Whether you are a beginner, a regular rider or a lycra lover – the 2016 Spring Cycle has the ride for you!
All rides provide the ONLY opportunity to ride the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Cahill Expressway and historic Rocks area – car free!
So register for the 12km City Ride, 50km Classic Ride or the 105km Bikebug Challenge Ride alongside Tour legend Robbie McEwen. Experience the magic of the city and greater Sydney by bike – and bring the kids – they ride for FREE!
More information : www.springcycle.com.au
Derek Wolfson from BayBUG, completed the 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris in August 2015.
“Bon courage!!” It rang in my ears, hey, here I was riding the PBP and loving all those French people who never lost their enthusiasm, day or night. They encouraged us, they fed us, decorated their villages and towns. I saw some really quirky bikes. All along the route, they are familiar with the hardships of this long distance feat of riding the PBP.
The PBP started on 6 September 1891 when Pierre Giffard organized a 1,200 km race to promote the bicycle. Just 206 cyclists, amateur and professional took part -Frenchmen only.
Forty years later, in 1931, Australian Hubert Opperman won in the record time of 49hours 23minutes. His record stood for many years. (see Wiki about his many other amazing feats).
124 years later, in August 2015, I was one of the 5,500 Audax randonneurs setting out from Paris on this four yearly audacious ride, both an adventure and test of endurance. It is open to men, women and all nationalities who, like myself qualify by completing 200, 300, 400 and 600 km rides in the preceding year.
The ride is well organized by the ‘Audax Club Parisien’ who set the brevet rules and organize sign posting, check points and feed stations with an army of volunteers. All sorts of bikes take part. I spotted a tricycle, 3 person tandems and some sleek fibre glass recumbents.
I joined Audax Australia 5 years ago and soon learnt that the PBP ride is the apotheosis for all long distance cyclists around the world.
So here I was, lining up for the 19.45 start outside the newly completed Velodrome National in Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines just west of Paris on a cool dry August evening. Waves of 300 riders left every 15 minutes with a motorcycle escort through the urban sprawl past cheering crowds into the open countryside.
Soon, darkness fell and ahead a long serpentine line of red lights. (no flashing LED allowed).
The roads were quiet, well signed with reflective arrows, marshals guided traffic at major cross roads and French drivers were happy to stop to let us pass. There were 15 check points, each with a cut off time and an overall target of 1,230 km (yes an extra 30km) of 90 hours. I set time targets for each one so it looked less daunting. I was aiming for Loudeac, 448km for a sleep in my pre-booked a hotel. The Australian team had arranged a bag drop there. Unfortunately, it took an hour and help from an American rider to locate my bag because I rode around town searching for a white van. The marshals were perplexed and tried to guide me to the control point -again! I had been too tired to notice the bags had already been unloaded next to the control point.
I knew I would need a good sleep and those 3-4 hours boosted my 332 km ride to Brest and back to Loudeac, where I had the same hotel and another short sleep.
I had expected some cold periods at night but leaving Loudeac in the dark of early morning, the freezing fog took me by surprise. In some sections visibility was particularly poor and compounding that, my glasses misted up. So when a young French rider came by, I followed his bright tail light which got me safely through those difficult kilometres. “Merci mon ami”.
Having read about the ride from various sources on the internet I now appreciated how time was lost at control points. So I started parking my bike as close as possible to the brevet stamping desk and making sure I remembered exactly where I had left it. This sounds obvious, but with hundreds of others coming and going, I was searching fruitlessly and imagined it had been taken. So after that, I counted rows and lined it up against a landmark. Another lesson was to ensure I took absolutely everything I might need so as not to make unnecessary trips back and forth. As expected, food queues were busy and sometimes it was quicker to buy soup and a sandwich. However, their calculating the cost could also take up precious time!
Sleep deprivation is a problem for those who take the longer times for the ride. I saw many riders asleep over their food, slumped in chairs, under the table, anywhere. I did try the 3 €uro foam mattress on the floor option, it was not a success. Riders came and went in their clonking footwear, they snored – loudly, lights flashed, I might have done better in a quiet corner. As it was, I slept fitfully but at least I was awoken at the requested time.
