Peace of mind when solo cycle touring

A 70 year old reader of my newsletter, The Spirit Of Adventure (you are signed up, aren’t you?) emailed me, explaining health issues he overcame, and asked the following:

“So the question I have is, while venturing out alone, whether cycle camping or touring, what would your top ten tips be for planning a trip and keeping safe along the way?”

This is quite different from simply physical security on tour, which I covered before. To be more clear, when touring on your own, what steps can you take to protect your health and wellbeing?

Going alone

I often go cycle touring on my own. If you do the same, especially if you have an underlying health condition, things can rapidly change.

Let’s take diabetes, as an example – if a diabetic cycle tourer has a hypo, that could often be dealt with. However, if they were out on the road on their own, it could potentially become a fatal event. This isn’t me trying to single out diabetics, either, nor am I pretending to have any expertise about the disease. Instead, it’s simply a fairly crude attempt to demonstrate a point.

Limited options

Let me spell out the basics quite clearly: we rely on help from others. In this particular scenario, you will be limited to people close to you, to a paid service, or to emergency services. Let’s break those down further.

Nearest and dearest

If you have people in your life that you can rely on (remember, not everyone has that) then you could simply live-share your location with them. There are a number of options for live-sharing your location. The trouble is that simply live-sharing your location doesn’t paint the full picture, and you may want to consider a smart watch that has fall-detection built-in.

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Should something untoward happens, your nearest and dearest can raise the alarm, asking emergency services to respond.

Paid-for services

Most paid-for services rely on a smart-watch of some sort, but you’ll have the peace of mind knowing there’s a control-room that’s monitored 24/7. That’s not something you’ll have when simply relying on your nearest and dearest.

Simply search for “smart watch with panic button” and you will find a myriad of paid-for services. I have no experience of dealing with them, but YourStride offers this service (at the time I wrote this) for £18/month.

Emergency services

Sadly, this isn’t as much of an option as you may have hoped for. Many years of “austerity” decimated the UK’s emergency services, and besides, this option relies on you being able to raise the alarm.

As a result, relying exclusively on emergency services isn’t much of an option at all.

The reality

If at all you can afford it, get a smart watch, with built-in GPS tracking, and fall detection. Oh, and ignore the marketing – these devices are not only for the frail elderly. It should also have two-calling integrated into the watch. The idea is that the watch will remain on your wrist, so will always be to hand.

In case you became unconscious, for whatever reason, and you don’t respond to calls, the alarm could rapidly be raised.

There is a huge gotcha though: all such devices rely on the mobile network, so if you’re going to rely on them, you need to ensure your cycle tour route has decent mobile signal.

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You can check coverage for most UK networks here:
O2’s Network Coverage
Vodafone’s Network Coverage
EE’s Network Coverage
Three’s Network Coverage

Annoyingly, you often don’t the see the network coverage map, but instead need to first type in a postal code. After typing in any post code, you’ll see the map, and can pan or zoom in/out, to evaluate signal across your entire planned touring route.

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