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You Are Viewing Bike Touring Tips

Going Bike Touring? Don’t Forget To Back Up Your Data!

Posted August 29th, 2012

Bike tourist Grace Johnson gives us all a valuable reminder about something that few cyclists think about on tour: backing up photos and other important documents.  

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Have you lost computer data? Who hasn’t!

Backing up photosAt some point all of us have felt a bit lazy and put off backing up our data. The next thing you know… ‘DISASTER’ as your computer emits smoke, dies and you realize that your last backup was a half year ago. Because of a computer crash a friend of ours lost 9 months of work on her university thesis paper. Still, she was able to go back and re-write the paper. With trip photos – they can’t be re-taken.

You would be shocked if you knew how many people have lost their pictures. I regularly contact cyclists about publishing their photos in Bicycle Traveler magazine and unfortunately many of them reply saying: “I only have low resolution photos since my hard drive was stolen.”

You can also substitute ‘stolen’ for: hard drive fell in water, computer malfunction due to sand, pannier containing electronics fell into a canyon and so on…

There’s a simple solution to this problem: keep your images safe by backing them up. Making backups is like saving for your pension; it’s boring and you know you should be doing it but it’s so easy to put off. Still, think back to events that happened 10 years earlier. How much of the event can you remember without looking at pictures from it? The same holds true with memories of your bike tour.

Backing up data

Backing up data should begin before your trip starts. First, consider how you will back up your data. I won’t go into the specifics of different backup photo storage units, since there are so many and each month new devices come on the market. Plus, every cyclist has different backup requirements, depending on how many pictures they take per day and how long their trip will last. I do, however, have some general points that will help you get started.

First of all, you should know that a backup isn’t having all of your pictures on just one external hard drive. You need to store multiple copies of your photos in at least two different places such as a laptop, external hard drive, tablet, image tank, memory stick, etc. That way if one of your electronic devices is stolen or breaks down, you still have another copy of your pictures in another place.

My partner Paul Jeurissen carries two external hard drives – each with a copy of trip photos. He also uploads his favorite pictures to an online site.

That’s another precaution you should consider taking: uploading your best pictures to an online storage site. That way if all of your gear is stolen you will still have a copy of these images. There are many free cloud services available such as Dropbox and Amazon, or you can upload high resolution jpgs to photo sites such as Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket. Note: we’re talking about ‘favorite’ photos and not all of the images you take, unless you have regular access to a strong internet connection.

Every time we edit a new load of photos on our computer, we pick out a group of favorites that we want to save online. When we come across a hotel with wifi, we immediately start batch uploading them and let the computer run the whole night through.

Note: If you are worried about photo copyright theft on photo sites such as Flickr, set all of your high-res photo view permissions to ‘private’ so that others can’t see and download them. Unless your picture is embedded in Flash or a video, it’s still easy for other people to download it via other means than a right mouse click.

Some more information on backing up photos and online picture storage:

Keep Dirt Away With Homemade Bike Mudguards

Posted August 21st, 2012

One of the things we love about hosting cyclists is the chance to learn new things.

The latest couple to come through – Bez & Dave – proudly showed us how they’d made their mudguards (or fenders) a bit longer than the standard shop variety.

Using a thin yet relatively stiff sheet of rubber (easily found in local hardware or do-it-yourself shops) and some zip ties, this is what they came up with:

Mudguard Extenders

According to Bez & Dave, the longer mudguards are just the thing to keep every last bit of mud and dirt off your legs and bags – an essential addition to any touring bike if you end up pedalling through a lot of rainy territory.

After we initially published this tip, we heard from Julie and Mark – another cycling couple who’ve also turned their hands to making mudguards.

They are made from damp-proof course, which you can buy in builders merchants. We use nuts and bolts to attach the mudflap.

Homemade Mudguards
Photo by Julie & Mark.

The Stove Tube: Waterproof, Smell Proof and Out Of Your Panniers

Posted August 15th, 2012

Stove TubeIf you carry a multi-fuel stove on tour then you’ll know that it can sometimes be quite dirty and smell of fuel.

