6 graphs to represent our cycle in 2016

Back in February we took the decision that a bike computer would be a useful addition to our set up as we were having a hard time guessing how fast we were going and thus how long it would take to get somewhere. At one point we were pacing ourselves with passing mopeds and asking the drivers what speed they were going. The computer would also allow us to record our distances covered, average speeds etc and Annie took a very diligent record of that.

Here are some of the, we think, interesting results:

(Since we only got the bike computer in February Vietnam and half of Cambodia, about 4 weeks and 1000km, are missing)

 

 

Distance statistics v2 - distances - jpeg

First up is our an overall chart showing the distance we cycled every day for the entire year. It varies a lot, but the average is just below 65km. We got our top day in the flat deserts of Turkmenistan when we needed to get across the country in 5 days.

Northern Iran and Armenia were pretty mountainous and we were not in a particular hurry during that leg of the trip so we were taking our time there. The spread of days is interesting and the biggest factor it shows up the terrain and road surface quality of the countries.

 

 

Distance statistics v2- ride time - jpeg

Next is the actual time we spent in the saddle each day. This came out surprisingly low, but we had quite a few short days and also we tend to stop and look around a lot…I think other cyclists, particularly solo cyclists, will spend longer in the saddle. But we tend to stop regularly. Lunch can also drag on a bit, sitting in our comfy chairs drinking tea and staring at the ants processing our crumbs.

Towards the end of our trip we had time to kill in Armenia and Turkey so that shows up here.

What I did think was that it is unsustainable to do 5hr + days for more than 3/4 days without one of us running our of steam and needing a long break. It is a lot of energy to burn up and a lot of food and sleep is needed to keep sustaining that level of effort for a longer period. I am sure it is possible, but we were also out to enjoy the scenery! By the end of the trip we used time on the bike to measure the ‘toughness’ of a day.

 

 

Distance statistics v2 - AvgSpd - jpeg

Everyone always asks how fast we go. Well here is our answer: 16km/hr.

We can tip along at 22/23km/hr on the flat and that is what the tandem is made to do – a slight downhill or flat with a tail wind and we can really get the momentum going. However going up hills at 4km/hr is not unheard of.

The other question we get asked it whether it is easier or harder on the tandem. We don’t know for sure since we haven’t done anything similar on two bikes, but we suspect the tandem is easier.

Top speed of the trip was 69km/hr. Vrooom!

 

 

Distance statistics v2- distcovered - jpeg

Above is a graph of the distance covered in each country.

The information speaks for itself and is really a factor of how long we spent in each place and how long we could get on our visas. A rule of thumb often used is that to cycle tour 1000km will take approximately one month and that is pretty much true for us. We can do more for example in China we just couldn’t get enough of it and we covered 2600km in two months, but in Iran we spent a lot of time looking at stuff and meeting people so we did just 800km in a month.

 

 

Distance statistics v2- days cycled - jpeg

The days cycled in each country – this speaks for itself. The only country where we cycled every day on our visa was our mad dash across Turkmenistan. We planned our trip to cycle 4 out of 7 days each week and that roughly worked out to be what we did.

 

 

Distance statistics v2 - ride time by country - jpeg

Lastly the ride time in each country. Our wheels saw a lot of China, Kyrgystan and Tajikistan and that was where the big mountains, big scenery and remote cultures were – no coincidence there! We realised early on we loved climbing big mountains and now that is what we go looking for on the map. Roll on the Alps!

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Visas

Please note that this information was posted in 2016.

The only planning in terms of route we have done before setting off is to look into the visa and border situation for these countries:

Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey

We obtained visas for all these countries. 

Yes! That’s right, me a British citizen cycling got a visa for Iran!! If you want more info on this please read this here and then leave a comment and your email and we’ll contact you.  

It’s a good idea to ensure that you have at least 6 months validity on your passport when applying for all visas.

Take a stack of passport photos with you for your visa applications and always keep your departure forms safe. Women need some passport photos with their head (no hair showing) covered for Iran.

If you are quitting your job before leaving its also a really good idea to steal some company headed paper (preferably stamped at the bottom if your company has  an official stamp). Visa applications may need proof of employment so having some company paper to print onto is a good idea. 

