Touring Advice

MG_0240-1-33agjr8fhxgqmco3pm2xhm

  • The first and most important bit of advice is:  Have fun!  Don’t take touring too seriously.  Enjoy the ride.  Isn’t that why you’re doing it in the first place?
  • Don’t worry what anyone else thinks.  There will be plenty of people who’ll tell you that you’re crazy for wanting to go travel by bicycle.  But there are more people who will sit at home, silently jealous, thinking about being out on the open road and enjoying themselves like you are.
  • Invite your friends. You might be surprised which of your friends would be willing to come join you on the road, even if only for a short time.  Or invite an acquaintance and turn them into a friend.
  • Be involved in the bicycle touring community.  The web is filled with great bicycle touring blogs, forums and groups of bicycle tourists for you to take advantage of.  It’s a great way to research routes, ask questions, get advice and connect with other bicycle travelers.
  • Plan ahead so that you pack what you will need, and don’t pack what you won’t need.  I make out a tour equipment list.  And many similar lists are available on bicycle touring blogs and forums.
  • Don’t be afraid to pack and carry a little extra weight for something you enjoy.  There are some non essential items that can bring you a bit of joy while you’re touring.  I always bring along a kite to fly.
  • Don’t spend too much money on gear.  It’s easy to get caught up in all the high tech travel gear that is out there. Remember to keep it simple.  You’ll appreciate it when you have more money to spend along the way.
  • Don’t worry too much about pre-trip training.  Just start off by adjusting to what your body is telling you.  Soon enough you’ll surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.
  • Don’t worry about your speed.  It’s not a race.  There’s no such thing as going too slowly.  The slower the go the more you will see and experience.
  • Don’t worry about distance either.  Don’t try to crank out 100 miles a day everyday.  Too much cycling can wear you down and cause you to burn out.  Take it easy.
  • It’s important to have a plan, but more important to flexible. Weather, road work and other unanticipated factors can force a change in plans.  When that happens, just roll with it and take each day as it comes.
  • You don’t need Lycra, spandex, or ultra cycling clothing.  I prefer comfortable casual clothes when I’m riding.  And I feel like less of a weirdo when I’m not on the bike.
  • It’s generally a good idea to start each day’s ride early and finish early. This accomplishes several things.  In the Spring and Summer you miss the worst heat of the day.  Start early enough and the roads are almost empty. If you start getting into rush hour you can always stop for a little “second breakfast” till it passes.  Being able to stop early lets you enjoy a leisurely supper or just a bit of poking around in the local town without having the worry of “making your miles” for the day.  Should you get delayed by getting lost, road work or whatever you have plenty of time to get back on course/schedule without having to “hammer down”.
  • Get off the bike occasionally along the way.  Don’t abandon your other interests just because you are on tour.  Hiking and other outdoor activities are great ways to spend some time off the saddle.
  • Bring along plenty of music, or recordings such as podcasts, to listen to and entertain yourself along the way and at the end of the day.
  • Explore your surroundings.  There are some routes that are little to unknown don’t be afraid to leave the main road to explore them.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.  Watch out for potholes and speed bumps. I know several cyclists who have had some major injuries caused by not seeing obstacles that were in plain sight.
  • Take care of your bike along the way.  Even simple maintenance such as cleaning and oiling the chain can go a long way.
  • Take care of yourself along the way too.  Eat well, shower, wear sunscreen.  Do what you need to in order to continue to enjoy yourself.
  • Riding on a tour can burn a huge amount of calories, so eat often and a lot.  You may not lose a lot of weight but you aren’t going to add anything during the ride either, and a lot of what you are carrying will turn to muscle.
  • Ditto the above with fluids (lots more water than sports type drinks) I carried 4 24-ounce bottles full of water each day and usually managed to drink them all.
  • Sometimes you may need a lift.  Your bike breaks down, you get sick, or maybe you are just temporarily fed up with cycling. There’s no shame in asking for a ride or taking a bus every now and then.
  • If you are sensitive to light and sounds consider carrying a pair of ear plugs and an eye mask.  Sleeping outside, the sunrise and rooster crows can prevent you from getting those extra hours of much needed sleep.
  • Be open to learning.  Traveling can be a great way to learn new skills such as languages or cooking.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Most people are eager to help if you ask for it, whether it’s recommendations for local resources, permission to rest in their shade, or simply some water.
  • Put down the GPS and talk with people.  When you are lost cycling down some dirt road leading to who knows where, a GPS will do little to help you.
  • Get used to being asked the same questions over and over … and over again.  Where are you from? Where are you going? Try to keep a smile on your face and remember it might be the first time this person has ever met someone traveling by bicycle.
  • When you meet other bicycle tourists on the road, don’t bombard them with a million questions about how many times they change their chain and what type of tires they use.  Talk with them about their experiences instead.
  • Dogs can be very fast.  Unless you get a good start on them, have a steep downhill in front of you or just get lucky you are not going to outrun them. I got lucky more times than not and my next trip I’m thinking of carrying a can of Halt!
  • Hide your cash, identification and passport in your back panniers. Keep only a small amount on your handlebar bag for daily expenses.
  • Ask to camp.  Camping saves you an incredible amount of money while on tour. Police and fire stations often host cyclists and allow them to camp on the station grounds. Bring you own tent or camping hammock and you are all good to go.
  • It’s okay to splurge every now and then.  If you’ve had some rough days on the road treating yourself to some good food or a nice room is a quick way to lift your spirits.
  • Feel free to take breaks.  The daily grind of cycling, camping and eating pasta every night can get old. It’s good to take a break from time to time to recharge your body and mind.
  • Take lots of photos.  Digital photography makes it easy and cheap.  And later, when the photos spark many memories and stories to tell, you’ll be glad you did.
  • Keep a journal.  Writing at the end of the day or during your lunch break is great way to use your mind and record your memories.
  • Keep in touch with people
  • Start as soon as you can.  Make someday today.

And if you’re travelling in foreign countries:

  • Learn at least the basics of the language of the country you plan to cycle in. Not only will you be able to order food and ask for directions you will be able to have conversations with locals.
  • If you are traveling through a country in which the language is very different than your own write a few sentences about yourself and your trip and find someone who can translate them into the local language.
  • Don’t be afraid to bargain. In some cultures bargaining is the norm. Ask for discounts at hotels and markets. But don’t fight over a few cents when someone is in more need than you are.