persistent and immune to Jefferson's revolver.
Even scarier are the terrible Siberian roads, which are often not really constructed roads at all, so much as paths worn by human traffic. Jefferson is wonderfully creative in his description of road conditions, which ranged from deep sand to impossible mud: "execrable," "torturous," "villainous," "rutty and with here and there some sharp declivities," and, of course, " inferior to the worst road in England. " He walked a lot.
Some of the best descriptions in the book are of Jefferson’s crossing of the great steppes, 2000 miles of vast, flat emptiness. This was the part of the trip that intrigued him in the first place. "The sublimest phase of Siberia," he explains, "is its extent." Jefferson adopts the local parlance for a unit of distances, the ampl (as in, “I put a dozen versts between the village and myself”), which made me laugh every time I read the word, as it sounds like something he made up. (It reminds me of the goofy invented units of measurement in Swift's Gulliver’s Travels — glumgluffs other drurrs.) The challenge of the steppes is as much psychological as physical. "Monotonous?" Jefferson scoffs. “How could it be otherwise? Think of it! A field circumscribed only the horizon; not a bush, not a tree; a long line of telegraph posts dwindling to nothingness in the distance. " Progress was incremental. "I might as well have been pedaling a stationary cycle or home trainer for all the difference that took place around me." At one point he compares himself to a flea crawling across the surface of a billiard table.
The cringiest part of reading this book now is Jefferson’s unabashed judginess and condescension toward the locals. The Siberians ’greatest fault appears to be their non-Englishness. They don’t adhere to English standards of cleanliness or hygiene or industriousness, and, therefore, Jefferson is frequently exasperated by them. In fact, by the time he's half-way across Siberia, exasperation has turned to disgust with all he encounters — the shoddy infrastructure, lack of services, squalor and stench of settlements, and, most of all, the Siberians themselves. The contempt in his voice reaches its peak at Tomsk: “Sanitation there is absolutely none in Tomsk. . . . You cannot enter a house without nearly breaking your leg in a flooring, or knocking your head off against the door-joist. . . . The cabs which patrol the city are lumbering masses of filth. . . . The common Tomskites are ragged, shoeless, indescribably lazy. . . . ” He warns would-be cyclists to avoid riding on village roads on Sunday morning, for the roads, he claims, are littered with the bodies of passed out Siberians who took their “love of vodki” too far on Saturday night.
Jefferson is certainly patronizing and racist, as were many Brits at this time, but I have to admit there is often something entertaining about just how appallingly judgy and whiny he is. The disgust, contempt, and sarcasm in his voice places this book firmly in the tradition of grumpy travelers, à la Tobias Smollett and Paul Theroux. Jefferson writes,
“Happy Siberians! May the onward march of progress and civilization deal lightly with you — or better, may it never reach you, for what would you do, poor inert vodki-sodden land, with competition, energy, and brains? Happy in your filth, sublime in your laziness and ignorance, why disturb you in what is after all your Eden? "
Sure, Jefferson sounds like an arrogant Brit here, but it's hard not to chuckle at his grumpy, over-the-top shtick. Here’s Jefferson mockingly listing off some highlights: "Other delightful aspects of cycling in Russia are runaway horses, yelping, snapping curs, stick and stone throwing urchins, and drunken moujiks sleeping off the effects of vodki in the middle of the road."
Jefferson frequently laments the poor state of hospitality in Siberia. Many of the small, isolated settlements he passed through had no accommodation for travelers, nor any food or drink even for sale. Jefferson discovers, the hard way, that the Siberian tradition is for travelers to be self-supported, bring everything they might need with them, and count on nothing from the locals. But Jefferson, in that presumptuous British Imperialist fashion, chose to travel light, bringing only tea and sugar for sustenance, assuming that he could rely on local hospitality. This proves a bad plan. He’s constantly hungry and in search of “eatables” (great word); his diet is a miserable assortment of black bread, eggs, tea, occasional sardines, and "vodki."
Strangely, for all the remoteness and extreme isolation of the trip, Jefferson does encounter other cyclists, believe it or not. As was the custom for Victorian cycle-travelers, Jefferson is occasionally greeted, entertained, and escorted by members of local cycling clubs who are thrilled to meet a fellow brother of the wheel. Several times he even encounters cyclists waiting for him in the middle of nowhere, stationed at ten-verst (!) Intervals, anticipating his progress across the steppes and offering rare bursts of hospitality. At one point, in Krasnoiarsk, one of the few Siberian places Jefferson actually likes, he runs into Thomas G. Allen, of all people, the intrepid American cyclist who, with William Sachtleben, traveled across Asia by bicycle in 1890 and wrote a more famous book about the journey, Across Asia on a Bicycle, published in 1894.

Jefferson’s book isn’t as good as Sachtleben and Allen’s, but it's still noteworthy as an example of the kinds of accounts of extreme cycling adventures that were all the rage in the 1890s. Jefferson, grumpy as he is, not only makes it through the vastness and mystery of Siberia, he does so, as he says, on "the present day pioneer of civilization — the bicycle."

Robert Louis Jefferson
In 1897 Robert rode from London to Mongolia, claiming to have been the first white man seen by the indigenous population. Returning from this trip he was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Robert’s final ride of the quintet was in April 1898, 6,000 miles from London to Khiva in Uzbekistan. It was his most difficult journey. Arriving after five months pedaling he found the place so depressing he left for England almost immediately on the Trans-Caspian Railway.

John Forster Fraser (American, 1868--1936)
+ Around-The-World by bicycle. Round the world on a wheel.
John drove with S. Eduard Lunn and F.H. Lowe cycled through 17 countries on three continents in 774 days and covered 19,287 miles.
Foster Fraser, John - Round the World on a Wheel. Being the Narrative of a Bicycle Ride of Nineteen Thousand Two Hundered and Thirty-seven Miles Through Seventeen Countries and Across Three Continents by John Foster Fraser, S. Edward Lunn and F.H. Lion. First published 1899, reprinted in 1982 by Chatto and Windus; OUT OF PRINT. ISBN: 0701126094
From 07.1896 he also drove through Siberia.
Book: 1st edition 1899. Publisher: Thomas Nelson and Sons (in English).
Book: 1989. 512 pp. 41 chapters. Papeback. Published by Futura Publ. England. London. ISNM-0708842682. (in English).
October 8, 1993 1st information by Paul Pratt.