•   
  •   
  •   
 

You Are Viewing Touring Cyclists

12 Great Bike Touring Photos

Posted March 6th, 2013

Our recent photo contest to find a cover shot for the upcoming 2nd edition of the Bike Touring Survival Guide received an outstanding response: over 700 photos were entered!

With so many great photographs, it was very difficult to shortlist just 10 photos. We ended up picking 12 favourites. There were many superb photos beyond those shortlisted but, for various reasons, they weren’t quite suitable as cover shots.

The shortlisted photos will now be judged by two bike-touring photographers, Paul Jeurissen and Amaya Williams. The winning entry will be announced on Friday, March 15th.

Without further delay, here are the 12 shortlisted photos (in no particular order). Clicking on the photos will take you to the image on Flickr.

#1. Early Winter In China by Cyclingthe360.com
Early Winter in China

#2. On Tour In Chile by Garths On Tour
DSC_2668

#3. Iceland by Mattaos
Matts photos

#4.  Land of volcanoes, sandy paths and salty salars by Gerard Castellà
BTSG2013

#5. Back On The Road by Solidream
Back on the road

#6. Laguna Tuyaito, Paso Sico, Argentina by Piciclisti
Laguna Tuyaito, Paso Sico, Argentina,

#7. Cañon inesperado by Alvaro & Alicia
Cañon inesperado

#8. On the way to Uspallata, Mendoza, Argentina by Ana Carolina Vivian
Somewhere on the way to Uspallata, Mendoza, Argentina.

#9. Kluane lake, Yukon (on the Alaska Highway) by Lorelyruss
throughthestreetsofanywhere.wordpress.com

#10. Near Passu by Sloths On Wheels
Near Passu

#11. Descending From The Atlas Mountains by Leave Only Treadmarks
Descending From The Atlas Mountains - Morocco

#12. Magical road near Skuru by Vellowallah
P1000347

In Memory Of Pete & Mary

Posted February 18th, 2013

Pete & MaryThe internet can do funny things sometimes, including making you feel very connected to people you’ve never met.

Pete and Mary were two such people for us. From the earliest days of their round-the-world bicycle ride we exchanged emails, chatted on Twitter and watched their videos. They even sent us photos and stories for the 2nd edition of our Bike Touring Survival Guide.

Was it any surprise then that we cried a few tears when we heard this news? Rest in peace, Pete & Mary.

Pete and Mary, RIP from Tom Waugh on Vimeo.

Interview: Touring With A Folding Bicycle

Posted August 7th, 2012

Cycling through Africa? On a folding bike? However unlikely such a combination seems at first glance, that’s exactly what cyclists Jo Charnock and Jan Wouters set out to do in 2007 – despite some uncertainty about how the trip would work out.

Travelling the length of Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town, on folding bikes? Were we completely mad or had we come up with an idea that would prove to be the simplest and most fun way to travel?


They needn’t have worried. The trip turned out to be a hit. They combined cycling with transport by truck, bus, train and plane. They nicknamed it ‘hitch-biking’ and recently published the story of their trip in a new book: A Hitch-Biker’s Guide Through Africa.

Jan also recently took the time to answer a few questions for TravellingTwo.com about touring on a folding bike.

Travels by folding bike

1. What features should people look for in a folding bike for touring?

The bike has to be stiff, needs good components and a sturdy baggage carrier. It’s the same as with all travel bikes; if you go cheap, you’ll end up having more technical problems during your trip. Go for quality or the best that you can afford. We chose Dahon Bikes. They have a specific travel bike which looks really great (Dahon TR).

I rode on a Dahon full-suspension folding bike (Jetstream), which turned out to be great. Jo took a real city type of folding bike (Vitesse) which still stood up to the test. Looking back, if you’re looking for comfort the bike to get would be the one with suspension.

Travels by folding bike

2. And what about the equipment? Is it different from what you’d carry for touring on a ‘normal’ bike?

Choosing the right sleeping bag, tent, cooking gear and all other personal stuff is as important as choosing the bike. One of the most important things is to keep everything very, VERY light. We weighed and scrutinised everything before we left, and ended up travelling with just a small backpack plus a bag on the luggage rack. If you want to take more, get a full-size bike. But just like with any travelling, most travellers travel with way too much stuff that they end up not using.

