Mission Workshop _ PiNP Bike Tour: Day 01 Mar 27, 2013


There was nothing pleasant about today, aside for the company. The things I saw on the road will forever change the way I view the world and globalization. Without going too much into the politics of it all, I’ll just say that I’m glad to have gotten the first leg of our ride out of the way. On paper, the route looks easy. 100k door to door, and about 90 meters of climbing.

These numbers are almost laughable, compared to other rides we’ve all completed, but those weren’t in an AQI of 350+ and through a toxic wasteland. To give you some perspective, Los Angeles has the highest AQI in the United States and today, it’s at 70. I’ve never experienced anything like this before.

The morning began early, as we checked out of our hotel and headed to Factory 5 to ready our bikes. At 10:30am, we put on masks (literally) and rode alongside a highway out of town. You’d think the air would be worse in the center city, but it was the opposite. Soon, it was like we were riding into a fog, rolling into San Francisco but there were no mountains, no iconic bridges or architecture, just smoke stacks and automotive factories.

Your face began to burn, eyes water and all you wanted to do was take off your mask to get some “fresh air”. Upon doing so, the smell of burnt plastic almost made you gag. It was literally hell and I can’t fathom the reality that people live in it everyday. The striking dichotomies were everywhere: a brand new VW dealership, next to a vacant lot with a pond, that was completely red with bacteria, or the canals and waterways turned black from factory waste next to a parking lot filled with brand new Buicks.

60 miles felt like 120. My lungs burn and my face is windburnt. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so hungover from a ride. There’s no gallery, since I shot all film today, but will leave you with the photo above to just say that I’m glad to be indoors for once. For more frequent updates, keep an eye on Mission Workshop’s (@MissionWorkshop) and my Instagram (@JohnProlly) during the day.

  • autophile

    Sounds brutal. I will be riding out of Shanghai next year, and I can say that I’m not looking forward to that first part of the trip.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=521163230 Todd McClafferty

    In a masochistic way, I want to do this tour as well.

  • D.J. Bolles

    To say the very least it sounds like this trip is having quite an impact.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jontb Jon Bekefy

    Gnarly… does it leave anything on your kit/bike? Grime, odor etc?

  • ZianStudios

    Unfortunately it seems your tour will be city to city which most likely means biking through industrial wasteland everyday. If you get a chance, try and really get out into rural China

  • todd hauber

    No Bueno. Scary

  • trackosaurusrex

    Dig this photo! But I probably would have focused on the cap. ;) We all know what a bike looks like.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      we all know what the cap looks like too! ;-)

    • http://twitter.com/chris_foz Chris

      Maybe focus on the power socket? Lot of people unfamiliar with other countries’ power sockets…

    • http://www.facebook.com/MartyWalshGeekhouseBikes Marty Walsh

      It is a nice cap! Who makes those? :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Pish/819710653 Jonathan Pish

    Wow- that’s a pretty powerful ride reflection.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ericbaumann Eric Baumann

      agreed, that sounds miserable…

  • http://www.neilbridge.co.uk/ Mr_Bridge

    Serious stuff. Great to hear first-hand accounts from somebody skilled in both seeing and writing. Ride safe bro.

  • http://twitter.com/prolix21 Dan

    hows touring on the CX bike? thinking about doing some touring on mine, which looks to be a very simliar setup as yours.

  • al

    “There was nothing pleasant about today, aside for the company. The things I saw on the road will forever change the way I view the world and globalization.” C’mon Prolly, get into the politics… we already know the air in China sucks because of the factories. Now tell us it’s due to all the shit we buy and cycle of marketing/consumption which many of us are part of. Tell us that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jamesmckeon Jamie McKeon

      Sick one dude.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gordon-Tangen/678209548 Gordon Tangen

    If you can buy American

  • http://www.facebook.com/benjamin.calvopina Benjamin Agustin

    what tires are those? I know you mentioned them already but I can’t remember which post…

    • Matthew Meyer

      Jack Brown by Panaracer/Rivendell

  • chern

    Dude, that’s the way Los Angeles used to be back in the day, 1960, like we played basketball outside and I would have to lay on the court and try to breathe with screeming/burning lungs. Bummer to be in that toxic mess.

  • Rob

    Hilarious. Shanghai air quality is paradise compared to northern Chinese cities like Beijing. Worst I saw was in Xi’an.

    • http://www.wearefactoryfive.com/ Tyler Bowa

      Actually Beijing is better rated than Shanghai in terms of the actual harmful chemicals in the air. No doubt that Beijing visibility is worse, but quality is much worse in Jiangsu province, unfortunately.

      • Rob

        Interesting. Thanks.

  • Cyclo McKenzie

    This coming from the guy who flew intercontinental a couple of days ago to go to a completely redundant trade show he proudly admitted to being over and done with in two hours.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      That’s not why we were in Taiwan. The show just happened to be in the same time frame as our trip.

      • Cyclo McKenzie

        Does “our trip” refer to the one being made to bring back gritty copy on riding in east asia sporting mw gear?

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          You’re trying so hard that you’re not making sense.

  • R__W

    SLC area takes the prize for worst air in the USA these days. In inversion months AQI can get to 172.

    • Vincent Shim

      totally. I spend a bit of time in slc area uring the winter months. When the inversion sets in you can immediately feel the burn in your lungs.

  • eltejano

    Yesterday I was riding the bus home here in SF on a glorious clear day and saw a woman w/ a mask on and just immediately thought of your post and AQI and started shaking my head: pic: https://twitter.com/eltejano/status/317748570243624960/photo/1