If you’re not taking a laptop we would advise mocking up some simple documents such as a basic letter and cv formats which you can edit easily. 

Flying into Vietnam

Visa required before travel.

On 22 June 2015, the Embassy received the formal notification that the Government of Viet Nam decided to exempt visa for British, German, French, Spanish and Italian citizens travelling to Viet Nam (for all purposes) for a period of up to 15 days, and on the basis of meeting all conditions prescribed by Vietnamese laws.

Applying for a loose leaf visa which doesn’t require sending your passports in is possible.

Length of Visa: 30-90 days, single and multi-entry both possible

Extension Possible: 30 days or 90 days depending on the type of visa

Vietnam to Cambodia

Suggested Route Based on Macmillan Cycle Tour

Visa on arrival at border. No prior registration required. Payment must be made in USD (we paid $35). e-visa also possible: www.evisa.gov.kh / help@mfaic.gov.kh

Length of Visa: 30 days

Extension Possible: 30 days extra

Bavet, Kaam Samnor and Phnom Den crossings are open to foreign travellers and issue Cambodian visas.

The other border crossings at Trapeang Phlong, Prek Chak, O Yadaw and Trapeang Srer are reported to be open to foreign travellers and in some cases issue Cambodian visas.

We have also read about a $25 departure tax from Cambodia…

Cambodia to Thailand

You would think that Thailand would be the simplest visa situation but the rules regarding border crossings and visa exemptions make it more complicated for cycle tourers and we have the added complications of needing a multi-entry visa for Thailand.

Thai Tourist Visa Exemption

Passport holders from 41 countries and 1 special administrative region – Hong Kong SAR – are not required to obtain a visa when entering Thailand for tourism purposes and will be permitted to stay in Thailand for a period not exceeding 30 days on each visit.

If such foreigners enter Thailand at immigration checkpoints which border neighbouring countries (overland crossing), they will be allowed to stay for 15 days each time.

Since 20 December 2013, Nationals of (G7) the following countries who enter via a land crossing or enter via an airport will be entitled to a 30 day visa exemption, UK, U.S.A, Canada, Italy, Germany, Japan, France.

Foreigners who enter Thailand under the Tourist Visa Exemption category and would like to leave and re-enter may only stay for a cumulative duration which does not exceed 90 days and is within a 6-month period from the date of first entry.

Foreigners entering Thailand by any means under the Tourist Visa Exemption category are required at the port of entry to have proof of onward travel (confirmed air, train, bus or boat tickets) to leave Thailand within 30 days of the arrival date (otherwise a tourist visa must be obtained).

If we need to stay longer than 15 days we need to apply and pay for a Tourist Visa for Paddy – we won’t have proof of onward travel either – which probably means applying for a Tourist Visa before we reach the border.

Extension Possible: yes for both types but need to be applied for at the Immigration Bureau located in Bangkok. 

Applying for a Thai Tourist Visa

It is possible to apply for tourist visas for Thailand (circa $40 for a 60 day double-entry) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This takes 3 days.

Siem Reap looks like it is possible via an agent who has connections with the embassy in PP but would require us to send our passports to PP. Might be safer to do it when cycling through PP.

  • Single entry tourist visa will be valid for 3 months (you must enter Thailand within the validity of visa from the date of issue)
  • Double/triple entry will be valid for 6 months (you must enter Thailand on your final visit before expiry date)

Thailand to Myanmar

Arriving and departing across land is definitely possible.
When travelling over land to Myanmar, you must always obtain your visa beforehand; it is not currently possible to get Myanmar visas at the border and e-visas are not valid for border crossings.

Bangkok visa address:

132, Sathorn Nua Road, BANGKOK 10500

(662) 234-4698, 233-7250, 234-0320,  637-9406

Nearest Train Station – Surasak

  • The Visa Section is now open for applications only from 9:00 AM to 12:00 Noon.
  • Afternoons 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM are only for pickup.
  • Bring your passport, a photocopy of your passport, 2 passport photos and an address of where you will be staying in Myanmar.

Apparently 4 official crossings are now open:

Screen shot 2015-08-20 at 13.00.01

Myanmar to China

Blog on getting to china on bicycles.

Reply on forum re Chinese Visa

Our experience of applying for a Chinese visa in Bangkok.