Travels by folding bike

3. Why did you use a backpack? That’s not traditionally recommended for bike touring.

The reason for this was that we wanted to be able to quickly fold our bikes, and hitch a ride. Also, cycling in Africa can sometimes be a challenge at busy public transport stops when there are a lot of people around. Safety can be an issue at this time, so it’s important to be able to fold your bike, and not have to worry about having to take bags first.

If you really want to travel light in ‘funny’ countries, I would opt for the backpack. If you’re in a ‘safe’ first world country, I would maybe opt for pannier bags. Ortlieb offers good bags. So does Overboard and many other brands. Again, it’s all about keeping it simple and light.

Travels by folding bike

4. When bike touring, ideally you want a bike with parts that are easily found everywhere, in case of mechanical trouble. Don’t folding bikes tend to have specialist parts, and was that a problem for you?

Spare parts are something that most touring cyclists do go completely overboard with! We travelled the whole of Cairo to Cape Town with a basic repair kit, and found most of the repair stuff we needed in little bike shops along the way. We had a lot of flats, but always found inner tubes for our 20″ tyres. I even found cheap Chinese tyres. If you find that stuff in little villages in Africa, I am sure you’ll find them in most places in the world! Most bikes these days really have good components that last a long time.

Stuff that will break first are inner tubes, tyres and spokes, and cables; all very light and easy to carry. It’s again a question of keeping it simple. If you find out that a particular component is getting worn out, get to a city and have it replaced. Don’t wait till it just breaks.

As for the specific folding bike components; these are so well engineered these days, that I think they would be the last to break on the bike. We did our trip in 2007-08 and I still use the same bike nearly every day. The folding components haven’t needed any extra attention so far.

5. Are some destinations or types of bike tours particularly suited to folding bikes or – on the other hand – totally unsuitable?

It depends on what one wants to do. Great destinations include Europe or the United States as you can easily cycle from town to town and from hotel to hotel, with a minimum of luggage.

The only place a folding bike would be unsuitable is for real mountain bike travel or climbing some serious grades in the Alps. If the terrain is really rough, other bikes would make more sense. We used our folding bikes on pretty rough terrain in the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia and we’re not sure we would like to repeat it!

Hitch Bikers Guide To Africa Also, if you want to cycle the whole way, a folding bike is not the best option. There are other and better full-size bikes available for that purpose. But if you go for a combination of cycling and other means of transport the folding bike is the way to go.

When the scenery is beautiful, you cycle. If it’s boring or you are tired, catch a bus or hitch a ride. We call it ‘hitch-biking’ and it means that you meet all sorts of interesting people along the road.

***

Thanks to Jan for this interview. If you want to know about his travels with Jo, check out their book: A Hitch-Biker’s Guide Through Africa and their website Folding Bike Travels.

10 Questions: Cycling Across Tibet

Posted January 2nd, 2012

From 1999 to 2001, Bob Foster rode his bicycle around the world.

He began in Malaysia and headed north to China, Tibet and Pakistan. From there, Bob toured the Middle East and Europe before flying to Central America and meandering his way home to California.

In this edition of 10 questions, Bob tells us about his time in Tibet, one of the most challenging parts of the entire adventure. You can read more about Bob’s adventure, and his upcoming book, on his Cycle Nomad website.

Bob Foster In TibetPhoto courtesy of Bob Foster, the Cycle Nomad.

1. How did you end up cycling in Tibet, and why did you choose that destination above any other route?

I was touring from Malaysia to France. Unable to traverse Myanmar because of visa issues, and without the desire to cycle through Mongolia or Siberia, Tibet was the only option. Also, I was intrigued by a romanticized Western vision of Tibetan culture.

2. Tibet has a reputation as being one of the world’s more challenging cycling destinations. Does the reality live up to the hype?

If you are well-trained the elevation will slow you down, but it won’t stop you. The difficulty, for me, lay in the winds and hail storms. They can zap every last ounce of motivation.

Tibetan roadsPhoto courtesy of Bob Foster, the Cycle Nomad.

3. Because the terrain and climate can be extreme, did you have to carry any special gear?

You will want a four season tent, a robust windbreaker and a balaclava. Essentially, be ready to cover every square inch of your body. Also, be sure to bring extra off-road tires. Although the Chinese are paving the plateau at a breakneck speed you will likely be off road for a good portion of your ride.

