So you want to travel by bicycle, great. Not only will you be able to see the countryside in a completely different manner and stop off wherever you want, but you’ll be moving around taking in the sights and sounds of the countryside while getting fit. There are many options from cycling alone or with a few friends to an organised tour with a commercial tour operator.
Am I in good enough shape and how far can I ride per day?
There is no need to be able to keep up with the tour de France to be able to enjoy a cycle tour. Realistically some preparation is needed and this entails training until you are ready. Being ready means that your training rides cover approximately the same distance that you plan on covering during your tour. Once you are able to complete two days of back to back training, with the same gear and supplies you’ll have to carry during the tour, you should be physically prepared.
But remember this isn’t a race and the goal is to get physically fit enough that you feel able to cover enough distance per day to be able to enjoy the roses along the way as well as those at the destination chosen for each day. The distance covered each day depends on the your planned journey, but with that being said, the average adult charged with 10 kg of supplies should be looking at about 90 km per day. This figure will need to be decreased to a little under 80 km in the event of a heavier load (20 kg) and roughly halved should the tour rake place on roads that are particularly steep or mountainous. Yes, these are rough guidelines, and everyone has their own fitness levels.
A final precaution in the beginning of any tour is to reduce the expected distance covered for the first day and to just take it easy, it’s just the beginning and things can go wrong. But if they don’t, which is preferred, even a professional athlete needs to take a pause. A good idea would be to include a day off once a week.
What bike and gear is needed?
Although this varies greatly depending on the length of the tour as well as the climate and whether or not you prefer camping of B&Bs. The general idea remains the same: clothes, emergency and comfort.
Surprise, surprise, you are going to need a bike. The first option is a specifically designed tour bike, after that almost any bike can be customised in order to be used for a tour. although it generally isn’t a good idea to use a racing bike as comfort is key. Ultimately a bike needs low gears in order to climb hills, a durable frame and all the rest actually, plus a comfortable riding position.
Once the bike is chosen simple additions such as panniers or trailers can be used to lug all those supplies up a hill. You’ll wish you had left half of it at home after a while. Panniers attach to the sides and on top of the wheels, and although a pannier or two wheeled trailer is perfectly suited to paved roads and a single wheeled trailer to off-road, they’re all going to work in most conditions.
Punctures, broken chains and falls happen so preparations need to be made. this is where a repair kit for you and your bike comes in.
- patch kit
- spare inner tube
- multi tool
- duct tape, string, cable ties
- first aid
But even if nothing goes wrong, a tour means numerous days and numerous days means clothes for different weather conditions.
- recessed cleat shoes
- waterproof everything (not really, but enough to keep dry)
- off bike clothes
Finally if you decide to go the camping route, which makes the experience all the more exciting, the amount of supplies increased.
- sleeping bag and mat
- cup, bowl, pot, spork and knife
- gas stove