A sprawling vista of rice paddies. A pink haze emerging from a sea of lotus flowers. The impromptu rush hour as we meet a herd of water buffalo on their way to bathe. And clusters of high-fiving children lining the muddy trails. Scenes such as these are why two wheels is the best way to see Siem Reap and its outer environs.
In a town already brimming with tour companies, each offering an experience more unique than the last, it takes a particularly bright gem to stand out.
But a new kid on the block – Vicious Cycles – already has a head start. Its owner, Adam Platt-Hepworth, is merely adding building blocks onto a network of shops he hopes to extend throughout Southeast Asia.
More than just a bike shop, Vicious Cycles is the Siem Reap base of Grasshopper Adventures, of which Adam is the Southeast Asian regional manager.
It is a world-renowned bike tour company which runs two wheel (and some one wheel) expeditions throughout 16 countries in Asia. And having won the coveted Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in May, this is one company that will be a welcome jewel in Siem Reap’s crown.
While the shop opened quietly back in January, Adam’s recent arrival as a Siem Reap resident, along with his partner Marie, will put a face on what is largely an online industry.
“Siem Reap, it’s a great area, it’s a great town, we had existing tours here but we wanted to get in, to have a presence, and make connections,” he said. “Despite this huge shift towards internet travel planning, people like to be able to walk in, talk to someone and ask all sorts of unusual questions.”
When not concerned with the rental aspect of Vicious Cycles, (mountain bikes can be rented for $8 a day, town bikes for $4), and the tours, which range from a big gun temple overview, to a 70 kilometre ride to Bang Mealea, to a half-day in the Cambodian countryside, Adam has been busy networking with expats and Khmer alike.
In his first week in town he held a free, all-welcome 30 kilometre countryside cycle. Despite the ambitious start time – 8am on a Saturday – about 20 eager riders showed up to give the bikes a spin. So popular was the ride that Vicious Cycles has pencilled it in as a weekly affair.
So what makes Siem Reap such a great area to explore by bike? “Well it’s flat, that helps,” affirms Adam. “I think the real Cambodia, the Cambodia everyone falls in love with, you don’t see it from a bus, you won’t see it in town; it’s all the little back-trails, through the countryside and past villages.”
Adam says he wants to build up more consistent numbers on their tours. “It’s competitive, there are a lot of tours available. We’re not just competing with other bike companies, we’re competing with helicopters, ultra light planes, quad bikes. It’s not a niche interest, it’s just another thing you can do in Siem Reap – a simple pleasure.”
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