Guim Valls Teruel is travelling 5 continents on an electric bicycle to promote the use of cleaner energy and the non-reliance on fossil fuel worldwide. Currently in New Zealand, the Electric Bicycle World Tour has already clogged quite a lot of mileage so we decided to see how Guim's getting on so far. Guim started his tour on the 5th of June 2009 from the Olympic stadium in Beijing and his plan is to arrive in London in 2012. The Spanish adventurer left Beijing with some of his friends who cycled with him to Tranjin, where Guim took the boat to South Korea. Here, Guim was very surprised by the amount of cars and trucks on the roads, and by the sheer lack of interest of the locals, in him and his bicycle. Guim told us that not even children lifted their heads when he passed them; "it was just like there had been another 100.000 eclectic cyclists passed through before me"! After Korea, Guim took another boat to Japan.
Here he had a warmer welcoming, although curiously enough, everybody asked him why he used an electric bicycle when that is just for old people. Guim explianed that cycling in Japan was not very pleasant because the roads are full of cars, trucks, plenty of motorways intertwining everywhere and hardly any bicycles anywhere. The only cyclists are older people who use it to go short distances. So it is no wonder that cycling is seen as a mobility aid for people who have difficulties walking, and people were surprised to see young Guim cycling around. The best experience in Japan was going up mount Fuji, and even if it was hard work to get there during a thunderstorm, watching the sunrise at 3750 metres was well worth it. And, so the locals say, it was definitely the first time an electric bike had made it up mount Fuji.
The next stop was Shanghai where Guim and his e-bike Denisa stayed for a week. This is the city where the factory of Denisa is located, so Guim took advantage of having it adjusted and fine tuned. People in China love electric bikes, and those who were curious about his bike constantly stopped Guim in the street. Most of them couldn't believe that such a good bike is a Chinese product.
Guim carried on south but in Wenzhou he had to escape the typhoon Morakut, which came from Taiwan, by taking various trains. It was his first time near a typhoon and between the fear and the text messages from the Chinese government warning the people, Guim decided to get to Hong Kong as quickly as possible since he also had to renew his visa.
Just before getting to Hong Kong, Guim passed through Guanzhou, the Chinese city where e-bikes are not allowed because they would hinder the car traffic. Guim tried to enter the city with his e-bike and trailer but the police stopped him.
In Hong Kong Guim could really show off all the virtues of Denisa, his e-bike, by cycling up the slopes without any problems. The locals where in amazed and it was a great demonstration of the use of an electric vehicle in a place where cycling right now is almost impossible. This is exactly what keeps Guim going; the knowledge that thanks to the Electric Bicycle World Tour a few more people in the world decide to get an electric bike.
In the South of China, it was difficult for the cyclist to distinguish between clouds and pollution in the sky. He told us that the sun only rarely shows and most days are grey.
The next stop was Vietnam where Guim found it easier to communicate with people, although the Typhoons where still haunting him. Here the press was very interested in the electrical bike, but not so the people. According to Guim, what the Vietnamese admire are cars, and big motors, and the environmental concerns are not a priority.
Cambodia is a more quiet country with only cars in the big cities. The roads normally a very quiet and people often cycled next to Guim to chat with him. In Siem Reap, home of the temple of Angkor, the local authorities have a small float of electric cars and bicycles for rent in order to keep out the fuel powered vehicles around the temple.
The next stop was Bankog, a city not equipped for cyclists due to the smog and pollution as well as the difficult access to roads and motorways by bike. After Thailand, Guim carried on to Malaysia, by which time he had already cycled some 6.000 km since he left Beijing. In February this year, the electric bicycle got equipped with solar panels and runs now completely off the grid. You can read about the technical details on the EBWT blog. Since February, Guim is cycling in New Zealand where he attended the Womad Festival in Taranaki this week.
Guim's mission is still to create environmental awareness, and he believes that this is best done with actions close to the people. Every little action counts, he says, and multiplied by many we can change things. You can follow the Electric Bike World Tour on Facebook, check out the EBWT blog for videos and keep reading about what the world looks like from an electrical bicycle. ::Electrical Bicycle World Tour