For Australian Cyclists travelling and touring OS
Just got the good news : I got holidays off work for 8 weeks starting in October. Had the idea of touring india on the back burner for quite some time and I think this time I'm going to do it.
So this is going to be the thread where I brainstorm and get mental over equipment lists and stuff for the next 4 months.
It will be late autumn/early winter, about a month after the monsoon.
Its all sketchy at the moment, but I will probably fly in to Kolkata and depart from Delhi
First thing off the list is ...
Even though its easy enough to get food on the go, I like to be able to be cook for myself (especially since I am vegetarian ... mind you its a good idea to be a vegetarian in india even if you aren't ..... any food product that requires refrigeration at some point of its production tends to a gamble of gastronomic proportions ). Its also a good way to fortify your health against the inevitable stomach bugs (eating the wrong thing at the wrong time ... like you are likely to do when touring on the go ... is a good way to complicate stomach trouble). Also if you ever want to make an early start to the day with breakfast under your belt, in many parts that probably won't be happening before 9 - 10 am if you are forced to depend on others for your breakie. Even though its easy enough to get bottled water in most parts,having a stove certainly helps to be able to sanitize the water (especially if you have one of these : MSR MiniWorks EX water filter
This is what I will be taking:
MSR WhisperLite International Multi-Fuel Hiking Stove Burner
Probably be flying with virgin since they enable you to fly with camp stoves
http://www.virginaustralia.com/au/en/pl ... ernational
(recall someone saying that its a good idea to copy out the airline guidelines to take with just in case someone hassles you at the counter)
and appear to be bike friendly
http://www.virginaustralia.com/au/en/pl ... ile-items/
White gas isn't an option in india. I don't have any experience cooking with kerosene but I understand that it tends to clog up the stove components. It also tends to be a bit more messier (spills don't evaporate as quickly as white gas) which makes it more fumey. No doubt this will be plainly apparent when staying in a single room guesthouse/hotel room (indian architecture tends to take the appearance of jail : brick and mortar with tiny windows ... ie not much ventilation)
Guess I will pack it much like the airplane guidelines so it doesn't get too fumey in the panniers : wrap the stove and bottle in a rag and wrap that in a plastic bag.
Any ideas or experience?
Will take my Surly LHT.
26" wheels ( 28 " are as common as cows .... 700 are hard to come by).
No suspension but I have just ordered a thud buster seat post
Even taking a bike with a derailleur is an eye-opener out in the sticks. Hopefully the retro look of the surly (even though it has drop bars) will help me blend in a bit.
This is the standard bicycle in india, of which you can be guaranteed to see at least 10 million
I used to own one - they weigh a ton, tend to perpetually have loose screws and have a braking system that uses metal rod pullies instead of cables. To their merit they are quite sturdy beasts - seen guys carrying about 150kg of potatoes on them ... also remember an incident where a recycler was called to take away about 25 steel empty twenty litre cooking drums. I was expecting a guy to show up in a small truck - Instead it was a guy with one of these bicycles who tied them altogether on the back pannier rack
Anyway, recumbents, aside from being too weird to ride in india, are definitely not the sort of thing you want to be bouncing around on the roads alongside the company of ambassador cars, tuktuks and suicidal buses.
(definitely not the sort of place to try owning a lane on a bicycle)
In many parts of the flood plains the ground (IOW what you are likely to encounter when you get the hell off the road real quick after hearing an approaching bus) is surfaced similar to fine beach sand (maybe a few inches deep). When it gets wet, it takes a form crossed between grease and paper mache glue - hopefully won't be seeing to much rain after the monsoon anyway ....
Most of the route will be sealed (which can mean potholed tarmac or cobble stones) although I will on occasion hit unsealed stuff.
I am thinking to fit out a Schwalbe Marathon Supreme City Tyre 26 x 1.6 on the rear for speed and something thicker on the front for stability.
