On the shore !

We just arrived safely in Costa Rica, after 18 days really intense on the sea. We are very very happy to have accomplished this challenge 🙂

Just landed in Playa del Cocos

Pending a more complete telling of this adventure in a future article, we share with you the text of our captain, Robert, about the most difficult part of this navigation: the Papagayo!

“We planned our passage to Costa Rica using the papagayos which were predicted to be in the 20 to 25 knot range from the NE which would yield a close reach through Nicaragua following the shore then a broad reach to Punta Santa Elena in Costa Rica. In the afternoon of the second day the winds began but dead on the nose so we tacked out using the working jib on the club foot and main which gave us 25 degrees into the wind but resuming our heading we began to miss Punta Elana slightly. During the night the main had be dropped as the papa’s kicked in. During the morning the next day a wave broke on the deck blasting the working jib tearing the clew track right off the club. Resetting the working jib on the jib track we lost almost 10 degrees of heading missing Punta Elena by a lot sending us out to sea. Two days earlier we were told of a couple who got caught by the papas and were blasted out 300 miles. The wind continued to build to 30 knot range and we were still beating into the wind and intense waves losing more and more degrees off the mark. Around mid morning I took the helm for the next 8 hours scraping every fraction of a degree to gain back our losses tracking every maunucia in the jib telltales running engine to prevent losses when the jib luffed. It was a suffer fest of blasting water in your face as the waves built higher but then a new texture appeared on the water off in the distance as it hit 40 knots of horizontal mist flattening the wind waves. The boat surged in the waves and real gains in degrees began to accumulate and we hit the mark but the screeching wind blew out the bearings in the wind generator and compressed the main mast step from the pressure which has to be repaired. It pushed the for deck down more than an inch cracking beams with all the shroud and stays hanging limp. The young French couple crewing were real champs taking every watch with grit but did remind me as we lay at anchor inside Punta Elena bay that I did warn them that there was the possibility of serious shit and there sure was. They have a good story to tell!”

Aquatic life, jungle and colors of Mexico

From the Sea of Cortes to the Caribbean, including cenotes and lagunas, the aquatic world takes a good part in this twelveth episode video Cycloclock, filmed in no less than 7 States of Mexico!

You will also discover poetic scenes of cyclicing life, colorful streets of colonial cities and the jungle where many mythical Maya’s temples and animal/vegetal wonders are hosted. Open largely your eyes and ears!

A small history of our cycles’ choices

After 6,500 km on wheels, on 2 continents, it is high time to tell you about the genesis of the choice of our bicycles!

To go on a bicycle trip for 1 year, we had to think precisely about our mount, the one that would accompany us under the sun, in the wind (🎶), the rain, from the seaside to the desert, without ever getting used to it. false good, we hoped.
The choice was long and complex for our brains.
Disc brakes, v-brake, hydraulic or not, which development, which handlebars, which saddle and which size? So many questions that we asked ourselves as a lot of travelers before their first trip.

Comment s’équiper ou se réequiper, et avec quoi ?

After going around all the bicycle travel forums 20 times, carrying out a spreadsheet of the characteristics, prices and advantages / disadvantages of each brand and brainstorming with our cycling friends, Cléa chose a Genesis, having no touring bike and Sylvain has opted for an adaptation of his Specialized Sirus being barely 2 years old and some 1000km in the wheels.
The modification of the Sirus consists of:

  • Un changement de la jante arrière en 36 rayons pour plus de solidité vu le poids des sacoches (arrière uniquement)
  • Un remplacement de la cassette (11-32 8 vitesses pour 11-36 10 vitesses ) pour un meilleur développement ce qui implique un changement de chaine et du dérailleur.
  • Pour finir nous avons ajouté deux pneus schwalbe tout neufs.
    Le porte bagage et le guidon papillon avaient déjà été ajoutés pour les précédent itinéraires en France.

For more details, here are the exact characteristics of the bikes below :

Cléa’s choice

Genesis – Tour de fer 20
Taille M
Année 2018
Freins : Disques – Promax rendear
Dérailleurs : Shimano deore
Plateaux : 44 – 32 – 24T
Cassette : 11 – 34T
Jantes : Sunrims Rhyno lite
Pneu : Schwalbe mondial 700x35C
Porte bagage avant : tubus
Porte bagage arrière : tubus
Miroir : Cyclestar
Garde boues
Béquille : Ergotec
Selle : selle italia gel flow
Porte téléphone : Décathlon
Dynamo : lampe Lumotec premium – moyeu de roue avant SP dynamo hub PD8

Sylvain’s choice

Specialized – Sirius basic
Taille M
Année 2017
Freins : Vbrake specialized
Dérailleurs : Shimano deore*
Plateaux : 48 – 38 – 28T
Cassette : 11 – 36*
Jantes avant : Specialized
Jantes arrière : Shimano* Pneu : Schwalbe marathon plus*
Porte bagage avant : néant
Porte bagage arrière : Racktime*
Miroir : Lecyclo
Garde boues
Béquille : Lasus*
Selle : Specialized d’origine
Porte téléphone : Décathlon
Dynamo : néant

*Equipments modified from basic Sirius Specialized.