Falling asleep on the bike is a known risk on the PBP. I recognised the signs – loss of pedal power, veering to the wrong side, imagining large animals lurking in dark shadows. Even so, I postponed making the decision but thankfully stopped before a fall. A nice grassy bank but the brambles went unnoticed until a painful thorn pierced my finger.
I was now well into the final 450km.
At the Mortagne control, with another 140km to go, I met up with some Australians. Despite being exhausted they were determined to ride on. Critically, I decided I needed to sleep. Had I joined them, I might have made the 90 hours. Perhaps I slept too much.
I had also dawdled at times, enjoying a chat with families who had tables outside their homes set up with coffee, biscuits and snacks. I also stopped to give the mini koalas I had brought especially to give to the French children who were just as enthusiastic as their parents in cheering on the riders.
The rain came on the last day. Until Neuilly sur Eure, I had found the route markers easy to follow. I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t find the way. Three others were exploring the back roads of Senonches, a Frenchman, a Thai and me. Yes, it sounds like a joke, but it wasn’t. We lost more time and the Frenchman took some bad advice and shot down the wrong road. I went to “centre ville” and a friendly car driver said “Suivez moi” and led me back to the route.
Talking about friendly car drivers, I had a funny episode with a French woman and her dog. I had just turned into a quiet side road behind a hedge in the middle of nowhere to apply some cream to my nether regions. I was ready with cream on my hand and just about to drop my knicks when her car turned in and stopped. How can I help you? Water? I have coffee, cake! Then the dog escaped and had to be retrieved. Er! No thanks …just have to put some cream on and I waved my white fingers at her. She did eventually get the message and left me to it!
At the Dreux check point, the marshal who stamped my brevet wouldn’t look me in the eye. Maybe he knew I wasn’t going to make the 90 hour cut off. I knew too, but I was finishing strongly and keeping up a good pace. Then, as luck would have it, I got my one and only puncture at Monfort l’Amoury just 25 km before the finish! And something had happened to my pump, or maybe it was my brain, anyway I couldn’t get it to work. A friendly Spanish rider stopped to help, took over, put in my new tube and inflated it with his gas device. No sooner had he finished than we noticed his front tyre had also punctured so I waited to help him. Then, to top it all his gas applicator blew up!
It was a long meander to the Velodrome National and finally…. the last bend. Wow! I had completed my first 1200 (1230 km) and there was my smiling wife, Helia. Strange to ride my first 1200 …as perhaps it will remain the most challenging. I finished in 91 hours but I’m not too fussed. I survived and made the line unscathed. I hadn’t become one of the 20% DNFs.
All the build up and training was worth that tremendous sense of achievement.
This unique PBP experience, from qualifying, planning, lining up for bike inspection, the excitement at departure and of course, the ride itself, has been a very special time for me. I’m well pleased to have shared this amazing PBP journey with fellow cyclists from around the world. We have endured!
The push to have rail trails installed on disused railway easements in New South Wales continues.
Rail Trails for NSW (RT4NSW) has been working for the last twelve months to have legislation in NSW altered to enable long unused rail lines to be utilised for uses that will benefit the community. In every other state in Australia, New Zealand, and America, old lines have been revitalised for the use of bike riders, walkers, runners, horse riders, wheel chairs, enabling them to reap health benefits for themselves, as well as bringing tourists and money to the area.
Readers may be aware of the Fernleigh Track in Newcastle and say well that is on a disused railway line, BUT this was a private railway line, not a State Government line.
RT4NSW are having another push next month with a gathering at State Parliament on the 22nd March 2016.
The latest group hoping for a rail trail in their area is the Tumut-Batlow group. On Saturday 20th February 2016 they had a launch of their proposal with supporters from various areas of the state attending.
The launch was not without drama though, as there was a strong contingent of “anti-rail trails” residents from the Gilmore valley in attendance outside the venue. It is hoped that with time they will be won over to the rail trail idea, which will bring much needed tourism to this locality which is slowing losing residents as work dries up in the area.
If you want to support RT4NSW, you can go to their website and make a donation, or just check out what they are hoping to achieve in New South Wales.
Gear Up Girl is a Bicycle NSW initiative, run with the support of the Heart Foundation, that provides opportunities for women to experience the pleasure of riding a bicycle.
Gear Up Girl was founded in 2008 as an organisation to run a mass-participation ride from Cronulla to Sydney Olympic Park. Now the ride starts in Sydney Olympic Park and finishes in Cronulla.
