Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Last chance to get to $10K for CF Australia

December 1 is the date the fundraising officially stops. We are close to the $10,000 I aimed for, but we are still $1350 short! If anyone would like to make a last minute donation please do it before December 1 <click here to donate now>! 

Here are the photos!! If anyone likes to add a photo top the below slide-show please email them to


Again I like to thank everyone for supporting us in our ride for Cystic Fibrosis! I hope to organise another great adventure for next year September! Keep an eye on this website and click LIKE on to keep up to date!

Friday, November 9, 2012

ZOCO Rossa – Reliable, Robust, Rideable

Riding alongside three ZOCO Rossa electrically assisted bikes 5,000 kilometres from Hanoi (Vietnam) to Singapore during the highest rainfall months, via sand tracks, potholed roads, mud, and mountains proves beyond doubt the reliability of these bikes.

The Vietnam to Singapore journey has tested my old Apollo bicycle to the limit despite not carrying panniers. The rear derailleur broke, a broken spoke; the front derailleur needed repair; the chain, rear cluster and chain rings - all in good condition or new before the 5,000 km ride - wore out very early compared to my 6,200 kms across America and 4,600 km tour through Italy on the same bike carrying loaded panniers.

My touring bike is like the farmer who claims his axe is the most reliable tool in the shed; replaced the head twice and the handle three times but it’s never let him down. Apart from the Apollo frame and forks, my bike has been replaced multiple times with quality parts.

Eight weeks of cycling has shown that the ZOCO’s NuVinci constant velocity rear hub is well sealed against abrasive grit and water, unlike a conventional derailleur system. The ZOCO Rossa chain is always aligned unlike the derailleur system that shifts the chain on an angle, increasing wear and stretching. An angled chain also increases wear of the chain ring, rear cassette and jockey wheels.

I lovingly oiled and cleaned the derailleur, chain and cassette on my manual bike, but the ZOCO drive system held up much better and only received the occasional squirt from the oil can that was dipped into an unmarked oil drum in Cambodia.

The ZOCO Rossa is similar to a soft tail mountain bike. The upright cycling position and wide tyres provide a comfortable and stable ride, perfect for commuting. The constant velocity hub is instinctive and smooth - no gear changes are used, you just twist the inner handle.

On flat smooth road the battery gave a range in excess of 80 km with the power set to medium. Even on the steep climb over the Hai Van pass - featured in the “Top Gear Vietnam special” TV show – the ZOCOs got 40km to a battery and made the ascent with ease. I’m a fit 58 kilogram man who excels in hill climbing and this mountain range was a challenge on my touring bike with a triple group set.

All three ZOCOs finished the 5,000 km ride in good shape. The electronics, motor and battery proved to be well sealed against the high humidity, heat and monsoon rain of Vietnam and Cambodia (unlike my smart phone and watch, which filled with condensate and were tossed).

Anyone considering an electrically assisted bike to replace the second family car, get some exercise during the commute to work or just have a bit of fun should put ZOCO on their short list.

Thanks Shaun from ZOCO bikes for sponsoring my friends with three Rossa bikes on their ride to raise awareness of Cystic Fibrosis and organ donation. Without your help and confidence in the ZOCO product they could not have completed their journey and raised funds for the Tasmanian Cystic Fibrosis Association.

Disclaimer: Mark Collins rode a manual bike on the tour and did not receive sponsorship from ZOCO Bikes.

Time for Media!

The end of the ride has come, and now we are getting media attention! It all started the Monday following the ride when we were invited on AM Live, News Asia
Channel. Here is the interview, click on Alastair and me: <click>.

Then our Vietnam to Singapore ride was reported in the Singapore New Paper, the Chinese paper, and so it continues! Back at home in Tasmania they interviewed me for ABC Radio, Win TV news, local radio,… and so we spread the inspirational message for organ donation and Cystic Fibrosis! Still not at $10K for CF Australia but we are sure to get there soon!

And the wheels are in motion to auction my Zoco Electric Bicycle in aid of CF Tasmania. That will be done through the Tasmanian CF Association in the near future!

