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