From these modest beginnings, Gear Up Girl has expanded into a network of organisations running rides, workshops and other events across several states catering to women who want to get geared-up to ride bicycles.
In 2016, the ride will attract 1000 + women who will enjoy either the 20km, 40km or 60km ride.
20km Beach Ride
In 2016, Bicycle NSW has developed the 20km beach ride. The aim of this ride is to encourage novice riders to dust off their bike and take to the cycleways and/or mums and kids to have a fantastic day out discover the joys of riding. We aim to promote bike riding as a healthy, safe, enjoyable leisure and transport choice and we want all our participants to regularly use the cycling infrastructure that we show them. Therefore, in 2016 we have captured the most popular ride section from the 2015 feedback. The route now leads riders along a the flat idyllic separated cycle path, an easy ride suitable for all ages and skill levels. The 20km Beach Ride begins at Cahill Park, Wolli Creek and follows the cycleway out onto the beach front at Kyeemagh. Riders will experience a beautiful beach ride along a shared pedestrian/cycleway path all the way to Sans Souci. From there riders will go over the Taren Point Bridge and traversing over to a festival finish at Cronulla.
40km Classic Ride
This is a comfortable, leisurely ride ideal for all ages and abilities, the novice and experienced rider. Your adventure starts in beautiful Bicentennial Park at Sydney Olympic Park and heads south along the Cooks River cycleway. Showcasing some of the best of Sydney’s cycling infrastructure, the route makes its way south to the beautiful beaches and a festival finish at Cronulla.
60km Classic Ride
The 60km Coast Rideis for those looking for a challenge. This route starts in beautiful Bicentennial Park at Sydney Olympic Park and heads south along the Cooks River cycleway. Showcasing some of the best of Sydney’s cycling infrastructure, the route makes its way south to the iconic beaches of Cronulla. Your adventure continues out from Cronulla along dedicated cycle lanes to picturesque Kurnell. Enjoy a bit of Australian history, some breathtaking coastline of Sydney’s south and a festival finish at Cronulla.
Register now gearupgirl.com.au
Controversial changes to laws and their enforcement targeting bicycle riders is set to come into effect across NSW on the 1st of March 2016. A community run petition “A Cost Too High For Cyclist Safety” with 10,000 signatures, is part of a campaign by Bicycle NSW demanding the NSW Government immediately rescind the proposed fine increases and mandatory photo ID for bicycle riders.
CEO of Bicycle NSW Ray Rice said, “The community has come out in their thousands to say these new bike laws are heavy handed and unjustified. Regulation should be a last resort, not a first one. These new fines, a 500% increase over current ones, have no evidence basis.”
“Fines of this level for bicycle riders are unprecedented in Australia, as is the requirement to carry photo ID. NSW is fast becoming Australia’s nanny state.”
“Bicycle NSW is demanding the NSW Premier Mike Baird halt the introduction of these punitive measures against cyclists, and insist the Government conduct an independent, transparent review. The priority is for evidence based strategies and education that create safety and mutual respect on our roads, in addition to safe infrastructure for riders.” said Ray Rice.
“With high levels of congestion on NSW roads, and high levels of obesity in the population, the NSW Government should be looking at how to encourage bike riding as a form of transport, rather than blatantly discouraging it”, said CEO of Bicycle NSW.
24 community groups are supporting the petition and campaign across NSW and state based organisations around Australia. It is not just the cycling community who are alarmed by the proposed changes. Business leaders recognise the regressive nature of these proposed changes.
“Property investors are investing millions of dollars to increase the quality and size of end of trip cycling facilities as demand has skyrocketed in recent years. Employers know the efficiencies and productivity gains of active travel in the workplace. Rather than disincentives the Government should focus on all road users, including cyclists, motorists and pedestrians doing the right thing with the focus on individual safety first and foremost,” says CEO Daryl Browning, ISPT Super Property.
The penalties will allegedly ‘equalise’ bicycle riders with motor vehicles drivers. But this ignores the hugely different risk exposures and consequences of an impact. Most fully loaded bicycles weigh less than 150kg, a tenth the weight of a small car, and a hundredth the weight of a loaded truck. A motor vehicle causes far more damage to other people and property than a bicycle.
