- New Zealand
- The Queen Charlotte TrackMountain biking the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds
- History on the Heaphy
- Suppressing the Competitive UrgeMountain biking in Malborough
- Northern ExposureMountian biking the Coromandel
- Hurunui Hot SpringsWinter mountain biking to Hurunui Hut in the Lake Sumner Forest Park.
- Craigieburn Conservation ParkMountain Biking Craigieburn
- The Brevet ClubGuy and Laurence recount the suffering and intrigue of the inaugural Kiwi Brevet... a 1100km mountain bike race around the top half of the South Island over six days. Informal with self-enforced rules, no entry fee, unsupported, and... well, hard.
- Wharfedale TrackThis is arguably the best and longest stretch of single track in Canterbury
- Double FencelineThis classic trip snakes along the summit ridge of Banks Peninsula.
- One Night StandsOvernight mountain biking trips in the South Island
- Fool's GoldMountain biking in Central Otago
- All that Glistens... the Croesus and Moonlight Gold TrailsMountain biking on the South Island's West Coast
- Otago GoldMountain biking - Bannockburn, Central Otago
- Loop de LoopGreat mountain biking can be found in most corners of this flat earth and New Zealand boasts its fair share of classics.
- Magnetic WestMulti-day mountain biking, Kaikoura to the Tasman sea
- Romping Round the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough
- Rambling Around the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough, Arapawa and D'Urville Islands
- Off the Beaten Track An off road traverse of the South Island on mountain bikes
- At Peace with PureoraMountain biking around the Pureora Forest in the Central North Island
- Taranaki for NeophytesMountain biking in Taranaki
- South Pacific
- West meets EastAfter riding all morning through the tail of a typhoon, we didn't want to slosh into a Japanese restaurant in that state. I tried drying out by standing under the vent outside the kitchen. I got no drier, but now I smelled of noodles...
- Tien Shan TraverseWhat do you do in the middle of the mountains when two large, thuggish Chinese men get out of a car and stride purposefully towards you? You smile and say thank you for the stale bread and peaches they are offering you!
- One Gear, One Continent, One Hero.Hero Cycles is the world's largest manufacturer of bikes, spitting out a whopping six million a year. You're unlikely to find one at your local bike shop but as any seasoned traveller can attest, they are the 'people's car' of India.
- Laid-back LaosMountain bike touring in Laos
- The Road to MandalayCycle touring in Myanmar
- Vietnam on Thirty Dollars a DayCycle touring in Vietnam
- A Short Ride in the Hindu Kush Cycle touring in Pakistan
- On a Wheel and a Prayer FlagCycle touring in Tibet
- Shanti Shanti - Across the Himalaya by BikeCycling across the Himalayas
- Biking the Hidden HimalayaCycle touring in North West India
- Pedalling Patagonia"Wow! Amazing! You're cycling to the bottom of South America. Is it all downhill?" Alan and I looked at each other in amusement and suggested that we expected a few uphill sections.
- Cycling Cuba with Fidel and Ché
- Dirt Roading in Colombia'The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay', promises Colombia's latest tourist advertising slogan, printed over glossy photos of idyllic Caribbean coastlines, perfectly preserved colonial towns, rolling, lush coffee plantations and a Latin couple dancing hot cumbia.
- Famous Potato Recipes from Idaho
- My Private Idaho
- Donde Estan Los Pollos
- Alaska - the Last Frontier The Alaskan Iditasport Human Powered Ultramarathon
- In Search of Maple Syrup and a Decent National Anthem Mountain biking in Canada
- All You Can EatMountain Biking in Northern California
- Caffeine and Singletrack in the USA Mountain biking in South West Colorado
- Pizza, Gelato and Mountain BikesMountain biking in Italy's Aosta Valley
- Albania for BeginnersCycle touring in Albania
- Fat Tyre Touring in ItalyMountain bike touring through Italy.
- Corsica- touring the scented isleCycling around the Mediterranean
- Bici Dolomiti Mountain biking in the Dolomites
- A Slice of Swiss CheeseMountain biking in Switzerland
- London Calling The London Cycle Show
- Stairway to Heaven - biking Spain's Camino de SantiagoCycle touring in Spain
- A Scottish Coast to CoastCycle touring in Scotland
- Crouching Tiger - Cycling Ireland's South West Coast Cycling Ireland's South West Coast
- The Italian Job Mountain biking around Lake Garda
- Double DutchA cycle tour of the Netherlands.
- A Rather Big Swedish RaceMountain bike racing in Sweden
- French ConnectionCircumnavigating Mont Blanc on the "Sentier Pedestre" hiking trail.
- A Month in Provence Cycle touring in the South of France
- A French PilgrimageTouring with the Tour de France
- End to End, the Long WayCycle touring in Great Britain
- Steve's SabbaticalCycle touring in France
Patrick Morgan, UnderGround Issue 44 August 2005
Updated 15 December 2011Picture yourself on an empty mountain road. Limestone peaks stretch all the way to the horizon. The sun is shining. There are villages every fifty kilometres, where you can refuel on tasty noodle soup for less than a dollar. As you cycle through villages, kids run out and cheer you like a Tour de France rider with a hearty "Sabaidee!"
