Female Solo Cyclist Heike Pirngruber Explains Why the World Is Still a Safe Place to Live In

In this fantastic interview we talk with female solo cyclist Heike Pirngruber from Pushbikegirl. She shares her amazement about how many wonderful, hospitable, all-smiling people she has met on the road and how they have frequently touched her heart.

Find out why you should never judge anyone – and get Heike’s best advice for young people who want to get into their first exotic destination real soon!

Push Bike Girl Heike Pirngruber
I loved the Chinese Provinz Sichuan and its remote mountain scenery – Pushbikegirl

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Heike Pirngruber aka Pushbikegirl. I am 45 years old from Germany. I am a professional photographer and camera woman. I left home in May of 2013 and since then I’ve been cycling the world solo. After crossing 3 continents and 37 countries and pedaled more than 50.000 kilometers, I made it to Nicaragua – the 91st country of my life.

How and why did you get into adventuring and traveling?

I travelled all my adult life – never as long as this time, but for extended periods. While exploring the planet, I tried many forms of travel and it was always very exciting no matter, which transportation system I chose, but something was missing.

In 2006, I went on my very first bike touring trip and fell immediately in love with it while cycling in Uganda. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to pedal the world one day!

More bike touring trips followed and after I broke up with my boyfriend in 2013, it was time to hit the road with the goal — Australia. I actually changed plans a bit and left Australia aside for another while, but this is not important at all, because what counts is to be on the road and to spend time in a new and exciting environment. And to be as happy as you can.

Life is short – I am trying to get the most out of it.

Push Bike Girl Heike Pirngruber
Northern Mexico is remote – Pushbikegirl

Why is adventuring and traveling important for you?

I get bored easily. I need constant changes to be happy. My demands on life are fulfilled best when I am outdoor — When I can soak in the beauty this planet has to offer. I am also very curious to understand more of the world and its interesting cultures and people.

I love the challenge. The more difficult the more exciting it is and the more satisfied I am. But I am thrilled the most when I am sitting at my campfire and watching the stars at night and listening to the silence and the sound of the fire. Nothing beats a life away from civilization.

Iranians are the most hospitable nation I know – Pusbikegirl

What has been the best parts of your adventures and travels?

I am amazed about how many wonderful people I have met, no matter in which corner of the planet. We always get told by the media that the world is a dangerous place, but it actually is not.

I have been invited, supported and got help through so many strangers that it has often touched my heart. I wish sometimes that others who fear their neighbors could experience the generosity and love of the people I have met to actually realize how often they are wrong in their judgments of others.

As a solo female, I cycled in countries like Turkey, Iran, Oman and at the moment thru Central America. I spent five months in Mexico, time in Russia and Central Asia and I had only a few minor problems in total.

The people on this planet are simply the same. They were born and they have to die one day. In between they are going to work, they bring up their kids and they are wishing to be able to live a decent life. And most importantly they want to live in peace and harmony just like you and me.

I had a few doubts before crossing into Muslim countries. But those countries were by far the most hospitable nations of all. There was hardly a day passing by without being treated to a tea, a place for the night or some food. Most importantly I received millions of smiles – almost everywhere! For me this is more important than anything else. I need harmony and connections to people – it is my fuel for the road!

Push Bike Girl Heike Pirngruber
The Great Divide in Wyoming – Pushbikegirl

What has been the most difficult parts?

Loneliness is my biggest problem. If I am in urbanized areas where I can’t speak the local language and no one can speak English I get lonely. I spent five months in China and only met a handful of people I could speak to. I had issues in Mexico because I felt left out and people were very reserved and not easy to get in contact with. Those times are tough times for me.

I also miss serious conversations with people of similar interest or knowledge. Most local people I met are living a totally different life. To only talk about their daily life is not always very exciting and the longer I am on the road the more I feel displaced.

A lot of people don’t understand what I have been through and where I actually went, which I can totally understand, but it would be nice sometimes if I could discuss some of my questions I have about the world with someone who is interested in my way of life.

Going through other people’s photo album and looking at the 100th wedding picture is tiring. But lately, this hasn’t happened much. Mexico and Central America seem not the place to be invited, which is one of the main reasons why I don’t like it much.

Push Bike Girl Heike Pirngruber
Cooking on my hobo stove in the desert of Baja California in Mexico – Pushbikegirl

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

As diverse is the world so is my travel life.

I love to camp as often as possible and I also love to cook my own food on a campfire or my Picogrill 85 Hobo stove as often as I can. But I am also interested in trying the local cuisine and being invited to a home can sometimes lead to funny surprises in what people dish out for you.

It is extremely interesting to watch the locals preparing their food and I already learned a lot by doing so. And most of the time – when you are among a big family, not being able to understand the language, and everyone talks and laughs — the food they serve gets the greatest taste just by the atmosphere.

To eat in Asia at street stalls feels like heaven almost every single day and in those places where food is cheap and delicious I don’t bother to pack out my cooking gear.

I pitched my tent at the weirdest places or the most amazing natural spots and I always like to search for exciting hideouts. I simply don’t like hotel rooms – nothing more boring than that.

Push Bike Girl Heike Pirngruber
Camping in Mexico – Pushbikegirl

What are your best advice for new adventurers and travelers?

