An Extreme 3-Wheeled 3,000km Rickshaw Race Across India

What is the only thing more insane than the roads of India? A 3,000 kilometre (1,900 mile) two week long race across the country on three wheels! Of course rather than competing against locals, this race is aimed at foreigners. That’s right, foreigners who may have an international drivers license but have absolutely no idea how to handle the chaos of the mean streets of India.

To Kick Things Off We Have A Contest

You could win $50 for helping us pick our team name.

More on that after the Who-What-Where-When-and-Why of the Rickshaw Run:

Rickshaw Run Image from The Adventurists


After deciding to compete in the Rickshaw Run this year I had to begin the hunt for a teammate. Luckily my search began and ended with one person: my buddy Ryan of Lost Boy Memoirs. I have traveled with him through three different countries so far and we always have a blast together. Plus given the gnarly nature of this race my preferred choice of partners was obvious: the gnarliest mother fucker I know! Thankfully he has been able to coordinate his schedule to join my adventures once again.


Never heard of the Rickshaw Run? It is held three times a year (January, April and August) and organized by a group of adventure travel enthusiasts aptly known as The Adventurists. They are the same people that run the Mongol Rally, something that I hope to do in 2016, among other gnarly things. The last Rickshaw Run had a total of 98 teams competing and we expect around the same number of teams to partake in the next race. After all, the more the merrier — and the more insanity.

The Everything-India-Can-Throw-At-You One

The three runs have each have a cute little name that they are affectionately known by. In January there is The Party One and in August The Long One because it is three weeks instead of two. And ours? Well it’s The Everything-India-Can-Throw-At-You One. Yes, it would seem we are in store for some grand adventures. Thankfully we’ll have plenty of cameras aboard, documenting every thrilling moment!

Okay, but what the hell is a rickshaw? A rickshaw is essentially the same thing as a tuk-tuk — a three-wheeled 7hp beast that is as fun to drive as it is dangerous. The Adventurists put it best: “It’s not very fast, it smells, it falls over when you go round corners, it breaks downs more often than an emo teenager and a days driving feels like you’ve been kicked up the arse by an elephant. But somehow all this makes them better.”

Rickshaw Run Image via The Adventurists

Engine: 2 stroke, single cylinder, forced air cooled
Power: 7 HP at 5000 rpm (equiv. 1 family dog)
Transmission: 4 forward, 1 reverse
Fuel Capacity: 8 ltr + 1.4 reserve
Top Speed: 55kmph (downhill)
Engine Size: 145.45cc
System Voltage: 12V , DC

  Luckily I already have experience driving tuk-tuks, among other intriguing vehicles, and Ryan is brushing up on his mechanics, so hopefully we will kick some ass during the Rickshaw Run ๐Ÿ˜‰

The race is also for a good cause. Every team needs to raise a minimum of $1,000 to be donated to charities in India. Thanks to the help of our friends over $4,000 has been collected for our charities. Those funds will be donated to:

Cool Earth: Saving Rainforests

Cool Earth: Saving Rainforests

The Adventurists selected charity, Cool Earth, works alongside indigenous villages to halt rainforest destruction. By building better incomes, schools and clinics, they give their partner villages the resources they need to keep their forest intact. To date, they have saved 411,525 acres of forests and supported over 35,410 indigenous people.

Planeterra Foundation

Planeterra: Empowering Local People

Planeterra is a non-profit organization that helps empower local people to develop their communities, conserve their environment and provide solutions to local problems. It was founded by G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip. Ryan has traveled with G Adventures several times and has the utmost respect for the company. We are confident that the money donated to them will be put to great use.


Where exactly in India is the race taking place? Well, since the Rickshaw Run is held three times a year there are three different routes. The one we are doing will take us from Jaisalmer in the northwest corner of India all the way to Shillong in the far east, past Bangladesh. The other two run from the northeast to southern tip (every August) and the south to northwest (every January).

Rickshaw Run Map


The Rickshaw Run we are taking part in happens this April from the 6th to the 18th. Ryan and I will be arriving in India at the end of March in order to get the Delhi belly out of our system before we hit the road. After all, we don’t want to be fighting our bowels in addition to the other race competitors ๐Ÿ˜‰


Why not? This is something I have been wanting to do for several years and I’m giddy as a schoolgirl to be finally knocking it off my 366-item bucket list. In addition both Ryan and I have begun producing travel videos, so naturally we are going to cover our rickshaw in GoPros and pray that we get some wild and crazy footage. That’s right, our rickshaw will have more cameras than wheels. What does this mean? That you can expect tons of short videos to be released during the Rickshaw Run (provided we have time and wifi along the journey) as well as a final compilation video highlighting the best moments of the run.

