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with Jo-fietser

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Cycling the east coast of Taiwan and Taroko National Park

These are just a few impressions of cycling up the east coast of Taiwan. It’s a beautiful coastline with a lot of great places and just a few people.

Especially when you reach Taroko National Park and it’s huge Gorge. It’s stunning!

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I stay fixed – this motorbike doesn’t like me

After six days on the road we did 1.770 km and on four of these days I cycled 530km on my fixed gear.
Now it’s the time to see the differences of #travelfixed and travelling by motorbike.

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Short throwback: After two days on the road and four stops at workshops, we decided to leave my motorbike in Nah Trang to get it repaired. We still had one motorbike and my fixed gear. Riding all the time with 30-35 km/h would be too boring for Luis and we wouldn’t reach Hué in time. Therefore we attached an old tube to his motorbike with which he could pull me to be faster.

This wasn’t just a stupid idea, it turned out to be a great idea. We expected to go with 40-45 km/h, but after a short time we tried to get faster and cruised with 55-60 km/h over the vietnamese freeway. Of course on a fixed gear you can’t just relax. I always pedaled and used this as a great cadence training. After a while you feel a high pressure on your body. Especially the shoulders and arms needed to work a lot to stabilize the bike. But it’s fun to cycle faster than many of the other motorbikes. After 240 km a flat tire of my bike stopped us and I just jumped on the back of Luis’s motorbike to finish the last 160km of the day.

The Vietnamese put everything on their motorbikes. 3-5 people, huge boxes and even baby pigs in a cage. However, when they saw us with backpacks and the fixed gear on a motorbike or me on the fixed gear behind a motorbike, they came next to us and waved their hands. Some of them stayed even a few minutes behind us to take a video. What did they think: „That’s kind of normal for us, but these two freaks from Europe…“

The second day on my bike turned out to be the craziest one on this trip. We did some more km on the motorbike, before I get on my fixed gear in Hoi An. After 30km we passed Da Nang, a very modern a big city with crazy traffic. I really like to race with the scooters and motorbikes, but it’s also mentally demanding. Beeing faster also means that you have to think about what they might do next. Especially in roundabouts it’s a big challenge. Just get in and follow your line. If somebody crosses your line… well, pass him.

After this city, the next challenge started. Climbing a 10km mountain. You might say, ’no problem if you get pulled by a motorbike.‘ Well, of course you are faster, but you also realise that you have to do a lot of the work by yourself. Losing the motorbike in a curve and sprinting uphill with 48:14 is not as funny as it sounds. Also overtaking buses and lorries are an aditional challenge.

However, we made it to the peak. Next challenge. Descending. You might think the fixed gear is the challenge. Of course it’s more demanding, but on that day I didn’t trust two other things. The road and the vietnamese drivers.
The surface of this road is really bad. Lot’s of potholes and bumps. Not the best surface for skidding. But now about vietnamese driving.
Short summary: They don’t give a fuck. Beeing on the wrong side of the road, overtaking although there is traffic in the other direction. It’s normal that the buses and lorries overtake each other. If you’re coming from the uopposite8 direction, you just ride on the last meter on the side of the road. After a while that becomes normal. In our worst situation not just two, but three cars were facing us from the front. Obviously we found enough space to get through.
Thinking about these drivers, made me slow down a bit more on the descending.

Now the last part of this day. We were already close to Hué, when the sun got down. Hopping on the motorbike for the last 30km? No way, that’s gonna be cold. I put some extra light on my bike and then we were on our way. Night rides are fun. Behind a motorbike as well. Of course you have to watch out a bit more, but it’s also fun to pass the other motorbikes. By the look of their faces, they don’t understand how a bicycle can be faster. Especially not at night. However, we arrived safe in Hué, our northest destination of this trip.

After some sightseeing in Hué we get on our bikes again and headed back south. Two days later we arrived again in Nha Trang. The city where I dropped my motorbike. Shortly after we left the next morning with the repaired motorbike, it broke down again. I was so pissed about this situation, that I just booked a nightbus with the motorbike back to Ho Chi Minh City. Luis finished the tour on his motorbike and ended up with more than 2.200km.

This trip was great! Seeing different types of landscape cycling so much and experiencing crazy vietnamesea traffic.

Comparing motorbike and fixed gear for travelling seams a bit unfair, because mine broke down. But actually this shows, why it’s currently nicer to #travelfixed instead of using a normal roadbike. There is not so many things, which can break down. Therefore it’s way easier to maintain the bike and get the spare parts. Yes, without a motorbike I wouldn’t do more than 200km so easily. But the high speed also has it’s disadvantages. After 2-3 days I felt my ankle because of the high cadence I did for hours.

