Inspired Adventures staff have covered more kilometres on bicycle saddles in Southeast Asia than most. Here are our top gear tips for cycling adventures throughout SE Asia and beyond.
Cycling in Southeast Asia is an experience like no other! Scooters and tuk-tuks zip through the seemingly organised chaos, honking their horns to alert you they’re passing by. Street vendors and market stalls line the roads with an array of local delicacies and squeamish culinary delights. As you cycle along unpaved and uneven surfaces, the humidity causing you to sweat uncontrollably, locals will come out to wave and cheer you on. The adventure may be tough; however, preparing for your cycling challenge is half the battle.
There’s a cycling kit, and then there’s a Cycling Kit. So let’s start at the bottom (literally) and invest in a good pair of padded cycling shorts. Personally, I would buy at least two pairs, so you can enjoy the luxury of a clean pair, while the first pair is drying after a good wash. Wrapping the washed pair in a towel and then twisting the towel, will wring out a great deal of the excess water. This will help combat the humidity while they dry, but get used to the fact that each day you will be wearing clean, but slightly damp shorts.
A couple of good quality wicking t-shirts are also worth their weight in dollar coins. Designed to draw the moisture away from your skin, they are invaluable when faced with the heat and humidity of Southeast Asian countries. I recommend long-sleeved wicking shirts for the added protection against sunburn. Light colours are best!
Buying a top quality cycling helmet is also a must. Make sure it is adjustable and has appropriate ventilation. As you will find, some models have huge vents that, along with fresh air, allow large insects to fly in. I always choose the models that have thin mesh covering the vents. Dealing with a creepy-crawly inside your helmet while negotiating the bustling streets of a foreign country is not desirable. I also recommend that you invest in a helmet hat to protect your face and eyes from the sun.
Speaking of eye protection, sunglasses not only offer protection from the sun, but also from air-borne dust and insects. I always take a spare pair with me, and advise that you do the same. Most helmet straps do a good job of holding sunglasses onto your face. However, if you are worried about them falling off while cycling, buy or make straps for them. A couple of elastic bands looped together works quite nicely.
Having covered heads, shoulders and knees, let’s move on to toes. Most of you do not intend to turn your cycling adventure into a professional cycling career, so rethink the need to purchase cleated cycling shoes. The bikes we use also don’t have cleated pedals. If you do choose to use cleated shoes (or you have them already), pack your pedals and our bike mechanic will happily swap them over for you. With all that motion, there’s bound to be some friction, so make sure you pack plenty of socks! And don’t forget some thongs or sandals to let your feet air out after a long day pumping the peddles.
Southeast Asia is as unpredictable as it is alluring. Always carry a waterproof jacket and trousers, as well some layers to change into if and when the rains come. You can keep these items safe and dry in the support vehicle. The only thing I recommend that you carry with you while cycling is a small backpack rehydration system. This allows you to drink (via a hose and mouthpiece) while keeping both hands safely on the handlebars. Ingeniously, the packs also have a small pocket for lip balm, sunscreen and snacks. Camelpack is the brand everyone knows, and they’re great, but you can find cheaper alternatives at most adventures stores.
Finally, it is imperative that you go to a trusted cycling store, where the staff themselves are keen cyclists. They will have the knowledge and know-how to properly prepare you for the adventure ahead. Who knows, they may have even cycled in similar conditions.
Visit the Inspired Adventures Calendar to find a cycle!
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