I came upon this story recently through my oft-overlooked University Alumni e-newsletter from University of Toronto. The reason it caught my eye was the subject: “Documenting China – An Alumni Speaker Series Event”. So I opened up the email to see what this was all about, and it turns out that a fellow alum, Ryan Pyle (HBA 2001, New College) had very recently toured around the entirety of China with his brother Colin, in an adventure that they called the Middle Kingdom Ride. The ride was not only record setting for the longest motorcycle ride in a single country at 18,000km, but they also filmed the whole trip and plan on releasing the feature length documentary later this year.
Ryan first came to China after graduation in 2001 and, as with many that come to visit China, he became hooked from that point forward. Ryan started off his career freelancing for newspapers and magazines in China, eventually becoming a regular contributor to the New York Times in 2004. From there it was nothing but up, as Ryan started to accumulate photography awards and accolades for his work in China, leading eventually to his record setting journey in 2010 with his brother. You can read more about Ryan and his work at his website.
Needless to say, I’m blown away by Ryan’s trip around China, which puts my 8,600 miles motorcycle trip around the U.S. (with far better road conditions) to shame. It seems they went through all sorts of weather conditions and mechanical problems, meeting all kinds of people from China’s over 50 different minority groups that are throughout the various autonomous regions and provinces in the country. This gave the two brothers the opportunity to document the changes that China has been experiencing on a much more comprehensive scope than we often get exposed to through traditional media, as they contrast the effects of the country’s growth and development across regions and social spectrums.
Below you can see a map of the trip as well as some of the video trailers of their documentary. Ryan currently lives full time in Shanghai, which is only a quick bullet-train ride away (or a few days on a bike), so I’m hoping to get a chance to meet with Ryan in the not too distant future to learn a little bit more about him and his incredible journey!