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Posted on Tuesday, July 5, 2016
in Stories

WorldBicyclist - Asia Diaries

Diaries - Installment 9

After a short break in my trip, I continued with the second part of the tour. The Middle East, and with it the Arabic peninsula, lay behind me. I was looking ahead, towards South Asia, to India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

My first stop was the Maldives, a country with barely any land mass or roads to cycle on. With a total of 88km of paved roads, I had my fun by actually cycling all of them. Every single paved road in an entire country. That's a first even for me.

After 2 days on the islands, I can't even recall how many loops I've ridden around Male and Hulhumale. The main islands around the airport are only a few kilometres wide and high, you only need a couple of minutes to cycle around them.

Shot of Male from plane window

To get to any other location, you need boats or planes. The local ferries are extremely cheap, a ride costs only a few cents; while the private boats that bring tourists to private resort islands are the opposite, extremely expensive. The same is true about the accommodation. With only a few spots of land, property costs are high and until a few years ago, only high-end resorts existed on the Maldives.

That changed now and a new law allows the locals to establish their own hotels, starting at around $50 for a single room. This is the lowest rate you can get, officially. But in Male you will soon discover that people rent out rooms in their private homes, cash in hand.

Couchsurfing is non-existent, and camping... camping is a bit difficult without public land.

Another big surprise for me was the religion. Of course I knew that the Maldives are a Muslim country on paper, but all I knew about the country was pristine beaches, rich couples in swimming gear and resorts.

Here is what the normal Maldives look like, outside of commercials:

Male main street

Despite 30°+ Celsius, everyone wears long clothing. Women cover their head and wear hijabs, some full burqas in mono-black. Swimming suits, bikinis and the like are forbidden on beaches.

Away from the resorts there is garbage is everywhere. Houses are in disrepair, next to construction sites building new high-rise apartment blocks or hotels. However, if you have the money, you get on your private boat to your resort on a private island, and it's all good. No need to see the impoverished population.

It was truly bizarre. At the airport all kinds of tourists arrived, but on the islands I visited, all public ones, I only met Asians, Russians and a few low-budget backpackers. The rest just disappeared, never to mingle with normal folk.

I split my time between resting in the hotel, reading, sitting on the beach, swimming and cycling round and round in loops around the islands.

Beach on Hulhumale

By public ferry I tried to explore the country a bit, visiting tiny islands, all of which were very calm and relaxing. The main islands of Male and Hulhumale are chaotic, filled with traffic; but the smaller islands have no cars. Since they are only reachable by the small ferries, all you see are bicycles, scooters and the occasional motorbike.

I wish I had my own a boat. Being able to independently move between islands with your own place to sleep and cook would be heaven. The way I experienced the Maldives was not that great... while relaxing, it offered no more than that found in India or Sri Lanka for a fraction of the price. In fact, my first stop after Male was Colombo. Just south of the town I stayed at a hostel with view of the beach for 1/10 of the price that a hotel room on the Maldives costs.

Near the airport, at the ferry terminal

But on a more positive note it was a rather unique experience, I don't think many bike tourers visit the Maldives to bike. Nor did I ever see a traffic light that turns red because of airplanes: The road to the airport is so close to the landing strip that cars have to wait until any plane finished landing or take-off.

Diary - Installment 8

My sixth stop in the Middle East are the U.A.E., seven emirates that joined together to form one large state. To tell the truth, my destination was just a single emirate, Dubai. Everyone here goes to Dubai, especially for New Years.

Since I had visited the city on a backpacking trip years ago, I cut this second visit short and stayed just two nights, the 30th and the 31st of December. A day to get my bearings and plan the trip to Oman and one day for the total chaos that is New Years in Dubai.

There are two good spots to see the fireworks, one is at the beach near the Burj al Arab, the 7-star hotel shaped like a sail; the other is at the Burj Kalifha, the worlds tallest building. I chose the tallest building, since I was really curious about how it looked. On my last visit to Dubai it was still under construction, now I finally got to see the finished version.

