Eating ice cream by the litre has to be one of the best perks of bike touring.
After all, food and calories are high priorities for cyclists! Three good meals a day and plenty of snacks are at the base of putting in a good day on the bikes. Eat less than you need – and it can be hard to get enough calories, especially at the start before you’ve build up an appetite – and you can feel truly terrible.
If you are planning a tour, you should think in advance about:
- Whether you will cook all your own meals or eat out sometimes
- What kind of stove you need, if any
- What meals you will make, which may vary considerably from what you make at home
We cook almost all our own meals, even in countries where eating out can be quite cheap. We do this because we are assured of eating what we want, when we want and in quantities big enough to sustain two hungry cyclists. Occasionally we do go to a restaurant. It would be a shame to never eat out and sample the local cuisine. But for the most part our stove is one of our best friends and most-used pieces of equipment.
Having said that, in some countries where the cost of living is cheap or on shorter tours it’s not such a crazy idea to leave the stove at home. You could easily find several cold yet tasty meals to fill your tummy, supplementing from time to time with a meal out. We have met several cyclists who do this.
We use the MSR Whisperlite Internationale stove ($99.95 from REI). The name “Whisperlite” is a bit ironic since this stove roars while it cooks, but we are very happy with it nonetheless. We chose it because of its compact size and weight and the fact that we can run it on a variety of fuels. Since we left Canada we have been running it on ordinary gasoline for automobiles and have not had any problems with it, aside from the occasional need to clean the fuel line and replacing a few parts which have worn out.
We bought a 650ml fuel bottle to go with the stove and this lasts us about a week, using the stove at least twice and sometimes three times a day. Read our full review of our stove.
We use the MSR Alpine cooking set, which is easy to clean and has stood up to a lot of wear and tear despite being banged around on the bike a fair bit. The pot sizes are good for two people, although we rarely use the smaller pot and you could probably do without it. These pots do tend to burn things easily in combination with the roaring flame of the Whisperlite and sometimes we wish that we had a non-stick coating to prevent this. You really have to keep an eye on things and stir a lot to prevent a burnt dinner.
After about a year on the road, we added a small non-stick frying pan to make things like omelettes. We use this a lot. We have heard that with some non-stick cooksets you can use the cover as a frying pan which sounds like a handy double-use that would be worth investigating.
To help us in our cooking endeavours, we also brought along some empty film canisters to store spices, a long wooden spoon for stirring, a tea towel, a pot scrubber, a Swiss army knife (mostly used for the corkscrew attachment), two small knives (one paring knife, one serrated for slicing bread and tomatoes) and two screw-top bottles to store things like olive oil and honey.
What we carry with us varies according to the country, temperatures and how long we will spend between towns where we can stock up. In general our food stash contains a mixture of the following ingredients:
We have a few recipes to share with you. We also have general ideas for yummy things to make, aside from the standard pasta and tomato sauce.
- Do a mixture of lentils, rice and pasta. Take roughly equal quantities, cooking the rice and lentils first (you can use canned lentils too and add them last) and adding the pasta towards the end. In the early stages of cooking, add in a mixture of vegetables. Carrots, onions or peas are all good. You may also add some meat. Chorizo sausage works well. Cook until the water has all been absorbed by the rice or evaporated. Add a little tomato sauce and seasonings and enjoy.
- Using glass noodles, make an oriental salad. The dressing is made of peanut butter with a little lime juice and soy sauce mixed in, plus some fresh herbs like coriander and parsley if you have them, or some freshly chopped chilli. Toss with the cooked and cooled noodles, then sprinkle on raw, chopped carrots, onions, snow peas, courgettes, cucumbers and red pepper.
- Liven up your breakfast porridge by adding in chopped apples during the cooking process, or by slicing bananas on top just before you tuck in.
- If you get sick of porridge, do a German breakfast. Boil some eggs and serve with slices of a whole-grain bread, salami, cheese, yogurt and museli or perhaps a fruit salad.
- A soup can be very filling on a cool day and doesn’t take much effort to make. Heat some water and crumble in a couple stock cubes, along with some carrots, onions and any other veggies you enjoy. Add in some pasta, rice or lentils and lots of pepper. Let bubble away for a few minutes and then eat.
- For easy lunches, boil eggs at breakfast or the night before. Eat along with a little salad, which we usually make out of a can of tuna, a can of corn or beans and a selection of other vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots and peppers. A bit of olive oil and lemon juice together with the usual salt and pepper makes a nice dressing
- Still on the salad trail, we often made a green salad by buying lettuce, adding in tomatoes and cucumbers as well as diced beetroot (buy it cooked) and feta cheese on top. Dressed just with olive oil, salt and pepper.