Beyond the Lycra

Preparing for your Southeast Asia cycling adventure

Beyond the lycra packing for a Southeast Asia adventurePaul is Inspired Travel’s Operations Manager. Here, he shares with you his wealth of experience in properly preparing for cycling adventures throughout Southeast Asia. As you will discover, preparing for your cycling adventure is almost as challenging as the challenge itself.

Cycling in Southeast Asia is an experience like no other! Scooters and tuk-tuks zip through the seemingly organised chaos, honking their horns to alert you they’re passing by. Street vendors and market stalls line the roads with an array of local delicacies and squeamish culinary delights. As you cycle along unpaved and uneven surfaces, the humidity causing you to sweat uncontrollably, locals will come out to wave and sheer you on. The adventure may be tough; however, preparing for your cycling challenge is half the battle.

There’s a cycling kit, and then there’s a Cycling Kit. So let’s start at the bottom (literally) and invest in a good pair of padded cycling shorts. Personally, I would buy at least two pairs, so you can enjoy the luxury of a clean pair, while the first pair is drying after a good wash. Wrapping the washed pair in a towel and then twisting the towel, will wring out a great deal of the excess water. This will help combat the humidity while they dry, but get used to the fact that each day you will be wearing clean, but slightly damp shorts.

A couple of good quality wicking t-shirts are also worth their weight in dollar coins. Designed to draw the moisture away from your skin, they are invaluable when faced with the heat and humidity of Southeast Asian countries. I recommend long-sleeved wicking shirts for the added protection against sunburn.

Buying a top quality cycling helmet is also a must. Make sure it is adjustable and has appropriate ventilation. As you will find, some models have huge vents that, along with fresh air, allow large insects to fly in. I always choose the models that have thin mesh covering the vents. Dealing with a creepy-crawly inside your helmet while negotiating the bustling streets of a foreign country is not desirable. I also recommend that you invest in a helmet hat to protect your face and eyes from the sun.

Speaking of eye protection, sunglasses not only offer protection from the sun, but also from air-borne dust and insects. I always take a spare pair with me, and advise that you do the same. Most helmet straps do a good job of holding sunglasses onto your face. However, if you are worried about them falling off while cycling, buy or make straps for them. A couple of elastic bands looped together works quite nicely.

Having covered heads, shoulders and knees, let’s move on to toes. Most of you do not intend to turn your cycling adventure into a professional cycling career, so rethink the need to purchase cleated cycling shoes. The bikes we use also don’t have cleated pedals. If you do choose to use cleated shoes (or you have them already), pack your pedals and our bike mechanic will happily swap them over for you. With all that motion, there’s bound to be some friction, so make sure you pack plenty of socks!

Southeast Asia is as unpredictable as it is alluring. Always carry a waterproof jacket and trousers, as well some layers to change into if and when the rains come. You can keep these items safe and dry in the support vehicle. The only thing I recommend that you carry with you while cycling is a small backpack rehydration system. This allows you to drink (via a hose and mouthpiece) while keeping both hands safely on the handlebars. Ingeniously, the packs also have a small pocket for lip balm, sunscreen and snacks.

Finally, it is imperative that you go to a trusted cycling store, where the staff themselves are keen cyclists. They will have the knowledge and know-how to properly prepare you for the adventure ahead. Who knows, they may have even cycled in similar conditions.

Share the love this Valentine’s Day

Valentine's donationsOnly a few significant days throughout the year generate the same frenzy as 
Valentine’s Day.

Whether loved up and flaunting it, or happily single, why not share the love for your cause? The following are our suggestions for turning Valentine’s Day into a top fundraising opportunity.

Ask your supporters to give the gift of love

Let’s face it, you could live without that giant stuffed teddy bear that is currently collecting dust in your spare room/attic/garage. Finding the perfect gift for your loved one is tricky. So instead, suggest to your family, friends and networks that they either donate directly to your page as a token of their love for you, or donate as a gift to their loved one.

If you’re running a ‘donate’ campaign, always:

  • Tell your sponsors WHAT they can buy and WHERE the money is going. For example, $44 buys one goat to feed 5 families in Sri Lanka or $110 sends a child to school for a semester.
  • Provide a tangible certificate and/or card for each donation. This is your chance to get creative and thank your donors for their support.