Thanks to Cycle Expert in Lyon for their efficiency in carrying out the modifications and their advice!

And the feedback?

Top/flop Cléa

The bike is very comfortable and enough development to go everywhere.
The dynamo works very well and allows you to feel a little more secure when darkness arrives. Disc brakes (cable) work very well in all weathers and are quite durable

The connection cables can be a little inconvenient when disassembling the bike for transport. Better to avoid manipulations like this.
The stand works correctly but causes, due to the weight, a slight deformation of the stand support on the frame.
The handlebars with horns were comfortable for the first 6 months but a multi-position handlebars could be appreciable after 8 months.
The mudguards are very close to the wheels and rub regularly, especially with mud.
The “Ortlieb” front bags are not fixed at the bottom on the “Tubus” front luggage rack.

Top/flop Sylvain

Strengthening the rear wheel was a good idea given the weight it supports (~ 18kg of luggage + my little buttocks) and the regular potholes!
Ditto for the change of development, it is always more pleasant to wind than to mash even on “benign” ribs 🙂
V-breaks are simple to adjust or change.

Negative points, the v-breaks skates wear out quickly. The dynamo lights would have been appreciable and more effective than the Decat ‘loupiotes. The handlebar bag “Ortlieb” is useful but difficult to organize and its fixing is impossible to adjust according to its weight so it falters. Finally, the very basic mudguards are sometimes more troublesome in transport and noisy (vibrations) than useful!

Freedom

A breath of fresh air is blowing on our California and Baja California bicycle routes for a month. Pieces chosen in this eleventh video episode Cycloclock 🙂

Cycled away

2 weeks after our departure from Tokyo, we are pleased to present the tenth video clip of our bicycle trip 🙂

100% Japanese, these excerpts filmed mainly in Kyoto and in the central mountains of the island of Honshu will give you an overview of the (good) road conditions, the facilities (bike paths of the lakes of Mount Fuji, special edges in tunnels, etc.) and the the fall weather. All colorful and at a good pace!

Passengers in Vietnam

For this ninth video episode, we’ve put together the best of our Vietnamese adventures. From Ninh Binh with friends to Hanoi, via the island of Cat Ba, the roads were hectic but still charming! Not to mention the highlight of the show: the packaging of our cycles before we fly to… Japan 🙂 Let’s go!

Border lines

Borders are an inexhaustible topic of discussion for all long-haul travellers. Before we left and since we were in Southeast Asia, we read and re-read dozens of tips, tricks, warnings about this or that change of country. So here, after more than two months on the bike, in the chronological sense, our humble experience on the subject. Scoop in the key!

Singapore🇸🇬-Malaysia🇱🇷: Easy busy!

  • Place of passage: Johor Bahru
  • Date: June 18, 2019
  • Visa cost: €0
  • Duration: 30 days

The approach route is quite simple, we double dozens of trucks at a standstill and then we put in line with scooters and motorcycles. It rolls at pace to emigration and then all of a sudden everyone accelerates on the huge bridge 2-4 lanes, we do not make the smarts by bike. Malay immigration is quick and simple. A little intimidating as a bike trip but you get away with it.

Malaysia🇱🇷 Thailand🇹🇭: Quiet Emile 🙂

  • Place of passage: Sungai Kolok
  • Date: June 30, 2019
  • Visa cost: €0
  • Duration: 30 days

Despite its reputation, this border was a banality for us. We park the bikes, make the exit of Malaysia in a first building and then the entrance in a second a few meters further. Nothing sorcerer and no incident related to religious tensions or our means of transport.

Thailand🇹🇭-Cambodia🇰🇭: The Wild West

  • Place of passage: Poipet
  • Date: July 26, 2019
  • Visa cost: $30
  • Duration: 30 days
  • To provide: 1 photo

In Poipet, the “trouble” begins. We are asked to pay US$30 to enter Cambodia except that we do not have any, that no bank offers directly back and that we have Bahts to sell. We therefore choose to try the option of paying in Thai currency with the rate of the day: $30 equivalent to 900 THB. But when we arrived at the visa office, the official did not lose sight of it: it was 1
200 THB, no less. We insist on 900 and then wait 1/4 of an hour before the official comes to ask us 100 thB more for his pocket probably … In the end we paid 1000 THB per person while we were asked 1200 when we arrived. It’s always $5 saved but a small victory for corruption.

Cambodia🇰🇭-Laos🇱🇦: The tenacious bakchich

  • Place of passage: Nongnokkhiene
  • Date: 12 August 2019
  • Visa cost: $30
  • Duration: 30 days
  • To provide: 1 photo

At the first counter, which looks serious, we fill out the form and pay $30 official and posted. At the second wicket, two officials announce dagy: “$2 each for stamp”. We categorically refuse, Cléa pretends to call the Embassy and then explains to them with composure that no, we will not pay their bakchich. We wait (no luck for them, it rains and we are in no hurry) and the youngest of the soldiers finally gives in after 15min: visas stamped in pocket, and this time without concession!