I would just suggest this kind of travelling to people who are really fit and a bit crazy. Otherwise you won’t have fun. A motorbike is definitely a good opportunity to see a lot of this country.

I guess it would be cool to do trip again. Not just the south, but the whole country.

Traffic, terror and bike messangers

Jakarta is officially called the world capital of traffic jam. In my experiences I can say that’s true. It nearly took me two hours to get from airport to town. A distance which could easily be done in 45 min. Therefore I decided to stick to my bike and not to use any other way of transportation.

But also cycling in Jakarta sounds easier than it is. Most of the main roads gor 2-3 or even more lanes and they are full of cars and inbetweeb are thousands of scooters. It’s a challenge to see the gaps, to see each scooter and how the driver reacts. It is similar to Bangkok. Actually it’s worse. Never cycle here without using your head. Beeing 100% awake was really necessary. On my first day I’ve met JeJe a bike messanger of West Bike Messangers. Actually he founded that company with two friends in 2012. Riding with him is fun, but also crazy. He sees each small gap, which he can use to pass cars and scooters. His manovers are so fast, that I had to focus a lot in the beginning. Sometimes I was a bit afraid of loosing him, but after a while I got used to the traffic and enjoyed to jump lanes with JeJe and see who finds the better gaps. Okay, he might have won that game once more than I did 😉
We cycled every day together and I enjoyed the traffic more and more.

One sad thing I also realised in Jakarta is the situation after the terrorism last week.
Short recap: 5 terrorists and 2 civilians died during suicide attacs and gunfire with the police at the … shopping mall.

Although this attack was relatively small, a city and it’s government wake up and get scared. At each corner I saw several policemen. Traffic police stopped and checked random cars. Vehicles which wanted to enter certain ares were double checked. The army and masked policemen with big mashine guns patroled in the city and protected important buildings.

However, people continue with their normal life. Everybody speaks about the attack and people are a bit scared, but they also say life needs to go on.
A friend of mine was working at that certain day in his office on the other side of the road. He heard the explosions, he saw people running amd screaming. He saw how police blocked the roads, braught gunmen in position and how they get the situation under control. For him it’s weird to be back in the office. So close to the place where everything happend. But he also said, he is happy to see that I still decided to travel to Jakarta and no get freightend too much by the attacks.

Therefore I was really pleased to cycle with JeJe and the other guys of West Bike Messangers every day. These rides where basically my way of sightseeing. We stopped at several touristy places to have a look, but what was even more important to me that the guys showed me their favorite places. Every day after work JeJe stops for a coffee at beecy, a bike shop and coffee place. This place is just really cozy and offers high quality coffee.
I think in these few days I gained three kilos. We stopped at so many food places, because the guys wanted to show me everything. Started with Nasi Goreng, tried Bokso, roast beef as a sandwich, slo steamed beef and different really sweet deserts. Everything very delicious, but too much for my weight…
On my last day we spend a few hours in a clothling store called Crooz. Crooz is a label, based in Jakarya, which focusses on skatebaord and leisure wear. We discussed a while how a trousers for commuting should look like and I ended up trying some of their clothes.

All in all Jakarta was a great stop, because I got the opportunity to make new friends to see the city not like a usual tourist, but more like a local.

Bali impressions

Bali is a nice island to spend some time. You can see a so many different temples at each corner.

Or what about some street art in Ubud?

If you want to find a relaxed place, you should visit Balangan. You can surf nice waves at the beach and get a great coffee at a bar called Kafein!

Believe it or not, but Bali is not just about surfing, like some people say. There are also some fixed gear riders, who showed me around. We’ve meet in an area, where no cars allowed on sunday mornings. It’s fun to see so many people running and cycling around.

It was also my first time seeing one of the limited edition cinelli mash frames.

Short but intense time in Singapore

On my first day of this trip I’ve met Nils Laengner from Fixedpott at the airport. The week before he has been in Singapore to cover a story about the organisers of HolyCrit. These guys organised an illegal cycling race and might to go jail for that. You can read his article in the current spoke mag. Nils recommended me to travel to Singapore to meet the guys and to check out the local fixed gear szene. During my journey I’ve also met Chen, a sigaporian cyclist, and Erich, the organiser of HolyCrit. Both invited me to visit Singapore, so I showed up for two and a half days.

