When did you go on your first cycle adventure?
For Christmas and New Year 2014 I joined the tour cycling from Saigon to Hanoi for my first ever cycling adventure. I had always wanted to tour Vietnam, and this seemed an ideal opportunity to get close-up and personal with the people and culture of this wonderful country. But it was not without some trepidation as I had no experience of cycling – apart from cycling as a child, which was now quite a few decades behind me! Still, I read the part about being reasonably fit, turned a blind eye to the part about the total mileage, ignored the disbelieving looks from family and friends and signed up! I was rewarded with the best and most wonderful holiday I have ever had.
What countries have you visited by bicycle?
Apart from Saigon to Hanoi, I have now been on two more Spiceroads tours! My second tour was a four-day ‘long weekend’ on the Bali Mountain Bike Explorer in August. Living in Hong Kong, I had already been fortunate to be able to visit Bali, but this tour covered the volcanoes and all the surrounding area which was all new to me. Again it was a wonderful experience and the scenery and the cycling (on and especially off-road) was fantastic!
My third tour, in September, was the Yunnan Discovery which I have to say was even more spectacular and wonderful than my previous trips! They seem just to get better and better. I enjoyed the exceptional diversity of landscapes from the incredible mountains to the roar of the Yangtze River through Leaping Tiger Gorge to the tranquillity of Lake Erhai, and of course, the daily delicious, but spicy, local dishes!
What do you enjoy about bicycle touring?
Living in such a busy and crowded Hong Kong, I enjoy the open space and freedom which cycling offers and having the ability to explore new places in a very close and personal way. Personally, I love experiencing new cultures, marvelling at some spectacular scenery, enjoying the taste and flavours of different foods and meeting and observing the people of the country and their traditions and costumes. When choosing a trip, I look for a new country or place that can stimulate all my five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch so that I can experience being totally immersed somewhere different. I also enjoy the physical challenge which cycling offers by having to get to different places under my own steam, and with endless photo opportunities on the way (some, I have to admit, just to get my breath back). When choosing a tour, I tend to look for somewhere that can offer me as many of these experiences as possible. I have every confidence that the guides and support offered by SpiceRoads will always look after everyone and contribute to making the tour a truly memorable experience. I have been lucky to meet some wonderful people from very different backgrounds and have made some new friends around the world. The camaraderie and experiences shared by cycling together has been a real bonus for me on my various tours.
How much training do you do before a ride?
Before embarking on my first trip, I started going to the gym and, apart from some general fitness, I made sure that for several weeks beforehand I used the static cycles at least a couple of times a week to give my legs some warning of what was about to be expected of them. Being fairly fit and active is important if you want to get the most out of the holiday. I also stepped up my work on the static cycles before each of my other trips and I am sure this helped to give me the confidence that I could tackle not only the daily journey but also any moderate climbs found on the way. And, I found that I became stronger during each day of the trip that helped, and so while I was never setting the pace, I was never holding the others in the group up either! I have now finally bought myself a mountain bike, so for future trips I will be able to add in some actual training in the saddle and on the road!
Do you have any advice for someone that is looking to go on a cycling adventure for the first time?
To use a well-known slogan, ‘Just do it!’ I guarantee that if you are reasonably fit you will have the best holiday experience of your life. Any concerns I had about coping with the cycling and the climbs along the way quickly disappeared and when I launched myself on my first long downhill I was totally hooked! Thinking and planning ahead, particularly with what you bring and how you pack, is also very helpful. Bear in mind that you will stay in most places only for one night. Don’t over-estimate but also don’t underestimate your ability, you will cope better than you think, but you need to be fairly active.