Exactly 100 days since we arrived in South East Asia and we rode into Singapore yesterday, hugged each other tightly and cried outside the hotel.
This ride is over and we did what we said we were going to do. Before we started we thought that stuff like this is what “other people” do, I suppose we can count ourselves now as “other people”
But before we get tempted into any sense of self-adulation, I’ll let you into a secret. It was easy.
It was easy
This was not a polar expedition. We didn’t undertake some form of superlative physical challenge Iron Man endeavour. We are two late middle-aged unfit people who got out of bed and rode their bikes 50 miles a day over reasonable terrain. The only bit that was really difficult was the heat and that we did it day after day.
But the real achievement here, I think, was pushing a mindset that was prepared to force us out of our comfort zone. Many, many times we were uncomfortable with a situation but it ALWAYS worked out and NEVER ever did we feel physically threatened.
On this trip, I faced part of the reality of who I am. I’m a planner. I get enormous satisfaction from a cycle of plan-execute-adapt. I even enjoy it when the plan goes wrong sometimes, because part of planning is having a contingency and then executing that. This will not surprise my friends.
It doesn’t mean that we planned every micro-detail before we set out, far from it because that would be futile. But a typical day might start off with a breakfast chat noting that we have accommodation cluster options at 60km, 90km and 100km so we will stop for a rest at each of those points and make a decision to stop or not.
Five countries, 3342.1km (2077 miles) ridden over a period of 43 days in the saddle averaging 78km a day.
Did we love it?
Did we love every inch of it? Sod Off!
Bits of it were truly awful, like the ride down the Johor motorways yesterday but they were the tiny minority and were far outweighed by the mind-blowingly brilliant parts.
South East Asia is so easy to cycle tour, the terrain is as forgiving as you want it to be and even though the infrastructure is often lacking, the willingness of the people to “work it out” with you will almost always get you to a solution.
We’re really struggling to think of any. Stuff like cocked-up ferries from Thailand to Penang gave us experiences that we wouldn’t have had. otherwise
Even the overpacking, we wouldn’t change because it gave us a learning curve of what we needed and what we didn’t. We are a bit surprised at what we kept and what we sent home. E.g. the golf clothes that worked so very well on previous tours just didn’t work here.
But the 3 cheap knock-off Lacoste shirts that we bought in Thailand were excellent. They roll up well in the panniers and shake out so that I don’t look like a tramp every night.
We sent some tech home with Siubhan at the 1500km point and there’s nothing we’ve missed there, but we didn’t send any spares back. Not even the heavier stuff like a spare tyre or the spare chain.
Part of the planning that we did was also mechanical risk assessment, looking at each part of the bike and deciding what would stop the ride dead in its tracks. A ripped tyre would stop us, as would a failed chain. Ok, I could have brought just a few links but, by bringing a whole chain, then I could use it with a couple of tie-wraps and leave the very heavy chain whip at home. I’ve since discovered a lightweight cassette removal tool and will only take a few links on the next trip.
Sending the lightweight Nanopresso tool home was a surprise to a couple of caffeine addicts, but it was the need for hot water and to carry coffee grounds that killed it.
But we did buy a travel kettle and a box of Lipton Yellow Label tea bags. That’s worth the weight.
As was sending home all of our expensive Lycra kit. The merino tops did indeed work out to be the miracle material that we’d hoped so our standard cycling kit became a merino top, padded cycling pants and a cheap pair of shorts each. That all worked well when we applied chamois cream liberally.
At 60kg I was breaking spokes but not one since we got to 45kg. Lighter is always better, but it’s always going to be a compromise with physical and mental comfort. And every single long-distance tourer we’ve met makes a different choice.
The challenge now is to get to 45kg with the camping kit. We have some ideas.
In short though, no major regrets. No route changes, no different destinations. Nothing. Nada.
And the best bit?
There’s no single best bit but the highlights are in this order…people, food, scenery, the cycling.
Cycling for us is an efficient way to travel at a pace that allows, and encourages you to engage with people. Odd to say after 3 months in the saddle but it’s not that much about the cycling.
Would we do it again tomorrow?
In a heartbeat. But maybe not tomorrow. I think we need a couple of months off the bikes now.
There are a few things going on back in the U.K. that means that we will probably be spending a lot of 2019 at home.
But it’s for mainly positive but prosaic reasons, we still need to sell the house and I’ve been offered a role running a large programme in Manchester.
The intent, though, is that when we head out again it is likely to be another tour like this. Then pause for a few months, maybe where we’ve stopped, then repeat until we can’t do it any more.
So, for now, we’re going to enjoy a bit of Singapore. It feels like we deserve it.