Being in English speaking countries is great for easy communication with everyone, our bike set-up (Hase Pino + Bob trailer) is also often a curiosity wherever we stop.
Depending on the type of question, we can detect very quickly if the coming conversation is going to:
- be interesting for both parties
- be just a repetition of many other conversations
- be useful hints or suggestions
- be a complete waste of time
- be seriously dumb (special prize to NZ for those)
The answers are also changing depending on the “mood” – if we are late and still need to bike a lot, the weather, if it’s the tenth person asking the same thing (sorry mister the 10th), the way things are asked (we have had several people at lunch breaks right next to you and ignoring you completely for 1h – which is also fine – … but then finally starting to chat right when we seat on the saddle to leave!), etc.
We have nevertheless a pattern of similar questions day after day, and you may possibly have similar wonderings, so we share both the best or most common questions we get.
- Where have you ridden from?
-> Answer: well, depends on the mood – either we say from Auckland, but that means explaining the whole route, or just from Melbourne which is easier (Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane), or simply from the town the day before (people are often more amazed that you rode up the hill 5km before the town – hill that we probably forget 2h later – than the fact that we’ve ridden 3000km across the country…)
- Which road did you take?
-> Interesting question because that means the person knows the region pretty well, is likely to have good knowledge about the area, and/or is also a cyclist… Otherwise in Australia people mostly know the highways, and we don’t enjoy those (“to go to the town called blablabla, take the M1 and I drove it last year in less than 4h…”).
- Where are you going?
-> Again, depends on the mood – either to the last city in the current country (Cairns, Christchurch, etc.) or “back home in Europe” (long version, that means explaining a route in Asia – and making it simple enough cause not too many people apparently know where Tajikistan is…if they even know that it’s a country) or just to the next larger city a few hundred kilometers…
- Are you on a longer journey?
-> Yes, a full year – and starting from the furthermost place away from home!
- Can I take a picture of your set-up? (not that the question is particularly interesting, but we really hate pictures taken without consent [particularly when we’re hot, sweaty, and shoving food in our gullets next to the bike]– especially in countries where everyone speaks English – so if the person asks to take a picture, it’s a sign of good behavior)
-> Yeah, sure! Can you also take a picture of us with our camera?
- Where are you from?
-> This is a bit of a tricky question, because detailing the different countries can take a while to explain (mostly to make it understood), so the usual answer is “we live in Germany” which is quite neutral and not a lie. Then, we sometimes get a reply like “but you don’t have a German accent” (that means explaining things…) or “your english is pretty good!” (Cassie is trying hard to have a decent English accent!)… otherwise being a German tourist is just normal in Australia.
- Do you swap positions?
-> Not that the question is inane, but it somehow comes from people who have never been on a bike, and often feels like a pointless question. It’s like – “do you swap positions?” – yes/no/whatever/who cares/will you remember who is on the saddle? But no, we do not change positions on the bike, because that means changing all settings, and Cassie has become used to that place and doing the routing, while I have a lot more experience steering the 220kg beast in the traffic and all sort of roads.
Also, with that question, I often strongly feel like replying “Sure! What about you? Which position do you enjoy most?”… never got the guts to ask though!
- I have never seen a bike like that. Have you bought that bike?
-> “Well, I didn’t steal it!” (actual answer…). Seriously, anyone who knows their way around a bike would figure out quickly that we did not weld some aluminum rods in our garden… There are some “home-made” bikes, but they usually have simple geometries, designs, etc. and making your own frame is likely going to be a lot more expensive than a prototype – that’s called industrialization!
- Did you take that bike from your country?
-> Well, yeah… I’m not buying a new bike in every single country we are going through (also that was a suggestion from stupid bike shops in southern NZ because “26inchs tires have not been manufactured in years anymore” …). Also, cyclo-touring with a rental bike sounds like a weird idea: that means paying the price of a new bike after a few weeks and enjoying in the meantime a cheap ride that has had thousands of crashes from people who rode a bike for the first time in years. Last point, taking a bike in a plane is often free or a flat fee (counted within your weight limit or free if you bargain well enough with the airlines, otherwise often 100$ for up to 32kg).
