Yangon, Myanmar – a morning wander

In the full light of day, I’m glad to say Yangon seems even more similar than I remember it from 12 years ago. Lots of traditions remain and daily life hums along. 

Here’s some snaps to give you a flavour of the city. It’s not like any other south east asian capital. 

And there’s a few bicycle rickshaws thrown for good measure!



This pickled tea leaf salad was great!

Advertisements

Yangon, Myanmar – an evening stroll

Yangon has changed a bit since I was last here. But a lot of things are familiar: many men still wear longyis, ladies still have skin whitening paste on their faces, people are uniformly friendly and smiling, traffic is busy but not aggressive, the sugar cane juice vendors still have tinkly bells on their cane crushing mangle, the food is still lovely, and the colonial buildings downtown are still crumbling away with dilapidated charm.

But auto rickshaws and motorbikes seem to have disappeared. There are a lot more stray dogs then I remember, as well as skyscrapers and fancy shops. A few hipster type coffee shops as well, they were definitely nowhere to be seen when I was last here 12 years ago. Only dark teahouses back then. 

So it’s lovely to see that some traditions have remained and haven’t been completely wiped out by progress and foreign investment. 

Here’s some photos from my evening wander down to the Irrawaddy and back. 

Singapore – wheels, tigers and laksa

In town for work and the F1GP this weekend I caught up with friends and visited a funky bicycle-themed coffee shop in the Singapore heartlands called Wheeler’s Yard

Wooden handlebars anyone? A first for me. 


This place reminded me of Ah Joo, a long-time Singapore vintage road bike collector. I’d love to see his collection one day!

I also had my favourite laksa


And a couple of new Tigers (Black and White!)


And check out the view I had of the slippery start line F1 crash that took out both Ferraris (including Vettel on pole) and a Red Bull car. Incredible! Thankfully no-one hurt…

India does love the bicycle 

I almost bought this Hurricane indian made  gents town bicycle, with rod pull brakes, but… I just don’t have the space and common sense got the better of me.

Still, I did get some “Cycle” brand matches and sandalwood incense sticks recently in Mumbai. They smell so strong!

Not sure of the connection to bicycles though… 😂

Bangkok, Thailand – full of surprises 

Yesterday I was in Bangkok. Like Mumbai, not a city you might think ideal for cycling, but I was surprised to see it heading in that direction. 


A bicycle can be your shop as well as a means to commute. 

My recollection of Bangkok was more like this. 


Than this


Great to see cycle lanes, and in use too!

I was surprised to see they have an urban bike share system. Great stuff. I wonder how popular it is. 


I walked and walked all day and found myself in Lumpini park, where hundreds of people were jogging in the early evening. 

Then I came across a Bubble Pirate. “What’s one of those??”. The Bubble Pirate turns out to be a man by the name of Sandy with an interesting story and a penchant for spreading joy. Read more here

He traveled to Bangkok from Singapore, where I also once lived, over 3 months, enchanting families with bubbles along the way. 

Just before sunset in the evening light, the colours in the bubbles were so vibrant. 

Sandy’s journey will continue, so who knows where you might find him next. 

​​​

I also spotted a beautiful vintage Thai-made Rama (the name of the Chakri kings of Thailand) bicycle at the Chatuchak weekend market (not for sale). I would guess this dates from the 30-40s. Beautiful condition and apparently complete and original. 

That’s a lot of surprises for one day. Bangkok never fails to amaze. 

Mumbai, India – more traffic than you could shake a stick at

I was in Mumbai yesterday. 


Now there’s a city I wouldn’t dare cycle in, though some brave souls do. 

Given the traffic is so heavy and slow, the commute time by bike is probably equivalent to that by bus or car. 

Life expectancy would be significantly shorter though…

This man deserves a medal. Or even better, a helmet and some lights!

Palma, Mallorca – urban bike sharing

On a recent holiday to Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain I was pleased to see even this small city (population 400,000) has an urban bike-sharing initiative. Bicipalma. 

Most of the bikes were of the “standard” step-through (col de cygne) type, often used for urban bike sharing, but there were also some with front suspension forks. 


Which begs the question:

What is the ideal spec for urban bike sharing?

To my mind suspension shouldn’t be needed. It adds maintenance complexity and weight that probably outweighs its usefulness in a city environment. 


Grip shifters seem to be ubiquitous on these bikes. Personally they are my least favourite shifting mechanism, but theoretically more accessible to “non-cyclists”, so if that’s true, then it’s a fair choice. 

I’m not sure these fairly flimsy baskets are a good idea. I can imagine them being quickly bent out of shape, making the bike look badly maintained and discouraging riders from using them. 

Mudguards/fenders are essential, but they should probably be sturdier than those used on the front wheels here, which can easily bend out of alignment and rub the tyre. The rear wheel mudguard/fender solution is better and offers some spoke protection, which doubles as real estate for reflective strips and advertising. 


I guess these bikes have hub gears – I didn’t see a derailleur. Hub brakes appear to be the norm, which seems a good, low maintenance choice that should have a good lifespan. 

The use of rear v-brakes here isn’t a great solution in my view. They might be cheaper to buy than hub brakes but require regular adjustment and pad replacement when used as often as these are likely to be. If not replaced regularly enough, they risk damaging the rims, requiring regular monitoring and mechanic time. Also loss of braking power in wet weather isn’t ideal in a crowded urban environment, so hub brakes would be best. 

Positioning of the rear LED cluster on the seat post also isn’t ideal. It should really be higher, larger and more visible, not obscured by the rear mudguard/fender. The bike with the suspension in the background has a better placed light, though they could arguably also be larger and higher. Go large and visible!

The station I saw had a number of open slots, so I assume some were in use (or permanently decommissioned). Again, as in San Francisco, I didn’t notice anyone using them while I was in town. 


So I guess the ideal bike-share bicycle must be: solid, low maintenance, reliable, accessible, safe and attractive.

The good news is, while not perfect, almost all the solutions I have seen so far meet most all of these criteria. 

What do you think could be improved on these bikes to make them more popular?