The wheel deal
Davis Cheung meets the man who cycled from London to Hong Kong for breast cancer awareness…
Mark Wright is a Brit on a mission. The 27-year-old lives life at top speed and he’s sports a heart of gold when it comes to charity. “There should be no excuses – if you want to set up company, ask a girl out for dinner, whatever you want to do, there’s no excuse – just do it,” he says. “For me it’s as simple as that.” We speak to him about his remarkable achievement (he cycled from London, UK, in April, took in 17 countries and finished in Hong Kong on Thursday October 11) and his dedication to a good cause (Breast Cancer Care).
Hi Mark. So you biked halfway around the world. How do you feel?
Fantastic. It’s something you always hear sportsmen talk about. About a week ago I felt great, emotional, everything. For me the pinnacle was to see friends and family at the end of it. That was really nice. I think the whole realisation of having cycled 16,000km will come in good time – maybe with a hangover.
Is this the furthest you’ve ever cycled?
Yes. I cycled 1,000 miles in the UK but this outdoes that!
Any places which were particularly hard?
Turkmenistan. It was dead flat but the headwind was directly against me. On average I would usually cycle 26 to 27 kilometers an hour. There’s only a café every 80km. So if you don’t have enough water, you’re going to die in the desert. It’s not like Hong Kong where you can buy a Coke or a Twix, a McDonalds or KFC every 500 yards. There, you’re stuck. Also China – the desert up in the northwest. The desert literally has a translation – ‘he who enters does not come out’. I managed to come out but it was very difficult.
Most memorable place on your journey?
Iran. You listen to what everyone says before going to Iran. All the news stories you hear. But actually going there, you have everything dispelled. Everyone is friendly. I was there for 25 nights and, on 13 of them, I was invited into people’s houses to sleep, to eat, to shower. The hospitality was incredible. Definitely the friendliest people I have ever met. Very unexpected. I can’t wait to go back to Iran.
Mark and his mother.
While you’re riding, what do you think about the most?
I listen to music for about an hour each day. I just get caught up in the music. I’m cycling for around eight to nine hours a day. When you’re in the middle of nowhere your mind wanders like a child. You see a tree, you think about the tree; you see a bird, you think about the birds. It becomes very basic and pure.
What do you usually eat?
Literally ? Everything. I try and keep it healthy with fruit and veg. But some days four packs of Oreos, three Snickers and five Mars bars. You normally have four meals a day of warm food. You’ll eat non-stop and I’ve lost 15 kilos since the beginning so there really is no end to what you can eat.
What about the bathroom?
The world. Nature is the toilet. Obviously if there is a toilet I would use it. But a lot of time there isn’t so you try and go hidden behind a bush, behind a tree. It’s down to the bare basics. Same with sleeping. At the beginning you’re very picky about where you make camp. Now you see a bit of green and go ‘I can camp there’. There’s no limit to where you can camp or go to the toilet.
What are some difficulties you came across and how did you overcome them?
If the moment is bad, it’s only going to get better. And it always does get better. Like one hour ago I was sweating uphill. I was not happy. And now I’m here having Champagne in one of the most beautiful spots in Hong Kong. So things are bad for only a limited amount of time. You have to remind yourself of that.
Why did you choose Hong Kong as your finishing point?
I wanted to start in London. I didn’t want to fly, so North and South America was out. The reason I choose Hong Kong above Beijing, KL and Singapore is I found Hong Kong has more weight behind it. I would tell a five-year-old in the middle of Kyrgyzstan that I would go to Hong Kong and he would know. It just triggers something in everyone’s brain, even if they don't know where it is they heard of it.