Posts in Bike Travel


A Ride Through The Pearl River Delta

02 July 17

Apparently the largest urban area on earth, the Pearl River Delta may not be the fist place to pop into a cyclists mind when looking for a rural ride. The nine largest cities in the area have a population pretty much the same as the UK, so solitude is not something that one expects to find in ample abundance. However, the Perl River Delta is where Echo and I are to be found between our recent exploration of Sichuan Province and our forthcoming Mongolia Lat Rat Run, and so, with the desire for a ride we set of one recent sunny morning for the 155 kilometre ride from Zhuhai to Chiken.


Chiken is little more than a village, but is reasonable well know for it’s rather novel architecture. The nearby county town of Kaiping was home to an adventurous bunch of Chinese who early last century made their way overseas in search of wealth, something that had enough success in to be able to spawn a small building revolution of more European type dwellings, and fortified towers deemed necessary to protect themselves from marauding bandits intend on relieving these nouvo rich traveler from the hard earned wealth.

With the mercury showing in excess of 35º I was nothing short of impressed with Echo’s performance on her first ever 150 kilometres cycling day. I was also rather happy happy with the majority of the route we managed to find, courtesy of some fine fellow’s route on Strava mixed with some walking routes courtesy of Google’s algorithms. Even navigating out of  Zhuhai was a painless affair, with small riverside paths and some leafy shaded streets more reminiscent of Hanoi than a typical contemporary  Chinese city. 

Out in the countryside we found the sort of landscape one may expect of a huge river delta, with lots or riverside paths, bridges and fish farms that put us in mind of PaintedRoads’ Mekong Delta Tour. And the lovely quiet streets of Chiken, where we enjoyed an evening of street dining and cold beers in a cooling breeze, was a fine destination in which to relax after a fine day on the bikes.

A Gravel Road Tour In The Offing.

17 February 17

A Thailand gravel tour has long been on my mind. Slowly, for longer than a decade I have been dipping a metaphorical toe into what I thought was a meandering stream of unsealed tracks dotted around this nation that offers so much to the adventurous cyclist, but as time goes by it has become apparent that the babbling brook is in fact teaming torrent. 

Finding routes here has long been a somewhat hit and miss affair. The paper maps available have always been, and I am searching deeply but with little success for a kind way to say this, absolute tat. They showed what any half wit could easily imagine, major roads between towns. So whilst finding a route suitable for a tour was a satisfying activity that left one with a glowing feeling of success, it was nevertheless a trifle trying. And then came Google. In the early days Google Maps were not all that great for exploring, and having to drag a MacBook out of a pannier was far from convenient, but by golly have we not come a long way since then? 
Now the world is mapped, and mapped so bloody well that it leaves me wondering, and worrying a little, about how it's done. Algorithms I am sure the I.T. Savvy are crying out, but what does that mean? Orwell plonked a huge imposing TV screen in the corner of every home to watch our every activity, I expect that the concept of the spy being carried freely in our pockets, and voluntarily, even with enthusiasm, sending all manner of info regarding our every movement and ponder back to Big Brother was even beyond the vision of even the great visionary back in 1948 - but I digress, more than a tad. 

So Google and Garmin (which niggles me greatly but seems to have no viable completion), have come together to make route finding for the gravel loving bicycle itinerant a joy to behold. 

My plan for the past week was not to create a tour suitable to add to the PaintedRoads website this year, rather to give me an insight, knowledge, and confidence necessary to ensure that my long hoped for for Gravel Tour of Thailand could soon be a reality. And in this respect it has been an outstandingly productive week, as well as a lot of fun. 

A Thailand gravel tour has long been on my mind. Slowly, for longer than a decade I have been dipping a metaphorical toe into what I thought was a meandering stream of unsealed tracks dotted around this nation that offers so much to the adventurous cyclist, but as time goes by it has become apparent that the babbling brook is in fact teaming torrent. 

Finding routes here has long been a somewhat hit and miss affair. The paper maps available have always been, and I am searching deeply but with little success for a kind way to say this, absolute tat. They showed what any half wit could easily imagine, major roads between towns. So whilst finding a route suitable for a tour was a satisfying activity that left one with a glowing feeling of success, it was nevertheless a trifle trying. And then came Google. In the early days Google Maps were not all that great for exploring, and having to drag a MacBook out of a pannier was far from convenient, but by golly have we not come a long way since then? 
Now the world is mapped, and mapped so bloody well that it leaves me wondering, and worrying a little, about how it's done. Algorithms I am sure the I.T. Savvy are crying out, but what does that mean? Orwell plonked a huge imposing TV screen in the corner of every home to watch our every activity, I expect that the concept of the spy being carried freely in our pockets, and voluntarily, even with enthusiasm, sending all manner of info regarding our every movement and ponder back to Big Brother was even beyond the vision of even the great visionary back in 1948 - but I digress, more than a tad. 

