On this episode of Talk Travel Asia, we’re going way off the beaten path. We chat with former Bike Magazine Editor in Chief, journalist, explorer, and all around adventurer Brice Minnigh, about his mountain biking expeditions in Asia, including a recent film he made, The Kora, where he and some friends spent 10-days circumnavigating Himalayan peaks in Sichuan province, China. So put on your biking kit, strap on your helmet and headphones, and get ready for an exciting ride ahead!

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Brice Minnigh Biking in Bhutan

Scott: I brought my hardtail Specialized Rockhopper to Thailand when I moved here. I’ve mountain biked a lot in Chiang Rai province, some in Chiang Mai, on Ko Tao, around the temples of Angkor and from Lhasa, Tibet to Mount Everest Base Camp and onwards to Kathmandu. I’ve also been lucky enough to ride in Nepal on several trips, around the valley of Kathmandu and half of the Annapurna Circuit.I also lived next to some excellent riding in Bukit Kiara when I lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for two years. 

Trevor: So this is the second mountain biking episode we’ve done this year and believe it or not, even though I live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, far from any mountains, I’ve actually gotten some biking in this year. I was in Siem Reap, Angkor, getting off the beaten track both with my own Marin mountain bike that I bought in Bangkok years ago and with an electric-assisted Cannondale that I borrowed from our friends at Grasshopper Adventures (now Ladybug). No mountains on these rides, but I did encounter some mud and had to go up and down the walls of Angkor Thom, where I even got some air!

Scott: Mountain biking is growing around the world, including in Asia. Chiang Mai now has a limited bike park and more and more trails on Doi Suthep have been built. I hope it continues to grow, as it’s free once you have a bike, doesn’t pollute, and protects our environment. It drives tourism and is something locals and visitors can do together. A great connector! I just did a 455km road ride in Chiang Rai province which was nice and saw me climb 6,800 vertical meters.

Trevor: since COVID I ride my bike around the city as my primary mode of transport. I need to do more fun rides but I’m definitely pro-bicycle. When traveling, I always opt for a bicycle to explore an area when I visit if my hotel has them available. But the more I watch guys like Darren Berrecloth, who we had on the show recently (Episode 106: Mountain Biking in Bhutan) and Brice, our guest today, while I’m not sure I’m up for anything too extreme, bikes really do seem to be a great way to explore some beautiful countryside across Asia. 

Scott on how we got to know of Brice: I first saw him a couple years ago in a YouTube video, The Trail to Kazbegi, about cycling some very remote mountains in northern Georgia to the mountain town of Kazbegi, which I visited shortly after with my father. In between those two, I met Brice when he was returning from filming a mountain biking movie in Bhutan, Chasing the Yeti, with another Talk Travel Asia guest, Darren Berrecloth.

Our guest, Brice Minnigh, is an American with a passion for adventure. He’s lived and worked all around the world, notably in the former Soviet Union where he worked for the Moscow Times and Moscow Tribune, and in China, a country he’s written three guidebooks about. He speaks four languages – English, Russian, Mandarin and Cantonese, almost died on a journey to the North Pole, and is now the Editor in Chief of Freehub Magazine. He joins us from his home at Encinitas, California. 

Listen to Episode 113: Mountain Biking in Asia to hear Brice answer the following questions:

  • Where are you originally from?
  • When did you first get into mountain biking and exploration?
  • When did this interest become professional?
  • I saw in one video of yours that you either lived in or did a bunch of biking in Hong Kong. We did an episode on hiking and biking in Hong Kong. Was that one of the first places you rode a lot in Asia or just one you know well?
  • You shared with us in emails before this interview that this all started in 1995 with a journey from Beijing-to-Pakistan. Tell us about that trip.
  • What are some of the most memorable parts of the people on that journey (or something else that comes out from the conversation)?
  • Do you think this journey would be possible today?
  • Let’s move on to chatting about your latest film, The Kora, where you and two friends set out to circumnavigate three Himalayan peaks in Sichuan province over 10 days, as a way to cleanse the soul of post wrongdoings and deeds. And it’s important to note that you carried all your gear and food! 
  • How did the idea for the trip come about?
  • How did you know about and find the route?
  • What equipment do you take on this sort of ride?
  • What spare parts are you carrying to ensure you can keep your bikes running? 
  • What were the people like in that area?
  • What stood out as different and unique on this trip and in this region compared to other areas you’ve been to?
  • You don’t end up making it around the Kora route – how do you deal with these sorts of setbacks?
  • What did you do from there when you hit the river you couldn’t pass?
  • What other Asian adventures are on your “To Do List”?
  • If someone wants to plan a biking adventure in Asia, what words of wisdom and advice do you have for them?
  • How about tips for more beginner or intermediate bikers looking for their first Asian biking adventure: what’s a good way to approach something like that?
  • I read online that you met Mohammed Ali while in North Korea – tell us about that.

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Theme Music by Jamie Ruben

Talk Travel Asia is brought to you by Trevor Ranges and Scott Coates, every two weeks(ish) from wherever in the Asia they happen to be. Alternating episodes feature a guest or the two hosts, cultivating travel insight through intelligent conversation. If you enjoyed the show, please donate, even just a dollar a month: that’s only .50c per episode(ish). 

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