But before that I had to find my accommodation, an AirBnB place near the Ibn Battutta mall, named after the famous Arab traveller who visited most of the Middle East, Northern and Eastern Africa and even as far as China. And while the interior of the mall was designed to mimic his travel locations, it was distinctly western in its choice of shops. The food court could have been anywhere in the US and I ended up having a delicious philly cheese steak sandwich. Not strictly speaking traditional Arabic food. ;)

The second day I went to the center and arranged the bus transport to Oman. It is a 400km ride through the desert to get there and since I was travelling with non-biking company at the time, we decided to take a bus together. After that it was finally time for the Burj Kalifha.

This time I left the Brompton at the hotel and we headed there with the metro, just to be greeted with a massive amount of people, mostly of Indian descent. Ushers were separating the arriving people into family/couples and singles, probably to avoid harassment later on. I did not expect this large of a crowd... snaking their way through the Burj Kalifha mall, 2 hours of walking till you finally get out at the boulevard that goes around the center, every section full of police and security.

In the end we decided to stay near the Address Hotel, a massive, 63-story 5-star hotel next to the Burj, from where we had a nice view.

This decision should proof to be a disaster.

For those of you who do not remember the news from that night, here a picture of how the Address Hotel looked around 21:30 o'clock:

Lets just say that it slightly overshadowed the fireworks, which were still going off at midnight.

The fire started at the 20th floor where a curtain caught fire, but from the outside you could not see much. You first saw some smoke, 1 minute later an open flame, 3 minutes later flames engulfed the entire side till the 40th floor. By then you could feel the heat on your face even on street level and ash and soot started raining down.

Obviously it was not the best place to be, considering the massive crowd of people next to a giant, burning-down skyscraper.

We quickly packed our things and walked out at a brisk pace, further away. There was no panic, no screaming, and no one was injured. Even in the hotel itself there were only a few minor injuries and no deaths, thanks to a quick evacuation.

The entire event was surreal, you go out to celebrate New Years and end up in a crowd of confused and awed people, while ash rains from the sky and the view of the Burj Kalifha is obscured by a smoke plume.

But the government was rather determined, the show must go on, and started the fireworks as planned on midnight.

Afterwards the people started the walk towards to metro stations, which were completely overrun of course. It took one hour in an extremely jam packed crowd, one of the worst experiences I ever had the pleasure to be part of. There was no space at all, pushing and shouting, open aggression, groping, fainting people, and if you had the bad luck to stumble, you'll most likely get trampled for a bit before you manage to get up again.

Lets just say that it was rather unpleasant and leave it at that. And leave the U.A.E. with that, since the very next morning I packed my things and went to catch my bus... to the Sultanate of Oman.

Diary - Installment 7

Slowly moving further south through the Arab Guld, Qatar is the next destination on my list. A country on a peninsular attached to Saudi-Arabia, yet again a country I can only reach by plane and another opportunity for the Brompton folding bike to shine. Through five countries it has accompanied me so far, zipping through the crowded chaos of Istanbul, the coastal areas of Lebanon, the kinda-deserted streets of Kuwait and the lively neighbourhoods of Bahrain.

Qatar is a mix of my two previous destinations. Oil-rich and expensive like Kuwait, full of Indians and bazaars like Bahrain, with something new: A healthy dose of green parks, public places and a fully restored historic center.

And...Dare I mention it? Bike trails!

Night ride from the airport

I could not believe my eyes, but the airport, which is 10km out of town, is actually connected to the center by a dedicated bike trail. Physically separated from the road. With its own lighting system. I was blown away to say the least, I would have never expected this.

And so it came that I cycled well past midnight away from the airport and towards the Warmshower hosts place, out in the suburbs of town. 5 South-African women were renting a very large house while working for a multitude of Qatari companies. Carla, the one who invited me, plans to do a big bike tour herself and we had a lot of good talks about routes, gear and bikes.

