Wednesday, May 7, 2014

So, you want to go touring...

Smitten by the wanderlust...

Michelle and I had started taking bicycle touring seriously after our first taste of cycling across the Thai border from Pengkalan Hulu in Perak back in February 2011. 
Since then we've never looked back.

At the Thai border in Perak
Panniers on the folding bike's luggage rack: now, a common sight..

We sat down at a bus stop near KLCC and watched the world go by during the KL Car Free Sunday. 
At least three out of ten foldies were riding along with some sort of luggage strapped to their bikes.
These things are becoming accessible nowadays as more shops are retailing bicycle luggage. Back in the days, choices were really few..

Definition of bicycle touring

Subjected to interpretation: I'd say that if you intend to soak-in as much scenery as possible by cycling from one destination to another without breaking your journey, that would be bicycle touring.
Some folks sell their home, quit the day job and take at least three years to hit the road. To them, its an experience that will either make or break them.
Here in Malaysia, we view things rather differently compared to touring cyclists in the West.
 There's too much at stake. Job security is one of them.
Bear in mind that education is pretty much a basic right in most developed country and the least you would expect is a bum with a college degree.
But with all that said, we mostly made up for it by going on shorter rides and get back to our ordinary lives after the ride is over..

Your bike is your life..

I get some questions thrown in rather unexpectedly from time to time.
There was this dude who asked: "Can you go touring with a folding bike?"
My answer was "Yes".
If you are not a brand fanboy, even a cheapo bike can be rigged for long-distance rides.
The only issue is whether the bike will hold together or fall apart during your journey.
Another dude asked: "Eh bradder, you never consider a larger touring bike like the Surly Long Haul Trucker ah?".
Well, to be honest, I did. 
But after working out the cost, time spent on touring, I'd say that I was more comfortable with my Dahon Speed P8.
On whether folding bikes are the ones for the job, one famous bicycle dealer in Petaling Jaya actually said: "Aiyaaaa.. Folding bikes are a joke la!".
In his perception, he is right.
But there more to it than meets the eye when it comes to a folding bike.
These are not flimsy "toys" that are "frail" anymore.
If set up properly, it could rival the Surly and just any other full-sized 700cc or 26" tourers.
What makes a folding bike versatile is the fact that it could be easily transported.

My fully accessorized Dahon Speed P8
Unless if you plan to sell your house, send off your dogs for adoption and let your parents look after your kids for a few years because you want cycle from Kuala Lumpur to France and Eastern Europe, then you might consider a larger bike.
Can you compare it with a Surly or other famous brands? 
Well, definitely!
My weapon of choice would be the Tern Eclipse S18 "Road Warrior".
Why, because this bike is built for the job and it will take me to wherever I want to go and back.

My latest acquisition: The Road Warrior
Investing in proper equipment and gear..

When I did my long-haul rides, I've traveled with simple-minded people and on certain occasions - morons.
Despite being told what to do and bring, they end up as minimalists, hoping that their fellow cyclist would do their bidding. These are the kind of people one should avoid in long hauls in order to maintain peace and harmony among your fellow tourers.
Before you embark on a tour, do consider outfitting yourself with the proper equipment. 
You can invest on a good set of panniers and if properly cared for, it would yield years of use on the trail.
Tools, spare parts and recovery kits are the stuff that you pack without saying. The horror is traveling with folks who don't even carry bike tools and spare inner-tubes.
As for me, I don't stinge on racks and luggage carriers. Good stuff are built to last. And that would be the least of your worry when you are on the road.
A set of good lights would also make your life easier.
If you a prepared to spend, do invest in a set of lights that can yield hours of usage on the trail and bright enough to throw into the darkest path.
With all that covered, the motto is: "Be Prepared". You will never have doubts if you are ever faced with punctures and mechanical failures.

Plan your route properly and always be in the loop...

There are many people who want to go touring. But do not know how to draw a route.
Reading up is a wise move. 
You can find plenty of resources on the internet. 
To the uninitiated, www.crazyguyonabike.com is a good resource as there are plenty of journals shared by touring cyclists from around the world, covering all regions on the planet.
Most of the reports are extensive and you can learn from their experience.
My tool of choice on the computer is Google Maps.
I will first look at the locality, draw my route and do the calculations. If you plan your route well, you can also draw contingency plans.
Additional research also allows you to seek accommodation in the locality. This allows you to break your journey for rest.
In my case, I usually push as far as 60km/day on my tours. On rare occasions, we reached 100km per day. 
One of the key factor in creating a route that you can follow is not to ride until you hurt yourself.
If you break the journey properly, you will get enough rest and when you can do so, your trip will be enjoyable.
I did hear of people pushing as far as 150km/day. That is pointless as you might end up beating up your body to a pulp.

Don't forget to have fun!

Bring a camera, record all the moments.
Better still, don't depend on others to take your photos. Do it yourself. 
When you are on the trail, there's plenty of time to snap a shot of your ride.
Good memories are the driving factor in you wanting to head out for more tours...
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