Simon Gadient, 30, is the Kingdom’s reigning mountain biking champion. The Swiss national this week chatted with Brent Crane, sharing some of his favourite spots around town
I started with these morning rides nearly three years ago. Before, I was living in Phnom Penh for one year but I rarely went exercising because I just didn’t really know where to go.
I leave around 5am from my apartment in the Russian Market nearly every day.
First I started by joining a group, but now I go more often alone (the groups are too slow). One of my favorite rides is going out to Takhmao and back.
Sometimes I go to the other side of the Japanese Bridge to the peninsula where the big Sokha Hotel is.
That one’s not so far. I could recommend it to people who just want to do some exercise. It’s quite nice.
There’s no traffic there. People don’t even know about the riding possibilities in and around Phnom Penh.
Sometimes they say: “Oh there’s nothing to do for sport around here.” But I think it’s actually quite easy to just take a bike and ride somewhere.
Phnom Baset is a mountain with a temple on the top and a mountain bike trail going around it about 30 kilometres from Phnom Penh.
The track, I’d say, is one of the more technical in Cambodia.
You can basically go there all year round because it’s never flooded.
I first heard of it through friends who had gone there. For those who mountain bike, it’s well known.
For other people who just like to cycle, there is a paved road that goes to the top and you can go up to enjoy the view.
The mountain is not too high, just 120 metres above sea level. You start at 20 metres, so it’s 100 metres up.
Cambodians also like to go there to picnic along the mountain, but they leave all their rubbish there.
Flying Bikes 2 shop maintains the track. Last year they had an initiative to get the place cleaned and put in some rubbish bins.
The bins are still there, so no one has stolen them yet!
Flying Bikes 2
These guys repair my bikes. They also organise most of the races and I race for their team.
I like them because they do it for the enjoyment mainly.
They maintain many of the bike tracks and, in general, they’re nice people.
I like other bike shops but they don’t really do anything for the biking community in my opinion. But Flying Bikes 2 organises races and stuff like this.
They do it because the owner, Pierre Catry – I often go riding with him – he loves biking. Of course it’s business, but it’s also fun.
They have great knowledge of biking. On Sundays they have fun rides that anyone can join.
I think these are great if you want to get into biking but you don’t really know where to go.
Just join them. They’ve gone to Silk Island and to places a bit further across the river.
They switch it up. It’s not like they go always to the same place.
Fly Bikes 2, #131 BEO Street 51.
O’Russey bike street
On Street 107 near O’Russey Market are tons of stores set next to each other, all of them with used bikes.
It’s a bit chaotic. A lot are stolen, I think, or secondhand from Japan or China.
I try not to often go here, because if I see a bike that I like, I just buy it because they’re so cheap.
I have six bikes in Phnom Penh. Two in Switzerland.
I think this place is good for cheaper secondhand bikes, but their higher quality bikes are sold for way too much in my opinion.
For a commuter bike, it’s a good place. You have to bargain, of course.
Once a part on my bike was broken – a very small, cheap but specific part – and I couldn’t find it in a proper shop.
I went to the bike street and was able to find it quite quickly in one of the shops there. There are just so many of them!
The Mango Lady
If my mango tree doesn’t have mangoes, I buy mangoes from the same place, a seller who’s really close to my house.
It’s the mango lady on Street 12bt. Her mangoes are really good. She also has bananas, but I just buy the mangoes.
She’s popular in my neighbourhood, and if you talk to others about the mango lady, they will know of her.
There are actually two of them. They change from time to time.
One seems almost rude but she’s actually quite nice if you go all the time.
She only speaks Khmer, so we talk a little bit, but I like that she always knows what I want.
She knows I only want the normal mangoes, not the expensive ones.
She knows that if I stop there I will buy one kilo of mangoes.
I buy them for 5,000 riel a kilo and get a free mango from time to time.
If you’re coming from Street 271, she’s on the right side of the street. Mango Lady, Street #12bt.
International Christian Fellowship Church
I found this non-denominational church through my co-workers three years ago when I first came to Cambodia.
It’s the closest church to where I live but it’s the people that keep me going there.
There are a lot of different kinds of people who go. Many are NGO workers, but everyone can find people there to get along with.
I hang out mostly with the younger crowd, near my age. Generally, I think it’s a good tradition to go to church and to belong to a church.
Otherwise, maybe you’re just a Christian on paper. You have to go and be involved.
There are some churches that are really loud and try to be popular but this church is rather traditional.
There are people from all around the world there with different views and different denominations, but everyone comes together and it can be quite interesting.
International Christian Fellowship Church, #19-21 Street 330.