Tempted to sign up to a cycle adventure but have a few reservations and concerns about the cycling component?
You’re not alone.
These are some of the most common questions we get that will hopefully appease that niggle of doubt. If there’s something on your mind that we haven’t covered here, feel free to get in touch with me at email@example.com
What if I’m too slow and hold the group back?
This is by far and away the most common question, and that fact alone, might bring you some comfort. Almost everybody that have been on our adventures have been nervous about the cycling component prior to the first cycle day, and people rarely find the time to ‘train’ for it. It’s not a problem due to our style and pace of cycling.
We have a very relaxed attitude to the cycling experience. There’s plenty of tours out there for ‘cyclists’ who want to re-enact the Tour de France. I can assure you that we are NOT one of them. For me, it’s all about the experience. We use the bike as a means of travel. To get off the beaten track. That’s where you’ll get the best photos, eat the most amazing food and meet true local people.
What if I’m too fast and the group is holding me back?
This has actually never happened. We usually stay together, especially on the flats in Cambodia and Vietnam as the route is through a maze of single tracks and small back roads. The terrain itself will stop you from going too fast, not to mention the spectacular beauty and photo opportunities.
Saying that, there are times where we tackle a few hills (Laos, Iran, Bokor in Cambodia). On these occasions, all riders set their own pace and we drift apart, regrouping at set stages during the day. This gives stronger riders are chance to push themselves and gives space to the less confident riders.
What if I can’t cycle the whole way?
Not to fear! We have a support van on all tours that will not only carry your bags, but you as well should you want to take a rest for a while. Sometimes the van will follow right behind us, other times it will meet us at certain points up ahead. These meeting points are usually no more than 20-25km ahead. You can ask your tour leader about the type of terrain and time it will take for that particular leg. The leader will be able to advise you if he or she thinks it might be a challenge for you.
What should I wear? Does everybody wear lycra on these things?
You only need to consider two things for this question… 1) what do I feel comfortable in and 2) what is culturally appropriate.
For South East Asia and Samoa, casual clothes will suffice (think shorts and a t-shirt). From a cultural perspective, these countries can be a little conservative, so your shorts should go to your knees and your t-shirt should have the shoulders covered. I’d also recommend cycling gloves. Closed toe shoes are compulsory for our adventures.
For Iran, it’s a bit of a different story. Traditionally an Islamic nation, Iran has a fairly strict dress code. Women must wear a scarf (hijab) while in public (including when you cycle) throughout the country. In somewhere like Shiraz there are plenty of fashionable students pushing the limits of hijab. A typical outfit for stylish Iranian women would be something called a ‘manteau’ that looks a bit like a dress over a pair of jeans/pants and closed shoes. At holy sites female travellers will be given a thin full length abayah (head to toe covering) to use while visiting the mosques.
Men should wear long trousers at all times (including cycling)
but can wear short sleeved shirts in less strict destinations.
How fit do I need to be? I don’t want to be embarrassed.
You need to be healthy, more than fit. And obviously you need to be able to ride a bike. That’s about the only requirement we have.
Samoa, Cambodia and Vietnam are all reasonably achievable to the everyday person, although not without some challenges. Iran and Laos have a few hills in them. It’s fair to say, a little bit more fitness goes a long way in these countries, but if you have no qualms about getting in the van, then it’s not a problem. If you like, we can drive you up the hills and you can cycle down them!
What is the average distance in a day?
Distances between days (and countries) vary immensely, from as low as 20km and up to 135km. But don’t get hung up on distance, as it’s not the only variable in determining how hard/challenging/rewarding your day is going to be. It’s more to do with terrain and if it’s on a hill. The 20km day is in Iran, but it’s all uphill and takes most of the day (usually because we go through some villages and inevitably get invited into some locals home for tea and fruit and then find it hard to leave).
Each ride is designed to take most of the day, regardless of the distance, finishing up about 3pm or 4pm. In that there is time for breaks, photos, coffee stops, a little lie in a hammock, having tea & dates with a local, lunch etc.
Can I bring my own pedals and saddle? Do I need clip in shoes?
All of our bikes have ‘uni-sex’ saddles. You’re more than welcome to bring your own saddle and we’ll fit it on the bike for you. Some people like to bring ‘gel seats’ (a cushion cover for the saddle) for extra comfort. It’s all about personal preference.
Our pedals are flat mountain bike pedals. If you like, you can bring your own pedals for clip in shoes, although I’d recommend against it in Cambodia and Vietnam due to the terrain. You can bring your own pedals if you really want and we’ll fir them for you, but please ensure they are designed for mountain bikes. There can be some walking the bikes when we get off the beaten track, and road shoes just won’t cut it.
How old is too old to join?
Great question. I never want to tell somebody that they are too old to do one of our adventures. If you believe you can, then you are welcome to join us. However, if I don’t feel somebody is capable of a particular challenge, then I will insist they take the van (or safest option) on the day. As a result, we take each rider on a case by case basis. The oldest person to ride our adventures is Alan. He was 75 when he cycled both Cambodia and Vietnam tours. Then, when he turned 76, he came back and cycled Laos. The hardest and most challenging tour.
Alan is the reason we have no upper age limit. His zest for life and passion for adventure continues to inspire me. And I would never want to stop that.
I don’t want to cycle, but my partner does. Can I still join the tour?
In theory, yes. This can be done. Although it hasn’t been done before. Sometimes people have booked the tour with this intention (or to take the van most days), but when you’re there, and see how easy and fun the cycling is, then they always get on a bike for a while and never look back. Get in touch, as different tours would have different experiences for this, some better than others and I’d like to be able to set your expectations accurately.
Can I bring my children?
When I was in Laos last, our van supported group came across a family cycling around South East Asia for three months. There was mum, dad and two 10 year old sons. Everybody had their own bikes and were carrying their own panniers. We were in the middle of nowhere and high up in the mountains. It was a tough ride, and we had a support van carrying our bags. These kids were carrying their own stuff. I was so impressed!
If you want to bring your children, it can be done, but again, get in touch with me directly so I can set your expectations in regards to some areas of cycling and experiences.
What sort of bikes do we use? Can I bring my own?
We use 24 speed mountain bikes on all of our tours. You’re welcome to bring your own bike if you really want to, but just be aware that we only have equipment and spare parts for the bikes that we have, therefore, you’ll also need to bring spare parts and any specialist tools for your bike. Road bikes are not suitable for any tours. You might get away with a CX bike in Iran, Samoa and Laos, but not Cambodia and Vietnam. I have both a CX and MTB and I’d definitely prefer a mountain bike in Samoa, Laos and Iran.
Social Cycles Tours that may suit you…
The group size of these tours is never more than ten riders. We get a variety of ages, from as young as 24 to as old as 75. The average age is probably about 45-55. The pace is slow and relaxed and fitness requirements vary between tours (Samoa is easiest, Iran/Laos are more difficult). All tours are supported with a van so cycling distances each day are always optional. Average distance is 60-70km. We try and take a day off the bike after two days on it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.