And Now Details On The Contest

The Rickshaw Run 2015

We Need YOU!

  Ryan and I have to choose a team name but so far we are clueless as to what to pick. One of the best suggestions we have had so far (at least in my opinion) is Gnarly Daze. However for the next week we will be taking suggestions via the comment form below and both our Facebook pages, The HoliDaze and Just Chuckin’ It The winner will receive a cool $50 cash and the honor of having the name they suggested splashed across both our web sites, on the outside of our rickshaw, and in the Rickshaw Run videos we will be producing.

Final Notes

During this two week journey we will need somewhere to rest our weary bones and nurse our road-inflicted wounds. If you live in between Jaisalmer and Shillong and would like to host Ryan and I for a night, please contact me. The offer also applies to any hotels or hostels along our route who would like a little extra publicity ๐Ÿ˜‰

Want to see more? My buddy Brad Bernard (My Wanderlist) also did the Rickshaw Run:
The Extreme India Challenge: Rickshaw Run Edition

Want to learn more?   Meet the people behind the Rickshaw Run, Mongol Rally, and other adrenaline-fueled events around the world.
The Adventurists

  So what do you think?

Are we just bat-shit crazy?

Or would you compete in the Rickshaw Run if you ever had the chance? Share your comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to The HoliDaze on YouTube and Just Chuckin’ It to stay up to date with all our gnarly adventures.

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." ย  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

26 thoughts on “An Extreme 3-Wheeled 3,000km Rickshaw Race Across India”

  1. Oh to be a fly on your rickshaw during this adventure! Some names that come to mind:

    1) Rickshaw Rockers
    2) Holihuckers
    3) Red Yanker (combo of Derek and Ryan)

    Safe travels!

    • Yeah it should be quite an adventure. Thanks for the suggestions ๐Ÿ™‚ We will be reviewing them all on the 20th and picking our favorite then. Or if we cannot choose just one then we’ll put it to a vote.

  2. Woaaaazaaa… after reading the details, it’s GOKIL dan KEREN, Derek .. Sumpe!!! LOL

    It must be great and crazy, passing through 3,200 km by tuk-tuk. I wonder, how many Kilometer per hour riding in this vehicle?? And, how long does it take?? Is it gonna be like a rally march, or just an individual ride, and then 3,200 km is BIG. It’s like from Java to Papua. Wow, .. so, you’re gonna pass the jungle, crazy traffic, my Indian friends said traffic in India is crazy that you should embrace the local mentality to adapt with the traffic. crazy and no rules.. hahaha, it must be crazier than Indonesia and Vietnam traffic.. well what an adventure. If it’s not crazy so no fun, huh ??

    And great to hear that finally it’s for charity. Wow, I thought it’s just for fun.. that’s so sweet. Good luck guys, it must be a great story than your .. .. errr. err tour de whorer thingy … LMAO

    • I included the Rickshaw technical stats in the post. Their top speed is 55km/hr — downhill. Given the traffic and unpredictable terrain I think it’s safe to say the bulk of the race will be done at much slower speeds. After all, two weeks to do 3,200 kilometres…that is around 228km a day. Not exactly a lot. 11hrs a day at an average of 20km/hr sounds about right hahaha. But hey, as you said, not only is it crazy but it’s for a great cause. Win-win ๐Ÿ˜€

      • Sorry, my mistake. I skipped that part.
        single cylinder, so.. it is gonna sound abit loud, right?? Like Bajaj in Jakarta. I cant imagine, the sensation of riding this vehicle for 2 week long. And the engine, hmm, it is similar to motorcycle cycle, not more than 150 cc.

        Haha, yes 20 km/h .. but I have no idea with the terrain, 80 km in West Sumatra would take around 3 hours long, but it is hilly and mountainous. Hmm, yup 11 hours per day, it is possible.

        Yeah, gonna be another video series too. After you got the name, create the logo and make it as your video template… woooo-hooo, interesting.