Our experience of crossing the border between Myanmar and China (Muse) – check out the comments from other cyclists at the bottom too.

Will require bank statement and other proof documents. You apply in in Bangkok via the Embassy and the Bank of China. Takes at least 4 days. Need proof of $100 for each day of your visa.

Central Asia (check out Carvanistan forum pages for latest info)

Kyrgyzstan – free 60 day visa on arrival! 

Tajikistan including GBAO permit – one day $55 in Bishkek – easy!

Uzbekistan – see our blog here re applying in Bishkek 

Turkmenistansee our blog here re applying in Bishkek and experience with the e-code.

Fully Loaded

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Packing light and buying the right gear for the particular conditions we will be facing has been an important and really exciting part of our planning. We have spent MANY hours researching and buying our gear and we’ve enjoyed doing this together.

It seems not all cycle tourers invest in brand new, lightweight gear. In their blogs, many claim to have invested in a good set of panniers and not much else. You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money but packing light has been important and a huge advantage for us.

Deciding to travel by tandem means you are seriously limited for space especially if you decide that taking a trailer isn’t for you. We are really excited at the prospect of getting rid of all our possessions for a year but I’m sure there would be many ultra-light tourers who would look at our list and scoff! I guess it’s about finding what’s right for you. For example, having a good tent set up and being comfortable while camping is important to us. Some may say our travel Helinox chairs were a ridiculous luxury but we know that we will value relaxing in them after a long day of pedalling (read our review here).

We have planned our trip over a series of months and we couldn’t have done it without the range of blogs, reviews and online articles that have already been written by other cycle tourers online. The list below is another small contribution to this ever growing online resource – we hope it’s helpful to future tourers. We have also tried to talk in person to other cyclists who have done similar trips already – being members of warmshowers.org has been a great way to do this!

You might also want to check out: Travelling Two, Adventures by Tandem,  The Touring Tandem, Tandem Revolutions, Crazy Guy on a Bike, Family on Bikes, Pedalling About, Bicycle Touring Facebook

Front Left Pannier  (Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic 40L)

Annie’s Clothes:

Annie’s Toiletries: moisturiser, tweezers, razor, mascara, toothbrush, mooncup, nail file, monthly contact lenses and bottle of solution, 2 weeks of daily lenses, glasses, earrings

1 x quick dry towel, 1 x money pouch, 1 x roll up backpack (Quechua)

2 x cycle shorts (b-twin), 1 x padded underwear (VeloVixen) – don’t buy these!, shoe covers (Shimano), 2 x cycling gloves (long and fingerless), snood, warm hat, 1 x waterproof jacket (worth investing in a proper Gortex one), 1 x waterproof trousers

1 x leather sandals, 1 x North Face Goretex walking trainers, 1 x belt, 1 x down jacket (Quechua)

1 x convertible trousers (Craghopper Nosilife Stretch), 1 x shorts (Howies), 1 x cotton knee-length dress (Sea Salt), 1 x yellow cycle jersey (I threw this out early on), 3 vest tops (Howies),  1 x cotton shirt, 1 x long sleeve cotton top (Joules), 1 x merino leggings, 1 x merino long sleeve top (Howies), 1 x bra, 2 x mesh sports bra (Patagonia), 1 x bikini (threw after Thailand), 4 x underwear, 4 x merino socks

Would have made a 100% cotton Longhy to use as a towel instead which also would have doubled up as a long skirt for visiting temples. I need more warm base layers for China and the stans – Helly Hanson is the best.


Front Right Pannier (Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic 40L)

Paddy’s Clothes:

Paddy’s Toiletries: shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, nail clippers, wet wipes, ear plugs

1 x quick dry towel, 1 x money pouch, 1 x roll up backpack

1 x warm hat, 1 x snoodshoe covers, 2 x cycling gloves, 2 x cycling padded short inserts, 1 x Gortex jacket

1 x sandals, 1 x cycling shoes, 1 x down jacket (Quechua)

1 x cycle jersey, 1 x merino t-shirt (Alpkit), 1 x long sleeve merino top (Alpkit), 1 x cotton shirt, 1 cotton t-shirt, 1 x shorts, 1 x convertible trousers (Craghopper Nosilife), long johns and matching top (Helly Hanson), swimming trunks, 3 x pair of socks, 3 x boxers


Handlebar bag (Arkel: Large)

A great bag (solid, completely waterproof) and would recommend over ortlieb especially if you are on a tandem – we got the biggest size and hold a lot of stuff in it. What’s very useful is it has zips instead of clips which means you can padlock any unneeded valuables (e.g kindles) while you go off without the bike to do a two day hike etc.

