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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 March, 2004, 15:14 GMT
On a slow bike to China
Edward Genochio wanted a challenge, a change from the nine-to-five. So he quit his job to cycle 12,000 miles from Exeter to Shanghai for charity. He sets off on Wednesday, on what's expected to be a 240-day trek across a dozen countries. Here, he explains why.

Edward and his custom-made bike, photo by Emily Holden
Web designer Edward, 26, saddles up for his epic ride
This all started, believe it or not, on a train.

Nearly 10 years ago, I set out from Victoria station in London and made my way across the railways of Europe and Russia to China. I spent much of the time gazing out of the window, wondering about the places which rolled past, about the people who lived there and the lives they led.

One day, I told myself, I would repeat the journey, but on a bicycle so that I could travel at my own pace and go where I wanted to go, rather than being tied to the route and the rhythm of the railway tracks.

It's been in back of my mind ever since. Last summer I found myself again gazing out the window - this time an office window. As I watched the sailing boats on the Exe estuary, I decided the time had come to turn my idea into reality.

That was 10 months ago; tomorrow morning I set off - but not without last-minute hitches.

Click here for a map of Edward's route

To cycle halfway around the world, a bike and a passport pretty much top the list of priorities.

But I'd been hit by a car on a roundabout last month and my custom-built bike was pretty well wrecked. It spent weeks laid up in bicycle hospital being re-built with a new frame. We were only reunited late last week.

And even last Friday, my passport was somewhere in the depths of the Mongolian embassy in London. It has now arrived - with a shiny new visa inside - in the nick of time. Without it, I would have been stuck.

What to take?

I've spent much of the past week packing and repacking my panniers. I find packing for a two-week holiday hard enough; trying to sort out everything I need for an eight-month bicycle journey - during which I'll cross both the Alps and the Gobi desert - is something akin to mental torture.

FOR CHARITY
Rice growers in Yunnan Province, south-west China
Money raised will aid local development projects in a remote village in rural China, where I spent two months in 1999 as part of a research project

Should I pack an extra pair of socks, or a 700-page history of modern China? I decide to take both, and try not to think about the hills I'll have to pedal this lot up.

In spare moments I've pored over my maps, trying to work out a route. In Europe there are so many roads, I don't know which to take. In Mongolia, my map shows only two roads; neither where I want to go.

But nothing's set in stone. If along the way someone says 'this town is really interesting' or 'my great aunt lives here and she'd love to have tea with you', then I'll go that way.

I aim to average 50 miles a day. On the good roads of Europe, I expect to cover about 100 miles a day; in the desert I'll be much slower than that.

And as I'll be staying in a tent and eating whatever local produce can be cooked on my camp stove, my budget is a measly 10 a day. It'll be pretty cheap for an eight-month trip.

My journey has one rule: I must ride my bike every inch of the way - no trains, no planes, no rides in the back of trucks.

Like all good rules, this has one exception: I'm taking a ferry from Dover to Calais. Purists will probably insist that I equip my bike with floats and paddles and ride it across the sea, but I'll leave that as a challenge for someone else.

Map of Edward's route

Click here to return

Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

Don't avoid Poland, it's a very flat country to cycle through (Tatra mountains is the only exception) plus you could see very beautiful Krakow. Mind also Mongolia rivers - very difficult to cross in some places.
Lucas Jedrzejak, Poland

I did 11,500 miles between the UK and Australia via Turkey, India, Thailand, etc. On the route I met Brits, Israelis and Dutch people doing similar things. I even met some Germans walking from Bangkok to Singapore. Needless to say, I'd love to be doing it all again.
Jim Ray, Chester, UK

Wow what a fantastic adventure. You will see so many wonderful places. I admire you for getting out of the rat race and doing this. Stay safe.
Rachel Murphy, Cheshire, UK

I do admire what you are doing, but although I do think you're a tad mental. Enjoy the ride coz it'll be one of those life experiences you hear so much about.
Nathalie, Swansea, Wales

All the best, don't forget your puncture kit.
Iain S, England

Edward I'm going to miss you, pedal fast so I can meet you soon in Shanghai!
Emily Holden, UK

Advice from a charity biker: take tons of Sudocreme for your nether regions; drink clean water at every opportunity; and if you get chased by dogs - bark back!
Carole Barnes, UK

Advice from a fellow cyclist: don't ride in the dark, even with the best of cycle lights you can't see where you are going; avoid working up a sweat in cold weather, it will only make you colder; know when to stop and rest.
John Airey, Peterborough, UK

My heart's touched so much. I wish you every success in your trip and enjoy the wonderful things in China. Good luck.
Jenny Zhu, China

Some people dream, some people do and some endlessly teeter on the edge of indecision. Thank you for taking the plunge and helping push me off the edge of indecision onto the "do" side... If you get complacent on your journey, check over your left shoulder, you just might find me in your tail wind!
Richard Prescott Stearns, USA formerly UK

You can do it so many things for Mother Earth and cycling in an unfriendly environment is one of them. I am doing this but on a small scale around the Philippines - but that's 7,000 islands and I'm triple of your age.
Manolo P Jimenez Jr, Philippines & England

Best of luck, what a great adventure. If I bump into you in Shanghai at the end of the year, I'll buy you a pint (you'll need it!)
Stephen Jay, Cumbria, UK

Stephen, I might just take you up on that offer :)
Edward Genochio, UK

When I was in Yangshuo, Guanxi province, last April, I met a Dutchman who had cycled there from the Netherlands, via Turkey and Pakistan. I wonder what happened to this guy - I think he was working as a waiter/translator.
Jose, England

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