  3. Wow. That sounds like a whole heap of fun. Would love to do that. Look forward to your tales from the road.

    Here are a few names; they are all anagrams of Derek, Ryan, Rickshaw:
    Wiry Cranked Shark
    Dry Crankier Hawks
    Racy Hawk Drinkers

    Alas I don’t have facebook and I am not that creative first thing in the morning…

    • I’m really hoping we end up with some shocking, embarrassing and/or downright unbelievable stories. For me that will be the real prize, not coming in first place. My goal is to be able to show others what to do during the Rickshaw Run AND what not to do ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Whoa, love the anagram idea! What do you mean you aren’t creative first thing in the morn? If that’s you being uncreative then I would kill to see your creative side. Hahaha. I just rearranged the last one into another: Hawk Drinky Racers. Oh man I’m going to have fun with this lol

      We are accepting suggestions until the 20th, so if you get any more bright ideas one of these evenings then definitely send them our way ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Man that trip sounds awesome! Hope you’re spending hours on youtube learning how to fix a rickshaw. As far as names for the team go I’m thinking:

    Chuckin It For Real
    Ship of Fools
    India Irie (You might have to invest in some dreadlocks and a bunch of Bob Marley mp3’s)


    • Hahaha I haven’t had the time to brush up on my mechanics but I think Ryan has us covered. Hopefully ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thank you, appreciate the awesome team name suggestions! We’ll be choosing our favorite on the 20th, so if you have any more suggestions in the meantime, feel free to send them our way. Thanks again Eugene!

  5. Oh yeah! you’re in for one crazy trip. Those little rustbuckets are the equivalent of an engineering practical joke. After replacing the engine and transmission, ours exploded into flames in the middle of nowhere. We just had to let it burn. Roads in India are really just a minefield of boulders and potholes that will swallow you whole. They are so unstable that we flipped going down the highway and I was ejected (luckily hospital visits only cost about 2 cents there)

    If that hasn’t discouraged you, the Rickshaw run is a mind-expanding experience that will leave you searching for words. Indians burst into an uncontrollable tizzy at the first sight of a foreigner driving a rickshaw and you will be greeted like a movie star in every village and you will see a reflection of yourself in everyone you will meet. You will see the haphazard congestion in your rear view mirrors as you dive off into nothingness, just knowing that you will be stuck or lost or stranded, and trusting that there will be good people there.

    • Rather than discourage me all you’ve done is the exact opposite Brad. Life has been too boring these last few months…press trips and blogger conferences. It’s time to throw some unpredictable and potentially harmful experiences back into my life. Besides this April run will be the first where insurance is included with the deposit! I’ve never had any insurance, not even travel insurance, since I quit my job in 2009. So if I have to get injured somewhere, well, as much as I may jinx myself for saying this, I almost hope it’s in India. I dare even suspect the men in charge may purposely acquire some of the more questionable rickshaws for the run, if only just to keep things interesting hahaha ๐Ÿ˜‰ All fine by me though, I love a good, challenging adventure.

      Yeah, that was wild all the adventures you went through in India last year. Still so glad I found you blog way back when. We’ve really got to cross paths slmewhere this year, I need to meet you and thank you and talk to you I’m real life sometime soon. What do you have on your agenda for 2015? After India I’ll be headed to Pakistan and Afghanistan and then on up the Silk Road…but as of yet I have no idea how long that adventure will take me. Any plans to make it back to Western Asia or Eastern Europe anytime this year?

      Anyway, can’t help but appreciate the eloquence of your comment Brad. I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to have to quote you in my next Rickshaw Run article, as we hunt for our last couple sponsors. Who wouldn’t want to get in on some action like that?!

      • Insurance, huh? Does that exist in India? I’m guessing we had something to do with that decision, ha!

        Oh, we got stuck with the oldest rickshaw in the lot. It is a very different experience after you lose a few days having engines rebuilt. It’s how we got so far behind we had to cheat by paying a truck driver to haul us overnight, and how the kidnapping happened, and things just turned disastrous after that… In a good story kinda way.

        Yeah, I’m going to TBEX in Spain and I’m waiting to see how this book proposal will pan out before I can plan trips. It’s been so much work! If so, Asia is on my list. Sounds like you have some crazy plans. I didn’t even think they let people into Pakistan any more. Can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

        • Pakistan or Afghanistan? The former is completely safe, no travel advisories and visas for Americans are easy to acquire. Plus I’ve heard nothing but amazing stories from travelers who have visited. Apparently Pakistani people are among the friendliest on earth.

          As far as Afghanistan, there is a general broad safety warning for travel to the country but visas are still issued for Americans. We are just urged to use caution when visiting the south and east (if I recall correctly) as there is still conflict ongoing there. Kabul is safe as shit and actually has a healthy and active Couchsurfing population. So I am going to set up some meetings there and make some local friends, who can than advise us on where and where not to go outside of the capital. Really looking forward to this and debating getting a three month visa, instead of just a one month visa, on the off chance that I want to explore more of the country. The others don’t seem to share the same curiosity as me though.

