Touring by bicycle is something anyone can do, and you don’t really need a specialised touring bicycle to do it. TEN SIEW YUNG opted to do it slightly differently, taking her foldy to places many have only dreamed about.
When people talk about touring bicycles, the first image that comes to mind is a full sized, steel framed, big wheeled bike, with panniers front and rear, a handlebar bag, tent strapped to the rear rack, a leather saddle, GPS and weather beaten, bearded rider staring intently at the distant horizon. The reality is, many do not have the time or resources for a 5 month trek across the Gobi, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from simply getting on a bike and going somewhere, just to see what’s there.
Ten Siew Yung started riding in 2012 with a folding bike. “Initially I wanted a bike just to cycle to shops and back. Then I got onto Facebook and saw lots of groups organising little rides here and there. My first long distance ride was from Labu to Melaka. I had no idea what a cycle tour was, so with my little, cheap bike I cycled with a group of folding bikes. I think that was when my interest was sparked. I can do it, it’s not that tough! That was the beginning of it all.”
In Siew Yung’s case, she took her bike, the only one she had at the time, and went for it. She didn’t let the lack of a ‘proper’ touring bike hold her back, or any lack of equipment. While having the proper gear does make travelling by bicycle easier, any bike in good working order will serve the purpose. A backpack to hold essentials and clothes, a destination, and you’re ready to go. While having some mileage and riding skills under your belt does help, the beauty of cycle touring is that the pace is whatever you can manage. Riding in the countryside brings riders to small villages, where the residents are curious and welcoming at seeing these crazy people riding a bicycle to their destination.
Siew Yung’s addiction to cycle touring took hold after that initial trip, with her making more trips. “We started planning our own mini-rides, riding to places like Serendah, we went to different places in the Peninsula. I’ve done Penang, Taiping, Fraser’s, down to Kuala Sepetang, places like that.” It is clear that Siew Yung’s wanderlust has brought her around, but she also emphasises that mental strength and fortitude is part of the cycle tourer’s toolkit. “The longest ride I ever did was also my first ride, from Labu to Melaka. We started at 8 in the morning, and only reached Melaka close to midnight. We were a small group of 8 or 9 riders, and several of them thought they would not make it. But we did, with encourage- ment and positive thinking.”
“After all my rides, I am clear about what I want,” says Siew Yung, “I see what is available on the market, and decide if it fits my needs.”
Three years on, Siew Yung’s riding has become rather more sophisticated, with her purchase of a Brompton, and recently, a full sized touring frame. She prefers to let experience and knowledge gained while touring to dictate her equipment needs, as opposed to opening a catalogue and buying every- thing a bike shop says she should. Her touring setup on the Brompton is minimalist, a bar bag, panniers and a small cycle computer, along with the necessary lighting for safety. “After all my rides, I am clear about what I want,” says Siew Yung, “I see what is available on the market, and decide if it fits my needs.”
Siew Yung now organises cycle touring trips overseas, going as far as Japan, New Zealand and Thailand, with a tour to Batangas, Philippines, happening soon. She prefers small groups, usually of not more than 4 people, as it keeps logistics and travel arrangements to a minimum. “I go on trips with like minded people, people who don’t mind a little inconvenience and with a sense of humour.” Siew Yung places an emphasis on the social aspects of cycle touring, noting that at the slower pace of cycling, interacting with other cyclists and local people should be the norm, rather than the exception. Certainly, touring with a group of friends makes the ride much more enjoyable, and there is comradeship in shared adversity. “It’s about the people that I ride with, the places that I see. I think that is what motivates me to ride,” says Siew Yung.
The memories and places visited during a cycle tour can certainly stick in the mind, as Siew Yung recounts while talking about her experience riding around New Zealand’s South Island in November 2014. “The ride, the scenery, was just awesome. We went on the Otago Central Wheel Trail, and views were awesome, I really don’t have the words to describe it. I definitely want to go back again, this time using a different trail.”
The one thing a bicycle can give you is a sense of freedom, and being able to go anywhere. There are times, when life’s pressures begin to weigh a little too heavily, the ability to just get on a bike and go, is beyond price.
It’s the freedom, I think, of just being able to be with nature. It’s a freedom that all cyclists know. Touring is my passion.