My first three weeks
For years I’ve wanted to buy this bike. Without a test ride and with some concerns about the correct sizing, I purchased the bike on- line and now the “Vivente World Randonneur” is waiting for me at the bike shop in Brisbane. I decided to spend a good week touring as much as I could to put the bike through its paces to find any fault that would be covered under the warranty, fortunately, there were no problems.
Day two, I toured down to Surface Paradise which should have been four hours but turned out to be an all-day affair , it was a killer for me , dehydrated, fighting against a head wind and getting lost on the bike paths. I finally had to throw in the towel and rest up in a McCafe with only metres from the train station that would take me back home.
Cleats or flats?
Most people I talk to that are into cycling says cleats are the way to go and when on a long tour, having cycling shoes that have stiff soles makes better energy transfer of each of the pedal strokes. In the past, I have just ridden with firm soled hiking boots with toe straps on the Cannondale tandem I owned many years ago. As this was an experimental for me, I purchased the cheapest cycling shoes with cleats I could find on the internet and luckily for me it was a good brand and heavily discounted. They were so comfortable that you would tend to forget that you were wearing them. I started out first thing in the morning when the traffic was busy, I crossed the road using the pedestrian access where there is an island halfway for you to wait for the traffic to clear, I had totally forgotten about the shoes being a fixture to the bike and as I stopped, I couldn’t get my feet off the peddles, there were no guard rail for support and in slow motion I went crashing to one side with my feet still attached to the peddles. How embarrassing, with a few car drivers asking if I was ok, I lay there on the ground where I couldn’t get my feet free and eventually I had to untie my laces to be free from the bike. I later learnt that the tension was too high to enable a quick release, but I didn’t find this out until another incident at the traffic lights in Chiang Mai, (Thailand) but this time I had a lamppost to save me. So for me, the jury is still out, Cleats or flats
On arrival into Brisbane airport, I made some enquires to see if I could purchase a bike cardboard box for when I fly out, I have read that it’s a common practice for airlines to sell boxes for bikes provided you are flying with them. No luck anywhere on the day so I just had to rely on the bike shop to keep the packaging aside for me.
From West Brisbane I carried the box on the fly out day on the bike going along the river then down many side streets to the Airport, I guess I could have taken the train but with about 7 hours to spend, I was happy to save the train fee and go under my own power . Besides, it really wasn’t that far to travel and only a couple of times I dropped the bike box. It must have been a funny sight though, fully loaded bike with all four panniers and me cycling along carrying the bike box which is the same length as the bike itself in one hand. The bike came with instructions on how to prepare it for a flight, but still it took me over an hour; bubble wrapped as much as I could then used the panniers as more padding inside the box while in shipment. Check-in was no problems with Singapore airlines, I was 5 Kg’s overweight with the bike box which required me to remove a few items and place into another bag. Other than that, the bike arrived in Chiang Mai undamaged.
Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS)
My biggest bonus was that I claimed all my GST (Australian Tax) back from the purchase of the bike and all the other bits and pieces I picked up along the way in the week I was in Brisbane, 10 percent thank you very much. To be eligible for a tax refund, you must have purchased the items within 60 days of departure date. If you had purchased the items from one business, even if they are on separate receipts, as long as they are greater than $300 you can claim the tax refund. Besides the bike I purchased, I also went to a few camping shops so instead of purchasing one pair of shoes, I brought two to get the receipt greater than 300 dollars, lucky for me, there were sales on. Just one other thing, if the purchase is greater than $1,000, make sure your name, address is on the receipt. Really simple process, all I had to do with the bike was show it to customs before check-in then claim the refund on the other side of immigrations , then the refund of the tax is all yours, refunded into my account within 2 days.
Arrived in Chiang Mai
Getting the bike into Thailand wasn’t any problems at all, customs didn’t even look into my box and not long after arriving, I managed to secure a songthaew which is a red pickup truck converted into a taxi at a third of the cost of the inflated price of the taxi services that saw that I had a large box and thought to take advantage of that.
I spent the follow two weeks touring in Chiang Mai. Doi Suthep ride, which was my favorite, with about a 800 meter vertical climb and for a slow rider like me, it takes just over an hour. I’ll write more about that later in another blog
I was in line at immigration on arrival into Thailand and was talking to an American about my plans to cycling around Thailand, he was very critical saying how dangerous it was with the traffic over here and I had to be absolutely crazy to ride any bike in Thailand, bicycle or motor bike. Sure there is risk but for my experience the drivers in Thailand are more tolerant compared to Australia, while in Australia for the week, I was verbally abused at least twice per day because I was sharing their road with them but in Thailand there seems to be no problems and at times they are considerate. However, like in both countries there are drivers who they think they own the roads.
The bike rides like a dream, I could have purchased a Giant or a Trek in Thailand which is a little cheaper compared to the prices in Australia. But I chose a known touring bike with great reviews from the people that have clocked up thousands of kms of trouble free cycling around the world. There’s many extra components fitted to the bike that have been road-tested such as, Dynamo hubs, lights, racks and mudguards which are things we tend to forget when purchasing and then you have to try to fit as aftermarket accessories. So far, I have find little fault with the bike and more than happy with its performance after 3 weeks of every day riding.