Interview: Ivan Zimmermann riding the Silk Route

Ivan Zimmerman is riding the 2016 Silk Route cycle tour from Beijing to Istanbul to raise money for university education in South Africa. His marathon journey started on 15 May and will continue until 5 October – covering 12,280km of gruelling terrain.

 

Since Zimmerman will be covering around 125km per day, he is asking his supporters each to pledge R125 to the #Pledge125 project.

Ivan Zimmermann Silk Route 1.jpg

 

Why the silk route?

 

My idea is to cross every continent with a bike. The Silk Route is not one single path, but more a web of routes from Istanbul through Iran, Central Asia, Southern Siberia and Mongolia, all the way into China. I am riding from Beijing to Istanbul.

 

How did you prepare for this adventure?

 

I ride my bike regularly. I also cross train with some swimming, running and light weights. Experience from previous expeditions I know what level I need to be at.

 

How many days and kilometres have you already completed on this adventure? What is still to be conquered ahead?

 

I am now in Gorno-Altaysk, Southern Siberia in the Altai Mountain district. I am on day 30 and I have completed 3,330 km of the 13,000 kilometres from Beijing to Istanbul.

 

What is the most challenging part of doing something like this solo?

 

I am doing it unsupported through an expedition that offers you a breakfast and a dinner each day. I still need to fix my own bike, pitch my own tent, and look after everything else myself.

 

Ivan Zimmermann Silk Route 7.jpg

 

Which situation has been your most challenging so far and why?

 

The 3 weeks in Mongolia has been the most challenging time in my life. The weather is extreme and very unpredictable. From -10 degrees (in the Spring) to extreme headwinds in the Gobi desert with storms so strong that it broke my tent's poles. I also got lost in the Northern part of Mongolia, the day before I entered Russia. An extra 80 km on any given day is not ideal.

 

The biggest challenge so far was breaking my pedal from my crank. The crank snapped where the pedal screws in. I was forced to pedal 100 km with one leg to get to camp at the end of the day. The next day I struggled along another 100 km to get to a town where I got it fixed temporarily. I am currently working on a long term, permanent solution.

 

Ivan Zimmermann Silk Route 6.jpg

 

Which country have you enjoyed riding through the most this far?

 

Mongolia without a doubt. Absolutely AWESOME and dangerously beautiful.

 

Have you done any similar adventures before?

 

Cairo to Cape Town. 4 months. 10 Countries.

 

Windhoek to Cape Town via Seeheim and Solitaire is an absolute must for every biker.

 

Expedition riding is not racing. It is a 24 hour-a-day challenge over 120-150 days and it is not just about cycling. It is about the adventure and experiencing it with all your senses.

 

Has doing Cape to Cairo helped with your preparation for this?

 

Without a doubt. I was able to streamline everything. Gear, clothes etc. And mentally it is a huge advantage.

 

What bike are you riding and have you had to modify it for this journey?

 

Ivan Zimmermann Silk Route 5.jpg

 

A standard Rocky Mountain Element 950 RSL. It worked for Africa and it is working now. Comfortable riding position and I have the option for the much needed front and rear shocks for the off road sections which are pretty rough.

 

Completing 13,300 km on a bike - what do you do to keep your bike and gear in good working condition?

 

Keeping the bike clean, lubing the chain regularly will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. You will have to replace the chain and cassette twice on these kinds of distances but cleaning and lubing will help prevent unnecessary breakage.

 

What does one need to pack for an adventure like this?

 

Do not buy any cheap gear. Pay slightly more for quality.
  • Tent (top of the range) - two man tent
  • Sleeping bag (top of the range) - and make sure of the temperature range
  • Sleeping mat (top of the range) - sleep is your best recovery. Make sure you sleep well.
  • Spares: 2 sets of extra folding tyres, 2 chains ,2 cassettes, chainlinks, tubes, patch kits, spare derailleur hanger, chainrings, extra gear cables, and brake pads.
  • Hydration pack
  • Little bags to attach to your frame for snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • minimal clothes (layer when it is cold)
  • rain jacket
  • amen to the guy who invented the buff (take 3)
  • something to capture the moments (camera etc)
  • respect for the locals
  • and most importantly a great, open, positive attitude (and a smile).
Ivan Zimmermann Silk Route 2.jpg

 

Have you had any technical difficulties so far?

 

The storm in Mongolia broke the poles of my tent. The tent was anchored strongly to the ground but the wind bent the structure. I am still without a pole but somehow the tent still works. A bit crooked though but it works.

 

I broke my left crank straight through at the bottom where the pedal screws in. I managed with one leg for two days and then got a temporary crank that is not really compatible. I am currently trying to get a crankset sent to me.

 

Ivan Zimmermann Silk Route 4.jpg

 

Why cycling as a means to raise awareness and funds?

 

It is more about the adventure and the challenges you face on such an journey. To bring a message across that one should never quit. There is ALWAYS a solution. NEVER QUIT. I love biking and biking is my choice of transportation to get through this challenging time. It is a great analogy to life actually. Know yourself. Do what you love, commit to it, prepare for it and then the challenges that are unavoidable through life will be easier.

 

So people can relate to this story of not giving up. My slogan is #LeadersNeverQuit

 

How can people get involved and support the initiative?

 

They can pledge at www.feesforall.org.za. When you pledge you stand a chance to win a trip to Istanbul in October.

 

How can people follow your journey?

 

Live tracking at www.ivanzimmermann.com.

 

Twitter and Instagram: @IvanZimmermann1
Facebook Page: Ivan Zimmermann Actor and Adventurer

 

We will also be releasing a 40 minute documentary later this year.




4 Comments

Stefan Cremer, Jul 06 2016 02:52

Ivan jou masjien!

nonky, Jul 06 2016 03:23

To be brutally honest, I'm not sure i want to support any south african tertiary student after what's happened on university campuses over the last year or so...particularly, since students are adults that can generate income by working part-time.

 

 

 

Good luck with your journey / adventure nonetheless.

TheJ, Jul 11 2016 01:29

To be brutally honest, I'm not sure i want to support any south african tertiary student after what's happened on university campuses over the last year or so...particularly, since students are adults that can generate income by working part-time.

 

 

 

Good luck with your journey / adventure nonetheless.

 

Who says he supported what was happening at the campuses?

nich the d, Nov 18 2016 11:27

In-cre-di-ble!
All the help that students can get is welcome - they are not all smashing campuses or able to generate their own funds - particularly in the smaller university towns.