In Kuala Lumpur I took the night bus to Singapore. I thought it would arrive early at 4 am, but the bus driver decided to leave all passengers with their luggage at the border. It took us a while to get on another bus and then I arrived on the other side of the city. Chen wanted to pick me up by bike. So this poor guy was waiting for me the whole night until I showed up at 7 in the morning. After sleeping a few hours at my mate’s place we get on our bikes, picked up more cyclists and cruised around Singapore. Due to the many rules and laws, you can compare traffic to Germany. Cars stay on their lanes, they stop at red traffic lights and they think they owe the road. Although Singapore is a really small country, there are many fixed crews. Unfortunately the number of riders has decreased in the last two years. Having just illegal races and seeing organisers in court might be a reason for that. However the guys who ride feel the pure love for cycling!

We stoped at different bike shops to have a chat with the guys. It was pretty cool to meet the guys of cycle project store, because they are a dealer for 8bar bikes. At fixupyourgear we’ve met Erich, one oft he HolyCrit organisers, and went for a ride. Singapore is a very clean and modern city. Huge sky scrapers, bis shopping malls and wide roads are characteristics of Singapore. The guys always ride at night and finisjh anytime in the morning. So the next morning I was again freaking tired, when we started our sightseeing tour.

The guys thought a lot about what to show me and where to go. So we stopped at various places and had some cool views. Here are some impressions.

Although I just had 2,5 days in Singapore, it was a great time. The guys organised everything! Where I could sleep, where to go, what to do… They shared their days with me and gave me a great feeling of beeing part of their group. Thanks for that!!!

It’s now one month

Time is flying! I’m already in Thailand since one month. So many things happend. I’ve met great people. I’ve seen amazing places. And I cycled a lot!

I started my journey in Bangkok to race my first Crit ever in Asia. If you have been in Bangkok, I’m sure you also have been on Khao San Road. Bangkok’s party district. The organisers managed to set up a course in this particular district. On a saturday evening. Sounds crazy? It was crazy! So many people have been at the course to cheer for all the riders. Not just asian riders participated in the race, but also several riders from teams like Fixedpott (GER), Cinelli-Chrome (USA, ITA, MYS) and Polo&Bike (ES) took the chance to race in the middle of this crazy city. Like at other international races, Bangkok Criterium is a night race, which creates a special atmosphere. From the beginning of the race the international riders took the responsible to speed up the race and to hold that level. Just 15 riders managed to finish the race after the italian winner Enrico Biganzoli (IRD Modena). This experience was much more than just a race. It was a big party!

One day later some of the international riders went to Hua Hin, a city at the ocean. Beach time! Time to relax and time to celebrate an awesome crew! Believe me, Alfred Bobé isn’t just a monster on the bike, he also fools around like a teenager. That’s just amazing! Next year you can read a few more details of this week in SpokeMag ;). After two days just a small group of Germans and Derek Holland, a rider from Australia, who also raced in Bangkok, stayed in Hua Hun. This group of 7 went out for a 126km ride to the south of Hua Hin. I guess this was one of the coolest cycling tours ever. We stopped at huge golden temples and saw celebrating monks. Lateron, we included a few kilometer fixedcross on a gravel roads. After cycling through the rain, we had a nice  break on the beach and paced back to Hua Hin like in a team time trial. Rides like this are just amazing an improves the group feeling. After this short time we all become really good friends and I’m sure I’ll ride with this crew again next year.

When all the international riders left Thailand, I moved back to Bangkok, because I wanted to get in contact with some local riders and to cycle in this crazy traffic again. Fortunatelly I’ve met the riders of URBAN HUB already before the Bangkok Criterium. Therefore it was easy to connect and to go out for a few rides. We agreed to cycle on a sunday morning in the brutal sun. Just afterwars I realised, that also these guys suffered in the sun and that they normally ride at night or really early in the morning. After the last sprint we were all really happy to stop for ice cold water. My intention was not to cycle with the guys in the hardest conditions. Therefore we agreed to meet a few days later for a night ride. Bangkok at night – that’s the territory of theses guys. Racing with Tuk Tuks and trucks, passing through waiting cars and crossing the main roads with high speed. If you get the chance, cycle in this city! Highly recommended!

