The Bicycling Photographer

Like most of us I started bicycling at about age four or five, but once I got my driver’s license, the bicycle was pretty much forgotten and the automobile became the primary method to get from point A to point B. It took more than 30 years before I started using a bicycle again, with the main reason for my renewed interest in bicycles being, that it would make it easier for me to teach my then five year old son, how to ride his first bicycle.

This of course led to re-discovering the joy of riding a bike. Over the last 15 years or so I have bought a number of bicycles (both for my son and myself) and have gradually evolved from a neighborhood nuisance wobbling around on a bicycle, to a world traveling tour bike fanatic who likes to challenge the airline (railway and bus companies) bicycle (as luggage) allowance regulations.

March 2011 to June 2013 – Seattle, Washington.

My current bicycle started it’s life on the road as a 2012 model Specialized Crosstrail Sport Disk in the late summer of 2011. I was working out of Seattle, Washington for a couple of years at the time, so it was easy for me to compare all the bicycles available in the US, and find something that I could afford and would last me a long time. The Hybrid bicycle category was not that popular yet, so I met with some resistance at the bicycle shops when I told them what I wanted to buy. In their opinion I should have bought a 100% road bicycle more suited to Seattle streets.

In some ways the sales people were right but I already knew that I would be modifying this bike over time and that I would probably be taking it back to Thailand and Cambodia, where I often traveled on broken pavement and dirt roads, and in the case of Cambodia on extremely bumpy and muddy trails.

2012 Specialized Crosstrail Sport Disk – the basic bicycle cost me right around US$800. The black color I wanted was not available on the 2011 model and the 2012 bikes had not been delivered yet, so I had to make a special order. At the time, this was the high end model of the Specialized Crosstrail, the category is more popular now so you can buy more expensive factory built versions of the same bike.

The first modifications I made on the bike were to add a Racktime Add-it rear rack and a Racktime Trunk-it snap-in rear trunk bag. I also purchased two Jandd Mountaineering (grocery bag) panniers. I had never seen them before but it seemed pretty obvious that I could use them both to go shopping and to carry my camera bags. Add a sturdy kick-stand, a Bontrager bottle holder and a Kryptonite bike lock to the package and the total price was well beyond US$1000.

Over the next year I also added a Topeak Mountain Morph Pump, Racktime Bar-it handlebar bag, Cats-Eye rear flashing red light, and a Light & Motion waterproof and re-chargeable headlight.

About a year later while still in Seattle I made my first major customization of the bike. Since I almost never used the front suspension fork (it had suspension lock-out), I had already been planning on eventually replacing the shock with a rigid fork. After doing some online research I decided on the Salsa Fargo (suspension corrected) Rigid Fork. I had a Salsa bicycle dealership do the conversion for me – total cost about US$200.

Next Story – flying from Seattle to Bangkok with the bike and then traveling to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai by an airport rental pick-up truck.

June 2013 to January 2014 – Chiang Rai, Thailand

The next big upgrades came in Chiang Rai, Thailand. New tires (Schwalbe Marathon Mondials) were a real challenge because they had to be shipped in from Germany. The trekking handlebar was a lucky find in a local bike shop and the Shimano Deore crank was shipped in from Bangkok.

January 2014 t0 August 2014 – Banchang, Rayong.

Revisiting places I had been to before in Rayong and Chonburi. I have both visited and lived in Banchang, Rayong and the neighboring town of Sattahip, Chonburi quite a few times over the last 20 years or so. The meal above is one I have a lot while out bicycling in Thailand – it is called Khao Lao and is basically noodle soup without the noodles and a bowl of rice on the side (or without the rice if you are not that hungry), the ingredients vary depending on the shop and the location.

August 2014 to August 2015 – Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Stories and photos yet to be added: Chiang Rai to Rayong and Rayong to Siem Reap.

Traveling from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Bangkok, Thailand.

Mid July 2015 I traveled from Siem Reap to Bangkok by bus (with several large duffle bags and the bicycle as luggage). The bus ticket was around $30 and the bicycle was an extra $15 payment to the driver. There was a problem with the second bus, which I was supposed to be on, so the driver offered me the jump-seat (usually reserved for the conductor). Luckily my policy of showing up early and being ready and willing to negotiate paid off. Plus as a bonus, I got to photograph the trip through the front window and had a trip long conversation with the driver and conductor (in Thai).

The bus company I used is Thai Transport (Thai government owned) which is the only bus that travels across the Thai-Cambodian border between Siem Reap and Bangkok. All other buses stop at the border, where you will have to switch to another transport service.

The Thai Transport bus also stops at the border and you will have to clear both countries Immigration and Customs departments on your own, but the bus will cross the border and once you have cleared immigrations, you will re-board the same bus for the rest of your journey.

Traveling by tuk-tuk from Morchit to Sukhumvit.

An interesting journey by tuk-tuk from the Morchit (Northern) bus terminal in Bangkok to my hotel in Sukhumvit.

August 2015 to (May 2016, I am still here) – Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I will be updating and adding to this story over time, so if you are interested in how I built a bicycle for photography and what we are up to at this time, please bookmark this page and return from time to time. Thank you, George

George Mann Adventure/Photography Workshops – please contact me for more information, if you would like to join me on one of my photo/adventure/bicycle /4WD expeditions – anywhere on planet Earth.

I specialise in setting up travel-photo-adventures for individuals and small groups over the age of 60 – Please Don’t Retire to Florida – Travel the World instead. I am 67 years old (soon to be 68) and I travel non-stop (and I have been doing it pretty much all my life). Let me show you how to travel without becoming a Tourist.