A Beginners Guide To Bicycle Touring: How To Prepare For Your First Bike Trip

Plan your first bike trip with this easy-to-follow bicycle touring guide

Bicycle touring is not just a hobby; it’s a lifestyle. One that offers an unparalleled sense of freedom and connection with nature.

Are you ready to embark on the ultimate adventure? Imagine feeling the wind in your hair, the freedom of the open road, and the thrill of exploring new places on two wheels.

Whether you’re dreaming about cycling through picturesque European countryside. Or conquering challenging mountain passes in Central Asia. This beginner’s guide to bicycle touring will help you prepare for your first bike trip like a pro!

custom caps and matching jerseys are optional for your first bike trip
Custom caps and matching jerseys are optional for your first bike trip

What is cycle touring and why do it?

Bicycle touring is the ultimate fusion of adventure and travel. It involves travelling long distances on a bicycle. Often over multiple days, weeks, months and in serious cases, years. But it’s more than just riding a bike – it’s an opportunity to experience the world in a way that connects you in a meaningful way with the people and the places you pass through

One of the biggest reasons people choose to embark on cycle tours is the sense of freedom it provides. Unlike other forms of travel, you have complete control over your itinerary and can go wherever your pedals take you. Whether you’re cruising along scenic coastal roads or pedalling through charming countryside villages, every turn offers new discoveries.

Cycle touring also allows you to challenge yourself physically and mentally. As you conquer steep hills and push through fatigue, you’ll develop strength and resilience that extends beyond cycling. It’s an opportunity for personal growth as you prove to yourself what you are capable of achieving.

The world at 15KPH

Moreover, cycle touring provides an intimate connection with nature that is difficult to replicate in any other mode of transportation. You’ll witness breathtaking landscapes up close, smell the fresh air as it whizzes by, and hear the sounds of nature serenading your journey.

But perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of cycle touring is connecting with like-minded individuals along the way. Whether it’s fellow cyclists at the side of the road or locals who offer their hospitality. Chance encounters create lasting memories and foster a sense of camaraderie among adventurers from all walks of life.

Bicycle touring opens up a whole new world where adventure meets self-discovery. It allows you to break free from routine, and explore at your own pace. Whatever your motivations, bike travel can change your perspective on every level.

for beginners maybe plan your first bicycle tour with a friend
For beginners maybe plan your first bicycle tour with a friend

A Beginner Guide to Bicycle Touring

So, you’ve decided to embark on your first bike trip? Congratulations! Bicycle touring is a fantastic way to explore new places, challenge yourself physically, and connect with nature. But before you hit the road, there are a few things you should know.

First and foremost, it’s essential to plan your route carefully. Consider the distance you want to cover each day and research bike-friendly roads or trails in the area. Don’t forget to factor in rest days too – after all, this is meant to be an enjoyable adventure!

Later, you’ll feel at ease just setting out from your front door, but to get started some folks find it reassuring to know where they’re going.

Everything but the kitchen sink – unless it’s a foldable one

While it’s tempting to bring everything but the kitchen sink, remember that weight matters when cycling long distances. Invest in lightweight camping equipment such as a compact tent, sleeping bag, and cooking stove. Opt for clothes made from moisture-wicking materials that dry quickly.

Take a look at my cycle touring kit list for inspiration on what you may wish to take on your first trip. None of it is mandatory and it’s possible to have fun on a shoestring set up.

Always wear a helmet – no exceptions! Also, make sure your bike is in good working order before setting off. Check the brakes, tires, gears – every part of your trusty steed.

One important tip for beginners: start slowly and gradually increase your mileage each day as you build up stamina and strength.

Lastly (for now), embrace the journey! Cycle touring isn’t just about reaching your destination; it’s about enjoying every moment along the way. Take breaks whenever you feel like it – stop at that charming café or pause by a picturesque lake for lunch.

Remember: bicycle touring is all about exploration and self-discovery. So don’t stress too much over details; simply hop on your bike with an open mind and enjoy the ride!

you'll make new friends on your first bicycle tour
You’ll make new friends on your first bicycle tour

Cycle Touring Tips for a Novice

Cycling tours can be an exhilarating and fulfilling way to explore new places and experience the world from a different perspective. But before you hit that open road, here are some essential bicycle touring tips to help make your journey enjoyable and hassle-free.

Start with shorter bike trips to build up your stamina and get comfortable with long hours of cycling. Gradually increase the distance as you gain confidence in your abilities.

