In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Adi's Bike is Testing Me.

It’s the second day in Vietnam and I am coming to the realisation that I think I could really love this place and that I have already had enough of Adi’s bike.

Adi’s bike is acting like a pain in the arse. Adi insisted before we left NZ that I put 23C tyres and tubes on her machine. Because I felt sorry for her, and because I wanted it to be a bit easier for her, against my better judgement I put the skinnies on.  For my Mercian I stuck with the tried and very tested 26 x 1.75 ultra-puncture proof Conti’s. I love 26 X 1 tyres but not for cycle touring in far off lands.

Yesterday I had to fix Adi’s first puncture from  rough handling on the flight from NZ. But today when we went down to start off Adi’s bike decided to puncture in the rear 2 minutes down the road. The puncture yesterday wrecked the tube so I binned it. The rear puncture today occurred at the valve stem so I had to bin the tube. Once I’d fixed it we carried on down the road where Adi punctured in the front wheel and once again due to the hole being on the corrugation pattern in the tube, I had to throw the tube away. Three tubes down in 2 days! I had only brought 6 spare tubes for Adi’s bike and we have 2 months on the road. I can also tell you now that although there are back yard bike shops everywhere here none of them sell 26 X 1 tubes. In fact all they seem to sell are the old imperial tubes. The choice is 26 x 1 3/8 or 24 x 1 3/8.

I can also advise anyone who thinks all 26 tubes are the same that they most certainly aren’t, and trying to get a 1 3/8 tube into a 1” casing does not make Niel a happy chappy either.

Desperate situations require desperate measures and after managing to stuff a huge tube into the tyre, and once we were on the road again, my brain was busy looking for a solution. Ten kms down the road I spied a bigger bike shop and went in to buy a 24 x 1 3/8 tube because I thought it might stretch a bit and that that would thin it out and the whole thing might fit happier in Adi’s tyre.

Fifteen minutes later after arguing with 4 Vietnamese bike mechanics each telling me that nothing they had would fit that bike and I was wasting my money, I had my tube. Five minutes later I had it in and she looked like a pretty good fit! (Actually at $2NZ a tube it hardly broke the bank.)
A 24 x 1 3/8 Will Fit !

On the road again with the temperature gauge nudging 36C and as humid as a sauna we cycled on towards Halong Bay. Just before we were about to expire from the heat we stopped at a roadside stall and ordered in our best Vietnamese an ice cream and  a coke. What we received was a box of 10 ice creams and a lovely cold 2ltr bottle of coke that the shop owner had to cycle down the road to get. Awesome, although we could only manage 8 ice creams between us. The whole lot costing a staggering $6 NZ.

Ten kilometres before our destination Adi’s bike decided to test me again. This time by breaking a rear spoke on the cluster side. And as if that wasn’t enough a local scooter driver reckoned we needed to make an immediate left hand turn. Adi decided at this stage she didn’t like her bike anymore and that she’d ride mine. So I told scooter man that unless he was a mind reader he couldn’t possible know where I was going and if he was a mind reader he would realise that at this moment I would like him to piss off! I told Adi that she wanted the skinny tyres on her bike so she could ride it the last 10kms to the hotel with the rear brake off so the wheel would go around.

So here I am at one of the best hotels in Halong Bay writing my blog after fixing Adi’s broken spoke in the bath using her chain as a chain whip and removing bike grease from everything that I touched while I did it.
Locking the Chain to Something Solid.

I got the grease off all the hard surfaces like the reception counter, elevator buttons, and complimentary coffee cups but have given up on all linen marks.

We are both happy cyclists after hot showers, and a full buffet meal. And at a room rate of $100 US / night they can afford new linen and curtain dry cleaning.

Tomorrow we have a look at Halong Bay and then start south down the coast towards our eventual destination of Singapore.
Harlong Bay.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Touch Down.


Hello Vietnam.

