So, you like the idea of cycle touring but you’ve never done it before. You’re not in shape. The last time you rode your bike you were 5 years old. And let’s face it, your legs just aren’t what they used to be.
With all these things in your mind, it’s easy to think: “Bicycle touring sounds like fun but it isn’t really for me”.
Well, we checked all of those boxes before we started our trip around the world: completely inexperienced, unfit from a life in the office, aching knees and birthdays that put us nowhere near our teenage years. Yet, we still managed to ride our bikes a huge distance and you can too, no matter what your age or current biking experience.
What’s the secret? Here are our top tips to help absolutely anyone get on the road and have a successful tour.
Attitude Is Everything
We believe strongly that cycling is 90% mental and just 10% physical. It’s something we’ve noticed repeatedly on our tours. In a happy frame of mind, we can chat and sing and laugh our way to the top of the hill. In a sad mood, the kilometres seem endless. So, find something to motivate you. Think up funny jokes. Make up limericks. Put a smile on your face and get going. The right attitude is the key.
Do It For Yourself
The last thing you want is to create pressure that turns a fun ride into one filled with expectations. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Perhaps you’ve promised a charity that you’ll raise funds for them by riding a certain route over a set time. Or maybe you’ve told everyone you know that you’ll ride vast distances, only to discover once on the road that you prefer a slower pace.
Whatever the specifics, it boils down to the same thing: do the tour for yourself, instead of trying to prove something to other people. Otherwise you’re cycling into a potentially stressful situation.
With a little experience, you’ll know your limits better and you may even find that fundraising for charity can be a strong motivator but for your first tour, just relax and enjoy the cycling for what it is. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Accept The Uncertainties Of Bicycle Travel
It should be plainly obvious but it doesn’t hurt to reinforce the fact that bike travel is very different from car travel. You get tired after a shorter distance. You’re subject to the whims of the weather. And if there’s a Murphy’s Law of cycling, it must be that as soon as you promise to be somewhere, you’ll find a huge and unexpected hill in your path or a blustery headwind. The bottom line is that on a bike, you should plan not to plan as much as possible. Obviously there’s always some kind of deadline to meet – the flight back home or a limited visa – but do your best to take each day as it comes.
Cycling is hard work sometimes, so if you’ve had a tough day on the road, find something you like and indulge. Quit early and have a meal out or take a soft bed instead of camping. It can do wonders for your morale and keep you going for days to come. Go ahead. You’ve earned it.
Forget What Others Say
Everyone has an opinion, from bicycle enthusiasts who tell you what bike to buy and what to pack to the ordinary Joe Schmoe who loves to tell you how impossible it will be to climb the hill up ahead. While such advice can be helpful, it can also be overwhelming. At the end of the day, you have to figure out for yourself what works and what doesn’t and what you’re capable of. If you’re determined enough, you can do anything, no matter how many people tell you it’s crazy.
Just think of Ian Hibell, the great British cyclist who was the first to cross the Darien Gap – miles of swamp and jungle separating South America from Central America. And then there’s Anne Mustoe, a retired school principal who’s ridden countless kilometers through dozens of countries without even knowing how to patch a tire – something almost every cyclist would say you ‘must know’.
Have the confidence to do it your way.