Heinz Stücke: The Man on the Bicycle

Those of us that enjoy bicycling typically have a regimen that involves a loop ride outside our door or a mountain adventure for an afternoon or a day.   Some of us even get into cross country adventures and other long distance tours.  Not Heinz Stücke.  At age 22 the tool maker from Hövelhof, Germany, decided that he would rather see the world than work in a factory and off he went.  He never returned.  Forty-eight years later he had visited 257 countries and traveled 368,861 miles.

What it boiled down to for Stücke was that:

  1. He didn’t enjoy his work,
  2. He wanted to travel and
  3. Traveling by bicycle was inexpensive.

He later learned that bicycling became a passport to connect with and build good will with the people he met.  That was important to him because once he developed that good will, people would help him.  With no money in his pocket, he depended upon that help.  As a result he no longer needed to go back to the factory.

Stücke’s Bicycles

Brompton BicycleHe didn’t spend much money on bicycles either.  His first bicycle was given to him by the German manufacturer.  The 55 pound three-speed with 25 inch tires (pictured below) was specially reinforced to hold up under the worst conditions imaginable without much maintenance.  It was certainly not the kind of bicycle most of us would enjoy riding.  Further,  he typically carried around 110 pounds of baggage – whew!  Nonetheless,  he used the same bike to travel the world for 44 years.

Stücke would have continued to use the same bicycle, except that his journeys often required airplane and boat travel and around 2004 these carriers began to charge outlandish fees to transport his large bicycle.  For the next five years he used a 7-Speed Pocket Lama folding bike.  These bikes fold up so that they can fit inside a regular piece of luggage.

In 2006, English bicycle manufacturer Brompton gave him a M6R six-speed folding bicycle (pictured).  Brompton offers so many options that their bikes are almost custom made. Stücke got one that works for him and he has been riding it ever since.

Paying His Way

Heinz Stuecke

Heinz Stuecke on the place de la Sorbonne in Paris, France. 1999.
By Anthony Atkielski (Agateller) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

While Stücke is all for living frugally,  he still needs some income.  He is currently sponsored by Brompton,  Bike Tech (a Brompton dealer) and Picturae.  Over the years he has financed his lifestyle with licensing revenue from his photos and donations, plus sales of his travel writing, postcards, and booklets.  Now, working with a team of writers and designers,  he has assembled some of his best photography into a book titled: Home is Elsewhere: Heinz Stucke: 50 Years Around the World by Bike.  The book is a little hard to find unless you are in Europe where it is available from Brompton.  It should be available in the U.S. eventually.

His book addresses many of his adventures like having his bicycles stolen, being shot by rebels, being beaten by soldiers, being attacked by bees and more importantly meeting wonderful people all over the world.

Still Moving

At age 76, Stücke isn’t done traveling yet.  He wants a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.  From 1995 through 1999, he was listed as having travelled more widely by bicycle than anyone in history.  Now Guiness is requiring him to bicycle in even more parts of the world and he’s taken on the challenge. If you’d like to help, he is accepting donations.

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