4. How did you load it all on the bicycle, and keep your wheels in sound shape while going over rough roads?

Being on a world tour, I had 22 kilos of gear. The most common mistake beginners make when touring (myself included) is to put the majority of the weight in the back panniers. When you stop to think about it this doesn’t make much sense because when you are sitting on your seat you put the majority of your weight on your back wheel. I have found that it works best if you distribute your weight 70/30, with the front of your bicycle carrying the 70%. And given the rough roads in Tibet, it wouldn’t hurt to have tandem-gauge spokes on your wheels.

5. Was it tough to find the essential daily supplies like food and water?

As long as you plan you’ll be fine. Bring lots of dried foods, a map with rivers and bodies of water, and two water filters (I’d suggest a Steripen and a high-end filter pump as a backup). You should never have to go more than 80 kilometers without finding a source of water.

Beautiful TibetPhoto courtesy of Bob Foster, the Cycle Nomad.

6. Any local delicacies cyclists should know about?

Know that even in the most unimaginably remote parts of Tibet you will find kind-hearted nomads offering you yak butter tea. The salty, viscous sludge lines the back of your throat and oozes down the sides of your stomach. You will probably feel like a dog eating peanut butter, using your tongue at the roof of your mouth to try to remove the pasty film of salt. The preparation methods can be difficult on Western bellies, so you will likely be breaking into your Imodium stash if you want to ride the next day.

Tibetan Town

7. Tibet is also a place where you aren’t supposed to travel independently. Did you have any problems with police, or sneak under check point barriers at night?

When I was traveling in 2001 most of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials working the checkpoints were shocked to see someone alone on a bicycle. The usually cheered me on. The few that looked at my passport did so with a greater sense of curiosity than official duty. That said, the political climate in Tibet is constantly changing so be ready for anything.

8. Did you have much contact with the local people? What was their reaction to passing cyclists?

Children sometimes threw rocks at me as I rode by. At other points, groups of women and children would wait for me at sandy river crossings then grab hold of my bike and demand money and Dalai Lama photos to let me go. Please be considerate of the cyclists who will follow you and refuse to give in. On several occasions I held out for over 30 minutes before they let me go. I offered gifts to many gracious Tibetans who hosted me during my traverse of the plateau, but never did I pay ransom.

Tibetan SignPhoto courtesy of Bob Foster, the Cycle Nomad.

9. What is your most treasured memory of cycling in Tibet?

Leaving. Cold wind became the enemy in an exposed valley of the plateau, where on several occasions it forced me into dusty ditches the size of small cars, where I would feel ambition bleed out of my youthful body. When the wind would abate, I moved on, yearning for Kathmandu, shower and a moist slice of carrot cake with icing so buttery that you could slurp it.

The intensity of the wind met a serene hypoxia on the top of the last pass before leaving the plateau: Tong-La.

The drive to keep moving was like an incandescent cole that moved me with a fear of death, yet in the delirium of the hypoxia I began to laugh without ever contemplating stopping. Upon reaching the far end of the pass the peaks of the snow-laden Himalayas spread out before me with a grandeur that commanded reverence. For a moment I made no effort to understand or marvel. The stillness consumed me with the emotional rapture of riding a roller coaster on LSD. I subconsciously observed that the dirt road moved cut sharply down the most conservative grade of the slope. The valley I was to descend lie straight ahead.

As the bliss transformed into uncontrollable shivering I murmured to myself, “f*** it,” and let out barreling down the scree slope ahead into the glacial valleys of the Himalaya below. Bliss.

Mountains in TibetPhoto courtesy of Bob Foster, the Cycle Nomad.

10. What’s one essential Tibet experience that no cyclist should miss?

Descending from the plateau because it is not any one experience that will change us, it is the context of the experience. Tibet is a psychologically grueling cycling environment. From the intense climbs to the gale-force gusts on the passes, it will wear you to the bone. When you come off of the plateau and hear the chirping of birds, feel humid air caressing your skin and bask in the glory of a warm shower you will never feel more alive.

Thanks to Bob Foster for answering the questions and providing the photos. Do check out his Cycle Nomad website for photos, maps and more. And watch for his upcoming book!