“Only the new rule requiring drivers to leave a minimum 1 to 1.5 metre distance when passing bicycle riders is evidence based and demonstrable in improving safety on our roads. The minimum passing distance will bring NSW in line with the majority of States and Territories in Australia, and we commend the Government on catching up with this progressive legislation. However introducing laws making it compulsory for an adult rider to carry photo identification and increasing cycling fines by up to 500%, is regressive and a distraction from the real safety priorities”, says Ray Rice.
What the NSW Government is proposing contravenes its own target to double the number of people riding bicycles through improving infrastructure and encouraging broader community participation. Instead these punitive measures will put people off riding now and in future. A family out for a casual bike ride could face $850 in fines simply because their bicycles don’t trigger the traffic signal on a quiet road; and a further $106 each if they’re not carrying the required type of photo ID.
The direct impact on individuals is profound. Stephe Wilks has written to the Premier and NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian to express his personal experiences. “I am a parent, a lawyer, a driver and car owner, and a bicycle rider. I cycle for health and fitness, riding to my city office. I don’t need to carry ID to walk to my office. Why do I need it on a bike? Why should I be treated differently to the rest of society?”
“The Government should be doing all it can to maximise healthy activities, minimise congestion and danger. The Premier must champion an agenda that prioritises the safety of all road users and encourages active travel including cycling. Laws which encourage sharing of the road and recognition that cyclists are a fragile road user (compared to cars, an order of magnitude heavier), is surely a better use of the legislature than creating some sort of false equivalence with fines.”
“As a State, I believe we are charting a course that will have long term negative effects on our society, our culture and our freedoms. Instead, we should be seeking to build closer relationships between road users.” Says Stephe Wilks, Bicycle NSW Member.
Bicycle NSW demands the NSW Government drop the proposal to introduce mandatory ID and increased fines for riders because they risk severely hampering the growth and safety of cycling in NSW.
Greens to block harsh new cycling laws
A disallowance motion has the potential to overturn New South Wales’ proposed cycling laws, if enough support can be garnered in the upper house.
In front of hundreds of riders at the #rideIDfree rally, Greens MP, Mehreen Faruqi, called for the government’s perceived vendetta against bike riders to stop.
Joining Ms Faruqi at the rally were Labor MPs Jodi McKay and Daniel Mookhey, Independent Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich and President of the Australian Cyclists Party, Omar Khalifa.
You can still help
- Ring your local member of parliament and make an appointment to see them to discuss these laws
- Write a quick email to Premier Baird and Duncan Gay, let them know that these laws are wrong and discriminatory
- If you live outside NSW, write to Premier Baird and Tourism Minister Stuart Ayers and tell them you won’t be coming to visit NSW if these anti-bike laws are not changed
Every four years Councils are required to put together a Community Strategic Plan. It does not matter where you are in NSW, you have a local Council and you have the opportunity to make a difference, so get your team together and start working through the process now. It is only through your effort that we can effect change in your local area.
There is a way to get your council to prioritise investment in cycling. It’s not hard. Here’s how.
Councils must have a Community Strategic Plan – a long term plan based on consultation with the community, which sets their priorities (and so, the annual budget). New NSW legislation requires them to consult in early 2016 to do (or redo) this plan, and then, after the local government elections in September, to adopt the plan. Once adopted, the priorities need to cascade down to the four year delivery plans and the annual operational plan and budget.
Because it can be hard for councils to get people involved, it can be fairly easy to influence the outcome/
- Get together with your local Bicycle NSW affiliated Bicycle User Group, or if there isn’t a Bicycle NSW affiliated group in your area, then why not start one. Affiliated groups become part of the Bicycle NSW team and work together with us to create a better environment for cycling. More info: http://bicyclensw.org.au/join/affiliation/
- Be ready. Discuss with your local group – what is your vision for your area? What’s important for the community (eg. that children can get safely to school, or that shops do well with strong local support, or that all families can access parks, or healthy and friendly streets, etc)? It will help to look at the current strategic plan or other plans your council has. What can be better? What’s missing?
- Build support. Think of all the potential local allies – schools, P&Cs, other local clubs, your local Health Promotion Unit, disability groups, mothers’ groups, doctors, businesses, etc. What might they think of your priorities and what could you include to address their interests?