  6. This is friggin awesome! I can’t wait to see the footage and hear about your experiences. I am laughing out loud at “Dehli Belly”. I haven’t been to India, but I’m sure you’ll offer plenty of motivation for myself and others to actually get out there!

    As for names:
    Richshaw Roadstars or Roadsters
    Gnarly 4 Real or Fo’ Real
    Traveling Tricksters

    Have a blast and don’t make the Amazing Race look too lame. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thanks for the enthusiastic support Michaela ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m sure you can imagine how excited Ryan and I are. This is going to be one of the wildest things we have ever done. I don’t know if you read my buddy Brad’s comments above but he did the Rickshaw Run last year — same exact route we will be taking. They managed to flip their rickshaw, blow the engine and transmission, get kidnapped, and even after all that had their rickshaw eventually burst into flames and there was nothing they could do except jump out and watch it burn. So yes, safe to say we will be in for some excitement ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thanks for the name suggestions, Ryan and I will be reviewing all of the submissions tomorrow and choosing our favorite. Will announce the winner of the $50 soon and starting in just over two months be posting short daily videos from our Rickshaw Run adventures to the HoliDaze YouTube Channel. Also going to do a long compilation video featuring the best of moments, but that might take a month or two after completion of the run before I have the time to completely post production. Either way, please stay tuned for all the excitement, madness and adventures to come. And hanks for tuning in ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Sorry for interfering,
        Reading this comment reminds me of my experience back then when I was in Jakarta, during my college days.
        In Jakarta we have Tuk-tuk too, but we called Bajaj, it’s look alike, only the name is different, because we imported Bajaj from India decades ago.

        It’s the icon of Jakarta, if you ever seen this Bajaj in Jakarta. And one day, when I moved from ‘my kost(dorm) nearby campus’ to my grandma’s house, and brought all my possession into it which was heavy for a Bajaj, including my Computer *not Laptop*, luggage and stuff, and in the middle of the road, I felt hot sensation to my butt, it felt like I sat on the stove. But I thought it’s normal.

        I don’t know why I chose Bajaj instead of Taxi, I forgot the story….. but in the middle of the road, my Bajaj was chased by a street vendor, young guy who sold cigarette. He yelled something, I was so confused.. and while yelling at me when my Bajay was running with a noisy sound, he pointed at my Bajaj’s exhaust.. he looked so panic and concern, and I finally could read his lips, he said… ‘Get out, get out….. there’s fire under your Bajaj’s engine’

        Then at traffic light he finally reached us, and helped me out of this Bajaj, picked my belongings before it burned. And people helped us to extinguish the fire.

        Great, I still met a hero in Jakarta, a street vendor, there’s possibility my Bajaj exploded. He ran over my Bajaj, didnt care He could have hit by other vehicle.

        I think it’s because the fuel is Gasoline or Petrol, so it’s flammable. I heard diesel fuel is not flammable.

        I think you can’t bring your luggage there… haha, What do you think, and less people better, two people is enough for a long journey. Just my opinion, I’m not an expert.

        Well, good luck, just sharing my story. I almost forgot about this after reading comment above. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • Don’t feel like you are interfering, that’s an awesome story and one I’m glad you shared. I only wish you had replied to Brad’s comment instead of mine so that he would get an email with your story in it ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Arhh, my mistake I didn’t check the root of this comment. I just read your latest comment and this Rickshaw and burn story made me.. aha.. I experienced that thing long time ago., yeah, you’re right I supposed to reply on Brad’s comment. So, should we redo it… ?? LOL

  7. Incredibly stoked to be doing this adventure with you dude. Couldn’t have imagined a better team member and getting excited every day that passes to get to India already. And then, whatever happens during the race will surely be a crazy awesome time.

  8. Dude this looks fucking amazing!

    The BEST TRIP I have done in 5 years of travel, was once when I drove a 2 wheeled 125 cc 4 stroke old SYM scooter around Taiwan. Drove like 2000km in 10 days and camped at a bunch of places. Also stopped to get super baked like at least every 100 km or so, you know, just to make sure we appreciate the scenery… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Baking on road trips is definitely the best. I consumed so much fucking hash during this race…it was a little unreal. But it makes me a better driver. And besides every 100km we had to pause for 15 minutes or so to let the rickshaw engines cool down, so that’s perfect time to blaze a bowl or joint. One of the times as we were getting towards the east we actually stopped right next to a giant field of wild weed. A couple of the guys got some really really kickass selfies in it ๐Ÿ˜‰


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