Thank you to everyone who has supported us on this ride, it has been a wild and exciting one!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


And so we trundled up our final slope - rather a steep one as it happened - to the Hollandse Club and a bunch of cheering, clapping people! Our thanks to Chris and Ineke for all their hard work in laying on the arrival party which was lovely.

We were chaperoned for the last 30something km by sherpah Peter and sherpah Gido (the latter further increasing the team's van Praag concentration) who led us along a terrific bike path for much of the way with only the last leg weaving our way through lanes of Singapore traffic. Naturally it rained pretty hard for a while, but at least we had time to dry out a bit before arriving, and a change into brand new CF t-shirts just around the corner from the club (good thinking, KD) meant we did not arrive in quite the dishevelled state in which we (well, Wal and Al at least) had spent the preceding 5110km.

And so we are here. WVP, with the GA constantly at his side, has successfully led his ducklings through rain, shine, potholes, border crossings, road blocks, invisible hotels, disappearing roads, dirt tracks, floods and ferries, from Hanoi to Singapore, just as he said he would. If you wanted to travel between those two places and were a normal, sane person, this is not the route you would have chosen. But you would not have had so much fun or raised so much money.

Mr Walter, thank you for dragging us along. We love you, and it has been an honour and a privilege to share your bubble of sublime chaos for two months. Not to mention quite literally a major pain in the arse

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The last frontier

Leaving Malaysia behind. Note the black cloud, which had just emptied its contents on us

Unless we manage to stuff up on a truly massive scale tomorrow, the team has completed its final ferry crossing. We have crept into Singapore under the radar, as it were, and are lurking at the eastern tip of the island, girding our loins for our final ride across town to the Dutch Club tomorrow.

We have bade farewell to Mark, who had to fly out today. He left Desaru before dawn to cycle the last 30km and catch the 8.30 ferry and as far as we know, got himself and his trusty Apollo safely on the flight home. Post a reply, Mark, and tell us how you got on. 5000km without a battery is quite a feat - please give yourself a few days off before you start climbing the hills of the ACT again.

The rest of the team trundled along in his wake as we only had to catch the 4pm boat. Ree was in charge of the bags - what a way to spend your birthday - so one of our daily headaches was obsolete. As the taxi passed us en route she even jumped out with cold drinks! 

We found out at this late stage that when Walter says there are no hills, he means no hills compared to Tassie. This explains a lot. There were hills today, and miles and miles of oil palms, but we left all in our wake. It rained. We got wet. It stopped. We dried off. At the ferry port it rained again, and a girl with an umbrella bravely tried to shelter each of us in turn as we trundled either a bike or a trolley full of bags onto the boat, and the boat boys helped us manhandle the bikes up steps. The team comprised 5/8 of the passenger list, so there was not a crush at customs - we were through in a flash, put Ree and the long suffering luggage in a taxi and rode a short way to Changi Village hotel where the bikes were ceremoniously wheeled through reception to the baggage room for a well-earned rest.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Nearly there

Munchie stop in the endless oil palm estate, necessitated by the dearth of coffee shops.

The team survived the night in the rather strange Felda house and a taxi arrived, along with the house owner, on the dot of 8.30 as arranged. Bags were loaded and taxi man instructed, and one person, Al as it turned out, had to go with the taxi as far as the police hut where the bikes were left. There were two versions of what was supposed to happen next - Taxi drops Al at hut, continues with bags to Desaru, and the rest come in the owner's car, or taxi drops Al and bags at hut, returns for the others, takes them to hut where bags are put back into taxi, which goes off to Desaru. Reality fell down the gap between the two theories, as Al sent taxi off to Desaru, but taxi in fact drove back to the house, where the others thought he was an idiot for bringing the bags back. So then he was sent off to Desaru again and the owner found a car to take the rest of the team to the police hut, where we saddled up and rode a full 120 metres to breakfast.

The other thing that we had learned from two sources - Wal from the gps and Al from his policeman friends - was that contrary to our earlier research there was a coast road that we might take rather than the highway. So we did, despite dire warnings of potholes and total lack of amenities. The potholes were nothing to Vietnam vets like ourselves, and the lack of amenities doomsayers had forgotten about a whole decent-sized town halfway down which was fine for lunch. Coffee stops were, admittedly, few and far between, and we rode through miles and miles of oil palms and it was a bit hilly and it rained quite a bit... but it was good!