- Mobilise involvement. During the consultation process (first half of 2016), activate all your supporters by making it easy for them. Summarise your main points in a flyer or on your website, push it out in your newsletter and social media, as well as through your allies (in the school newsletter, flyers at the doctor or shop) and get supporters to turn up to any public meetings and to make submissions.
- Share your learnings. Those great ideas you came up with, and useful allies, and good ways of motivating them – share with other bicycle groups so that results can be spread all across the state.
- Follow up. After September, the new councillors will need to adopt the plan, so survey or write or speak with candidates during the election campaign to make sure the successful ones are already on board and understand the benefits of providing for more active transport. Then, every year in May when council publishes the draft budget, check they are doing enough or tell them what more they should do. Legally they have to incorporate feedback. Or, be even more pro-active: write a “Christmas list” every year, as that’s the time when they start working out next year’s budget items.
- avoid the word “cyclists” – instead this is about kids riding to school, or enabling people to ride to local shops, so find other words to use
- this is not about the bike – put it in terms of benefits for the community (healthier, quieter streets & neighbourhoods, more vibrant local areas, safer and less congested around schools, etc) rather than for individuals who ride
- think broadly – there are all sorts of areas of council where you can fit bikes (art, parks, planning policies…)
Text and Photos: Andreas Pohl
Members of the Old & New Bicycle Club in front of the Opera House
45 year old dumpling seller and vintage bike collector, Nguyen Van Tuan, made his US debut this June. Not in person, but as the main character of a short movie entitled Banh Bao Bikes which premiered in the Worldwide Bike Shorts Section of the Bicycle Film Festival (BFF) in New York.
The movie, written, produced and co-directed by RMIT lecturer in Professional Communications, Brenda Mattick, features Tuan restoring and riding vintage bicycles in Hanoi. Mattick, who came to Vietnam four years ago, recalls how she got to know him and his group of like-minded bicycle enthusiasts through a “series of happy accidents when I attended a group ride in the city not long after I arrived in Hanoi.” Hailing from Sydney and a passionate bike rider herself, she loves film-making and always wanted to make a movie. With Tuan she found an ideal subject to combine both her interests in cycling and film and put together the short with a group of local film professionals over three years.
In the movie and even more so in real life, Tuan is a collector at heart. He lives on the periphery of Hanoi’s old quarter in a house crammed full of artefacts from the 1980s: TVs, reel-to-reel recorders and bric-a-brac from the bao cap or subsidy era fill up his living room. The pride of his collection is, however, his vintage French bicycles for which his home became too small so he keeps them in a store room near the Red River.
“When I was a child, I always longed to have a French bicycle. Everybody worked hard to buy one, but most could only afford a local one, if one at all,” Tuan recalls. Being one of six brothers, his family grew up poor with only one bicycle as a mode of everyday transport between them. The bike was a local Sai Gon Gia Phong which in those days the family bought for the equivalent of one US dollar and fifty cents.
Starting out as a simple factory worker, Tuan opened his own banh bao stall 15 years ago. His dumplings proved to be so popular with the locals that he could finally afford to fulfill his childhood dream. “I started buying old French bikes. My first one was a Follis made in Lyon,” Tuan says.
Rummaging through backyards and dusty spare rooms he has amassed almost 30 French bicycles since then, the vast majority in working order. His most precious possession is a 1952 Mercier Dural that took years and four bicycles in various stages of disrepair to restore. Yet, for Tuan his passion is more than just a love of bicycles. “Now my life has become easier, I feel nostalgic about my childhood,” he says. “I dream of a city with only trams, bicycles and pedestrians.”
After a half a dozen years of collecting and repairing vintage bikes by himself, Tuan helped found the Old & New Bicycle Club which boasts about 60 members from his vast network of bicycle lovers. The club meets on weekends for group rides near Westlake, to show off their latest restorations and to trade in hard-to-get spare parts. “We meet to share our happiness and difficulties in life,” Tuan says. “The bicycles just provide the connection between us.”