  • Don’t believe the media.
  • Don’t let yourself influenced by mom and dad and your closest friends. It is your life and you have the right to decide what you like to do.
  • Don’t worry about money too much, about your pension about this and that — it will all work out. Through an adventure your life will change tremendously and when you come back you wonder why you ever needed everything you had.
  • If you are starting your adventure in a familiar environment, you and your loved ones can grow from there. After enough time has passed and you and your folks are used to you being on the go, you can head for the exotic destinations. Don’t ever think, that you won’t be able to find adventures in front of your door – you will be surprised!
Push Bike Girl Heike Pirngruber
Gobi desert in China – Pushbikegirl

How do you prepare for your adventures and travels?

I didn’t prepare much at all. I decided to actually head off about six weeks before I left on this current trip. The longer you travel, the less you need to prepare. I check out the map for the next country and simply start pedaling where the mountains and the small roads are. Sometimes I throw in some sightseeing spots, but most of the time, I leave them aside.

The more you know about a place the less exciting it is for me. I might miss out on something now and then but I see something else instead. Most of the time the most exciting days on the road are the ones where I didn’t know anything about the area beforehand.

Plenty of my days on the road I decide at the junction if I am going left or right – I follow my daily mood and change my mind at least fives times a day. Weather is a huge influence to my decisions but my biggest party-pooper is the amount of traffic. If there are two or three cars turning into the road I wanted to go – I certainly head for the other direction. Simply because I hate traffic!

If I am in a bad mood and tired of the road and need some inspiration, I click through pictures and blogs to get excited again and to know why I am actually on the road. Most of the time, a few days later, I get restless and it is time to head off again.

Push Bike Girl Heike Pirngruber
I was always the center of attention in Iran – Pushbikegirl

How do you finance your adventures and travels?

I was able to sell a few articles online or for magazines. In 2016, I had an accident in the US and received some pain and suffering money and a brand-new bike. 2017 is the year where my home state in Germany celebrates the 200 years of the invention of the bicycle where I am the official ambassador to support the campaign. I sometimes get donations through my blog where I put time and effort in it and some companies support me with gear.

The best way to save money is not to spend it. A bicycle doesn’t need fuel – only myself. If you camp a lot and cook yourself you are able to live much cheaper than at home.

Living with less money is also a lot of fun. It is more challenging and far more exciting. I sometimes need to look for the most awkward places to pitch my tent instead of simply paying for a hotel room when I am closer to a town. To find those spots can become a game and I have never ever stranded and didn’t find anything. But I make sure that I either don’t get caught or that it is a safe area, so far, I never had a problem.

If I can’t find a safe camp spot, I also knock on church doors, mosques, temples, fire departments, schools, police stations or any other public building to ask for shelter for the night. Of course, nature is always for free and my favorite spot anyway.

I also learned that there is always a new way. By the time one door is closed, the next opens up. I think if you are happy, open minded, willing to learn and understand and of course are a friendly person you have all the possibilities on this planet to survive in any way.

And I am sure the less you have the happier you are! The nicest people I met were the ones who didn’t bother much about money. Most people are worrying about their belongings all the time because they simply have too much to take care of.

Push Bike Girl Heike Pirngruber
Oman is a superb cycling destination with extremely steep roads – Pushbikegirl

How do you balance normal life with adventuring and traveling?

I have been away from home now for over four years. Of course, I am missing home, my family and friends – but if I am at home I am missing the road. The road, which leads me to my favorite way of life. I learned to accept that we can’t have it all and I chose the life I love best.

But sooner or later I will head home for a visit to enjoy interesting conversations in my native tongue for a while and get spoiled by mom’s best cuisine.

What has been your best adventuring purchase below $100?

Nalgene bottles. The perfect solution for my way of life. I no longer need to buy plastic bottles!

A world map. People love to know about my trip when I get invited. Showing the map and my route is a conversation starter and an entertainment for any host on this planet.

Fire starters. When wood is wet, they are of great help to get a campfire started.

Schwalbe tires – they last forever and almost never get a puncture!

Push Bike Girl Heike Pirngruber
Campfire in Russia – Pushbikegirl

What other favorite gear do you have?

I love my Therm-a-Rest NeoAir, which is super comfy and lasts far longer than most other self-inflated mattresses I used before. I had one problem with it but it was a simple phone call to get the pad replaced. Very good service.

I love my Hilleberg Soulo tent. The best one person tent I know. It is super expensive but the quality is top notch and you won’t get in trouble in harsher conditions where this tent is made for.

Disc brakes Avid BB7. I was always convinced that V-brakes are far better for biking around the planet because it is less sensitive and easier to repair if there is an issue while being remote. But the BB7 is just an amazing break and I never had any problems since I started using them about a year ago. Awesome product.

Push Bike Girl Heike Pirngruber
The American West is a dream for bikepacking – Pushbikegirl

What will the future bring?

I am not sure at the moment if I should continue from Central America to South America, or if I should rather do something else instead – but there will be more roads to explore and more countries to come. My life is almost perfect when I am living on the road, I don’t see a reason to change this any time soon.

The only thing I am considering at the moment is my way of transport. I am seriously thinking of trying something else one day. As mentioned before, I get bored easily and four years is a long time doing the same thing. I have ideas – as always – I am sure I could fill three life times with them and therefore I struggle to decide what I should do first.

Follow Heike Pirngruber on her website, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

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One Comment

  1. She is my hero

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