Bicycle touring beginner tips is about providing the key steps to get you on your way easily. Bicycle touring is a great way to see the world and enjoy other cultures close up.
For the bicycle touring beginner it may seem overwhelming to plan but by following these planning tipsyou can easily be on your way.
First, you need to decide on the type of bicycle touring. Is this to be a long distance journey of several months, a regional tour of a few weeks, staying at a base town with daily rides or one with a guided bicycle tour company.
Bicycle Touring Beginner Tips
Tip 1 – Planning
Start with some basic research on your destination. Check tourist office websites for a list of special events during your trip, public holidays when places may be closed, local attractions of interest and days they are open. Do they offer bicycle routes in the area.
Tip 2 – Route Maps
Order detailed maps and guides to plan your bicycle route in detail. Decide on your daily distances and locate sightseeing opportunities along the way and where you may overnight. You may wish to spend two or three nights in some places to enjoy the town, local festivals and catch up on your laundry.
Tip 3 – Transportation
Arrange for your flight, train, car or whatever to reach the starting point of your bicycle tour. If flying check routing to avoid connecting flights if possible and the rules regarding carrying your bicycle such as requirements for bicycle boxes and costs and they vary by airline. If you book early you may qualify for a better price, especially if using a discount or charter airline. A good travel agent can assist with the flight arrangements.
Tip 4 – Documentation
Check requirements such as a valid passport, visa and vaccinations. Travel insurance with medical coverage should be considered. Look into local bicycle laws, for example, in Switzerland insurance is required by all cyclists. Take photo copies of all your documentation with you on the bicycle tour. If traveling to a foreign country obtain local currency in advance.
Tip 5 – Equipment
• Touring bike – Take you own touring bicycle with racks for your gear or rent a bike locally. If renting a bicycle be sure it comes with racks and a lock and has sufficient gears for the type of terrain.
• Bicycle box – if required by your airline
• Bags – you want to pack light and will require rear panniers and
perhaps front panniers as well if you are camping. A handlebar bag is excellent to carry your camera, lunch and bicycle repair kit.
• Other equipment – bicycle repair kit with extra tire tubes and basic tools, bike pump, bicycle lock and computer to measure your
Tip 6 – Accommodation
Hotels, bed and breakfasts – it depends on the destination whether it is necessary to reserved in advance. It is generally a good idea to at least book your first and last night stay. In Europe Friday and Saturday nights can book up quickly on the major bicycle routes so you may wish to consider booking those as well. Many also camp while bike touring.
Tip 7 – Finishing touches
Decide how you are getting from the airport or train station to the start of your journey. It train transportation is required to connect to your route consider a rail pass. Often rail passes includes discounts to museums, attractions and local buses as well. If traveling to a foreign country consider learning a few phrases of the local language, it goes a long way with the local citizens.
Repairs while Bicycle Touring
First, assume when planning your bicycle touring you will get a flat and repairs will be required along the road. While bicycle touring in Europe and North America my cycling colleagues and I have had our fair share of flat tires over the years. You should always carry two spare tubes, a pump and a set of basic tools so you can get on your way quickly. The lightweight high pressure pumps today are fantastic.
I looked at the packing lists for many who bicycle tour and they include everything from spare tires to extra spooks. Unless you will be cycling in a remote area this is totally unnecessary and just adds extra weight. In every situation I have encountered requiring major bike repairs there was a bike shop handy.
Once while bicycle touring in hilly Tuscany one of the other cyclists had problems with their derailleur. No problem, the bike was placed on a local bus back to the town where we were staying and the local shop was able to handle the problem.
When I was cycling the Romantic Road Bike Route in Germany I broke two spokes after hitting a curb too hard. It happened in a small town with no bike shop, or so I thought. In bike crazy Europe there are always bike shops I discovered. A local resident pointed out a house with a large garage attached and they fix my bike quickly including driving to a nearby town for some spare parts.
In the Cotswold’s area of England I also had an issue with my derailleur. A walker out with their dog when by and then picked me up in their pickup truck and drove me to our nearby B & B, returning the next day to take me to the bike shop in Burton-on-the Water. The delay did cause us to revise our itinerary but we were able to carry on.
Even on a short training ride carry a pump and tools. On a popular local bike route two guys with very expensive bikes yelled out for help spotting my pump mounted on my bike, they did not have one. They mentioned a large number of recreational cyclists had gone by but none had a pump, unbelievable. I pulled out my Topeak Road Morph mini pump and within minutes they were ready to go. I love this inexpensive pump which has a small gauge to check tire pressure.
The bottom line when bicycle touring is assume repairs will be required along the road, carry basic tools only and be creative when something major happens. It is all part of the bicycle touring experience.
For more information on easy bicycle touring planning click the link.
As I mentioned above you need to carry enough essential items as it is so keep your load light and only carry a bike tube, pump and basic tools. Do not get too concerned about bicycle touring repairs during your journey as you may need to revise your itinerary a bit but you can always get your bike repaired.
Keeping Your Clothes Clean
One question beginners frequently ask about when bicycle touring is packing and clean clothes. And yes, what is the best way to keep your clothes clean.
While bicycle touring you can expect to be sweating and also pick up some dust and dirt from along the route whether it be paved bike trails, roads or even short sections of dirt paths such as along the Danube Bike Route (pictured). Assume that your clothes will get dirty and you need to do something about it.
You can only carry so much clothing in your bicycle panniers so what do you do. I typically only carry two changes of cycling clothes although I know of friends who carry clothes for a week. So how do you get your clothes clean during your journey which can last for weeks or even months?
The shower – whether you are staying in a camp ground, hotel or bed and breakfast there will be a shower. Many cyclists leave their cycling clothes on when they go in the shower to give them a quick rinse. They should be quick drying clothes and should therefore be ready to wear soon again anyway.
The sink – if staying in small hotels or bed and breakfasts I use a sink to for a quick wash when I arrive at the destination. One of the things on my packing list is environmentally safe camp soap. Your quick dry cycling clothes are ready the next day to continue your trip. As I have two changes of clothes I do the laundry every two days.
Laundromat (North America) – it is easy to head to the local Laundromat found in almost every town and for a few coins you can quickly do your laundry. However this can be expensive and time consuming if you only have 2 sets of clothing and you should save this to a once a week when you want to do a more through job.
Laundromat (elsewhere) – in other countries the system will vary. In Tuscany, Italy when you take your clothes to the Laundromat (see photo) you leave them with a clerk and return later a few hours later to pick up your clean clothes. They load the washing machines for you, that is just how it is done.
The type of cycling clothing can also make a difference. Cycling clothing (jerseys, gloves, shorts, caps, socks) made of merino wool are odorless and many cyclists have been known to ride for days between washes.
Check out our other cycle tour planning tips. You now each day have a supply of fresh and comfortable cycling clothing as new bicycle touring adventures wait along the road.