Host a ‘Share the Love’ (or Anti-Valentine’s Day) event

There are plenty of reasons to get your loved ones together to share the love for your cause. A themed fundraising event is a great way to celebrate this day of love and kindness. Gather all your friends and host a romantic dinner—you provide the food, they provide the donations. Organise a speed-dating event at a local venue. If you’re really organised, you could even host a ‘Secret Admirer’ masquerade ball. If you’re actively trying to avoid an awkward confrontation with the chubby cherub with the bow and arrow, why not host an Anti-Valentine’s Day party? Invite you’re single friends over, prepare a feast  and enjoy an evening in watching ‘The Break Up’ (for a donation, of course).

Share what you love with the world 

Do you love baking? Why not cook up some heart-shaped cookies or cupcakes to sell at work? Or get creative, making cards for your colleagues to give to their loved ones. If your creative brain isn’t as active, perhaps approach your local florist for discounted flowers to sell on the day.

Run a romantic raffle for your supporters 

Approach local businesses for donations to a prize you can draw on Valentine’s Day. A romantic dinner for two, a night away, a pamper package or beauty products from your local salon or a massage from your local spa—your options are endless!

Turn Valentine’s Day into Valentine’s Month

Don’t feel restricted by the singularity of Valentine’s Day. You can draw raffles prizes for the week leading up to Valentine’s Day or send out daily love notes to your family and friends with a link to your fundraising page.

If you want to completely avoid Valentine’s Day, start working on ideas for other upcoming days or events. Host a family egg hunt during Easter, invite your girlfriends around for a chick flick screening on International Women’s Day, or have a backyard BBQ on International Day of Happiness.

If you need any holiday fundraising inspiration, simply give our fundraising hotline a call on 1300 905 188.

Day 8: Our Final Cycle is HOT HOT HOT (and so are we)

DAY 8: SBS RACE FOR REFUGEES 2012 (Mekong Delta; 55kms)

Today we had only one objective: pound through the 50 kilometres and finish the challenge before literally melting into the road. We had a brilliant early morning boat ride to visit the floating markets where an 8-year-old kid taught us all a thing or two about sales, nearly managing to up-sell Lizzie from 20 bananas to 40 using the cunning tactic of grinning big while withholding change. He almost had us!

After a 30-minute transfer on the bus we saddled-up to conquer our final ride of the trip: 50 kilometres, taking us to 420 kilometres total!!! It was hot and getting hotter so we powered through the first 25 kilometres in one go, stopping for a quick drink and cool down before hitting the road again to bang out another 15.

It comes easy to us at this point, zipping down country roads as motorbikes zoom past us. The rice paddies extend as far as the eye can see in every direction, criss-crossed by irrigation channels bringing water and, in turn, life to the vibrant Mekong Delta. Every few kilometres we would head up a little bridge where the waterways converge, pumping hard on the steep incline then enjoying the burst of speed on the way down the other end. Today was certainly “undulating!”

We stopped again 1 kilometre from the finish to regroup and finish how we started: together.

It’s amazing to think you can take three competing media agencies and one brilliant television station, unite them behind a common cause and raise over $50,000 for Australia for UNHCR then cycle across Cambodia and Vietnam as a team getting along every step of the way. Talk about an Inspired Adventure!

After snapping nine million photos in the 37-degree heat we hopped on the vans then hopped on a boat and cruised to an island in the Mekong Delta for a seafood feast of a lunch. Now it’s onward to Saigon to party “media style!” Watch out big city. We’re a comin’!

For the final time, GO TEAM!

Inspired Adventures Tour Escort

More from the Australia for UNHCR SBS Race for Refugees 2012

Australia for UNHCR is the fundraising arm of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Australia. Our aim is to help Australians change the lives of refugees and displaced people around the world.

As well as providing emergency relief like shelter, food, water, and medical care, our generous supporters improve refugees’ future opportunities, providing infrastructure, schools, and income generating projects. Our monthly donors also provide vital funding for UNHCR’s Emergency Response Teams who are on the ground saving lives within 72 hours, whenever and wherever crisis strikes. Find out more about Australia for UNHCR.

Read more trip stories from or visit the Inspired Adventures Calendar and find a Charity Challenge perfect for you.