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Ryan and Colin Pyle are Canadian brothers, the former a photographer in China, the latter a banker in Toronto. When Ryan traveled top New York in March 2010 to shop for assignments, it was evident that business was soft. Meanwhile, when Colin came to meet up with him it was obvious his brother was tired of the rat race. The two decided to circumnavigate China on motorcycles and document the trip on film for a potential tv series. They mapped out a route that they figured would take them a distance of 11,000 miles in 60 days, a trip that no one had ever undertaken before. It would take them to the border with North Korea, across Xinjiang (Uighurstan), along the old Silk Road route, up onto the high steppe, into the mountains of Tibet, with a stop at Everest base camp, through China's industrial South and home. With little more preparation than a course at the Enduro Training School in Germany, and only a single trail car in support to carry their cinematographer, they set off into the unknown.

Over the course of the next two months (plus a few days) they were confronted with mud slides, flooding, intense heat, freezing cold, high altitude, breakdowns, crashes, days long traffic jams, and always with mindnumbing Chinese bureaucracy. However, they also saw scenes of incredible beauty, met helpful and curious common folk, re-established the sort of connection brothers have when they are kids, set a Guinness World Record and produced an astonishing film travelogue and this entertaining, if workmanlike, book.

I highly recommend that you read the book in conjunction with watching the films. The written word can not capture the beauty (nor, for that matter, the ugliness) they saw on their journey. And the relationship between the two sparks to life on screen in a way it doesn't in the text. But I do recommend both for the invaluable insight they provide into the vastness, diversity and dichotomies of modern China. The two travel through ultra-modern cities along mint infrastructure just before encountering abject poverty, roads in disrepair, where they exist at all; meet Muslims in the ancient city of Kashgar (my favorite part of the trip, I think theirs too) and Buddhists in Lhasa; get inestimable aid from locals when their bikes break down, but face vexing obstacles when regime officials refuse them access to roads or even entire towns "for security reasons". If you were to just look at snippets of the various episodes in the series in isolation, you'd never believe the whole thing took place in one country. [Indeed, when seen in its entirety the series demonstrates the unlikelihood that it can remain one country in the long run.] This educational and informative aspect of their work combines with the awesome visuals and the truly heroic feat of endurance that the ride entailed to make for an eminently worthwhile experience for viewer/reader.


Grade: (B)


See also:

Ryan Pyle Links:

-INFO: Middle Kingdom Ride (
    -VIDEOS: THe Middle Kingdom Ride (Hulu)
    -LECTURE: The Middle Kingdom Ride - 2 Brothers, 2 Motorcycles, 1 Epic Adventure in China (Speaker(s): Colin Pyle, Ryan Pyle, Chair: Nick Byrne, Recorded on 17 April 2013 in Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, LSE)
    -ESSAY: 2 Brothers Travel 17,500km Around China On Motorcycles (Ryan Pyle, 05 September 2012, Steward)
    -PHOTO ESSAY: Full Frame: Chinese rural dwellings: A photographer captures the traditional "apartments" of China's Hakka minority. (Ryan Pyle, October 8, 2009, Global Post)
    -PHOTO ESSAY: In pictures: China's wine industry (Ryan Pyle, 2/16/10, BBC)
    -ESSAY: My Toughest Shot: The Konka Gompa Monastery (Ryan Pyle, Aug 27, 2009, Outside)
    -INTERVIEW: Eight Questions: Ryan Pyle, ‘The Middle Kingdom Ride’ (Alan Paul, 3/18/13, WSJ)
    -INTERVIEW: World Conquerors, Self-Publishers Colin Pyle, Author of THE MIDDLE KINGDOM RIDE (Interviewed by Tom Eubanks on April 19, 2013, Kirkus Reviews)
    -INTERVIEW: The Middle Kingdom Ride: 2 Brothers, 2 Motorcycles, 1 Epic Adventure in China: Two brothers, Ryan and Colin Pyle set the Guinness World Record in 2011 for a 65 day, 20,000 km motorcycle ride around China. Insight from their incredible journey has been captured in this interview. (Chia-Ling Melody Yuan, 01/10/2013, US-China Today)
    -INTERVIEW: Middle Kingdom Ride-2 Brothers, 2 Bikes and 18,000 km of China (Andrea Hunt, 2011-03-04,
    -INTERVIEW: The Middle Kingdom Ride: Colin Pyle in conversation with Simon Myers (Simon Myers, April 17 2013, Time Out London)
    -INTERVIEW: Colin Pyle on China's longest motorcycle ride : Colin Pyle on the challenges of beating Chinese bureaucracy to set a Guinness world record (Peter Moore, Wanderlust)
    -INTERVIEW: Shooting in China with Ryan Pyle (The A-Team, 2/08/12, Apurture)
    -PROFILE: Canadian motorcycle adventure series seeks airtime in US (Caroline Berg, 6/21/13, China Daily)
    -PROFILE: Ticket to ride: The Middle Kingdom Ride: What happens when you jump on a motorbike and circle China? (Time Out Beijing, 30 Jan 2013)
    -PROFILE: The Middle Kingdom Ride (Eva Sogbanmu, 3 June 2013, City Weekend)
    -PROFILE: The Middle Kingdom Ride (Uwe Wachtendorf, June 6, 2011, Motorcycle Mojo)
    -INTERVIEW: “Timeless” Xinjiang | Interview with Ryan Pyle (Josh Summers, September 16, 2014, Far West China)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview: Ryan Pyle, an 'Anthropologist With a Camera' in China (Shreeya Sinha, 2/23/12, Asia Society)
    -INTERVIEW: Ryan Pyle (New ?01) on the Diversity of China and the Benefits of International Experiences (New College, 18 December, 2014)
    -PROFILE: China Motorcycle Diaries: altitude sickness at 5000m (Farah Master, Oct 29, 2010, Reuters)
    -ARTICLE: Ryan and Colin Pyle used the Cardo scala rider G9 for communication throughout their 14,000 Kilometer “India Ride” (SmartCycleShopper, 11/29/12)
-REVIEW: of The Middle Kingdom Ride by Colin and Ryan Pyle (Kirkus Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of

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