Skyline of Doha in the background, Worldbicyclist in the foreground
The next day I headed into the center, big skyscrapers and wide avenues at the financial center, which hugs the northern coast of an expansive bay. The old town, the restored suq/bazaar and the national museum were on the western side of the bay, while the south was taken over by, what I'd call, a normal city.

On that first day I met fellow cyclists, Marcel from Poland, a medical student who took some time off his studies to work for Qatar airways and travel a bit. Well... a bit, with his 80+ countries he has visited since then. He was the only foreign cyclist I'd likely meet in the Middle East on this tour. He quickly explained to me the lay of the land, where to go, what to see, and headed off for his daily cycle.

I spend most of the day in the national museum, which was so far beyond anything that Kuwait or Bahrain had built, that I can barely compare them. A giant, modern art-deco building on the waterfront, 4 floors high, intelligent lighting, small cinemas, restaurant, guides, a park outside... and an extensive collection of artifacts from all over the Middle East and South Asia. Since Qatar does not have that much of a history, besides being a spot for pearl-divers and some Portuguese forts, they simply starting amassing a collection from anything nearby.

The National Museum of Qatar

An Astrolab, an Arabic instrument to tell days, months, years, sunrises/sets, planetary alignements, tides and more. I love those things

The bazaar, freshly renovated and not how I imagine it and then I saw the Hawks! There main use for hunting are an important part of the culture, the traditional picture of an Arab man, white dress, hawk on his arm, looking out into the desert... romantic, but sadly far from the truth, when I consider how sad these poor birds looked.

The entire bazaar felt a bit strange, too shiny and new. Very few small shops that traded in random goods, mostly empty hallways or modern restaurants with outdoor seating for the tourists. Which were, of course, full of tourists. I did take a look at the menu, quickly walked away from the $15-20 prices and ate good Indian food at a local eatery two streets away. For $2. Mh, Masalla Dosa, Rotis and Chai.

Hallways in the bazaar

One of the many, many hawks for sale. All of them "stored" blind
I relaxed the rest of my stay in Qatar at Carlas house, shared with a parrot, 2 cats and 5 dogs. Or was it 6 dogs? I honestly couldn't tell, but there were at least 3 of them with me at all times when I tried walking anywhere. Well behaved, quiet dogs, no barking at all... yep. I don't even know what sarcasm means.

The time I had, I spent doing some much needed work on the laptop, talked about touring with my hosts and planned my next steps, which would lead me towards Dubai. 

Speak to you then!

Diary - Installment 6

Welcome to the Arabic Gulf, full of super-rich oil states.... and Bahrain.

On a first glance, Bahrain is just like its neighbours: Small, rich, Arabic, full of expats and highly developed. But there was in fact a lot more to Bahrain than met the eye. Bahrain is the black sheep of the gulf, it barely has any oil and therefor has had to establish its economy in a different way. 
But I'm getting ahead of myself.

A national symbol of Bahrain, a very iconic skyscraper with wind generator inside

Bahrain was the fourth stop on my tour through the Middle East. A rather long super-highway bridge connects it to Saudi-Arabia, otherwise it is very secluded and only reachable by plane.

The island of Bahrain is, surprise surprise, mostly desert, with the main city nestling on the coast, just like in Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Oman. That is something that all the countries here have in common: Big cities that stretch along the coastline, offering lots of space for both oil tankers and cruise ships to anchor.

In Bahrain's case, that would be cruise ships.

The grande mosque

I was no longer the lone tourist, I arrived in the evening to a busy airport, unfolded my Brompton and cycled around the small island that surrounds the airport, and across a bridge to the center of town. The first difference to Kuwait were the people. Pedestrians, cyclists, people waiting at bus-stops... finally some normality, not deserted walkways as a backdrop to the busy roads. Here it felt like actual people lived within the city. Small fast food restaurants, mostly Indian or Filipino style, bazaars and mini-markets lined the streets.

