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A New Bike Touring Guidebook For Malaysia

Posted May 10th, 2012

Pedalling The PeninsulaAnyone planning to cycle around Malaysia will want to check out a new guidebook about the country, Pedalling Around The Peninsula.

It’s written by Malaysian bike tourist Sandra Loh. She has included stories from her own bike tour to the four corners of Peninsular Malaysia plus 10 sectional maps, roughly showing the routes that she took.

Sandra said she was inspired to write the book because she wanted to share the beauty of her home country with other cyclists.

You can cycle here anytime from mid February until September. There are lots of beautiful country roads to explore and interesting sights. Only light clothing is required, plus a good rain jacket.

Pedalling The PeninsulaShe also offered some additional tips for cycling in Malaysia:

  1. Since Malaysia is in the tropics, do expect hot and humid weather to prevail throughout the year. The best times to start cycling is at dawn, when it is much cooler. Rest during the hottest time of the day (12 noon to 3pm) and continue your journey in the late afternoon. Carry extra water while on tour because dehydration is most likely to occur easily in this hot weather. Sunglasses and sunblock are also highly recommended!
  2. You can find a lot of rest areas when travelling from one small town to another. The best place to take a breather is at petrol stations or small food stalls. Budget hotels are mostly available in small towns.
  3. We cycle on the left side of the road. A loud bell or a whistle will be useful as the locals here tend to ride on their bicycles on the wrong side of the road!

In addition to her book Pedalling Around The Peninsula, Sandra also writes about bike touring on her blog.

Posted in Books, Map

Appendix: Simple Packing List

Posted February 6th, 2012

This is a basic packing list, with notes and links to product reviews.

You can vary this list to suit the destination and season. Remember that less is more.

Unless you’re planning a trip to somewhere very remote, you should be able to pick up most things en route. Most cyclists end up packing too much and then shipping a box back home to lighten their load.

cargo net

Bicycle Equipment

Tools & Spare Parts


Camping Gear


socks merino wool

  • Bandana (soak it in water to keep your head cool in hot weather)
  • Cycling shoes
  • Cycling shorts (1-2 pairs)
  • Hat with a wide brim
  • Long-sleeved shirts (one lightweight to protect from sun and one warmer for cool temperatures)
  • Long-johns (to sleep in and as an extra cycling layer on cold days)
  • Padded cycling gloves
  • Rain jacket and pants
  • Socks (3-5 pairs)
  • Sunglasses
  • T-shirts (2-3 pairs)
  • Underwear (3-5 pairs)

*We love Merino wool clothing. It’s warm, breathable and odour free. You can wear Merino wool clothing for several days in a row and it still won’t stink. In general, pick clothing that is versatile (zip-off cargo pants, for example, instead of a pair of pants and a separate pair of shorts) and lightweight.



  • Cleaning supplies (dish soap, scrubber)
  • Cookware (MSR Alpine)
  • Kitchen sink (folding bowl)
  • Screw-top bottles (for oil, honey, etc.)
  • Spices (our top 3: italian seasoning, curry and cinnamon)
  • Stove
  • Thermos (ideal for quick coffee and tea stops, or to make ‘instant soup’ at lunch – especially in cooler weather)
  • Utensils (spork, cup, bowl…)


  • Basic kit (shampoo, toothbrush, sun screen…)
  • Baby wipes (an ‘ instant’ shower)
  • Laundry powder for hand washing
  • Menstruation cup
  • Toilet paper (or use water to wash yourself so there’s no dirty litter to dispose of!)
  • Travel towel

First-Aid Kit

  • Bandaids
  • Emergency blanket
  • Gauze
  • Medicines (for colds, diarrhoea, head aches, dehydration)
  • Scissors
  • Tiger balm (for mosquito bites)
  • Tweezers

Chapter 14: The Story Of Louise Sutherland

Posted February 6th, 2012

I was never lonely while I was cycling. I had my bicycle to talk to. - Louise Sutherland

You’re coming to the end of our mini book on bike touring but before you go, we’d like to share a story with you.

It’s written by Hilary Searle of the CycleSeven website. She tells the story of Louise Sutherland – an adventurous bike tourist who went around the world in the 1950s.

Louise Sutherland


Louise Sutherland was a nurse from New Zealand who was working in London in 1949, when she set off cycling around the world. She bought a bike in a church jumble sale in Soho for £2.10s and a ‘grateful patient’ in the hospital where she was nursing made her a small trailer ‘to trundle merrily behind it.’ She seems to have set off round the world almost on a whim. She had initially only intended to go to Land’s End!

After that first trip, Louise returned to London to collect her passport and her £50 savings and set off, first for Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. She only returned to London in 1956.

“During my first day in Italy I felt most dubious about my chances of survival. I had been offered dire warnings about what happened to small girls travelling alone in that country. I did not wish to forego the camping, but equally, I did not relish the thought of being attacked in the dead of night. Of course no one did attack me.”

The warnings grew even more dire as she approached Yugoslavia: ‘They shoot on sight’, ‘They’re communists remember. If you’re arrested you might never be heard of again.’ and ‘They’re so poor they’ll attack you just to steal the valve rubbers out of your inner tubes’.

The people, however, treated her with great kindness.