For that reason, a lot of cyclists aren’t crazy about keeping a stove in their panniers.

World bike tourists Dave & Bethany think they’ve found a solution to this dilemma: a stove tube. Watch the video to find out more.

Bike Touring Belgium & France: Our Planning Resources

Posted July 24th, 2012

We’ve just returned from a 2-week bicycle tour though southern Belgium and northern France. Here are some of the resources we used to plan the trip, plus a few thoughts on how it worked out.

Trip Overview: The goal was to cycle 550km from the Netherlands to a small town in northern France, where friends had rented a house for a few days. We hoped to camp most of the way. In terms of sights, we wanted to see:

Leaving the highest beer cafe in the Netherlands

The Route: This was our first bike tour with 5-month-old Luke. Our main priority was to find smooth, quiet roads. We used the following sources:

Putting all of this together, we came up with the route that you see below. It includes a train journey back home. You’re welcome to download the GPS track but beware: it includes all our wrong turns and detours! There’s also this relatively clean pre-trip plan.

How did our trip work out?

Highlights: We definitely achieved our goal of riding only on quiet roads and bike paths. We were often on dedicated bike paths and the roads we did use had very little car traffic. We felt very safe with Luke in tow. We also loved the area around Compiègne in northern France: it’s full of beautiful chateaus, forests and historic sights.

Lowlights: In addition to poor weather (just a matter of bad luck), here’s what we didn’t like so much…

  • Bike paths in Belgium weren’t always up to scratch. Sometimes major paths such as the RAVeL network were little more than a muddy track through the forest, and a poorly maintained one at that. The picture below illustrates our point. On one day, we spent more time walking than cycling. It wasn’t always so bad. Many sections were excellent but the inconsistent quality was frustrating.

Belgium's 'national' Bike Route
Walking and lifting our way along a bike path in Belgium. Photo by Alicia.

  • There’s little to see in southern Belgium. Once we left the Ardennes, we found very little to see other than the countryside. It was surprisingly hard to find supermarkets and other services without detouring to major towns. The whole area felt a little isolated and run down. Finding a nice cafe to have a coffee and a slice of cake seemed like mission impossible. This was very different from the cycling we’ve done in northern Belgium.
  • Coming back by train was a pain. It’s perhaps stating the obvious but getting a fully-loaded touring bike on a train in Europe is often difficult. Bike wagons may or may not exist, often involve lifting your bike up a steep set of stairs and can be crowded in the summer. We managed but only thanks to the help of many other cyclists along the way, and a good sense of humour. We were also lucky that the staff at two stations led us across the tracks to change platforms, rather than making us lug our bikes and gear up and down flights of stairs. We are seriously considering folding bikes (such as the Dahon Speed TR) for future tours of Europe. A reader also suggested that the Bicycle Bus (Fietsbus) would be a good option for journeys to and from the Netherlands.

Conclusion: Not one of our most memorable bike tours, though we are happy to have done it and we particularly enjoyed cycling in France. If we cycle to Paris again, we’ll probably plan a route along the North Sea and then south through France – and we’d get folding bikes for an easy train journey home.

Tips For Bike Touring In Turkey: Visas, Food, Roads & More…

Posted July 7th, 2012

Roberto Gallegos is slowly making his way around the world by bicycle. From that trip, he sent us the following series of tips for bike touring in Turkey.

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Cycling in Turkey, as you may already have read on this blog, is a pleasant experience for the touring cyclist. Here are our experiences with the 5 most important things I think cyclists need to know about when visiting:

By now, you’re probably thinking: what about money and costs? Yes, I’ll cover that too within each topic because it’s also an item of some importance.

My goal is to prepare you and make you excited to cycle in one of the world’s fastest developing countries. In every major city and along the main roads, there’s one construction site after another. This was our route:

Route across Turkey

Continue reading Roberto’s tips.