Could Laos be the cruisiest cycling destination in Asia? With uncrowded roads, a low population and unspoiled scenery, it offers the adventurous cyclist heaps of opportunities to get off the beaten track. Laos is land-locked, wedged between Thailand and Vietnam. The same size as New Zealand, and with just 5 million inhabitants, it feels deserted compared to its bustling neighbours. Ten years of war and thirty years of communist government have left it one of the poorest places in Asia. Until recently, travel restrictions limited independent travellers' options. But with economic reforms and a recent relaxing of the red tape, now is the time to beat the crowds. Saddle up and head for Laos.
Cycling the Royal RoadTo start my tour I chose the 437 km Royal Road from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. Last time I was in Laos, in 1992, Vientiane was surely the sleepiest capital in the world. Like Westport on a quiet Tuesday, but with dirt streets and more chickens. But the new Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River to Thailand has spurred a boom, and the whine of cheap motorbikes now buzzes around the whisky bars and internet cafes.
I headed north on Highway 10 to Ang Nam Ngum. This reservoir is speckled with islands, some of which were used as internment camps for political undesirables in the 1970s. A spooky hotel straight from a Stephen King novel lurks among the trees on one island. From the fishing village of Na Nam I chartered a boat with a couple of Italian beauties to the town of Ban Thahua. From there it was an easy ride to Vang Viang - the backpackers' centre of Laos. It lies on the scenic Nam Song River, surrounded by enchanting karst peaks and caves. Trekking to ethnic minority villages, tubing on the river and partying are the main attractions.
After a few days kicking back it was time to hit the road in search of hills. North of Vang Viang, Highway 13 climbs and descends 1000 metres past scattered villages, where the locals scratch out a living from slash and burn agriculture and hunting. Dogs sleeping on the road outnumber vehicles. Luang Prabang was my destination. Formerly home to the Lao royal family, the UN named it a World Heritage Site for its streets lined by temples and colonial French shop-houses. Although the French left fifty years ago, their influence remains. You can snack on pastries and coffee, and pick up baguettes and wine for a picnic. Early risers can see lines of monks emerging from fog-shrouded wats (monasteries) collecting their daily helping of rice. In the evening the main street is transformed into a lively night market, where you can bargain for fine handwoven silk or sample a spicy mango salad.
Up the MekongFrom Luang Prabang my route took me up the Mekong River towards the remote northeast province. With only a handful of highways in Laos, river travel takes over when the roads run out. Weathered wooden vessels haul freight and passengers at a leisurely pace into the heart of the jungle.
Northeast Laos was home to the Vietnam-backed communist faction during the civil war. Rarely visited by tourists, you can tour a labyrinth of caves at Vieng Xai. Lao leaders made their home here for as long as ten years during the clandestine US bombing through the sixties and seventies. Caves were enlarged to include dormitories, meeting rooms, a hospital and even a concert hall.
Back on the road, I hitched a ride on a songtheuw - a pick-up truck with a couple of benches in the back. My bike was lashed to the side. Lao people have a cheerful can-do approach, which is necessary in a country impoverished by decades of war. Old bomb casings are reused as barbecue pits or fence posts. Aluminium from downed bombers is recycled as cutlery
Travelling undergroundFurther south, I explored the Khammouan National Biodiversity Conservation Area. Similar to National Parks, twenty NBCAs cover ten percent of Laos. They are earmarked for conservation and ecotourism in cooperation with the people who live there. The highlight was a 6 km boat ride through a cave used by the locals to travel between villages and fields. Six kilometres of darkness gives you plenty of time to ponder what could go wrong. Stepping into black water of unknown depth to help the boatmen wrestle the slender craft over a waterfall requires more faith than a bungy jumper. If you dropped your precious ring, I doubt if even Gollum could find it in the blackness.
Laos by bike is great. Highlights for me included the limestone scenery, intact Buddhist culture with monks and temples, relaxing river travel and zero traffic. On the downside, roads wash out in the rainy season, the infrastructure is primitive, and you might not want to leave.
The Nitty Gritty> When to go: December to February offers the best combination of warm temperatures and less rain. March to May is hot. The rainy season runs from May to November.
> To get to Laos, fly to Bangkok and take a sleeper berth on the overnight train to the border at Nong Khai. Choose the lower bunk for a cooler sleep. Cycle across the Mekong to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Get your Lao visa while in Bangkok, through any guesthouse.
> Best map: Laos 2002 Guide Map. The 'Rough Guide to Laos' is the best guidebook. Lonely Planet's 'Cycling Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia' is also helpful.
> Take tools and spare parts. Locals ride cheap Chinese or Thai bikes, so quality spares are not available.
> A couple of links I found useful: Biking South East Asia and Cycling in Thailand and Laos.