Bicycle Touring Tips
The bicycle touring tips listed below, are the result of quite a few years spent cycling around the world. During this time, I've had my fair share of joys and disasters, tricky situations and sublime experiences. It's been an incredible learning journey, and one that continues almost every time I get on the bike. By sharing some of the things that I have picked up along the way, I hope to make life a little easier for other cyclists planning their own long distance cycling adventures.
I've split this post of bicycle touring tips into four sections:
- Before you go – How to prepare for a long distance cycling trip
- On the Road – Bicycle touring tips aimed at making life on a long bike tour easier
- After the tour – What to do when the bike tour is over
- Using bicycle touring articles – Further reading to take your bike trip to the next level!
Something for everyone!
There should be something of use here for everyone, whether you are planning a weekend tour, or a more ambitious around the world cycling adventure. Keep in mind though, no one knows it all, especially me! So, please look on these bicycle touring tips as friendly advice rather than a rule book to follow. After all, sometimes, half the fun is learning from mistakes made along the way. If you have anything to add to these tips to help other people, I would love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment beneath the article.
Bicycle Touring Tips – Before You Go
Are you doing everything you can to prepare for your bicycle tour? I remember during the run up for my first tours, everything I did was geared towards making it succeed. Here's some things to keep in mind.
Remember your 6 P's (Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance). Being prepared for the road ahead, whether you intend cycling a coast to coast over a weekend, or one end of Europe to the other, can take many forms. Perhaps you need to build your fitness up, buy certain maps, work out where accommodation is, buy specific bits of gear etc etc. Just winging it works for some people, but being prepared before hand makes common sense. There is no point in making life harder than necessary!
Knowing how to look after your bike is going to save you a lot of hassle in the long run. If you are looking at touring for short periods of time, you should at least know how to fix a flat tyre and look after the chain correctly. If you are going on a long distance cycling tour, it would be beneficial to know how to replace a chain, fix spokes, remove the rear cassette, change cables etc. Some people choose to attend a bicycle maintenance class to acquire this knowledge. Others, including myself, pick it up as they go along over time. You can take all the tools in the world, but if you don't know how to use them, they are dead weight. Knowledge, on the other hand, weighs nothing.
The time to test all your shiny, new gear is not on day one of your epic cycling trip around the world! Give your kit a run out before leaving, whether it is setting the tent up in the back garden, using a water filter, or cooking off a camp stove. Perhaps more importantly, do a couple of rides with your fully loaded bike before you leave. A bicycle weighed down with stuffed panniers feels and handles a lot differently than a lightweight road bike. It might change your mind as to how much stuff to take as well!
This does not get included in many people's bicycle touring tips, but I really believe it's very important. The chances are, that you have decided what sorts of food you are going to eat whilst cycling. Maybe its lots of rice, pasta, fish, peanut butter, oats, bread etc. Now ask yourself this. Have you ever eaten these same foods day in day out for a week or more? How many breakfasts does it take before you can't face the sight of oats in the morning again? If you are going on a long distance cycling tour, and have worked out what sort of foods you are going to eat, try the diet first. Trust me.
Bicycle Touring Tips – On the Road
- Swap your front and rear tyres over every couple of thousand kms. They will last longer.
- Getting up early, and doing most of the cycling in the morning is a good idea. It is generally cooler and less windy.
- Avoid rush hour traffic wherever possible. This might seem common sense to most people reading this list of bicycle touring tips, but it's important nonetheless.
- Take time to smell the roses. Sometimes literally. You are bicycle touring to enjoy yourself and the countryside, not break new land-speed and distance records. (Unless that's your aim of course).
- Make the most out of every opportunity. A source of water? – Fill up all your bottles. A small store in the middle of nowhere? – Buy food, as it may be the last store for a while. Electric wall socket? – Recharge all your tech gear.
- Don't be afraid to take breaks. Nobody is watching you to see how “lazy” you are being, and an hour or more taken out for lunch will restore your energy levels beyond the calorific replacement.
- When braking on long, downhill sections, alternate squeezing between the front and back brakes. On super long stretches of downhill, don't let the rims overheat by constant braking. Pull over and take five minutes out.
- Balance your load out. If the panniers are heavier on one side than another, it will put unneeded strain on the hubs and wheels. Pack heavier items towards the bottom of the panniers. Try also to get 60% of the load at the back of the bike, and 40% at the front.
- Check this article out – How to cut costs on a bicycle tour
Bicycle Touring Tips – When It's All Over
- When you get back home, unpack your stuff as soon as possible. You don't want to be leaving a wet tent rolled up in a bag for months on end, or it will rot and smell. Air your sleeping bag etc. It's surprising how “I will leave it a day” turns into leaving it for a week!
- Label up all your photos. They might be fresh in the memory for a few days, but as time goes by, you may start forgetting where they were taken.
- Start planning your next trip!
Related Articles on Bicycle Touring Tips
Here are some more articles that you could class as bicycle touring tips. Some of these are aimed at people looking to buy a touring bike, whilst others are practical tips.
Things to look for in a touring bike
Butterfly Handlebars – Are Trekking Bars The Best type of Bicycle Touring Handlebars? – A look at whether or not trekking bars are the best type of bicycle touring handlebars in terms of comfort and practicality.
700c vs 26 Inch Wheels for Bike Touring – The Best Wheel Size for Bicycle Touring – Before buying a touring bicycle, you might want to take a look at which size wheel is best for bike touring.
Bicycle Valve Types – The differences between Presta and Schrader valves.
Rohloff Hub – Should you choose a Rohloff hub for bicycle touring.
How to change the oil in a Rohloff speedhub – How to maintain your Rohloff hub.
Bicycle Touring Gear
Bike Touring Gear – A look at the bicycle touring gear I take with me on extended tours.
Touring Panniers vs Bicycle Touring Trailer – Which is best for bicycle touring? Having used both extensively, I give my opinion.
Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Review – A review of the most popular touring panniers for long distance cycling trips.
Bike Touring Tool – Are multi-tools any good for bike touring?
More bicycle touring tips
Wild Camping – You can save a lot of money by wild camping during your bicycle tour. Here's some tips on how to wild camp successfully.
How to choose a camp stove for bicycle touring – Let's compare camp stoves, and work out which one is most suited for bicycle touring.
How to cope with being sick when bicycle touring around the world – It's never fun getting ill, especially when you are halfway around the world, and by yourself in the middle of nowhere.
How to pack food in your panniers – How to keep food in your panniers so it doesn't get destroyed!
Travel tips on cycling in Peru – Some FAQs about cycling in Peru answered.
Alaska to Argentina bike ride – Some FAQs about cycling the PanAm highway answered.
How much does it cost to travel around the world on a bicycle – A realistic look on how much cycling around the world costs.
As I mentioned before, I hope you find these bicycle touring tips useful, and if you have any of your own to add, I would love to hear from you. Just leave a comment in the section below. Cheers for now!