Need more information? Check out these helpful resources for cycling Tibet:

If you’d like to answer 10 questions about a favourite cycling destination, read the guidelines and then get in touch.

10 Questions: Cycling In China

Posted October 28th, 2011

Louis & Lysanne left their home in Canada in September 2010 for a bicycle tour around the world.

Louis & Lysanne

By July 2011, they had reached China – and they spent 3 months exploring a relatively small corner of this massive country.

In this edition of 10 Questions, Louis & Lysanne share a wealth of tips and advice for other cyclists, also planning to explore China from the saddle of a bicycle.

1. Can you describe your trip through China, and why you chose China as a destination?

We had the great pleasure to cycle from Beijing to the southermost border of China (Dongxing/Mong Cay, Vietnam) over 3 months, and a total of 4,500km. We rode through the provinces of Shanxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Guizhou and Guangxi. Why China? Because it has so much to offer. What’s your pick? Scenery? Food? History? Low cost country? Quiet, remote cycling roads? Just name it, China has it all!

Happy Kids

2. What resources did you use to plan the Chinese leg of your journey?

We knew of a couple of sights that we really wanted to see, and we had to be in certain cities for our visa extension, but besides that the planning was usually done a couple of days before. We have the usual Lonely Planet travel guides but more useful are the people you meet, who tell you to go see this or that, and take this road instead of this one. If we have a decision to make between two places, we ask on internet travel forums like the Lonely Planet forum or Crazy Guy On A Bike.

3. What was your experience getting a visa for China? Did you have to extend it? Did you declare that you would be travelling by bicycle?

We got our Chinese visa in Tehran, Iran. It went fairly smoothly, because they didn’t ask for travel tickets out of the country or a bank statement. We had to wait 5 working days to get it, which seems to be the norm. Never, ever say that you are travelling by bicycle when you are applying for a visa.

It’s rare that you get more than a 30-day visa when applying far from home, so we had to do 2 extensions in China. That went well.

If we had to apply again for a Chinese visa we would do it from our hometown, or use a travel agency to have at least a 3-month visa, or even apply for a visa in Hong Kong, where you can easily get a 3-month visa. Note: you cannot get any visa on arrival, by land or plane.

Chinese Ladies Selling Their Goods

4. Once you were there, how did you communicate with people? Was it easy or hard? Did many people speak English, or not at all?

Ooohhh that’s a good one!

Don’t expect the Chinese people to understand any English outside big cities or really touristy sights or cities. To our big surprise, Chinese people do not understand sign language either, even when the signs were commonly used in other countries we visited prior to China. Even our picture book was frequently not understood by them!

So, yes, it was hard to communicate and sometimes frustating. But all this is meant to change rapidly because the ”young generation’ (under 15 years old) have mandatory English classes. One good piece of advice, which saved us all the time, was to have certain Chinese phrases already written down on a piece of paper to show people. For example: Where’s the nearest low cost hotel/guesthouse? How much does it cost?

Louis & The Water Buffalo

5. To navigate, did you use maps or a GPS, and how did that work out?

We used both and we are glad we had those two tools.

Actually we had two paper maps, one in English and one in Chinese. We bought both in Beijing in a big book shop. This is a MUST, or else you will never be able to ask any Chinese for direction. And always ask 3 different people to make sure you’re on the right road. Since they don’t want to lose respect, they’ll send you anywhere, even if they don’t know the answer. Also, don’t rely only on policemen because they just don’t know!

As for the GPS, we have a Garmin Etrex vista HCx. Since GPS maps (even ones you pay for) contain many errors for China, do not exclusively rely on them to create a route. We used GPS maps from Open Street Map. This is a free website and they have ok to good detailed maps for big cities. Finding the small, remote secondary roads is more difficult because the information is not on the GPS map. The trick, is to create your route with the Bike Route Toaster website and upload it to your device. This gives a more precise result than Open Street Map for creating routes.

If there is no road shown on your GPS, don’t panic! this is not a problem because you will follow the trace you’ve created. Make sure you compare the Google map with your Chinese paper map. This is important because you will see more small secondary road on the Chinese paper map.