Tuan and his fellow club members are proud to share their love of vintage bicycles with an international audience. Now in its 15th year, the BFF attracts not only large crowds in its hometown but tours other global cities as well. “I am so glad that I could play a role representing this group of passionate cyclists from Vietnam in New York and maybe beyond,” Mattick says, hoping that her short will be picked up for the BFF travelling program which will be showing in her hometown of Sydney later this year.
by Noah Laubscher
“Wake up, Noah.” I wriggled my head under my pillow hoping that the voice and the shaking hand would go away. It was still dark. Why was Ma saying that I had to wake up. Then I remembered. Spring Cycle!!
Today I was going to ride my bike 50 km – across the Harbour Bridge – with heaps of other people.
Ma and I have been practising for weeks. Not just so I would get used to riding longer distances, but we went on trains (I didn’t even know you could take your bike on a train!) and up and down stairs (“Can’t we use the lift?” “No”, said Ma. “On Spring Cycle Day there will be so many people you won’t want to be waiting for the lift. And I can’t carry two bikes.”
And today was the day. Pa had put our bikes in the car the day before. And last night we’d made sure we had all our gear. Numbers, zip ties, food. So this morning all we had to do was get dressed (I was a bit disappointed that my Spring Cycle jersey hadn’t arrived, but Ma said she would sort that out at the start in North Sydney… and she did), eat our breakfast and go.
“Wait”, said Ma, coming at me with a big black permanent marker pen. “Let me write my phone number on you in case you get lost.” She can be so embarrassing. Doesn’t she know I’m eleven. I’m not going to get lost. (Maybe I should be writing MY phone number on HER arm?)
And off we went. Bikes out of the car at the station and down the stairs to catch the “special” Spring Cycle train. Another thing for Ma to worry about – we had to change trains to get to North Sydney. Town Hall? Central? Which would be best? Luckily all the other Spring Cyclists on the train were so friendly and helpful and they told us exactly what to do.
The sun was rising as the train headed over the Harbour Bridge and before we knew it we were at North Sydney. And so was everyone else in the world I think. There were bikes everywhere. So glad I knew how to pick mine up and carry it up the stairs.
All the people at the start! It was amazing. We inched our way forward in a sea of bikes and suddenly we were right at the front. We got ready. The hooter sounded and off we went. Yay!!! Homebush here we come.
That’s when Ma found out my gears weren’t working. She wasn’t very happy. I said I’d be fine. I had two. All I had to do was take my hand off the handlebars and push the lever with the heel of my hand like this. No, No, No, said Ma. So at the first rest stop we had to hunt up a bike mechanic. Luckily I found Lee, from Town Bike Pit Stop (ph (02) 9699 0096 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). He was so clever. It didn’t take him long and he got my rear gears working beautifully. Thank you so much, Lee.
After that it was all smooth pedalling. Mostly it was flat, there were only a couple of little hills, but I didn’t have to walk. We saw lots of Sydney that I’d never seen before. There were plenty of friendly volunteers and police to help us know where to go and keep us safe when there were cars.
We stopped at all the rest stops and had something to eat and drink (I had to make sure Ma didn’t get dehydrated or hungry). The weather was perfect. It didn’t rain like the forecast said it would. I didn’t get lost… and neither did Ma.
We had a lovely day. When Mum asked me later how I went, I told her, “I’d have done it quicker if I hadn’t had to wait for Ma”. Ma reckons we’ll see about that next year.
Looking for something different for your cycling mate?? check out some of these gifts from Hiconsumption
Carrera Foldable Helmet. Utilizing a propriety elastic system, this helmet from the team at Carrera folds up when it’s not in use, making it easy to store in your bag while you’re on the go. While it does collapse when not in use, the brand ensures us that top level safety is their priority when the helmet is strapped on your head.
Road Popper Bottle Opener. Perfect for drinking on the go (although we don’t recommend drinking and riding), this stainless steel bottle opener easily attaches to your bike frame letting you pop the top with a simple flick of your wrist.
Victorinox Swiss Army Bike Tool. Although we hate to think about it, there’s always a chance that something will break while cruising down the road – it’s just life. Packaged in a durable orange plastic case, this L-wrench comes with an adapter for the eight different bits along with a set of tire levers ensuring you’re ready to tackle any situation. It also weighs only 3.5 ounces, so it’s easy to carry along, anywhere you go.
Emergency Mud Guards. We love biking to work, but no one likes showing up to the office with mud all over their clothes. Constructed from recycled material, these barely there, lightweight mudguards will help prevent embarrassing stains from showing up on your backside.
