I am off on October 1 for a two week trip to Vietnam riding from Hanoi up into the hills and back again (I think its going to be about 1200km). Even though I have done this before, it’s hard to remember everything you need to take, so I thought I’d put together a gear and preparation list based on my experience in 2010. Hopefully this might help me make sure I bring everything I need and also be useful for other people in the future if they are considering a bike trip to this part of the world.
Medical – Get vaccinations (Typhoid, Hep A & B, Tetnus, Malaria if you are going inland). I also highly recommend getting Dukoral to help guard against Cholera and reduce the likelihood of getting travellers diarrhoea.
Insurance – Does your bike insurance cover you overseas? Does it cover you for theft in the open air? Are you covered when you are riding your bike? Damage in transit? If you want good cover that’s very cheap and are with AAMI for your contents, consider their portable valuables insurance. It will cover you for everything mentioned above, except for damage caused whilst you are riding it. I have Vero’s Gold Cover for my contents insurance and this covers me for everything above, including damage whilst riding.
Health insurance – Credit card insurance can be a very cost effective way to get medical cover, but read the policy carefully. I also like http://www.travelinsurancedirect.com.au/ and http://www.columbusdirect.com/ too for cheap cover. Watch their item limits though on goods and also I know from past experience that they will only pay the written down value of an item, not its replacement cost. Also they won’t cover your for theft whilst you don’t have the goods in your legal possession. Travel insurance can come in handy too for a trip like this even before you leave home. How? If you had an accident and were medically unfit to ride on the trip, then you could make a claim. Of course check the fine print as things change. BTW, if you ever need high risk medical insurance (mountaineering, deep diving) then I really like http://www.ihi.com/ I have used them for lots of trips in the past and even made a claim and they were great.
Bike: Check chain for stretch, tyres – do they need replacing? Cassette – 25-11 is good. It’s a good idea to have your bike professionally serviced.
Bike Case: Hard or Soft? I have both, but I prefer the soft case http://pikapackworks.com/. It’s lighter than a hard case and I have not had any trouble with airlines so far. But the main benefit is that it packs up reasonably small so that it doesn’t take too much room in the van. If you use a cardboard box, cover it with contact to make it waterproof.
Gear to take:
3 sets of bike kit, arm warmers, vest. I won’t have leg warmers.
Sun screen & Lip balm. If you are on malaria medication you will get sunburnt very easily, so keep on top of the sunscreen.
Mosquito repellent to guard against dengue fever carrying mosquitoes (these come out at dusk). Anti Malarial vaccinations are only 60% effective, so the best bet is to avoid getting bitten.
Water purification tablets to carry on the bike in case you need to get water from a stream.
Antibiotics: Cefalex or Azithromycin for skin and upper respiratory infections – I’ll take it if I fall off the bike – touching wood as I write this and Ciprofloxacin for GI upsets diarrhoea (both of these are 1 tablet at morning and 1 at night for 5 days). You can buy these locally very easily.
Loperamide or other diarrhoea stopper.
Chamois creme. Buy good stuff – I like Assos. Use it every day on the trip. Nappy rash creme can work well too (Bepanthen http://www.bepanthen.co.uk/)
Detergent to handwash your kit. The free bottle you get with Assos gear works well. There are local washing services, but I don’t trust them – the lycra gets ruined after a few washes as they often scrub the clothes against stones or concrete.
Sleeping bag liner for when we don’t get provided linen – silk ones are best. No need for a sleeping bag.
Couple of pairs of shorts & t-shirts, a long sleeve top, sandals, underwear, bathers. Will wear jeans and comfy shoes on plane, so no need to pack.
Toiletries – soap, shampoo & don’t forget deodorant.
Small travel towel.
Plastic bags to put wet or dirty clothes until they can be washed.
Food – some snacks to carry with you on the bike and powder for drink if you normally use it. It can be hard to get enough protein in this part of the world, so I am going to take a protein powder to have at the end of the day.
Personal Bike gear:
spare tyres x 2, tubes x 3, patches, levers.
Two water bottles, plus at least 1 spare in case you loose one.
Make sure your bottle cages are very secure. Metal is best, as bottles can easily bounce out.
Computer & charger (USB and AC) and travel adapter (both US or EU power plugs are supported, so bring both if you want to always be able to charge)
Mobile phone (make sure its unlocked as we’ll buy a prepaid SIM)
I’ll take a small front and rear light in case we get caught out.
Gas if you want it. I have flown with it recently in my check on luggage and was told that up to 6 canisters is ok. We’ll have a track pump, so I’ll just bring 2 cannisters with me, in case the van isn’t available.
Chain lube. I use rock n roll gold. You don’t want something heavy.
In 2010 washing the bikes was a key part of every day. Starting off the day with a nice clean bike makes you forget all about the hard day yesterday. We bought a bucket and detergent from a local shop to clean the bikes, which was a big help.
Baby wipes to clean chain and bike if we can’t wash it. Take plenty.
I will bring a spare derailleur hanger for my bike.
Other gear you might want to have with your group:
Spare chain, chain breaker, spare front and rear wheel, saddle (we broke one in 2010), handlebars, multi tool, dérailleur hanger straightener (needed in 2010), handlebar tape.
Passport, $500 AUD to change, copies of insurance, flight schedule/tickets.
Write key contact numbers down somewhere too.
Anything I have missed? I am sure there is some – drop me a message and I’ll add it.
Update from 2011
Merino Wool kit (Rapha) was really popular and a few riders who had both merino and normal material said that the merino was definitely cooler.
Jersey with full length zip (can unzip on the long hot climbs)
Camera phone to capture moments on the bike
Buy a can of RP7 spray to lube cables and dérailleurs.