From Yugoslavia she went to Greece and then took a ferry to Israel. She had an amazingly resilient spirit and refused to be daunted by the fact that having paid the boat fare she had only 13/6d left in the world. In Haifa she took a job in a mission hospital for 3 months, then cycled onto Jordan where she worked as a nanny. From there she cycled to Beirut and spent 6 months working in a sanatorium.

She had hoped to cycle across the desert to Baghdad but was refused a visa so had to travel by train to catch a boat across the Persian Gulf to India. She was refused a third class ticket, with the line:

We do not sell third class tickets to white men and certainly never to a white girl. Anyway no girl is permitted to travel third class alone.

She had, of course, received many warnings against going to India. In Bombay, she was inundated with offers of hospitality but later found herself in a famine region where she went for 3 days without food.

“I knew that only by keeping the pedals turning could I ever get to the dense green jungle that would indicate a rain soaked district, and only by reaching such a district would I again get food.”

Unfortunately all the warnings she had received almost came true when she was attacked by 2 men but they ran away when a bus appeared.

“The memories of the attack by the few have now blunted and are fading, but the kindness of the many will always remain clear.”

“After the fear had completely left my mind, I could feel nothing but anger for those two men. They had placed me in a position where all the world could say: ‘I told you so!’ but does one swallow make a summer?”


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Trailers Or Panniers: Which Is Best?

Posted February 6th, 2012

When deciding between trailers and panniers, remember that it’s not a case of which is ‘best’ but rather which is right for you.

Also, it’s possible to combine a bit of both. For example, you could have two back panniers with a lightly loaded trailer – or even more if you’re two people, cycling through a remote part of the world.

Trailer & Panniers
Here’s how to combine a trailer with a few panniers. Photo by Patrizia & Bro.

To help you figure out which option is the most appropriate, here are some pros and cons to both panniers and trailers.

Pannier Advantages

  • Easily carried one-by-one into your tent or hotel room and over obstacles like fences and streams (no single bag is very heavy)
  • Your luggage can be sorted into different parts and stored per bag, making things easier to find (in theory!)
  • Accessible while riding; you can reach things strapped on top of panniers or stored near the top, without getting off your bike
  • Simply designed, with few moving parts that can get lost or break
  • Versatile. Use all 4 for longer trips or take just one on a short day trip; carry a single pannier as a ‘day bag’ when visiting cities

Pannier Disadvantages

  • Put strain on a bike, particularly the back wheel, possibly causing broken spokes
  • Increase tire wear and wind resistance
  • Need to be reasonably well balanced between the left and right sides or the bike will feel unstable

Panniers are perhaps the most common option for bike touring.

Trailer Advantages

  • Ideal for carrying bulky, heavy items such as lots of water across deserts
  • Kids trailers give the children a place to rest, away from strong sun or bad weather
  • Handy for home use as well as touring (carrying groceries, collecting large purchases from shops)
  • Often built with a wide profile that encourages cars to leave more room when passing
  • Easily unhooked so you can ride a ‘naked’ bike without racks
  • Aggressive dogs tend to chase the trailer, keeping them away from your legs

Trailer Disadvantages

  • May be harder to pack for train, plane and bus journeys
  • More mechanical parts that could need repair or replacement (spokes, tire, skewers)
  • Can be tricky if you need to back up, park or navigate through narrow gaps

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Luggage Racks For Bicycle Touring

Posted February 6th, 2012

Tubus RacksOnce you’ve bought panniers, you’ll need racks to hang them on and – like panniers – you get what you pay for when it comes to racks.

If you plan on doing any amount of touring, it’s worth spending a bit of extra money for a decent set that will withstand months of bumping and jostling on the road.

As long as you don’t scrimp on quality, you shouldn’t need to do much to your racks during a tour. Just check occasionally to see if any screws or bolts are coming loose. With a cheap set of racks, pack some hose clamps and zip ties in your repair kit. Less expensive racks are more likely to break under the strain of a heavy load.

What To Look For?
Our favourite racks are made of steel; not because there aren’t good aluminium racks on the market but because steel racks can be easily welded back together, if necessary.

We also look for racks with a high load capacity. The most robust back racks are rated for about 40kg (90lbs) of weight. You won’t likely carry that much but it’s nice to know the racks are more than strong enough for the job.

As a bit of extra insurance, get a rack with a guarantee.

If we had to pick out just one brand of luggage racks to highlight, it would have to be Tubus Racks. They have a well proven track record in terms of strength and durability. Even better, they come with a 30-year guarantee, including shipping of free replacements anywhere in the world for 3 years.

topeak super tourist

A good value alternative is the Topeak Super Tourist DX rack. After buying two of these racks in 2009, we can definitely recommend them for light touring. They’re fairly light (700g), fit almost all bikes and have held up admirably on 10-14 day tours of Denmark and Spain, as well as numerous shorter trips and countless trips to the grocery store.

A Final Word On Racks.
No matter which one you choose, chances are the paint will wear thin with time, especially where the panniers rub up against the racks.

Keep some touch-up paint handy (nail polish will do the trick in a pinch). This helps keep the racks free of rust.

You can also wrap duct tape around your racks at the points where the bags make contact with the metal, to prevent scuffing.

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