If there’s one thing that hurts more than the saddle sores from cycling around China for 460 days, it’s having the bike you did it on stolen just days before completing your epic trip.
That’s what happened to cyclist Wang Pingan as he neared the end of a two-wheel trek that covered thousands of miles through every major province in the vast country, according to local media.
Arriving in the southern city of Shenzhen, in southern Guandong province, Wang locked up his trusty mountain bike, loaded with panniers, to check out electronics markets in the city’s Huaqiangbei area.
Within 10 minutes the thieves struck.
But here’s where the story takes an unexpected turn.
Despite police initially saying odds were stacked against the bike ever being recovered, Shenzhen’s finest managed to track it down and return it.
The Southern Metro News reported that police apprehended an alleged criminal and sent Wang a photo of a bike they recovered. He recognized it instantly.
They said the theft, from a road junction “infested” by cycle thieves was caught on surveillance cameras. The bike had likely been sold twice before being recovered.
“We don’t want this lad visiting Shenzhen and having a bad memory of the city,” a police spokesman told the paper.
Now, with 29,200 kilometers under his tires, Wang can continue the final few days of his epic journey.
He’ll be able to add his final destination, Hainan Island, to a route that has already taken in some of the country’s most far-flung places.
Among them are Mohe in Heilongjiang, China’s northernmost and coldest place, Urumqi in the west and Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in the southwest..
Wang, a recent university graduate, who embarked on his trip with a budget of little more than $100, had earlier turned down offers from across China to help him get a new bike, vowing to walk if he couldn’t be reunited with his “old lover.”
“It has a special meaning to me,” he said, according to SMN.
Before the bike’s recovery, Wang had posted a heart-rending tribute to his bike on social media, recalling their adventures together.
“The bicycle itself doesn’t have a high value, but spending more than a year with it, it’s like a best friend who has accompanied me on my way, and taken me to every place without complaints,” he writes.
“Thank you, my buddy, maybe I’ll never see you again … I remember I cried during the difficult times at the beginning of the trip and you were by my side.”