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Heinz Stücke – A Man and His Bike

More years ago than I care to recall, there was a radio programme entitled 'In Town Tonight'. This featured interviews with interesting people passing through London. I learned more about people and places from that programme than from all my geography books put together.

I am often reminded of this when I intercept cyclists heading along the North Wales stretch of the National Cycle Network. Whether it be eager young students from this country and abroad or older and wiser folk rediscovering the pleasures of self-propulsion on two wheels, I am always the wiser for listening to their experiences.

But I will never again meet a traveller the like of which I encountered recently rounding Penmaenbach headland. He approached from the Bangor direction. His silhouette conveyed immediately he was no ordinary cyclist. His bicycle had two handlebars - one above the other. And his front and rear panniers were so large, that I’m sure if I had rooted around I would have found a kitchen sink in there somewhere.

But it was his bike frame adorned with the names of distant exotic places that sealed it. When he said he was Heinz Stücke, I immediately remembered reading how he made headlines in 2006 when his bike was stolen at Portsmouth, shortly after arriving on a ferry from France. It was recovered shortly afterwards, abandoned in a nearby park, the thieves no doubt realising it was too hot to handle!

Sixty six year old Heinz and his bike have become legends in the world of long distant travel. Setting out from his native Germany at the age of twenty-two, he has cycled around the world over ten times. He has visited most countries, but apparently has never returned to his native Germany. He has covered almost 350,000 miles on the same bike, which itself has been stolen and recovered five times and had its frame broken and welded 16 times.

Born in the small town of Hövelhof, in 1940, Heinz Stücke’s worldwide adventure began in 1962: the same year the Beatles also launched onto the world stage. He has travelled almost non-stop, covering over fifty miles a day on average.

He's been arrested, robbed, and shot at. And had four collisions with cars. He’s been acclaimed in every corner of the planet but seldom hangs around to enjoy the admiration his unique status brings him. He’s an Honorary citizen of Jackson, Alabama, and has been welcomed by Emperor Haile Selassi of Ethiopia. He's a timeless wanderer with his precious diaries buried deep in his luggage.

‘Where is he now?’ It could be Tomintoul, Tottenham, or Timbuctoo. If you encounter him on the move, as I did, you’ll soon see him disappearing up the road with his motto encircling the German flag at the rear of his bike – ‘Be Carefree - Be Mad - Be a little bit bad. Its the unknown around the corner that turns my wheel '

Roy Spilsbury

This article first appeared in the October edition of the monthly magazine ‘North Wales Living’

There’s a lot of information about Heinz on the internet. Why not try Wikipedia for starters.

Heinz also has his own web page detailing many of his remarkable adventures.


Heinz Stucke and his bike

Heinz Stücke - cyclist extraordinaire


Heinze Stucke shares a few moments with your web editor Roy Spilsbury


Heinz Stucke's bike frame covered with the names of places he has visited

Bike frame - as extraordinary as its rider.


On the back of Heinz Stucke's bike is a board with over 200 small flags of the countries he has visited

Heinz is a delightful character - But this is the view most people have of him as he disappears up the road.


Heinz's double handle bars aren't new. Here's what Hercules had to offer in 1935