1 x Canon 650D DSLR Camera + 3 batteries and 2 lenses

1 x ipad in waterproof case (armour-x)

1 x iphone in waterproof case (armour-x) – – normally mounted to handlebar while riding

1 x Samson Galaxy phone – normally mounted to handlebar while riding

2 x wallet, passports, notepad

2 X sunglasses

2 x kindles, 1 x ipod

Front pocket: snacks, pen, bike keys, small padlock (useful for locking bag when handed into ‘left luggage’ at a hotel/hostel.


Back Left Pannier (Altura Orkney 56L)

1 x large mosquito net (never used as our tent was the best net)

1 x rechargeable LED tent/camp light – also charges your phone (great buy!) – (Lampray from Alpkit)

Gravity water purifier (LifeStraw) and UV SteriPEN ultra –read our gear review here

Dice/cards/embroidery, sowing kit, clothes line and 9 pegs

1 x toilet roll and baby wipes in dry bag

2 x emergency dry meals (Expedition Foods 800cal)

Cooking Gear

1 x multi-fuel stove and wind shield (Optimus)

1 scrubber/scraper, 1 lighter, 1 matches, 1 tea towel, 1 pen knife, 1 kettle, 1 pots, 1 frying pan, 2 plates, 2 x cups (Summit), chopping boa, serrated knife, peeler, grater, scissors, tin opener, wooden spoon, spatula, knives, forks and spoons. Salt and pepper, spices, hand sanitizer, washing up liquid, plastic bags, tuppawear box, elastic bands, bag clips.


Back Right Pannier (Altura Orkney 56L)

Box of bike tools

Spare bike parts: spare tyre, spare spokes, chain link, spare brake pads etc

Two man lightweight tent and footprint (MSR NX Hubba Hubba)

Gaffa tape (lots)

Medical Kit in dry bag:

3 x needles and syringes, antibiotics, diazepan, Naproxen pain killers, malaria tablets, thrush tablet, dressings, bandages, burn treatment, antibac wipes, cling film roll, ear plugs, plastic gloves, paracetamol and ibuprofen, rennies, constipation tablets, thermometer, cystitis sachets, dyorolite, eye wash and ointment, e45, savlon, barocca, caneston cream, allergy tablets, bite cream, plasters, cyprofloxin antibiotics

Electronics in dry bag:

camera charge cable, ipod/ipad/iphone charge cable, kindle charge cable, 2 x universal adapter, battery pack (A5 Zendure), SD card reader and SD cards, headphone splitter, sat phone

Papers etc:

Many passport photos (including head covered ones for Annie’s visas in Iran and Central Asia) papers, note book, pens, injection books, maps, insurance, passport copies, visa copies, spare bike/padlock keys


Back Rack Bag (Ortlieb 31L)

2 x bungey cords

3 X carrabena clips

1 x down double sleeping bag (Big Agnus: King Solomon)

2 x single air mattress (Quechua) (slip into Big Agnus sleeping bag to create bed)

1 x double duvet cover

2 x inflatable pillows (Quechua)

tent poles and pegs


Small Frame Bag  (Alpkit)

2 x head torches (Petzel elight)

1x leather man/Swiss army knife, Biker’s Balm – For All Your Moving Parts, Vaseline, Whistle, Pencil, elastic bands, emergency pain killers, rennies


Medium Frame Bag (Alpkit)

Insect repellent and bands, head phones, tissues, Compass, hand sanitiser


Saddle Bag

Sun screen, 1 x Spare inner tube, puncture repair kit, set of Allen keys, bike lights, Annie’s gloves


Bike Frame

2 x foldable lightweight chairs (Helinox)

3 x water cages

0.6L Optimus Fuel Bottle

1 x fog horn

1 x tablet bike mount (Multifunction Armour X mount)

Bike pump 

Mirror

Cable ties

Bike lock

Spare Spokes