After my recent trip to US for a bike touring ride, I was curious if there are companies in Singapore who offered cyclists an opportunity to ride in Asia.
During my research, a cycling buddy recommended “No Head Wind Please” and introduced me to the lead cyclist who leads tours for small groups ranging from easy to expedition grade. Over a nice session of douhua (豆花) , we had a chat about why he started No Head Wind Please.
Words and Images : Lead Cyclist at No Head Wind Please
How would you describe yourself?
I am happy when I am holding my handlebar or my paddle.
I am happy when I am with the wind, rain and snow.
I do not consider a desert a harsh place for pedaling.
I do not consider a sea a dangerous place for paddling.
The desert and the sea are just the way they are.
It is my readiness state that will determine my comfort level in these environments.
I believe in the 7Ps which are Proper-Planning-and-Preparation-Prevent-Piss-Poor-Performance in getting my clients and myself ready for the trips that we will be doing.
When I am guiding, the safety and well-being of my clients are my priority.
My passion is to plan, organize, train and guide my clients for cycle (or kayak) trips.
How did you start cycling?
My very first trip was the Lhasa-Katmandu Highway more than a decade ago. I did it the self-supported way as being my own master was how I wanted it to be done. The harshness of Tibet humbled me. I felt that my bike was the cause of my poor performance and hence I sold it after I finished in Katmandu. Not long after, I felt one day that I actually missed the carefreeness of being my own master on the road and so I bought a bike that I subsequently used for my trips to Vietnam and Laos. I did both countries alone without support as I wanted to know my own limits.
Have you always been cycling or have taken a break before?
I started riding from London in 2003 and I ended up in New Zealand in 2004. After the big trip, I took a break for a few months before I went cycling in Central Asia for 90days. After those 3 enjoyable months, I took a long break from pedaling and I went paddling.
Kayaking is another passion of mine and during the break from cycling I made at least 6 trips to South Island, New Zealand. I had bliss one day when my mates and I spent hours challenging (and being challenged by) waves that were 4-5metres high. It was the same bliss that enveloped me when I was cycling through deserts in both Iran and Australia.
I am preparing myself for bigger waves and bigger deserts.
Which is your favorite country to ride in?
Iran, Laos and Australia rank really high up there on my list. If I had to choose one, it would be Iran. In Iran, truck drivers would stop their vehicles by the side of the road. When we were near, they would pull us over and made us sit down on the carpet they had placed on the ground. Then, they would serve us tea. Iran taught me a valuable lesson, that I should not believe the media. I hope to lead a small group to Iran in 2018.
What was it about the country that would have you go back again?
In Iran, drivers would slow down and push cakes into my hand through their windows. It was the hospitality of the people. Also, there are several deserts that look really harsh to me on the map that I have and I want to do them. I like deserts and I want to do them but it won’t happen during the guided trip in 2018 as there is much more preparation to do.
Can you describe what a typical day cycling in your favorite country was like?
Getting up at 5 to cook, eat and take down my tent. Roll wheels at 7. Short breaks every now and then. Put up tent at dusk. Cook, eat and talk to my mates for a while before retreating into my tent at about 9. Repeat the next day. Washing up was optional. That was a typical 16-hour day during the expedition through Iran.
How do you keep yourself safe when you are cycling on the road?
I try to give my 100% alertness to the road. I hold my handlebar tightly and I really keep to the left side of the road. You will not see me with earphones in my ears.
What is your fondest memory of a ride in your favorite country?
For several evenings when we were crossing a big desert in Iran, we had a huge and beautiful moon rising above us. As we rode into the moon that did not seem to get any closer, the only audible sound(s) were a zephyr that was caressing me and my smooth rolling chain. That was bliss to me.
What would be your most difficult moment?
I was cycling alone in Tibet one winter. There was a layer of ice under the snow that made cycling difficult so I got down from my bike to push. As I was wearing cleats, I skidded often. Turning back was not an option I had in my mind so I pushed for almost 8 hours to clear a 5000m pass as snow descended upon me.
I remember being really lonely as my only companions were the sound of the howling wind and my own breath while snow fell gently on me. I was hallucinating during my struggle to clear the pass and I will elaborate more in the book I hope to publish late 2016.
What advice do you have for travelers who want to go cycling outside of Singapore?
If you wait for the whole world to be peaceful and everything to be ‘swee-swee’ then I know you sure ‘kena’ stuck in Singapore ‘liao’.
Why is NHWP so special?
a) We have a small Lead Cyclist-to-Client ratio and we are very strict with the numbers.
b) Our Lead Cyclists join us by invitation only and they all possess multi-month and/or transcontinental experiences for their self-supported tours.
c) Our Lead Cyclists lead by serving.
d) We maintain a small fleet of rental bikes and we would like to use the word immaculate to describe their conditions. Our bikes have components similar to that of our Lead Cyclists'. Members of our families ride them and that is how confident we are of our fleet. Only participants of our tours may rent our bikes.
e) We frequently have Assistant-Lead-Cyclist(s) on our tours and our interesting ALCs have profiles very different from that of a cyclist who only rides in a park.
How fit should I be to take up a tour with NHWP?
You definitely do not need to be someone who clocks sub-4 hours for a full marathon.
Many of our tours are designed for people who are (currently) leading active lifestyles and enjoy being in the sun for hours. We have attempted to describe the profiles of our tourers on our website.
What is your dream?
I want to cycle where there is summer snow.
What tours will you be leading for No Head Wind Please in the near future?
We have plans for New Zealand, Australia and Nepal for 2016 and 2017.
We are thinking of doing Bangkok-Singapore over 25days in mid-2017.
We have Iran in mind for 2018.
The scenic 777km from Kota Baru to Sungai Rengit and shorter trips are tours that we are pretty flexible to lead most time of the year as these places are just north of the equator.
Talk to us for our easy-lazy-enjoyable weekend cycling-makan trips in Johor. We only need a tiny group to have a fun time in the sun.
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