I am guessing for 2" (2.35" would slow things down too much). I already have a big apple and knobby nic 26 x 2", but I am thinking that it might be better to invest in a 2" schwalbe marathon for better puncture resistance.
any ideas or experience?
I am one who loves cycling India.
Am flying to Nepal on Jun 2 and will cycle to India and head to Spiti valley, Leh and Srinigar.
We now don't carry any cooking gear. There is always food and its OK. We do carry a water filter.
Never drink water or eat ice cubes.
Put the spare fuel canister on the bottle rack on the bike without the cap Wash it first and tell them its for water.
May be worthwhile taking the cooker apart and putting it in with your spare tools.
We never had any trouble carrying the fuel stuff over the years.
You'll most likely head to the south.
For breakfast you must try idli for breakfast. Its their fermented steamed dumpling and comes with spicy sauce and coconut sambar.
You'll never dream of cooking after eating them and they give stacks of energy.
May be worthwhile to buy some rupees before you get there. Hit the ground running
This is a ride we did from Delhi to the south.
Thanks for your link.
I'm guessing you must have had a short flight into delhi to be riding out after an early morning arrival ... or is that part of the "hit the ground running" thing?
I have been looking at getting an India sd card for my garmin to help me out with the navigation. There seems to a few different types but the one with the most POI's and road and city details seems to be these guys
http://www.mapmyindia.com/store/maps-fo ... and-review
They also do standard map books for certain regions, but they don't do overseas orders. Their products seem to be available at several major cities.
Found a good website for regional weather trends and things to do and see at various places
If you're travelling light clothes wise consider a Scrubba bag ( www.thescrubba.com ) . Small and compact and really handy and designed by an Aussie as well I've used mine overseas multiple times and even if you're near a laundry, it can easily be used for things like that emergency cleaning of a vindaloo stain off your white shirt or similar.
My review here: http://the-gadgeteer.com/2012/07/21/the ... -review-2/
We landed at 2AM, put the bikes together and left the boxes and rubbish in the corner and cycled out at 4:30 am.
The maps you can go to any good news agency and get a state map. A real good one will sell all the state maps.
They cost about $2. I left mine at home
Delhi is nuts. Only go if you want to see something or fly out of there.
There is a friendly warm shower host there too.
If you stay there I think Smyle Inn is supposed to be OK
I don't really plan on lingering any longer in any of the big cities more than I have to.
Considering I have about 50 days to play with, these are the two routes I am considering
Chennai to Delhi
Kolkata to Delhi
I would like to finish up in delhi, but given the time of year (Oct- mid Nov) it would probably be better to depart from it rather than finish there to escape the winter.
Doing a combination would probably involve taking a train
I was guessing that setting more than 50km/day as a total average would involve going too quickly.
Any experience of taking bikes on public transport? I think I would prefer being able to keep an eye (and preferably hand) on it (which would probably rule out buses).
We been to India 5 times and found the interior the most difficult.
Sparse on accommodation and just more ruthless people. Hard going for food. Once we got closer to Kerala it turned better.
What about Rajasthan? Also good.
50KM is super easy.
We're in our 50's and easily do 300-500pw on well loaded bikes
Airasia flies out of Kolkata and is easy to get to with the train. I believe with the train you have pack ahead of time and send off early depending. Bill Weir on thorn tree did same a few years ago and they lost his bike for 10 days.
We flew out of Trivandrum with Sri Lankan airlines once. excellent airline and still gives 32KG baggage. Bikes no problem.
Could fly to KL and pick up a Airasia connection
Out of Delhi Jet airways/Qantas now flies and also gives 32kg
If you ask for some ideas on http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forum.jspa?forumID=32 NewIslander may reply as she has done a route similar to your planned one, a couple of years ago
Just spent a few hours on the site and have revised the plan a bit.
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/t ... 1#20878971
I just stumbled upon this thread during my research. I'm also planning a cycling trip in india this year, for ~5 weeks, the bulk being in October.
Just thought I'd check in here. Fantastic to see crazyguyonabike here answering your queries!
