DESTINATION: SEEING THE WORLD
ON WHEELS BEYOND BIKE PARKS
Who wants to see the world on a bicycle? As in, exploring beyond the bike parks? Just thinking about the meandering single tracks in different corners of the world, expeditions to rural villages, leisurely sight-seeing rides in small towns in-between longer rides and soaking in the different cultures of the places are more than enough to make us smile. It doesn't matter which part of the world we ride in, there will definitely be new experiences and memories to keep. Bikezilla explains how easy and convenient it can be. Read on to get yourself started!
THE COMMON BARRIERS TO NOT GOING FOR BIKE TRIPS
Epic bike tours are not easy to come by for majority of cyclists. Many factors go into the planning for a bike trip. The common barriers to holding back bike tours are somewhat summarized below:
Lack of information
Although this is already the age of the internet and there is really nothing that one cannot get answers to, there would still be occasions that the search results offered are not really what you wanted. And if repeated searches on a similar topic reveal the same unsuitable results, the interest for any idea or topic would slowly dwindle away. Such is the case for searching for a tour operator who can cater to your needs. And it doesn't help if your friends and riding mates have no prior experience to what you were wanting to find out.
Suggested Solution: Make more friends. Ask your questions in internet forums or Facebook groups to get you started. Do more researches on your own, read some related magazines to further fine-tune what you are really looking for.
Absence of like-minded enthusiasts
It can be quite disheartening when you suggest something only to be quickly dismissed as boring, infeasible or far-fetched by your mates. In some cases, such negative feedbacks could lead to suppression of ideas in the future. Such is the effect of group dynamics, the opinion leaders and influencers always influence the rest in some ways and the meek ones would not have their ideas circulated. It is during such situations that these members go in search of other like-minded enthusiasts elsewhere.
Suggested Solution: Make more friends. Join more social media groups. Gain some confidence. Do your researches and sell your ideas to your riding mates.
Even if there is a dream to go for a certain expedition, the issue of safety is often an important determinant to whether the plan is a go for the group or not. Cycling in a group provides some level of protection – be it from accidents or other felony threats. When the gathered group is small, the issue on safety becomes a bigger concern. Finding ways to ensure safety during a cycle trip is essential when soliciting participation.
Suggested Solutions: Engage a local guide where you will be riding. Ask a friend who is familiar with the destination area for advise or to ride with your group. Choose your riding trip destinations wisely. Research thoroughly before you embark on your trip. Learn some first aid skills.
Hassle of packing bike and bulky luggage
Packing of bulky items for a trip is always going to be a cumbersome affair. But you will get used to it after a few trips. And practice makes perfect. You will soon be packing your bike faster and more effortlessly. Such chores are made worse when a certain trip has multiple shuttles to different riding destinations by air where repeated packing and assembling of bikes are required.
Suggested Solution: Start with single riding destination trips first. Get a good dedicated bike bag for easy packing. Be proficient with dismantling and assembling of bikes – at least with simple tasks like fixing and dismantling of your handlebar, pedals, deraileurs and wheels. Find alternate ways to get a bike at the destination eg rental or borrowing from a friend who lives there. Choose flights that allow wheeling bikes on board with no need for bike bags.
We always have more wants than we have resources. And money set aside for cycle trips are only going to allow you some of the destinations in your bucket list. The more information you gathered on different destinations would mean the longer your "to-go" list gets. Researches can set your mind wandering.
Suggested Solutions: Travel within your means. Prioritize your wants and spread your travel plans over a longer time period. Improve on the way you manage your money. Start a bike trip savings account. Look for cheaper alternatives for a said trip eg cheaper hotels or flights, or even shorten travel duration. Choose to go on easier and achievable destinations first. Stagger cheap and expensive destinations so you have time to save up on the expensive ones while still able to enjoy some trips. Don't forget to factor in family holiday budget and time in your year-long tour planning where applicable.
One of the most common reasons for postponing travel plans is time constraint. This may equate to either, family commitments not allowing for a cycle trip with your mates, school term for students or work doesn't permit taking annual leave during certain time of the year.
Suggested Solutions: Make cycling trips a part of the family holiday where applicable. Manage your annual leave and cater some for cycling trips and some for other occasions. Be open with your mates during trip planning so that your schedules are also taken into consideration. Manage your work-life balance.
SOME COMMONLY FREQUENTED DESTINATIONS …
The few common places many bikers from Singapore travel to are listed below. For the benefit of new cyclists, this simple list would start you off on path well-trodden.
