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 cycling tourers.
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 rulebook to follow. After all, sometimes, half the fun comes from learning by 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
Prepare – Remember your 6 P's (Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance). Being prepared for the road ahead, whether 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!
Educate – 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 multi month journey, 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.
Test – 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!
Eat – This does not get included in many people 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 your can't face the sight of oats in the morning again? If you are going on a multi week 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.
Make 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.
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!
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!
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