Over half of the population are foreigners, mostly cheap labor force from Asia, including my couchsurfing host, a Filipino chemist, who was eagerly awaiting his job application for Qatar, not only because it is much better paid, but because his wife is waiting for him there.

Sharing a shoe-box sized apartment with an Indian (and me), it felt like my previous trips to India or South-East-Asia. High humidity, occasional rain, street-food eaten at cheap plastic tables in front of a small restaurant, the constant background noise of a city, the crammed alleys winding their ways through the local bazaar. It was uncanny!

Start of the bazaar

For a cyclist, there is not much to do besides city-tours, which are perfect for the Brompton. Otherwise you only have highways with speed limits of 100km+ through the small country, and only two sights in the interior: An old fort and the tree of life, a very old tree growing all by its lonesome in the desert. And a small tree at that.

The best experience were the people. Be it playing late-night scrabble with the Filipinos, confusing hockey, ice-hockey and street-hockey while talking with a Pakistani, discussing business opportunities with an intrepid Indian, or the extremely knowledgeable Canadian guide, who walked with me through the Grande Mosque of Bahrain, which is one of the architectural highlights of the city.

Late night scrabble

The mosque greets everyone with a giant sign saying "Visitors of all religions are welcome!", which is a very kind gesture in the heart of the Middle East.

Due to Bahrains small size, I spent less time on the bike than usual and more time in museums, mosques and bazaars. The national museum displays the history of a pearl-fishing heaven, until the modern Bahrain was established.

At the grande mosque. It was so safe in the country, I could leave the bike unlocked in front of it
Wondering how that worked without the massive oil reserves, I asked the locals and got an answer I did not expect. Not only is Bahrain geared towards traditional tourists, many of which arrive by cruise ship, but also to Arab tourists from nearby Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi-Arabia. How so?

The good old triumvirate of gambling, hookers and booze. Maybe a bit more opaque than usual, but thats it. Illegal gambling that is not officially persecuted, alcohol to buy in stores (illegal in the other nearby countries) and a suspiciously high amount of Thai 'massage' parlors.

A bit like a tiny Las Vegas of the Middle East.

My five days here were interesting, to say the least. Relaxing too, and full of good food and good company. It is defiantly my favourtie country I have visited in the region.

Thank you and goodbye until my next destination: Qatar!

Diary - Installment 5

My travels took me to Kuwait. A rich desert country threatened by its neighbours, invaded twice, yet still a modern and highly developed city state.

It is a small country measuring 150km in diameter, wedged between Iraq and Saudi-Arabia, on the northern end of the Arab gulf, Kuwait is famous for its oil, which at the same time is the source of all the money and with it, the economic growth.

Kuwait city nestles along the harbour, radiating into the countryside. The rest of the country is made up of desert.

Days have started to grow longer here compared to the rest of my trip but the view is often obscured by sand and dust in the air that is blown into the city by strong gales. The skyscrapers are a mix of grey and brown, built along wide avenues. All in all it is a very unique backdrop to cycle in.

View from a roof in the suburbs

Kuwait is my third destination after my relaxing week in Istanbul and the trip through Lebanon, which culminated in me being robbed. Kuwait should prove a completely different experience yet again.

This is the first time that I would be picked up from the airport. The friendly couchsurfer, a Filipino teacher who has lived for 6 years in Kuwait made sure that I felt welcome. Kuwait does not do bike infrastructure, everything is build around car traffic. Very few pedestrians are on the sidewalks, buses are rare with most people driving.

the city is full of big Germand and American branded cars. There are giant shopping malls, American chain restaurants, cinemas, etc. It is a wash with western culture and industry. Prices are similar to Europe, in fact the the currency is so strong that ½ and ¼ Dinar have their own bills. ¼ Dinar is almost worth $1!!! 

I am told this is the largest shopping mall in the world

Kuwaiti dinar

It's the first truly rich state I have visited on my journey and the difference was huge.

