It Takes Two to Tandem: Cycling Across China

Article by Marcus Myer

MM: Tell us who you are

M&D: We are Mathilde and David, a 30-year old French couple. We used to work for an organic agriculture development in France. At that time, we were already enjoying bicycle trips during summer holidays. Despite the fact that we both loved our jobs and our settled life, we decided to start a new adventure for our honeymoon: a long journey on a tandem bike.

MM: Tell us about your trip in general. How long has it been and which countries have you travelled to?

M&D: We started on October 14th, 2018. We first cycled to Morocco to enjoy a sunny and warm winter, then we crossed all of Western Europe from Portugal to Finland. Basically, the purpose of the journey was initially to visit a friend who lives close to Helsinki. That took us about 10 months. Then some other close friends moved to Thailand and invited us to visit them too. We were still motivated and took up the challenge. We got our Russian and Chinese visas and we arrived in Asia via the Trans-Siberian train. After a short ride through Inner Mongolia and a long journey by train and bus, we cycled from Dali in Yunnan, all the way to Bangkok, where we arrived for Christmas 2019. In January 2020, we cycled back to China in order to reach Central Asia, but COVID-19 altered our plans. We arrived in Xi’an in May 2020, after more than 22500km cycled and 22 countries crossed! I’ve also had a chance to try some of the local food. I love the Roujiamo and the barbeque. I’ve just come from Indonesia, which is a Muslim country, so it is interesting to see some similar flavors when visiting Muslim Street. And, of course, there is other Chinese food. Cantonese. Sichuan cuisine. I love spicy food, so I’ve had no problem adjusting. It really seems like you can find anything you like in Xi’an.

MM: What inspired you to do this trip?

M&D: As we said before, our previous routine was to take two-week journeys during the summer holidays in France. We also read a lot of books about travelling and that fed our dream of an environmentally friendly long-distance journey. So we decided to establish our rules for travelling. Starting from house, no planes would be allowed and we would do as much biking as possible. We would like to give back to the word as we travelled its grandeur. Nowadays, travel often means buying a cheap flight ticket to go far abroad for a few weeks. In our mind, something is wrong with this reality. For us, travelling is a lifestyle and a strong engagement. We were also curious to see how far we could go and for how long!

MM: What were some of the most memorable things that you have experienced on your trip?

M&D: Cycling in the desert of Morocco was just amazing, riding to Baikal lake blew our mind, and getting lost in a very remote part of Laos was so exciting! In China, we had a wonderful experience in Yunnan. One evening, we arrived in a village looking for a place to stay. We randomly knocked at a house and a women opened the door with a wide smile and instantly let us in. We did not have to say or explain anything! It turns out that it was the first-moon celebration for a recently born baby of the family. In their tradition, if a foreigner comes during this event, it is a blessing! We were introduced as godfather and godmother to the kid and were asked to give him a French name. We chose “Théo”. Then we had a lovely stay with the whole family and we enjoyed delicious food and restful night.

MM: How did you manage and budget for your travels?

M&D: In 2018, we spent 13,000€ for our wedding party and we received back, as a gift, about 14000€. So, we decided to spend all of this money on our honeymoon. Since the beginning, we have had an average budget of 500€ per month for the two of us, all inclusive. It is quite low and we try to spend even less to be able to travel as long as possible!

MM: What will you do next?

M&D: We want to head back to France by crossing Central Asia and close the loop. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, all land borders with China are currently closed. So, we have decided to take this opportunity to have a break and postponed this aim until next spring.

MM: Tell us about your trip to Xi’an.

M&D: We cycled from Chongqing to Xi’an. We really enjoyed crossing the Qinling mountains following G210 road. Such wonderful views and environment! Once we arrived in Xi’an city, we adored the place and decided to settle there for a while. After more than one month, we are now back on the road, heading south again to Sichuan, where we will work on an ecological farm close to Mianyang city.

Marcus Myer is a cycling enthusiast and writer for XIANEASE. You can follow along with Mathilde and David’s trip on their website at or on Instagram @mavidetdathilde