A Strong Argument in Support of Tubeless Tyres
The recent bad press surrounding Chinese made tyres and inner tubes has not deterred one man from giving Chinese tyre products his own unintended and unorthodox vote of confidence. Staking his life on the quality of a round black rubber object to an extent that few of us would dare, 41 year old Cheng Yanhua from China’s Hubei Province undertook a six week odyssey down the Yangtze River on a truck tyre inner tube.
Cheng’s adventure began on July 1, when the enthusiastic amateur adventurer embarked from the southwestern city of Chongqing. Spending at least ten hours a day on a raft that owes its origins more to John Dunlop or Andre Michelin than to any credible boat builder, Cheng paddled and drifted 3,000 kilometres down the Yangtze to Shanghai, where the river meets the Pacific ocean. And despite the absence of even the most rudimentary safety equipment and widespread flooding of the Yangtze this summer, the tyre-bound sailor completed his journey displaying few ill effects. Cheng commented that the greatest physical discomfort during his 44 days afloat came from having to tuck his legs into the inside of the ring for extended periods of time.
“I met some dangerous and difficult times, including coming across several big rain storms,” said Cheng upon completing his voyage on August 13. And while some may be tempted to attach labels such as “intrepid” to Cheng after his perhaps unique adventure, it is not clear whether he was exceptionally brave or just completely oblivious of the incredible danger he was in while drifting down China’s longest and busiest river. There is, after all, good reason why most purchasers of inner tubes choose to mount them inside tyres rather than navigate them down a body of water wide and deep enough to accommodate ocean going vessels.
“It’s almost a miracle that a man can survive a trip along the river floating on a tyre,” commented Wang Jiqin, a local maritime officer. Cheng also admits he narrowly survived several close encounters with whirlpools or strong currents.
And the reason for spending a month and a half bent over double perched atop a product that performed dismally in recent Chinese quality control tests? “I did it to welcome the Beijing Olympics, as no one has done it before,” said Cheng. His craft proudly displayed both the Chinese and Olympic flags throughout the voyage and was emblazoned with banners displaying the words “”Welcome Olympics, First Yangtze raft.”
Cheng’s journey came to an end near the “Seagull Place” restaurant – an establishment we pray was not named after its signature dish – whereupon he was surrounded by reporters and photographers. “I had often heard of foreigners engaging on adventures on rivers like the Amazon but it has hardly ever been done in China. It was my way of welcoming the Olympics,” he told them.