The first evening I spent with the couch-surfer, who gave me all the info I needed to find my own way around Kuwait, followed by a quick ride around town. Navigating is easy thanks to the long straight roads, landmarks like the Kuwait Towers can be seen from many kilometres away. It's one of the easiest cities to travel round, if it weren't for all the traffic. The people drive like crazy and besides a few lone Indian workers on their steel bicycles, no one else rides bikes. Black SUVs seem to be the standard.

In only took 2 more trips around town on my bike and I had pretty much explored the whole city. I visited the museum (tiny), the harbour (beautiful), the largest mall in the world (large)... sadly that did not allow me to ride the bike inside, but I think it would have been easier to do so considering its immense size.

Kuwait harbour

Kuwait towers

I had two personal highlights in Kuwait: The expat community and Star Wars.

Expats are all over the Middle East, thanks to the high wages and the lack of specialized education of the locals. People from all over the world come here to build, design, teach etc. They are super welcoming of visitors and always eager to see a new face. Within one week, I was invited to two parties, and met people from a dozen nationalities. Most of them stay only 1-2 years, save some money and head home. High wages or not, Kuwait is still a tiny place in a desert.

Like most other countries in the world the premier of the new Star Wars film was a big occasion for the cinema industry with all the cinemas showing the film. Curiously enough, the Kuwaiti locals do not seem to care for it much, only expats attended the 'gran' premiere! 

All in all I spend 5 days in Kuwait, which is more than enough to give it a good look. It is not a prime cycling destination, but even for well travelled people it offers it own unique form of curiosity, with it's vast wealth and baron landscape, it is truly unique!

Dusty sunset over the city

I rode back to the airport on my own by bike along the highway, sharing the occasionally disappearing shoulder with trucks and SUVs. I survived and headed onward, to the next tiny gulf-state: Bahrain!

Diary - Installment 4

The next stop after Istanbul was Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. Formerly known as the Paris of the East, this thriving city is famous for its night life, clubs and parties. A strange contrast to the expectations that some might have when visiting cities in the region.

Before the war in 1975 Lebanon was a major tourist destination, a wild mix of east and west. The state of the country is similar to how it was then, but the tensions in nearby Syria have no doubt been affecting tourism with no ferry service and borders to Israel and Syria closed. The only way to leave the country is by air and my Brompton proved particularly helpful for this.

The ocean road in Lebanon

A comfortable bus ride to the airport in Istanbul, curious stares at the check-in counter when the bike disappeared into a small bag and a short flight across the Mediterranean Sea was all that stood between me and Lebanon. I arrived in Beirut at night, which gave me several options... should I rough it out and sleep that night at the airport? Go to a hotel for a few hours of sleep, wasting my budget? Take the opportunity to explore the city by night, on the empty streets?

I decided on the last option, after all I'm here for cycling. The airport just lies 10km south of the center, the skyline and high-rise buildings clearly visible. A small shop supplied me with snacks and water, even at 2am at night, while the owner wished me a pleasant stay after he got over the shock of seeing a tourist arriving in the middle of the night by bike.

I circled through town and past many more military checkpoints and blockades than I expected but continued to ride out North along the coast line. My route through the country was rather simple, hug the coast till Tripoli in the north, turn around and cycle back all the way untill I reached the Israeli border, turn around again, cycle to Beirut and head out.

This means skipping the mountainous inland of the country, which is a shame, but a sensible choice considering the proximity of Syria. The entire region near the border is a no-go zone for tourists and with a width of 60km, most of the country is "near the border". I just hoped that the coast was safer. It also offered lots of places to camp on the beach, which seemed the safest option when sleep rough in the country.

That first night I just left the city and camped on the ocean road, wedged between a highway and a rocky coast.

Wave-breakers next to the highway, a rather surreal camping spot
The ride North was beautiful, the weather pleasant, the road well paved with only a few hills to climb on the way. The coast was dotted with small villages that offered places to eat, drink and rest. All very... uneventful, yet nice. Most people I met spoke English and were very western. It really is a shame that Lebanon is so cut-off from the other countries, I have no doubt if this wasn't the case it would have a striving tourism trade once again.