A Chinese Guesthouse

6. Where did you mostly sleep: in your tent? Hotels?

We strongly believe in wild camping but, since accommodation is cheap and of reasonable quality, we always slept in hotels or guest houses. It was the first country where we found that wild camping was mostly not possible and strongly prohibited by law as well. This was the case, even though we often cycled in the countryside. Most of the land was either cultivated, industrialized, inhabited or full of rubbish. So, hotels are the way to go.

The accommodations we chose ranged from $10-15 U.S. per night. It seems that accommodation in the north is of lower quality than in the south, and service varies from nothing to breakfast included (rare cases) and a free internet connection jack (very common but bring your own cable).

Like we said, quality varies a lot. Some places were new and super nice for the same price as a worn-out hotel in other places. Shopping around and bargaining is a must here. The prices listed on the wall were double, if not more, then what we really paid.

Louis Enjoying A Nice Meal

7. What did you spend per day? Can you give us some average costs?

We spent an average of $30 U.S. per day for two people, including accomodation, food, bottled water and, yes, beer. The average cost for breakfast (soup or dumpling) is $1 U.S. per person, lunch less than $2 U.S. and $3 U.S. for dinner. In small eateries, the rice is self-serve and you can eat all you want, at no extra charge. A small bottle of water is 15 cents, and a big bottle of beer about 70 cents.

Entrance fees to tourist sites can be expensive. For example, the Forbidden City in Beijing will cost you $12 U.S. and some attractions are even more expensive.

All in all, the total cost for our 3-month trip was $3,495 U.S. for two of us, including food, accommodation, one train ride, tours and entrance fees to tourist sites, visas, souvenirs, new clothes, bike repair and post office expenses.

Beautiful View

8. How were the roads; busy, or pleasant to cycle on?

In the north, the roads are mostly flat, with a constant flow of trucks and buses. There’s not much choice of secondary roads but main road #108 had a nice wide shoulder. If you plan to cycle in the Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces, come prepared with a facial mask and dark clothing because these are coal regions.

In the south, we managed to find nice, quiet secondary roads with almost no traffic and amazing scenery. Don’t be afraid to venture out on small roads in China. They are surprisingly in very good condition and sealed 99% of the time.

What we found annoying in cycling China was the overuse of the horn, by everyone from the tuk-tuk driver to the trucks and crazy bus drivers. Also, you always have to be aware of the person in front of you. It seems they have the right of way because they rarely look to the right before turning on to the road. Finally and most importantly, don’t rely on signs or indications of turn-offs for that small road you want to take, because there won’t be any.

Dumplings!

9. What about food? Did you cook for yourself, or eat mostly in restaurants? What kind of food were you able to find?

Chinese food in China is far from the western Chinese we’re used to. There is so much variety and many tastes, including spicy or not, that you can find easily something to your liking. We are use to self-catering but not here, since the food is mostly good, easy to find and cheap. We didn’t find any advantage to cooking.

Another good thing about China is that there is always a kettle in your room so you can always go to the corner store and buy an instant noodle meal. Restaurants are very easy to find but the meat they offer can sometimes scare you. The Chinese eat everything on an animal, from the lips to the tail and inside out.

Also, the low-cost restaurants are (most of the time) hygenically repulsive. But the food is good and we never got any sick stomachs from eating there. Ordering a meal was always a pleasant experience. Since there’s hardly ever an English menu, we would point and order plates from the tables around us. That was cool because it was always a funny moment, and we met a lot of people this way.

10. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other cyclists planning an independent tour of China?

Overall we had a wonderful time in China, and it is one of the highlights of our trip. We will definitely be coming back, and we have the following tips:

  • Get the longest length of visa that you can
  • Don’t forget to write down useful Chinese phrases on paper, in advance
  • Do go to Beijing and visit the Great Wall, then jump on a train all the way to Xi’an. The 1,000 kilometers between those two cities is not very interesting, from our point of view.
  • Trains are easy to take in China with your bike.
  • Travel lightly, and send things home if you need to. The postal service in China is very efficient and dirt cheap. We mailed all of our camping gear and kitchen from Beijing to Nanning.

Thanks to Louis & Lysanne for answering the questions and providing photos. Check out their On Roule La Boule (in French).

Need more information? Check out these helpful resources for cycling in China:

If you’d like to answer 10 questions about a favourite cycling destination, read the guidelines and then get in touch.