My plan is to go from Delhi to Goa, with time for sure in Rajasthan. The rest of the stopovers are undecided. Should I stop in Mumbai?
I have one question for you crazyguy..
I am planning to fly back to Delhi at the end of the trip and spend time there before flying back to Melbourne.
Therefore I am either considering:
a) start riding from Delhi because that's where the international flights arrive at; or
b) fly onwards to Jaipur when I arrive in Delhi, and begin my ride from there.
Do you think I should avoid riding out of Delhi and waste some time getting a connecting flight to Jaipur?
I have several ideas in my head on which route to go.
ATM I am thinking to go from kolkata to haridwar (and depart delhi) (or maybe even the other way, starting at delhi), following the ganges river.
Kind of in two minds about it since it takes a route through bihar, which can be a bit wild in places (although there are a few CGOAB blogs of couples and soloists who have made the journey)
I am not sure how frequently onrbike will be online due to being transformed from a crazyguyonabike to a mad guy who got his bike stolen (in nepal)
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/t ... ID=2328028 .
I corresponded briefly with a delhi cyclist and he was of the opinion that many cyclists tend to view the surrounding 100km of delhi as something to either be avoided or rode through as quickly as possible (due to congestion etc).
BTW I recommend this book
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003TX ... UTF8&psc=1
Its not so much about where to stay and what to see but a good summary of exactly what indian culture is about and how to negotiate it.
I am in the middle of reading it now.
Even though I have been to india quite profusely over the past 10 years (never on a bike though) , there is heaps of valuable information that I am gleaning from it.
Good stuff, I look forward to hearing about your experience once you return. You are braver than me for choosing a route through a district of questionable safety. I'm sure you'll be fine however.
Thanks for the book suggestion, I'll chuck it on the ipad and have a read for sure.
I've also decided I'll just leave straight from Delhi. The airport isn't in the city centre anyway, and I'll be heading West, so won't have to head back through the city either.
What wheels are you rocking? And did you buy your Surly LHT as a complete bike or build it up? I'm thinking I'll build up a Surly Crosscheck with bombproof wheels.
Have you had any experience with the weather in the North during September? I'm thinking I'll start at Delhi mid-late September. I can read all the weather charts in the world, but nothing compares to hearing from somebody whos been there and is Australian.
How are you planning your route? Are you going in with very specific destinations all the way through - or more of a "stop whenever i feel like it, in a town that seems accommodating enough".
I built my Surly up from a frame ... which has kind of been an adventure in itself ... although after all is said and done,If I was to do it again, I would just buy a standard surly with Disc brakes and save myself all the headache. Disc brakes aren't necessary of course, I just threw them on because I am planning to use the same bike to head up into some mountainous regions in 2014.
The standard bike in India are these 28 inch wheel fixed gear archaic monsters that probably haven't changed design in 50 years. Probably the only good thing about these bikes are that they are easy and common to get repaired. 26 inch wheels seem to be uncommon and 700 wheels you won't find outside of the western bike stores (ie big cities). I will be riding on 2" schwalbe marathons, because I plan to be taking a lot of small and probably unsealed (and hopefully not so congested) roads. However even if you are sticking to the major ones, you should be aware that they can suddenly just turn into pot hole hell. I would suggest to go for the widest tyre that you are comfortable with ..... Since as well as riding on sealed roads, you will inevitably be quickly pulling over to the side to avoid all sorts of big things that are also on the road.
Surly Crosscheck is good because it has generous sized tyre clearance.
The tail end of the monsoon is september, which is kind of the bridging month between the wet season and autumn .... I imagine it should be fine enough though, with most days being sunny. Weather-wise, the ideal months for north india are probably oct/nov.
There are a few places I want to pop in on the way, but mostly I will be sticking to the bank of the ganges. Accommodation-wise I am not too sure how that will be working out, but I think a good golden rule with India on a wide range of things is to have a flexible plan. I will have maps and even a garmin with an indian sd card (mostly only because I already have a garmin 800 .... probably just use that to navigate out of the cities or if I am caught in a pinch), but I think it would be quite a feat of misdirection to lose the ganges.