In fact, the only other tourist I met on that ride was in an old castle in Tripoli, a German woman. She herself has been there 10 days and I was the first other tourist she met too. That would change later on, in the hostel in Beirut, but untill then it was all undiscovered territory, all just authentic Lebanese. I met friendly people on the road, most of them curious about the bike; I was even invited to take part in a bike race in Tripoli! 

Tripoli Castle

Back in Beirut I even got interviewed for TV, the main question: "Why did you come to Lebanon for Christmas?", which was a bit strange, considering that I expected more Middle Eastern traditions, not Christian ones.

To sum it all up: Till that point my experience in the country was absolutely positive.

Then I got robbed!

Usually when I hear other travellers talking about being robbed, they talk about being stolen from, aka some item goes missing. Sometimes someone snatches an entire bag in a bus or train and runs off. But this time it was a full-on armed robbery; a man in camo gear with a pistol came to my tent, ripped it out of the ground, yelled at me in Arabic (just my luck, he did not understand a word of English) and went through my gear.

On the more positive side, he was rather stupid and nervous. He did pour out my backpack, but did not check interior of the tent, which was mostly collapsed into itself, thanks to his violent shacking and ripping on it. The tent fabric covered the Apidura bags which held most of my gear as well as the laptop, which I had just used to sort through pictures. This left the backpack with electronics, money and food for him to ransack. He pocketed phone, my hard drive, GPS and cash, but left me my passport. He even picked up my Brompton; I was thinking  "Oh my god, no please don't", but he only wanted to see if something valuable was lying underneath it. He just picked up a 3000€ bike, by far the most expensive thing I have with me, to look underneath it. ... ... ... no comment!

All this happened at night, near the ocean on a hiking path, quite far away from the road. A secluded spot, but seemingly not secluded enough.

After he left I hastily packed all my things back together and headed to the road.

Five minutes later, it started to rain. Then thunder and lightning hit. Then it hailed.

And then I got a flat tyre. They do say these things come in 3s - not my best evening i've had during my travels, I must say!

Long story short, I ended up camping on the beach again, 20km further south. The next morning I fixed my flat tyre; I couldn't do that at night because he also took my torch, and rode back to Beirut. I cancelled the planned ride further south and spend the next 3 days in the city in a very nice hostel, trying to figure what to do next.

The night after I got robbed
In the end I decided that I will keep going, replace what I lost on the way and hoped some people might be able to support me. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people who have supported me on my GoFundMe page to help me replace the items that were stolen.

The last day in Beirut I spent in the national museum, a walk around the historic center and preparing for the flight to my next destination, Kuwait!

Until next time,


Diary - Installment 3

My first destination on my trip to Asia is Istanbul. The old, honourable gate between Europe and Asia on the Bosphorus channel, seat of power of several empires, Ottoman, Byzantine...

Today the thriving 20mio+ metropolis is both uniquely interesting and extremely challenging for cyclists. So much history intertwined with the city also means that it was not build to plan, not designed to hold this many people. This many cars and motorbikes. Space is sparse, hills are steep and streets are narrow.

Traditional Turkish sweets

A good testing ground for the Brompton bike, before I should start my trip proper and head to the gulf countries.

The adventure started at the airport, when the folding bike showed it advantage; I was able to simply take the bus into the city to meet up with my couchsurfing host. The bus driver only stared in wonder at the contraption I was able to effortlessly fit into the trunk, and the ride from the bus station to the university was a pleasure. What I did not expect were the steep hills, even with only 5°c I was sweating soon enough, cycling between street lights and the few cars heading this direction.

The area I was about to stay for 3 days is right next to the technical university. Lots of young, intrepid students, cafes, shawarma places, a quiet university campus and the Europe-bridge over the Bosphorus nearby. Shouldering the bike, walking down a flight of stairs, and voilà, I'm at the promenade, one of the few flat open areas that allow biking.