 The most stressful part of cycle touring is I find arriving in a foreign city and having to assemble the bikes, find the hotel, get money out and acclimatise to the weather.  I thought that Hanoi would be right up there on the old stresso meter but in the end I was worried unduly.
Go to Vietnam and Become Instant Millionaires

We were so tired when we arrived at the airport that I grabbed a cab and we were delivered to the hotel without delay and due to a bit of research on my behalf, also without being ripped off by the taxis driver. After crashing for an hour or two, where I lay in a foetal position listening to the sound of people shouting, scooters roaring, and cars tooting beneath our balcony, we got up and braved the outdoors.

I think every second scooter ever made is now residing in Hanoi. If I wasn’t so shell shocked I would have been in sheer delight at the number of Vespa’s buzzing around. I didn’t see any PX200’s like the ones Adi and I have at home but the number of the later models was just mind blowing. Our walk outside was short. Just far enough to find a restaurant for later, and to gain a few supplies. It was however long enough to put me in a cold sweat wondering how we were going to get out of Hanoi on our cycles in the morning. More importantly I wondered how we were going to get out of town in one piece. The traffic was just chaotic.

It is of course impossible to have a cold sweat here. Currently it is 33C and about 80% humid.  Later in the evening after we had had dinner and I had assembled the bikes and fixed Adi’s puncture (no. 1), I noticed that the din outside the window had calmed down. Unlike a lot of big cities the Vietnamese must go to sleep during the night. Just maybe if we got up early we could sneak out of town in the quiet.

No chance. The Vietnamese go to bed early so they can get up early. We were off at 7am and officially entered into the scooter world champs.

Three hours later not only were we on course, thanks to my h/bar compass, but I was also having the time of my life.  Scooters chugged past hauling ducks, pigs, bags of goldfish and assorted building materials. On top of this the locals are so friendly and smiley it just puts the rest of the world to shame.

So far the only sore face guy has been the customs guy at the airport. But then aren’t they all.

After four bottles of iced tea at a roadside stall, (where Adi made a lifelong friend out of the lady that ran it), we were ready for the final stint to a hotel a further 10kms up the road.

Adi zoomed off ahead and I hung back chatting to scooter chicks coming past and offering all sorts of polite encouragement.

I have to say that the kids here are cute.

O, there you go. I get distracted for a minute and I’ve lost Adi.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Petrol at Record Highs!

Who cares.
That’s it. Tomorrow we’re off to Vietnam for a bit of pedalling and sweating. Adi usually does more sweating than I do. However with temps expected to be in the mid 30’s and humidity up at 90% I think I could be glowing as well. A week ago I got Adi’s Bike configured into touring mode and checked everything so she was happy with it. Adi likes 23mm tyres for all her cycling but I put my foot down and said for touring she will have to use wider tyres from now on. I got sick of having to fix countless punctures on our last tour together across the US . I thought if I’m fixing all punctures I can decide on the type of tyres used.

 My companion went out to test ride the new tyres and immediately over-ruled my putting my foot down. She advised me that if I wanted to arrive each day at our destination before dark then I had better put her skinny threads back on again. So after another hour in the bike shed sorting tyres and tubes her GT was ready.
Adi's Touring Bike on the Left Ready to Go.

My Mercian adjustments went well as was expected since I had used it earlier in the year on an overseas tour. I decided for this trip that I would use my Campag 10speed wheels and a different Brooks’s saddle but other than that she was set up in a conventional sort of way.

I did my last stint at the bike shop last week before departure and it was sad leaving the place again. I’m never sure when I head off cycle touring whether there will be a job for me when I come back but I can’t let this stop me as I live to ride and none of us are getting any younger. The regular customers wished me well and Lisbeth loaned me a map of Asia and a novel about another couple who had cycled to Singapore. Great bedtime reading.
Ready to Rumble.

So tomorrow I’m on my bike without my helmet for an illegal dash to the airport. Most of it is along cycle paths but a small stretch will have to be covered in fear of a $50 fine from the nana state. Then its bike disassembly and packing into bike bags being carried. I’ll give myself plenty of time for this as I have to do Adi’s bike too.

Shave my legs… then water off, power off, lock the door.

Will leave Woo to look after the place and then it’s good bye NZ, hello Asia.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

More Work Less Play.

