3 tips to prepare a cycling trip

bicycle travel

Looking for a cheap, healthy and green way to travel? Are you eager to meet the locals and seeking independence? There may be many reasons for you to choose to travel by bike. This way of travelling is becoming more and more popular and the good news is you absolutely don’t need to be an athlete! The number of solutions designed for touring cyclists, who leave alone, as a couple or with friends and family is increasing. But whether you are leaving for a week-end or for several months, a cycling trip requires preparation. Before you set out on your journey, take a look at our 3 tips.

1. Get the right equipment

The type of bicycle you need mostly depends on what kind of trips you intend to make: you probably wouldn’t leave on a round the world trip with the bike you used during your week-end tour in the Netherlands… Though there is an incredibly wide range of different types of bicycles, you especially need to make simplicity, sturdiness and comfort your top priorities. Many travelling cyclists ride mountain or touring bikes. Make sure the bike you choose has mudguards and a luggage rack and that the saddle is comfortable.

Depending on the length of your cycling trip, you will need to bring along a more or less large amount of gear. Always bring:

  • a small repair kit in case you get a flat tire (glue and patches, inner tube, pump…),
  • panniers,
  • front and rear lights,
  • a helmet,
  • cycling glasses,
  • a lock.

For a long-distance tour, pack some extra equipment: tyres, tyre levers, spokes, a chain rivet extractor, brake blocks and cables, wrenches, a screwdriver, grease and oil… Remember not to weigh yourself down too much though!

2. Prepare your itinerary

To prepare your adventure, take your cycling experience into consideration to set yourself daily achievable goals. No need to immediately plan to cover 100 km per day if you are a beginner. Starting by cycling an average of 50 km each day seems more reasonable. If you are more experienced, you can cycle between 100 and 150 km daily. Don’t forget to regularly schedule 1 or 2 days off the bike so you can rest! Your progress will also depend on your intentions, (making many stops for sightseeing, surpassing yourself…) the road conditions and on… the unexpected! Pack some road maps and download a few apps for cyclists.

Whereas there is a very large number of cycling routes in some parts of the word, there are nearly none in some countries. Cycling is already an integral part of the culture of countries like Denmark or the Netherlands; but there are many bike routes in other European countries. Currently, 14 EuroVelo (European Cycle Route Network) routes allow cyclo tourists to cross a number of countries. Outside Europe, some cycle networks and paths are quite renowned. For example:

  • the USBRS (US Bicycle Route System), United States,
  • the Route verte, in Québec,
  • the Munda Biddi Trail, Australia,
  • Nga Haerenga, New Zealand,
  • the Great Allengheny Passage, United States,
  • the Carretera Austral, Chili.

If you don’t want to spend too much time organizing your bicycle trip, book a full service bike tour: more and more travel agencies specialize in cycling holidays.

3. Don’t neglect health & safety

Did you just decide to travel by bike for the first time? Do you intend to ride down part of the US Pacific Coast? Before you leave, make sure you are in good physical shape and go on a few “practice tours”. This probably won’t prevent muscle soreness and irritations but you will be fitter. Your panniers must always contain:

  • a first aid kit,
  • sunscreen,
  • adequate clothing (waterproof, high-visibility…).

While on the road, cyclists are expected to follow specific rules. Remember to be extra careful in countries where traffic rules are close to non-existant.

Though bicycle insurance is only an option, it will by quite useful in case of theft. You definitely don’t want to skip subscribing to an international insurance policy though: you will need it in the event of an accident or health issue abroad.

On your marks, get set… start pedaling!

To find out more about getting ready for a bicycle trip:

Take a look at the large European cycle routes on the EuroVelo website.

Calculate your itinerary on gmap-pedometer.com.

Date of publication Aug 1 2014

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