Bamboo Road Rider Profile: Phill Clapham
After more than two months spent on the road with countless lunches, dinners and beers together I finally sat down with the group clown, Phill Clapham, to get some straight answers about what drew him to the Bamboo Road. What follows is a moderately censored collection of his responses:
Name: Phill Clapham
Hometown: Timaru, South Island, NZ
Profession: Dairy Goat Farmer
Previous professions: Tour bus driver, animal control, oil rig worker, and miscellaneous labor worker. You name it!
Place of birth: Auckland, North Island, NZ
Current trip: Bamboo Road – full tour from Shanghai to Singapore
Biking Experience: Biking for about eighteen years (racing for the last seven) and member of three local clubs back home.
Why travel by bike?
I suppose because it’s a challenge and an adventure while you travel. Each day is an endurance test, not just about getting to the destination but really working for it. Travelling by bike you see so much more and you really experience it. It’s obviously more comfortable to drive by a car, but you don’t see as much. A car is really just a glass cage.
What drew you to TDA?
A friend of mine did the inaugural Bamboo Road in 2013. Afterwards he did a great talk in New Zealand when raising money for a charity and during it shared his experiences; I was sold right then.
What has been a highlight so far?
Surviving China? Just kidding, but I was really happy that we were able to bike for weeks across China without incident [as he knocks on wood]. Really I’d say the achievement that we all feel, every day is an achievement on this trip and looking at how far we’ve gone in total is incredible. I always like to know where I am in the world, you know seeing maps and marking progress as we move. It’s a visual picture that unfolds as we ride.
What about the food?
What has that been like? The foods great! I often find some dishes too spicy, but that’s just because I don’t handle the heat so well. Otherwise we have tons of different dishes at each meal and then it changes when we cross borders. I think China had the most unique food so far, most of the time we didn’t even know what we were eating…
What have the people you’ve encountered been like?
It’s just been fantastic really. I think that’s the single biggest thing I’ll remember; they’re so friendly and welcoming. Even in China they we’re so open to us and we hadn’t seen another westerner the whole time. They we’re friendly as hell! In Laos they would yell “Hello!” to us so often that we would need to assign someone in our riding group to respond each day just so we could catch our breath!
One thing you wish you had known?
You know sometimes ignorance is bliss [classic Phill chuckle]. My biggest concern hasn’t been the bike riding, it’s working together with the same people towards the same goal for such a long time. We really get to know each other well, really well. So the people you’re working with are incredibly important.
What do your family/friends think about your trips?
They think it’s crazy but it’s great! They’re really supportive, but I think some can’t believe it’s possible to bike this whole way. I think many just wonder how I can get away for so long, but that’s easy if you have a wife that loves you as much as mine does.