Seven years of cycling

Seven years ago and with our sixties approaching at frightening speed, we decided to get back onto bicycles having not ridden them since our childhood.

The initial concept was a bit ‘hair-brained’. We purchased fold-up bikes that we could theoretically carry around on Agnes (our launch). That never happened but we did ride them and the joy of getting along at a slightly faster pace than we walk was something that resonated with us.

In the last seven years bicycles have taken us from the Otago Rail Trail to Angkor Wat and quite a few places in between. We were recently asked what the best and worst experiences were and what we had planned for the future. When we reviewed the rides we came to the conclusion that in there own way they were all great rides and there probably wasn’t one that we would never do again. For the record here are our Detours Cycling Awards.

Best Day Ride: The top five have been:

Thu Bon Bike Ride
Thu Bon Delta ( Vietnam) 2015: We used multiple forms of transport to cross to the many islands in the delta. We cycled across bamboo bridges, through rice paddies and small villages. A great ride – We decided that this was probably the best one day ride – around 45 hot kilometres
Cycling Angkor Wat
A ride around Angkor Wat (Cambodia) 2015– A great way to get some perspective on this huge and amazing place – an early start for this ride (5:45am) – it is hot – around 35km.
Queenstown Trail - Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley
Arrowtown to Gibbston 2017 – Great scenery with a great spot to have lunch and a wine during  ride. Distance depends on your destination – my ride was around 41km. The Queenstown trails are ideal for day rides as you can mix up your outbound and return journeys.
San Francisco to Tiburon 2015 – We had to ride the bridge. It’s not everyday you can do something like that – 35 chilly km (it was in June). We caught a boat back across the harbour from Tiburon.
Rarotonga ride
Around Rarotonga 2016: A ride around a tropical island on a couple of interesting bikes (beach cruisers ). While it was all on the flat, the bikes were not the easiest things to push along for the 32km journey. This ride won the Novelty Ride award.

Best Multi Day Rides

A great way to see a country. We cannot recommend this mode of transport highly enough although Ruth’s endorsement comes with a caveat – “as long as there are no hills”.

We budget on traveling at an average speed of 10km an hour which sounds rather pedestrian but this includes multiple stops. The aim of the riding is not to get from start to finish is the shortest possible time. You are passing through new and interesting environments and part of the adventure is taking the time to stop and enjoy.

We usually rent bikes in most of the destinations (unless we are hauling our bikes around NZ). Cycling is not the sole focus of our travels and hauling our own bikes on and off transport connections would very quickly negate any advantages there may be for taking your own.  We have found the rentals to be adequate with the best rentals being in New Zealand (Trail Journeys) and the worst in Burgundy in France where both of our bikes were soon found to be pretty dodgy. We did have rentals in the Mekong Delta that we also very dodgy. Cliff’s had only a hint of any brake pads which resulted in some interesting methods for stopping in a hurry.

We learnt early in our biking to carry a first aid kit with us and it has usually had some use, especially on the multi-day rides.

The things that I don’t like. Turn by turn instructions. Take your smartphone with an offline map app – when the instructions drive you crazy, or, as is often the case with us, you get lost, you can find your own way using the App Map and GPS.

The Otago Rail Trail  2011: always remains a favourite – it was our first multi-day ride and the ride that convinced us that we should do more. Cliff has subsequently ridden one of the sections again in 2017. Three days and around 180km.
Cycling the Moselle
Saarbrucken to Koblenz (Germany) 2013: A cycle through beautiful villages along dedicated cycle paths – Our best multi-day ride – around 300km in length – 7 days.
Cycling Amsterdam to Bruge
Amsterdam to Bruges 2015: This was one of our few rides with a group of other people. Our accommodation was a barge. Ruth loved it, it was flat and easy cycling. 300km of riding over 7 days.

The toughest

Code for – the riding that was not Ruth-friendly

Cycle around Cornwall 2015: Too many hills for Ruth but she did enjoy the stops such as here in Mevagissey. Cliff decided to throw himself off the bike in Truro with pretty poor results. However, best thing to do when thrown from your mount is to get back on and ride (so they say). Around 270km riding.
Provence 2013: Some big hills, strong winds, high temperatures, a puncture and a tumble over the handlebars . Ruth vowed that she would never cycle again after this ride – Cliff was the one with the puncture, missing skin and dented pride.  We agreed that this was the toughest. Around 300km of riding over 7 days. Would we do it again mmm Cliff probably would give it a go, maybe.

The future? Who knows, we tend to take it year by year. We have a number of day rides planned for Melbourne, Chaing Mai, Laos and Cambodia in early 2018 and have been exploring the possibility of a Nairobi to Dar es Salaam in mid 2019.  In the interim, there are still some paths waiting to be explored here in NZ. Stay tuned.


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