Posted by travel clever 18th January 2014 in Holidays category
Travelling by bike can be as simple as a weekend trip on a local route, or as colossal as an adventure around the world that could take years to complete. But, no matter what type of trip you choose, you can be sure it will be an enriching and inspiring experience. And what’s best is that anyone can go on a bike touring adventure, regardless of how little experience they have with cycling.
Here are a few important things to keep in mind when planning to travel by bike, no matter if you are a beginner or a more experienced cyclist.
What Type of Tour Would Fit You Best?
There are four main types of tours, each with its pros and cons, and deciding on one of them will depend on the time and budget you have available, the effort you are able to handle and the adventure level you are looking for.
Organized tours are planned and handled by specialized cycling operators. Some offer just basic services, such as assistance with accommodation and route planning, while others will handle every little detail of your trip.
- Great for beginners
- Offers you the opportunity to meet new people
- Can be expensive
- You don’t get to choose who you will be travelling with
With self-supported touring, you will need to plan everything carefully from the start and carry all clothing and gear with you on the bicycle. Generally, you’ll have to be well prepared for anything, from bad weather to having to sleep outdoors.
- An incredible feeling of freedom
- A challenging, enriching experience
- The most affordable bike touring option
- Requires a lot of gear
- Can be exhausting, both physically and mentally
- Suited only to experienced cyclists
“Credit card” tours
On a tour like this, you will be carrying only basic clothing and cycling gear, and pay for other necessities – supplies, meals, lodging, etc. – as you go.
- Low hassle
- Comfortable – you will not have to carry to much baggage, and you will have a warm bed and a shower at the end of the day
- Difficult organization
- Very expensive
- Requires careful planning of accommodation options
- You will be more vulnerable in case of emergencies
Bike tours supported by vehicles
On such tours, a support vehicle will travel with you as you ride, carrying most of your supplies and equipment.
- You can bring more baggage with you without having to carry it yourself
- You can travel farther
- You have a good safety net in case of unfortunate incidents
- It is expensive
- Someone will have to drive
- The vehicle might not be able to reach any area you want to explore by bike
What Size Should Your Group Be?
The size of the group you will be travelling with is also an important factor to consider when planning your biking tour, if you want to fully enjoy your experience.
Short solo trips (maximum a day long) can be a great opportunity for beginners to strengthen their body and mind, and practise essential touring skills. While solo trips longer than a day are not recommended for beginners, they can be an awe-inspiring experience for more seasoned cyclists. However, keep in mind that long solo trips require increased safety measures, great organisational and riding skills, as well as a strong body and mind.
A small group of maximum 6 cyclists is easy to organize and control, especially if you are a beginner. It is also a lot safer than solo touring, as there will always be someone by your side, to help in case of injuries, breakdowns or other unfortunate events.
Touring in large groups can be very difficult to organise, but it can be a lot of fun. If you are a novice, it is recommended you to go on organised tours or take a few trips with a couple of experienced riders before going on a large group tour on your own.
A Few Ideas Regarding the Bike Itself
Many inexperienced cyclists try to use bikes that are not specifically designed for touring, thinking they will save some money this way. Don’t do that! No matter how good, a bike that isn’t built for touring can simply fall apart on a tour of medium difficulty, especially if you bring a lot of gear with you.
You will get broken spokes, regular flat tires, and, if you’re unlucky enough, even the bike’s frame can break – which is incredibly dangerous, as you can imagine. So, if you want to return from your trip happy and with your body intact, get yourself a proper touring bicycle.
Another aspect you should keep in mind is the bike’s saddle. To avoid crotch or bottom pain when riding for long hours, make sure you buy a saddle that is not too soft (like those gel-type saddles), but not hard as a rock either. You should look for a model that is soft at the surface, but firm at its core. Finally, the saddle must be relatively level, so make sure you adjust it properly to avoid any pain.
Other Aspects to Consider
Weather – Weather that’s great for other outdoor activities might not be appropriate for bike tours. For example, a hot, sunny day might be great for a picnic or a fun afternoon at the beach, but it can make a long bike ride unbearable. So make sure you check the weather before planning a trip to a specific area
Proximity to supplies and support – The closer your route is to civilisation or sources of support (telephones, general shops, repair shops etc.), the easier it will be to get help in case something happens. If you are a beginner, don’t venture too far away from civilisation.
Traffic – One of the biggest dangers of a cycling tour is traffic. Ride on secondary-use roads to avoid any problems and, if you want to explore an unpaved trail, first find out if it’s heavily used by off-road vehicles, hikers or pack animals.
The skill level of your partners – A touring group can only be as strong as its weakest cyclist. Therefore, make sure you know the physical condition and skill level of each member of the group, to choose appropriate routes.
These were but a few aspects to keep in mind when travelling by bike. Depending on the type of tour you have in mind, there are many other factors you will have to consider, so make sure you carefully plan ahead. Stay safe and have fun on your adventure!