 

After a while I thought I should move on, so I travelled down south to check out some islands. Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, were my destinations. The aim: Cycle on all of these islands. Each island is smaller than the other one and the hills are getting steeper… 15%…. 20% Some of them just impossible with 48:17 and a backpack. I’d recommend Koh Samui for cycling. Me and Derek surrounded the island once and did it on a 70km tour. Chasing some trucks and get chased by some dogs as well… Koh Phangan was already already harder. It is impossible to surround the island, because in the north east are no roads. Due to this missing space on the island also the uphill and downhill sections get steeper. First time I had to get off the bike. Fuck it! However the shortest ride was on Koh Tao. There is one main road. North to the South. That’s mostly it. If you cannot cycle properly on a tropical island, you should go diving. That’s basically what I’ve done in the last few days. Now I heading to Langkawi in Malaysia. The next races will be on 12/12 and 19/12 in Kuala Lumpur. My first races in the RAD PACK jersey. I’m excited. If you want to see some more pictures follow me on:

https://www.facebook.com/jonas.fischer5

https://www.instagram.com/jo_fietser

Bye Bye Bangkok

People say Bangkok can swallow you up. That’s probably true. Since I arrived 2,5 weeks ago I’ve just left the city once one a four day trip to Hua Hin. I didn’t stay in Bangkok so long due to the party connection on Khao San Road. No I stayed so long, because I wanted to find out more about cycling in this city.

It’s now two weeks ago, since I finished 6th in Bangkok Criterium. I get a broad grin on my face when I think about it. How crazy is it to fly around the world, to compete in a cycling race, where can earn nothing, but just have fun with an awesome world wide fixed family? Before the race I was nervous, because oft he course, all the riders I didn’t know and the hot climate. So basically everything which influences a race. However in the race I was totally focused and afterwards I just wanted to enjoy the great experience with all the other riders.

The community does not just exist, if there is a race. In Bangkok cycling in gerneal is growing. You can find a high number of bike shops all over the city. Road bikes are becoming more and more popular. People say cycling is becoming the new golf for people in Thailand and especially in Bangkok. When I was out on the training ride with URBAN HUB, we’ve met several groups of road bike cyclists. Most of the guys ride with absolute high class bikes. Trek, Specialized, Pinarello… You can find al of them here. Also the amount of amateur races is increasing. This is all needed to give cycling in general the opportunity to grow.

Although cycling is growing in general, the fixed gear community had a decreasing trend in the last two years. Riding fixed was a trend, which people just followed because they were addicted to bikes and it was something new. Some of these guys discovered gears and brakes and bought themselves road bikes. However there are still many crews in the City who love to ride fixed and who do it every day. Crews like URBAN HUB, Track n’Feel or Monster.  Also shops like free life sport encourage the people to ride fixed.

Fixed gear cycling was something people did for fun with their friends or to commute. The organisers of Bangkok Criterium did a really good job to set up the race in city center. Also the two big soponsors Singha and Vittoria had the chance to present an interesting and fast race on a live stream. This professional way of racing should lead to more races in Thailand and whole of Asia. If the riders get the opportunity to race more in their own country, they can build a good foundation to start at races like Red Hook Criterium.

Therefore: Keep on rollin!

Now I’m down south at Ko Samui. Enjoying the beach, the sea and hopefully a few good rides…

Day at night – I need a GoPro

Last sunday I went out with the guys of URBAN HUB to train during the day. READ MORE HERE. At that time I didn’t know that they prefer riding at night. Therefore yesterday evening Jen and I took our bikes and get out for night ride with the guys. It was amazing!

We have been a group of 9 – 11 people riding really fast on 3 lane wide motorways, passing cars all the time, no matter if they are going or waiting, fooling around, skidding all the time… I seriously need a GoPro to record this! A great shot would have been how we got into a race with a tuk tuk. Crazy!

We also cycled through China Town with all its shiny neon signs. We stopped so that photographer Tan, who accompanied us  on his scooter, could take some great shots. Damn that was funny running several times on the street, just having ten seconds for a picture… Have a look at them!

Rollin with URBAN HUB

Today I woke up really early to meet the guys of URBAN HUB for a sunday bike ride. What I didn’t expect was that shop owner May took a pick-up truck to accompany the trip. Also photographer Tan jumped on the truck to make the awesome shots you can see below the text. So we started with  5 riders to the north of Bangkok.

Our first 5km have been on a 3-5 lane wide freeway and I thought this will be a crazy and hectic tour. But after turning right, we ended up on a street which just went straight to the north and is used by many cyclists as their training route. Although the riders barely speak a word English, we had fun together. Getting the pace really high for a while, attacking each other, sprinting in the end… All the riders are in the age group around 18. It’s great to discover that these guys are riding fixed since a few years and that some of them have the potential to start at big races like Red Hook Criterium.

You should check out the strava file, to see that we nearly didn’t have any curves on our trip. I guess the U-turn after having a break was the hardest one 😉 After 70km, I guess 6 drinks and one pizza I have to say I enjoyed the ride and I’m still happy that I decided to ride my fixed gear in Asia.

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