There are lots more great ideas at http://hiconsumption.com/2013/11/bike-gear-23-great-gifts-for-the-cyclist/
By Alex Baum
Few parts of the world are changing faster than Southeast Asia. Ancient is hurtling at breakneck speeds towards modern.
Malls and McDonald’s might be lasting impressions for some. But pockets remain all but completely unaffected by the tendrils of globalization. Still as remote and pristine as ever, full to the brim with the kinds of adventures that dried up elsewhere on the tourist radar decades ago, it is here that many argue the real Southeast Asia still lingers. However, in Indonesia these pockets turn to vast swaths of untamed wilderness, especially once one crosses that threshold between the west of the country and its far less populated east. It’s safe to say that eastern Indonesia represents the last great unknown of tropical Asia, and some inspired and intrepid travelers are beginning to feel the pull of its mystique. Those with a real lust for adventure are bringing their bicycles and traveling these lesser known islands by two wheels.
Indonesia is a land of multiple personalities – some might argue one for each of its 17,000 plus islands. In simpler terms, it can be described also as a land of two faces: its intense, busy, and decidedly Asian west; and its eastern half – one of the least populated and seldom-visited areas in Asia, dominated by myriad seas, and embodying a much more Pacific island feel. Separating these two worlds is the famed “Wallace Line”, where in the late 1800’s, explorer and naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace noticed the stark contrast in Asian flora and fauna of the western islands versus the distinctly more Australian life forms of the east. As he strode down the path to uncovering the secrets of tectonic drift, giving birth to the study of biogeography, and independently developing a parallel theory of evolution to Darwin’s, it was this vast collection of eastern islands – known then as the Spice Islands and dubbed now “Wallacea” – that inspired such groundbreaking ideas.
Today, eastern Indonesia is known mainly to serious dive enthusiasts who seek in it’s crystalline waters for what is widely considered to be the best diving on Earth. Others come in smaller numbers in search of unique anthropological phenomena and age-old tribal living on display in places like Sulawesi, Sumba, Flores, and New Guinea. Just as so many of the cultures in eastern Indonesia remain relatively untouched by tourism and consumerism, so too do its natural bounties. Bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts trek into the sweeping jungles that cloak many of these islands in search of the weird and wonderful. Mountain climbers come in search of claiming never before-climbed peaks. And very quietly, a small stream of cyclists are beginning to test themselves on these remote roads.
As so many who have ever had the joy of cycle touring can attest, cycling is probably the best way to take in all that a place has to offer. You move fast enough to cover ground and slow enough to become a part of the landscape. The opportunities to be the first to fully experience a place by bicycle in Indonesia’s eastern islands are seemingly as endless as the islands here themselves. Be the first westerner a village has interacted with on a remote Moluccan island. Take the maiden voyage down a single track in the mountains of Central Sulawesi. Set up a campsite on a lonely beach in Flores where no one has ever slept. Or even be the first ever cyclist to pedal down a brand new road in Papua! These are the kinds of opportunities that abound in Indonesia’s east. You end up stumbling into them unknowingly, while in most other parts of Southeast Asia (and the rest of the world, for that matter), they’re difficult to find when you’re actively seeking them.
Eastern Indonesia offers adventure at a premium. For the cyclist, there are incredible cultures to encounter where the outsider is still a total novelty, immense areas of undisturbed and breathtakingly beautiful wilderness, and quiet roads almost devoid of traffic save for the smiling faces of surprised locals waving from the roadside. Perhaps most of all, there is the overwhelming feeling that you are among the first to ever do what you’re doing.
For those hardened travelers accustomed to navigating their way through these kinds of adventures independently and on a solo budget, and for those who have a solid foundation in the language of Bahasa Indonesia (which you will absolutely need in this region) eastern Indonesia is a playground. If you do not fit this description, fear not! There are a handful of small tour companies that offer fully-supported guided tours through many of these islands. Some, operate on the basis of custom-tailored tours, while others provide small day trips based out of hotels and small bastions of tourism. Cycle Indonesia has been operating extensive, fully-supported tours through Sulawesi, Bali, and Flores (with plans to expand into Maluku and Papua) for the last two decades and they provide a highly experienced mix of Western and local guides fluent in both English and Indonesian.