He’s cycled a massive 600,000km by bicycle over the last half century – enough to go around the world 15 times.
Along the way he’s been attacked by bees, shot at by rebels and hit by cars. He ran out of water in the Sahara Desert and had his bike stolen 6 times. Every time he got it back.
Now, 70 years old and still touring on the same bike he started with, Heinz Stücke could be forgiven for slowing down a bit. Not at all. This world nomad is still going strong. In fact, he’s cycling more than ever. All of his last 10 years have made it into his ‘top 20’ in terms of distance. Sometimes he rides for up to 16 hours a day. And in 2008, Stücke covered 22,000km – his biggest year yet.
“The reason is that I like more and more those lonely stretches in the desert and in the forest so I can do more cycling. In the olden days it was like more living: going into the city, staying 3-4 weeks, participating in the culture of the country, which is also interesting. But as I’m getting older somehow it seems more a daily rhythm of progress, of camping, of independence, of nobody bothering you,” he says.
If Stücke’s style has changed over the decades, two things haven’t: he still rides the same 3-speed bike he started out with (although he sometimes uses folding bikes for convenience) and his passion for cycling is still firmly intact. There are no plans for the world’s longest bike tour to stop anytime soon.
“I have found my Shangri-la,” he says, brushing aside the suggestion that he take even a little time away from cycling to write a book. There are still too many parts of the world left to explore.
“While my legs hold out and while there are new places, and there seems to be always new places, it doesn’t matter how old and long I travel…”
Stücke never finishes the sentence. Instead, his mind jumps to the most recent places he visited in Japan and the adventures yet to come: Canada’s north this summer and, if he can raise the money, the remaining far-flung islands needed to complete his quest to visit every country in the world.
Money may not be exactly easy to come by but it’s certainly easier for Stücke now than when he started. He spent his first years scraping by on as little as 50 cents a day and has even resorted to fixing his own teeth with superglue, rather than go to the dentist.
“It was shoestring travel in the first 20 years. You don’t spend any money. You just wait until somebody invites you and then you eat like a camel. You eat 3 kilograms of meat so for the next 3 days you don’t need to eat. It was always like that and no transport was ever paid for.”
“Now I have a bit of a name and money suddenly comes from all kinds of sources and I can even play a bit of a rich guy. I even sponsor other cyclists a little bit because I feel I had such a hard time in the beginning and people gave me so much all the time that it’s about time to give something back.”
To hear the full interview with Heinz Stucke, listen to Episode 34 of the TravellingTwo Bike Touring Podcast.
23rd February 2010 at 6:35 am #
Difficult to make two questions in one interview. Heinz did not say in the interview but one of my friends (Koos Kroon-www.bike-tech.net), and sponsor of my world tour, is trying to help him in order to publish a book with his pictures. He also got a Brompton for Heinz. That is the bicycle he is using now in his trips, like Japan, or the one he is planning now to Canada.
I love listening someone talking with so much passion about his life. He is an example to all the people who goes on the road for just 2 years and they think they did a BIG thing and cycled the World.
23rd February 2013 at 12:56 am #
heinz eu tenho um folheto seu de 1964 quando voce passou por São Paulo (Brasil),eu já fiz várias viagens de bike pela américa do sul,voce foi minha inspiração,queria fazer uma volta ao mundo ,mas, não deu,faltou dinheiro e tempo, tive que cuidar da família, hoje tenho 70 anos,ainda pedalo pelo Brasil,gostaria muito de uma resposta sua pois sou seu admirador,se quiser mando-lhe o folheto se voce quiser e não tiver um igual ,meu endereço no facebook é:willy borowczak,mande-me um convite de amizade ,estou ansioso por uma resposta,um grande abraço.
5th October 2013 at 4:07 pm #
I met Heinz in Northampton town ,he signed a book for me . We had a nice chat , does anyone know where he is now ? He inspired me to tour on my bike , he is a real light in this world :O)
11th September 2014 at 5:01 pm #
MAN!!! hope i am still pedlin @ 70 !!!
26th April 2022 at 4:54 am #
Why is it I always really feel like you do?
7th May 2022 at 7:16 am #
Wonderful views on that!
7th May 2022 at 9:39 pm #
Why is it I always really feel like you do?
9th October 2022 at 8:45 pm #
I really enjoy the post. Really Great.
25th October 2022 at 5:31 am #
13th November 2022 at 3:21 pm #
Enjoyed every bit of your blog. Much obliged.
19th December 2022 at 12:30 pm #
This is a topic that’s close to my heart… Many thanks! Where can I find the contact details for questions?