Bicycle trips are great fun and terrific exercise – whether you’re camping cross-country or just running down to the store for a loaf of bread. Here we offers some useful tips on proper gear, safety and planning.
Fresh air and exercise are reasons enough for riding your bike around town, but when the stress builds up, there’s nothing like escaping the city for a ride through the beautiful countryside. You simply can’t beat it.
Preparation for a day ride is simple. First, plan your route carefully so that you’ll be home before dark. Take a pump and a tool kit. Be sure to bring some water. If you perspire a lot, you may want to consider bringing some salt tablets. Your clothing should be comfortable and your shoes should be snug and have firm soles.
Lightweight Touring Guide
If you’re ready for a longer ride, then try lightweight touring. For this kind of touring, you need enough gear for several days of riding, but not so much gear that it feels heavy on your bike. A small handlebar pack and a backpack are enough to get you by. In my bag, all I have is a light sleeping bag, a few extra clothes and a small toiletry kit.
In order to travel light, you need to carefully arrange a place to stay for each night. Some options may be a friend’s house or a youth hostel. If you stay at a youth hostel, you can join the American Youth Hostel Association and stay at any of their nationwide hostels for a very reasonable fee. Use proper etiquette if you stay with friends along the way. Call ahead and take a little something extra along for dinner or offer to wash the dishes.
You should also take an emergency kit on any bike tour, which includes several items that may come in handy along the way.
1. Handkerchief – Spread out and put things on it, like your lunch. Or, use as a bandana.
2. Plastic bag – Include several different sizes to cover things when it rains. When it turns cold, you can keep your toes warm by wrapping a plastic bag over your toes inside your cycling shoes.
3. Note pad – To write notes.
4. Blanket – If stranded somewhere, this can save your life by keeping you warm overnight.
5. Shoestring – Tie up something that falls apart.
Safety pins – Great for holding things together if something rips.
6. Duct tape – For rips and tears.
7. Bungee cord – Hold things down.
8. Pill box – Include aspirin and a $20 bill for emergencies.
Group Touring Guide
If you don’t want to carry even these few things, there’s another kind of lightweight touring you can do with a group. That is with a truck or a station wagon, which people call the sag wagon. It will carry all your gear. You keep all your gear in a duffel bag, put that into the car and then someone will drive the car along the same route that you’re cycling on with your group of friends. If somebody gets tired, the sag wagon can just picks him up. It’s called the sag wagon because whoever sags behind the group gets picked up and carried into the camp grounds. That person can set up the camp ahead of time. So when you’re through with your ride, dinner will be ready for you. Each person in the group takes a turn driving the sag wagon. It makes a nice way to tour as long as you’ve got people you like riding with.
If you want to do real heavy-duty cycling, where you carry everything you need, bike camping is for you. This is the ultimate form of cycle touring. You’ve got to carry a lot of equipment because you have to bring all the things that you need for cycling, plus all the things you need for backpack camping. That’s a lot of equipment. You can still have a good time cycling, but you just can’t be in too much of a hurry. Instead, set a good cruising pace, keep your RPMs up, and pedal to your next camping spot.
Choose a route wisely and plan each day well. That doesn’t mean you have to plan the whole trip ahead of time. Sometimes you can just start off with a general idea of where you’re going. Then take off and ride as far as you want each day, but plan where you’ll stay at night and make sure you get there in a reasonable time at the end of the day.
You may want a lot of the comforts of home to make the camping real nice. I usually take along a two-person tent that is bigger than some cyclists use, but it really is a comfortable place to stay overnight. You’ll want sleeping bags and a nice foam pad that self-inflates, to make sleeping comfortable.
In your cooking kit, you’ll need pots and pans, a stove, some fuel and several different kinds of food, including dried raisins and apricots. Dried food that you can cook with water, like rice, is nice too. Other kitchen items are a mixing spoon, spatula and several different kinds of spoons. Tube containers can hold food that can be squeezed out like peanut butter, mayonnaise or even honey. Personal equipment includes forks, bowls, cups and washing implements.
Of course, you’ll want a flashlight, which is a good thing to have on all camping trips. A water-purifying filter really makes sense if you’re in an area where the water may not be clean.
A toiletry kit, which is just a small bag, might include toilet paper, a brush, toothpaste, toothbrush, little containers of shampoo, sunscreen, oil for muscles that get sore, chapstick, athlete’s foot lotion and insect repellent. Underneath all these is a towel that you’ll always want to carry.
You will also need to carry panniers on your bike. Leave the heavyweight stuff down on the bottom, like some spare tires, cables, bicycle tools and other tools. That’s to keep the weight low on the bike. Up on top of the whole rack is a lightweight sleeping bag, which won’t make the bike too top-heavy. Now in the front of our bike is a handlebar bag. It is for carrying some light items, like a sweater, so it isn’t making the bike too top-heavy either.
Now that you’re all packed, you are ready to for some heavy-duty cycling.