Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Welcome to the wonderful world of Bicycle Touring!

Recently, I was told that a local bicycle shop, Bike Pro is stocking & selling Surly Long Haul Trucker frames. This development with the number of inquiry that I received from visitors to my Blog, indicated that more and more people are interested in Bike Touring. Hooray!!

I started to be interested in Bike Touring about 10 years ago when I visited New Zealand South Island in Summer 2002. It was in Picton that I saw a guy loaded his bicycle onto the train heading to Christchurch. Then, on the way to Greymouth via Arthur's Pass, I saw a lone rider with a trailer. She was struggling climbing some steep section of Arthur's Pass. Then I met an old lady who looked like a seasoned triathlete, camping near our cabin in Te Anau. That was the first time that I saw a folding bike that she was touring with. And  her age, lean physique & folding bike really amazed me.

Came back from New Zealand, I decided to embark on a bike tour. But it took me about 1 year before I started my new venture of bike touring to Scotland in Jan/Feb! And it was still winter. There were still snow in some places. The towns were empty but I still can see sheep on the empty grounds and the Highlands.

So I brought my road bike converted to touring bike of striking yellow with rear racks along.

It was my first experience of bike touring as well as winter riding. It was a bit cold for some one who came from a country with 32C average temperature. But I did all my research from internet, on how to ride through snow, winter clothing, winter ride equipments etc. It was cold but I really enjoy my ride. And I learned that it rains everyday in Scotland.

So, when I came back to Malaysia, I start planning to tour Malaysia for 5 days. Therefore, we choose to ride from Alor Star to my house in PJ. About 500km in 5 days. Being young and active at that time, riding 100km a day is fine with us. We successfully finished the tour by stopping at Sg Petani, Taiping, Ipoh, Teluk Intan. It was an amazing experience. I got hooked.

Since then, we have met a local group of 'seasoned' riders who were into Bicycle Touring. And then joined their group riding and touring. Over the years, we have tours around the roads of Malaysia, Sarawak, South Thailand. Riding in a group is always fun and give you a sense of security especially if your tire got punctured, bicycle parts failed, if you meet an accident, or too exhausted to continue, etc. you can always rely on someone to assist you.

I personally love riding in group for above reason. But prefer to ride alone or with another rider because I love to manage my own time on what time to wake up, where to stop for lunch, ride at my own pace, etc..

But riding alone, you will have to carry everything by yourself- tools, spares, cooking utensils etc. Which in group these can be shared among the tour members.

Bicycle touring is exciting. I love stopping at the roadside stall and have my ice lemon tea and pisang goreng.I remember being surrounded by people who got stuck by traffic jam on the way to Maarhi, India. They start asking question about my handheld GPS, camelback and my bicycle. In fact a newlywed did took picture with my bicycle at Manali! Majority of the people thought that my handheld GPS was a satellite phone and even 1 guy thought my Camelbak hose is for oxygen when we were at 12,000ft near Rohtang Pass.

Bike touring allows us to meet various types of people. Majority of them are friendly. Maybe because we shared the same interest.

In Thailand, I met a German lady who allows me to try her KTM bicycle with Rohloff Speedhub which she was very proud of for being made by the German. In India, I meet a couple from France who were teachers, a couple from Australia who work as doctors on 1-year sabbatical leave touring The Himalayas, an Indian Ironman who traveled with his backpack, notebook & DSLR hanging on his neck, a group of fun-loving British guys, and nice old couple from Scotland who were embarking on a very long tour! What I like about these people is their down-to-earth attitude and never trying to show off like some Lance Armstrong wannabes. Some of them even ride on normal bikes with cheap parts.

What I like about Bicycle Touring is that it is for everyone regardless their physical condition but willing to take some time to prepare. It is not for macho men or women with perfect bodies or fancy carbon bikes, it is for anyone who with sense of adventure, humor (cause we like to joke around when travel in group) and those who drawn to explore the back roads, countrysides, the highlands, cruising the coastal roads etc. It is for people who would like to travel with few barriers as possible. Whether you are young or old, male or female, you don't have to be all that athletic, gearing & patience are more important than raw strength.

I personally love it because I can manage my own time to travel i.e., ride at my own pace, take lots of photographs, enjoy the local delicacies and as well as enjoying the beautiful scenery. Also, I don't have to wear those colorful jerseys and tight pants (ha! ha!). And if I happen to come back last from a ride, I can always say that at least, I did enjoy the scenery longer.... HAPPY RIDING FOLKS!


Jess said...

Bike touring is THE way to go. I started a couple years ago - put a rack and some panniers on my Montague bike and never looked back.

sufi said...

Nice post. Great picture. How to maintain energy? Cantik gambar2 tu.

Mat Touring said...

Thanks. keep hydrate all the time. Ride at your own pace. Stretching before, during & after the ride, makan puas2...jangan makan sikit konon nak diet, enjoy it when you are on your bicycle!

cal said...

salam bang...ada fb tak? boleh saya follow abang kat situ...

tengah belajar2 nak layan touring ni... :)

Mat Touring said...

Wsalam. fb page memang ada tapi takde kaitan dgn cycling. fb tu utk communication je dgn ex-college, school, uni, office mates etc. sorry ye.

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