Top 5 tips to prepare for your first bike tour

Many people are seeing more of the UK and Europe from the saddle of a bike rather than through the window of a car – Bike Touring is really taking off.

The advantages are clear - fresh air, freedom, plenty of time to enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace and a real feeling of adventure when you explore on two wheels.'There are several options available when you start out cycle touring and the simplest is this:

  1. Save up some money
  2. Plan your route'
  3. Pack your kit
  4. Start pedalling!

That's one way of doing it, but most people will probably want to put in a little more preparation and planning, so we've put together a short guide to get you started:

How fit do I need to be?

It very much depends on how far you aim to ride in a day and the overall distance of your bike touring trip, but you certainly don't need to be a super-fit athlete to enjoy a cycle tour. Work out how far you intend to ride each day and how much gear you'll be carrying and start training accordingly – work your way up until you're physically ready to do back-to-back rides that are as long or longer than you're planning for your tour. One of the great things about cycle touring is that you'll get progressively fitter as you go.

How far should I ride each day?

This depends on your fitness, the overall distance of your tour, how much gear you're carrying and the terrain. Clearly, you'll manage a higher daily distance along relatively flat paved roads than following winding off-road tracks up into the mountains. Carrying 20-40 pounds of gear an average physically-fit adult should manage 50-60 miles a day on paved roads, allowing for breaks and stops. If you're carrying more kit or riding challenging terrain this figure will reduce. The important thing is to ride at a pace you're comfortable with and plan for unexpected challenges and/or interesting detours.

What kind of bike should I use?

Apart from road racing bikes (too lightweight and unlikely to be comfortable for long periods in the saddle) – pretty much anything! You can of course go out and purchase a bike specifically designed for touring – your local retailer will be able to advise – but most bikes can be used for touring purposes. Your bike will need to be comfortable, sturdy, be able to handle long climbs and have the ability to mount cycle luggage options. You should also consider whether you'll be spending much time off road when deciding on the type of bike to take on tour.

Carrying your gear

With so many cycle luggage options on the market you have plenty of ways to carry your touring kit with you. Traditionally, cycle tourers have used a pannier setup - these can be fitted in balanced pairs to a rack on the front or rear (or both) wheels. They come in a variety of styles and fabrics and should be water repellent and easy to attach and remove. The use of frame bags and handlebar bags is becoming increasingly popular, especially for off road touring, and of course you can still carry most of your kit on your back if you choose. Pop into your local cycle retailer for advice – whatever suits you best is the main arbiter of how you carry your gear whilst touring.

How much should I budget for my cycle tour?

The cheapest way to cycle tour is to camp and cook your own meals. This will involve carrying a fair amount of gear, tent and accessories, cooking equipment, food etc., but you'll certainly keep costs down – allow £30-£50 per day. If you fancy a warm, soft bed each night in a B&B or hotel then you should budget accordingly - the sky (and your wallet) is the limit!



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