Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cycling Tour Overseas notes

Cycling to see more close and personal. Experience the sights and smells in a totally different way!
I am not a super seasoned rider but just a normal regular guy who loves riding. I have done some overseas rides in the last 2-3 years. Mostly supported tours in a very relaxed riding, "slow down and smell the roses mode". 
Aunty Audrey with the swans
Also very lucky to have a super suppportive wife and daughter who accompanied us on the LCSG Taiwan ride. 
Best of all, the friendship fostered is priceless. Our spouses also enjoyed an experience that is truly very very different from a usual tour bus tour.
Cindy and Kim having Bento Lunch overlooking a windy sea side. 
Its not just riding... makan also damm solid
Guo Ger and Fang Jie. The best guide and support bar none. Sharing with our children some really cool stuff in Nature
I want to share my experience so that your overseas ride can be that much more fun and safe. Hope this will help give you the confidence to take the next "big step" in cycling. 
Here it goes.. 
Standing in the rice field @ highway 193, Near to Angtong, Taiwan
Know the terrain 
Before going for any overseas ride, it is always good to understand the terrain and surroundings that you will be riding. Will it be flat or hilly? Will you be traveling on paved or broken roads. Research and ask. In the age of social media, feedback and information is at a click of a button. 
It’s always better to prepare your bike; your physique (train a bit) or you will suffer and not be able enjoy the ride.
 A note which I really learned the hard way and want to share. Altitude sickness occurs after 2000m and you can be the most fittest tough guy but still be affected by it. The weather conditions can change very drastically in the mountainous area. Be always prepared, as help/extraction is not always very readily available.
Taiwan is a great place for cyclist and offers a variety of terrain and scenery. If I have to chose, I will suggest Hualien, Hua Dong and route 193 to ride around. It's relatively flat and 
very laid back. The villagers / community are super supportive of cyclists and if you face any issue.They will offer their help readily. 
Always. Always have min a rain jacket with u. They also help to cut out the wind
Know the weather (Thanks Chris and Calvin)
Google the weather reports from the last 3 years to understand the average temperatures. 
Tropical = hot/humid/wet . Get some dri-fit jerseys that can wash and dry fast. 
Temperate = usually dryer/cooler/colder. This is a tricky one. Dress in layers so that it is easier to adjust to the weather elements.  
Know the road direction. (thanks Nixs!) 
If it is left or right hand drive. Taiwan is left hand drive country. Go slow, so that you can adjust your instinct to keep left. If not sure, go slow and watch for traffic... Esp junctions.  
Know yourself and train for it
Preparation on the ride should be done in gradual steps. Once you have chosen your destination and route. I suggest to keep a daily distance of max. 60 km. An estimate is to use 15km for an hour of cycling. This is a very comfortable pace. 
Before you leave for the trip, do a trial run (full equipment) and a series of conditioning ride.
If you have not done a 40km distance, try to do a PCN from Fort road to Changi Village. Do it in increaments and at your own pace. Drink lots of water and have friends join you so that its not so boring. 
With this training, you can feel exactly the effort it takes to cycle the distance. Trust me on this that you will smile when you do the overseas ride. Its that much more relaxed and good for the knees. 
no slopes... ya right... 
Know your bike/Gear
Going overseas means that it is not always possible to get help easily. Also flying requires bicycles tires to be deflated.  Know how to change your tubes, pump them up.  
Essential kit for personal 
1) 2 sets of spare tube.  
2) mini pump (strap on bike)
3) Mini tool kit. For brompton (15mm and 10mm wrench for rear wheel removal) pls refer to my quick access link
4) Rain jacket 
5) Front/rear lights
6) Spare brake pads 
7) Small medical pack(plaster, antiseptic cream) 
8) Gloves 
9) Helmet