Last point, yes cyclo-tourists take their bikes in the planes, the paddle-boat option on the Pino does not exist yet.
- How much does this bike cost?
-> The price of our bike (new) is about the price of a basic small car (new). Not that the price is secret (the price list is on hasebikes.com), and yes, a good reliable bicycle is not cheap. It is just a weird question from people you do not know, just like I would not ask how much your jewelry is worth (and lie about those glass earrings…). I also neither want to have to explain that my bike is more valuable than your junk rustbucket nor answer that question at all. My answer is then often simply “I don’t know, I built it myself!”. That’s amazingly convincing, most of the time.
- Have you built it yourself or can I buy one like this?
-> Clearly the person has no idea about bicycles (see also previous questions), and when telling that there is a retailer both in NZ and Australia, and that there are several thousand tandems around the world, people often seem disappointed. They would have probably preferred to have seen a BicyclUFO and show-off at the next family dinner…
- How do you call that sort of machine?
-> The problem is not about the question, but just that every single time we reply: “it’s called a bicycle or a tandem”, people seem disappointed and it’s the end of the discussion.
How do you call that stuff?
Ah, okay… boring, bye.
Somehow it seems like people would prefer our ride to be called a space-shuttle, or a rwo-wheeler-DeLorean, or maybe a Pottok-horse, a “Go-Go-Gadget-o-velo” or something else… if anyone has an idea how to rename our bike?
Negative questions : usually we look at each other, wondering who is going to have to answer – Cassie tends to be short in those cases (sometimes she just grunts or fake laughs), Cedric is more sarcastic or returning back an equally stupid question:
- So, who is pedaling on that bike?
-> We hear this one way too often! This is usually a question asked by a 50+ year old male, often to make a point to his wife that this is obviously not Cassie (or women in general) who is pushing the most! We BOTH pedal on the tandem, and if one of us does not pedal uphill, we simply can’t ride it more than 20m… We don’t care if the ratio between us is 45/55 or 52/48 (we also don’t care if the ratio on the left-pedal is different than the right-pedal – wink to road-bike cyclists!). We also have the thunder thighs to prove the pushing.
- Are you taking a rest on the front seat (Cassie)?
-> No comment! Move your butt from the car seat and come back in a few decades with something more interesting…
- I guess the one in the back does all the hard work.
-> Similar to the previous two questions… the person in the back steers but for pedaling it does not matter on a tandem!
- Where is the engine?
-> Next to the teleportation device! By the way, our trailer also transforms into a Mars-rover and if you press the tire-pump the rotor-blades come out of the panniers.
- Why didn’t you get an e-bike? (or even worse: why don’t you drive a car?)
-> Cause we haven’t reached your level of laziness. E-bikes are terrible for travels: they need to be recharged overnight for 50km (good luck while wild-camping), cannot be taken in planes, weight a lot more (add at least 15kg that you’ll have to push after emptying the battery – we have enough weight with our gears), cannot be repaired if necessary, and it’s just simply no longer about cycling…
-> “Why don’t you drive a helicopter…”
- What’s this stuff? (usually pointing at the most random item on the bicycle, our lock, but for whatever reason a lot of people are attracted to its position on the frame…)
-> It’s the red-button to launch the space shuttle… Seriously, some people have literally no idea how a bike works… We also get questions how the chain works, what the brake/speed levers are, and yeah for whatever reason we get a lot of questions about the lock that we strap onto the frame!
However, a good sign of someone who is going to be more interesting is when the questions are about our gear hub (the Rohloff).
- I would love to do some cyclo-touring, but my wife/dog/gold-fish/whatever-lame-excuse would not be happy about that.
-> Sure! And the marmot wraps the chocolate in the aluminum foil (see reference: https://www.reddit.com/r/europe/comments/3f7kom/did_your_country_developed_an_expression_about/#bottom-comments)
There might be a follow-up Q&A post in Asia. We’ll see how questions are asked having different cultural backgrounds!