Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Training 2

Route: Münster-Hiltrup-Wollbeck
Time: 1:50 h
Distance: 29 km
Average km/h: 15,2
Top km/h: 32,5
Conditions: Cold, icy

I came down with a light flu last week so I had to take it easy for this training. I was surprised I even made it out. It wasn't exactly the best conditions for biking either. The streets was covered with ice, the landscape frosty from the freezing night. The temperature had finally reached average numbers for this period of the year. However, being used to the exceptionally warm winter, I didn't pay attention to the icy roads. It didn't take long before I made my first fall. I completely wiped out when making a slow, but sharp 90 degree turn. My first fall was born. I, as well as Danny the bicycle, handled the fall beautifully, though. I was almost grateful for the experience, for I now know what it feels like to fall off Danny.

The air was cold, but crisp and fresh. I enjoyed the ride although the speed was kept very low. I didn't want to risk getting ill again. I had made some adjustments to the bike from the previous ride. It certainly helped since there was less or no aching at all the following day. For the first time I rode with a pannier, map and compass. I had mounted the handle-bar pannier the day before and packed some various items. For my next ride I'll try to attach some more loaded panniers, since this is the way I will travel. The extra weight not only effect how the bicycle behaves, but obviously makes the bicycle heavier and harder to ride.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Training 1

Route: Münster-Telgte-Wollbeck
Time: 2:00 h
Distance: 35 km
Average km/h: 17,5
Top km/h: 37,8
Conditions: Windy, rainy

Now the training starts. I'm not an experience biker, so I need to get my body used to spending hours in the saddle. Actually, yesterday was the first time I biked over 30 km in one stretch. In Vietnam I will average 70 km per stretch, and in China about 60 km. Now you understand that I have a bit of training to do.
Nevertheless, the first training went excellent considering strong winds and heavy rain. Not more than two days ago there was a hurricane in the area measuring winds up to 160Km/h. Although the winds were not near that, I could still feel the remains of the storm. Also, I am still feeling the bike and are making small adjustments to optimize comfort, which also makes the biking harder than it needs to be.
The day after I don't feel the pains and stiffness that I expected. Yesterday, however, I was completely exhausted from the exercise and pretty much unable to do much more of the day. (I did make it to a party that night but lacked social strength). I want to believe that the strong wind and heavy rain had just as much to do with the exhaustion as the biking itself.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Why bicycle touring?

First I should clarify what bicycle touring means in general terms. It's similar to back-packing and like back-packing, it's a way to travel around the world to different places, staying at cheaper accommodations, exploring sites, meeting people, for a longer period of time. But in contrast to back-packing you must take care of the transportation yourselves, that is, you bike from one destination to another opposed to taking a train, bus or plane.
Bike touring requires a specially designed bike (read The Bike in this journal) to tackle the specific environment and be comfortable for a long period of time riding. Other than panniers (bike bags) and extra gear, your equipment is similar to back-packing, but preferably a bit lighter.
The major difference, and the reason why I have chosen bike touring opposed to back-packing, is that you will experience things that you most likely would miss travelling with bus or train. Being it a local villages where the bus doesn't stop, meeting locals in their authentic environment, exploring rare sites, bike touring gives you the freedom and the opportunity I'm looking for.
Another important reason why I have picked bike touring over back-packing is the feeling of being on the road. With back-packing I could easily get bored after a few days at a destination, where with bike touring I rarely stay at one place more than two days. I simply see and experience more.
Last but not least, I'm looking forward to the physical challenge. Can I make it? However, I set the limits and I set the pace, so it can never get out of control.
Bike touring is becoming a quite popular way of travelling. Especially in Germany you can see many magazines, books and maps on the subject. A key factor to its success, I believe, is the freedom it offers. That's why bike touring comes in many varieties, being it a 2-day excursion to a castle, or a 5 year trip around the world, there are people who do both.

I settle for a 100 day trip through Vietnam to China.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Route

Route map
Route detail
The route is set, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Chengdu, China. Although it has been planned in the finest detail, changes will happen and I will be open to other alternatives once I’m on the road. Nevertheless, I find it calming and exiting to have a detail route to look forward to.
I fly into Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in southern Vietnam on April 2, 2007. From here I travel east towards Dalat and into the mountains of south Vietnam. Here I aim for the coast and then pedal north, taking in the beautiful scenery of the south and central Vietnamese coast. I’ll make sure to make some beach stops and have enough time to enjoy the fine, white sand and the turquoise water.
After about a month I reach Hue and from here I take the night-train to Hanoi. Biking the entire stretch of the Vietnamese coast was the initial idea, but after hours of research I decided that more than three weeks of beach and swimming would have to be enough. I also can’t imagine that highway 1, which runs along the coast from Ho Chi Mihn City to Hanoi, is the most exciting road to bike for such a long period.
After a few days in Hanoi and a visit to the Halong Bay area, I take a bus west, avoiding a less interesting area west of Hanoi, to So’n La. In general I try to avoid biking in or out of big cities. I know the traffic is overwhelming as well as the pollution. Safety is also a concern.
Now, the most challenging biking starts. I head for the Laos border, then turn north up into the north-west mountains. Each stretch is shorter but the altitude will make up for it. I plan to trek two days in northern Vietnam just before I pedal to the Chinese border. After 44 days when I cross over into China, Hekou from Lao Cai, I have covered about 1300 km on the bike and traveled in total 2600 km in Vietnam. I will average about 70 km per stretch biking.
Once I cross the border I head north to Kunming, making several stops in small Chinese villages and various attractions. The best biking in China is west, closer to Tibet, therefore I take a bus from Kunming to Xianguan (Dali City). Here I will enjoy the scenery and hopefully I have gotten used to the altitude because I’m now at about 2000 m above sea level. Continuing north through the mountains and valleys I reach Lijang. Just north of the city is the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Here I will enjoy a long trekking tour in the largest canyon of the world. From Lijang I pedal north-east through more small villages and towns. Before reaching Xichang I will bike for 8 days straight, making this the longest stretch of days without any days rest. However, hopefully the scenery and many attractions will make it an easy ride. I’m now fairly close to my end-station, Chengdu, about 450 km away.
From Xichang I pedal north for a few days then straight east to reach Emai Shai. This beautiful mountain is a common attraction south of Chengdu thus I will spend a few days trekking here. From Emai Shai I bike a short route to Leshan before heading to Chengdu by bus, again avoiding heavy, dangerous traffic. Here I park the bike and enjoy the city and its many surrounding attractions, such as Panda reserves. After a few days I fly to Beijing to become a normal, non-biking tourist, visiting the Great Wall and many other famous spots. On July 11, after exact 100 days, about 3000 km biking, total 6800 km traveling, I fly back to Copenhagen, hopefully content with my endeavor.