This is all probably navigation over-kill ... from what i have read its enough to get by with a map and perhaps a compass.
I have found this is a good site for weather, attractions and the like
http://www.mustseeindia.com/Vrindavan (if you are going to rajastan from delhi you might want to pop through vrindavan)
If you are in India during early November you will also probably be running into the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepavali festival (probably the indian equivalent of Christmas, as far as cultural importance goes) , no matter where you are.
I guess I will draw up some CGOAB blog thing for the sake of posterity. Maybe you should too.
Have you booked flights yet?
I'm SO close to booking flights.
September 22 - November 4th.
The only bicycle-friendly airline I can find for a decent price is Emirates.
Air India is $400 cheaper, but I can't for the life of me find out the checked baggage allowance and their bicycle policy. Travel agents ive been to are no help either..
Air India is also direct from melbourne, as opposed to 22hrs via KL and Dubai.. so if I can get them to confirm I can take a bike, I will definitely be all over that fare.
Malaysia airlines has generous checked baggage, but their total dimensions bicycle boxes on the website is only 158cm (L + W + H), which no bicycle will fit into.
I have been keeping a half open eye on flights. I read that air india (re)started doing direct flights ... but yeah, better to go with crystal clear policy regarding bikes etc. I will probably go via virgin/singapore airlines, even though the stop over time will work out atrocious (and I will have to follow up on how the bike will rate for the travel, since virgin is quite magnanimous with its bike policy and singapore a/l will probably slap an extra $75 ish dollars to the bill.)
Still not sure if I will be arriving in kolkata or Delhi.
If the stop over time looks horrendous it might be worthwhile pre-booking a nearby (somewhat fancy) hotel. Would cost about $20-$50 AUD/day, but if you save an extra $600 for a cheaper airfare, its probably worth it.
Most hotels can arrange airport pick up for free or a fee that is close to it
Here is a web site that may help
http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetail ... pQodDXUArQ
nb : looks like you will be leaving the day after diwali (Nov 3) so factor that in to your travel plans (ie public holiday weekend and probably 10 x the chaos factor in any big city)
http://www.popeyeproductions.com/news/d ... rains-rama
Yep, after several failed attempts from both myself and a travel agent to get ahold of Air India, I'm about to bite the bullet with Emirates. I was really hoping to be able to get a direct flight home, but oh well!
I originally discounted Virgin/singapore due to this webpage: http://www.virginaustralia.com/us/en/pl ... -partners/
It seems to state that you are subject to Singapore AIrline baggage rules - which are non bike friendly. 20kg checked baggage.
I read a similar thing for Jet Airways/Qantas, which said you'd be subjected to Qantas rules (again, non bike friendly). However, at Flight Centre, they showed me a document they had from Jet airways that said despite the flight code-sharing, you would have Jet Airways luggage rules, and not Qantas.
I'll definitely be opting for airport pickup from a pre-booked hotel on arrival, as most flights I've considered arrive in the evening.
So many questions and unknowns are buzzing around in my head.. I can't wait for this adventure!
I ended up purchasing flights with Malaysia Airlines.
30kg checked baggage, bike friendly. Cost $1100, but they are a good airline and only have a very short stopover in KL. So the flight time is virtually the same as Air India. It also arrives in Delhi in the morning as opposed to in the night!
Just to confuse matters i'm going to disagree with Fred on a few points he has made. I respect Fred and mate, sorry your partner lost her bike. I was in france when i read the message on TT. I"m newie.
Anyway cheese, i've been to india three times, twice on a bike and i've done one of the internal routes that onrrbikes has done and i didn't feel about it quite the same way as him, nor delhi either.
So here's some tips and perspectives of mine. I"m now a 49 year old woman solo cyclist. I was about 45 when i did my first bike ride in india.