View from the promenade at night, this bridge connects Europe to Asia

With not many bikes around, people did stare a lot at the strange looking bicycle that is zipping down the channel, but it was so much fun. While the cars are stuck in traffic, the people on two wheels, motorbikes, scooters and the occasional cyclist, could make the best use of the space left, rapidly going south towards the historic center of town, the markets and mosques, the aqueduct and museums.

On my first visit I stayed at Sulthanamet, the old center. Now I came through areas of Istanbul that were completely new to me. Old fortifications, a metalworking district, the university, the harbour with yachts and fishermen...

Old fortress overlooking the channel to Asia

After three days with the Turkish students, I relocated to the center; spending another three days in a hostel. Closer to the main shopping street, bars and nightclubs and the couchsurfing meeting. Since my trip is public, I got a few messages from people that wanted to meet me, learn about my tour, see the bike...

That way I ended up in the third floor of a bar, talking with Turkish, Italian, German, Algerian, Taiwanese, Canadians... 40 people came, two cyclists among them, and me with my tiny folded bike in the corner, that was carried out and shown around several time.

I have to admit, it is a pretty good party trick. :)

The rest of the time I spend meandering through the old town, biking around Topkapi palace and enjoying the feeling of... departure? The start of an adventure? This is the first step towards Asia with the Brompton, a last look towards Europe.

Old town, Sulthanamet mosque

The next entry I will write from a new country, Lebanon. French and Arabic speaking, a fashionable destination before the war that ravaged the place years ago, it is on its way up again, while being surrounded by conflict zones.

It should make for a good story.

Till next time,

Diary - Installment 2

Hello and welcome to the second entry of the WorldBicyclist Brompton diaries. I will be looking at all the gear I will need a head of my training trip to Istanbul, before I start my travels around Asia.

The bike is a black Brompton S6E. I found the S type results in a more athletic position position whilst riding and reduces wind resistance. It also puts most of my body weight through my arms allowing to me cycle for a longer period of time without discomfort. The bike has 6 gears, this is certainly a low number for a touring bike, but I am looking forward to the challenge of this and seeing how the bike holds up in the mountains.. My test rides on normal terrain went very well, that's for sure. The E stands for no rack or mudguard, which in itself is a rather strange choice for a touring bike but reduces the weight of the bike.

I have added a few of my own customisations to the bike. The steel frame and SON dynamo are standard. I have added a new chain tensioner, axle, quick-release of the saddle, suspension block, the catch for the folded frame and handlebar. Bromptons are predominately used for city riding so adding these extras will aid me on my long journey. 

Other additions include Ergon GL2 grips, which are extremely comfortable and offer two hand positions, a Luxos U front lamp with a USB outlet that powers my GPS, which is added to the handlebar setup, two BottleFix adapters to carry bottle cages on the front fork, Shimano XT SPD pedals and of course the Apidura bikepacking bags. The backpacking back meant i didn't need to include a rack and thus could save some weight on the bike. All the gear is stored in either the handlebar or saddle bag. Only exception is my laptop, which is in my backpack, safe from getting damaged on the road.

To sum it up without all the bike-lingo: It's a small, light folding bike with very bright lights, electricity for GPS or other gadgets, luggage on the frame and pretty decent tyres, but a with a low amount of gears.

All my kit for 2016 (Not including my Brompton and consumables)

Here is a list of the kit I will be taking with me alongside the bike:

- Lightweight 1-person tent.
- Air mattress.
- Down sleeping bag rated to 5°.
- Titanium mug, knife and spoon.

- 2 Sets of clothing, one long, one short.
- 1 Set of short bike clothing.
- Rain jacket and pants, wind jacket, down jacket.
- Bike shoes and flip-flops.
- Small stuff like underwear, buff, bike gloves and a cap.

- Handlebar, Saddle and Top Tube bags, one 20L backpack.
- 10L dry bag for clothing, 20L dry bag to fill out the saddle bag, green mesh bag to sort electronics.
- Ikea Dimpa bag to carry the bike in public transport or on flights.

