On meeting Heinz Stücke, and bike touring in general

On Friday Heinz Stücke came to Portland. Don’t know who he is? Click on the hyperlink to his name to get the Wikipedia version. He’s a German man who’s basically been on a continuous bike tour since 1962, over 50 years! He’s definitely the most “bike toured” person in existence, who has been to every country in existence (so he believes.)

Heinz had a talk at Clever Cycles, which I found a bit surprising since the default place for bike talks these days is Velo Cult. But Heinz is riding (and is sponsored by) Brompton, and since Clever is Portland’s Brompton dealer, it makes sence. With a bike tourist of his pedigree, I figured that the event would be packed, but there was less than 20 people there, which I found surprising. (Was the promotion that bad? Or does he need to tour with a dog to get attention? I heard the Bixby event there the night before was well attended.)

I bought his book and had a couple words with Heinz, mostly about where he’s heading next. (He’s going eastbound to Salt Lake City, and he may use extensive sections of I-84 to get there. I get the feeling with him that the bike is the tool to get to where he needs, and he’s not necessarily about finding remote gravel roads between destinations, which seems to be the flavor of the day.)

Then he did his talk, about two hours of rambling narratives of adventures over the years, interspersed with fielding questions from the audience. Many of the questions fell into the “What’s the best/What’s your favorite” category, which, I dunno, I’d find it hard to distill 50+ years of touring into a single best moment. And Heinz apparently felt the same way, mentioning how it’s typical for Americans to be concerned with superlatives, when “best” can mean many different things: Best landscape? Best weather? Best food? Best people? Best riding conditions? Etc.

Also, Heinz took umbrage when an audience member called himself a nomad and thought Stücke was one as well. I don’t think that person liked Stücke’s reply, as he left shortly thereafter.

But maybe the most enlightening moment came when someone asked him if he had a “home”. To someone that’s been on the move for so long, his definition of “home” is any place that he’s staying more than one night!

It was a fun little talk. It was great to finally meet possibly the most legendary living cycle tourist this side of Dervla Murphy. (Will she come to Portland soon? One can hope.) Of course I always get a little envious and jealous of someone who has travelled so, so much. But would I trade shoes with Heinz Stücke? Most certainly not. I realized that my capacity for being on the road is longer than most folks, but not as long as others. After a few months out, I want to come back to a home base. I’m no Lael and Nicholas.

But do I want to tour more, and more often? Yes. I’ve got some shortish tours planned this year, but they are all shortish. It’s been almost five years to the day that April and I left on our big cross-country journey. Five years! Wow, time has flown. While I might not want to try something that ambitious again, I do want to get on the road for a few months. Obviously, this won’t be the year. But maybe next? Or the one thereafter? I’m not getting any younger.

In the meantime, I’m all about seeking adventure where I can find it. I’m lucky to live in a place where that’s easy to do. So here’s to more summer adventure. And good luck, Heinz!

5 thoughts on “On meeting Heinz Stücke, and bike touring in general

Add yours

  1. If I were there I would have been mostly interested in costs. There are states I try to avoid due to high camping fees. I’m curious about his experience. I suppose I could grab the book and see if he talks about expenses.

  2. I find it hard to distill down a 3-day trip into polite conversation with people who’ve never experienced much adventure in their lives. Can’t imagine trying to explain 50 years worth of adventure.

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