Indonesia: shuttles, Batam, Bali, Medan
Malaysia: Johore Bahru, Kiara in Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Kuantan, Penang, most states' plantation are occasionally open for mass rides (Jamborees)
Thailand: Chiangmai, Phuket
Taiwan: Round island , almost all cities
New Zealand: Queenstown and Rotorua
Nepal: Kathmandu and Himalayas area
But theres' more …
AND MORE SUGGESTIONS …
We came across a tour operator that deals with cycle trips to nice scenic destinations. These destinations include: Tibet, Nepal, Eastern China, Southwest China, Sichuan, Yunan, Myanmar! Shangrila Adventure is a professional cycling and adventure tour operator based in China Chengdu (Operation), with offices in Singapore (HQ) and Myanmar (Operation).
In a nutshell, these guys operate fully-supported cycling tours, guided-treks and peak-climbs. They also customize/tailor-made itineraries for private and corporate groups. We spoke to Shangrila Adventure with regards to the usual bike tour concerns and these are their assurance to us;
Safety during the cycling trip
All their cycling tours come fully-supported and guided with a lead cycling-guide (or administrative trip leader) and a bike mechanic at the rear (as sweeper). They also provide a truck for the bikes and a passenger coach/mini-bus for the cyclists. These vehicles will be following the cycling group throughout the entire journey. A total of 4-5 staff would be deployed for a cycling group of 12 – 18 riders.
There will be technical and first-aid assistance throughout the ride. For Tibet rides, the safety vehicle would also be equipped with oxygen tanks. As with all adventure operators, all the particulars of the cycling group would be carefully recorded should any emergency arises.
Reputation of company and experience
The guys from Shangrila Adventure has been operating in Singapore since 2007 – that's 7 years of handling Singaporean customers. Now, we would be confident that they know Singaporean preferences and needs well enough then. Besides organizing trips for the Singapore market, Shangrila also operate tours for several reputable cycling tour agents in Europe, South East Asia and they would be doing American and Australian markets soon.
Another point that would instill more confidence is that the tour operator – the Singaporean tour leader and his team of guides – are all regular road and mountain bikers themselves. All the cycle trips are organized and operated in-house – that is, they do not need to sub contract their tours out to other tour operators.
For those who still do not like to pack their bulky bikes for bike trips, Shangrila Adventure has a stable of approximately 80 well-maintained bicycles to cater to cyclists of different sizes. Many of their participants used the bikes provided.
Customising your tours
For a complete range of tours and departure dates, check out www.shangrila-adventure.com
The usual group size for any tour is 6 person but arrangement could be made to go with smaller group sizes. The tour itinerary is also customizable to suit the fitness standards and requirements of the group.
Getting to know who you may be traveling with
For Singapore cyclists, Shangrila Adventure has a group and website where they promote cycling through weekly local rides. These rides cater to cyclists of different fitness and experience levels. check out the group at www.meetup.com/Singapore-Cycling-Tours.
Cost of the tours
A ballpark guide on the travel expenses are as follows. Do bear in mind that these are costing based on triple sharing rooms and with minimum group size met. For customized trips, the fee will be higher.
14 Days Tibet to Nepal starts from S$2750 per person, Return airfare from Singapore to Llahsa is about S$900 to S$1100.
8 Days Guizhou to GuiLin Yangshuo starts from S$1700 per person. Return airfare to Guiyang is about S$500 – S$700.
9D Myanmar Inle lake to Bagan starts from S$2350 per person. Return airfare to Yangon is about S$400 – S$700.
All the about tours fares are inclusive of all accommodations, support vehicles, meals, guide, mechanic, entrance fees to scenic/cycling areas and the country's entry permit (where applicable). Bikes and helmets are also provided for those who wish to travel light. The above estimates exclude tips and personal expenses. Use the above only as a guide to where your budget can bring you to. Prices of tours and flights are subject to changes so it's best to check out with the agent when you are ready to materialize your plans.
TIME TO START PLANNING!
Start your research and planning. Such trips take time to plan. Part of the fun is to gather the group of travel mates and work on the itinerary. Of course, there is also a need to make sure the group is physically fit enough to embark on the trip together. Ride together as much as possible and get those ideas flowing. Look beyond the bike parks and put on your explorer hat. Ride on!
For more information on itineraries and other information, visit Shangrila Adventure's website at www.shangrila-adventure.com
All photos and itinerary information by Shangrila Adventure