17 Bargy Road East Wall Dublin D03 VY60 Ireland +353 86 6088843 email Will

Will’s Asia Bike Ride, 2018

I’ve flown back and forth from Dublin to NZ many of the last 22 years.

To see some of the exotic, diverse places I’ve been passing at 30,000 feet, to compensate at least symbolically for the enormous carbon footprint of all that flying, and most importantly to bring Cate’s ashes on a holiday we’d planned, I’m getting off the plane from Auckland at the first mainland stop – Ho Chi Minh City – and taking two months to bike towards Dublin -where I’m planning to try to settle close to my family, after six amazing years in NZ.

Biking along at about 18km/h is just an incredibly satisfying way to experience a country- you’re not just seeing everything in detail, you’re hearing and smelling too. You make eye contact with the locals, say hello to the kids, fend off the dogs, and peer into peoples’ houses.

And, following the shortest route between your chosen destinations, which will most often be far from beaten paths, I’ve found the internet (google maps or Booking.com) sending me to the most unusual, out-of-the way places. I’ve hardly seen another Western tourist outside of resorts and big cities which I don’t mind at all. And it’s a great way to find food you might normally shy away from.


From Ho Chi Minh to Yangon is about 1,300km by air, so in theory I’m saving the burning of some fossil fuels. However I’ve a funny feeling that any carbon emissions saved will be more than offset by environmental damage I do by the decimation of plastic bottles (under doctors’ orders which have proved wise, I have to point out) and use of air conditioning throughout the trip. NZ and Ireland both have safe tap water and cool climates and it’s been a steady 30 or more degrees in the shade here with constant high humidity.


The biking stuff-

My bike is the 2004 Giant Rincon Cate bought from my bro-in-law Dylan in about 2006. They are still making these amazing machines, and I can’t say enough for how tough & reliable it’s been.

One puncture from road debris, two blowouts (caused by the rear tyre finally giving up and splitting) and one bent derailleur (caused by a really minor fall while bike was parked) which me and a local farmer fixed with his hammer (below).

I love it when a plan comes completely apart, and friendly people put it all back together for you. Above is the generous farmer who came out to the road when he saw me struggling with a bent derailleur, and had me wobbling off again more or less fixed in a jiffy.

I did plan to lighten the bike by swapping the forks for rigid ones, but given the state of Cambodian roads I’m glad I didn’t.

Total weight including full camping gear was about 45kg. Arriving at Bangkok and realising it hadn’t been used once, I posted tent, with mattress and sleeping bag, back home. So that’s about 8kg less.

Am using the same wonderful Ortlieb panniers Cate and I use every day for going to work or getting the groceries, Georgia In Dublin hi-viz and galoshes, Dancing Moose bike-packing luggage at the bike’s front, and Cate’s Schwalbe Marathon tyres, which did well after a long life & tough service.

Above- I had good support crew when fixing my first puncture, too.

Big Philips mudguards for the rainy season. These are rigid and tough.

Am navigating with maps.me offline and Google Maps as a cross-check. And following Lonely Planet guide books.

And of course sitting all day on the Brooks B17 saddle my sister Rachel gave me about 8 years ago. This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you, I said to it at the start, and Boy was I correct. Again, Dr. Mika prescribed precautions including zinc oxide ointment, applied daily- and after three weeks of riding the Brooks and I have achieved a good pain-free compromise. My first bike, a Raleigh Hustler 3-speed my parents kindly bought me in 1979, had a B17.


My biking gear

Padded gloves helped with numb/ tingling hands.

Other specialist high-performance gear include some plastic toe clips & straps, Converse All-Star runners, Dickies shorts. Heaps of sun cream.

And of course a good sun-hat.

Given the over-30 temperatures and high humidity often prevailing, the high likelihood and severe consequences of heatstroke preclude wearing a cycle helmet, and a hat with a wide brim’s needed.

Luckily I came across this lovely hat-maker (below) who sold me the ultimate sun protection: a Thai field worker’s hat. It has an inner cane basket that lets air flow all round your head! And (worn backwards I’m reliably informed) it’s got a much more aerodynamic shape than my previous, Vietnamese one (bottom).

Very glad not to be subject to New Zealand’s all-ages all-places ban on helmet choice (unique among developed countries now, I believe). Wearing a bike helmet, while certainly protecting against the low possibility of head injury, would really exacerbate that risk of heatstroke.

So, no expense or effort spared in the quest for that competitive performance edge!


My biking route:

Vietnam-

Ho Chi Minh- Thanh Hoa- Tram Chim- Chau Doc for a rest day- Ha Thienh and another rest day- about 305km in Vietnam and NZ

Cambodia

Kampot- Prey Nob village- Sihanoukville and ferry to Koh Rong Sanloen for three days’ holiday- Sihanoukville- Junction of SH48 and SH4- Chi Phat (for a 28km jungle walk!)- Tatai Bridge- Koh Kong- about 460km in Cambodia.

Thailand-

Ha Sen Waterfall- Trat- Chantaburi- Ba Phe for sea swim- Rayong and semi-rest day of 40 km- Sri Racha- Lat Krabang, where main Bangkok airport is- Bangkok- Ban Pong- Ban Kao- about 785km in Thailand.

Myanmar-

Htee Khee to Dawei- my first cheat in a bus/ ute: no accommodation for 140km (and a road so bad it’s on neither of my online maps) meant biking this stretch was beyond my ability. Then, sadly, just one day of biking before bus trip into Yangon for the flight back to the EU. So only about 60km in Myanmar.

Total-

About 1,610km.


(I’m including travelling the wrong way while lost and quite a few km spent poking about cities, and about 40km on the way out of NZ)


Except a day or two through the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia, where the road went up & down no more than 400 metres, my route has been really quite flat. And winds have been very light. So the only issue really is that heat- when the sun comes down fully on your arms that are already at 30 degrees it feels like a blowtorch! So after 6 or 7 hours of riding you need a long shower & rest for quite a while to recover.



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