Twelve Lessons About Bicycle Touring

After nearly three weeks on the road with our bicycles, we can hardly claim to be experts. But we have learnt lessons about bicycle touring that have made our time on the road easier. We wanted to share them with you in case you are considering giving bicycle touring a go.

1. Have in mind where you want to camp, but be flexible. If you see the perfect spot before you have hit the distance, it might still be best to stop. You may not find something as perfect a few miles up the road. Also, start looking for a place to camp before you have cycled as far as your legs will carry you. Sometimes finding the perfect spot might require checking out several side roads. That’s how we found one of our favourites so far. The place below next to a traditional church.

2. Take the description Google Maps gives you with a large pinch of salt. So far, there has only been one day when we have agreed with the description. We seem to have very different opinions than Google of what a mostly flat route looks like. We would not call routes with over 700 metres of ascending flat. It might not sound a lot but think vertically not horizontally.

3. Always refill your water bottles when you have a chance. This is especially important when cycling in remote areas. You don’t want to run out of water when the nearest shop or petrol station is over 70 kilometers away. Of course, you could knock on someone’s door and ask to refill your bottles. If you come across a house.

4. Know what you have in each bike bag and pannier and make sure things you need are easily accessible. When you stop on route and need food, you don’t want to be searching through your bags. We keep our food in a pannier that has nothing on top of it, so it’s easily accessible.

5. Once you have worked out a system that works for you, stick to it. That way, you’ll always know what’s in each bag. You might need to tweak things at first when you start – we did several times – but when everything has its place, it makes easier camping.

6. Have as much packed ready the night before and then sort out the sleeping bags, mats and tent before breakfast. When we first started, we weren’t doing this and didn’t get on the road until around ten or even eleven. That’s too late when you are covering 70-100 kilometres. Late start means late finish and then you don’t get to enjoy wherever you set up camp. When everything other than your breakfast things are ready to go, it speeds things up considerably in the morning.

7. When you take a rest day, make it a proper rest day. We still cycled just over 30 kilometres on our first rest day, which in hindsight was not a sensible thing to do. Your rest days should be exactly what is says on the tin. We learnt our lesson and made sure we rested properly (other than washing our clothes and the bikes) on our second rest day. Your body can’t just keep going and going so give it a break. And make sure you spend your rest day somewhere comfortable -preferably with proper beds.

8. Don’t rely on the weather forecast. We have noticed these can be as unreliable as the Google descriptions. What we now do is to have a change of clothing easily accessible in case we need to put on something warmer or cooler. Or something to protect you from the rain which, unfortunately, has been the case for us way too often!

9. Make sure you don’t leave bungees hanging about your wheels and chain We use bungees to secure bags on top of the panniers. A few times, they have got caught in the gears and wheels when we have forgotten to remove them after unloading the bikes. Untangling them is a pain in the arse. The metaphorical rather than literal kind this time. So always remove your bungees!

10. Shop for a few days at a time (unlikely you can carry much more than that). Especially important when cycling in more remote areas. You don’t want to end up camping in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat or start the next day’s ride with a meagre breakfast. We also like to cook for a couple of days in advance. If you are tired or it’s pissing down, then at least you don’t have to worry about cooking. We make things like tuna pasta or beans and rice that are as good cold as they are hot.

These bus stops are great for stopping for a mid-ride snack.

11. Eat plenty and don’t skip meals. We learnt this the hard way. There was one night when we arrived at a campsite late and, once again, soaked. After we’d had hot showers to warm up, found a place to dry our wet clothes and set up camp, we couldn’t be bothered to cook a hot meal, so just ate a couple of sandwiches. It’s not really enough when you have cycled for hours. We noticed the following day that cycling was tougher than usual, even after a hearty breakfast. Once we stopped and stuffed ourselves, we felt so much better.

12. To finish off, one more lesson about food. Keep things handy to snack on while riding. You don’t want to stop every time you feel a little snack graving coming. We both keep things like nuts or oatmeal bars or similar in the bags at the front of our bikes. That way, the snacks are easy to get to and they keep you going until your next meal break.

Use the comment box to let us know what you thought of this post or to ask us a question. We’d love to hear from you!

Until next time!

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