The beauty of cycle touring is the freedom is gives you, and that freedom includes how you tour. Some may choose foreign destinations, while others stay more local. Some may ride with everything but the kitchen sink, while others ride from hotel to hotel, carrying almost nothing on the bike.
Broadly speaking, there simply is no wrong or right way to go touring – just choose what suits you best.
Having said that, of course there are certain tips that hold true for all kinds of cycle tourists, and below I’ve listed the ones that – to me – stands out the most.
- Forget about the clock. Touring is all about the journey, not the destination. If you find you’re travelling slower than planned, as long as you can get back within the time you have available for your tour (yes, even if it means you reduce the overall distance) then all is well. Don’t try racing the clock all the time.
- Talk to people. There are so many strangers you’ll encounter on your tour, and they all can make the tour that little more interesting.
- Carry water! Even in the UK, where you’re usually never very far from cities, towns, or villages, you can quickly run out of water. Fill up your water bottles at every available opportunity.
- Always carry cash. Even with COVID, not everywhere takes card payments, so ensure you at least have some cash with you.
- Eat little, but eat often. Try and avoid long lunch stops, as getting going again afterwards will be hard. Related, get into the habit of having a mid-morning coffee/tea and snack stop.
- Drink before you get thirsty! Dehydration is deeply unpleasant, and will affect your muscle performance, making it far harder to ride than it needs to be.
- Carry snacks. When your blood sugar levels suddenly plummet, you can go from feeling fine, to being unable to stand within a matter of minutes. Energy gels, chocolate and jelly babies are some of the options, though if you’re diabetic, you need to take extra care.
- There will be unpleasant aspects. Be it a ginormous hill, one puncture too many, a mechanical failure or a ferocious headwind, remember that there very likely will be unpleasant experiences. By being prepared for that, you will find it easier to deal with such things once out there, and they won’t define your touring.
- Carry spares. This includes, as a minimum, spare brake and gear cables, as well as spare inner tubes. Top marks if you also carry spare spokes.
- Duct tape and cable ties are your friends. Duct tape can repair a surprising number of things, including panniers. Try to always chuck a roll of it in your panniers, Cable ties can be a life saver, too. Between those 2 items, you can do emergency repairs on a lot of things.
- MAKE A LIST! Seriously, make a list of items you absolutely must take along, and before embarking on a tour, tick things off on your list. As a man who left all three water bottles at home, I have learned this the hard way! Here’s a cycle touring packing list to get you started.