10 top tips for cycling touring
I have just cycled some 400km across north France over a week. Accommodation was booked ahead for the trip on the new Veloscenic route from Paris to Mont St Michel but we carried all our own kit in panniers. We were fortunate with the weather, with hot and sunny days and a fabulous tailwind. Along the way, I learned a few valuable tips for successful cycle touring.
1. Pack light: Lay out the clothes that you plan to take with you - and then halve them! Few people ever wear all the clothes they pack and on a cycle tour it is crucial that you carry as light a load as possible. You should plan to wash cycling kit each night and have one outfit for evening wear. Flip flops or a very light pair of trainers will serve as evening wear shoes if you use cleat bike shoes while cycling. Add a waterproof jacket even if you think it will be sunny because you just never know when a rain storm can hit. Buy small bottles of toiletries and remember that in most places you can buy what you might need as you travel.
2. Play it safe: You never know when you might get a puncture or suffer a mechanical problem so it is important that you pack bike repair tools and essentials. The basics include a couple of new inner tubes, tyre levers, a Sram chain link connector (or similar) in case the chain snaps and a bike tool, as well as a bike pump.
3. Know your limits: If you are a keen cyclist and can happily ride 120km a day, reduce this by 30 to 50 per cent for cycle touring. The same is true if you are more like a 60km a day cyclist. Cycling with panniers is slower and more tiring. Remember, too, that you are on holiday and so it is better to enjoy riding shorter distances per day than pushing yourself to ride to your limits. Factoring in a rest day every five days adds to the pleasure of a cycle touring holiday.
4. Cog-tastic: Panniers and cycling do not make for ever-so-easy riding. And the smallest ascent can seem like a hill too big. Get your local bike shop to add cogs to make the gearing ratio as easy as possible. A compact set of front cogs makes a great deal of sense for cycle touring.
5. Nights right: Be realistic when choosing your accommodation. If you really enjoy camping then pack a tent and carry it with you. But if you usually prefer a bed and some luxury at the end of a day of cycling then book into B&Bs and hotels each night. A shower and a comfy mattress can make a cycle touring trip so much more enjoyable. A cycle tour holiday can be organised for you to make your trip even more of a joy!
6. Look for the signs: A route might promise excellent signage but you can't rely on this. Signs can be easily missed while riding along, or else you can lose your way as, for example, you ride into a town looking for somewhere to enjoy lunch. Add a GPS gadget to your bike or download a GPS app on to a smartphone. If you can download the cycle route to the app then all the better.
7. Plan ahead: Cycling is hungry work and in the hot sun you will quickly dehydrate. While food and drink can often be found at cafes and restaurants along the way you can't guarantee they will be open. Make sure you carry lots of water and some snacks with you wherever you cycle.
8. Sun lotion: This might seem obvious but when you are cycling the breeze can lull you into a false sense of security. Cool skin doesn't mean sun safe. Pack high factor sun lotion and wear it from morning to evening.
9. Washed out: You will need to wash clothing as you travel. Do so each time you shower in the evening and try to get the clothes as dry as possible by soaking up the residue wetness in a bath towel. Hang them up outside a window if it is still a warm evening. But do remember to bring the clothes indoors overnight to avoid them becoming damp again in the morning dew. Lightweight and dry-fast fabrics for cycle shorts and tops are the perfect cycle touring clothing items.
10. Choose wisely: A final top tip is to make sure you choose your cycling touring chum wisely. Qualities should include calmness, a good sense of humour and a love of cycling. It is worth thinking about your combined skills, too, such as navigational ability and bike mechanical skills. The joys of cycle touring include seeing new places, coming home fitter than you set off, finishing long conversations with your cycling partner and finding out whether you really do enjoy cycling! My recent trip to France with an old friend proved a huge success.
Tell us about what you enjoy about cycle touring and get some cycling holiday inspiration from the Macs Adventure website.