Ryan Pyle – How to Ride Motorcycles Across China

An Interview with Travel Adventurer Ryan Pyle

As a Guinness World Record Holder for Endurance Motorcycle Riding, Tough Rides and Extreme Treks’ host, Ryan Pyle brings us to his fantastic world of motorcycle and trekking adventures. Read on and find out why motorcycles are the best vehicle for crossing China and discovering new places.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Ryan Pyle. I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. I am currently in Los Angeles, California on business. But I live full time in Shanghai, China.

I decided to move to China because I was looking to live in a part of the world that didn’t speak English. I was keen to stretch my idea of what is “comfortable”. However, because of work, I am only there for few months as I’m always on the road filming almost 8 to 10 months a year. At the moment, I am preparing for another season of Extreme Treks.

My sports and hobbies include playing rugby, rocking, and doing big treks in remote places. I also played basketball in University.

An Interview with Travel Adventurer Ryan Pyle

How did you get into riding motorcycles?

I didn’t really get into riding motorcycles from the beginning. It wasn’t until my brother Colin and I decided to do a trip in China in 2010 that I really got into them. I never had a motorcycle when I was a kid, it was never anything that I was exposed to from an early age.

So, my first real motorcycle trip was my 65-day journey around China with my brother Colin, when we filmed Tough Rides: China (also known as The Middle Kingdom Ride).

Motorcycles are by far the best tool for exploring a new part of the world. They allow an intimacy with the landscape and the people that you don’t get when traveling by car.

An Interview with Travel Adventurer Ryan Pyle

How do you choose where to ride?

I actually don’t own a motorcycle, and I only ride when I make the Tough Rides series.

Brazil, Russia, India and China are part of the BRIC nations of developing countries. I wanted to travel around all of them to see how the countries are developing and changing. I still have to do Russia. Hopefully, someday soon.

I really love every country I ride in: I loved my trip in China because it was exotic and exciting; I loved my trip in India because it was so challenging; and I really enjoyed Brazil because riding through the Amazon in the mud was so challenging.

How long we ride each day depends on how much filming we need to do each day. Less filming. More riding. Usually, between 200km and 400km per day. Some days, we don’t film at all and we do 700km. Some days, we are stuck in the Amazon mud and we can only cover 30-40km in 12 hours.

An Interview with Travel Adventurer Ryan Pyle

What kind of motorcycle do you use?

I try to use a dual-sport motorcycle. In the past, I’ve always used a BMW F800GS. The motorcycle I use is not always the same. In India, it was really impossible to get a BMW into the country, so I used a Royal Enfield; a locally made bike.

We bring all the essentials like gloves, helmet, riding pants, boots, and a jacket as these are the basic safety equipment.

We sleep in cheap hotels along the highway, or we stay in remote villages with local people. We sleep and eat where ever and however we can. It’s best not to have high standards of comfort.

An Interview with Travel Adventurer Ryan Pyle

How do you train for your adventures?

Just try to stay in decent all-around shape. Some running. Some weight lifting. Eat as healthy as possible.

I started riding motorcycles in 2009 and I did not own any motorcycle before starting out. I just passed my motorcycle licensing test about a year before Colin and I did our big trip in 2010.

A week of riding is a week of filming. It’s intense. Lots of very long days.

I don’t do any other sports at the moment but I used to play basketball and rugby. I really enjoyed those sports. These days, I mainly just run on treadmills in hotels (very sad).

An Interview with Travel Adventurer Ryan Pyle

What have been the most difficult part of your adventures?

The most difficult part was the mud in the Amazon while filming Tough Rides: Brazil. I would recommend to just think of happy thoughts because it’s 100% psychological, and keep pushing on one step at a time. The difficulties were not the same as I expected. Never. The expectations and reality are always wrong. If you do some motorcycle adventuring, it’s important to have good “spirit” and “curiosity.”

An Interview with Travel Adventurer Ryan Pyle

What have been the best parts of your adventures?

The best part is the chance to meet local people and understand local cultures.

Besides your motorcycle adventures, you have also been spend months trekking in the mountains of China. Why did you choose to do a trekking adventure?

I actually much prefer mountain climbing and trekking. It’s closer to my heart. Walking is slower and it was a chance to really connect with nature. The best part of the trekking adventure was getting caught in bad weather and having to decide whether to run for shelter or keep pushing through, and the most difficult part, on the other hand, was the altitude sickness.

To add, I am taking a break from motorcycle adventures for the moment.

An Interview with Travel Adventurer Ryan Pyle

What was the cost of doing your adventures?

That is not information I can share, however, the motorcycles are usually provided for free. And trekking in the mountains is cheaper than my motorcycle adventures like sleeping in a tent is more inexpensive than sleeping in a hotel.

An Interview with Travel Adventurer Ryan Pyle

How do you finance your adventures?

I finance my adventures through a mix of money from broadcasters and corporate partners. In Tough Rides: Brazil, I worked with BMW Motorrad. At this moment, I have no long-term sponsors.

I do save up money. In fact, in the early days, we had to fund some of our own work.

An Interview with Travel Adventurer Ryan Pyle

Your favorite motorcycling and trekking gear?

My favorite motorcycling gear are helmet, gloves, boots, and pants. They are essential and everything else is just “extra”. My top favorite gear ever is my rain suite because it is very helpful on a long journey.

While my trekking gear would be boots. Those are the only things that matter when you are walking / trekking for 20km per day.

An Interview with Travel Adventurer Ryan Pyle

What will the future bring?

Lots of more television work I hope. For my motorcycle rides, well, nothing planned at the moment. For my trekking, I will start filming Extreme Treks Season #3 in Russia in August.

Anything else you want to add?

Be sure to check out all the videos on my YouTube page.

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