1. there is zero need or advantage in buying rupees in australia. You can buy them at delhi airport and get a better rate. There is an atm outside the main building where the taxis go from or you can buy them over the counter.
2. For maps you will be better served by buying nelles maps from either a good australian map shop or online. They are german. They show a lot of secondary roads and these you need for your journey to stay off the highways as much as possible. I havent seen the maps mentions but unless things hvae changed since i last went maps in india are not comprehensive in their detail and it think the scale is much worse. There are four nelles maps covering india.
3. Delhi is a great city. I like it more every time i visit though the first time it is overwhelming and can be intimidating. For that reason it is a good idea to consider skipping the ride from the airport to your hotel and taking a taxi. Its a lot easier to do this in delhi than in mumbai. Get tips on how to handle taxi drivers in delhi and their old scams but maybe these have improved a lot since the commonwealth games. Go to india branch of the thorntree lonely planet for details. ask for updates on the situation. a taxi costs about 350 rupees but maybe more at night. best to wait till the morning book your hotel room in advance if arriving at night. do not under any circumstances believe anything anyone tells you about your hotel stick to your original plans and do not change your bookings.
I rode around delhi qjite a bit when there. On my first trip i had a hair raising but the most exciting ride of my life going from pahar ganj to old delhi train station. You can see pictures of that experiences and notes on photoblog.com/shangrila and the date will be 2007 january. look up the month and see if you can find that entry. lots of pictures. This experiences was so intense i went back at teh end of my trip to repeat the experience from the back of a rickshaw and that is when i actually took the pictures of that road.
4. It is more challenging when travelling in the interior but people are generally kind and helpful. Not many scammers in their outback either they all congregate in the tourist areas. Teh food is much more challenigng with it being very very spicy and often not so yummy so if you are travelling away from tourist zones, it is a good idea to take your own cooking stove. If you do that, it is worth learning some hindi words for food items. sugar is cheeni, chilli is meerchi, rice bubbles is muri/mudi or a combination of both. I eat them with bananas and milk which is hard to find unless you know the word for it but i can't remember it. I have forgotten all that i learnt 3 years ago. Its actually fun learning hindi on the road with a book and chatting to people. You acquire the useful words really quickly though syntax is hard.
If you are interested in any more of my insights, feel free. Oh i wanted to say that Fred is not wrong its just that travelling is such a subjective experience and often what goes down can vary according to our mood in the moment, who we travel with, the weather, random problems like bike breakdowns and such, how well we can respond to things like potential scammers, curious people and so on. The thing that got me into a negative spin the most was chilli. But it took a while. So we will all experience the place differently adn its hard to actually provide truly objective opinions.
Thanks for the tips Meditator.. It always shocks me how incredibly helpful people are when it comes to touring advice.
While you're around, I've got a couple of probing questions I'd like to ask Fred/yourself.
Can you please offer some more insight into choosing a route? On both a day-by-day "which roads should I take", and "which towns/places will I stop for the night" level.
I have an approximate route planned, however I'd like to know how people decide where they should stop between places like Udaipur & Mumbai.. or other 300+km stretches from A to B. Is it extensive research on places that should be appropriate? Or decided on-tour?
I'm curious as to how exactly you guys go about bike security. Do you lock it to an immovable object the minute you plan on walking into any shop, building, hotel etc? I assume this is something you learn to adjust with when you're there, and make judgment calls.. but I'd like to know how you guys went about it in general.
And how about sleeping.. Am I going to get bitten by mosquitoes while I sleep?? Do not want!
Well after our last theft fiasco have seen these and will use next time.
Alarm padlocks attached to a cable.
As for where to go well. The main thing was the more major cities/towns/sites then whatever was in-between we stayed at. Just had to make sure the dot on the map was large enough to have a hotel. Sometimes we made the decision at the intersection. Take a compass along too.
We only ever slept out 2-3 times. We asked someone to camp on their land and once someone invited us to camp on their block.