Next week I may be required to work at the bike shop to cover for Scott, who’s off to Aussie on holiday. Aussie’s not so bad, although currently they are having trouble getting their heads around how we could be beating them in the Olympic medal count. I can see myself cycling there again in the next two or three years as I concentrate on riding the Paris – Brest – Paris. I think riding the qualifiers could be easier over there with more long distance events and participants. I will never forget my roots though, and will hold my head up high tolerating all the sheep jokes.
Hard at Work. Floor Pumps Dont hold themselves Up.

When I was younger like most people I was impatient. This impatience manifested itself most frequently when I was trying to fix my bike. I would for instance put the second coat of paint on a newly painted frame before the first coat had properly dried. I would try to cover the freshly stripped metal fully with the first coat usually not bothering with primer. This would of course result in an orange peel effect or wrinkles on the surface like your grandmother’s skin. This impatience reached its height in my adolescent years. I remember re-spraying an English Falcon frame in my seventeenth year and after all the coats of paint had gone on (complete with the original Reynolds 531 decals and lacquer), she looked pretty good. However unfortunately for the new owner the base layer of paint had not had the required drying time and the whole thing was just a week or so away from de cloaking. So sad to wake up one morning to find your pride and joy was just an illusion. The new owner was genuinely getting an English Falcon frame, although he rightfully felt duped. An angry phone call from the gentleman concerned instigated my immediate departure. Back I went to my university flat in another city leaving my Mum to sort it all out. My Mum’s shot of me now and enjoying rest and relaxation at her local rest home.

O’the sins I’ve committed by being impatient. I’ve wrecked perfectly good pieces of equipment just because I couldn’t wait for the shop to be open when I needed an extractor, or other tool to do the job properly. Cranks that I take off now in two seconds without thinking about it, would in those days have been bashed off after half an hour’s stressful effort. Inflicting surface damage and mutilating polished alloy surfaces.

Why you ask have I mentioned this now? Have I butchered a lovely piece of retro cycle componentry? Worse still, have I damaged the Mercian by being heavy handed? No, none of the above. I’m pretty mature and reasonably knowledgeable now, when it comes to the mighty bicycle.

I’ve buggered Adi’s laptop!!!!

The stupid thing!

 When will I learn not to piddle around with it? I won’t let Adi use my netbook because I’m scared she’ll wreck it. And I go and sabotage her laptop big time. Her pressure pad wasn’t working so I initially managed to fix that. But once I’d done my dash I had somehow managed to uninstall virtually every program on the thing. It still starts up though so I could have gone further!!!

I blame part of this on not knowing when to stop, and partly on the unseasonably constant rainy days we have been having.  I know this is a prelude to what we may expect to receive in Vietnam in two weeks but its driving me nuts. I can’t get the roof painting done and I can’t get blue skies for my weekly training rides.

And all the time Adi’s laptop sits and stares at me. Adi herself is pretty good about it since she only uses it for face book and writing emails.
A Little Performance Enhancement.

Last week after deciding to form a cycle touring club I proposed that all current club members and trainees should get together and go out on a trial run. I chose a one hundred and ten kilometre circuit with mixed seal / gravel and forestry road sections for the outing. Early on it was muted by the trainee that the club not be called the Tasman Cycle Touring Club but Tasman Touring Club. She was quickly put in her place by a more senior member present and that was the last said on the matter. Once we’d got to the forestry sections I looked around and found that said trainee had done a runner and had taken an easier route home. That won’t bode well for any aspirations she might have of full member status and the eventual position of peloton leader. Things got pretty messy towards the end of the ride when we found to our dismay that the valley road was closed and currently being deconstructed to install new pipework. Bolivian roads came to mind as I cycled down the valley. I found nine out of ten times in Bolivia I would end up cycling along the river bed. This didn’t eventuate along the Maitai and a jolly good day was had by all. The trainee was found on the settee with a cup of tea when I got home.
Backcountry with the TCTC and the Trainee's Done a Runner.

If the rain ever eases up this week I will put the word out, and the TCTC will hit the road again.

I will also put and second the motion that the club in the future begins to concentrate on getting members fit for the next Paris-Brest –Paris in 2015.

I see a patch of blue, there might be a ride on tomorrow. The TCTC trainee number one is suggesting that gravel roads could be a bit muddy……

Over ruled, and toughen up.