So Google and Garmin (which niggles me greatly but seems to have no viable completion), have come together to make route finding for the gravel loving bicycle itinerant a joy to behold. 

My plan for the past week was not to create a tour suitable to add to the PaintedRoads website this year, rather to give me an insight, knowledge, and confidence necessary to ensure that my long hoped for for Gravel Tour of Thailand could soon be a reality. And in this respect it has been an outstandingly productive week, as well as a lot of fun. 

I would venture to say with some confidence that I now have 50% of a brilliant route ready for a group to ride. Even better than that I have the knowledge and understanding of the lay of the land, and the working of the necessary apparatus, to finalise a tour with just another two weeks on the road. 

And be assured that this will be a most beautiful tour. I have traversed mountain paths, riverside trails, cattle tracks and rice paddy gravel roads, and byways free of traffic enough to be able to create a wonderful and varied route. 

More than ten years ago I cycled the length of Thailand for the first time and saw the country afresh, a land not awash with backpacker's and tourist, but the real Thailand, a land I quickly developed a great passions for. And now, all these years later I have cycled half the length of the land on roads most will never know exist, and my love for this country is refreshed anew. 
Should a gravel adventure through Thailand tickle yer fancy then please either sign up for the PaintedRoads news letter, "like" PaintedRoads on Facebook, or better still drop me a line and I will keep our up to speed. 

Oh, and one last thing, fancy an adventure in Mongolia this summer? If so, please email me, I have a little something brewing.. 

 

The Kinesis ATR shod with Clement MSO tubeless tyres is the perfect machine for this sort of riding. Averaging 150KMS on day with a mix of gravel, dirt tracks and sealed roads the mantra Fast Far, as coined by the ATR's designer Dom Mason is most apt. Having converted to tubeless tyres last summer I feel that  the 30 to 35 psi pressure I was able to run without fear of punctures was ideal both on and off road. Way to go dude, as I believe the young say these days.

 

 

PACKING YOUR BIKE FOR A FLIGHT, AS DOCTOR WHO WOULD: IN THE TARDIS.

08 October 16

The following is an article I wrote three and a half years ago, meaning that I have now been reguralry been using a Tardise bag for well over 6 years, and (at the risk of tempting fate) so far no damage has come to my bicycle.

I do take a little more care these days with packing though (well, most of the time I do), placing some of the pipe lagging as used by domestic plumbers around the front forks (carbon fibre on the bike I use now) and around the frame where the wheels make contact with it. I am also planning to add a corrugated plastic layer between the bike and the bag but have yet to make this. I will hopefully get an update done soon.

THE TARDICE.

Three years ago I made a purchase to settle a curious itch. I had already learnt that flying with a bike was no problem - getting to and from the airport though could be a different kettle of fish. With the bike in a box it was always touch and go whether it would fit across the back seat of a taxi, and with both hands full of bicycle box carrying any extra bags could be a pain. And then I discovered the Tardis.

Named of course after Doctor Who’s famed police box time machine the Tardis is remarkable in its ability to swallow a whole bike plus hordes of other luggage in a sturdy bag that one can slig over one's shoulder and amble effortlessly down the street in search of a taxi. Once said taxi is located there is no doubt this diminutive bag will sit happilyly across the back seat, even allowing room for a pasanger to squeeze next to it.

The only down side to The Tardis is that the bike takes a tad more stripping a rebuilding that with other bags. But with both wheels having to be removed and placed across the frame’s main triangle I feel that the wheels are less vulnerable than when the rear is left on the bike. 

 

Bike and Tardis ready and waiting…

All necessary tools for stripping.

Salsa Vaya ready for disassembly

The instructions that come with the Tardis suggest leaving the crankset in situ which is quite likely fine, but for the sake of loosening two allen keys and removing the screw from the end of the shaft I always take mine off.

Note: These days I dont always remoce the crank. If I leave the crankset in place I secure a pice of pipe lagging to it and to date have had no problem.

Note where the crankset is positioned and tied in place along with the rack, theory being it is less likely to become damaged. Wheels are strapped into place with straps I carry in case I need to secure a bag to the rack. Note discs facing inwards out of harms way.

I loosen the steering stem and turn the front forks flat, thus protecting them from potential damage. I always feel the STI leavers are a little vulnerable but so far no damage. The saddle and seat post are tucked in a safe and convenient spot and loose items are all placed in the bag that houses the Tardis when it is not in use.

Once the bike is in the Tardis you will note that there is lots of spare space, which is ideal for tucking away clothing, panniers etc. If carrying panniers keep one out for hand luggage on the plane. For most light trips in the tropics I can generally get everything in the Tardis and the one pannier that will be my carry-on bag.

Ambling the streets with your bike and belongings is a relative breeze with The Tardis. Here I have just arrived in Rangoon and have everything necessary for a few weeks exploring Burma slung over my shoulders, including the bike.

If flying into one airport and out of another fear not, the Tardis packs down into an A4 size bag just a few inches thick. 

 

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