Tools & Spare-parts:
- Small ratchet with bits, multitool with pliers, spoke key, tire levers, pump.
- Spare spokes, chain locks, brake shoulders, 20 patches, 2 spare inner tubes.
- Chain lubricant.

- Laptop with mouse, in-ear headphones and external 2TB HDD.
- GPS, Ebook reader and Smartphone to listen to music.
- Battery-powered head-torch and rear light, as a backup.
- Point & Click digital camera.
- Assorted cables, SD cards, etc.

Hygiene & First Aid:
- Self-build first aid kit
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, sun crème, mosquito spray, the usual suspects.
- Quick-dry towel.
- Some painkillers & antibiotics.

- Notebook and pens, magnetic chess board, camera tripod, spare glasses, compass.

The weight of all the different items of my kit. My Brompton weights around 11.5KG

Until next time,


P.S Last week I had a large amount of my kit stolen, thankfully my Brompton was not part of this. I have set up a crowd funding page in light of this. Any donations will be gratefully received. 

Diary - Installment 1

Welcome to the new series of Brompton travel diaries by yours truly, the WorldBicyclist. My name is Patrick and I'm trying to visit every country in the world and my choice of transport is, as the name suggests, the humble bicycle. Many people see this unrealistic, but my goal is to go everywhere and see everything.

Why a folding bike? I will be using multiple forms of transport to get from one continent to the other, so one thing lead to another, and I ended up with a folding bike. There was no doubt in my mind that a Brompton would be the best tool for my trip. I went with a S6E.

First let me introduce myself, the tour and my diary of my trip with the Brompton.

Patrick and his bike packed and ready to go.

This is the new bike and me, Patrick Martin Schröder. Please ignore the last name, German is hard enough without throwing Schs, rolling Rs and Umlauts in there. I'm a regular guy from Germany who wanted to do a one-year backpacking trip like so many others do, in between school and university, before the overbearing seriousness of life and job and responsibilities take their hold. I did travel that one year, but due to sheer luck was able to continue this lifestyle and soon enough I added a bicycle into the equation. Low budget, long term travel with tents, couchsurfing and hostels were my routine from then on for the next 8 years; on average I spend 9 months per year abroad. By now I have been to 132 countries and collected quite a bit of experience that I'm very happy to share with you.

The Brompton S6E

The upcoming tour will be a about one-year long trip through Asia. I will spend 9 months in Asia, but I still have a dozen countries on the continent that I've never seen. After testing the gear for a week in Istanbul, I will fly to Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, spend New Years Eve in Dubai and cycle into Oman. That is the first step, the Arabic peninsular. Unfortunately the security/visa situation in Iraq, Saudi-Arabia and Yemen make these three countries difficult to visit, I might have to skip them.

From Oman I fly to India, making it my new, temporary home to visit the nearby countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and hopefully the Seychelles, Maldives, Nepal and Tibet. Apart from the conflict zones mentioned, this should close the chapter "Asia" for me, finishing this continent, hopefully ending somewhere in the Philippines. This means for 2017 my aim will either be to visit Central Africa, the Caribbean/Pacific islands or Antarctica as the last missing spots on the world map.

Patrick's World Map - Green: visited, Red: planned, Dark-red: difficult

Now that you know about me and the journey, lets get to the last point: The reports.

Over the course of the year I will posting between one and two dozen of these diary entries to Brompton so that you can follow the trip on this site. Short updates can be found on my Facebook or Twitter feed, but the bulk of the story will be here. This first one is the introduction, which I will  follow shortly with more info about the bike itself and the equipment I use on this trip; from then on they will be proper travel updates with pictures from the Arabic peninsula and the Indian subcontinent. Short, easily digestible texts, some pictures here and there, and a link to a larger gallery if you have a larger appetite for learning more about Asia. I hope you will enjoy the trip and look into this barely travelled region.

So long,
Patrick Martin from worldbicyclist.com