So, You were planning this since you remember. You´ve read all the Bicycle Touring for Beginners (and Dummies) Books out there (and you looked even more bike touring covers books). You were thinking about this anytime you see a cyclist on the road full of gears. You see the tent and how cool it looks, and how freedom he/she must be feeling right now. But You are kind of afraid because it´s a whole new world out there. So, where should I start to look at.
Here, I will try to help you to Check 5 Essential Points for Bicycle Touring.
First, Where the Heck are You Gonna Go To
I bet you already have an idea, right? Or maybe you are just thinking, “I don´t really care so much, as long as I have mountains in front of me”. Well, that´s me. You may want beaches all the way, or the dessert, or even ice all around you! I know some crazy and brave cyclists that went on a ride to Antarctica!
Anyway, either you choose it long time ago or just picked a place with eyes close on a map, you should start to define some points:
Is the starting point the same as the finish line? This will really simplify the organization of your trip. So that You could let bags, boxes or even containers you may had used for getting there at the starting point.
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Knowing your trip beforehand will allow you to check the slopes and to consider before how much fast (or slow) you will be riding. For a rough calculation you could set 4 miles/hour to 9 miles/hour uphill and 11 miles/hour to 17 miles/hour downhill (ohooo!!)
Check the weather for the day and place you will be. Specially rain seasons and melt seasons. A good tip is that, early in the morning, thaw rivers have less flow, but this won´t avoid that you will get wet when you need to cross that river!
Other tips is to check the direction of the predominant winds (trust me, I know!) that could really be a big problem if it´s strong. We should even reconsider to do the trip to the other direction we thought originally.
We must verify the schedule of our transportation to get to our starting point. This could sound not a big deal, but arriving too late, or too early could add extra issues to, for example, put up the tent.
To know how many hours of sun light you´ll have check the sunset and sunrise time. This will help you to plan how much distance you will be able to make per day.
Define how many “check points” with water and food for supplying you can get per stage. You may need to divide stages if you believe that you won´t have enough water or food. Remember: 3 liters (0.89 gallon) it´s a very good number to take in account.
Bike Equipment: 4 Must-Haves
First of all. Are you riding alone or with a partner/team? This is really crucial because you can share the load and the equipment (you don´t need 3 tents if you are 3, right? Maybe yes, but I assume that these ones are good and trusty fellows :D)
If you travel solo, you should need to keep more space for the whole equipment.
Stove: There is 2 types of stoves (with all their own world of alternative). First, you have the one that uses a Butane/IsoButane/Propane Fuel Cartridge (“Liquid Gas” for the rest of the mortals). Advantages are that the actual stove it tends to be less expensive, but the cartridge is more expensive. And you will be generating more residuals with this empty cartridges. By the way, they do not work too well at high locations.
The other type of stove uses liquid fuel. Could be alcohol, gasoline, etc. They are more expensive but the actual fuel it´s cheaper. And you can get it in most of the places you´ll (“oh…the places you´ll go :D)
Pot Sets: This is really a great choice since they are light and do not take too much space when you put them one into the other. An option is just pick up a small pot max capacity 1.5 to 2 liters. Don´t forget to add the fork, a knife and a spoon!
Tent: Should be light for carrying it and have a good “habitability”. Personally I prefer the igloo-type tents. They have more space and you can set them up really quick. Do not forget to check win resistance and water resistance! I remember when I realized that my tent was not rain-proof…once started to rain inside…oh mama.
Sleeping Bag. First and most important tip: Never get cold! If you are traveling in summer you may be fine (although take in account the places you will be camping: even in summer, nights can be really cold!).
Remember: You CANNOT sleep when you are cold.
Check for different stuffing: feathers and synthetics. The sleep bags stuffed with feathers are more expensive but smaller. Synthetics tends to be cheaper but they are more voluminous. Try to put a foam or aluminum mat under your bag in order to isolate a bit the cold of the floor.
Clothing for Your Trip
Personally I prefer using cyclist clothes (Jersey sets, shorts, long sleeve pants, depending on the weather) since I think is more comfortable. For the rest of your clothing, you know what they say “treat your self like an onion” (well I am not really sure if people give that kind of advice, but you get the idea). Wear clothes in layers. You start with a thermal shirt, softshell vest, a micro polar o polar jacket and finally a windshield jacket.
The advantage of this “stacking” is that you can combine them based on the temperature. Of course, try no to put the windshield jacket before the shirt 😀
And this is really personal, I love using cargo pants above the thermal pants. I feel like I am in a real adventure. And I love the extra pockets of course
Having you Bicycle in good conditions
I would not recommend doing a trip with a bicycle with just one single Speed. 18 and above is ideal. Remember that you will be conquering the top of the mountain! Well, maybe not so extreme, but you will be going up hill and down hill most of the time. And it´s not only for up hill, it´s really nice when you are going dowhill, and you can speed the bike up!
To be honest, I never had any problem when I had the bike in conditions. On the other hand, I faced some issues when I did not. So, get you partner to the workshop! Also consider learning a bit about bike repairing too ;). More than the basic of repairing a flat tire.
OK, but how do I carry all this bike gears?
This is my advice to you. A good 50 liters panniers for back seat and a 36 liters bag to set it on the panniers will be good enough and will allow you to ride comfortable. Consider adding a 6 liters front bag.
For a nice distribution, you can use this as a guide.
- Panniers: All you need mostly for you. Clothes, sleep bag
- Back Bag: tent, isolation matt and more equipment
- Bag at the Front: First, food! 😀 Something you could be picking while you drive. Nuts, Cereals, a Fruit (maybe for the next post!), a windshield, flashlight and Sun Cream
I hope you like this post, and I want to wish you a great first (or not) bike touring trip!