Unconventional cycle touring tips for an adventure to remember
This article details a decade of cycle touring tips gathered from far-flung places on short and long-distance bicycle-based adventures.
In my early days of multi-day bike trips, I was obsessed with collecting the best advice on bicycle touring. I’d sup a pint down the pub with Ade and he’d say the magic words; ‘I’ve found a nice hill over yonder.’
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from Ade about cycle touring. In this article, we’ll explore the basic principles and top tips to planning a long-distance bike ride for maximum enjoyment.
Cycle Touring Tips For Bicycle Adventures Around The World
Embarking on a cycle touring adventure is not just about the destination; it’s about the journey itself. With over 40+ countries under my belt, here are my top cycle touring tips to help you make the most of your two-wheeled odyssey.
A doorstep adventure
My first cycle touring tip is to start local. There’s been a popular movement towards local adventures. Inspired by the constraints of lockdowns, folks have taken to exploring the first few miles from their doorstep.
I’ve particularly enjoyed my old Uni friend, Carrie, the Doorstep Explorer. Taking the concept a little further, popular blogger and adventurer, Al Humphreys, has written a book* about his exploration of the map square of his own neighbourhood.
He’s also written extensively about his own cycle touring tips having cycled around the world for four years.
Ask Google: ‘cycle touring tips’
This principle in cycle touring is a perfect starting point to plan a bicycle adventure. Use a simple Google search to ask ‘top cycle touring tips?’.
Likely Google will make suggestions of many and varied examples on how to plan a bicycle adventure.
Better still, pack your bag, load your bike and see how you get on
Pro cycle touring tips
A keen bike explorer knows that the best bicycle adventures take place off the beaten track, away from traffic, somewhere green. Plan your long-distance bike trip like a pro and only use the bike touring tips that resonate with you.
In the past, Ade and I have planned our bike tours around countries, continents and causes depending on our desires at the time. Pro bike touring tip: do it cos you love it!
Enjoy the view
Traditionally, our Mash-Up and District bike tours have started and ended with a climb. It’s a Really Big Bike Ride custom. While it can be hard on the thighs, the view from the top is nearly always worth the effort.
Plan, but Stay Flexible
Have a rough itinerary, but leave room for spontaneity. Embrace detours and unexpected discoveries; they often lead to the best bicycle adventures.
Invest in Quality Cycle Touring Gear
Your bike and gear are your best companions. Prioritize comfort and durability over flashy gadgets. A sturdy bike, like a Dawes Galaxy, comfortable touring saddle, and reliable panniers can make all the difference.
Expensive cycle touring kit is not essential, but it does help. Invest early on and this stuff will last for years.
Pack Light, Pack Right
Less is more when it comes to packing. Prioritize essentials like spare tubes, a multi-tool, and versatile clothing. Remember, you can find most necessities on the road.
Train Smart, Ride Easy
Build your stamina and endurance before your trip. Incorporate long rides and hill training to prepare your body for the challenges ahead. It’s better to be over-prepared than struggling on the road.
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Songs for a bike ride
I myself in particular enjoy riding along to the sound of music. I have a snazzy portable Bluetooth speaker* that blasts out the tunes direct from my smartphone. When I plan a bike ride I tend to make a juicy playlist to accompany me.
While I do love the peace and quiet of being alone in the woods I find that a few choice records help energise my legs later in the day.
Stay Connected, Stay Safe: Invest in a reliable GPS device or smartphone app for navigation. Additionally, share your itinerary with someone trustworthy and check in regularly to ensure your safety.
Cycle Touring Mantra
Ade and I have a selection of bike ride quotations we like to wheel out while riding. After a meal, Ade loves the saying ‘just what the doctor ordered’.
In the early years of my cycling career, I was a young punk and a bit gobby with it. Oftentimes in the local pub, I’d invite folks to ‘feel my legs,’ after a few pints of ale. Happily, I’ve outgrown this tactile phase.
Prioritize Rest and Recovery
Listen to your body. Take regular breaks, stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest. Overexertion can dampen your spirits and make the journey more challenging than it needs to be.
A smile communicates a thousand words
Pack a Positive Attitude
Challenges are part of the adventure. Approach them with a positive mindset and a sense of humour. A can-do attitude can turn the toughest situations into unforgettable anecdotes.
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Eat first, think later
Another of our favourite cycle touring phrases and philosophical musings is this mantra, ‘eat first, think later.’ This is important to remember when planning a long-distance bike ride because hunger is the enemy of enjoyment.
Generally speaking, if you’re hungry or thirsty on a bike ride, it’s already too late.
This is one of the key tenets of the Mash-Up and District Cycle Touring Club philosophy. Riders must agree to this first rule of engagement ahead of any planned ride.
Embrace Local Cuisine and Culture
Food is an integral part of the journey. Embrace local delicacies, engage with the locals, and immerse yourself in the culture of the places you visit. It’s the best way to create lasting memories.
Document Your Journey
Capture the moments, write a journal, or start a blog. Documenting your experiences not only helps you relive the adventure but also inspires others to embark on their own cycling escapades.
Self-sufficiency is the name of the game when it comes to a bike ride of any length. Like any good boy scout, being prepared and ready for any eventuality is essential. In cycling terms that means having the necessary tools and equipment to repair the bike in the event of mishap or folly.
When I cycled around the world (sort of), I had most of what I needed but not everything I could have taken. I didn’t for example have a chain whip (the tool required for removing the cassette from the rear wheel).
I managed to fudge a method with a local Vietnamese mechanic but it was clunky and nearly ruined the spokes. A cheeky smile can help you wing it so far but it’s far better to carry the correct kit.
Master the Art of Repair
Learn basic bike maintenance and repair skills. From fixing a flat tire to adjusting brakes, having these skills can be a lifesaver when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
Remember, every pedal stroke is an opportunity to create lasting memories and forge connections with the world around you. So, gear up, saddle up, and get ready to embrace the open road. The world is waiting to be explored, one cycle tour at a time.
Will you plan a bike ride route this summer? Share your stories in the comments below: