Guess Who’s Going To Phuket?

Cycling is at higher speed than jogging, and less hot with the wind and all. It’s also amazingly therapeutic.

What on earth could make cycling from a city mired in political turmoil to a place 700km away seem like a remotely good idea? When I asked someone who’s going to do it next week, he briefly convinced me it was the easy option. Of course – it would be cooler and faster than jogging. I’m not sure why I ever thought of travelling another way. Then he made reference to “therapy” and I started to wonder if he was just crazy.

But I wasn’t going to insult someone who usually rides 120km a weekend plus a few “short” rides (and hill climbs) after work – longer when training, and all this in the humidity of Singapore – until I’d delved a bit deeper, and in the end I concluded that if he’s crazy, it’s in a good way. Like a fox. But, like, a good fox. A kind-hearted one. Who rides bikes, in padded cycling pants.

Our Mystery Rider, as depicted in his avatar.

But not exactly like a fox: our Mystery Rider, as depicted in his email avatar.

Alpe d’Huez is a life goal

In September 2013, our Mystery Cyclist, Leon, whose face shall not be shown here because I didn’t get a chance to grab a picture of him in time but I might be able to reveal what he looks like on his return, took part in the Ride-for-Sight event organised by Standard Chartered Cycling Club, in which he rode 550km from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore in 3 days. The donations were for Standard Chartered Bank’s adopted charity Seeing is Believing, which provides eye-care for prevention or treatment of blindness.

This time he’s taking up the challenge to raise funds for ING Orange Bike. The funds will be used to purchase bicycles for children in rural Asia, who need to walk several hours each way to and from school.

If they can get to school more easily, they’re more likely to go, and do better at it – which points to a much brighter future. The bike can also be used by families to transport goods from their farm to market.

Challenges organised in partnership with corporations are usually more effective, since corporations can better drive employees to put more work into fundraising. In addition to giving employees leave to take part in these challenges, some corporations match donations raised by challenge participants.

I am not an employee of ING but my friend there asked me to join, and ING matches the funds I raised, so all is good.

When he reaches Phuket, he’ll “post on whatsapp or facebook, then have a celebratory dinner, and contemplate the next ride, or how to get to ride TDF routes! Alpe d’Huez is a life goal. ;)” I didn’t know how much weight to give that emoticon, so I asked him what gear he was using.

50/34 for the front and 11-25 for the rear. These are stock parts on my Trek 2010 2.5, and they allow me to go up Mount Faber without slowing to a crawl and falling off. I can probably have a easier time with optimised ratios…

Which I’m sure means something to someone.

For me, it meant more to hear his Trek is the one thing he hopes doesn’t get stolen even if everything else does – although he added he’d like to keep his padded cycling shorts, too.

The team of thirty riders (plus support vehicles) plans to break often and finish in the early afternoons to facilitate beach-going and massages, but that’s probably more enjoyable if you’ve spent the morning with a comfortable rear.

The worthy Trek.

The worthy Trek.

Usually we can act like part of the traffic

Leon’s unfazed by the prospect of cycling on Thai roads.

Don’t cycle all over the road. Don’t act in ways to confuse motorists of your intention. Check that the sides are clear, and give clear hand signals. The above strategy works too but less well for riding in Singapore, since drivers here are defintely less considerate. I had a good experience with motorists while cycling in Malaysia.

And of course there’s the fact that he won’t be alone.  Still, there’s no point taking undue risks. When I asked how much Thai one could learn in 700km if one brought one’s own language tape, he cautioned:

Ear/headphones while cycling is really bad, unless you get those which allow you to hear ambient noise and even then the radio/music might be distracting.

To learn Thai on the go, there would have to be a speaker on my bike, which means people at the fruit stall by the road suddenly hear odd language phases.

Which would be weird, and also confusing. Possibly a good conversation starter, but not really worth it.

My pseudonym will be He-Who-Replaced-Private-Cars-With-Bikes

With all this common sense flying around, it was time to settle the question once and for all. Is Leon crazy, or does he know where his towel is? He claims to know where it is all the time. He’s even “eyeing an upgrade to a towel with embedded vitamin, protein strips and spare bike parts for when I finally want to start riding between stars to research material for the Cyclists’ Guide to the Galaxy”. All perfectly sane.

But he’s not exactly Ford Prefect: when I asked what his pseudonym would be if he were a Thai king who wrote anonymously to the national newspaper, like King Vajiravudh (aka Rama VI), who in 1911 wrote a series of articles under the pseudonym ‘Asawaphahu’ critiquing the Chinese Revolution, he said it would be ‘He-Who-Replaced-Private-Cars-With-Bikes’.

The name’s a bit long, but there are no downsides to choosing bicycles instead of motorised vehicles for commutes over reasonable distance. If everyone cycles, there will be less cars, meaning less accidents! That’s a practical benefit before we even get to talking about being environmentally friendly and healthy.

Far more knowledgeable about cars than that fictional towel-toting guide-writer, though they both advocate the pub as the place to go during crucial moments in world history:

I will (probably misguidedly) write about how doing international political negotiation over beer at a pub will bring about world peace. 🙂

A recipe for world peace and/or last minute escapes.

A recipe for world peace and/or last minute escapes to other bits of the galaxy. Image: Freonr2 on en.wikipedia

I think people who donate are awesome

Leon has these words for supporters:

I think people who donate are awesome. I don’t pressure people into giving, nor do I get requests for performing special tasks in exchange for donations, so my donors did it because they really wanted to donate after hearing about it from me.

The amount people donate varies but I am quite sure the amount is what people think they can contribute at that moment. Even small amounts can make good impacts to the beneficiaries, especially in cases when corporations match donations. In the case of Seeing is Believing, just 20 dollars will pay for someone’s cataract operation to restore their sight, and in ING Orange Bike, the impact is huge if you consider what having a bike means to the child for the long term. So, everyone who donated has made a difference to somebody else’s life.

If everyone donates just a tiny fraction of a percent of their income, many charity programmes will go much further. I promise the donors they won’t feel like they are missing some money, but they will feel good having helped other people in need!

As of the time of publishing, ING Orange Bike has raised about 38% of its overall goal. You can find out what the current trend is on the main page. If you’d like to be someone Leon thinks is awesome, you can make a contribution here.

The post Guess Who’s Going To Phuket? appeared first at Journeys of the Fabulist.

The answer was “Leon, but I can’t show you what he looks like although I can show you his Fundraising Page” and also, in an unusual twist I’ll get on to later, probably us, in June.