Note: Always test your gear and learn how to use them... before you go for the tour. 
Tighten ur screws
It's a team:
The most important to having a good trip is great team dynamics. That is that the "frequencies" are the same and it's good to be riding with each other before the actual ride. 
Ride together, curse the slope together...
If you travel in a group, chances are there will be differences in fitness and speed . This means that the group gets strung out so far that the front riders sometimes get frustrated and the rear riders will be so stressed up and tired trying to catch up with the main party.  
By understanding each other personalities and quirks;  accepting that everyone is different. Having an easy going + accommodating attitude will smoothen the invariably small issues that will occur on the trip. Help each one one out and encourage each other.  
We are all there for a good time. Reaching there first also have to wait.. no medal one.  
Take five.. see the view 
Team Leader
It is also very important to have a Team Leader  aka "chief" that will make the final decision(General route, when to stop- due to weather situation for example) . We were very glad to have Encik George Lim who is experienced to lead us.  I remembered the 2012 trip to Wulin (Taiwan highest paved road mountain @ 3275M) and the weather changes quite drastically(temperatures drop and wind chill factor increased) as we neared the summit. He called for "exercise cut" - stop everything and get on the bus. Naturally I was quite unhappy but we had to comply for safety reason. Its not an easy decision to make but for the overall safety, it was the right call. 
To be able to ride and be at the tail end of the group. This is a critical function which is also good to have. Esp when the gap is too far, the sweep will help to gather and feedback to the Lead so that the pace could be moderated. 
Encik George, Team Leader and mountain Goat
Supported or Unsupported
I am not talking about back support..... Support means you will have a backup vehicle that can carry the rest of your gear, clothing and material needs.
Unsupported means you carry what you need on the bike. Either with Panniers or some will have a trolley or sorts.  If you are riding "supported" then the choice of bike is less of an issue. The biggest barrier would then be your ego to get up the backup van. 
We got backup!
One term you will learn: "Up the lorry" 
This is the mummy support van which will zoom around the places. And also for those who have enough of cycling
For unsupported rides, the pre-preparation becomes so much more critical. Knowing the terrain and cycling with load(actual load) will help.  Its best to consult those who have done so, listen carefully to what they have to say. 
This is "who's who" list I will be asking for advice if I do a unsupported ride. George Lim, Uncle K.C  , Al and Chris Wee 
Travel Insurance
Accidents can and will happen. I seen it with my own eyes during the Mekong Trip led by Al. Please do yourself and family a favor. Get a travel insurance that covers medical extraction back to Singapore and also medical expenses to the country you are visiting.  
Bike setup:
It really depends on the terrain. Generally for rougher (unpaved) – knobbies and MTB will be the choice. 
For Taiwan trips that is usually paved roads and rolling hills. My choice will be the Bike Friday pocket rocket. The reason was mainly that it rides very well and packs in a relatively compact way. I also packed it using the Vincita bike bag, which was originally for my Brompton. There are lots of spare room to put all the rest of the gear. 
BF rocket with the Vincita bag @ RuiSui

I have had a good ride experience with BF Pocket rocket on Taiwan and Penang rides. It's not quite as comfy as my Moulton TSR but the ride quality is quite good. It's also my "lightest" bike which will better help on the steep hill sections. I am not a good climber and its always better to have a light bike and correct gearing.  
My trusty BF Pocket Rocket
So... in preparation for the usual surprises by Encik George, I added the new 12-30 rear cassette to pair with the trusty Shimano Ultergra road crank (54-39)
This will also let me understand the difference in riding a compact crank(50-34) which Kian Lim lent me on the previous April '13 Taiwan trip. 

Hope this article helps and if there are more details I left out, do share with me so I can improve and add it on. Tailwinds! 


  1. Excellent Bro TW. Will be using this as reference for my newbie tourers. Mekong ride was really special and unforgettable.

    1. Glad it helps you and your friends. Thank you Sir Al for all the advice and I also will remember the Mekong ride. Safe journey.

  2. Great tips.
    Traffic directions always important while cycling or crossing roads and later walking.
    Especially so, if tour involve countries with different directions such as crossing from Thailand to Laos or Cambodia.