And so we made it to the rather astonishing McDisney resort called the Lotus Desaru, which is so big it has shuttle buses to take you from room to reception to restaurant, and has huge blocks of rooms called A and B and C etc which are each a different pastel shade to prevent you getting lost, but we still got lost. It doesn't seem to be bustling with people though.

It was great for Raja Wali to be reunited with Ree after 2 months. She came over from Tas laden with local goodies for our arrival snacks, which was easily the best welcome we have had in the more than 50 hotels we have sampled in the last two months. And today is her birthday.

Happy birthday, Ree.

More adventures

Wal in the Malaysian jungle

Breakfast was OK. And so was the ride for the first part. Wal managed to find an elusive Felda residence just where we wanted it to be halfway between the Seri Malaysia and Desaru. Taxi came and went. Everyone was agreed on the destination of the bags; just a couple of km off the highway, 80 odd km away. Almost too good to be true, you would be forgiven for thinking….

The first thing was the hills. Not a problem in themselves, in fact they made for pleasant riding, especially through the forest of the Gunung Arun national park, but they slowed the mountain bike down a fair bit - Wal was on it in the morning - so the team became a bit fragmented and spread out.

Then quite a few things happened. Al had a chat with a friendly Malaysian Indian called Ayyou and exchanged cards and phone numbers. Our thanks to Ayyou for his contribution to CF! Karina got a puncture, while at the back of the drawn-out peloton. She started walking, and at some point exchanged words in Malay with a truckie. Al started to wonder why Karina was so slow and waited at the brow of a hill. A truckie stopped just past Al and started waving his hands, saying 'bisical' and 'problem' and pointing back up the road. On the way back, Al got a call from Ayyou, who then handed his phone to Karina. When Al got back about 4km to Karina, who had been wheeling her punctured bike for half an hour, there was Ayyou, who had kindly gone to check on her, of his own volition.

No worries, we thought. Between us we have tyre levers, a puncture kit and a pump. Um, all except a pump. Ayyou to the rescue again! We rang Wal, found the rest were in a cafe way in front, and the redoubtable Ayyou rode his moped up to the cafe, got the pump and came back so we could fix the tyre, which we did using the special peel and stick instant tyre patches sold to Al by the bike shop in Busselton. About 2km further on, we mended the tyre again the old-fashioned way using Karina's kit, and this time it worked. The rest had now reached Mersing where the first thing the GA showed them was a bike shop, so the tube was replaced to be on the safe side, and Wal even got some mud guards fitted on the Raleigh.

The rain set in after our afternoon refreshment stop - at a Chinese place with beer! You have to love the Chinese - so the mudguards were put to good use. We pressed on throughout the rain, naively thinking we were done with punctures for the day.

This time Wal and Mirjam - she on the Raleigh by now - were at the back. Waiting for them, Al was alarmed to see W riding down the hill in the rain and gathering dusk, towing the empty Raleigh. Was the Van Praag family bond really so weak that he had mislaid his cousin, so early in her team membership?

Fixing this puncture also took 2 goes as the rain kept wetting the rubber solution, but we were, eventually, back on the road with only a few km to go to our cosy overnight accommodation.

We thought we'd just confirm with the cops in the little police hut at the corner that we were nearly there. It was dark by now and still raining.

'One hour', said the cop.

Not for the first time, we had a reservation in a non-existent hotel, or rather house, or rather a house that did exist, but did so in a place not commensurate with the place in which we had been told it existed, if you see what I mean. 

Wal called the house and a plan formed - the fellow there would come and get us in his car; we would leave the bikes at the police hut, as we had to back-track to there tomorrow anyway. We piled into the car when it came - Sir Walter travelling in style in the boot with a large cardboard box on his lap - and were taken first for a damn fine dinner of rice, noodles and roti cani, and then to the house, which has quite a few rooms, about twelve mattresses but only two blankets, and no towels at all. A large lizard just attacked Mirjam in the toilet, which is a squattie. The team has distributed itself around the accommodation - Wal one room, girls' dorm the other, Mark on the landing and Al in the kitchen.

It has been an interesting day.

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