Remember, it’s not a race – take breaks when needed and listen to your body.

Planning is not essential when it comes to cycle touring. Research of potential routes, allowing for rest days with points of interest can be a useful tactic, however. Create a rough itinerary but allow flexibility for unexpected discoveries or changes in weather conditions.

Invest in good quality gear that suits your needs. A comfortable bicycle touring saddle, reliable bike lights, waterproof panniers or backpacks are all essentials for any cyclist hitting the road for extended periods.

Pack light it’ll be alright

Only bring what is necessary. Clothing suitable for various weather conditions but no more than a set for on and off the bike. Toiletries are not that important. Repair kit including; spare tubes/tires/parts (depending on how remote your route) are handy.

Snacks high in energy like nuts or dried fruits – think lightweight items that won’t weigh you down during those long rides.

Stay hydrated by carrying enough water bottles or investing in a hydration pack that fits comfortably while riding.

Morocco is a great place to plan a beginners bicycle tour
Morocco is a great place to plan a beginners bicycle tour

Basic Bicycle Maintenance for Cycle Touring

Before setting off on each day’s ride, ensure both you and your bike are well-prepared.

Check tire pressure regularly. Although you’ll know pretty well straight away if there’s a need for air. And without fail every time a local strikes up a conversation, they will feel the pressure of your tyres.

Inspect brakes if you are that way inclined. Clean and lubricate your chain and cables if you fancy. Most importantly though,  double-check all your kit is packed away before you leave for the day.

Cycle Touring Essentials Every Newbie Should Carry

When embarking on your first bicycle tour, it’s essential to pack wisely and ensure you have all the essentials. Here are some must-haves for novice cyclists venturing into the world of cycle touring:

Navigation Tools

A reliable GPS device or a good old-fashioned map will help you stay on track and prevent getting lost in unfamiliar territory. You’ll most likely use your smartphone for this so I’d suggest a power bank too. If you choose paper maps, I salute you!

Repair Kit

Flat tires and minor mechanical issues can happen, so make sure to carry a puncture repair kit, spare inner tubes, tire levers, and a multi-tool for basic repairs. Bike-specific parts that are hard to find are also advised for those venturing off-piste.

First Aid Kit

Accidents can occur when cycling long distances, especially if you’re exploring remote areas. Pack a compact first aid kit with bandages, antiseptic wipes, painkillers, and any personal medication. I carried a big med kit and only used the saline solution to relieve my dusty eyes. It’s useful to carry even if you never use it.

Safety Equipment

A high-visibility vest or reflective accessories are essential for visibility on the road. Pair with front and rear lights for riding at night.

simple is better when planning your first bicycle touring trip
Simple is better when planning your first bicycle touring trip as a beginner

Bicycle Touring Set Up for Your First Bike Trip

Preparing for your first bike trip can be both exciting and overwhelming. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience, it’s important to have the right set-up. Here are some essential cycle touring tips to get you started.

A steel bicycle to roll them all

First and foremost, make sure you have a reliable bicycle that is properly fitted to your body. The last thing you want is discomfort or pain while riding long distances. Invest in a good-quality touring bike or consider getting your current bike professionally adjusted if needed.

I chose a Dawes Ultra Galaxy for my first long bike trip. Before that I used any old push iron I could lay my hands on. Test a few second-hand bikes before you commit. Visit a local bike shop to check out the possibilities.

Luggage, cookware and camping gear

Next, think about luggage. Rear panniers are a popular choice among cycle tourists as they provide ample space for carrying clothes, camping equipment, and other necessities. For relay big expeditions, front panniers, a handlebar bag and a throwover dry bag can also be used depending on personal preference.

Don’t forget to pack lightweight but durable camping gear. A lightweight bikepacking tent, sleeping bag, stove and cooking utensils if planning on cooking your own meals. It’s crucial to strike the right balance between comfort and weight when choosing these items. I rarely cook on tour these days unless it’s a very remote place or for a very long trip.

