I'm an ex-marine engineer who was lucky to work
all over the world in a more leisurely age when companies communicated by
sending a plain white postcard saying 'Phone head office.' Whereupon I would
discover I'd been booked on a flight halfway round the world with a helicopter
laid on at the other end to take me out to a ship or rig. I was once paid to
wait six weeks in Japan for a ship to arrive and was lent a bicycle by a tug
master - a great adventure for a young man. I later worked for a wonderfully
eccentric Saudi company where I was the only native English speaker in a staff
of 80. I started doing long solo cycle tours in 1984 and got into organising
and leading tours in 2002. I own a variety of bikes but don't ride as much as I
used to, due to arthritic wear and tear. However, I still enjoy managing tours
and the associated problem solving. I've ridden in about fifty countries and
also like the area of France around Mount Ventoux as well as Southern Thailand.
Tour regulars who think they know me
like to say I have a relaxed way of leading but generally I don't really relax
until a tour is finished and everybody is on their way home. I like to know a
lot about the areas I visit as you never know when it might come in useful.
I've being doing LE-JoG for 11 years, going to France for forty years and
Thailand for twenty years, partly because I like being on familiar ground. I
believe in reconnoitering just before a tour even if I've been there before. In
Thailand and France I look for changes of any sort and stay on good terms with
the local police and officials. Being on first name terms with the locals never
hurts and can be enormously useful if a problem arises. Like most of the
Bikexplore tour leaders I'm happy with people riding at their own pace and
provide maps or GPS routes.Iin Thailand we also have some very enthusiastic
Thai guides. The more observant will notice that my tours often include a short
ride on a boat or ferry and sometimes a train ride (I like boats and
I prefer mostly smooth tarmac and only
very short excursions onto the 'rough stuff'. I'm proud that my LE to JoG route
mostly avoids main roads and is designed to avoid traffic wherever possible.
Participants will tell you they went all the way on country lanes which is not
quite true - but we try!
The tiny back roads in Thailand are
generally very good, being mostly smooth tarmac due to work done in the 90s when
the economy was booming. Thai drivers are not perfect but they do generally
treat cyclists with respect (cycling as a hobby is currently popular with Thai
people of all classes). France, as you would sort of expect in the home of Le
Tour, has wonderful country roads with smooth tarmac, little traffic and mostly
gentle gradients, although the final 5km or 3 miles of Mount Ventoux's ascents
are famously steep.
I prefer good quality en suite hotels or, occasionally,
motels and that is generally what I aim for, though obviously sometimes I have
to compromise to get a hotel that will take a group with bicycles. Fortunately
most hotels these days have seen the light and value cyclists as good
customers. I do offer some single occupancy (one person per room) on my tours
but it can be expensive as some hotels try to discourage it; they make a large
part of their profits from food and drinks. On my tours the price includes most
of the breakfasts and evening meals where possible.
I've been to about sixty different countries, some in my work and
some on tours. Like the other Bikexplore Tour Leaders I was with CTC
Tours for a long time and organised tours in the UK and to France, the Baltic
Republics, Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, Australia (mostly Victoria), Tasmania and
California. A pleasant side effect of all the travelling is friends from many
different places and cultures. In some ways the world really does become
smaller for the cyclo-tourist!
Land's End to John O'Groats
I have been going to
Thailand for twenty years, based half-way along Thailand's great southern peninsula in Trang, which
is bordered by mountains to the east and the islands of the Andaman Sea to the west.
I made many Thai friends in the local cycle club and
was supported and encouraged by the Governor of Trang Province, who was a keen
cyclist and wanted to encourage cyclo-tourism. Highlights include
the scenic beauty of the tropical islands we stay on, their golden beaches and
a boat trip with swimming and snorkelling. The area is probably the best place
to cycle in the country, as the roads see few foreign tourists and is often
wonderfully scenic, with karst outcrops, rice paddies, forest and jungle to
delight the eyes. On arrival we pass briefly through Bangkok, visiting the
'Temple of the Dawn' on the mighty Chao Phraya river. On return, we can shop
and dine in Bangkok's highest restaurant before a guided bike ride of old
Bangkok avoiding busy roads. Staying two nights at most locations allows for
rest days, and cycling at a moderate pace allows for sightseeing. The terrain
varies, but the routes avoid serious climbs, and distances are shorter than
average to compensate for the heat. There is luggage transfer and minibus back-up on
moving-on days. Internal flights are also included.