“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you have to keep moving” Albert Einstein
Looking for a new challenge, an adventure that is purely adrenaline filled, nature bound and a sense of achievement? Ever considered setting off on a journey on a bicycle?
Often over looked by the keen adventurer is one of the oldest forms of transportation. The old bicycle! With more and more people taking to two wheels the cycling community has grown bigger and bigger.
This growth has seen new cycle routes spring up all over the world aimed at the adventurous cyclist. Your bike could now be a viable source of travelling fun and can take you a lot further than your local ride to work.
In this blog I will provide you with some tips, tricks and information that might just make you think about cycling around the world (or at least around a new country for a few weeks!)
Many countries are readily accessible for the cyclist. One prime example is France. Home to many of the voted ‘Best Bike Routes of The Year’ its good summer climate and fantastic culture are perfect for people seeking out adventure on two wheels.
The Veloydssey Atlantic Cycle Route takes the rider from Britain on a 1200km tour down the coast of France to the Spanish Border. The Tour De Bourgogne is a 580km (soon to be 800km) route through Dijon and famous French wine regions via canals and disused railway tracks. Or there is always the Pyrenees, Italian Dolomites or the exceptional Provence Region with the famed Mont Ventoux.
The pro’s of being a bicycle nomad are great: you don’t need to be rich, you can choose your own path and schedule and get to a great deal of places that you may just miss on the flight or drive by.
Cyclists are a tight knit community and no more so than the cycle tourist, people ride their bikes for months and years at a time and the Europeans love it. Always willing to trade travel tips and share tools they will be among the friendliest people you will meet.
Riding up to a village or random strangers with foreign languages on a bicycle loaded with all your worldly possessions also has its perks. It disarms a lot of hostile foreigners and will get you a smile and people will always want to help out, maybe it’s because they appreciate how difficult it is or that you have come a long way using your own steam to their region.
WHAT BIKE DO I NEED?
There is nothing stopping you dusting your old bike off out of the shed and heading off BUT the right bike will make things A LOT easier. Normally the most costly part of the experience, a lot of cycle tourers buy a bike for a trip then sell it on their return home. So check your local Ebay etc.
The touring bike itself is rather different from most with lots of options, one phrase you will hear during your research is ‘Steel Is Real’ with most modern bikes opting for Carbon or Light Weight Aluminium, Steel is very much the tourers best friend.
Most well regarded touring bikes will be Steel, let me tell you why…..upon breakage whether it is a crash or fatigue break, finding someone in wherever the nearest village might be who can weld aluminium can be a huge struggle, with steel it is much easier to weld cracks (think your dad in his garage), it can be bent back to shape, dents don’t matter too much to structural integrity and it has a fantastic ride quality i.e. it absorbs bumps and it can carry more weight.
Next thing is wheels size! You want 700c/29inch wheels. This refers to the diameter and a bigger wheel require less effort to maintain speed…very handy when you are trying to reach your next stop 60 miles away.
HOW DO I CARRY MY THINGS?
- Only 2 options on this front. Panniers and racks or a bike trailer. Loading the bike up with pannier bags will affect the handling of the bike and make it feel rather sluggish. A bike trailer removes this from the bike and is often a good way to make the load feel lighter; when it is moving it will carry using some of its own momentum. I would opt for the trailer option with possibly a lightweight handlebar bag for maps, phones and snacks.
- You would want to try and travel light, picking up lightweight camp cookers etc is normally pretty easy after a session on various trading websites and borrowing from friends. There are some fantastic gadgets out there now that are cookers, lights and phone chargers all in one!
HOW LONG AND HOW FAR?
Probably one of the most important questions regarding the journey. Decide which country you wish to visit and research possible routes and how long you have to do it. It is important to have a goal distance to ride each day but equally important not to overdo it and consider your current fitness levels.
A new rider will be awesomely fit at the end of the trip and should treat the ride as training to finish strong rather than say try and cover 100 miles a day right from the front door, train as you ride and start with 40km for a week then 50-60km for a few weeks’ time etc. It is also important to leave time to recover, sick days or days where the beach is too comfy and you just don’t want to ride.
WHAT ABOUT BREAKDOWNS?
A good local bike shop should be able to advise you on what you need (or comment with your questions and we will help you how to fix a flat tyre and repair a broken chain etc). Again your local bike shop may hold classes which you can attend, or YouTube is the best home mechanics friend.
Some often over looked spares I would not leave without that you can ask your shop about if you are not sure are (a) Spare Deraillier Hanger (b) Spare Spokes (c) Spare chain links!
Cyclists will always normally stop for other cyclists in difficulty. And after a few on the road fixes you will be able to part with your super knowledge by giving it someone else.
If you are thinking that maybe this cycling stuff may be for you be sure to grab a copy of ‘The Man Who Cycled The World’ by Mark Beaumont.
This will give you endless amounts of inspiration, Mark cycled the world and broke the Guiness world record by 81 days! 18,000 miles on his own! This book will also highlight some of the things you may have not thought about and give you a fantastic insight into cycling in some further afield countries.
My last couple of must haves are good tyres! Ask about Schwalbe Ultra Marathons. Clipless Pedals! Make sure to get a pair of pedals and shoes that allow you attach to the bike, this increases efficiency massively. Get a good saddle and shorts, the saddle should be measured to fit your sit bone width! Finally you will also be needing Chamois Cream to ensure saddle sores are kept to a minimum.
So here you have it-everything you need to edge you away on the journey of adventure and adrenaline. Any in depth questions on bikes, bike fitting and set up etc please feel free to comment below.