ACTIVE.com: I'm sure you had some sense of what kind of undertaking it would be, but what surprised you out there? It sounds like it was a pretty epic trip.
RR: I wasn't surprised by the beauty, but it was just such an awesome place to ride a bike. And a lot of the places we went, tourists had never been there before. Two-wheeled vehicles or on foot is how people get around, so there's all this amazing single track that's just their transportation trails between villages. So the riding was amazing.
I think the history that's still along the trails—like bomb craters and original cobblestone of the actual Ho Chi Minh Trail, the pieces of the war that are still there—that was really surprising to me. The war ended 45 years ago, and the villages have all repurposed the remaining metal and bomb casings; everything that was dropped on them has been repurposed and re-used for their daily life, which is so weird just visually seeing all of this. It was like being in a virtual reality history book.
It was really intense and amazing how resourceful the people are, but also that all that material was still there, especially the unexploded ordnance. There are tons of bombs that are still threatening people. There's still a big cleanup effort that has to happen. So that was a big surprise.
Also, just how kind everyone was. I mean, I'm going over there as an American whose dad was bombing their country. And I'm asking permission to come in and talk, and they couldn't have been more welcoming.
It is entirely conceivable that my dad could have killed their dad, but they welcomed us into their homes without any animosity, without any questioning of why we were there.And I feel like part of that was the bike; it really is kind of this universal travelers' thing, especially in Southeast Asia where bikes are everywhere. There's more bikes than cars.
I feel like it's this icebreaker thing. Roll up on a bike, and it's obvious you're on a journey. And it's different than rolling up in a car, getting out with the air conditioning running. I was really immersed in their culture, and I think that was appreciated. That and sleeping on the ground and eating rice and just kind of living out there. It was really amazing.
ACTIVE.com: How did the crew travel?
RR: They were mostly on motorcycles, and then there were a couple of support vehicles that would drive around and kind of leap frog because they couldn't access where we were. And then there were sections that were just myself and my teammate [Nguyen Huyen, an accomplished cross-country mountain bike racer in her own right], where even the motorcycles couldn't get to. Like a bridge would be washed out and there would be a super deep river crossing and we could walk across with our bikes, but the motorcycles couldn't get across so they would have to go around.
We would go from holding a machete trying to hack our way through the jungle, to navigating pavement and gigantic cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.The urban riding towards the end of the trip was actually the most scared I was. People will ask, "Were you scared out there on the trail?" and I say, "Only in the city."
ACTIVE.com: First time using a machete on a ride?
RR: [Laughs] Actually, no, not the first time using a machete. I used a machete adventure racing in Borneo. A machete was actually a mandatory piece of equipment, which was kind of crazy.