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Liudas Alseika, the Tragic Tourer on Two Wheels

In the late 1950s he was preparing for the first trans-Siberian bicycle ride. The world already knew a bunch of cycle-tourers, but this endeavor was quite special. Liudas Alseika, an agro-engineer, traveller, teacher and veteran of sustainable tourism had already organised his crowning activity – a bike ride from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Alseika was going to cycle from Lithuania’s port city of Klaipeda to Vladivostok in far-east Russia.

Liudas Alseika.

Vladivostok was to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1960, and this was the spark that led to the Eurasian bicycle ride. Alseika was just a little younger than the Russian city: before the ride, in 1960, he turned 73. The senior was to revolutionise bike touring by leading a cycling group over two continents.

Alseika leaving Klaipeda in May 1960.

The route almost concurred with the Great Siberian Way, through the Urals and Sayan Mountains, Western Siberial Lowlands, the taiga by the Baykal Lake, Chabarovsk and Primorsky Kray. On Mayday 1960 the cyclists started their half-year long ride. The senior was to pay dearly for his two-wheeled adventure across the USSR. On the 20th day of their travel, near Gorochovets in the Vladimir oblast, on the highway between Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod, Alseika was fatally hit by a truck.

The Baltic group of riders overcame their grief and decided to pursue eastwards without their leader. They reached Vladivostok on 9 October 1960. The ride took 162 days and the surmounted distance was 11,800 km.The tragic ride encouraged bike travelling and arose a keen interest in the Baltic peoples and their past all over the Soviet Union. Despite the terrible tragedy, many youngsters embraced cycling and started wandering long distances across the USSR and all over.

Alseika's bike touring group.

The Siauliai Bicycle Museum in Lithuania has a wing dedicated to Alseika’s exploit. Regardless of their size, the Baltic States have a long tradition of bicycle riding. Lithuania has one of the largest plants in Europe: a huge plant, Baltik Vairas is the Siauliai based factory – former pride of the Soviet Union, currently controlled by the German giant Panther International GmbH.

Siauliai, Lithuania. Bicycle Museum

Images: We hereby express our gratitude to the Siauliai Bicycle Museum for allowing us to use the photos.

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About The Author(s)



Raul Cazan

Raul Cazan

Environmental Journalist

For two years, Raul was the Editor-in-Chief of the only Romanian environmental magazine, Green Report, a product among few of the kind in Eastern Europe. Beyond his Law degree from the University of Bucharest, Raul’s interests revolve around environmental journalism and communications, enhancing topics surrounding the politics of climate change and food security. Raul holds two Master’s Degrees in political science and development from the Central European University Budapest and University of Trento, Italy. He collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund – Danube Carpathian Program, founded the Slow Food Bucharest chapter and acted as an environmental law consultant in Brussels. In 2009 and 2010 he was International Grassroots Outreach Fellow at Earth Day Network in Washington, D.C. His latest project consists of setting-up a similar open virtual platform, named 2Celsius.net, regarding climate change and the green collar economy in Central and Eastern Europe. His big passion is cycling, thus he is making it a socially valued activity by promoting and carrying out “bike charity” projects such as RideAcross. Currently, as president of Association 2Celsius, he is working on media development, institutional greening projects as well as on land use change related programs.

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