Fly and Stroll: Touring by Bike in Different Countries

With international travel becoming more and more accessible to the public, the chance of going on cycling trips abroad are not just a distant dream anymore for the budget minded rider. Due to my work as a teacher, every opportunity I get to attend conferences abroad is also a chance to explore the country on two wheels.

While there are several forums that talk about the routines done in getting your bike ready for international travel, I share with you some of the insights I’ve gained in this. Obviously there are others who have vast experience as I have and it would be good to consult others as well

Preparations for the trip:

Airlines have certain policies in checking in sports equipment and it is important to make sure that if there are fees to pay for this service you might as well avail of them to assure that your ride is safely taken care of during the flight. In the case of Cebu Pacific, a minimal fee is charged (on average, it’s about 2200-2500 for the roundtrip) but varies in terms of the weight of your cargo. In the case of Philippine Airlines (as what ive learned from friends), sports equipment fees are charged but is set at 15kgs.

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all aboard

Packing the bike is crucial as you have to make sure that everything is secure and small parts are safe. Though some friends have checked in their bikes as it is, I personally have gotten cases for my bike. Before, I had one custom made for my 20 inch folder (check out rockbox (https://www.facebook.com/rockboxcases/?fref=ts) they make cases for custom made for your ride—now with the Brompton, I used the Vincita Bag for the B. It’s important to deflate tires a little and wrap your bike with bubble wrap for added protection. Also, don’t forget your tools such as a pump, extra tube and multitool just in case.

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Custom case for a folding bike courtesy of Rockbox cases-Rider Fits Fine

Riding in a different place

City riding can be a wonderful experience, but push it further and try looking for those tourist spots far away from the city center. Here are some places worth exploring:

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Aside from the city center being dense, one of the issues ive found in this place is that side streets suddenly merge with large highways and can be a problem as cars run REALLY fast! In addition, the terrain is quite hilly so prepare yourself for an uphill climb here and there…There are several parks though but one is all worth the travel-the Batu caves (you gotta love the grandeur of the statue, the length of the steps, the monkeys and the food)

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at the city center
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Entrance of University of Malaya
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The Batu Caves

 

Singapore

One of the most bike friendly states, Singapore has an excellent network of cycling routes but you might as well consider going bimodal to save time-don’t forget to visit Might Velo for your folding bike needs. Check out the Coney Island bike route

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Park route with the Marina Bay Sands in Sight
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Coney Island 

Hong Kong

Initially, I had difficulty here as I saw very few bikers I could ask for directions! But the recreational parks with vast bike lanes are excellent. Going bimodal here isn’t a problem as their train system is excellent. Try the Sha Tin bike route-very spacious and accommodates riders of all skill levels

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Going Bimodal in HK
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Cycling and Kung Fu
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On of the vast bike lanes in the Sha Tin Park

 

Ho Chi Minh Vietnam

Admittedly, I was pressed for time cycling here and the traffic has similarities with the Philippines.  I observed that motorists are much more careful. Noteworthy here are grand structures of the city

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With Kababayan Gian Carlo Panlilio who gave me a bike tour around Vietnam

Some notes:

Though ive biked in different countries in southeast with varying experiences, there are a couple of things you have to consider which might be helpful:

  1. Always bring your hotel’s calling card. In certain countries, locals may have limited understanding of English and the calling card can help them understand where you’re going and increases your chances of getting helpful directions. Or if you need to bailout and take the cab, all you need to show the driver is that card.
  2. Get in touch with local bikers- Some of our kababayans deployed abroad  or local cyclists have been helpful in my trips sharing routes and interesting information about motorists and routes.
  3. Go bimodal and Bikelanes are your friend-in developed states such as Hong Kong and Singapore, there are dedicated parks for cycling. Though it is tempting to explore places by pedalling all the way, getting lost and eventually wasting time is a problem-so consider going bimodal as some countries have excellent public transport systems.
  4. Understand traffic rules. On your first day, it would be good to observe how traffic flows in the country. Do vehicles travel with a left/right hand drive orientation? Are sidewalks big enough for you to cycle just in case? do cars go to fast? Are drivers reckless or are obedient when it comes to traffic lights? For example, while Vietnam may have similarities in terms of traffic in the Philippines, motorists appear to operate on an internal rule to not speed up (I have observed this in streets along Ho Chi Mihn City)

Overall, travelling abroad can be costly if you just shop and can get fattening if you just eat all that sumptuous cuisine…consider cycling and perhaps your travel abroad experience will be much more enriching J

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