When we ate somewhere we never locked up the bikes. Fully loaded they couldn't be moved easily. Now, well I'd lock it. When people started looking and god forbid touch the bikes we first gave a look, then shouted at them and sometimes throw a rock at them. Seriously.
If you're planning on NEVER camping out take a mosquito net along. Or else take a free standing tent. A bit of thin rope comes in real handy to tie the net up in the room and seconds as a laundry line
End up with something like this I assume?
http://www.hobotraveler.com/b-photos01/ ... to-net.jpg
You guys sleep with insect repellant on most nights?
Do you guys also happen to have a suncreen brand preference? I usually use that bananaboat sport stuff, which lasts for AGES - but you get absolutely CAKED in a layer of crud.. and takes some serious shower scrubbing to remove. i can imagine it would be 100x worse in India.
As strange as it sounds, I'm looking forward to those moments of being at an intersection in the middle of nowhere with a compass and unhelpful maps!
You might have a hard time finding a place on the ceiling to mount such a large mosquito net. I have got a smaller one that I can successfully rig up from a smaller height (I can even rig it up from my bicycle and sleep next to it). Most mosquito nets in india are slung off the wall from four points, so its not uncommon to find some means in hotels to rig one up to fit that layout. If you have a (functional) mosquito net up you won't be needing repellent to sleep at night time.
Even though nets in India are common and cheap, its better to buy one here since the quality is better and they pack down a helluva lot smaller
If the weather is warmish (and if you have access to power that isn't likely to cut off during your sleep) at night you can sleep under a ceiling fan to drive the little buggers away.
Electronic mosquito repellents (which are quite common and cheap in india) are also effective
Other than that, setting up a mosquito net is of primary importance if you are planning on having anything close to a good night's sleep.
As for sunscreen, I tend to prefer to cover up and not use any except for a bit of lip balm (I got a little thing to connect to my glasses to keep the sun off my nose, although when wearing a legionnaires sort of cap it only really finds a use if I am riding a recumbent). Usually I am going fast enough to find that there is no real discomfort from having long sleeved clothes etc (although you do feel it a bit if you are grinding up a hill on hot days). I certainly find it preferable to the grimy feel of wearing sunscreen day in/day out on extended bike tours (which inevitably gets transferred to your sleeping bag etc). Also long sleeved clothes etc cover you up against the mozzies (like early morning/evening when you are likely to be up and about outside your mozzie net) ... although you might have to wear two layers to stop them biting through.
PS mosquitoes really love your feet, so a nice thick mosquito-nose-proof pair of socks that you can pull up a bit are a good investment.
As for security, as a general rule you have got to turn up the volume the more you are in big cities/ tourist traps.
Generally thievery in india is either highly discreet (since crowd justice is as vicious as it is commonplace ... the word for thief is "chor" pronounce : chore ... yelling it loudly can be effective) and/or highly organized (ie it involves not only the thief, but the hotel manager and maybe even the police too) . Its inevitable that people will come up and touch your bike (most out of an innocent sort of curiosity ... which of course doesn't mean that they won't break something). My plan is to bring the bike up with me into where ever I may be sleeping. I have a folding lock and a thick'ish cable to loop through the wheels etc
I also have an abus wheel lock http://travellingtwo.com/resources/whee ... ke-touring (this is a common sort of bike security option in India amongst locals ... although it is made to local inferior standards) if I just want to lock it quickly out on the street.
And, on a final note I am also taking a small cabled alarm lock http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Sealey-LA24-2 ... OU:AU:3160 and a small bicycle cover nylon tarp that i can thread the cable through to keep secure ( in case I am in a situation where I am forced to lock my bike outside of where I sleep for any extended periods - like a hotel lobby maybe .... the idea is to prevent friendly people from unscrewing the brakes or whatever out of curiosity as opposed to outright thievery ... out of sight, out of mind ... I hope) .
I am also looking at ways to fasten my panniers more securely to the frame ... maybe just use cable ties to prevent the chance of a snatch purse in a crowd.
Last edited by Cheesewheel on Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:48 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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