Laos🇱🇦-China🇨🇳: Game over

  • Place of application: Ventiane then Luang Prabang
  • Date: 19 and 26 August 2019
  • Visa cost: $30 (from Laos)
  • Duration: 30 days
  • To provide: scanned passport, current visa scanned, 1 photo, detailed itinerary, hotel reservation, A/R plane tickets, 3 latest bank statements, proof of insurance…

Before we even left, we were not reassured by the Chinese visa… Many friends have been denied their applications in third countries (from Iran for example) for obscure geopolitical reasons.

In Vientiane, we make a first attempt: in the hustle and bustle of the Embassy, the official examines our file and coldly announces “you don’t work in Laos, no visa for China“. We ask him when this measure was “2 months.” Disgruntled (we were not aware of this condition, mentioned on any official website), we leave empty-handed and ask the French embassy who refuses to help us. We are trying to call the Chinese Embassy to find out more: to no avail.

In Luang Prabang, 1 week later, we retry and arrive in front of closed doors and a terse statement: the Consulate is exceptionally closed this Monday, August 26. Having no assurance that it will reopen the next day, and knowing that the application is processed in 3 working days minimum with a local festival interspersed, we finally abandon this project to enter Yunnan in September.

We finally chose to head northeast, to the Houaphan region and then Vietnam. Recently, it is possible to apply for an e-visa for land borders, in this case Na Meo. In 48 hours, we received a positive response! Fingers crossed to make sure everything goes smoothly at the border and we can’t wait to discover this new country with a thousand and one facets by bike!

Laos🇱🇦 Vietnam🇻🇳: J-10!

  • Place of request: Online
  • Date: 09 September 2019
  • Visa cost: $25 (e-visa)
  • Duration: 30 days
  • To provide: scanned passport, 1 photo scanned

Resources

Eating time (but without plastics)

During the trip, we balance between cooking by our own means and small roadside restaurants.

On a daily basis

In general: tea, oatmeal (or biscuit if you can’t find it) and bananas for breakfasts. Sylvain loves these little red fruit-scented milk bricks to go with it all. Lunch and dinner in local “boui boui” are cheaper than shopping in supermarkets. Almost everything is cooked there the same day and sometimes directly in front of our eyes. Furthermore, we discover flavors and tolerances that we didn’t know each other.

Taro doughnut after a local soup

We sometimes trust “guides” or websites (like TripAdvisor), with some nice finds!

Spring rolls in Siem Reap in a restaurant supporting local projects

Another solution is to use our gas stove. Not easy for preparing dishes with local ingredients (and not having the utensils for), we find ourselves buying ingredients known in Europe, which is more expensive, not local and has a bad carbon impact. We therefore reserve these meals for exceptional situations and mainly for pasta dishes. On the other hand, we find local vegetables at the markets, because in small towns and villages they are unaccustomed to selling vegetables and fruit outside the production season. It’s pretty convenient and it avoids having to hang around the market with our seasonal fruit and vegetable calendar 😉

Market vegetables

The third solution is the on-the-go meal in the market. The problem of meals in night markets and floating markets is plastic. Everything is pre-packaged and then over-packaged (plastic bags), often individually. It is difficult to make the seller understand that you do not want to be served in disposable packaging. Their reflexes are very fast, more than ours at first.
So we get into the habit of watching every move to avoid ending up with a useless plastic bag.

Dried fish and packaged spices, Vientiane market

Zero waste solutions

Buy bulk, bring our containers (in plastic for a bicycle weight issue).
But in the markets, few stalls still sell in bulk. And there are almost no bulk stores except in the shopping malls of the capitals crossed, which does not allow us to make regular “refills” but just a one-time purchase of a reasonable weight.

Drinks issue

We no longer buy plastic bottles and fill our bottles at the water fountains available in some guesthouses or at the tap after passing through our filter pump. It’s tedious (2 minutes per bottle) but it seems to us the best alternative, much better even than hygienic solutions like Micropur. We stop from time to time to drink an iced tea served in a large plastic glass of course….

Iced green tea, ready for a bike ride!

So I insist that we take care of them in order to reuse them almost infinitely. My glass has already crossed two countries and we have acquired bamboo straws!

However, even when we drink iced tea in a real restaurant, we are sometimes served in plastic glasses again.
Never let your guard down!!

Plastic Lobby 1 – Cycloclock 0

Hard to convince

I defend my point of view on the drastic reduction of our plastic consumption with maximum reuse of containers or utensils collected inadvertently. It is important to clearly separate your needs and desires throughout the trip to determine what margin of error we are willing to accept in our waste production.
My arguments sometimes seem futile because plastic packaging is embedded in the daily lives of the inhabitants looking for everything practical, ready, all consumable. But I think it’s important to be vigilant about our consumption of plastic, cans and glass bottles and pay attention to our wastes. In particular, we try not to throw anythinh in the garbage cans of isolated areas, but in more crowded areas where the garbage will be picked up by trucks and transported, we hope, to a collection centre or even sorting.

Wall painting promoting waste collection in Vientiane