Practical clothing for all occasions

Additionally, it can pay to invest in high-quality cycling clothing that is suitable for various weather conditions. Opt for moisture-wicking fabrics that help regulate body temperature and protect against wind chill. Merino wool base layers are worth every penny. A decent waterproof jacket will see your right and SPD pedals are among my essentials. Lycra optional.

the verdon gorge is a great beginners bicycle touring trip
The Verdon gorge is a great beginners bicycle touring trip

Cycle Touring Equipment You Might Need

When embarking on your first bicycle tour, having the right equipment is crucial to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. Here are some essential items you might need for your cycle touring adventure:

  • Camping mat/sleeping pad
  • Water filter/purification tablets
  • Hammock rather than a tent for the Tropics
  • Money belt
  • Tarp

Bicycle touring vs Bikepacking – and why you need to know the difference

Bike touring and bikepacking are two popular ways to explore the world on two wheels, but they have distinct differences that can greatly impact your experience. Understanding these differences is essential for planning a successful adventure.

Let’s talk about bike touring

This involves travelling long distances on roads and paved surfaces, usually with panniers or racks attached to your bike to carry all your gear. Bike touring tends to be more focused on comfortable riding conditions and staying in established accommodations like hotels or campgrounds along the way.

Bikepacking be like

On the other hand, bikepacking is all about off-road adventure. It typically involves riding trails and gravel paths with minimal gear carried in frame bags or backpacks. With bikepacking, you have more freedom to explore remote areas and camp in the wilderness if desired.

Why does knowing this difference matter?

Well, it affects how you plan your route, choose equipment, and pack for your trip. If you’re going on a long road journey with access to amenities along the way, traditional bike touring may be ideal. However, if rugged terrain and self-sufficiency appeal to you, try bikepacking!

Remember that there’s no right or wrong choice here; it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the type of adventure you seek. Both options offer unique experiences that will surely leave lasting memories.

So whether you decide on classic bicycle touring or adventurous bikepacking – get out there! Explore new horizons by embracing the beauty of nature from behind handlebars – because there’s nothing quite like experiencing life’s wonders at human-powered speed!

europe is a great place for beginners to get started bicycle touring
Europe is a great place for beginners to get started bicycle touring

Cycle touring blogs every beginner should read

Cycle touring blogs can be a valuable resource for beginners looking to embark on their first bike trip. These blogs provide firsthand accounts, tips, and insights from experienced cyclists who have already explored the world on two wheels. By reading these blogs, beginners can gather inspiration, learn from others’ experiences, and gain practical advice that will enhance their cycling adventures.

Bicycle Touring Guide for Beginners with The Adventure Junkies

One blog that every beginner should check out is The Adventure Junkies. This blog features a wide range of articles dedicated to all aspects of bicycle touring. From gear recommendations to route planning tips, this blog covers it all. The authors share their personal stories and offer valuable insights into the challenges and rewards of cycle touring.

Cycling About; Advanced Bicycle Touring Advice

Another must-read blog for beginners is CyclingAbout. This comprehensive resource provides detailed information on bicycle travel around the world. Whether you’re interested in long-distance tours or shorter weekend trips, CyclingAbout has articles covering everything from equipment selection to navigation techniques.

So long as you're prepared for all weathers, Europe is hard to beat for a beginners bicycle tour
So long as you’re prepared for all weathers, Europe is hard to beat for a beginner bicycle tour

Bicycle Touring Pro

For those seeking inspiration from real-life cycle tourers, Bicycle Touring Pro is a fantastic blog to follow. It features interviews with experienced cyclists sharing their journeys and lessons learned along the way. Reading these inspiring stories will motivate any beginner to take that first step towards their adventure.

Crazy Guy on A Bike

In addition to these specific blogs, there are numerous online communities where cyclists come together to share their experiences and knowledge. Websites like Crazy Guy On A Bike and Reddit’s r/bicycletouring are great platforms for connecting with other enthusiasts who can provide valuable advice based on personal experience.

Warm Showers is a wildly useful resource for cycle tourers. I’ve stayed with hosts all over the world and hosted folks in the. UK too. It’s a great way to connect with other cycle tourers and take a well-earned break from camping.

Remember that while reading about other people’s adventures is informative and inspiring, it’s important not to compare yourself too much or get overwhelmed by what others have achieved. Everyone’s journey is unique! Take what you learn from these resources as guidance but ultimately trust your instincts when preparing for your first bike trip.

How do I prepare for a long bicycle tour?

Since you’ve read this entire article, I’d suggest you are prepared for your long-distance bicycle tour. You’ll have answered many of your questions and have plenty of ideas about kit, routes and resources.

You’ll get fit on the road. There’s always another job if you quit. It’s even possible to make a living on the road, heck, I did it – read how to get started as a travel blogger for inspiration.

The main thing I would suggest at this point is to consider the urgency of your trip. If not now, when?

I believe in you! Now get on your bike, my friend, and ride!