March 13, 2020, I crossed the Mekong river from Thailand to the country of Laos. On March 19, 2020, the world was locked down including this little country. My thought was that all of this COVID19 would blow over in a couple months and I could continue my journey on two wheels.
Well, we all know that not how it turned out and for 14 months I stayed in this third World communist country, which became one of the best accidents that could have ever happened to me. With that said, a lot of stuff happened while I lived there and the experiences I live through in that wonderful county is way too close to my heart to express on here. So i chose to pass on writing about that story, only to speak briefly about it in conversation while enjoying a cigar somewhere in this world.
With that said, I will share some pictures I managed to get in that time exploring Laos. Enjoy!
I don’t know what drove me to travel? It doesn’t really run in my family as I was the only one that had a passport at the time. Was it in my heritage or did I break the mold? Some things I will never know, but here I stood on a dock at the most southern tip of Thailand with a loaded bicycle about to head north to god knows where.
Thailand was not a stranger to me as I travel through it a few years before. This time around was of course very different and I was excited to see more of less touristic places along the way. I’ve noticed that I got more unique experiences on the journey by going through the “no name” towns. The one thing I didn’t except was the fact that I was constantly lost in translation there. Thailand was the only country in Southeast Asia that wasn’t conquered by another country and they are very proud of that. So much so that they didn’t really teach the English language to the locals as much as the surrounding countries. Getting around wasn’t any harder though being that the Thai people are very nice and caring, it just got lonely a lot.
During the journey north, I managed to stop on an island called Koh Tao to meet some friends I previously ran into in Australia. It was a good two week break in Paradise to hit the reset button before jumping back on the bike and setting my sights on Bangkok to meet up with another friend that I met in Malaysia. Along the way to Bangkok I came across a young family on bicycles as well. They blew my mind as they were going on three years on the road with a 4 year old daughter. She was probably the smartest kid I have ever met. I could have a full conversation with her in English and then watch her say something in Japanese to her mom seamlessly. After 2 days of riding With that couple We ended up going our separate ways, but they left a life-changing impact to me and my thoughts of my future as I watch them raise their kid on the road still living out their dreams.
I headed north to Bangkok where I met up with my my dear friend and spent about a week with her before I jump back on the bike and headed through the middle of Thailand. It took a handful of days through a lot of remote villages and long straightaways, but I managed to hit Chiang Mai. As a celebration of me making it to the most northern city in Thailand I treated myself to a wonderful Airbnb. I decided to spend a couple weeks there before heading east towards the country of Laos in plans of just crossing through to Vietnam Where I would fly out to Europe to finish my cycling trip… unfortunately the world had other plans!
Thailand to me still stands out as one of my favorite countries not only for the beautiful beaches and great food but the wonderful people as well. My first venture through this country was fairly short and I only ended up doing the touristy cities as I was just backpacking. Once riding through almost the entirety of the country, I found different meaning to the Thai culture and have a little bit more understanding of what is really important in life. When planning on going through Thailand I told some of my friends that it would probably be the last time that I would venture into Thailand being that there’s so many other countries I haven’t been to yet… oh how I was so wrong for thinking that!
Tires. The most important part about touring around the world on a bicycle is the tires, obviously. The only thing was that I had no idea about what I should look for in in touring tires other then what I read on the internet and word of mouth. I had one source in tires that I could trust, that was the “Mustached Prince of Michelin” Himself, Randy Richardson. His presents on Instagram is the stuff of legends and I the pleasure to be his friend on there. So I reached out and asked for his input on what tires to use on this extreme journey. Being that he was more on the motorcycle side of Michelin, he got in contact with the right people and they recommended me getting the new Power Gravels and test out the longevity and strength of these higher end gravel tires. I basically was going to torture test tires that weren’t meant to hold 300lbs for an ungodly amount of miles, but I was up for the challenge.
Getting the tires, I noticed right away that they were a very aggressive tread pattern and a medium compound which is not ideal for the lifespan. I also decided to go tubeless on this trip knowing that these tires were setup for it so I wouldn’t have to mess with those pesky tubes on every flat I got. Once mounted on the wheels, I quickly realized I couldn’t make time for a test run. That meant me going out without even knowing if these tires can hold and maintain the weight of everything on the bike or not. Luckily my first leg of my journey was in the great country of Australia and if I came across any issues with the tires, I wouldn’t be far from a bike shop.
I got rubber to road 7 days after landing in Australia and floated over to Tasmania. My plan was to ride along the east coast of Tassie. It was slow going at the start and pretty tough with the hills, but had no issues with the tires throughout Tasmania. Actually I didn’t have anything wrong with the tires for about 300 miles when I got my first puncture which was fixed within 5 minutes with a plug. After that flat is when I started to notice the tire ware on the rear tire. It was a slow ware, but it was starting to be more prominent. I brought a spare tire that fit in one of my bags on the bike just in case the worst happens. After about 630 hard miles on rough asphalt and dirt roads, the back tire finally needed changing. Hoping for another 600 miles on the fresh tire, I set off to my ending destination in Australia. Unfortunately a short time after I got caught up in the bush fires that was covering most of the east coast of Australia, forcing me to the coast and some of the roughest road on the trip. I got to the only campsite that was open at this time which is where I noticed an inch long cut in the side rear tire and was somehow still holding air, but I wasn’t going to trust it. The rest of the trip in Australia was done with a cheap off-brand tire on the back.
As a result of the end of my Australia portion of the journey, I made the choice to buy tires that were meant for touring so I wouldn’t worry about tires for the remainder of the trip. That does not at all mean that these were “bad” tires or that I wouldn’t recommend these tires to buy. I would say to not buy these tire if you are planning a world cycling journey. There’s other great tire brands in that market that are proven for that. As for what these tires are meant for in the gravel/cyclecross class, I would say that they could hold up to a lot of abuse. You got to keep in mind that it was torture compared to the weekend rider that would be looking for these tires. One month of my trip would be the same as year of a casual rider. I would personally use the Power Gravels for riding back home when I’m not living on the bicycle.
I’m not a professional of anything, let alone a pro cyclist which means I am not really qualified to give a review about bicycle tires. That being said, I did live on this bike with these tires for about 5 months and got some quality time on the road. The Michelin Power Gravels are great tires with premium grip although they rolled smoothly. The Power Gravels are well made in the fact that they hold up an oversized bicycle with no blowouts. My favorite part of these tires were the really good protection for flats because no one likes to deal with a flat tire with a trip like this.
I was happy to get the chance to try out these fairly new series of tires for Michelin and hope I could do some more of these in the future. I would like to personally thank Randy Richardson for the help and introducing me to these tires.