#3 from SE Asia, about my bike and cycling here

Hello (to all 2 of my blog followers!!!) 🙂

January 20th, 2010

I am riding a 20″ Dahon TR Speed. It is a 24 speed foldable bicycle. The big advantage in riding it is that it can quickly fit into a suitcase. I carry the rest of the gear, the racks and panniers and such, in another bag.

The big DISadvantage of this bike is that it has greater rolling resistance than a large-wheeled bike, such as a 700mm wheel bike. I would guess that it takes at least 25% more energy to go the same distance as with a 700mm. In the course of a long day or trip, that adds up.

I wrote list after list figuring out what to take on this trip. And guess what the major thing is that I forgot?

I forgot to REMEMBER to NOT take too much gear. My bike looked severely overloaded from the start. So I made a decision in Bangkok to leave my tent there. There are plenty of guest houses along the way. I left some clothes in Bangkok, but not enough. It turns out that it is very easy to buy whatever clothes you want here in Asia. (After all, they make all the world’s clothes here, right?) I soon gave away my 3 pound Kryptonite-like lock to a kindly man. I will have to do with a cable lock instead. I cannot afford that weight. But since I will be riding into the northern Laotian mountains with freezing temperatures, I must keep my sleeping bag and bivouac bag, along with some warm polypropylene underclothes. I need about 6 lbs of tools and parts. I have been told that spare bike parts for 20″ bikes are not readily available in Vietnam, so I am taking 2 extra tires and tubes. I expect to wear out my existing tires within the next month.

I am NOT willing to give up my books. Lonely Planet books on Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Plus good reading.

What is my routine? I am up by 5:30am, packing. Amazingly, I am not craving coffee. I cannot seem to get it easily anyhow. And count on it, a 20km ride at sunrise will warm and wake you up. I will eat a breakfast by 10 am and rest 15 minutes. I try to get 50-60 km in before 1 pm. If I do not eat lunch, I will quickly start to feel weak. So I have been eating street lunches. Then I find my nearest bus stop and rest in it for 30 minutes, on my back. These are open aired bamboo shacks that are usually empty. After that, I will try to get in another 30-40 km. I give myself an hour or so to find a guesthouse. I may drink 8 liters of water in the day. But based on the fact that I may not pass water once during the day, I must not be drinking enough water.

At any point on the road, I will stop for fresh fruit smoothies, watermelon, or the delicious coconut ice cream that they have here. When I ask for directions to a guesthouse, the locals seem to always send me to the best hotel in their town. When I find that the best rooms cost < $15, I check in. Usually, I am the only person staying in the hotel. These are plush rooms. I would prefer less, but it is at the end of the day and it will do.

The first thing I do is shower. Then I quickly do my laundry by hand. It will be mostly dry by sunrise tomorrow. Then I may walk the town a bit. I especially like the open markets. I may nibble a bit on food, but nothing heavy.

Then back to the hotel. And I flick on the TV! It is mostly in Thai, but I have been watching state-speak China news with English subtitles, and some Vietnamese TV in French. There is also an Asia news tv channel in English. This turns out to be a good spot education for what is happening here. I will shortly be crossing the Mekong River into Laos, and that will be the end of my brief excursion into TV-landia.

4 Responses to #3 from SE Asia, about my bike and cycling here

  1. Nice description of your trip so far. Let us know how the Speed TR holds up! Do you plan to post some picts? We have a blog on the Dahon website and would love to feature some of your insights there (http://www.dahon.com/community/blog).


    Eric Mah
    Marketing | Dahon

  2. Make that 3…or at least 3…I’m sure there are others, like me, who are enjoying the ride but not necessarily leaving comments! I mean, what can I say…I’m a little in awe of your exploratory spirit and thinking that I need to get off my ass and do something half as adventurous!

  3. i am also following your {dwights big adventure},and enjoying your commentary.i would prefer riding my road king but to each his own.you have cahones grande mi hermano!adios

  4. Denny, I do see lots of motorcyclists here tearing down the road past me, waving at me. I think that for these roads, you would want a much lighter bike. I met a Nam vet who bought a 125cc motorcycle in Saigon and drove it all over SE Asia. He is now selling it here, ready to fly back home. He said he was sad to leave, but he’s stayed as long as he possibly could.

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