The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance Themes

David Herlihy


Encountering Unknown Cultures

Throughout The Lost Cyclist, there is a great deal of culture shock as cycling explorers encounter foreign cultures. Repeatedly, both the West and the East demonstrate fear of each other.

When Lenz sets out on his journey, he is consistently warned against traveling through China. In fact, Herlihy takes the time to quote from more than one journalist who predicted that Lenz would fail to survive his trip through the Chinese countryside. Although Sachtleben and Allen survived their journey through Turkey, they took precautions to ensure that they would be safely guided through the country, and they also took the time to learn how to act while traveling there.

Meanwhile, the Eastern world was often fascinated by these Western travelers, particularly their bicycles. Lenz, Sachtleben, and Allen were often asked to demonstrate how to ride their safeties. In some countries, it was demanded. Other places were less hospitable, choosing instead to stone their visitors. Lenz was actually attacked more than once while in China for being a “foreign devil.”

These adventurers wrote about their experiences and gave lectures as well. Herlihy points out that all three men were attracted by the fame attached to a circumnavigation. However, their trips were ostensibly to promote harmony among humanity.

The Ethics of Adventuring

Although Sachtleben, Allen, and Lenz all choose to cycle around the world in the hopes of gaining fame as adventurers, none of them ever say so directly. Instead, they discuss the merits of travel as a means of self-education, a position for which the media praised them. They are also quick to discuss ideas like fraternity and harmony.

After his disappearance and the subsequent search for his remains, many were quick to wonder whether Lenz’s adventure had been worthwhile. Lenz was determined to take a difficult route without relying...

(The entire section is 810 words.)